So badass they even have their own SAS regiment.
"I cannot surrender. I am in command of Australians who would cut my throat if I did."
-British Colonel Charles Hore, Battle of Elands River, Second Boer War
The Australian Defence Force
is Australia's military. At about 100,000 personnel (full-time and reservists), it is the largest military in Oceania note
, but still smaller than most of the Asian military forces.
It makes up for this in being rather technologically sophisticated and more highly trained than most conventional forces... in addition to not pissing off anyone so badly they end up fighting another army. It also comes from a land that is situated rather inconveniently for invasion.
If you want to tell an Australian soldier at a glance in most media depictions, look at their head gear. Namely, if they are jauntily wearing a wide brim 'slouch' hat, maybe with one side of the brim neatly pinned up, they're a 'Digger'; an Aussie soldier (i.e. not Air Force or Navy). Similarly, the camouflage colour scheme worn by Aussie troops is instantly recognisable once you know what to look for: it's been known as the "Jellybean Suit" for years. Army and Air Force troops wear the standard greeny-coloured uniform, while sailors wear a greyish pattern◊
that serves no real camouflaging purpose—it's more because wearing a one-piece grey coverall (the previous uniform) is torturous when you're working in the bowels of a ship in the tropics. There is also a desert scheme◊
for all personnel deployed to the Middle East
- Australia's main rifle is a local version of the futuristic looking (but dating from the 1970s) Steyr AUG, originally from Austria, and the standard ADF sidearm is the FN Browning Hi-Power.
- Prior to the Steyr, they used a local version of the FN FAL which they liked very much and preferred over the M16. It was used to devastating effect during Vietnam (the SASR went one step further, cutting down the barrels and converting it to fire full-auto by inserting a matchstick into the firing mechanism, nicknaming them "The Bitch").
- The main light machine guns they use are the F89 Light Support Weapon (a licenced version of the FN Minimi, distinguishable from the FN version by its scope, complete lack of iron sights and having the longer FN MAG Flash suppressor on the end) and the MAG 58 (a licenced version of the FN MAG, with which the aussies have developed a novel way of firing on the move by using the left bipod leg as a foregrip while its still folded down) as for sniper rifles they use the SR-98 and AW50F (the AW and AW50 respectively, both have folding stocks and the AW50F further differs from the standard AW50 by having a madco barrel, which makes the AW50F look like a miniture Howitzer)
- For anti-armour purposes they use M72 LAW disposable rocket launchers, Carl-Gustav Recoilless Rifles and have recently acquired 92 FGM-148 Javelin launchers.
- The vehicles they use consist of a Land Rover 110 variant known as the Perentie (a heavily customized model unique to the ADF. The most recognisable six-wheel variant is the Long Range Patrol Vehicle (LRPV) used solely by the SAS Regiment and Commando regiments. They sport a pintle-mounted MAG 58 for the passenger and a either an automatic grenade launcher◊ or M2 heavy machine gun on a mounting ring in the rear tray, can also carry its own motorcycle and can travel 1600 kilometres on one tank of fuel; the ASLAV (a local version of the LAV-25 with some modifications for it to better handle the conditions of Australia); and the locally made Bushmaster IMV (an armoured, mine-protected vehicle designed for operations in northern Australia, with enough supplies (fuel, rations, water, etc) for 9 soldiers and their equipment to stay out there for 3 days, garnering particular acclaim (especially from the Dutch) in Afghanistan due to its survivability against insurgent attacks). Australian armoured vehicles are unique in that they feature equipment that isn't normally found in similar vehicles (for example a cool water drinking system and air conditioning). Recently, the ADF received 59 Abrams tanks from the US.
- As for helicopters, the Army uses the Eurocopter Tiger, the Blackhawk and the Chinook, while the Navy uses Sea Kings and Seahawks, though the Defence Force is phasing out all their transport 'copters (except the Chinook) for the more capable NH-90.
- It also has a fairly capable Navy, with the Collins class being one of the most effective conventional sub types in the world, in spite of rampant criticism and mockery when first introduced, because frankly, they didn't work. Australia surface fleet is mainly comprised of frigates, including 4 Adelaide-class frigates and 8 ANZAC-class frigates. In the near future, Australia will acquire 3 Hobart-class destroyers and 2 Canberra-class amphibious assault ships.
