Big [unannounced] changes for brigades, regiments and battalions in NT and SA
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For some, this year’s exercise may be the last time they fight alongside armour in the Top End.
CAPTION: Australian soldiers watch a 1st Armoured Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps, M1 Abrams tank drive past during a live-fire demonstration on Exercise Predators Run at Mount Bundey Training Area, NT. Photo by Corporal Jacob Joseph. Story [published in ARMY Newspaper dated 15 September 2022] and photo by Corporal Jacob Joseph.
For what may be the last time, Adelaide-based infantry and armour travelled north to Darwin to train under the 1 Brigade banner during Exercise Predators Run, from August 18 to September 5.
7RAR and 1 Armoured Regiment are set to join 9 Brigade in the coming months while 1 Brigade transitions to its new role providing a littoral manoeuvre capability.
B Squadron, 1 Armoured Regiment, officer commanding Major Thomas Bittner joined the regiment almost a decade ago, when armour was a common sight across dusty NT training areas.
“Coming back here for the last exercise as part of 1 Brigade, everything comes full circle,” Major Bittner said.
For others like Major Bittner, it was a farewell to the familiar, but for others, like B Squadron tank commander Corporal Sam de Koning, it was his first exercise near Darwin.
Corporal de Koning travelled 14 hours a day for five days to escort the squadron’s tanks, strapped to a special heavy-load trailer, across the red centre to get to Predators Run.
“It’s a challenging environment,” Corporal de Koning said.
“It’s hard to do your job when the peak hours of the day are just so hot.”
With the wet-bulb nearing ‘widget black’ by mid-morning, heat was a real obstacle to overcome during the live-fire component of the exercise.
Soldiers pitched hoochies and found shade between activities that provided experiences both familiar and new.
8/12 Regiment Gunner Dylan Corbett strode through a cloud of CS gas to test the new low-burden mask.
“I found the new mask had a better seal than the one I used five years ago at Puckapunyal,” Gunner Corbett said.
“As long as the seal was tight it was fine – I didn’t have to purge.
“I probably don’t want to go again for a while though.”
At the nearby armoured fighting vehicle firing range, 93 Philippine Army soldiers from their 1 Brigade combat team watched as Abrams tanks blasted targets across the hillside.
First Lieutenant John Philip Calacat said it was his first time training in Australia and the main difference was Philippine Army training was focused on counter-insurgency operations.
“We’re happy to be here to exercise traditional warfighting capabilities,” First Lieutenant Calacat said.
“Each time we practised new TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures), our hosts explained how they worked and it was a smooth transition.”
On the final day of the activity, infantry from Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines fired their weapons from trenches, while tanks and ASLAVs, dug in on the flanks, provided heavy firepower.
With the future of 1 Armoured Regiment and 7RAR now in Adelaide, and 5RAR looking towards littoral operations, for some it would be their last time fighting alongside armour.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This role and structure change for brigades, battalions and regiments is news to me. I thought I was across Plan Beersheba and Plan Keogh. Whatever this new thing is, it was not communicated to the me (or the media generally?). So please don’t shoot the messenger – though I would love to hear your thoughts in comments, below.
EDITOR’S NOTE 2: The long comment from Graham McKenzie-Smith below is very informative (highlighting my ignorance) on this topic.
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Didn’t some Roman general once say that “we were always being reorganised and training adapted this was to give the impression of improving and modernisation but instead created confusion and demoralisation leading to inefficiency” or something along those lines!!!
“Augmenting 7 RAR (Mech) and 1 Armd Regt at 9 Brigade will be 9 Regt (RAA), (the former warehouse for the Army Reserve’s 81mm mortar equipped light batteries) which will become regular and re-equip with the next generation 155/52L AS9 Self Propelled Howitzer and its supporting AS10 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicle”. So what happens to all the other ARES Light Batteries in SEQ & NSW? Do they get SPGs as well, or just dissolved entirely & the troops transferred fully to Infantry roles? Did hear a mention that they may get HIMARS, but not holding my breath on that one!
