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The Navy and the Nation - HLC speech to RAN Seapower Conference 2017 - MAJGEN Toohey

16 October 2017
MAJGEN Kathryn Toohey, AM, CSC

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Major General Kathryn Toohey, AM, CSC, Head Land Capability

Tuesday 3 October 2017, 1.20pm


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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.


I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are meeting this afternoon, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.


On behalf of the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, I want to thank the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Barrett, for the invitation to address the 10th Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Conference.  The Chief sends his apologies for his inability to attend today.


The fact that this is the 10th iteration of this event, and that it is being held as part of the biennial Pacific Maritime Congress and Exposition, reflects both the enduring importance of the subject and the great work of the Australian Navy’s Sea Power Centre.


The theme of this year’s Conference: ‘The Navy and the Nation’ is an appropriate focus when we consider that our Navy is in the midst of the most ambitious recapitalisation of the fleet since World War II.


The submarines, frigates and Offshore Patrol Vessels that are planned; in conjunction with the two ‘Canberra’ Class LHD, three ‘Hobart’ Class Air Warfare Destroyers, MRH-60 Romeo and MRH-90 Taipan helicopters already ‘in hand’ will go a long way to ensuring Australia has a regionally competitive, if not superior, future naval force.


And the sheer scale of this recapitalisation – more than $90 billion and a time frame spanning three decades highlights that this is truly a ‘national enterprise’ for Australia.


The 2016 Defence White Paper places Australia’s security firmly within the maritime environment of the Indo-Pacific region. This region contains the world’s busiest international sea lanes, as well as nine of the world’s ten busiest ports. Australia as an island nation is economically reliant on global trade and our freedom of navigation at sea. As such, the importance of a maritime strategy to the security of our nation remains clear and uncontested.  Looking beyond our shores is not a choice it’s a necessity.


I use ‘maritime strategy’ in the sense offered by the British strategist Julian Corbett’s 1911 definition. He wrote: ‘by maritime strategy we mean the principles which govern a war in which the sea is a substantial factor’. Corbett goes on to stipulate that maritime strategy is about the relationship between the Navy and the Army in a war plan. Today, of course, we would also add air, cyber and space power to that equation. 


This is consistent with Admiral Barrett, in his welcome letter to this conference, stating: ‘Navies do not exist for their own sake, nor do they exist in isolation’.   Notwithstanding the significance of both our navy and the current ship building enterprise to our nation, he is tacitly acknowledging the reality that Australia’s current and future national security depends upon the Joint force and the Nation.


Accordingly, my remarks today will address the work underway between the Australian Navy and the Australian Army (and our other partners) to ensure Australia has the joint force it needs to secure our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific Region.


One of the capstone capabilities essential to enabling a successful maritime strategy is a joint amphibious capability. This is not a new idea, but rather has been a part of Australian strategic identity since federation.


Ken Gleiman and Peter Dean described in their 2015 assessment for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute the significant role amphibious warfare has played in Australian military history. The Gallipoli landings of 1915 and the New Guinea campaign are well known examples.


However, as Ken and Peter highlight, not as much attention is paid to the maritime sustainment of Australia’s operations in Vietnam, nor the amphibious operations conducted in  Vanuatu (1998), Somalia (1993), Bougainville (1990 and 1994) and East Timor (1999 and 2006).


The strategic direction of the 2016 Defence White Paper reinforces the importance of our new amphibious capabilities centred on the Canberra Class LHDs and HMAS Choules.  These ships provide a significant increase in the ADF’s amphibious capacity and endurance.  Their physical size and capability will ensure the critical role they play in joint amphibious operations will be centre in our minds into the future and not a historical footnote.


Talisman Sabre 2017 represented a significant milestone in the development of the ADF’s joint amphibious capability.   This biennial exercise provides the opportunity to practice with regional and coalition partners a range of operations across the broad spectrum of conflict.


This year HM NZ S Canterbury joined HMAS Canberra and Choules to form the ANZAC Amphibious Ready Group. As per the earlier video, the amphibious landing on Talisman Sabre was the biggest amphibious landing Australia has conducted since the 1945 Operation Oboe landings in Borneo.


An advantage of exercises, such as Talisman Sabre, is to be able to rehearse the deployment of amphibious forces into the region to support stability and or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. And, in that regard, this year also saw HMAS Choules integral to the 3 Brigade led joint task force response to Tropical Cyclone Debbie in northern Australia.


When he addressed this forum two years ago, Chief of Army reflected that he was confident in Army’s ability to generate a broad spectrum amphibious capability. He identified his concern was how Army would:

“successful(ly)  undertake a range of amphibious activities consistently, but not exclusively of those other tasks the ADF must maintain (such as conventional combat and stabilisation in the case of land forces), relearning very hard lessons.”

It drove two fundamental questions for Army:


  1. What must be maintained as dedicated specialist expertise? and
  2. What can be rotated within the general Land Force.


