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Sea change: Australian Army starts shift towards littoral operations

Australian Army soldiers from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, onboard F470 Zodiacs conduct small-boat training in the littoral environment during Exercise ‘Tiger's Run 2022' on the Timor Sea off the coast of Northern Territory. (Commonwealth of Australia)

The Australian Army has initiated restructuring of its units to support a Defence Strategic Review (DSR) recommendation that requires the country's ground force to engage in littoral operations.

The DSR – released in late April – recommended restructuring the army to focus on littoral operations rather than conventional land-based theatres. “[The] army must be optimised for littoral operations in our northern land and maritime spaces and provide a long-range strike capability,” the DSR said.

Acting upon this recommendation, the army has started restructuring its Northern Territory (NT) units based in Darwin.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) regards Darwin as strategically important, both for national defence and as a forward base for regional engagement.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) told Janes in late June that the Darwin-based 1st Brigade has moved from its traditional heavy brigade model to focus on littoral operations.

“This transition commenced in 2022 with an armoured regiment and a mechanised infantry battalion moving from the 1st Brigade to under the command of the 9th Brigade in South Australia,” the spokesperson said.

In November 2022 the Adelaide-based 9th Brigade was combined with the 1st Brigade's 1st Armoured Regiment, the 7th Battalion, and elements of the 1st Combat Service Support Battalion to form an Integrated Combat Brigade (ICB).

The Commander of the Australian Army's 1st Brigade, Brigadier Nick Foxall, said at the time that the transfer enabled the 1st Brigade to focus on building the Australian Army's littoral manoeuvre capability centred in Darwin.

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