A Capability of First Resort: Amphibious Operations and Australian Defence Policy 1901–2001
During the 20th century, joint operations—and particularly amphibious operations—have played an important role in the defence of Australia. This paper is a survey of the major joint operations undertaken by Australian Forces in the past one hundred years and aims to examine key factors such as the changing mechanisms for joint operations, doctrine and equipment.
The survey begins with the first joint operation that Australian Forces undertook in 1914. The influence of Gallipoli on Australian defence policy is also considered briefly. Gallipoli eclipsed the success of the joint Army–Navy operation in German New Guinea, and the importance of such operations to the defence of Australia and its national interests. In the inter-war period, amphibious operations did not feature greatly in Australian defence planning. Although there was one training exercise, Imperial Defence was the predominant theme in Australian security policy. However, both British and US Forces experimented with amphibious operations. These experiments laid the groundwork for victory in World War II and Australians were heavily involved in landing operations during the Allied campaigns in the South-West Pacific.
Between the late 1940s and the early 1990s, however, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) concentrated on operations aimed at the defence of the continent. This was a dark period for amphibious and joint operations, which were only kept alive in largely unread doctrine or through heavily orchestrated training exercises. Only in the late 1990s, with the impetus provided by operations in East Timor, did the ADF rediscover the importance of joint operations to national security. The paper ends by briefly considering the problems that the ADF faces as it attempts to revitalise this important capability in the 21st century.