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#futureautonomous – Call for Submissions – Editorial

On 8 April, The Sir Richard Williams Foundation is holding a seminar to discuss Next Generation Autonomous Systems. The aim of the seminar is to explore the force multiplying capability and increasingly complex requirements associated with unmanned systems. From its origins at the platform level, the opportunities and potential of increased autonomy in the generation and delivery of airpower effects are now expected to fundamentally transform Joint and Coalition operations. Defence industry has a major part to play in the transformation with opportunities extending beyond platforms, to the payloads and enabling systems which underpin the necessary risk management and assurance frameworks demanded by Defence.

In the lead up to the seminar, The Central Blue will be running a series (similar to #highintensitywar and #jointstrike) to generate discussion and enable those that cannot attend the seminar to gain a perspective on the topic. What does #NextGenUAS mean for Australia and its region? We want to hear from you!

The concept of the Unmanned Air System (UAS), or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), is nothing new nor is their use in missions which traditionally challenge human performance, fragility, and endurance. Often described as the dull, dirty, and dangerous missions, unmanned systems have now provided the commander with a far broader range of options for the application of force against even the most challenging target sets. However, ongoing operational experience confirms unmanned systems on their own are not the panacea and trusted autonomy in manned and unmanned teaming arrangements in each environmental domain is emerging as the preferred method.

The narrative is now forming across defence which has progressed the argument for greater numbers of unmanned systems in a far more mature and balanced way than it has been in the past. The manned-unmanned narrative is now sensibly shifting towards ‘and’, rather than ‘or’. Manned and unmanned teaming leverages the strengths and mitigates the weaknesses of each platform, and concentrates the mind on the important operational aspects, such as imaginative new roles, and the challenges of integration to effectively generate the desired effect.

This capability will require a complex web of advanced data links and communication systems to make the autonomous vehicle operate as a complete system. Designing and building the ‘kill web’ so that it can enable the delivery of manned-unmanned firepower across domains will be a huge challenge not least due to the laws of physics. However, the ability to train, test, evaluate and validate tactics and procedures will add a new level of complexity to generate the ‘trusted autonomy’ required for the delivery of strategic effects.

With this background and intent in mind, the editors at The Central Blue suggest a number of topics to provoke your thinking in the lead up to the seminar. This is by no means an exhaustive list but we hope it prompts mental contact!

Questions to consider:

  • What is the impact of #futureautonomous systems on the national, campaign, operational and tactical levels?

  • How have partner forces developed and employed #futureautonomous capabilities in recent campaigns?

  • What emerging technologies should be considered to enable support, planning and targeting systems?

  • What are the impacts of emerging #futureautonomous capabilities on training and exercise regimens?

  • What impacts would prioritising #futureautonomous have on Australia’s existing and future force structures?

  • What are the near and far future implications of #futureautonomous systems?

  • What specific issues which must be considered in the context of the next Defence White Paper and Force Structure Review?

  • What are potential roles for #futureautonomous systems set within the context of each environmental domain?

  • What are the command and control, legal or social implications that affect employment?

  • What is industry’s role in the developments in unmanned air, land, surface and sub-surface combatants?

  • How should we reconceptualise Joint operations and move away from the platform-on-platform engagements which have traditionally characterised the battlespace?

We hope these suggestions provide some food for thought and hopefully prompt some discussion. We would love to hear your ideas on what issues should be explored as part of the #futureautonomous series. If you think you have a question or an idea that would add to the #futureautonomous discussion, or know someone who might, contact us at


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