ADF elements in Solomon Islands
The numbers of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed to Solomon Islands have varied over time - after an initial deployment of over 1,400 people in July 2003, a number of ADF units were returned to Australia later in that year.
By December 2004 Operation Anode had been reduced in size, and the Combined Task Force 635 consisted of the CJTF headquarters and a platoon of infantry from New Zealand.
There have been subsequent surges of forces however, at times of increased security concern such as the assassination of APS officer Adam Dunning in December 2004 or following the April 2006 riots in Honiara.
At the time of writing, in August 2009, there are about 140 ADF personnel in Solomon Islands, including:
- an ADF-led combined headquarters in Honiara
- infantry from the Royal Australian Regiment and Australian Reserves
- air transport units from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
- a small maritime task group, including patrol boats, landing craft and a mine hunter.
- support units, including engineers, communications and logistics units.
The ADF personnel are grouped in a 160-strong Combined Task Force with New Zealand, PNG, Fijian and Tongan troops, and are deployed to support the Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Island police which make up the Participating Police Force (PPF). The Australian government has agreed to the extension of this Task Force until June 2010.
Over the last few years, Australia and New Zealand have been deploying Reserve troops to Solomon Islands as the bulk of the ADF and NZDF commitment to RAMSI. Since 2006, the ADF has deployed eight Army Reserve Company groups accounting for more than 800 part-time soldiers.
Operation Anode, Department of Defence website (as at August 2009)
“Lieutenant Colonel Dave Thompson is the current Commander of the 160-strong Combined Task Force. The ADF contributes around 80 troops to this Task Force; drawn primarily from the New South Wales based 8th Brigade.The Combined Task Force includes:
A Multinational Headquarters.
One platoon from the ADF.
One platoon from the NZDF.
One platoon from Pacific Island nations.
“The second platoon will rotate between the NZDF and the ADF every eight months. This means in early 2010 Australia will provide two platoons (an extra 30 personnel).
Since 2007, the ADF has deployed eight Army Reserve Company groups accounting for more than 800 part-time soldiers.”
More Reservists Deploy to Solomon Islands, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, media release 90/08, 1 August 2008
“The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, has announced the latest deployment of Army Reservists to the Solomon Islands, where Australia and her Pacific partners are helping the local government to bring peace and stability to the Islands through improved law and order. Mr Fitzgibbon said more than 140 Reserve soldiers from Canberra, Wollongong, Bathurst, Orange and Sydney’s Western suburbs deployed as part of the Australian contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
“ ‘The highly skilled contingent for Operation ANODE (Rotation 16) has been drawn from the 5th and 8th Brigades under the banner of the Royal New South Wales Regiment,’ he said.
Soldiering on in the Solomons, Cpl Mike McSweeney, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, Volume 11, No. 61, 8 March 2007
“Despite a downward trend in violence, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands still needed to keep its guard up, according to Commander Combined Task Force 635 Lt-Col Rowan Martin. Lt-Col Martin commands more than 120 Queensland-based soldiers who created history in January when they became the first independent Reserve sub-unit to deploy since World War II. The soldiers, mostly drawn from 25/49RQR and 9RQR, deployed as part of CTF 635, which also includes a New Zealand and Tongan platoon….The combat team conducts patrols around Honiara from its forward operating base and from a detachment at Rove prison.”
Additional Australian troops reinforce RAMSI, Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson, Media release 46/2006, 21 April 2006
“The Government has authorised the immediate deployment of a further 110 Australian Army soldiers based in Sydney to provide additional support to RAMSI. These troops will assist in stabilising the improving situation in the Solomon Islands. The additional troops are from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, based in Sydney as part of the 3rd Brigade…This now brings the total number of ADF troops deployed in the past 48 hours to 220. The strengthened military presence will provide added support to police who are responsible for enforcing the rule of law in the Solomon Islands. The soldiers will deploy from Richmond RAAF Base in RAAF 707 and Hercules Aircraft to Honiara later today. In addition, 25 Army personnel will deploy tonight from Townsville to Honiara. These personnel will form part of the command group and will be based at the Military Headquarters that oversees the strengthened military presence.”
ADF support continues in Solomon Islands, Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson, Media release 51/2006, 26 April 2006
“Soon after the April 2006 riots in Honiara, approximately 380 ADF troops were deployed in the Solomon Islands, including:
- Infantry Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) from Townsville and 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) from Sydney who are providing support to the police. These soldiers have been employed to help the police secure key points, and are supporting the police-patrolling program.
- Two Army UH-1H Iroquois Helicopters from Oakey in Queensland have been flying in support of Police Operations and are also employed in an Aero-Medical Evacuation role in support of troop safety.
- RAAF Air Field Defence Guards are assisting in the security of Henderson Airfield in Honiara.
- Navy Fremantle Class Patrol Boat, HMAS Townsville is conducting patrols in support of the Police effort.
- HMAS Armidale, a new Armidale Class Patrol Boat, is due to arrive in Honiara tomorrow to provide additional support.
- Headquarters and support staff who are coordinating the military support effort.”
