There are operations with regional and political implications where we might not or would not want to see our US "protectors" showing up.
I think UK ops near Sierra Leone was an example Waynos could point at.
East Timor was perhaps Australia's.
Some of the uninformed at the time made much of the US not playing the role. However they ignored or downplayed the presence of a 40,000t LHA of the
USN with her single escorting Spruance. She had landed all her Marines and most of her air wing back in Japan, bar a half dozen Sea Stallions, which
assisted with the airlift. It provided vital communications links we (Australia) lacked in the opening days of the UN operation, and a gentle
reminder to local pro Indonesian Forces that this op had the blessing of the USA.
That was the strength and the weakness of the Australian deployment.
The press labelled us as the deputy sherrif of the USA. We first appeared on the JI hit list in 1999 because we were seen to be oppressing muslims in
Timor at the US behest. Never mind the op was largely peaceful and locally popular, they annexed the place in 1974, the population is like 95%
Roman Catholic, and they voted for indepence.
Its an indicator that it is sometimes good to have your own capability when inviting the US might not be so appropriate?
I remember doing my recruit course for the Army Reserve in 1987 just as the first army coup in Fiji occurred. We had ARA instructors openly critical
of the embarrassment the Hawke government was causing the nation by making it known HMAS Tobruk, a vessel based on the Sir Bevidere class LSLs was
slowly steaming towards the Solomons with a company group of Infantry aboard. The general concensus was it was hardly anything that would make the
Fijian Colonels reconsider thier actions. Unlike the announcement that a fast group consisting of the former Hermes and RAN and RNZN escorts would
have (if it was loaded with Infantry from one of the Battalions). In fact it was thought we couldnt blame the Fijians from discounting an Australian
response given we had given up the only symbol of real regional security commitment we possessed -the former carrier HMAS Melbourne. It was seriously
doubted if we had possessed the lift capability of Hermes in 1987 the coup would have been seriously considered.
Wev'e had almost two decades of regional uncertainty since we lost our carrier and the number of times it wouldve been welcomed could keep me going
for a week.
In 1983 the Hawke Government said we couldnt afford it. Five years later Bob Hawke opened up the new federal parliament building ( a case of
statesmans disease my wife calls it) - the first $billion dollar plus building in Australia.
I know what we would have gotten more value out of.
Smaller nations like the UK and even Australia can make a case for an independent carrier (I also support an independent FAA....its been demonstrated
before that the Air Forces will be relucant to deliver what they have promised to our Navies).
Australia is in the market for three new Amphibs in 2010-2020. At least one ship is listed to be a 25-30,000t LHA. The new French Mistral class and
the Izars LHA are both on that wishlist. Izzar and Italy have specified the need to operate up to a dozen F-35 VSTOLs......If that falls through there
will still be a market for Harriers.
In the scheme of things its a small global capability but like the saying goes "In the kingdom of the Blind the one eyed man is king".....Regionally
and politically for countries like the UK and Australia its important....if we can address the manpower issues.