|Organisational structure. A quick analysis of the organisational 'wiring diagram' will demonstrate clear conflict between military operations and Governmental agency responsibilities9. The understaffed and undertrained Hydrographic, Meteorological and Oceanographic Force Element Group (HMFEG), serves to discharge both functions effectively. An easy cleaving of military hydrographic, and allied, responsibilities would yield improved interoperability with the remainder of the RAN freeing personnel and assets for dedicated naval, and littoral, warfare service. The execution of national hydrographic governance, and progression of a national hydrographic campaign ought to remain the domain of the AHO only.
The Australian hydrographic paradigm is self-validating, with the AHO and the HMFEG collocated, and the majority of the RAN personnel who staff positions within the HMFEG having responsibilities to the AHO. While uniformed personnel are adept at applying surveying knowledge to maintain charter and policy momentum (the continual revision and development of HydrOcscheme, for example), the high percentage of civilian 'augmentation' dilutes the focus away from military support beyond the realm of nautical chart provision. Ironically, the sum total of personnel allocated to dedicated MGI support within the AHS/ HMFEG/AHO is no more than three Australian Public Servants10. This is professionally suicidal and further dilutes organisational focus.
The cause for self-validation is easy to demonstrate. The AHS is, unwittingly, 'caught-in-irons' by its inability to swiftly exploit emerging data collection technologies, and processing and dissemination techniques; "nobbled" by the lethargy inherent within Governmental procurement programs; outsourcing of follow-on asset support to contracted agencies, and the binding to those roles and responsibilities stated already. When supported by civilian contractors who are motivated by financial frugality, a product that is riddled with intangible efficiency costs relative to civilian opportunities is produced: it is an end-product, however, wrought to international standards, deemed fit for service, and thus validating the entire process. But that's how ifs always been done.
Training and culture. The paucity of other-than-AHS naval operations experience within the Maritime Geospatial Officer (Hydrography) (MGO(H)) branch virtually encourages
naive engrossment into trends, habits and attitudes that tend to reinforce the popular image of the 'droggie'. The naval nomenclature applied to AHS Officers typifies the branch ethos: Maritime Geospatial Officer (Hydrography). One would suspect that Military Geospatial Officer would've been more apt. Those that are drawn to a career as a 'Magoo' (not unknown for being myopic) tend to trend four ways: those attracted to a tropical lifestyle; those attracted to the hands-on and scientific nature of hydrographic surveying; those looking for a 'soft-touch' career as a Warfare Officer, or those encouraged to pursue this path due to perceived or actual shortcomings in core warfare skills.
The inevitable cultural impact this produces needs to be reversed for the profession to remain militarily viable. While the foreseeable future of survey training will remain unchanged, the HMFEG leadership cadre needs to demand, and make training allowance for, a marked increase and emphasis upon warfare skills within its MGO(H) population. Conversely, the image of the MGO(M) (Meteorology and Oceanography - METOC) is one that is readily identifiable as a warfare enabler. The provision of frequent tailored weather forecasting, comprehensive operational and exercise area METOC briefs, provision of applications such as TESS2 and AREPS to forecast environmental impact on sensor performance, collocation within the HQJOC construct and frequent liaison with all Fleet units permits 'face time' and recognition of value-adding to the naval mission.
MGO(H), and the AHS, tends to play poor cousin to the MGO(M) during exercises due to the excellent manipulation of software to produce tailored and fused geospatial products, and the ability to generally liaise with other-than-AHS Command Teams in a
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reasonably common language11. While acknowledged that steps have been implemented to provide more than just basic familiarisation with the same software, the MGO(H) is generationally astern of its MGO(M) brethren.
Training progression as a MGO(H) is in accordance with the accreditation standards of the International Hydrographic Organisation, achieving higher-order surveying skills to maintain organic production standards for safety-of-navigation charting. This expertise comes predominantly at the expense of a strong working knowledge of general naval operations; thus when integrating as a Task Unit or Group within a larger naval force, pauses in planning and execution can be experienced. The active encouragement of junior MGO(H), once consolidated, to undertake surface combatant familiarisation, with potential to proceed onto the Principal Warfare Officer training continuum cannot be underestimated for the professional longevity and relevance of the MGO(H) specialisation.
Impacts upon procurement. The
multiple-order effects of delivering accredited IHO training and skills, only, can be found in the procurement of vessels and the development of their concept of operations for use. While able to appreciate the raw surveying potential of a particular asset (ship or aircraft), naval operational employment considerations appear wholly unappreciated. For example, the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) aircraft, while a tremendous materiel capability, is restricted in its tactical employment. It is not permitted to operate outside Australia, nor in areas of warlike operations12. Due to the employment of civilian pilots, and leasing of a civilian aircraft, the true tactical exploitation of this asset remains a latent capability.
