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Output Two: Navy Capabilities

Naval Tasks

The types of tasks which the Navy was able to contribute to included:

Performance Targets Performance
Controlling sea approaches to Australia and associated littoral areas. Achieved. Operation Relex II was successful in achieving the Australian Government's aim of deterring the flow of unauthorised arrivals into the Australian migration zone.
Attacking hostile ships and submarines. Partially Achieved. Delays in achieving full capability for the Collins-class submarines limited the Navy's ability to fully conduct operations with these vessels. The Navy maintained a surface force capable of dealing with regional surface and submarine threats.
Assisting in the establishment and protection of forward operating bases. Partially Achieved. The lack of amphibious training opportunities during the period, because of operational commitments, limited Navy's training currency to support the Army in the establishment of forward operating bases.
Providing substantial sealift forces to support lower level operations, such as evacuations, disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. Achieved. The Navy maintained the ability to conduct lower-level operations.
Protecting land forces committed to lower level operations. Achieved. The Navy maintained the ability to protect land forces committed to lower-level operations via continuation training in naval gunfire support. Training in air warfare was also conducted to ensure that surface combatants could provide protection to land forces within the range and limitations of fitted weapon systems.
Contributing to coalitions in higher intensity operations against well-armed adversaries. Achieved. Navy units maintained a high degree of interoperability with allied forces through participation in Operations Slipper/Bastille/Falconer and multinational exercises.
Providing capabilities to support peacetime national tasks including coastal surveillance, search and rescue, fisheries management, and navigational and hydrographic work. Substantially Achieved. The Navy continued to support a civil surveillance program that included border and fisheries protection. Ship and helicopter support was provided, when available, for search and rescue tasks. Due to the inclusion of some hydrographic units in border protection, provision of capability for the national hydrographic survey task was reduced by 35 per cent from planned levels. Public access to oceanographic information managed by the Navy met national requirements.

Mitigation of key risks


Navy strategies to improve recruitment and retention have achieved continued improvement during 2002-03. The Navy's full-time workforce grew from 12,425 to 13,164 over the past two financial years, a net increase of 6.0 per cent(1). This compared favourably to net losses of 5.6 per cent in 1999-2000 and 1.4 per cent in 2000-2001, and a 2.4 per cent increase in 2001-02. Full-time recruiting decreased marginally from 85 per cent of the 2001-02 target to 84 per cent of the 1,842 target in 2002-2003, significantly higher than the 57 per cent figure in 1999-2000 and 74 per cent in 2000-2001. The higher rate of recruiting achievement was significant, noting that current recruiting targets have increased from previous years. The Navy's training force remained high at 2,044 compared to last year's figure of 2,200. Over the past year, the Navy's overall separation rate was relatively steady at 11.7 per cent. This was below the five-year average separation rate of 12.8 per cent.

While the overall Navy workforce situation continued to improve, some critical shortages remained in particular professions and trades. At the current levels of recruiting and retention, it will take about five years to overcome these shortages and strategies are in place to achieve this outcome.

The Navy developed a formal critical category management program designed to maximise recruitment, training throughput and retention within the 15 critical categories. Two sailor categories - writers and electronic warfare technicians - have been removed from the critical category stream through this process. Although gross requirements for marine technicians have been rationalised to achieve the necessary workforce balance, it will take some years to redress the shortage in senior sailors. Initiatives to address shortfalls of specialist skilled personnel are starting to show results, but continuing effort is required to rectify senior sailor shortfalls.

A quarterly and monthly reporting process was implemented for all categories assessed as critical to ensure that ongoing action continues to address these shortages. The reports detailed numbers of personnel shortfalls, required strengths, recovery-time and, most importantly, initiatives and key performance indicators aimed at addressing probable causes of the category shortfall. Notwithstanding the Navy's current high operational commitments, priority is being accorded to maintaining training throughput at sea, which is critical to assisting in the reduction of trained force shortfalls.


Logistics shortfalls continued to challenge the Navy's ability to support the current force structure and meet preparedness requirements. An injection of $34.5m in 2002-03, dedicated to targeting the most critical shortfalls, prevented further degradation in these areas. The level of risk was monitored and managed by the reprioritisation of logistic resources. The Navy's continued performance in meeting operational tasking illustrated the effectiveness of this approach.


The Navy continued to meet all commitments within the high tempo of concurrent operations, while also remaining aware of the requirement to reconstitute the full range of Navy capabilities. Reconstitution continued for force elements returning from operations, while capability and preparedness for more complex and warfighting skills will be enhanced with the conduct of planned major exercises.

Air warfare capability

Upgrade programs designed to improve area air warfare and anti-ship missile defence capabilities within the Adelaide-class guided missile frigates and the Anzac-class frigates, remain within the acquisition program. Preliminary studies associated with the acquisition of at least three air warfare destroyers were completed in 2002-03. The ships will provide a maritime-based area air warfare capability which is a critical component of an ADF air warfare system. The first ship is due to enter service in 2013.

Submarine capability

All six Collins-class submarines have now been commissioned. Two submarines were enhanced with a comprehensive combat system upgrade, while two more underwent a scheduled extended maintenance program to maintain their operational effectiveness. Submarine availability was affected by the delays in the extended maintenance program.

  1. The Navy's workforce data represents actual total paid strength, including Reservists undertaking full-time service, for the end of May 2001 (12,425) and the end of June 2003 (13,164).