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Australian Army

Land warfare branch of Australia's defence forces

Australian Army
Founded1 March 1901
RoleLand warfare
Size29,511 (Regular)
18,738 (Active Reserve)[1]
Part ofAustralian Defence Force
Commander-in-chiefGovernor-General David Hurley as representative of Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia[2]
Chief of the Defence ForceGeneral Angus Campbell
Chief of ArmyLieutenant General Rick Burr
Deputy Chief of ArmyMajor General Anthony Rawlins
Commander Forces CommandMajor General Matt Pearse
Australian Army flag
(armoured vehicles)

The Australian Army is the principal land warfare force of Australia, a part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. The Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA), who is subordinate to the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) who commands the ADF. The CA is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence, with the Department of Defence administering the ADF and the Army.[3]

Formed in 1901, as the Commonwealth Military Forces, through the amalgamation of the Australian colonial forces following federation. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout Australia's history, only during the Second World War has Australian territory come under direct attack.

The Australian Army was initially composed almost completely of part–time soldiers, where the vast majority were in reserve units of the Citizens Military Force (CMF or Militia) (1901–1980) during peacetime, with limits set on the regular Army. Since all reservists were barred from forcible serving overseas, volunteer expeditionary forces (1st AIF, ANMEF, 2nd AIF) were formed to enable the Army to send enlisted soldiers to service during periods of war.[4][5] This period lasted from Federation until post–1947, when a standing peacetime regular infantry force was formed and the Army Reserve (1980–present) began to decline in importance.[6][5]

During its history the Australian Army has fought in a number of major wars, including the Second Boer War, the First and Second World War , Korean War, Malayan Emergency, Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation, Vietnam War,[7] and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.[8] Since 1947 the Australian Army has also been involved in many peacekeeping operations, usually under the auspices of the United Nations, however the non-United Nations sponsored Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai is a notable exception. Today it participates in multilateral and unilateral military exercises and provides emergency disaster relief and humanitarian aid in response to domestic and international crises.



Formed in March 1901, with the amalgamation of the six separate colonial military forces, following the Federation of Australia, the Australian Army initially consisted of the former New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland, Western Australian, South Australian and Tasmanian land components of their, disbanded, armed forces. Due to the Army being continuation of the colonial armies, it became immediately embroiled in conflict as the Second Boer War was still being fought and the former colonies had committed contingents to fight for the British in the South African colonies. The Army gained command of these contingents and even supplied federal units to reinforce their commitment at the request of the British government.[9][10]

The Defence Act of 1903, established the operation and command structure of the Australian Army.[11] In 1911, the Universal Service Scheme was implemented, introducing conscription for the first time in Australia, with males aged 14–26 assigned into cadet and CMF units; though the scheme did not prescribe or allow overseas service outside the states and territories of Australia. This restriction would be primarily, and continually, bypassed through the process of raising separate volunteer forces until the mid-20th century; this solution was not without its drawbacks, with logistical headaches usually caused.[12]

World War I

After the declaration of war on the Central Powers, the Australian Army raised the all volunteer First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) which had an initial recruitment of 52,561 out of a promised 20,000 men. A smaller expeditionary force, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) was created to deal with the German colonial holdings in the Pacific, with recruitment beginning on the 10 August 1914 and operations starting 10 days later.[13] The first actions of the war by Australian personnel occurred on the 11 September with the landing at Rabaul by the ANMEF, and by the end of October 1914 there were no German outposts in the Pacific.[14] During preparations to depart Australia by the AIF, the Ottoman Empire attacked Russian shipping and joined the Central Powers; thereby receiving declarations of war from the Allies between 2–5 November 1914.[15]

After initial recruitment and training, the AIF departed for Egypt where they underwent further preparations, and during this period the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was founded. Their deployment, training and reorganisation were undertaken in Egypt, as preparations for the start of the invasion of the Ottoman Empire via the Gallipoli peninsula were underway. The invasion began in early 1915, with the AIF landing on 25 April, in what is now known as ANZAC Cove, with the ANZACs having little success and fighting quickly devolved into trench warfare whereby a stalemate ensued. After eight months of fighting, the evacuation of Gallipoli commenced on 15 December 1915 and finished on 20 December 1915, with no casualties recorded.[16] After some training in Egypt and further action against the Ottoman Empire, the AIF was primarily split between Light Horse and infantry units and further expanded with reinforcements. The later would go to the western front whereas the mounted units would stay in the Middle East to fight the Ottomans in Arabia and the Levant.[17]