A lack of operational appreciation can also impede future integration of assets. The present Pacific-class (Leeuwin) Hydrographic Ships (HS) have a dedicated compartment adjacent to the Communications Centre for use by an afloat Mine Countermeasures Tasking Authority (MCMTA). The deployment of such C2 functionality is hindered by a lack of appropriate organic communications and data exchange capabilities within the Ship, for example. The resultant is a degraded, or piece-meal C2 capacity which requires a large amount of support from RAN and (occasionally) USN IT and C3-support agencies. The recent tactical development in 'babysitter operations' with the HUON-class Mine Hunter Coastal (MHC) and Surface Combatants highlights the deficiencies that would befall potential force protection efforts of any AHS unit afloat, which at present lacks the very basic measures embarked in the MHC, such as chaff (or even a Close-in Weapon System), LINK 11 Receive, and a manned 30mm gun.
CONOPS considerations would be greatly enhanced, and hence the final acquisition more capable of
integration and self-defence, if those occupying project team positions had a broader naval knowledge to draw upon. Future naval survey vessel acquisitions have to be less myopic and include capabilities for complete systems and communications integration with other units, and comprehensive self-defensive suites to permit independent operations in a potentially hostile environment. The only sensible method to achieve this is to equip the MGO(H) with increased warfare knowledge, and be situated in a culture that is entirely devoted to supporting naval, and joint, operations.
Royal Navy Survey Fleet
The requirement for a fused, high-definition assessment of local bathymetry and atmospheric conditions in near real-time, and requirement to provide a vessel capable of greater self-defensive capabilities were driving factors in the recent introduction into Royal Navy service of the ECHO class Survey Vessel (SVHO)13. The SVHO still requires close escort in a potentially
ECHO class Rpyal Navy Survey Vessel
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Remilitarising the Australian Hydrographic Service (or 'Why the Droggies Need Disbanding)
hostile environment, especially with a prevalent air threat. Two 20mm cannons, and several 12.7mm guns, arm each Ship, however the class does not possess an organic softkill capability against Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles. The class is optimised to operate in the littoral in support of amphibious operations, and is presently deployed operationally to Sierra Leone, and has seen service in the Arabian Gulf.
While the mandate for the Royal Navy to support the British Antarctic Survey is extant, the recent transferring of nautical charting responsibilities from the Royal Navy to the Foreign Office has occurred in order to concentrate survey assets on amphibious and other operational support tasks14. The Royal Navy, admittedly enjoys near blanket modern survey coverage of its home waters and can subsequently focus assets on the provision of MGI.
United States Naval Service
The USNS operates all of the vessels dedicated to hydrography within the US Armed Forces, satisfying a more strategic approach to military hydrography and revisits tactical surveys conducted by the US Marine Corps and the US Army (although to a much lesser extent)15.
Implications for the AHS
The introduction of the RN SVHO, and its shift away from nautical charting as normal operations; and the long established structure of the USNs organic capabilities within its Auxiliary fleet ought to have considerable implications for the future of the AHS. The requirement for near 100% survey coverage of the Australian coastline, to a commercially required standard will not be achieved in the
next ten average lifetimes, based on a cumulative 220-plus year rate of effort (notwithstanding the tremendous advances in survey technologies in that period). Common sense dictates that 100% coverage is not required, and that those commercial ports, their approaches and heavily trafficked coastal trade routes only ought to be surveyed; something easily achieved by contracted civilian surveyors working to the same IHO standards as the RAN's own survey units.
The AHO does not render survey data of its own accord; it is the national coordinating body for hydrographic data to ensure compliance with IHO standards. The divorcing of labour from the RAN to vessels tendered by the Department of Transport, for example16, would increase the availability of those same RAN units to military data gathering operations, and hence begin a gradual shift in culture back towards something resembling the one achieved at the conclusion of World War II. In turn, the AHS, as an entity, would become obsolete as practical operational planning and tasking returned to extant RAN arrangements.
Operational Command Joint
The advent of the HQJOC, and establishment for the first time of a JEC, is a substantial improvement to previous C2 arrangements applicable to outlying military units, such as Army's 1 Topographic Survey Squadron, the RAAF's Air Information Services unit, Defence Imagery Geospatial Organisation, and the Navy's AHS. This further reduces the requirement for AHS' continuance. The 'raise, train, and sustain' functions by Commander Australian Fleet (COMAUSFLT) for all
Fleet units remain in place, to prepare for operational tasking and command by Commander Joint Operations (CJOPS). In this context the AHS is clearly an anachronism for obsolete functionality.
