Military Organization > Australia > ​Australian Rifle Company (Late 1970s-1988)

Australian Rifle Company (Late 1970s-1988) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Rifle Company of the Australian Army from late 1970s to 1988. This would have been effective after the end of the Vietnam War up until the adoption of the F88 Austeyr.

The next level up was the Infantry Battalion which consisted of a Headquarters, 1 Administration Company, 1 Intel Section, 1 Sniper Section, 4 Rifle Companies and 1 Support Company.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company HQ​

    • 3 Platoons

    • 1 Support Section

  2. Ammo Loads

  3. Discussion

  4. Sources

Australian Platoon 1980s-01.png
 

Organization

  • Type: Infantry Company

  • Origin: Australian Army (Australia)

  • Time Frame: Late 1960s to 1988

  • Personnel: 5 Officers and 96 Enlisted

Company Headquarters (2 Officers and 7 Enlisted)

  • 1× Officer Commanding, Major (OF-3)

  • 1× Company Second-in-Command, Captain (OF-2)

  • 1× Company Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class 2 (OR-8)

  • 1× Company Quartermaster Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-7)

  • 1× Company Clerk, a Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Orderly/Signaller, Private (OR-1)

  • 1× Orderly/Runner, Private (OR-1)

  • 1× Storeman, Private (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver, Private (OR-1)

→ Additional Equipment

  • 2× Light Vehicles (Series 2A or 3 Land Rovers)

  • 1× Medium Vehicle (Unimog)

  • 1× M60/MAG58 Machine Gun (Reserve)

3× Platoons (1 Officer and 28 Enlisted each)

​→ Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 5 Enlisted)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

  • 1× Orderly/Signaller, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Orderly/Runner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

​→ 3× Sections (8 Enlisted each)

  • Rifle Group

    • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

    • 1× Rifle Grenadier, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle and M203 Grenade Launcher

    • 2× Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

  • Scout Group

    • 1× Scout, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

    • 1× Scout, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

  • Gun Group

    • 1× Section Second-in-Command, ​a Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • 1× MG No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M60/MAG58 Machine Gun and Browning HP Pistol

    • 1× MG No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle
       

1× Support Section (5 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 5× Riflemen, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

→ Additional Equipment

  • 2× SRAAW 84mm Recoilless Rifles (Carl Gustav)

australian 1986-01.png
 

Ammo Load

→ Rifle Section

  • The base load for the section M60 GPMG or MAG58 GSMG was 800 rounds spread around the section. Ammo was carried in 100 round belts, which weighed 2.25 kg each.

  • The base load for each man issued an L1A1 SLR was 4 magazines of 20 rounds each (80 rounds, 2.8 kg total)

  • The base load for each man issued an M16A1 Rifle was 10 magazines of 30 rounds each (300 rounds, 4.25 kg total)

 

Discussion

The Australian Army Rifle Company consisted of 5 Officers and 96 Enlisted soldiers divided into 1 Company Headquarters, 3 Rifle Platoons and 1 Support Section. The Company HQ was allotted 2 light vehicles (Land Rovers) and 1 medium vehicle (Unimog), as well as 1 M60 or MAG58 machine gun in reserve.

Company Headquarters

The Company Headquarters was the command and administrative unit of the company. It consisted of the Officer Commanding, Company 2IC, Company Sergeant Major, Company Quartermaster, Company Clerk, 2 Orderlies, 1 Storeman, and 1 Driver. One Orderly acted as a Signaller and manned an AN/PRC-77 Portable Transceiver.

Key Personnel:

  • Officer Commanding (OC), a Major, was the commanding officer of the company.

  • Company Second-in-Command (2IC), a Captain, was the understudy of the Officer Commanding and served administrative/house-keeping functions for the company command. If the Officer Commanding became a casualty or was otherwise unable to command the platoon, the 2IC would take command.

  • Company Sergeant Major (CMS), a Warrant Officer II, was the senior enlisted man in the company. The billet was charged with advising the Company Commander and handling disciplinary action in the company. The billet received training in military law procedures, and collaborated with the Regimental Sergeant Major, a Warrant Officer I—who had similar role at the battalion level—and the platoon sergeants below them to fulfill this purpose. Often duties would be delegated to the Company Sergeant Major from the Regimental Sergeant Major, including coordinating the barracks guard rosters, ceremonial functions and processing charges.

  • Company Quartermaster (CQMS), a Staff Sergeant (Callsign "Nutshell"), was a senior enlisted man in charge of logistics and supply for the company. The Platoon Sergeants would relay the needs of the platoons—rations, spare parts, other materiel—to the CQMS who would either supply it through the company store or requisition it from the battalion quartermaster platoon. Maintenance demands would also be issued to the CQMS.

Typically, a Signal Detachment would be attached to the Company HQ from the Battalion Signals Platoon to man the link to battalion. Other attachments from battalion could include a mortar fire controller and forward observer, medical assistant, stretcher bearers, cooks, drivers, engineers, assault pioneers, anti-armour teams, and machine guns. The battalion machine guns differed from the platoon-level machine guns in that they were meant to be used in the sustained fire role from tripods. These attachments could also aid in the training of the rifle platoon personnel in their specific areas.

