Operation Astute

Operation Astute


Since May 2006, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has maintained troops in Timor-Leste (East Timor) under Operation Astute, involving the deployment of an ANZAC Battle Group made up of Australian and New Zealand personnel, together with other support forces.

Government sources

About Operation Astute, Department of Defence website

“Operation Astute is the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) contribution to the Australian Government’s response to a request from the Government of Timor-Leste to assist in restoring peace and stability to their country.”


Minister farewells troops, Department of Defence website, 15 May 2009.

The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, officially farewelled 1100 Defence members who will soon deploy on operational service to East Timor and Afghanistan, at a ceremony at Townsville’s Lavarack Barracks today….Accompanied by the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, Mr Fitzgibbon farewelled over 500 soldiers from Timor Leste Battle Group Six, led by 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. This contingent will deploy to Operation ASTUTE to assist the East Timorese Government and the United Nations bring stability and security to the Timorese people.”

Operation Astute, Department of Defence website, August 2009.

Timor-Leste Battle Group 6 (TLBG6) –  Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Smith, the battle group consists of members from an Infantry Battalion (2RAR), as well as a New Zealand Infantry Company (Kiwi Coy), and including support elements such as engineers, logistics and supply personnel.


Australian Troops in Timor-Leste Return to Pre-11 February 2008 Levels, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Media Release, 26 April 2008

Australia will withdraw the additional 200 troops deployed to Timor Leste following the attacks on 11 February on President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao. This means a rifle company group from the Third Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment will not be replaced when it completes its tour of duty on 27 April. This drawdown in Australian forces reflects the improved security situation in Timor Leste.…The immediate deployment of additional defence and police personnel after the 11 February attacks was at the request of the Timorese Government and was necessary to augment the security efforts of the Timorese Security Forces, the United Nations Police (UNPOL), and the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) of Australian and and New Zealand forces. It has successfully achieved its job of helping stabilize security in Timor Leste.

After the drawdown, the Australian commitment to the ISF will return to the pre-February level of approximately 750 personnel out of a 900-strong force. Australia remains strongly committed to supporting the Government of Timor Leste and the ISF will continue to provide security assistance. We will also continue to work closely with the authorities in Timor Leste and with the United Nations to help develop Timor Leste’s own capacities to handle security and other challenges.”

Defence Annual Report 2007-08, Volume 1, Department of Defence, p6

“Regionally, the ADF continued to contribute to the support of the governments of East Timor (Operation Astute) and Solomon Islands (Operation Anode)…On 11 February 2008, East Timorese President Horta was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt. The ADF deployed HMAS Perth and a response force of around 200 ADF personnel plus Australian Federal Police personnel by Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft to provide additional support to Timorese and international efforts to stabilise the country.”


Operation Astute, Year book Australia 2007, Australian Bureau of Statistics

“Operation Astute is the name for the ADF stabilisation operations in support of the Government of East Timor. As at June 2006, the Australian deployment included about 2,600 ADF personnel deployed in the East Timor area of operations (land, sea and air). Of these, approximately 1,900 ground troops were in Dili, and actively engaged in security operations in the capital, which has included the suppression of communal and gang violence.

“A break up of key Australian forces deployed to East Timor at the height of the operation included:

    • an Amphibious Landing Ship in Dili harbour to provide medical, communication, accommodation and various support facilities as required;
    • eight landing craft heavy;
    • an Infantry Battalion Group;
    • a Commando Company Group;
    • eight Australian Army Black Hawk helicopters;
    • C-130 Hercules aircraft to transport people and equipment; and
    • a detachment of Royal Australian Air Force, Air Field Defence Guards.”

Commentary and analysis

Interview with Brigadier Mick Slater, Commander JTF 631, Australian Army Journal, Volume III No. 2, 2006, pp9-14.

“I believe we have made enormous strides in the areas of joint, multi-agency and coalition operations since 1999. While it would be a stretch to say that we have achieved seamless joinery, I believe that we have received the benefit of the high operational tempo of the past few years. Within 3 Brigade, from which the bulk of the land component is drawn, we have a lot of people with recent experience on operations, especially in the Solomon Islands and previously in East Timor. That experience has been invaluable. I think Army is becoming very adept at joint and multi-agency operations. We need more work on standardising tactics, techniques and procedures with the police, which we already knew from our Solomon Islands experience [Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)]. But I hasten to add that has not impeded very effective collaboration with the Australian Federal Police here. They, like us, are starting to develop a real culture of deployability and operations in complex environments.

“I also believe that we have created a genuine whole-of-government approach to our strategic level planning for operations such as these. This is reflected right though to the composition of my headquarters, where I have a former ambassador to Timor-Leste attached to my staff. I think we need to expand our training at the operational level to include more cooperation from civilian organisations, especially non-government organisations.”

La’o Hamutuk Submission, Australian Senate Inquiry into Human Rights Mechanisms and the Asia-Pacific, Parliament of Australia, November 2008.

“In our experience the Australian Defence Force’s willingness or capacity to provide information to the public is not good. Contact details are given for ISF ‘Information Officers’ with no knowledge of what they are meant to be assisting with. Further contacts are promised, but not provided. Phone calls are not returned. Queries are diverted from one person to another. Information is not passed on.”

The lessons of 2006 – Army Operations in East Timor and Solomon Islands, Colonel John Hutcheson, Australian Army Journal, vol IV, no. 2, 2007, p.93 – 106

Operation Astute, Wikipedia. 

See also:

 Updated 24 August 2009