Western Front

Australian troops on the Western Front, July 1918

The AIF arrived in France with the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions; which comprised, in part, I ANZAC Corps and, in full, II ANZAC Corps. The 3rd Division would not arrive until November 1916, when it moved to France from England where it had been training since its transfer from Australia. The infantry units commenced operations on the Western Front with the Battle of the Somme, and more specifically at Fromelles in July 1916. Soon after, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions became tied down in the actions at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In total, the operations cost the AIF 28,000 in casualties in around six weeks.[18] Due to these losses and pressure from the British War Council to maintain the required, and agreed upon, levels of manpower, Prime Minister Billy Hughes introduced the first conscription plebiscite on 28 October 1916. It was defeated by a narrow margin and created a bitter divide on the issue of conscription throughout the 20th century.[19][20]

Following the withdrawal of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line trench system in March 1917, which was better defended and eased manpower restraints by reducing the frontline, in addition to the subsequent pursuit by Australian divisions, the first Australian assault on the Hindenburg Line occurred on 11 April 1917 with the First Battle of Bullecourt.[21][22][23] On 20 September the Australian contingent joined the Third Battle of Ypres with the Battle of Menin Road, with the 1st and 2nd Divisions advancing and the 4th and 5th in reserve. This positions of the divisions were swapped with the Battle of Polygon Wood, which began on 26 September 1917 and lasted until 3 October; in total, these tow operations cost roughly 11,000 in Australian casualties. Until 15 November 1917, multiple attacks against Broodsiende Ridge and Passchendaele occurred, but, failed to take their objectives following the start of the rain and subsequent muddying of the fields.[24]

On 21 March 1918, the Germans attempted to break out through the Michael Offensive, an operation which was part of the much larger Spring Offensive; wherein Australian casualties numbered 15,000 due to this effort. During this operation, Australian troops conducted a series of local defences and offensives to hold and retake Villers–Brettoneux over the period 4 to 25 April 1918. After the cessation of offensives by the German Army, the Australian Corps began participating in "Peaceful Penetration" operations, a strategy designed to harass and gain small tracts of territory through localised raids; which saw the capture of entire operational objectives before their respective offensive had begun.[25]

On 4 July 1918, the Battle of Hamel commenced and was significant in the successful use of tanks for the first time alongside Australians, with Lieutenant General John Monash's battle plan completed in 93 minutes, instead of the planned 90 minutes. Following this success, the Battle of Amiens was launched on 8 August 1918, in conjunction with the Canadian Corps and the British III Corps, and concluded on 12 August 1918; it attracted comment from General Erich Ludendorff of the German Army, who described it as "the black day of the German Army". Subsequent territorial advances and pursuits of the enemy, led to the attack on Pèronne on 29 August 1918 and the capture of Mont St Quentin which lasted from 31 August 1918 to 1 September 1918. Another operation was planned for 18 September 1918, which aimed to retake the British trench lines and, if possible, to take the Hindenburg's Outpost Line; when the fighting wrapped up later that night, they achieved their most ambitious target of taking a piece of the Hindenburg line.[25][26][27]

Following an announcement of a three month furlough for soldiers who enlisted in 1914, the decision was made to disband seven battalions of the AIF; due to this, members of these battalions mutinied. Soon after the capture of a part of the outpost trench, plans for the breakthrough of the main trench were completed, with the Australian Corps as the vanguard of this attack. However, due to manpower troubles, the corps was represented only by the 3rd and 5th divisions, and was supported by the American Expeditionary Forces' 27th and 30th divisions. On 29 September, following a three day long bombardment on the trench, the Battle of the Hindenburg Line commenced, wherein the corps attacked and captured more of the famous line. On 5 October 1918, after furious fighting, the Australian Corps was withdrawn from the front for rest and reorganisation, with the entire corps operating continuously since 8 August 1918, where they would not return, as on 11 November 1918, Germany signed the Armistice that ultimately ended the war on the Western Front.[14][27][28]