- Australia is notable for being the only export customer of the F-111 Aardvark bombers. These
will soon be have been retired from service, with F-35s having been ordered to replace them and the F/A-18 hornet (despite concerns that they won't be capable of defending Australian airspace due to limited range and the fact that it would be going up against up-to-date variants of Su-27 Flanker aircraft.) In 2007, the Air Force ordered 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets as interim aircraft due to concerns that the F-35 would not be ready into for the F-111's retirement. the fact that the F-35 program has run into yet more delays. Australia also uses F/A-18 Hornet fighters, which usually carry external tanks for flying over the vast Australian desert (or more accurately, for patrolling the vast stretches of coastline). For transport and disaster relief they rely on the C-130 Hercules transport, though recently they bought 4 C-17 Globemaster III's direct from Boeing.
- in addition the ADF has recently sought some interest in UAV's, they were going to buy some Global Hawks but changed their minds, instead the army bought the Insitu Aerosonde and Elbit Systems Skylark while the air force borrowed a couple of IAI Herons from Canada on a long term lease
As noted in the above picture, the Australian Defence Force has its own SAS regiment (called the SASR
) who are every bit as badass as the original SAS, if not more so (the Viet Cong nicknamed them "The Phantoms Of The Jungle" for a reason: the service record of the Australian and New Zealand SAS regiments during Vietnam was, at minimum, 492 Viet Cong killed...with 5 SAS troopers lost, 3 of whom were to friendly fire). Also within the Special Forces community are Commandos
(from 1 Cdo Rgt and 2 Cdo Rgt—note, 1st Commando
is an Army Reserve unit... yes, we have part-time
Special Forces soldiers), RAN Clearance Divers
(kinda like Navy SEALs who also do underwater repairs), the 171st Aviation Squadron (who provide helicopter mobility and tactical transport in a similar manner to the American 160th SOAR
), and the Incident Response Regiment
(think Hazmat on steroids).
- SAS troopers and Commandos are equipped with modified M4 carbines (designated M4A5◊), and depending on mission requirements will operate anything from Glocks, USPs, MP5s, Stoner SR-25s, shotguns, hatchets, crowbars... anything to get the job done.
- In addition to their work within their parent units an SAS trooper, Commando, or Clearance Diver◊ can expect to be rotated through a Tactical Assault Group at some stage of their career. These units, TAG East and TAG West, provide flexible and rapid counter-terror capabilities. For example, members of TAG East were activated to boost security at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2007 APEC summit.
- A lot of people don't realise what lengths the Australian special forces will go to to get the job done. For example in the early 1980s when the SAS was setting up their counter-terrorist capability they had no information on what the human body could tolerate as far as explosions, gas attacks, etc. Their response was to test it on themselves. Several tests involved setting off door-breaching explosives, while standing two meters away around a corner, that the army safety manual recommended be set off from a kilometer away. Another test involved a tear-gas round for outdoor riot control that was set off inside a bus. The gas was so thick inside the bus that the troopers couldn't see their hand held in front of them. It overwhelmed their gas masks (never mind the poor buggers who where playing hostages) and overwhelmed several of the troopers before one managed to break the windows. Another fun thing they did was stand among dummies while snipers shot live ammo at them. In the fifty-year history of the SAS around 40 troopers have been killed, only a couple of those have been due to enemy action. The rest were deaths during training.
Australian troops fought under the British flag in several 19th century conflicts back when Australia was still a collection of British colonies, including the Maori Wars in New Zealand, Sudan in the 1880s, the Boer War in South Africa and Boxer Rebellion in China during the late 1800s (both of which continued into the early 1900s, making them the first foreign wars in which Australian citizens fought).
Australian forces were involved in both World Wars on the Triple Entente side in WW1
and the Allied side in WW2
. Their most famous campaign of World War One
was the failed Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey, although they also served on the Western Front in France and fought in the Middle East campaigns. Australia would later adopt the day of the Gallipoli landings (April 25) as their national day of remembrance, despite being a complete failure. In fact, the importance of ANZAC Day has risen to the point where it is the un
official national holiday — Australia Day is generally seen as a time to have barbecues, watch fireworks, and watch cricket. In World War II
they were deployed to North Africa (most famously as the "Rats of Tobruk") and later, Australian soil was directly threatened, necessitating the creation of militia who earned distinction in the Kokoda campaign, where 200 Aussie militia held back 1200 Japanese along an extremely muddy and long trail in Papua New Guinea.