Two years later we assess we are on track to realising an appropriate balance in response to these questions.


Firstly, unlike many other nations Australia has chosen to integrate Army, Navy and Air Force staff onto one joint amphibious task group headquarters, instead of having separate maritime and landing staffs. This year Army reinforced the headquarters with additional staff and a permanently constituted Commander Land Forces.


Colonel Malcom Wells was appointed the first Commander Land Forces in March this year. Colonel Wells works very closely with, indeed his office is adjacent to that of, the Commander Amphibious Task Force - Captain Brett Sonter.


My recent visit to the Task Group Headquarters, hosted by these two key amphibious leaders, affirmed to me that this joint headquarters has become the focal point for amphibious planning and execution in the ADF.


Secondly, in less than two weeks, on 15 October Army’s amphibious trials unit, the Second Battalion, The Royal Australia Regiment Amphibious (or 2 RAR), will formally transition to become a specialised infantry battalion focused on amphibious reconnaissance and small boat operations.


It will be designated 2 RAR (Amphibious) and will be Army’s standing specialist unit contribution to the amphibious force under command of the Commander Land Forces. This will strengthen our ability to deploy a battalion group by sea for a contingency within our region.


In the longer term, land based anti-ship missiles and long range fires capabilities, included in the Integrated Investment Program, provide an opportunity for Army to make further contributions to amphibious operations and the joint force.


Like our Navy, our Army has embarked on a major period of modernisation that will recapitalise the force over the next 15 years. 


Amongst other key capabilities, Army will introduce into service a fleet of more lethal, better protected and more capable armoured fighting vehicles that will underpin our contribution to the joint force. These vehicles are being acquired under the Land 400 program.


In addition to supporting amphibious warfare, Army needs to master conventional combat and stabilisation operations. Such operations may be conducted far from home in the face of an aggressive and adaptive enemy.


Our recent experience, gained from over a decade of operations in the middle east region, demonstrates that technology has dramatically increased the lethality available to our enemies, while markedly lowering its cost.


Improvised explosive devices can be assembled from readily available technology for as little as $30 Australian dollars. IEDs combined with the proliferation of Rocket Propelled Grenades, means protection is the price of credible participation on the modern battlefield, no matter what the role. By protection, I mean the combination of materials, tactics and passive, active and reactive systems.


As a result of this – we are building your Army to be able to survive and win in increasingly lethal and complex environments.


Land 400 Phase 2 is replacing the current ASLAV combat reconnaissance vehicle. Tenders for this project have closed and we expect a Government decision on the preferred vehicle during the first half of 2018.


Whichever vehicle is selected, it will be deployable by a C-17 and able to be landed by a Canberra Class LHD or by HMAS Choules


Government has already provided funding in the Integrated Investment Program to ensure the growth in vehicle protective weight, necessary in response to increased lethality, is matched by the continued ability to embark land forces on our amphibious ships.


Future programs will enhance and or replace the in-service ship to shore connectors, such as Landing Craft, as well as the capability provided by HMAS Choules. These projects will be essential to ensure continued alignment between land and maritime capabilities.


Chief of Army noted during a recent Australian Strategic Policy Institute presentation that:


“Our Army and the ADF will always be relatively modest in size. The Army will always operate as a component of the ADF. And the ADF will always operate as a component of the Australian national effort; a national effort that historically has always been part of a Coalition. The logic of this is irrefutable, it is the only way we can generate sufficient strategic weight for the most pressing of problems”


Underpinning a joint force, we need a joint integrated command and control or combat system – that allows the sharing of timely operational information between domains and nations – an easy thing to write, but significantly more challenging to deliver and implement.


However, we are making progress. Indeed, Army’s battle management system operated from within the operations room on HMAS Canberra during Talisman Sabre this year, and through the work of the Head of Joint Capability Management and Integration – Rear Admiral Peter Quinn Army, Navy and Air Force are alive to the requirement to make appropriate single-service trade-offs to support better joint outcomes.


In conclusion, this conference presents an excellent opportunity to strengthen relationships between joint, industry, regional and international partners to assure the continued stability, security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.  


This region is defined by two oceans of overwhelming scale and size effectively comprising vast, maritime watery deserts.


However, the other story of the Indo- Pacific region is one of crowded, dense and rich areas of human endeavour on land. The region contains the most populous nation on earth and the largest democratic nation on earth. Eight of the world’s ten most populous states are Indo-Pacific nations. Over 50% of the world’s people live here.


These two factors: big oceans and an equally big scale of human endeavour are perhaps best combined to create a story about the littoral. And, I would suggest, activity within the littoral is perhaps the unifying and definitive theme of the region.


All domains: maritime, land, air, space and cyber are required to work together in order to realise success in this most complex of environments. Army is working hard to ensure we are delivering credible, strong and complementary land forces to assure this outcome. And, by doing so, we are in effect supporting our Navy and the Nation.


Again, thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.


Last updated
16 October 2017
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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