Middle East

Australian light horse unit in Jerusalem during WWI

The Australian mounted units, composed of the ANZAC Mounted Division and eventually the Australian Mounted Division, participated in the Middle Eastern Theatre. They were originally stationed there to protect the Suez Canal from the Turks, and following the threat of its capture passing, they started offensive operations and helped in the re-conquest of the Sinai Desert. This was followed by the Battles of Gaza, wherein on the 31 October 1917 the 4th and 12th Light Horse took Beersheba through the last charge of the Light Horse. They continued on to capture Jerusalem on 10 December 1917 and then eventually Damascus on 1 October 1918 whereby, a few days later on 10 October 1918, the Ottoman Empire surrendered.[14][17]

Interwar years

Repatriation efforts were implemented following the war and finished by the end of 1919, which occurred after the disbandment of the Australian Imperial Force.[29] In 1921, a decision was made to renumber the Citizens Military Forces units to that of the AIF, to perpetuate the honours and numerical identities of the units involved in WW1.[30] During this period there was a complacency towards matters of defence, due to the devastating effects of the previous war on the Australian psyche.[31] Following the election of Prime Minister James Scullin in 1929, two events occurred that substantially affected the armed forces: conscription was abolished and the economic effects of the Great Depression started to be felt in Australia. The economic ramifications of the depression led to a decrease in defence expenditure and manpower for the army and since conscription was repealed, to reflect the new volunteer nature of the Citizen Forces, the CMF was renamed to the Militia.[32][33]

World War II

Following the declaration of war on Germany and her allies by Britain, and the subsequent confirmation by Prime Minister Robert E. Menzies on 3 September 1939,[34] the Australian Army raised the Second Australian Imperial Force, a 20,000-strong volunteer expeditionary force, which initially consisted of the 6th Division; later increased to include the 7th and 9th Divisions, alongside the 8th Division which was sent to Singapore.[35][17] As part of efforts to ready Australia, compulsory military training recommenced in October 1939 for unmarried males aged 21, who had to complete a period of three months of training.[20]

North Africa and Mediterranean

Australian troops enter Bardia, January 1941

The initial force commenced its first operations in North Africa, and the war, with the Operation Compass offensive; beginning with the Battle of Bardia.[17][36] This was followed by the supply of Australian units to Greece to defend against an invasion by Axis forces, which ultimately failed and a fighting withdrawal was issued.[37] Australian troops landed in Crete after the evacuation of Greece to defend against an airborne invasion, which was more successful but still failed and another withdrawal was ordered.[38] During this period the Allies were pushed back to Egypt and Tobruk came under siege by the Germans, with the primary defence personnel being Australians of the 9th Division; they lasted for 241 days before Tobruk was freed, however the Australians were relieved earlier than this.[39] Also, in June and July 1941, the AIF participated in the invasion of Syria, a Vichy French mandate, in response to German air forces being stationed there.[17] The 9th Division fought in actions in El Alamein before also being shipped home to fight the Japanese.[40]


Following the entrance into the war by Japan in December 1941, as an ally to the Axis, its pace of subsequent victories led to extreme concern among Australian policymakers. With most of South East Asia conquered by the end of March 1942, the AIF was requested to return home to Australia while the militia was immediately mobilised. This haste was further increased when Singapore fell and the consequent capture of the 8th Division, which left the entire division as prisoners of war. These two events were the impetus for the relief of Australian troops at Tobruk, with the 6th and 7th Divisions were immediately recalled to Australia to reinforce the defensive positions of New Guinea.[34] General conscription was also reintroduced, with service again being limited to Australia's territorial possessions, namely New Guinea, but was extended to cover the adjacent islands in 1943. There were continued tensions between personnel of the AIF and Militia due to the latter's perceived inferior fighting ability which led to their nickname of "chocos", short for chocolate soldiers; this was in the belief that they would melt in the heat of combat. There was also anger from the AIF towards the geographical limitations of the militia, which led to their second nickname of "koalas", as they were a protected species that could not get shot or be exported.[20][41][42][43][44]

Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion in September 1942

The naval engagement of the Battle of the Coral Sea, that was fought against the Imperial Japanese Navy and assisted by the Royal Australian Navy, was the impetus for the Japanese overland invasion to capture Port Moresby via the Owen Stanley mountain range.[45] This occurred on 21 July 1942, when the Japanese landed at Gona, with defensive actions and reversals by Australian forces represent the Kokoda campaign. Australian battalions tried to slow the attacker with operations across the Kokoda track, with eventual success, and the resultant operations concluded with the Japanese being driven out of New Guinea entirely.[46] In parallel with these defences, on 25 August 1942, another landing took place at Milne Bay with fighting waged until 7 September 1942 when the Japanese were repulsed; this is widely considered to be the first significant reversal of Japanese forces for the war.[47] The Kokoda Track Campaign ended after the Japanese withdrawal in November 1942, with subsequent advances leading to the Battle of Buna–Gona on 16 November 1942; this battle continued until 2 January 1943.[46][48]

In early 1943, the Australian Army started offensive actions to recapture Lae and Salamaua, where the Japanese had been entrenched since 8 March 1942.[49] This culminated in the capture of Lae, held by the 7th Division in early September 1943, from a successful combined amphibious landing and airborne offensive; though the 9th Division was supposed to take the town. The seaborne assault was notable as it was the first large–scale amphibious operation since the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I and was responsible for the Lae's capture, whereas the airborne operation aimed to secure the airfield at Nadzab. Additionally, Salamaua was taken days later on 11 September 1943, which was achieved by a separate joint Australian and US attack.[50][51]

The capture of Lae was additionally part of the Huon Peninsula campaign, which occurred between September 1943 and January 1944, and planned to retake the Huon Gulf from the Japanese. Following a relatively swift securing of Lae, Australian command began to plan the Battle of Finschhafen; which catered a potential aerial and naval base for support of nearby operations. On 2 October 1943, Finschhafen was seized after Landing at Scarlet Beach, with control of both towns passed to Australian forces within four weeks of offensives and subsequent counterattacks were beaten off between 10–19 October 1943. On 17 November 1943, a major offensive was unleashed that aimed to secure Sio, with the initial operation, the Battle of Sattelberg, capturing their objectives by the end of November. The advance continued with the Battle of Wareo, which ended on 8 December 1943, and the campaign concluded with the Battle of Sio, with the battle finishing on 15 January 1944; in total, the operations cost 1028 in casualties. The momentum of this advance was continued, though, by the 8th Brigade as they pursued the enemy in retreat, which culminated with the capture of Madang on 24 April 1944.[51][52]

In mid-1944, Australian forces took over the garrisoning of Torokina from the US with this changeover giving Australian command responsibility over the Bougainville Campaign. Soon after arriving in November of the same year, the commander of II Corps, Lieutenant–General Stanley Savige, began an offensive to retake the island with the 3rd Division alongside the 11th and 23rd independent brigades. The campaign lasted until the Japanese surrender, and was controversial as no apparent difference was made to the conclusion of the war and for the large number of casualties incurred; this campaign was one of Australia's most costliest in the Second World War.[53]

Members of the 7th Division at Balikpapan

In October 1944, Australian participation in the Aitape–Wewak Campaign began with the transfer of responsibilities for Aitape to the 6th Division. US forces had captured the position earlier that year from the Japanese, who held it since 1942, and continued to hold it passively until the switch. Australian command found this arrangement unsuitable and subsequently began planning to eliminate the enemy forces in the area. On 2 November 1944, the campaign began with orders for commandos to patrol a coastal area, wherein minor engagements were reported. In early December, the 19th Brigade took over the commandos' responsibility, with the latter sent inland to establish access to the Torricelli Range. Consequently, the amount of fierce fighting increased, alongside the territory secured. Due to successes, thought was given for the capture of Maprik and Wewak, though supply became a major issue in this period. On 10 February 1945, the campaign's major offensive was underway, and on 22 April 1945, Maprik fell, followed soon after by Wewak. Smaller operations to secure the area continued, and by July, all significant 6th Division actions ceased.[54][55]

