- Brown, Andrew, Commander, RNZN
- History - Between the wars
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Fortunately from Australia’s point of view, the US Government held no strong views on Australia and CINCPACFLT was granted a free hand to resolve such matters. As a result of discussions between Admiral Radford and Rear Admiral Collins, an agreement was reached in March 1951 between Radford on behalf of the US Pacific Fleet and Collins on behalf of what was termed ‘the ANZAM countries’ on command and control issues in the Pacific and Indian Oceans areas. Thus the Radford-Collins Agreement was born.
Working level agreement
Early versions of this agreement have now been declassified (and published by the Sea Power Centre – Australia) but care must be taken when reading them, not only to establish what they are but more importantly what they are not. The first point to notice is that the agreement is not a treaty; it has never been executed on behalf of any nation nor has it ever been ratified by any parliament. It is a working level agreement between allied senior naval officers and it was designed to be a practical arrangement between the USN and ANZAM (not with Australia alone) when all parties were fighting a common enemy. Consequently, Rear Admiral Collins signed on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal Navy. Second, the agreement predated the signing of the ANZUS Treaty by about six months. In due course it would become the best known `ancillary arrangement’ between the US and Australia under the ANZUS Treaty, but it was never designed as such.
Third, the agreement covers most of the Indian Ocean and all of the Pacific Ocean, which reflected the reality of naval power at the time. Most of what are now sovereign nations in this area were then colonies of European powers or heavily under their control. Most others were under the control or influence of the US. Australia and New Zealand themselves had barely achieved sovereignty (in some measure) from the UK; while South East Asia and the Pacific contained few sovereign nations. The area of responsibility assigned by the agreement reflected the (then) capabilities of the navies concerned and, in the case of the US Pacific Fleet, the disposition of its task forces. Lines were drawn on maps, through islands and across large areas of ocean, not because there were any territorial claims but because this was a naval – as opposed to a military – agreement, which divided up responsibility rather than purporting to grant some form of control. The agreement made each navy responsible for ensuring the free flow of maritime trade in its area and in conjunction there was a requirement to maintain maritime reconnaissance, prosecute enemy submarines and employ local defensive measures; in essence, to take whatever actions were required to protect maritime trade. Finally, the agreement was designed as a combined forces working document from which all exercise and operational planning could commence; it did not constrain any of the navies involved from undertaking independent operations as required by their governments (certainly the US Navy has never felt itself so constrained).
One of the most surprising aspects of the agreement is its brevity: although a large number of topics are covered (from the establishment of Major Area Commands to common publications for operational and tactical use) most are dealt with in one short paragraph and the entire agreement (less its maps) is less than seven pages. Yet it was the acceptance of what appears to be mundane administrative procedures and common publications that is the Radford-Collins Agreement’s strength. It requires a common form of command structure with common procedures and a clear understanding of what information was to be passed between each navy. In other words, from a headquarters point of view, what staff would be required and what responsibilities they held. Based on the agreement, personnel training could be organised and regular international exercises conducted. While this may sound somewhat boring and mundane, it is precisely the standardisation of such `back office’ functions that made the agreement so valuable and enduring. If Australia and the US faced a common maritime enemy there would be no need for discussion on how each navy was to interact with the other at the strategic and operational levels; the agreement resolved those questions.
Procedures regularly exercised
The procedures and communications links established by the Radford-Collins Agreement were regularly exercised either in the context of larger multinational exercise or with specific command post exercises such as the appropriately named RIPCORD, ROLLER COASTER and ROLL CALL series. More recently exercises have been conducted as part of the EXPANDED SEA and (the current) BELL BUOY series. The Agreement itself has shown the utility of generally establishing inter-navy agreements on topics such as trade protection procedures; such experience resulting in the formation of what is now known as the Pacific and Indian Ocean Shipping Working Group (PACIOSWG) encompassing not only Australia (which also guards for New Zealand) and the US (which also guards for Japan) but also Chile, Republic of Korea, UK, Canada, and more recently South Africa and Singapore.