The Australian Army is Australia’s military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence (CDF) commands the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.
The Australian Army’s mission is to provide a potent, versatile, and updated Army to promote the security of Australia and protect its people. Further, the Army’s key doctrine publication, The Fundamentals of Land Warfare, states that “the Army’s mission is to win the land battle”.
The Australian Army is oriented toward low- and medium-intensity operations against symmetric and asymmetric enemies. The Army has traditionally been structured as a light infantry force. This has changed somewhat in recent years, with an increased emphasis on motorised and mechanized forces. In the next few years, two of the seven regular infantry battalions will be mechanized (using the upgraded M113 APC) and two will be motorised (using the Bushmaster). Nevertheless, the motorised and mechanized battalions still train with an orientation toward operations in close combat and have a high emphasis on patrolling and other dismounted operations, thus maintaining the traditional Australian skill set.
Until recently, the main area of operations has been Asia, particularly South East Asia and the Pacific, so the light infantry orientation has not been a hindrance. In fact the Australian Army is known to produce troops and units with a very high standard of jungle warfare, patrolling, ambushing and other infantry skills.
Due to Australia’s small population, the Army will always make up only a statistically small role in coalition operations. Successive Australian governments since 1989 have deployed components of the ADF with specific skill sets, so that the Australian contribution is always of greater significance than raw numbers of troops would suggest. Often this has taken the form of the deployment of special forces, though this has changed in recent years, for example in Afghanistan. Australian forces have always trained with and maintained close relationships the US and British forces and are now being equipped to better interoperate with US/British/coalition forces. The defence relationship with US forces is probably now closer than it has been at any point since the Vietnam war, especially at a working level.