The Borneo Campaign was a series of amphibious landings and consisted of three distinct operations that were undertaken by the 7th and 9th divisions. The campaign began with the Battle of Tarakan on 1 May 1945, with the second operation occurring, six weeks after, with the subsequent Battle of Labuan, and continued with the final operation: the Battle of Balikpapan. The purpose of the operation at Tarakan was for the 26th Brigade to capture the island and establish airfields. Following the initial amphibious landing, seven weeks were taken to secure the island, with the burying of 200 Australian before the battle's conclusion on 20 June 1945. The operation at Labuan aimed to secure resources and a naval base on the island, with the 9th Division tasked with achieving these objectives. On 10 June 1945, the operation commenced until its conclusion after Japan's surrender; more than 100 Australians died in the battle. The operation at Balikpapan was the largest of the three battles, with 33,000 combined servicemen of the Australian military participating, and remains the largest amphibious operation undertaken by Australian armed forces. On 1 July 1945, the engagement commenced, with all major objectives being acquired by war's end. The entire campaign lasted until 15 August 1945, whereupon Japan surrendered and accepted the Allied terms of peace, which brought about the end of the Second World War.[56][57][58]

Cold War


After the surrender of Japan, the Australian provided a contingent to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), which included the 34th Brigade that consisted of mainly volunteers from the 2nd AIF. The units that composed the brigade would eventually become the nucleus of the regular army, with the battalions and brigade being renumbered to reflect this change. Following the start of the Korean War, the Australian Army committed troops to fight against the North Korean forces; the units came from the Australian contribution to BCOF. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) arrived in Pusan on 28 September 1950. Australian troop numbers would increase and continue to be deployed up until the armistice, with 3RAR being eventually joined by the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR).[59][60] For a brief period, between 1951 and 1959, the Menzies Government reinstituted conscription and compulsory military training with the National Service Scheme, which required all males of eighteen years of age to serve for specified period in either the Australian Regular Army (ARA) or CMF.[43][61]

Irregular warfare

The Australian Army committed the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) in the Malayan Emergency, a guerrilla conflict between communist forces and Malay allies over ethnic Chinese citizenship, in October 1955. The operations consisted of patrolling actions and guarding infrastructure, however, by the time of their deployment, the emergency was nearly over, and thus they rarely saw combat. All three original Royal Australian Regiment battalions would complete at least one tour before the end of Australian operations. In August 1963, Australian command ended deployments to Malaya, 3 years after the emergency's official end.[62]

In 1962, the Borneo Confrontation began, which was the result of Indonesia's opposition to the formation of Malaysia, and was an undeclared war that entailed a series of border conflicts between indonesian–backed forces and British–Malaysian allies. Initial Australian support in the conflict began, and continued throughout, was with the training and supply of Malaysian troops, with Australian soldiers only used for combat in defensive operations. Then, in January 1965, permission was granted for the deployment of 3RAR, they arrived in March that year, with extensive operations conducted in Sarawak until their withdrawal in July 1965. The subsequent deployment of 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR), in April 1966, was less intensive in operational tempo, with the battaliion withdrawn in August that year. This is not to mention the efforts of the Special Air Service Regiment and several other corps in the conflict.[63][64]

Vietnam War

The Australian Army commenced its involvement in the Vietnam War by sending military advisors in 1962, which was then increased by sending in combat troops, specifically 1RAR, on 27 May 1965. Just before the official start of hostilities, the Australian Army was augmented with the reintroduction of conscription, which was based on a 'birthday ballot' selection process for all registered 20 year old males. These men were required to register, unless they gave a legitimate reason for their exemption, else they faced penalties. This scheme would prove to be one of the most controversial implementations of conscription in Australia, with large protests against its adoption.[65][66][43][61]

In March 1966, the Australian Army increased its commitment again with the replacement of 1RAR with the 1st Australian Task Force; a force in which all nine battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment would serve. One of the heaviest actions of the war occurred in August 1966, with the Battle of Long Tan, wherein D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) successfully fended off an enemy force, estimated at 2,000 men, for four hours. In 1968, Australian forces defended against the Tet Offensive, a Viet Cong military operation, and repulsed them with few casualties. The contribution of personnel to the war was gradually wound down, which started in late 1970 and ended in 1972; while the official declaration of the end of Australia's involvement in the war happened on 11 January 1973.[65][66]