The Australians were also involved in the Korean War
and The Vietnam War
(where they scared the Viet Cong and NVA shitless as they used the exact same guerrilla tactics, were so Genre Savvy
they avoided ambushes and traps and were very patient, persistent and stubborn), as well as the Malayan Emergency, the Gulf War, the American occupation of Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. They've also participated in UN peacekeeping pretty much everywhere you can think of, although rarely in large numbers (with the notable exception of East Timor, where they were instrumental in ending the Indonesian occupation and stabilisng the country). During the Cold War
, the Ikara anti-submarine missile
was developed and built in Australia for the RAN.
Australian forces are mainly designed for intervention in local failed states, needing foreign support to go significantly further afield.
Somewhat amusingly, at least to some Australians, there have been claims circulating for quite some time that in the event of an invasion, the Australian Defense Force would only attempt to defend a relatively tiny portion of the country including Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Some older North Queenslanders still express bitterness over the WW2
'Brisbane Line' plan, which would have ceded their region (much of the northeastern quadrant of the country) to the Japanese in the event of invasion — it remains a parochial symbol of "big city" Brisbaneites neglecting their northern brethren. (Meanwhile, the north-west of Australia, which is probably the most vulnerable to invasion due to the terrain and ideal beaches for landing an army, totals an area of 1,600,000 square kilometres, and is defended by a single regiment — sacrificing the north or the far west to buy time may be the 'least worst' option under grim hypothetical circumstances.)
- Not just North Queenslanders. The Brisbane Line plan gave up Brisbane as well. And Queenslanders actually hold this against all southerners.
- That, and the whole Rugby League thing...
like worse than Russia. Invade Russia and you can keep marching until you freeze to death or march right back the way you came. Invade North West Australia and you can keep marching until you die of heatstroke... or swim home. Past the Australian Sealife. See you in hell!
- It is exactly like Russia. Sacrificing Western Australia to buy time is actually not a bad idea, as all attempts to cross the country laterally have failed abysmally. If you somehow manage not to die of heatstroke or dehydration, if you manage not to piss off any of the wildlife (including estuarine crocodiles, the largest crocodiles in the world, and the inland taipan, the most venomous snake in the world, and its relatives the mainland taipan and mulga snake, which are nearly as potent and a lot worse-tempered) if you are miraculously not killed in a sandstorm or one of the epic downpours that crop up, if you don't starve to death from dingos and hopping rats stealing your rations in the middle of the night, or being unlucky enough to be standing under a riled dropbear, if the local indigenous tribes don't take a dislike to you and poison you or screw with your navigatory equipment or spear you... after that you still have to deal with the Australian military and any local populations who have formed a militia, and they will be well fed, hydrated, and very pissed off.
- If you even make it ashore. The majority of the western Australian seaboard is protected by rocky reefs. A fact many early sailing ships discovered quite tragically when they ran aground. According to historical records, even if you made it ashore, between the environment, the local tribes, and the wildlife, you were lucky to make it out alive.
- And don't think trying to come through the northern rainforests will be any easier. Between the monsoons, the crazy wildlife, and the heatstroke (people have literally been boiled alive in the Daintree,) well... take a look at what we did to the Japanese at Kokoda, then add in the fact that we're fighting on home ground. Yep. You're screwed.
- To compare and contrast: Russia in winter is seriously cold, but one can keep the heat in with diligence and the right equipment; there's always clean water on the ground, just waiting to be scooped up and melted; the bears are all hibernating, and the wolves soon realise that armed troops are best avoided. The Australian desert is hot and there is no practical way of keeping the heat out; there's no surface water — good luck finding it elsewhere; and the small, poisonous critters whose homes you are camping on don't give a damn how well armed you are.
- And lets not forget that the average Aussie farmer has a couple of rifles, a shotgun, half a crate of jelly (Gelignite) and you don't want to know what else tucked into the back shed. The Aussie locals aren't much less deadly than the wildlife.
- That amount of weaponry is minimal, most are better armed than that. A lot of Australian farms are capable of being independent for food and water, enormous quantities of fuel, underground tanks, and it's very common to have a well equipped workshop that can make anything from a tractor to a machinegun.
- Not for nothing did Rommel say, "If I had to take hell, I would use the Australians to take it and the New Zealanders to hold it."
- Of course, most enemy armies would try to invade the east coast in that case. Not to mention modern militaries have much more modern equipment like the Osprey. There is probably no commander stupid enough to invade west Australia, though. Not to mention there's a barracks over here that has a little unit called the Special Air Service Regiment. Who Dares, Wins, troper.
- The east coast is where all the soldiers are. Back to square one.
