Former Royal Marine helps implement amphibious capability

Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author), POIS Ollie Garside (photographer)

Captain Jim  Hutton in the Troop Assembly Area (TAA) during Assault Stations onboard HMAS Canberra. (photo: POIS Ollie Garside)
Captain Jim Hutton in the Troop Assembly Area (TAA) during Assault Stations onboard HMAS Canberra.

Joining the Royal Navy as a Midshipman at the age of 17 and moving over to the Royal Marines a few years later where he spent the better part of 35 years, Captain Jim Hutton has more than enough experience to help the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) implement its amphibious capability in the new Landing Helicopter Docks (LHD), HMA Ships Canberra and Adelaide.

Captain Hutton’s last job as a Colonel with the Royal Marines was on loan to the RAN to support the development of an amphibious capability. It was during this posting that he was asked to transfer to the RAN as a Captain.

Captain Hutton is Director of Amphibious Force Generation (Navy) and works for Commodore Warfare. His team is responsible for capability development and force generation through Full Operational Capability in 2017 of the Amphibious Ready Group and beyond. 

Captain Hutton is currently onboard HMAS Canberra as the ship undergoes her Unit Readiness Evaluation.

“My job is to teach, coach and mentor all aspects of amphibious operations,” Captain Hutton said.

“This is the first time the ship has been put through her paces for Unit Readiness which involves all aspects of conducting amphibious activities.

“I have been onboard to work with the ship so that the ship’s company can be more effective at what they do.”

Captain Hutton said it has been an interesting journey but the RAN has now embraced the amphibious capability whole-heartedly. 

“Three years ago there were only a few people who could see what was coming and knew that preparations needed to start,” he said.

“But gradually over time, more and more people have become involved and we have got to where we are now which is having the ship afloat and doing business.”

He said that he had also seen some great interaction between Army and Navy.

“Take the Amphibious Task Group Staff, for example. That is a joint capability at the tactical level, all three services are represented and the task group has grown from eight people to over 35, working in a joint environment on a daily basis,” Captain Hutton said.

“When we brought HMAS Choules into service, Army had the opportunity to work with Navy in developing the capability in what you might call, a test bed.

“The RAN is now keeping Choules and she will work together with the two LHDs.”

Throughout Canberra’s Unit Readiness, the Navy has been able to utilise Army to prove the systems onboard the ship, the assault organisation, the dock, the deck, the routines and the hotel services. 

“You can’t do all of that without an embarked force,” Captain Hutton said

“Effectively when this ship is up and running the embarked force becomes the primary weapon system for the ship.”

“This is a tremendous platform and we are still finding out how best to utilise it, we still have things to learn but it won’t be long before we have an amphibious capability of note.”

Captain Hutton said he is really looking forward to the Sea Series of exercises that Canberra will conduct later this year.

“The Sea Series will be a key milestone this year and to get the capability through Initial Operational Capability, the ship will host the battle staffs and it will really put the planning and operational spaces through the mill,” he said.

“We will be embarking the Amphibious Ready Element and training it up to where it is qualified to go out next year and react to humanitarian aid, disaster relief and non-combatant evacuation operations.

“The Sea Series will allow us to put all the different elements together and really give it a good test. We will learn a lot that will set us up nicely for next year when we take the ship more towards a combat capability, adding the sea control force; frigates and destroyers, and supporting assets such as tankers and aircraft from the RAAF. It will be a major Naval Task Group!”

“This is an exciting time for not only the Navy, but the Australian Defence Force as a whole.”