Australian Defence Presence in Solomon Islands, Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson, Media release 88/2006, 24 May 2006
“Following a review of the security situation and in consultation with the Solomon Islands Government and our regional military partners, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will commence a draw down of its enhanced presence in the Solomon Islands. The ADF exhibited its regional response capabilities last month when it deployed a rapid response group to the Solomon Islands following civil unrest.
“At the height of the deployment there were almost 400 ADF personnel and assets deployed on Operation ANODE, including two infantry companies, two Iroquois helicopters, two patrol boats, logistics and HQ staff. The revised ADF presence will be one infantry Company from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and associated support elements, giving a total ADF presence of around 140 personnel, working alongside elements of the New Zealand Defence Force and Pacific Islands countries military forces. This force composition is the most appropriate to deal with the current situation. It is also of a credible size to meet unexpected changes to the security situation in the future.”
Solomons draw down, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, Volume 11, No. 44, 1 June 2006
“The decision to scale down the ADF’s presence in the Solomon Islands underlines how well soldiers deployed with CTF 635 have settled into an efficient routine of patrolling and training. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson announced on May 24 that the drawdown would begin this week.
“A rapid response group was deployed to the Solomons in April after civil unrest. Since the deployment, which boosted troop numbers in the Solomons to 400 at its height, RAMSI has made excellent progress in returning the troubled areas to calm.…The reduced ADF presence in the Solomons will consist of an infantry company from 1RAR and associated support elements, giving a total ADF presence of about 140 personnel, working alongside elements of the New Zealand Defence Force and military forces from Pacific island countries.”
Solomons stable, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, Volume 11, No. 45, 15 June 2006
“Operation Anode has been successful enough to allow some elements of the ADF to return home but those left behind continue to work closely with the Participating Police Force to produce good results in stabilising the Solomon Islands.
“’Security is very stable, people are very welcoming and supportive of both the Australian military, RAMSI and the overall intent of that operation,’ CTF 635 CO Lt-Col Andrew Gallaway said from the Solomons.
“On May 28 2006 about 200 ADF personnel were able to return from the Solomons and take leave. They included about 110 from 3RAR, about 34 ADGs, about 30 from A Sqn, 5 Avn Regt and about 20 soldiers from 3 Bde. A combined force of about 300 remains in the islands, including about 150 Australians – 130 from 1RAR and other ADF elements – about 125 New Zealanders, about 35 from the Fijian Defence Force and liaison personnel from Papua New Guinea and Tonga.”
CJTF 635: regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands: an Australian army unit’s quick response, Lt. Colonel Chris Field, Marine Corps Gazette
“In the early hours of 22 December 2004, an Australian Federal Police Protective Services officer was murdered by sniper fire in Honiara, Guadalcanal, while conducting a vehicle patrol with the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). In response, the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, A Company Ready Company Group (1 RAR RCG), was alerted that same day. Within 18 hours of the Australian government’s decision to support RAMSI, about 100 men, vehicles, and equipment arrived by three Royal Australian Air Force C130 aircraft in the Solomon Islands to reinforce the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) portion of RAMSI known as Operation Anode.”
Townsville troops honoured for service in the Solomon Islands, Minister for Defence Robert Hill, Media release 69/2004, 6 April 2004
“As at April 2004, there were about 440 ADF personnel in the Solomon Islands, including: an Australian-led combined headquarters in Honiara; a platoon within the composite Pacific Island Countries infantry company; a logistics element to oversee the transfer of the logistics functions to commercial contract; an engineering element to provide construction, field engineering and project management support; a shore-based health and medical support element; a Navy patrol boat and an Air Force Caribou detachment.”
The third Op Anode rotation hits Honiara, Capt Andrew Bird, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, 8 April 2004 “The latest round of troops to reach the Solomon Islands [in early 2004] have been prepared for a complex and challenging tour as Op Anode passes the eight-month mark. Locals still waved as the third rotation of military personnel, mostly from 5/7 RAR, took up their duties. The military contingent now consists of almost 720 personnel, including:
The third Op Anode rotation hits Honiara, Capt Andrew Bird, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, 8 April 2004
“The latest round of troops to reach the Solomon Islands [in early 2004] have been prepared for a complex and challenging tour as Op Anode passes the eight-month mark. Locals still waved as the third rotation of military personnel, mostly from 5/7 RAR, took up their duties. The military contingent now consists of almost 720 personnel, including:
Police and troops farewelled to the Solomons, Minister for Defence Robert Hill, Media release 98/2003, 24 July 2003
“The initial military contingent, farewelled from Townsville on 24 July 2003, comprised:
- About 1,500 Australian Defence Force personnel.
- A rifle company and specialist officers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
- Helicopters, headquarters personnel, engineers and medical civil and humanitarian personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force. In addition, an NZDF infantry company is on standby for possible deployment if needed.
- An infantry platoon, engineers and a national command element from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
- A rifle platoon and specialist personnel from the Tongan Defence Service.”
