Australian Army

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Australian Army
Australian Army Emblem Transparent.png
Active1 March 1901 – present
Size29,994 (Regular)
17,346 (Active Reserve)[1]
Part ofAustralian Defence Force
  • Second Boer War
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Korean War
  • Malayan Emergency
  • Indonesian Confrontation
  • Vietnam War
  • War in Somalia
  • Rwanda
  • East Timor
  • Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands
  • War in Afghanistan
  • Iraq War
  • 2006 East Timorese crisis
  • 2014 Military Intervention in Iraq
Commander-in-chiefGeneral Sir Peter Cosgrove
As Governor-General of Australia
Chief of the Defence ForceGeneral Angus Campbell
Chief of ArmyLieutenant General Richard Burr
Deputy Chief of ArmyMajor General Anthony Rawlins
Commander Forces CommandMajor General Greg Bilton
Australian Army flagFlag of Australia (converted).svg
Roundel of Australia – Army Aviation.svg
(armoured vehicles)
Roundel of the Australian Army.svg

The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence.[2] Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.


Formed in March 1901, with the amalgamation of the six separate colonial military forces, the history of the Australian Army can be divided into two periods:

  • 1901–47, when limits were set on the size of the regular Army, the vast majority of peacetime soldiers were in reserve units of the Citizens Military Force (also known as the CMF or Militia), and expeditionary forces (the First and Second Australian Imperial Forces) were formed to serve overseas,[3][4] and
  • Post-1947, when a standing peacetime regular infantry force was formed and the CMF (known as the Army Reserve after 1980) began to decline in importance.[5][4]
Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion in September 1942
Two Australian soldiers during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive in Afghanistan
Australian Cavalry Scout in Iraq, 2007

During its history the Australian Army has fought in a number of major wars, including: Second Boer War (1899–1902), First World War (1914–18), the Second World War (1939–45), Korean War (1950–53), Malayan Emergency (1950–60), Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation (1962–66), Vietnam War (1962–73),[6] and more recently in Afghanistan (2001 – present) and Iraq (2003–09).[7] 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. Australia's largest peacekeeping deployment began in 1999 in East Timor, while other ongoing operations include peacekeeping on Bougainville, in the Sinai, and in the Solomon Islands. Humanitarian relief after 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake in Aceh Province, Indonesia, Operation Sumatra Assist, ended on 24 March 2005.[8]

Current organisation[edit]

The Australian Army's structure from 2018

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. 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.[9]

1st Division[edit]

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.[10]

1 RAR machine-gun team training in Hawaii during RIMPAC 2012
A 1st Commando Regiment soldier jumping from a 16th Aviation Brigade, 171st Aviation Squadron Black Hawk helicopter

Forces Command[edit]

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

  • 1 Brigade – Multi-role Combat Brigade based in Darwin and Adelaide.
  • 3 Brigade – Multi-role Combat Brigade based in Townsville.
  • 6 Brigade (CS&ISTAR) – Mixed brigade based in Sydney.
  • 7 Brigade – Multi-role Combat Brigade based in Brisbane.
  • 16 Aviation Brigade – Army Aviation brigade based in Enoggera, Brisbane.
  • 17 Combat Service Support Brigade – Logistic brigade based in Sydney.
  • 2nd Division administers the reserve forces from its headquarters located in Sydney.
    • 4 Brigade – based in Victoria.
    • 5 Brigade – based in New South Wales.
    • 8 Brigade – training brigade with units around Australia
    • 9 Brigade – based in South Australia and Tasmania.
    • 11 Brigade – based in Queensland.
    • 13 Brigade – based in Western Australia.

Additionally, Forces Command includes the following training establishments:

  • Army Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka, NSW;
  • Royal Military College, Duntroon in the ACT;
  • Combined Arms Training Centre at Puckapunyal, Vic;
  • Army Logistic Training Centre at Bonegilla, Vic and Bandiana, Vic; and
  • Army Aviation Training Centre at Oakey, QLD.[11]
Australian special forces in Afghanistan, 2009

Special Forces[edit]

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.