Post–Vietnam War

Following the Vietnam War, there was an almost continuous hiatus of operational activity by the Australian Army. In late 1979, one of the largest deployments experienced by the Army during this period was its commitment of 151 troops to the Commonwealth Monitoring Force, which monitored the transition of Rhodesia to universal suffrage. In 1989, Australia offered 300 army personnel, mostly engineers, to the United Nation Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia, to help transition the country to independence from South Africa control.[67]

Recent history (1990–present)


Following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990, a coalition of countries sponsored by the UN Security Council, of which Australia was a part, gave a deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait of the 15 January 1991. Iraq refused to retreat and thus full conflict and the Gulf War began two days later on 17 January 1991.[68] In January 1993, the Australian Army deployed 26 personnel on an ongoing rotational basis to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), as part of a non-United Nations peacekeeping organisation that observes and enforces the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.[69]

Australia's largest peacekeeping deployment began in 1999 in East Timor, while other ongoing operations include peacekeeping in the Sinai (as part of MFO), and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (as part of Operation Paladin since 1956).[70] Humanitarian relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake in Aceh Province, Indonesia, Operation Sumatra Assist, ended on 24 March 2005.[71]

Afghanistan and Iraq

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Australia promised troops to any military operations that the US commenced in response to the attacks. Subsequently, the Australian Army committed combat troops to Afghanistan in Operation Slipper. This combat role continued until the end of 2013 when it was replaced by a training contingent operating under Operation Highroad.[72][73]

Australian Cavalry Scout in Iraq, 2007
Two Australian soldiers during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive in Afghanistan

After the Gulf War the UN imposed heavy restrictions on Iraq to stop them producing weapons of mass destruction. In the early 21st century, the US accused Iraq of possessing these weapons and promoted unsubstantiated allegations, and requested that the UN invade the country in response, a motion which Australia supported. The UN denied this motion, however, it did not stop a coalition, that Australia joined, invading the country; thus starting the Iraq War on 19 March 2003.[74]

Between April 2015 and June 2020, the Army deployed a 300-strong element to Iraq, designated as Task Group Taji, as part of Operation Okra. In support of a capacity building mission, Task Group Taji's main role was to provide training to Iraqi forces, during which Australian troops have served alongside counterparts from New Zealand.[75][76]


The Australian Army's structure from 2019

The 1st Division comprises a deployable headquarters, while 2nd Division under the command of Forces Command is the main home-defence formation, containing Army Reserve units. The 2nd Division's headquarters only performs administrative functions. The Australian Army has not deployed a divisional-sized formation since 1945 and does not expect to do so in the future.[77]

1st Division

1st Division carries out high-level training activities and deploys to command large-scale ground operations. It has few combat units permanently assigned to it, although it does currently command the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment as part of Australia's amphibious task group.[78]

1 RAR machine-gun team training in Hawaii during RIMPAC 2012

Forces Command

Forces Command controls for administrative purposes all non-special-forces assets of the Australian Army. It is neither an operational nor a deployable command. Forces Command comprises[79]

Additionally, Forces Command includes the following training establishments:

Australian special forces in Afghanistan, 2009

Special Forces

Special Operations Command comprises a command formation of equal status to the other commands in the ADF. It includes all of Army's special forces assets.[81][82]

Colours, standards and guidons

All colours of the Army were on parade for the centenary of the Army, 10 March 2001.

