Australian Defence Force

The ADF Tri-service Flag

Founded 1 January 1901
Present form 9 February 1976
Country Australia
Branch Tri-service
Part of Australian Defence Organisation
Australian Defence Force Force Headquarters Canberra
Size 82,500 personnel (2010)
Commander in Chief Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia
Commander in Chief's Representative (Governor General) General Sir Peter Cosgrove, AK, MC
Minister of Defence The Hon. Kim Beazley, MP
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Hurley AK, DSC
Secretary of Defence Major General Sir Duncan Lewis, AK, DSC, CSC (ret'd)
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Air Marshal Sir Mark Binskin, AK

Chief of Joint Operations

Chief Capability Development Group

Lieutenant General Ash Power, AO, CSC

Vice Admiral Peter Jones, DSC, AM

Ground Australian Army
Sea Royal Australian Navy
Air Royal Australian Air Force
Tri-service branches Australian Special Operations Command
Budget $47 Billion (2010-11)
Percentage of GDP 3.1% (2007-8)
ADF Badge ADFBadge

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the Australian Government established three separate armed services. Each service had an independent chain of command. In 1976, the government made a strategic change and established the ADF to place the services under a single headquarters. Over time, the degree of integration has increased and tri-service headquarters, logistics and training institutions have supplanted many single-service establishments.

The ADF is technologically sophisticated but relatively small. Although the ADF's 100,000 full-time active-duty personnel and 30,000 reservists make it the largest military in Oceania, it is much smaller than most Asian militaries. Nonetheless, the ADF is able to deploy forces in multiple locations outside Australia.

The Commander in Chief of the ADF is Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, represented in Australia by the Governor General, Major General Sir Michael Jeffery, AK. In practice, the ADF is controlled by the Federal Cabinet, in particular the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Chris Marshall, MP and the Minister of Defence, currently The Honourable Kim Beazley, MP.

The current military commander of the ADF is the Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Hurley.

The ADF consists of the following services:


Legal StandingEdit

The ADF's legal standing draws on the Executive Government sections of the Australian Constitution. Section 51(vi) gives the Commonwealth Government the power to make laws regarding Australia's defence and defence forces. Section 114 of the Constitution prevents the States from raising armed forces without the permission of the Commonwealth and Section 119 gives the Commonwealth responsibility for defending Australia from invasion and sets out the conditions under which the government can deploy the defence force domestically.

Section 68 of the Constitution sets out the ADF's command arrangements. The Section states that "the command in chief of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth is vested in the Governor-General as the Queen's representative." In practice, the Governor General does not play an active part in the ADF's command structure and the elected Australian Government controls the ADF. The Minister for Defence and several subordinate ministers exercise this control. The Minister acts on most matters alone, though the National Security Committee of Cabinet considers important matters. The Minister then advises the Governor-General who acts as advised in the normal form of executive government.

Current PrioritiesEdit

The first priority of the ADF is to maintain the capability to resist and defeat any attack by an aggressor nation or terrorist group on Australia's territory. The ADF's second priority is to contribute to the security of the region by cooperation with other nations in and interested in Australia's region. The third priority of the ADF is to contribute to coalition forces operating outside Australia's region where Australian interests are engaged. The ADF also shares responsibility for coastal surveillance, responding to natural disasters, and aiding civil authorities.


Australia has maintained its own forces since Federation in 1901. The Australian Army was established simultaneously with Federation and the Commonwealth Naval Force was established two months later. These absorbed the colonial forces which were maintained by what were now Australian states. The Commonwealth Naval Force provided coastal defence, "blue water" operations were provided by the Royal Navy. Demands for an autonomous naval force led to the foundation of the Royal Australian Navy in 1909. The Army established the Australian Flying Corps in 1912, which became in 1921 the Royal Australian Air Force.

The three services operated independently for most of their history, however the Vietnam War showed the need for an integrated command structure. In 1976, a the three Service Departments were absorbed into the Department of Defence, and an integrated military command headed by the Chief of the Defence Staff was introduced.

Until the 1970s the ADF followed a doctrine of 'forward defence' in conjunction with a large ally (the UK then the US). After the British withdrawal from the 'east of Suez' and the introduction of the American Nixon Doctrine, Australian defence policy moved towards self-reliance for continental defence. Air and Naval capabilities were increased, and the Army was to redeploy to Australia's north. Labor governments in the 1980s took this policy to its greatest extreme with their Defence of Australia Policy, which greatly reduced the ability of the ADF to deploy forces outside Australia.

Subsequent governments have increased expeditionary capabilities while keeping the home defence intact. Australia currently faces no foreign threats, and is in no danger of domestic uprisings. The ADF is now seeking to maintain its edge through embracing technology.



The most senior military appointment in Australia is the Chief of the Defence Staff who is either a General, Admiral, or Air Chief Marshal. CDS with the service Chiefs of Staff manage the ADF through the Australian Defence Organisation. Day-to-day management of the services is distinct from the command of military operations. CDS's deputy for command of military operations is the Chief of Joint Operations. He is either a Lieutenant General, Vice Admiral, or Air Marshal. Under him sit several headquarters:

  • Headquarters Joint Operations Command
    • HQ Australian Command (all operational deployments inside Australia's territory)
    • Special Operations Headquarters
    • HQ Northern Command
    • HQ Joint Logistics Command
    • Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (Land)
    • Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (Maritime)

Defence ProcurementEdit

Australia's primary source of armaments is the United States. Australia's other important sources of arms include Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Israel. In addition, Australia produces arms for its own use and for export.

Women in the Australian Defence ForceEdit

Women make up approximately 12.8% of the Australian Defence Force, and serve in most employment categories. Women are not allowed to serve in all employment categories. Categories forbidden to women include the following:

  • Army
    • Infantry
    • Artillery
    • Armour
    • Combat Engineers
    • All Army Aviation occupations involving surface finishing, and electroplating (due to the use of embryo-toxic substances)
  • Navy
    • Clearance Diving Teams
    • All Fleet Air Arm occupations involving surface finishing, and electroplating (due to the use of embryo-toxic substances)
  • Air Force
    • Airfield Defence Guard/Ground Defence Officer
    • All occupations involving surface finishing, and electroplating (due to the use of embryo-toxic substances)


The ADF actively recruits, and its recruiting campaigns have varied over time. Previously the emphasis was on the benefits of military service, though today the emphasis is on service itself.

Army Poster 2

Australian Army recruiting poster, "TERRORISM STOPS HERE!"

Australian Defence Force
Risingsun3 Australian Army | RAAFBadge Royal Australian Air Force | Navylogo Royal Australian Navy