Rifle Platoons

Each Rifle Platoon consisted of a Platoon Headquarters and 3 Rifle Sections. The Platoon Headquarters consisted of the Platoon Commander (Lieutenant), Platoon Sergeant/2IC (Sergeant), and 2 Orderlies. One Orderly would act as a Signaller, while the other would act as a Runner. The Platoon Commander and Signaller were typically armed with the M16A1 Rifle for its lighter weight—a standard operating procedure dating back to Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Platoon Sergeant and Runner would be armed with the L1A1 Rifle. The Signaller manned a AN/PRC-77 Portable Transceiver, but was not a specialist from the battalion's signals platoon. Rather, they were a rifleman/orderly already assigned to the platoon who received training at their duty station. Being a Signaller was considered a privileged position in the Rifle Platoon. All members of the platoon were intended to be taught how to use the radio.

The Rifle Section was split into 3 groups all under the command of the Section Commander (Corporal). These included the Scout Group, Rifle Group, and Gun Group.

The Scout Group consisted of 2 Scouts. One was armed with an M16A1 Rifle and the other with an L1A1 SLR. This was a key difference from the Vietnam War, when both Scouts would have been armed with the M16A1 (Owen Machine Carbine before 1967). The Scouts led formations and provided early warning for the section—especially valuable for when moving through dense vegetation. Their inclusion was likely influenced by Australia's involvement in counter-insurgency operations in the South Pacific (possibly also why New Zealand uses/used Scout Groups, while the British did not). Scouts would work together, with 1 Scout leading outside of visual range of the section with the other Scout relayed signals to the Section Commander. Aside from being lighter and more handy for scouting duties, the M16A1-armed Scout had the capability of rapidly returning automatic fire when contact was made. This would give the Scout Group the ability to direct fire and Gun Group (and the rest of the section) the opportunity to double forward to return fire. The Scout billet was inherently stressful due to the necessity of being constantly on alert. Thus, the Australians typically cycled Riflemen through the Scout roles (the New Zealanders during Vietnam did not and maintained specialist scouts).

The Gun Group acted as the Section's base of fire. The Gun Group consisted of the Section 2IC, a Lance Corporal and gun controller, MG No. 1 (gunner), and MG No. 2 (assistant). It served an M60 GPMG (general-purpose machine gun) which had entered Australian service during the Vietnam War or, as became increasingly common by the mid- to late-1980s, the FN MAG58 GSMG (general-support machine gun). The MAG58 had completely supplanted the M60 by the early 1990s. The base load for the section machine gun was 800 rounds, carried in 100-round belts. In combat, the load could have been much more. During Vietnam, some sources listed as much as 600 rounds on both the MG No. 1 and No. 2 (13.5 kg for 6 belts) in additional to belts distributed to the Rifle Goup. How it was distributed likely depended on unit SOPs. Even if a Section was understrength, the Gun Group at a minimum would be maintained. The Platoon required 3 machine guns to effectively set up a triangular harbour (a type of patrol base) to maintain 360 degree security.

The Rifle Group acted as the assaulting element of the section, and consisted of a Rifle Grenadier (armed with an M16A1 and M203 Grenade Launcher) and 2 Riflemen (each armed with an L1A1 SLR and 66mm M72 LAW). The M203 replaced the M79 in general service, although the M79 would come back in 1988 when the F88 was adopted as an under-barrel grenade launcher was not simultaneously adopted. In the march, the Rifle Group would typically be at the rear of formations. The Section Commander typically moved with the Rifle Group (as was standard in Commonwealth countries). This was due to the thought that assaulting was considered to be the more difficult activity (as opposed to controlling the machine gun) and required a more experienced leader. The 2IC would then be positioned to observe the Section Commander and the entire Section.

Depending on the situation, Rifle Sections could be reinforced with other elements. An example given by the Manual of Land Warfare (1986) was the case of a Rifle Platoon assaulting a pillbox protected by barbed wire. In such a scenario, the No. 1 Section and Platoon Headquarters would act as the fire support section, possibly reinforced with battalion machine guns, and suppress the pillbox while also firing smoke with rifle grenade launchers. The No. 2 section would be augmented with battalion assault pioneers (with Bangalore torpedos) and SRAAW team from the company Support Section to breach the pillbox's defenses. Meanwhile, the No. 3 section would be held back and would make the final assault. No. 3 section could be augmented with a flamethrower.  

Support Section

The Support Section consisted of 5 enlisted men (1 Section Commander and 5 Riflemen). With 2 SRAAW (short range anti-armour weapons) 84mm recoilless rifle (Carl Gustav), the section could be split into 2 equal teams of 3 men. This formed the company's integral anti-armor capability and could be attached to Rifle Platoons as needed.

Sources

 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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