RAMSI Press Conference, Lt. Colonel John Frewen, Iron Bottom Sound, Honiara, 28 July 2003
“The military forces will build up over the next couple of weeks. You may have seen Australian and NZ Hercules aircraft coming into Henderson field. You have seen a Illushyin civil chartered aircraft landing, all of these have been bringing in both personnel and stores, and will continue to do so for at least the days ahead. Yesterday two Caribou aircraft arrived and they will be staying here. They will greatly enhance our ability to move people by air around SI. You would have also seen by now the first of the NZ Iroquois helicopters up in the skies.
“This morning we welcomed a platoon of Tongans. It’s wonderful to have them here with us. And we are looking forward to working with our friends from the Pacific, in support of the people from the SI. We now have around about 1200 people here. In terms of the air and ground assets out at the airfield you have the Fijian rifle company, the NZ helicopter elements that are here and they will continue to build over the next couple of days. You will probably see another NZ Iroquois out there tomorrow. We are also starting to build up some logistical facilities and units there.
“Over at Red Beach, you’ve got the Australian Rifle Company, you have an Australian Engineer squadron, and you’ve also got some NZ engineers attached to that group. The HQ element that are there and some other administrative elements who are there as well. We’re expecting some friends from Papua New Guinea soon as well and we look forward to their arrival. In terms of the Maritime assets we have the HMAS Manoora, you would have seen operating from the Manoora since the first day, the two Army LCM8’s which are sort of light landing craft that are able to scoot back and forth from ship to shore.
“You would have seen yesterday the arrival of the HMAS Whyalla. That is a Fremantle class patrol boat which greatly enhances our ability to support police. She is particularly good at maritime surveillance and maritime intervention operations.
“We expect to welcome on the 29th the HMAS Wewak and the HMAS Labuan these are heavy landing craft or LCH’s. These vessels are ideally suited to moving heavier stores vehicles and equipment in and around the Islands of the Solomon’s. On the 8th of August we also expect HMAS Hawkesbury. She is a mine hunter. There aren’t mines to hunt here, and we will be using her in a similar role to the patrol boat. And again it’s a great asset that we can use in support of the police.
“I understand some of you are also interested in further information about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s). They will be here in a couple of weeks. We are very keen to get them here and start using them in support of the police. I mentioned the other day they would help provide us with information about the environment in which the police will be going into and how safe that environment will be. But they can also assist us in monitoring movement in a maritime environment as well.
Defence and Justice Ministers to visit Solomon Islands, Minister for Defence Robert Hill, Media release 118/2003, 17 September 2003
“By September 2003, the Australian Federal Police had 134 officers and the Australian Protective Service has 50 personnel on duty in the Solomon Islands. Regional contributions include over 470 military personnel from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji and 65 police officers from Cook Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.”
Defence personnel to come home from Solomons, Minister for Defence Robert Hill, Media release 136/2003, 28 October 2003
“Substantial progress in restoring law and order to the Solomon Islands has enabled a reduction in the military forces needed to support police, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced. Around 800 ADF personnel will return to Australia by early December . The elements that are being progressively withdrawn include:
- An engineering group from Townsville which has been working to establish police and military facilities in Honiara and at the remote police posts on Malaita and the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal. The engineers also played an important role in the destruction of weapons as part of the RAMSI gun amnesty. About 50 engineers have already returned to Australia. A number of engineers remain in the Solomons to supervise contractors that are building accommodation facilities for the police.
- Logistic support personnel from Townsville, Brisbane and Sydney who have been coordinating the movement of personnel, equipment and supplies to and from Australia and around Solomon Islands. The bulk of this work has been contracted to the Brisbane-based Patrick Defence Logistics.
- The Army Iroquois helicopter detachment from Oakey in Queensland. The four helicopters have worked alongside a detachment of four Iroquois from New Zealand to support police operations, conduct reconnaissance visits prior to the establishment of RAMSI police posts and facilitate the swift movement of police and military personnel. A commericial helicopter will be contracted to provide aero medical evacuations.
- Logistics support ship HMAS Manoora, homebased in Sydney. With a crew of about 300 personnel and carrying two Army medium landing craft from Townsville and two Sea King helicopters from Nowra, Manoora has been providing a transport, logistic and medical support base. Manoora departed Honiara yesterday.
- Landing Craft Heavy HMAS Betano from Darwin. This vessel has been transporting equipment and personnel and carrying out patrolling activities.
- Navy mine hunter HMAS Diamantina from Sydney which has been patrolling and visiting many of the remote villages and islands. These visits have been important to explain the RAMSI role in restoring law and order in Solomon Islands.
“The military forces remaining in the Solomons following the drawdown will comprise:
- An Australian-led combined headquarters in Honiara.
- One ADF infantry company and one composite Pacific Island Countries infantry company with an Australian platoon to provide ongoing security for the police-led operations.
- A logistics element and the Landing Craft Heavy, HMAS Brunei, to oversee the transition of the logistics functions to Patricks.
- A shore-based ADF health and medical support element to replace the facility on board the Manoora.
- Patrol boat HMAS Wollongong from Darwin which has been carrying out patrolling activities across much of Solomon Islands, including in the Shortland Island area near the border with Bougainville.
- The Air Force Caribou detachment and support personnel.”
Updated: 24 August 2009