- Not to mention that if invaders landed in Far North Queensland and tried to sweep down the eastern coast, they'd be confined to a narrow strip of land as they moved: most of the Queensland coastline is flat, but travel inland a little way and you hit mountain ranges, rivers, and in some places enough jungle to make the Viet Cong weep. As mentioned above, jungle is what our lads in the beige berets do best.
- Invading Sydney? Well the Great Dividing Range makes coming in from the west suicidal as the few roads able to support large vehicles are obvious bottlenecks. The bay area has a smallish mouth making it a shooting gallery for ships sailing through. Coming up from the south requires being able to either cross the Great Dividing Range with land forces where there are even less suitable crossing points, or being able to sneak past the city and land on the coast. Invading from the north is the same except the Great Barrier Reef isn't called that for nothing. If anyone tries invading Sydney I'd love for them to do it in the Summer, that's mating season for our lovely little Funnel Webs. Meaning thousands of very, very poisonous and aggressive males will be scurrying about and good luck going to the hospital for the anti-venom if you're the enemy.
- Invading Melbourne? Well forget any naval support, the mouth of Port Phillip Bay is one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world. Refusing the assistance of a pilot to get through is suicidal at best, not to mention the ADF has forts on both sides of the opening. Landing on the eastern side of the mouth runs into the problem of crossing a range that leads mostly into wilderness. Land invasion from the east and north are blocked by the Great Dividing Range again. Invading from the west requires a fair march through the Otway Mountain ranges and finding a place to land where giant cliffs don't turn the whole scene into a bizarre reversal of the Gallipoli landing.
- Australia's population is fairly centralized, and despite their sophistication, their military (and airforce in particular) is very, very small. As such, one would have no trouble simply bombing Australia into submission. One problem with that plan though: the only militaries that have the technology and logistical support to really pull off something like that happen to be allied to Australia.
- Even if somehow a non-ally manages to get their resources together and bomb Australia, do you really think they would sit around twiddling their thumbs? They'd bomb you right back, or else their allies would be just a tad bit worried that the world's largest source of uranium is being taken.
- And Australia tops the list of nuclear brinkmanship states (aka could have a nuclear weapon in less than six months) due to its technological capabilities. Also, the British tested their nuclear weapons in the Australian Desert back in the Fifties and there are a lot of military installations out in the desert in which no one really knows what happens.
- It's not like Russia. Those invading Russia get to march home after they've been chewed up. Those who invade Australia will have to SWIM home.
- Swimming past the sharks, poison jellyfish, blue ringed octopi, salt-water crocodiles (remember the old saying, 'if there's no sharks at the beach, it's because the crocodiles have eaten them all'?), etc...
- To get an idea of just how effective the Australian Army is when push comes to shove here's an excerpt from a former Viet Cong leader
"Worse than the Americans were the Australians. The Americans style was to hit us, then call for planes and artillery. Our response was to break contact and disappear if we could. The Australians were more patient than the Americans, better guerilla fighters, better at ambushes. They liked to stay with us instead of calling in the planes. We were more afraid of their style."
- So what you are telling me is that the Australians are actually Predators?
- Hey, maybe. Still, we don't blow ourselves up when we get caught.
- One reason for the Australian prowess during World War II was that a large number of them had been fighting massive bushfires in civilian life. This taught such warlike talents as combining individual initiative with team discipline, in teams of several thousands; familiarity with taking care of oneself far from the luxuries of civilization, and simply knowing how to not panic when your instinct is to panic. Whether that is true or not it is an interesting thought.
- The U.S, Navy named a cruiser USS Canberra in honor of HMAS Canberra (and, by extension, the city of Canberra) after HMAS Canberra was lost in the Solomons — making Canberra the only foreign ship (or city) to ever receive that particular honor.
- Similarly, the USAF operated a medium bomber, the B-57 Canberra. In this case, it was named for the British bomber it was derived from (The English Electric Canberra), which was named for the city.
- The HMAS Australia (D84) (the third to carry the name Australia) was the first ship to ever be struck by a Kamikaze attack on October 21, 1944, it was then struck again 4 days later only then returning to port for repairs. Over the course of the end phases of WWII the HMAS Australia was struck a total of six times by kamikaze attacks; a record matched only by the USS Lafey.
- Australia is also home to the Jindalee radar network, a locally made over the horizon early warning radar system that can not only scan as far as North Korea and India, but can also detect stealth bombers by picking up the disturbed air caused by the aircraft. So we know exactly how long we have until we all die.