Why is it a surprise, here is an article that was in ‘ArtilleryWA’ the newsletter for RAA Historical Society in December 2020
THE ARMY REORGANISES AGAIN
The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan, released on 1 July 2020, outline a new strategy for Defence and the capability investments to deliver it. The Strategic Update set out the challenges in Australia’s strategic environment and their implications for Defence planning. It provided a new strategic policy framework to ensure Australia is able – and is understood as willing – to deploy military power to shape our environment, deter
actions against our interests and, when required, respond with military force. The following analysis of what this means for the Army was published in the Newsletter of the Military Historical Society of Australia
The Australian Army will undergo a massive reorganisation in the next eight years which will see additional combat brigades raised, a dedicated rocket artillery and missile brigade raised, an existing brigade refocused to digital warfare and the Army Reserve structure completely reconfigured with units equipped with next generation weapons and situational awareness capabilities. The new expanded 21st Century Order of Battle is revealed in the Land
Operational Concept Document which outlines Army’s plans for a 2028 Army Objective Force. 8 Brigade which currently controls the Army’s training units will be rerolled as 8 (Joint Fires) Brigade to control in the incoming NASAMS 2 Ground Based Air Defence System entering service next year (Project Land 19 Phase 7B), the Long-Range Fires Rocket Artillery and Long-Range Missile capabilities to be acquired under Project Land 8113 and the Land Based (Anti-Ship/Strike) Missile System to be acquired under Project Sea 4100. The three existing Combat Brigades will expand to four, with major rerolling of entire brigades and the raising of a (fifth) high readiness Total Work Force (integrated Reserve) combat brigade with substantial combat power in Western Australia to finally redress the ground combat imbalance in the western third of the nation. Major changes include the splitting of the Palmerston NT/Edinburgh SA based 1 Brigade into two separate brigades with substantial rerolling of individual units. Under the proposed 2028 Army Objective Force, 1 Brigade will remain in Darwin and re role as an amphibious/littoral/light combat manoeuvre element with the existing 5 RAR, 8/12 Regt RAA, 1 CE Regt, 1 CS Regt and 1 CSS Bn, but
be augmented with a re-raised 4 RAR (Amph) in Pre-Landing Force configuration. The Army’s 10 Force Support Bn will re-equip with new Littoral Manoeuvre – Light vessels to replace the in-service LCM8 and eventually field the Littoral Manoeuvre – Heavy amphibious platforms which will be concentrated at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin with a detachment operating from the unit’s existing Ross Island Barracks in Townsville.
The former 1 Brigade units at Edinburgh Defence Precinct (SA), 7 RAR(Mech) and 1 Armd Regt will form the foundation of a fourth combat brigade designated 9 Brigade, rerolled as a heavy armoured combat manoeuvre element. Augmenting 7 RAR (Mech) and 1 Armd Regt at 9 Brigade will be 9 Regt (RAA), (the former warehouse for the Army Reserve’s 81mm mortar equipped light batteries) which will become regular and re-equip with the next generation 155/52L AS9 Self Propelled Howitzer and its supporting AS10 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicle and 9 Fd Sqn RAE who will be equipped with the next generation Heavy Armoured Capability Systems (assault support). The current Army Reserve 9 CSS Bn logistics unit and 144 Sig Sqn will be augmented with significant full time personnel to support the 9 Brigade operations. The Tasmania based 12/40 Bn will be rerolled as a Regional Force Surveillance Unit specialising in lower latitude operations and presumably the Army Reserve 10/27 Bn and 3 Fd Sqn will find roles within the brigade.
Both the Townsville based 3 Brigade and the Brisbane based 7 Brigade will retain their current order of battle, but re‑equip with new weapons, situational awareness and sensor systems as they enter service. 2 RAR (Amph) will retain its current role as a Pre-Landing Force but may be returned to 3 Brigade for administration purposes.
The WA based 13 Brigade will be transformed almost completely with a single infantry unit (what will it be called 11/16/28/44 Bn ??), 13 Fd Sqn which will expand to a full engineer regiment (reforming the former 22 Const Sqn), A Sqn, 10 LH Regt) will expand to a full regiment equipped with Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicle – Light and a 155mm artillery battery equipped with M-777A2 Lightweight Towed Artillery (so 3 Lt Bty get their guns back) and the usual support units. All units will have increased ARA staff.
Other major changes in the proposed 2028 Army Objective Force are the complete reorganisation of the existing regular 6 Combat Support Brigade which will be rerolled as a digital warfare brigade focused on Information Warfare, Signals Intelligence, multi spectrum Intelligence and an entire regiment of the cryptically designated ‘9358’. 6 CS Bde will see its existing 16 Air Land Reg (Ground Based Air Defence) transfer to the redesignated 8 (Joint Fires) Brigade and 20 Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment will be transferred to 16 Aviation Bde.