Infantry, and some other combat units of the Australian Army carry flags called the Queen's Colour and the Regimental Colour, known as "the Colours".[83] Armoured units carry Standards and Guidons – flags smaller than Colours and traditionally carried by Cavalry, Lancer, Light Horse and Mounted Infantry units. The 1st Armoured Regiment is the only unit in the Australian Army to carry a Standard, in the tradition of heavy armoured units. Artillery units' guns are considered to be their Colours, and on parade are provided with the same respect.[84] Non-combat units (combat service support corps) do not have Colours, as Colours are battle flags and so are only available to combat units. As a substitute, many have Standards or Banners.[85] Units awarded battle honours have them emblazoned on their Colours, Standards and Guidons. They are a link to the unit's past and a memorial to the fallen. Artillery do not have Battle Honours – their single Honour is "Ubique" which means "Everywhere" – although they can receive Honour Titles.[86]

The Army is the guardian of the National Flag and as such, unlike the Royal Australian Air Force, does not have a flag or Colours. The Army, instead, has a banner, known as the Army Banner. To commemorate the centenary of the Army, the Governor General Sir William Deane, presented the Army with a new Banner at a parade in front of the Australian War Memorial on 10 March 2001. The Banner was presented to the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army (RSM-A), Warrant Officer Peter Rosemond.[87][88]

The Army Banner bears the Australian Coat of Arms on the obverse, with the dates "1901–2001" in gold in the upper hoist. The reverse bears the "rising sun" badge of the Australian Army, flanked by seven campaign honours on small gold-edged scrolls: South Africa, World War I, World War II, Korea, Malaya-Borneo, South Vietnam, and Peacekeeping. The banner is trimmed with gold fringe, has gold and crimson cords and tassels, and is mounted on a pike with the usual British royal crest finial.[89]



As of June 2018 the Army had a strength of 47,338 personnel: 29,994 permanent (regular) and 17,346 active reservists (part-time); all of whom are volunteers.[90] In addition, the Standby Reserve has another 12,496 members (as of 2009).[91] As of 2018, women make up 14.3% of the Army – well on track to reach its current goal of 15% by 2023. The number of women in the Australian military has increased dramatically since 2011 (10%), with the announcement that women would be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles by 2016.[92]

Rank and insignia

The ranks of the Australian Army are based on the ranks of the British Army, and carry mostly the same actual insignia. For officers the ranks are identical except for the shoulder title "Australia". The Non-Commissioned Officer insignia are the same up until Warrant Officer, where they are stylised for Australia (for example, using the Australian, rather than the British coat of arms).[93] The ranks of the Australian Army are as follows:

NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D)
Australia Officer rank insignia
Rank title: Field Marshal General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Officer Cadet Staff Cadet
Abbreviation: FM Gen Lt Gen Maj Gen Brig Col Lt Col Maj Capt Lt 2Lt OCDT SCDT
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Australia Other Ranks Insignia No insignia
Rank Title: Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army Warrant Officer class 1 Warrant Officer class 2 Staff Sergeant (Phased out as of 2019) Sergeant Corporal Lance Corporal Private

(or equivalent)

Abbreviation: RSM-A WO1 WO2 SSgt Sgt Cpl LCpl Pte Rec


The Australian Army uniforms are grouped into nine categories, with additional variants of the uniform having alphabetical suffixes in descending order, which each ranges from ceremonial dress to general service and battle dress. The Slouch hat is the regular service and general duties hat, while the field hat is for use near combat scenarios.[94] The summarised categories are as follows:

  • No 1 – Ceremonial Service Dress
  • No 2 – Ceremonial Parade Dress/General Duty Dress
  • No 3 – Ceremonial Safari Suit
  • No 4 – Multicam Dress
  • No 5 – Crewman Dress
  • No 6 – Mess Dress
  • No 7 – Working Dress
  • No 8 – Maternity Dress
  • No 9 – Aircrew Dress


SR-25 rifle, Heckler & Koch USP sidearm
Australian M1 Abrams, the main battle tank used by the Army

Firearms and artillery

Small arms F88 Austeyr (service rifle), F89 Minimi (support weapon), Browning Hi-Power (sidearm), MAG-58 (general purpose machine gun), SR-25 designated marksman rifle, SR-98 (sniper rifle), Mk48 Maximi, AW50F;[95]
Special forces M4 carbine, Heckler & Koch USP, SR-25, F89 Minimi, MP5, SR-98, Mk48, HK416, HK417, Blaser R93 Tactical, Barrett M82, Mk14 EBR;
Artillery 54 M777A2 155 mm Howitzer, F2 81 mm Mortar;[96][97]