- There are also the fabled Pine Gap, JDF Nurrungar, and the Woomera Test Range. These bases are like our Area 51, but with fewer flying saucers and better security, and they are where we keep all kinds of goodies: Satellite Communications Interception, Scramjets, Bunyips, and there are even stories of something called Project SPARTAN being tested out of Woomera.
- Yes, the Woomera Test Range is like Area 51 — if Area 51 were roughly the size of England, or Florida. Loooooooot of leg room Down Under.
- Canada and Australia are something like war buddies, having fought together in both World War One and World War II, The Cold War and in The Korean War.
- Canadians and Australians are like Heterosexual Life-Partners on a lot of things: particularly their appreciation of good beer.
- Also, more recently, Australia and America, the two nations having allied since the cold war. The ANZUS treaty binds the nations together for military matters, and they have fought together several times including conflicts in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, 2003 Iraq War and the current conflict in Afghanistan. However, the latter two have not pleased many Australians, due to the Army's recent history of being peacekeepers rather than active soldiers. And we'll leave it there.
- Australia's armed forces are the only recipients of the most awesome spork/can opener/knife device ever created — It's officially called the "Field Ration Eating Device (FRED)" note but that's clearly only because the Army wanted to legitimately call something "Fred." -Link. It really says something about your nation, when your most basic bit of cutlery issued to your soldiers includes a spoon, a can opener, and a bottle opener.
- Interestingly, Australia was the first Commonwealth nation to fire shots in both World War I and World War II. What's even more interesting is that both times they were fired by the same gun at the same fort for the same reason. That is, artillery at Fort Nepean attempting to prevent German merchant vessels from escaping through Port Phillip Heads.
The Australian military in fiction
WORLD WAR ONE
WORLD WAR TWO
THE VIETNAM WAR
- Breaker Morant. Actually, this movie is based on a play, which is also based on actual events. Read the book Shoot Straight You Bastards ! to learn more about this fascinating chain of events.
- JAG: RAN Lieutenant Commander Mic Brumby (Trevor Goddard) was a recurring character for a few seasons in this American show.
- Sea Patrol, a 2007—11 series involving the crew of HMAS Hammersley, a fictional naval patrol boat (Fremantle-class for the first season, Armidale-class for the second onwards. The series has been sold to a number of foreign countries, including the UK.
- There was also the 1979 (and 1983) series Patrol Boat (which used Attack- and Fremantle-class boats) based on the same premise though not related to the current series.
- Dead Island: Riptide features several named characters who are members of the ADF. Tough as nails all of them.
- Modern Warfare 2 gives us Task Force 141, a multi-national special forces unit, which includes a number of Australians in it's ranks. None of them are major characters however.
- The Tomorrow Series: Well, it is about an invasion of Australia. So naturally they play a big part in the story, although the primary focus is on a group of teenaged resistance fighters in the occupied areas of the country.
The Australian military in music
- And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle is a famous song lamenting the futile Australian attack on Gallipoli in World War 1, and drawing an implicit analogy to Australian soldiers being sent to the Vietnam War. Internationally, it may be best known via covers by Joan Baez and The Pogues; US Senator and Vietnam War veteran Bob Kerry recited this song to his supporters at the end of his 1991 presidential campaign. Known for making even non-Australians cry.
- Khe Sanh by Australian band Cold Chisel tells the story of a disillusioned and traumatised Australian veteran of the Vietnam War wandering the world in search of solace. This is the song of the Australian cricket team, in a weird case of Lyrical Dissonance turning into Reverse Funny Aneurysm with a dash of Black Comedy.
- I Was Only Nineteen (aka "A Walk In The Light Green") by the band Redgum was written after accounts of Vietnam veterans, describing the experience of the war itself, and the woes faced by veterans afterwards. It was originally released in 1983; a hiphop adaptation was recorded by Australian group The Herd in 2005.
- The title may need some explaining — during Vietnam, the maps were drawn up with 3 main colours. Blue for the ocean, dark green for jungle, and light green for cleared areas, either naturally or from the use of napalm or Agent Orange. The lyrics suggest that the soldier may have had contact with the one of those 2 chemicals...
What's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen...
- It's said that the 'light green' was the most feared place to patrol as it had been cleared and was therefore laden with ambushes and booby traps. Conversely the 'dark green' was largely untouched jungle where such hazards were much less common.
- Mothers, Daughters, Wives by folksinger Judy Small is about the women the soldiers left behind and, in too many cases, never saw again.