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Tuesday, 30 September 1958


Mr Ward d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will he furnish the following information regarding changes in the Australian defence structure announced bv him on 4th April, 1957: -

(a)   What progress has been made in stan dardizing Australian equipment with that of the forces of the United States of America?

(b)   What quantities of the FN rifle and its related ammunition have been produced?

(c)   What number and type of naval vessels are at present in commission and in reserve?

(d)   What is the present position in respect of the accelerated naval construction programme which he then announced, showing (i) the number of ships and types completed or commenced in the intervening period and (ii) the number and type the construction of which has been approved?

(e)   Is the average man-power strength of the

Permanent Naval Forces being maintained at about 11,000 which was announced as the objective for the three following years; if not, what is the present deficiency?

(f)   Is the Brigade Group, the formation of which was then announced, now at full strength; if so, are there adequate reinforcements in sight to maintain this position?

(g)   Is the Regular Army strength being main tained at the figure of 21,000; if not. by what number is it short?

(h)   Have Army artillery units yet been equipped with United States 105-mm. field artillery equipment; if not, what progress has been made?

(i)   How many Royal Australian Air Force squadrons have been re-armed with fighter aircraft of a performance equal to the Lockheed F104?

(j)   What number of transport aircraft of the C1 30 type are now in commission?

(k)   What number and type of fighter and transport aircraft are in commission?


Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

(a)   Good progress is being made in giving effect to the Government's policy that equipment used by the Australian forces should be standard or compatible as far as possible with that used by United States forces with whom they are associated in defence arrangements. Royal Australian Air Force front line aircraft are already largely standardized with United States equipment and the recent purchase of 12 C1 30 Hercules transport aircraft is a further important development in that direction. The Army has many items of United States pattern, and with the introduction of the FN rifle it will be using a small arms round, common with that used in the new United States rifle. The 105-mm. howitzer, with which the Brigade Group is to be equipped, is standard United States equipment. The Navy has demonstrated its operational compatibility with the United States Navy in recent Seato maritime exercises and bilateral Royal Australian Navy/ United States Navy exercises in Australian and Hawaiian waters. Whenever practicable the services buy United States pattern equipment either in Australia or from overseas. Some recent examples are radar and telecommunication equipment, air compressors and earth-moving equipment, &c. Standardization or compatibility with United States equipment is a continuing process, and current discussions with the United States authorities are directed to the furtherance of that end.

(b)   Planning and tooling for the FN rifle project now substantially complete according to pro- gramme. Production of components is well under way and slightly ahead of programme. It is anticipated that assembly of rifles will commence towards the end of the year which is slightly ahead of the planned date, and that the first delivery of the Australian manufactured FN rifle will be made early in 1959. Small quantities of FN calibre ammunition have already been produced and delivered to the Army. Planning for full-scale production is in accordance with the programme and is running to schedule.

(c)   Types of naval vessels in commission and in reserve -

 

(d)   H.M.A.S. "Voyager" (Daring class ship) completed trials and joined the fleet in August, 1957. H.M.A.S. "Vendetta" (Daring class ship) is at present doing trials and will join the fleet early next year. H.M.A.S. " Vampire " (Daring class ship) will commence trials in October, 1958, and also join the fleet by mid-1959. Four antisubmarine frigates are under construction and their building has been accelerated. The first is due to launch in September, 1958, and the second in January, 1959. The remaining two will be launched in late 1960 and early 1961. H.M.A.S. " Quiberon's " conversion to a fast anti-submarine frigate was completed in December, 1957.

(e)   The strength of the Permanent Naval Forces as at 31st July, 1958, was 10,748.

(f)   The strength of the Brigade Group is approximately 3,650, which is an under-posting of about 12 per cent. This has been caused by the number of Regular Army soldiers who have elected to take their discharges at the end of their periods of engagement, and the inadequate rate of recruiting. However, the recruiting rate has recently improved, which should result in an increase in the posted strength of the Brigade Group. The increases in pay and allowances, and the improved conditions of service for members of the forces which the Government has recently approved, are also expected to stimulate recruiting.

(g)   The strength of the Regular Army as at 31st July, 1958, was 20,769.

(h)   In accordance with the suggestion of the United States authorities, following the recent report of the United States Technical Mission to Australia, the Army is now engaged in technical discussions with the United States Army regarding equipping the Australian Army with the 105-mm. gun. An announcement will be made at an appropriate time.

(i)   The honorable member's attention is invited to the further statement on defence which I made in the House on 19th September, 1957, and the statement by the Minister for Defence on 10th September, 1958. As suggested by the United States authorities, following the recent report of the United States Technical Mission to Australia, the Royal Australian Air Force is now engaged in technical discussions with the United States Air Force on the most suitable and latest types of fighter aircraft now under development and which will satisfy the operational role of the Royal Australian Air Force.

0)   Twelve of these aircraft have been purchased from the United States and deliveries are scheduled to commence in November and be completed in January, 1959.