Planned restructuring[edit]

Under a restructuring program known as Plan Beersheba announced in late 2011, the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades will be re-formed as combined-arms multi-role manoeuvre brigades with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (part of the 3rd Brigade) forming the core of a future amphibious force.[12] The force will be known as the Amphibious Ready Element and will be embarked on the Navy's new Canberra-class amphibious assault ships.

Colours, standards and guidons[edit]

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".[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.

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.[17]



As of June 2018 the Army had a strength of 47,338 personnel: 29,994 permanent (regular) and 17,346 active reservists (part-time).[18] In addition, the Standby Reserve has another 12,496 members (as of 2009).[19] 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 will be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles by 2016.[20]

Rank and insignia[edit]

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). The ranks of the Australian Army are as follows:

  1. Private (PTE) – OR-2
  2. Private Proficient (PTE(P)) Also used within the Private equivalent ranks – OR-3
  3. Lance Corporal or Lance Bombardier (LCPL or LBDR) – OR-4
  4. Corporal or Bombardier (CPL or BDR) – OR-5
  5. Sergeant (SGT) – OR-6
  6. Staff Sergeant (SSGT) – OR-7 (SSGT is being phased out of the Australian Army)
  7. Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) – OR-8
  8. Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) – OR-9
  9. Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army (RSM-A) – OR-9 (This is an appointment rather than a rank)
  10. Second Lieutenant (2LT) – OF-1
  11. Lieutenant (LT) – OF-2
  12. Captain (CAPT) – OF-3
  13. Major (MAJ) – OF-4
  14. Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) – OF-5
  15. Colonel (COL) – OF-6
  16. Brigadier (BRIG) – OF-7. Like the United Kingdom, prior to 1922 Australia used the rank Brigadier General
  17. Major General (MAJGEN) – OF-8
  18. Lieutenant General (LTGEN) – OF-9
  19. General (GEN) – OF-10
  20. Field Marshal (FM) – OF-11. This rank is generally reserved for wartime and ceremonial purposes; there are no regular appointments to the rank. Sir Thomas Blamey is the only Australian-born officer promoted to the rank. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is currently the only living holder of the rank of Field Marshal in the Australian Army. The Duke, however, does not have any active role in the Australian command structure.


SR-25 rifle, Heckler & Koch USP sidearm
Australian M1 Abrams, the main battle tank used by the Army
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
Special forces M4 carbine, Heckler & Koch USP, SR-25, F89 Minimi, MP5, SR-98, Mk48, HK416, HK417, Blaser R93 Tactical, Barrett M82, Mk14 EBR
Main battle tanks 59 M1A1 Abrams
Armored recovery vehicle 13 M88A2 Hercules armored recovery vehicles[21][22]
Reconnaissance vehicles 257 ASLAV. To be replaced, beginning in 2019, with 211 Boxer (armoured fighting vehicle)
Armoured Personnel Carriers 431 M113 Armored Vehicles upgraded to M113AS3/4 standard (around 100 of these will be placed in reserve)
Infantry Mobility Vehicles 1,052 Bushmaster PMVs,[23][24][25]; 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
Artillery 112 L118/L119 105 mm Hamel Guns (In reserve), 36 M198 155 mm Howitzer (In reserve), 54 M777A2 155 mm Howitzer, 36 RBS-70 surface-to-air missile systems.[citation needed]
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 Insitu Aerosonde, Elbit Systems Skylark and Boeing ScanEagle[26]

Current aircraft[edit]

