Townsville off the LHD long-term radar

Questioning at Senate Defence Estimates hearings today has revealed that Lavarack Barracks-based 2RAR has not been permanently tasked as the Armys principal amphibious battle group.

Senator Ian Macdonald was asking questions about the in-coming Landing-Helicopter-Dock (LHD) ships that will provide the Australian Army with an amphibious capability from 2014.

Under questioning by Senator Macdonald, Deputy Chief of Army Major General Peter Gilmore indicated that the Plan Beersheba model, announced in early 2012, called for a rotating trio of ready battle groups and that these would be based in Townsville, Darwin, and Brisbane respectively.

I must admit I am a bit shocked said Senator Macdonald.

It was my understanding that Townsville-based soldiers would be providing the amphibious/marine capability for the LHD ships.

Weve re-developed our wharf in Townsville, and signed a 25-year deed to give the LHDs 45 days-a-year guaranteed access for 25 years.

Major-General Gilmore told the Senate hearings that 2RARs role is an initial tasking only and that it will in fact take several years for the amphibious capability to fully mature and evolve.

The Acting Chief of Defence, Air Marshall Mark Binskin AO, also indicated that it could take up to decade for Defence to evolve our (amphibious) doctrine.

Senator Macdonald said that the common sense test is satisfied by having this capability firmly and securely based in the north.

Townsville is Australias largest army base, and Townsville 3rd Brigade are among Australias finest elite soldiers.

To me its a no-brainer that these capabilities, and the personnel who are tasked with their execution, should be based in northern Australia.

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