Some Lessons for Canada – Australia’s Development of a ‘Green water’ Amphibious Capability

By Les Mader, 25 July 2022

The 19:41 minute video from 2020 [link below] describes the 20-year Australian effort to convert the country’s basic amphibious capability into a world-class regional ‘blue water’ (‘green water’) one. Although the video does not seem to be government produced, it has the look and feel of an official production that has had full access to the relevant information.  While I cannot attest to the veracity of every fact presented in it, the information provided is consistent with what I know about the topic.

In my view, Australia's journey to a world-class 'green water' amphibious capability – as presented in the video – contains at least three lessons that are relevant to any Canadian effort to develop our own amphibious force, or any other new major defence capability.

The first lesson is both a promise and a warning.  The promise is that, even in modern western democracies that are at peace, major and expensive defence projects can succeed and be seen through to their conclusion.  The warning is that such projects must be accepted as being obviously important by both the public and a broad (cross-party) swath of the political class.  Thus, not every defence project will receive the sustained support that it requires, particularly if its merits and cost-benefit analysis do not stand up to close scrutiny and/or if inadequate efforts are made to explain those merits and analysis to the public and politicians.

The second lesson is that the development of a new amphibious force is, in the absence of a war, likely to be a multi-decade endeavour.  Australia needed about 20 years to field and validate its 'green water' amphibious capability, despite having had a basic amphibious fleet – and thus some accumulated expertise – for decades before.

The third lesson is the level of complexity that an amphibious capability represents.  It is far more than ships, troops and landing craft/helicopters.  Without the supporting, thoroughly-internalized doctrine, realistic, comprehensive and recurring training, and evolving tactics, techniques and procedures, the hardware and personnel may well be wasted and will almost certainly not be used to their full capacity.

I believe that anyone who has an interest in the creation of a Canadian amphibious capability (or some other new and major defence initiative) would benefit from watching the linked video and considering the lessons that it contains.

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