Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 07:26 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 07:26 | SYDNEY

Navy best placed to operate amphibious ships


Mark O'Neill

11 August 2008 10:32

Sam’s rebuttal suggests we are in overall agreement that the utility of the new ships is far broader than just the conduct of defence operations. 

However, we must be careful not to equate the broad range of capabilities offered with the need for broad command and control arrangements for their employment. ‘Unity of command’ is a central tenet of military operations. Complex tasks are best executed with a unitary leadership system, informed by an appropriate common cultural and doctrinal perspective. The type of missions that the new ships might undertake, military focus or not, certainly would be complex. It follows that a broad interagency committee would not best serve the principle of ‘Unity of Command’ with regard to the ship’s employment and direction.

Sam tacitly concurs: 'But of course, there are more realistic contingencies in which the amphibious ships could be useful. They would have been mighty handy during the 1999 Timor operation, for instance. But what was needed then was a big hull with command and control facilities, helicopters, a hospital, fuel and clean water'. Of course, this is a primary reason why the Australian Government raised a capability requirement for the acquisition of such ships for the ADF in the first place.

Sam goes on to say that 'there's no reason why the asset has to belong solely to the ADF in order to accomplish that mission. After all, the ADF routinely hires civilians to transport its goods and conduct various logistics tasks. Why should this be any different?' This perhaps confuses the necessity afforded by Defence’s budgetary position with the desirability of State ownership of such assets. It also fails to address my argument about the comparative advantage Navy has in the use of maritime power over other Government agencies.

The simple fact is that the Royal Australian Navy, as the maritime power element of the ADF, remains the best Australian agency to operate complex naval systems, logistic or otherwise, on behalf of the Australian national interest and at the behest of the Commonwealth. They have the record of nearly a century of outstanding service to the nation to back that claim.