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Long One. Not Strictly Weapons -RAN. How to Address manning issues. MCMV Example

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posted on Oct, 10 2004 @ 10:07 PM
Sorry again for the length. If Long spiels get you under the collar, don't read on . Everybody else..WELCOME!The following are thoughts I have. Constructive comments please.

Without addressing the personnel issues, questions of the need for more equipment become irrelevant. The RAN has a serious manning problem, with us turning down cheap interim tonage from the USN to maintain our ADW Destroyers capability until a AEGIS design commissions in 2015. Our sixties vintage Adams were scrapped by 2001. We have also opted to retire two unmodified FFGs in 2006, a decade early, as thier four sisters undergo a $1 billion dollar refit, and we mothball 2 of 6 new minehunters due to restricted manning. Our submarine force is officially undercrewed, and even supporters for a new carrier admit we do not have enough personnel to crew one under present conditions.

Full time Man Power in July 1984 was just under 17,000. In 2002 it was just over 12,000 with a projected increase of 2% pa with a target of 14000.
I do not have current figures but journals refer to it as dropping. I could not find Naval Reserve figures but they have recently been described as in decline.

In the last four to five years government has boosted funding by several billion dollars AUD to nearly AUD$19 billion in the last FY. We need more (just like Health, Education and Welfare we only want our share). Both political parties gave this years $7 billion tax surplus back as tax cut "bribes" to win votes.

Two days ago, a pro (well reasonably pro) defence Government was re-elected with an increased margin in the Parliament. much to the surprise of all, including the incumbents.

What was totally unexpected was that it also gained control of the upper house senate. It is the first time since the 1970s that a sitting Government has had control of both houses of Government and therefore free reign most of its policies, including defence.

With all the ugliness this could entail domestically, it gives defence a chance for redress for the first time in over twenty years.

IMO What it needs is another big budget boost (but we used a $7 billion surplus generated by GST to buy tax cut votes in the election over the weekend but theres always - we hope- the next one) linked to be above inflation, a revamp of the recruiting ( IMO the ADF uniforms back in the job) and a review of pay and conditions for the services, and in the short term an extension of the head hunting campaign in English speaking countries aimed at personnel affected by defence cuts (ie RN personnel and the recently announced proposed cuts).

Additionally a new retention bonus drive for personnel both in the Regulars and the Reserves. A media campaign appealing to targetted "old hands"discharged since 1980 and under 55 yo to return to the colours for a bonus. A return to 5-6 year enlistment contracts (perhaps a bonus scheme for new recruits where you serve your six years and get paid an extra two years worth when you leave?). They need to "value add" incentives. Perhaps improving mature age educational, apprentice and job sponsorship programs for successful completion of, and/or ongoing service. Link in programs associated with education, employment & training, and housing departments.

While I personnally support compulsory national service (military or community based) I accept it is political suicide in most countries, and even if applied would be unworkable in the face of peaceful civil disobedience. I guess I would like to see a voluntary form of national service where the attractions/benefits of service outweighed the negatives that some people find acceptable/unacceptable about it. Forget appealing to the sense of duty or (ugh but I am one) patriotism of people. Thats a politicians fantasy.

Also I support the re-instatement of the successful 1960 to 1985 "Junior Recruit Training Scheme" where the RAN educated and trained 15-17 volunteer recruits at a training establishment, who were naval minded and looking for RAN careers. It was like paid boarding school and was included in thier six year enlistments (from memory). Three years schooling and basic naval discipline, seamanship training, plus annual sea expereince trips with the fleet, before another three years posted as adult ratings in the RAN. They graduated 10,571 recruits into the RAN during the original program, or about 425 odd bods per year, above the normal adult intake.

Finally, a very public and direct drive to recruit for the RAN Reserve to man port boats, patrol craft, minesweepers STUFT ships and any rare unscrapped Reserve warships. Especially targetting Ex RAN, English speaking ex-pats, retired unemployed Merchant Sailors,commercial fishermen, pleasure boaters and not so targeted but accepting of landlubbers.

The idea of a restored Reserve Port Division and RANR and RANVR.

Applied here as a MCM Force, but also for a RANR/VR Patrol Force and RANR/VR Manning Group for STUFTs and shore duties.

There used to be a Volunteer Reserve. The distinction apparently was that RANR (or pre WW2 Australian born RNRes) sailors were ex RAN/RN sailors and Merchant seamen, while the RNVR were "sunday sailors" and fishermen. The RANVR was disbaned in the 1950s or 1960s due to large number of de-mobbed Navy types available to the RANR.

The RANR Port Divisions were apparently disbanded in the early-late 1990s and replaced with some sort of corporatised form of personnel management within the RAN (bloody fools)

With the RAN and RANR manpower shortage, and the down turn in the size and profits of the commercial fishing fleets, perhaps the government needs to reform the RANVR and contact the industry reps and captains to see if they would be willing to join a RANVR given the right incentives.

In an emergency, say a low cost low tech terrorist campaign to disrupt Australia shipping by laying mines from trading and ocean going fishing vessels owned by front companies, the RAN plans to commission converted trawlers with RANR crews to sweep harbours, to supplement the six hunters we have.

The RAN/Government scenario of course continues to only allow for this sort of campaign to be carried out against Northern ports and channels by a foreign national government as part of the pre conflict lead up to a low intensity regional conflict, the scenario of the last thirty or forty years. It assumes it would have time and warning to gear up any such effort. They generally conduct thier excercises on the East Coast within a supportable range of thier Sydney Base.

As far as anyone knows, they have not amended it to take into consideration a terrorist threat real or imagined. If just the threat was perpetuated by prounouncements, with the presence of only a couple of mines, it has the potential to cripple trade and confidence, unless there is an effective up and running mine countermeasures force.