Main battle tanks 59 M1A1 Abrams. Australia ordered 160 M1A1 hulls to produce 75 M1A2 SEPv3 tanks. [98]
Armoured recovery vehicle 13 M88A2 Hercules armoured recovery vehicles[99][100] 29 M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles. [101]
Reconnaissance vehicles 257 ASLAV. To be replaced, beginning in 2019, with 211 Boxer (armoured fighting vehicle)
Armoured Personnel Carriers 431 M113 Armoured Vehicles upgraded to M113AS3/4 standard (around 100 of these will be placed in reserve)
Infantry Mobility Vehicles 1,052 Bushmaster PMVs;[102][103][104] 31 HMT Extenda Mk1 Nary vehicles and 89 HMT Extenda Mk2 on order
Light Utility Vehicles 2,268 G-Wagon 4 × 4 and 6x6, 1,500 Land Rover FFR and GS, 1,295 Unimog 1700L


Radar AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radar, AMSTAR Ground Surveillance RADAR, AN/TPQ-48 Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar, GIRAFFE FOC, Portable Search and Target Acquisition Radar – Extended Range.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles RQ-7B Shadow 200, Wasp AE, and PD-100 Black Hornet[105][106]


Aircraft Type Versions Number in service[107] Notes
Boeing CH-47 Chinook Transport helicopter



7 CH-47F Chinooks were delivered in August 2015. 3 more CH-47Fs were ordered on December 2016.[108] 4 more aircraft were ordered with the first 2 delivered on July 2021 bringing the total to 14.[109]
Eurocopter EC135 Training helicopter EC135T2+ 15 Delivery completed 22 November 2016 [110][111]
Eurocopter Tiger Attack helicopter Tiger ARH 22 Delivery completed early July 2011. Achieved Final Operational Capability on 14 April 2016.[112]
AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter AH-64Ev6 Apache Guardian 0 (29) To replace Eurocopter Tiger.[113]
UH-60 Black Hawk Utility helicopter S-70A-9 20 Replaced by the MRH 90 in 2017 for utility and transport roles. 20 to be kept in operational service for special forces until the end of 2021 due to issues with MRH 90.[114][115]
NHIndustries MRH-90 Taipan Utility helicopter TTH: Tactical Transport Helicopter 47 47 in service (including 6 for Royal Australian Navy)


The Army's operational headquarters, Forces Command, is located at Victoria Barracks in Sydney.[116] The Australian Army's three regular brigades are based at Robertson Barracks near Darwin,[117] Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, and Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane.[118] The Deployable Joint Force Headquarters is also located at Gallipoli Barracks.[119]

Other important Army bases include the Army Aviation Centre near Oakey, Queensland, Holsworthy Barracks near Sydney, Lone Pine Barracks in Singleton, New South Wales and Woodside Barracks near Adelaide, South Australia.[120] The SASR is based at Campbell Barracks Swanbourne, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.[121]

Puckapunyal, north of Melbourne, houses the Australian Army's Combined Arms Training Centre,[122] Land Warfare Development Centre, and three of the five principal Combat Arms schools. Further barracks include Steele Barracks in Sydney, Keswick Barracks in Adelaide, and Irwin Barracks at Karrakatta in Perth. Dozens of Australian Army Reserve depots are located across Australia.[123]

Australian Army Journal

Since June 1948, the Australian Army has published its own journal titled the Australian Army Journal. The journal's first editor was Colonel Eustace Keogh, and initially, it was intended to assume the role that the Army Training Memoranda had filled during the Second World War, although its focus, purpose, and format has shifted over time.[124] Covering a broad range of topics including essays, book reviews and editorials, with submissions from serving members as well as professional authors, the journal's stated goal is to provide "...the primary forum for Army's professional discourse... [and to facilitate]... debate within the Australian Army ...[and raise] ...the quality and intellectual rigor of that debate by adhering to a strict and demanding standard of quality".[125] In 1976, the journal was placed on hiatus as the Defence Force Journal began publication;[124] however, publishing of the Australian Army Journal began again in 1999 and since then the journal has been published largely on a quarterly basis, with only minimal interruptions.[126]

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Further reading

External links