Forces Committed For Deployment To The Persian
Forces Detailed for Potential
Factors Influencing Tasking
Likely Conduct of the War Against Iraq
Beyond Day One
Australian Defence Force
Chemical, Bacteriological and Radiological
Clearance Divers Team
Electronic Warfare Self-Protection
Her Majesty's Australian Ship
Incident Response Regiment
Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Regiment
Special Air Service
The commitment of significant numbers of
Australian forces to Operation Bastille for a potential war in Iraq
marks a significant departure from recent practice. This could be
the first time since World War II that Australian forces move to
participate in a military conflict without either UN Security
Council backing, or the invitation of a properly established
government (as was the case in Malaya, the Indonesian
Confrontation, Vietnam and East
The forces identified by the Australian
Government for deployment to the Persian Gulf cover a multitude of
capabilities and areas of expertise, ranging from chemical
detection and decontamination, to undersea mine clearance and
ground attack aircraft. However, it appears that these forces go as
disparate packages, without a clear command and control structure
and without clearly outlined logistic support
The composition of the Australian
contingent suggests that these forces will be employed in the
southern front of the war, most likely in the area of the city of
al-Basra and the Shatt-al-Arab Seaway which links this important
port city to the Persian Gulf.
While the initial tasks appear clear,
difficult decisions will need to be taken by the Australian
Government if the progress of the war is dragged into the quagmire
of house-by-house fighting within Iraq's sprawling
Source: Central Intelligence Agency
Through the second half of 2002 and the early
days of 2003, an almost overwhelming momentum for war against Iraq
has developed in Washington, London, and Canberra. Evidence of this
momentum can be seen in both the rhetoric emanating from
Washington, as well as by the large numbers of forces already sent
to the region in recent times by both the United States (125 000
troops) and the United Kingdom (26 000 troops). Details of
Australia's actual military contribution were foreshadowed by the
Prime Minister in his press conference of 10 January 2003 and later
specified by the Minister for Defence on 22 January and 1 February
2003. The forces outlined by Senator Hill were in two categories.
Those for which deployment was confirmed, and those that were to be
prepared for potential forward deployment.
This Brief seeks to provide some details about
the Australian forces being committed to the Persian Gulf, and
looks at some of the factors affecting their tasking if war
actually is declared. It also considers the tasks likely to be
assigned within the larger coalition plans for the conduct of the
War on Iraq.
HMAS ANZAC and HMAS Darwin.
These two frigates are already in the Persian Gulf, and are engaged
in monitoring sanctions against Iraq as part of the Maritime
HMAS KANIMBLA. This is the
second time that this amphibious support ship has been deployed to
the Persian Gulf for operations as part of the Maritime
Interception Force. As was the case during its previous deployment,
the vessel has embarked a detachment of ground-based air defence
troops from 16 AD Regiment. Unlike recent deployments by KANIMBLA
or its sister ship HMAS MANOORA, the vessel has embarked one Sea
King helicopter (instead of its usual complement of four Blackhawk
helicopters), and a detachment of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
troops. It is unclear why these latter troops had to deploy on this
vessel rather than by air with the bulk of Australia's commitment
to the war.
Special Forces Task Group.
These troops are said to include (but not necessarily be limited
to) one SAS squadron. A larger deployment could encompass two
squadrons of SAS and two companies from the 4th RAR
(Commando) Battalion, as well as associated signals and other
supporting elements. Their deployment date has not been made
RAAF Recon Team. This team is
intended to prepare the ground for the deployment of one squadron
of F/A-18 aircraft. Their deployment date has not been
Air Command Element. This
appears to be only a small liaison team as there is no indication
that the RAAF's own radars and control systems will be deployed.
This unit will therefore most likely operate within a larger
coalition headquarters and carry out liaison and coordination
tasks. It will also provide and maintain national control of the
RAAF aircraft deployed to Iraq.
Squadron of F/A-18 aircraft.
These aircraft have a reasonable capacity for ground attack, but
are limited by their lack of electronic warfare self-protection
(EWSP), poor interoperability with US command and control systems,
and their relatively short range. No details have been released on
the number of crews that will accompany the fourteen aircraft.
However, if the aircraft are to be committed as a squadron to
operations around the clock, then at least two crews would be
required per aircraft. This would require the deployment of the
bulk of the RAAF's operational fighter pilots.
C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Three of these aircraft will be committed to supporting the
deployment to Iraq out of a total Australian fleet of 24
Chemical, Bacteriological and
Radiological (CBR) protection troops from the Incident Response
Regiment (IRR). While the IRR was originally set up for
domestic response within Australia, their skills may unfortunately
be in heavy demand in Iraq. Their capacity is limited by their
small numbers and their lack of heavy decontamination
CH-47 Chinook Helicopters.
Australia flies six of these heavy-lift helicopters which have been
recently updated. Like the F/A-18 these aircraft lack effective
EWSP. No details of numbers to be deployed have been released.