Aircraft Type Versions Number in service[27] Notes
Boeing CH-47 Chinook Transport helicopter CH-47D
One CH-47D lost in Afghanistan on 30 May 2011. From an initial fleet of six; two additional CH-47Ds were ordered in December 2011 as attrition replacement and to boost heavy lift capabilities until the delivery of seven CH-47Fs, which will replace the CH-47Ds. All seven Chinooks were delivered in August 2015. The US State Department has approved the possible sale of three more CH-47F aircraft as of December 2015.[29] The 2016 Defence White Paper confirmed the order of three CH-47F aircraft.[30]
Eurocopter EC135 Training helicopter EC135T2+ 15 Delivery completed 22 November 2016 [31][32]
Eurocopter Tiger Attack helicopter Tiger ARH 22 Delivery completed early July 2011. Achieved Final Operational Capability on 14 April 2016.[33]
Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk Utility helicopter S-70A-9 34 Will be replaced by the MRH 90 by June 2018. 18 to be kept in operational service for special forces until the end of 2021 due to issues with MRH 90 with an additional 2 retained.[34][35]
NHIndustries MRH-90 Taipan Utility helicopter TTH: Tactical Transport Helicopter 45 (47) 45 in service as of June 2017. Total of 47 on order (including 6 for Royal Australian Navy)

Former aircraft[edit]

Aircraft Type Versions Number in service[27] Notes
Bell 206B-1 Kiowa Light observation helicopter 206B-1 - [36] Replaced by the Eurocopter Tiger and Eurocopter EC135. 56 originally in service. Retired in October 2018. [37]


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

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. The SASR is based at Campbell Barracks Swanbourne, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

Puckapunyal north of Melbourne houses the Australian Army's Combined Arms Training Centre, 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.

Australian Army Journal[edit]

Since 1947, the Australian Army has published its own journal titled the Australian Army Journal. 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".[38] In 1976, the journal was placed on hiatus; however, publishing began again in 1999 and since then the journal has been published largely on a quarterly basis, with only minimal interruptions.[39]

Future procurement[edit]

This list includes equipment currently on order or a requirement which has been identified:

  • A replacement for the Tiger ARH helicopter was identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper. The Army is set to retire the helicopter earlier than expected after encountering numerous issues with sustainment and serviceability rates. While the Tigers were initially supposed to get a $1–2 billion mid-life upgrade, a new type of helicopter—either manned, unmanned or a combination of both—is set to enter service from the mid 2020s.[40]
  • A new deployable short-range ground-based air defence missile system is slated to replace the RBS-70 MANPADS by the early 2020s.[41]
  • A new medium-range air defence system is also to be acquired in the late 2020s. The new system will help defend deployed airfields, command centres and other valuable assets from enemy air attack.[41] The Army has lacked a medium-range air defence system capability since the Rapier's retirement in 2005.[42]
  • Land-based anti-ship missiles were outlined as a new requirement in the 2016 Defence White Paper to defend deployed forces as well as offshore assets such as oil and natural gas platforms.[41]
  • The Australian Government committed to improving the systems that individual soldiers use. Items outlined in the DWP include "weapons and targeting equipment, digital communications systems, body armour and self protection equipment (including for chemical, biological and radiological threats), and night fighting equipment."[41]
  • 1,100 Hawkei protected mobility vehicles are currently being procured at a cost of around $1.3 billion.[43]
  • The Bushmaster PMV is to be replaced beginning in 2025 by a new platform.[41]
  • Land 400 replacement program is set to replace the existing 257 ASLAVs and 700 M113 APCs with Boxers.[44]
  • To complement current artillery, a new class of long-range rocket artillery is to be introduced in the mid 2020s. The new system, yet to be named, will be able to provide fire support for troops at three hundred kilometres.[41]
  • A riverine patrol capability is to be re-established in 2022. The capability will be established around a fleet of small, lightly armed patrol vessels to allow access to a range of different environments.[41]
  • The Army has outlined a need for enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. With this, they plan to acquire a fleet of armed, medium-range unmanned aerial vehicles along with regular capability updates. They will provide enhanced firepower and ISR as well as a counter-terrorism ability overseas. They will also assist in humanitarian and relief missions.[41]

See also[edit]

  • Australian Defence Force ranks and insignia
  • List of Australian military memorials
  • Conscription in Australia
  • Australian military slang
  • Battle and theatre honours of the Australian Army
  • Uniforms of the Australian Army