(k)   The total number of fighter aircraft (front line and training) in service in the Royal Australian Air Force is 175. The types are Sabre, Meteor, Vampire and Mustang. Thirty-seven Dakota and Metropolitan transport aircraft are in service in the Royal Australian Air Force. The Fleet Air Arm has two front line squadrons of Sea Venom aircraft and one training squadron of Sea Venoms. The total number of aircraft in service is 22. Two Dakota transport aircraft are also in service in the Royal Australian Navy.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

1.   What is the total sum which the Commonwealth has spent on defence since the Menzies Government took office in 1949?

2.   What is the latest type of (a) fighter, (b) bomber and (c) transport aircraft with which* the

Royal Australian Air Force is equipped, showing the year when each type was first- produced?

3.   How does each of these types of aircraft compare in respect of (a) speed, (b) range and (c) general performance, with the most modern types in use anywhere in the world?

4.   What number of front-line aircraft would Australia possess if existing plans were fulfilled?

5.   By what number, if any, is the present number below full strength?

6.   What number of Royal Australian Naval vessels is in service to-day, showing, in each instance, the (a) type, (b) tonnage and (c) year of completion of construction?

7.   What is the present strength of the Royal Australian Navy in (a) sea-going personnel and (b) shore establishment?

8.   By what number is this total below the planned strength?

9.   What is the total number of persons enlisted in the Permanent Army?

10.   By what number is the present total below the planned strength?

11.   With what type of weapons is the Army equipped, showing (a) light arms, (b) heavy field pieces, &c, and (c) miscellaneous equipment, showing the year in which the latest of the equipment came into use anywhere in the world?

12.   How many civilians are employed in administrative work by the (a) Royal Australian Air Force, (b) Royal Australian Navy and (c) Army?


Sir Philip McBride (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Defence) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   From 1st July, 1950, which was the commencement of the first financial year after the Government took office, up to the 30th June, 1958, the total expenditure on defence has been £1,385,300,000. 2 (a) Fighter.- The Avon/Sabre Mk. 32, first produced in 1954. (b) Bomber. - The Canberra light bomber in squadron service in the R.A.F. in late 1949 and first introduced in Australia in June, 1953. (c) Transport. - The current transport aircraft are Dakotas and Metropolitans, first produced in 1937 and 1955 respectively. Reequipment of the R.A.A.F. with Hercules C1 30 aircraft is scheduled to commence in November, 1958. These aircraft were first produced in 1956. 3. (a) Fighter. - The performance of the R.A.A.F. Avon/Sabre is at least as good as any other subsonic fighter in the world. (b) Bomber. - The Canberra as a light bomber compares favorably with any other light bomber in foreign air forces in speed, range and general performance. (c) Transport. - The Hercules C1 30 is superior to any other transport in its class.

4.   A total of 170 front-line aircraft in the R.A.A.F. and twenty in the Fleet Air Arm.

5.   Twenty-seven.

 

7.   As at 31st July, 1958: (a) 3,658; (b) 7,090 (includes 3,091 sea-going personnel serving in shore establishments); total, 10,748.

8.   Two thousand and fifty-two.

9.   Twenty thousand, seven hundred and sixtynine as at 31st July, 1958.

10.   As at 31st July, 1958, the total strength of 20,769 was 231 below the strength of 21,000, which it was estimated would be available at the time of the Prime Minister's statement of April, 1957. 11. (a) Light arms -

Rifles, . 303-in. - This weapon has been progressively modified since its introduction by the United Kingdom in 1902. The current type is the No. 1 Mark 3, which is still largely in service in the United Kingdom. This rifle will be replaced by the FN rifle beginning' next year.

Owen machine carbine. - Introduced in 1942 in Australia and retained by the Australian Army in preference to any other type. A number of modifications have been made to the original model.

Bren light machine gun, . 303-in. - Originally produced in Czechoslovakia in 1936. Adopted by the Australian Army in 1938, who regard it as probably the best light machine gun in service anywhere in the world.

Vickers medium machine gun, . 303-in. -

Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1914.

Important modifications have been made since that date.

Mortars, 2-in. - Introduced in the United

Kingdom in 1940 and improved since that date.

Mortars, 3-in. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1936, since when its range and performance have been improved.

Rocket launcher, 3.5-in. - Introduced in the United States in 1944 and subsequently modified. The Australian Army is using the latest pattern,

(b)   Field pieces -

Modified gun, quickfiring, 40 mm. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1952.

Modified gun, 3.7-in., anti-aircraft. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1946 and into the Australian Army in 1950-51. This gun is still in service and no replacement is known.

Mortar, 4.2-in. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1942-43 and in current use. 5.25-in. dual-purpose coast and anti-aircraft gun. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1941, this is still the latest equipment of its type, combining the ability to engage ships or high-altitude aircraft. 5.5-in. gun. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1941 and still the current medium gun in use overseas. 155-mm. gun. - Introduced in the United States in 1938 and in current use overseas. 25-pr. gun. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1938 and modified since that dale. It is in current use by the United Kingdom. 20-pr. tank gun. - Introduced in the United Kingdom in 1950-51 with the Centurion tanks.

(c)   Miscellaneous equipment -

Flame throwers, portable. - The type used was introduced in the United States in 1942 and, with minor modifications, is still in current use there.

In addition to these weapons, I have outlined m my statement to the House on 10th September the considerable quantity of Centurion tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, ammunition and other items of equipment held by the Army.

12.   The numbers of civilians employed on administrative work by the service departments are as under -

 

These include clerical and typing staffs at service head-quarters and other establishments. They do not include storehouse, technical and general duties staffs.







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