Australia is uniquely vunerable in the coalition to this sort of threat, due to its geographical and present political position.

It woefully inadequately provided for, and with the exception of a couple of harbours (Sydney and Newcastle I think) would take weeks if not months to implement Oz wide in the event of an incident, IF they can find the trained crews at short notice. It would only take a handful of mines, a sunken containership or two going down within sight of the metropolitan beach fronts, and repeated claims on the web that it was an ongoing campaign ( prove we havent done it) to freeze import exports here and cripple the economy, while humilating the Australian Government and causing public consternation. All without the effort and risk of a direct terror attack on a mainland target.

But if current or unemployed commercial fishing crews were invited to join an RANVR they could be trained to operate auxilary minesweepers and patrol vessels in an emergency, and exercise four weeks over a year.

The idea (mine not the Navies) is that a RANVR member would sign on and receive an annual retainer, say five percent of a full members pay, plus a tax discount on thier public heath contributions, to be available for training and for extended periods in an emergency, like mined harbours being discovered. This would supplement or (in the case of out of work crews) replace thier commercial incomes off season.

They would agree in the first year to attend twelve weeks continous training at full pay and allowances to learn thier basic Navy duties, skills and regulations, including a four week exercise with craft - mineweeping (or sealift or patrolling). This would be followed by four years with one or two blocks of annual training including exercises, adding up to four weeks annually, manning auxilary craft taken up for the exercises.

The Skippers and First Mates would receive RANVR commissions as Sub Lts and Chief Petty Officers, while the hands would be classed as ratings RANVR.

The RAN for their part would take into consideration the seasonal nature of some Commercial Fishing operations and schedule thier training for those commercially depressing down times. If crews were called up unexpectedly they would be compensated by the RAN for loss of average profits of the crews normal fishing operation if they were currently employed.

I also thought that the RAN and Commercial Fishing Industry could get together and design a Common Standard Commercial Ocean Trawler/Sweeper Hull design. Kind of like the WW1 and WW2 Admiralty Trawlers. The idea is that the vessel would be sea state durable with a long life span, and suitable for economic commercial fishing operations, but fitted for equipment and with space for quick conversion to RAN operations by RANVR crews (trawlermen themselves),including the fitting of light defensive/patrol weapons.

The RAN/Government would pay for 24 to 36 such vessels to be built based on pre orders and agreements from Commercial operators, whereby they would be delivered on "free leaseback". The vessels would not cost the Commercial operator a cent to aqquire the hull and propulsion and other systems. He would be liable for the cost of fishing equipment and provision costs.

The RAN would be responsible for the annual maintenance, repair and refit cost (subject to no negligence abuse clauses and penalties) during the vessels mandatory annual down time, while the commercial operator would be responsible for on the job "make tidy" work.

The agreement would make the vessels available for four- six weeks out of season training exercises (including the swap around on equipment and general clean up) at a time of year agreed. In the event of an emergency call up the government would compensate the operators based on loss of profit income of the ship and civilian crew.

I also had the idea that the vessels would be named in agreement after WW1 and WW2 auxilary vessels to establish links and traditions.

The RANR crews on the other hand would be normally signed on reservists with a sixty day annual committment manning a class of 24 Austere Coastal Mine Sweepers, GRP hulled vessels, based on our 6 (want 12) 750 ton Huon Class Mine Hunters, without the expensive hi tech detection equipment but fitted with sweep gear. Thier normal peacetime role would be Port based training cruises, and an auxilary emergency role of patrol work. They would need to be built like the Huons to improve thier survivability in the face of advanced mines, the trawlers taking care of basic minefields, both working in unison with the Huon MHC at the upper end, and smaller drone MS launches, SP sweeps and Clearance Diving Team craft at the lower end.

The Austere MSC would be named after noted Reserve and VR personnel from WW2.

The RANR crews would do an initial 12 week training alongside the RANVR crews, then man thier ships 60 days annually, as opposed to RANVRs 28 days on a five year contract.

The vessels would be grouped at the six most major Australian Ports, the Reserve elements belonging to a revived RANR Port Division system.

It would look like this:

2 Huon Class Coastal Mine Hunters manned by RAN Regulars,
4 Austere Coastal Mine Sweepers manned by RANR crews,
4-6 RANVR manned Minesweep trawlers assigned to formation,
RANR/VR manned CDTs, dive boats & craft, drones and SP sweeps,
and MCM stores located at Port Bases around Australia,
with supporting shore elements.

Responsible for thier assigned sectors of harbours, anchorages and navigational channels in normal operating conditions and time of emergencies.

ie. Port Div Fremantle - Fremantle harbour Gage Rodes/Rottnest Island and approaches. North to Carnarvon - joint control Pt Hedland with Port Division Darwin. South to Great Australian Bight West Australian Boarder.
Port Division Sydney Port of Sydney and approaches. Port of Newcastle and approaches. North to the Queensland Boarder. South to the Victorian Boarder

The RN deploys some 24 or so MCMVs around the UK that would be available in an emergency, coupled with the other NATO MCM forces available. Look at the size of the UK. And her MCMVs foreign deploy to boot.

Now look at a map of Australia. Add the Australian Economic Zone Waters, and you are looking at a massive chunk of the globe, extensive shipping lanes and widespread ports in an isolated corner of the world, looked after by a navy with six MineHunters located in Sydney with a scattering of stored sweep gear, and also tasked with out of area duties by the Government.

Please tell me we don't need something done. Any constructive suggestions and feed back on the topic. Thank you.

[edit on 10-10-2004 by craigandrew]

[edit on 10-10-2004 by craigandrew]

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