  1. Commonwealth of Australia (2019). "Department of Defence Annual Report 2017-18" (PDF). Department of Defence. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  2. "Defence Act (1903) – SECT 9 Command of Defence Force and arms of Defence Force". Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  3. Grey 2008, pp. 88 & 147.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Odgers 1988, p. 5.
  5. Grey 2008, pp. 200–201.
  6. Odgers 1988.
  7. Grey 2008, pp. 284–285.
  8. "Australian War Memorial Official History of Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations". Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  9. Horner 2001, p. 195.
  10. Doran, Mark. "Amphibious Display". Army. Department of Defence. p. 12.
  11. "Forces Command". Australian Army. Archived from the original on 7 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  12. Minister for Defence, Minister for Defence Materiel and Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (12 December 2011). "New structure and capability for Army" (Press release). Archived from the original on 2 August 2014.
  13. Jobson 2009, p. 53.
  14. Jobson 2009, pp. 55–56.
  15. "National Flags, Military Flags, & Queens and Regimental Colours". Digger History. Archived from the original on 5 April 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  16. Jobson 2009, p. 58.
  17. "Army Flags (Australia)". Flags of the World. Archived from the original on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  18. Commonwealth of Australia (2019). "Department of Defence Annual Report 2017-18". Department of Defence. Text "" ignored (help); Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  19. Australian National Audit Office (2009). Army Reserve Forces (PDF). Audit Report No. 31 2008–09. Canberra: Australian National Audit Office. ISBN 0-642-81063-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2009. Search this book on Logo.png
  20. Commonwealth of Australia (2019). "Women in the ADF Report 2017-18: A Supplement To The Defence Annual Report 201718". Department of Defence. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  21. Army, Australian. "M1 Abrams Tank – Australian Army". Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  22. "Army officially accepts new armoured vehicles". Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  23. "Contract Signed for Additional Bushmasters" (Press release). The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Minister for Defence. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
  24. "More vehicles on the way". Army News. Canberra: Australian Department of Defence. 26 May 2011. p. 16.
  25. "Australian Army orders additional Bushmasters from Thales". Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  26. "Army Technology". Defence Jobs. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  27. 27.0 27.1 "World Air Forces 2016 report". Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  28. "Three more CH-47F helicopters delivered ahead of schedule in FMS deal". Australian Aviation. 26 June 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  29. "Australia set to acquire three more CH-47F Chinooks". Australian Aviation. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  30. 2016 Defence White Paper (PDF). Australia: Commonwealth of Australia. 2016. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-9941680-5-4. Search this book on Logo.png
  31. "Minister for Defence – New training system for ADF helicopter crews". Media Release. Minister for Defence. 23 October 2014. Archived from the original on 25 August 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  32. McMaugh, Dallas (9 April 2016). "Future ADF training helicopter arrives at HMAS Albatross". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  33. Beurich, Cpl Sebastian (28 July 2016). "A story of innovation and commitment" (PDF). Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1378 ed). Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  34. Kerr, Julian (2 December 2015). "Australian Army to extend Black Hawk service lives for special forces use". Jane 's Defence Weekly (53.4). Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  35. "S-70A-9 Black Hawk Weapons". Defence Materiel Organisation. Department of Defence. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  36. Ashby-Cliffe, Cpl Jane (12 November 2009). "Kiowas' final salute" (PDF). Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1225 ed). Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  37. "Australian Army retires fleet of Bell 206B-1 Kiowa helicopters | Jane's 360".
  38. "Australian Army Journal". Publications. Australian Army. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  39. "Past editions: Australian Army Journal". Publications. Australian Army. Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  40. ""Troubled" Tiger set for early retirement, new light helicopter for Special Forces on the way". Australian Aviation. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 41.4 41.5 41.6 41.7 2016 Defence White Paper. Australia: Commonwealth of Australia. 2016. pp. 94–98. ISBN 978-0-9941680-5-4. Search this book on Logo.png
  42. "16 Air Defence Regiment History". Australian Air Defence Artillery Association. Australian Air Defence Artillery Association. Archived from the original on 26 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  43. "White paper full of praise for Hawkei". Bendigo Advertiser. Bendigo Advertiser. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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