Quick Reaction Force from 4th RAR
(Commando) Battalion. These have only two commando
companies and could be considered to be in a state of flux as they
develop the skills required to maintain the East Coast Tactical
Action Group (announced in 200203 Budget) as well as retaining the
traditional raider skills gained from its amalgamation with 1st
Commando Battalion. A deployment of troops from this battalion will
adversely affect the establishment of an effective
counter-terrorism group on the East Coast of Australia.
Clearance Divers Team (CDT).
One team is being deployed to the Persian Gulf out of the Navy's
two operational teams. These highly trained divers are normally
tasked with beach-reconnaissance and mine clearing.
The forces nominated for deployment are all
small contingents of disparate forces largely unable to operate
coherently, in comparison to, for example, the brigade deployed to
Vietnam, or the forces sent to East Timor. There is no indication
that any of the ADF's deployable headquarters are being mobilised
for deployment (as happened in East Timor). This suggests that if
the Australian forces are committed to actual operations, they will
do so under the operational control of American commanders.
No details have been released of the logistic
support arrangements for the deployed forces. Force elements such
as the F/A-18 fighter aircraft, the CH-47 Chinook helicopters and
even the elements of the 4th
RAR (Commando) Battalion require significant and specialised
logistic support elements to operate effectively. In the case of
Air Force, past operations have seen the deployment of one of the
Expeditionary Combat Support Squadrons. For example, one of these
squadrons was deployed to East Timor to support the limited RAAF
commitment to that operation.
Australian combat aircraft and helicopters
being sent to the Persian Gulf lack effective EWSP. This suggests
that they will not be committed to areas within reach of the Iraqi
air defence system while it remains a threat.
The specialist troops from the Incident
Response Regiment (IRR) lack heavy decontamination equipment. This
suggests that their role will be confined to detection and
containment of sites affected by chemical weapons.
It is of course impossible to predict how a
particular military conflict will evolve, but sufficient details
have emerged about the (now likely) war in Iraq that its general
shape and rhythm may be deduced.
It appears that the war will take place in
four distinct phases. The first of these started sometime last year
and involves Special Forces troops from both the US and UK
operating within Iraq to identify critical nodes within Iraq's
military infrastructure and strategies.
The second phase could entail massive
precision bombardment of Iraqi military and government
installations, as well as likely Scud sites in the western parts of
the country. The intensity of the attack would be intended to
paralyse the decision-making processes of the Iraqi military and
government. US sources suggest that upwards of 800 cruise missiles
may be used in the first 48-hours of the assault.
Phase three should see the commencement of the
land assault. Best indications are that the coalition will attack
from three directions. These are illustrated in the map below.
The shape of the fourth phase of the operation
will depend on the level of resistance that Iraqis present to the
coalition forces. If the defence is dispirited and easily overcome,
then this phase may be nothing more than a rapid triumphal march to
the gates of Saddam's palace. If resistance is heavy, then the
coalition commanders have two options. They can either lay siege to
Baghdad, or they can go into the streets and alleyways of the Iraqi
capital to fight for its control, house-by-house, in an environment
where the technological superiority of the coalition forces is
almost irrelevant. If the choice is to lay siege, then the civilian
population of the city will suffer significant privations. If the
coalition commander chooses to fight his way into Baghdad, then the
coalition casualty figures are also likely to be very high.
The final phase of the operation will consist
of an extended period of peacekeeping and nation building. It is
unlikely this phase would last less than five years, with the most
likely duration being about ten years.
SAS Squadron. As they did in
Afghanistan, the SAS is most likely to be engaged in long-range
reconnaissance and reporting in the southern part of Iraq. Their
job will be to act as the coalition commander's eyes and ears far
ahead of the coalition main force.
Remainder of the Australian
contingent. Their shortcomings in terms of
self-protection, interoperability with US forces, and political
constraints may mean that Australian forces will only be engaged in
low-risk operations away from the main thrusts of the war, if at
SAS Squadron. Engages in long
range reconnaissance and reporting, as well as directing strikes
from coalition air forces onto targets in the South of Iraq.
4th RAR (Commando), CDT and
CH-47 Chinook helicopters. These forces are tasked to
assist in the clearing of the Shat-al-Arab Seaway from the Persian
Gulf to the Iraqi port city of al-Basra. This includes carrying out
raids, beach reconnaissance and mine clearance operations.
F/A-18 Squadron. Strike
operations in support of coalition efforts to clear the
Shat-al-Arab Seaway and the city of al-Basra.
The scenarios listed above assume a rapid
collapse by the Iraqi forces. Should this not be the case and the
war move to the streets of Baghdad and other cities, then it is
likely that the coalition forces will suffer significant numbers of
casualties. Under such circumstances it may prove difficult for
Australia to avoid committing ground forces to the maelstrom of
house-to-house fighting. A protracted war may also see an
escalation of Australia's military commitment, as was the case
during the Vietnam War. Then, the original deployment of thirty-six
advisors in 1962 climbed to 800 combat troops in June 1965, and
eventually to over 8,000 men from all three armed services in
deployed limited forces to the Gulf in 1998, arguably under the
umbrella of existing UN Security Council Resolutions, but did not
engage in actual combat.
judgments made in this document are based on freely-available
open-source materials. They may require revision as new information
For copyright reasons some linked items are only
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