Special Operations Command will group its units within a new configuration designated Special Operations Bde with the same structure (minus 2 Sqn SASR) with an additional Army Reserve commando company being raised in South East Queensland within the 1 Cdo Regt structure.
More to follow as we get a clearer picture of the proposals under the 2028 Army Objective Force.
Thank you Graham – very interesting indeed.
Thanks Graham – whether WA 13 Bde will field towed 155s or wait years for the 155/52 AS9 SPH remaind unclear – pretty ridiculous that a brigade has heavy or medium no indirect fire support assets allocated
In reply to the comments and questions regarding WA based units.
I have been in contact with members of various units across WA to clarify what is happening at ground level.
At this point in time 3 Fd Bty is transitioning to more of an an ISTAR unit. The mortars are being given back to the infantry soon to provide organic artillery support. 3 Fd Bty already operates several UAV types.
The north of the river Inf Bn (16 RWAR) is re-roling to amphib/litorral combat roles. It now possesses zodiac vessels with more to arrive.
The south of the river Inf Bn (11/28 RWAR) is picking up the mortars and supposedly focussing more on motorised and mout ops. The rifle company that was at rockingham has recently moved to fleet base west. I have seen their colour patch banner hanging up but can’t find their actual location as yet.
There are no plans to amalgamate or disband either of these battalions contrary to what has been written elsewhere.
10th LH Regt is heavily recruiting in order to meet its full regiment status requirements and has increased its tempo in order to put the fairly recently acquired hawkei platform through its paces and develop tactical skills.
13 fd sqn is also increasing its capabilities and size, and is recruiting heavily.
There does seem to be ample opportunities for those wishing to join the reserves in WA, especially in the Perth metro area, with all units either expanding or having existing unfilled vacancies.
This info has come directly from serving members within the mentioned units.
And still nothing planned for WA – with apologies to 10th LH SQN being elevated to a REGT. When are these guys in Canberra going to acknowledge that WA is the biggest State in Australia with the biggest littoral area to cover, and earns 50% of Australia’s export revenue? Indeed Peter, if you have 12 eggs, you can reorg them how many ways? You still only have 12 eggs. Despite promises made by politicians and Generals, the export revenue earning areas of WA miss out again.
This change was hinted at in the last White Paper although it has never been spelled out publicly. As a previous comment suggested, I think we are seeing the creation of a 4th manoeuvre Brigade. My guess is that 9 Bde will become the 3rd Multi-role Combat Brigade, structured similar to 3 Bde and 7 Bde, while 1 Bde becomes a light infantry formation.
My questions are:
Will 2 RAR join 1 Bde?
Will 8/9 RAR be de-linked or will 4 RAR be re-raised?
What about artillery, engineers, CSS etc? Presumably there will need to be additional units here too.
It’s interesting that these changes are being kept so quiet.
Back to the future, again. Gives the staff something to do. If you have 12 eggs, you can reorg them how many ways? You still have 12 eggs. Just more containers and new signs and letterheads. (in the 80’s we joked about getting the contracts)
Littoral Operations; who are they trying to kid? We are an island continent, surrounded by small islands. We need amphibious vehicles not rubber duckies; like we had in WW2 and up to the 1950s. Our geography has not changed, the threat to our export and import economy has evolved. History is the key to the future.
I will have more to say on this subject in the near future.
Mighty strange notions going on here.
If 7RAR & 1 ARMD REGT joined the 9th Brigade that would create a mixed Ares/ARA formation that would comprise 3 infantry Bn, 1 Recon Regt 3/9 LH(SAMR) and an Armoured Cav Regt(1Armd Regt). The creation of an Engineer Regiment would also be required, replacing the current 3 Field Sqn. Wow.
That leaving 1 Brigade with 1 Inf Bn and no armour. Ummm, WelL, I suppose we could Re raise 3/4 Cav and de amalgamate 8/9 RAR.
Maybe we are seeing the creation of a 4th manoeuvre Brigade
Time will tell.
Perhaps the MRF-D and 1 Brigade are planning to team up full time?
It’s fact now, re Defence News 27 Oct 22. 9 Bde to welcome 1 ARMD and 7RAR amongst others.
1 CSSB to help and 144 Sig Sqn definitely going mixed, crystal ball gazing, perhaps 144 Sig Sqn will become 9 Combat Signal Regt.
A 4th, albeit mixed, Combat Manoeuvre Brigade.