As 2021 draws to a close, it seems a perfect time for TCB editors to reflect upon another big year. This year's focus on autonomous systems,space capabilities and future-force insights offered the perfect opportunity to encourage submissions which explored, questioned, and challenged the future of these capabilities.
It perhaps goes without saying that a highlight of the year was the Air Force 2121 series which resulted in the award of the 2021 Dr Alan Stephens Air Power Literary Prize. The #AirForce2121 series challenged writers to question what #AirForce2121 looks like for which we received several high caliber entries. The prize was awarded to a brilliant science fiction piece by Wing Commander (WGCDR) Travis Hallen and his daughter. Hallen’s submission, Losing Jefferson, used science fiction to explore the future of autonomous drones while challenging humans ability to trust and connect with machines. Honourable mentions were given to Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Brendon Bishop and his Case for a Universal Multi-Domain Shipping Contain and to Ben Luther’s Assuring 2121 which challenged Test and Evaluation thinking.
Another highlight for The Sir Richard Williams Foundation was the ability to hold in-person seminar events . The Next Generation Autonomous Systems Seminar in April saw TCB editor Group Captain Jo Brick present an overview of automation and warfare, while the December seminar Requirements of a Sovereign Defence Space Capability had TCB editor Sergeant Amy Hestermann-Crane present the historic perspective on Australian space capability.
These seminars always offer TCB an opportunity to encourage online debate WGCDR Keirin Joyce summarised the first seminar succinctly, while also questioning the advantage of autonomy and if the ADF is missing an opportunity. Offering a unique personal experience, Warrant Officer (WOFF) Samuel Carson provided his insight into the MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Sensor Operator advantages and potential risks. WOFF Xavier Sherriff also used his experience to warn of the risks associated with Automation Blind Reliance in the coming years . Meanwhile,the Loyal Wingman’s first successful test flight spurred SQNLDR Michael Spencer to discuss disruptive designs for aircraft with autonomy and artificial intelligence(AI).
Key author themes
Space also featured heavily in 2021. While the topic generally elicits visions of futuristic environments, Dr Dale Stephens and our own TCB editor SQNLDR Jenna Higgins discussed how space is applicable right now in their introductory post Space law and military operations 101, offering a basic foundational knowledge. The successful NASA landing of the Remote Piloted Aircraft Ingenuity on Mars, gave SQNLDR Michael Spencer an opportunity to explore this helicopter in a two-part series. Looking to the future, Dr Graham Wild explored the Need for an Australian Space Force in the years to come.
But it wasn’t all AI and space – TCB also recognises the critical importance of the people who drive capability, maintain systems, and innovate solutions. Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Samantha Hewitt kicked us off by delving into the critical requirement of developing, retaining and re-investing talent in the ADF. The need for the right people in the right place and time was explored by Corporal Dylan Williamson through the lens of motivation. Other notable people centric pieces were offered by SQNLDR Kate Yaxley, Flying Officer Patrick Helsing, and Luke Webb.
Central Blue developments
Speaking of people, TCB team was fortunate to take on an additional three talented individuals. Leading Aircraftwoman Rebecca Durbin will join TCB Editorial team to increase our capability for offering quality content, while FLTLT Ross Tindale and FLTLT Grace Scholl will head the new TCB Special Projects team, enabling TCB to bring exciting new virtual and in-person events next year.
The Central Blue would like to thank all of its contributing authors for their insight and dedication to continuing the air and space power debate. There were too many amazing submissions to adequately cover in a wrap up, but they are all available at TCB website. Thank you to our committed readers, for we would not be here without your continuing support.
It's been yet another extraordinary year, and from the entire TCB Team, we wish you and your families a very happy holiday period. The team is taking some precious time to rest and recharge over this time and are looking forward to joining you in the New Year. The team has some major plans for 2022, so stay tuned for announcements on social media - and, be sure to check out our most recent call for submissions on #FutureChiefs!
Until then, take care!
- TCB Editorial Team