Doctrine and procedures
The cause for maintaining IHO standards for nautical charting when RAN units are conducting MGD operations needs to be considered. The release of Australian Defence Doctrine Publication 2.3 (Geospatial Information and Services) now provides more construct for the provision of military geospatial data, however is at a doctrinal level only. It allows for the existence for the present AHS however, as demonstrated, it is a body corporate that suffers from severe inertia and, from the author's own experience, one that is unlikely to adopt less accurate means of data collection for the sake of tactical timeliness. Despite a military doctrine impetus, the corporate culture will continue to plague real advancement.
Despite the intentions of the ADDP in denning current capabilities, consolidating procedures, detailing potential data sources, describing geospatial oeprations and ultimately shaping the expectations of the end-user: the tactical commander, it does not address the root cause of a lot of irrelevancy within the current geospatial architecture and largely serves to continue the self-validation described earlier. It does little in pursuit of a focused naval effort in providing timely and tactically relevant MGI.
In conclusion, the RAN's Hydrographic Service (AHS) has a proud history cemented in wartime activity. High risk activities were recognised through numerous awards for brave, distinguished and other service. The acquisition of survey data
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was achieved in a tactically useful timeframe, from any and all available means, and gave the operational commander decision superiority in planning and execution of amphibious campaigns, particularly. At the completion of the Second World War, the integration of hydrographic survey elements into the RAN fleet was well established, seamless and proved invaluable its ability to force-multiply.
The AHS is the contemporary legatee of this wartime capability. As the requirement for MGI diminished and tasking refocused on nautical charting, the abilities of the RAN to undertake military hydrography faded commensurately. The subsuming of the RANs survey assets into the AHS, which is subservient to the AHO's governing requirements, and laterally subjected to HMFEG's competing requirements, has created the situation where the skills, equipment, processes and culture are unsuitable for the conduct of integrated and sustained MDG, or independent, operations in a potentially hostile environment. This places additional demands on protective assets such as surface combatants to provide 'babysitter' support in units in an aggressive littoral theatre.
Restructuring of the RANs survey force is required to bring about fundamental change to ensure the reclamation of these skills, and in time the procurement of suitable equipment, to conduct these operations. The AHS is unable to provide the appropriate corporate environment to effectively meet the needs of nautical charting and increasing naval operation participation. A divorcing of labour from the RAN survey force to contracted civilian companies, under Department of Transport et al jurisdiction, would realise opportunities to increase warfare and operational experience and training,
subsequently improve naval and joint integration at all levels.
Disassociation from the AHO, and staffing with personnel not concurrently posted to the AHO will increase the military objectivity and naval focus of the HMFEG, hence improve overall interoperability. The procurement of vessels capable of integrating seamlessly and comprehensively into a naval or joint task organisation is essential to capture and consolidate such a shift in cultural paradigm.
A redistribution of Australian hydrographic governance responsibilities, revised training to include heavy emphasis on warfare skills, increased or sole focus on naval/ joint operations, and the acquisition of new vessels and equipment will effect the cultural change needed to reinvigorate the RAN survey force into an asset that can readily deploy and provide tactically relevant and timely hydrographic data, and reclaim the right to a proud, and militarily necessary, heritage. iW
Lieutenant Chris WalterjoinedtheRAN in 1996 and graduated from ADFA in 1998. After qualifying as an OOW, he spent several years in Caimson Minor War Vessels and in Hydrographic Ships before qualifying as a MG0(H) in 2003. AftertwoyearsconsolidationinHS White withsurveysconductedin Bass Strait, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Northern Territory, he undertook A/ PWO familiarisation in HMAS Stuart in 2006 and subsequently completed both PWO and Surface Warfare specialisation training in 2007. At the time we went to print, Lieutenant Walter wasdeployedto the Arabian GulfaspartofOPERATIONCATALYST,
serving in HMAS Parramatta as her Surface and Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer.
Sea Power Centre Australia, 2003, 'New Guinea WW2 - A Maritime Campaign! Semaphore, Mar 03, Issue 2.
Sea Power Centre Australia, 2004, "The Great Amphibious Invasion: D-Day, 6 June 1944! Semaphore, Apr 04, Issue 4.
Commander of the Australian Fleet, 2007', Australian Fleet Tactical Publication 1(A), para 403.25.
ibid, para 403.68.
Australian Hydrographic Service, 2007, HydrOcscheme 2007-2010, Oct 07, pl4.
Discussion, 2008, Mr Goran Dimesld, MGI Products and Support Section, Australian Hydrographic Office, May 08.
Commander of the Australian Fleet, op cit para 204.44.
Australian Hydrographic Operating Orders [note: reference not available for precise consultation at time of writing due to exigencies of operational service].
Discussion, 2008, Executive Officer HMS Enterprise, 14 Mar.
Discussion, 2008, Operations Officer USNS Henson, 07-10 Sep.
Department of Defence, 2007, 'Contract Surveying in the Torres Strait and Northern Great Barrier Reef J Media Release 365/07,10 Oct.
Journal of the Australian Naval Institute