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- 2024 Errol McCormack Member Lunches
Financial members are invited to attend our Williams Foundation Errol McCormack Lunches. Dates for 2024 are Thu 22 February - AIRMSHL Leon Phillips OAM, Chief Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Thu 23 May - Speaker TBA Thu 29 August - Speaker TBA Thu 21 November - Speaker TBA To register for a lunch click here To apply for membership click here Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2024 Williams Foundation Conferences
Dates for 2024 are Financial members and Defence personnel are invited to attend our Williams Foundation Errol McCormack Lunches. Speakers and topics for the 2024 program will be announced in the new year To register for a conference click here To apply for membership click here Inquiries: email@example.com
- Thinking CAP: air superiority and Australia’s defence by Chris McInnes
Chris McInnes, Thinking CAP: air superiority and Australia’s defence, 10 December 2023 A misunderstanding of air power is distorting Australia’s defence discussion. The misunderstanding is the use of combat air patrols (CAP) over surface forces as a substitute for air superiority. CAP has its place but using it as a substitute for air superiority conflates presence with utility and ignores two key insights from history. First, securing enough air superiority in required times and places is a necessary precondition for broader air and surface operations and must take precedence in concepts and planning. Second, air superiority is best secured through concentrated and sustained campaigns of offensive actions, often far removed in time and space from surface operations. Addressing tough questions about Australia’s air superiority needs should be foremost among Australia’s defence considerations, not obscured by easier substitute questions like CAP radius. Air superiority allows friendly forces to use airspace or the surface below it without prohibitive interference from enemy air operations, including missiles. It is a relative and often temporary condition: enough air superiority to do what you want to do in a particular time and place for a given duration is sufficient. CAP is one among many options in the pursuit of air superiority. The present CAP confusion dates to at least this this 2013 article by Dr Andrew Davies, then of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). According to Davies the map below shows the approximate range to which the Australian Defence Force (ADF) ‘would be able to project force under the cover of our own airbases by having a standing fighter patrol or CAP overhead.’ The picture should be ‘compulsory reading for anyone contemplating ADF maritime power project projections’ because ‘unless they are relatively close to home, they’ll be done without persistent fixed wing air cover.’ Dr Marcus Hellyer echoed similar views (also while at the ASPI) in a 2019 series on the range of the F-35A (part 2, part 3, and part 4). Approximate ranges from Australian bases at which an F-35 JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] aircraft could remain on station for an hour. The inner line is for unrefueled aircraft. The outer line assumes an air-to-air refuelling at 500nm from base. (Source: ranges estimated from December 2009 Selected Acquisition report data.) Range rings for the Super Hornet with a weapons payload would be smaller. (Image and caption credit: Australian Strategic Policy Institute) Davies and Hellyer are first-rate analysts, but they have this wrong on two counts. The errors are conflating air power’s utility with its ability to remain on-station over a location, and the consequent use of CAP radius as a proxy for effective range. This bait and switch – doubtless unintended – lures analysts with a ready answer to an easy question about CAP radius but means they avoid thinking through tough questions about air superiority. In this example drawing on Hellyer’s work, the F-35A’s CAP radius is treated as a frontline in the sky behind which Australia is assumed to hold air superiority. This is a dangerous over-simplification to put it mildly. More recently a series on the future of the Royal Australian Navy cited Davies to illustrate Australia-based air power’s limited ability to support surface operations. According to the authors, this is a ‘major weakness’ because ‘naval operations in a hostile environment require continuous airborne early warning support and in situ or immediately on-call combat air support.’ The flaw here is insisting on the presence of aircraft without articulating the purpose of that presence. If it is true that Australia’s warships will need aircraft continually overhead to survive in hostile environments, we need to rethink our operational concepts and investment plans. On-call air power has always been attractive to surface forces because it is reassuring and responsive. It is expensive but doable in permissive environments and has enhanced Western militaries’ operating style since the Second World War. During Operation Okra Australian F/A-18 provided near-instantaneous reconnaissance and firepower to friendly forces for three to four hours or more in northern Iraq and Syria, more than 1,000nm from the aircraft’s base. The 90 percent survival rate of Western troops suffering traumatic injuries in recent conflicts owes much to rapid and assured aeromedical evacuation. But all this air support has depended on earlier air superiority campaigns, however brief or far removed in time and space they may have been. For the first time since the Second World War, Australia cannot assume air superiority in its region due to the Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA) growing air strength. Attempting to maintain CAP, and other forms of on-call air support, without sufficient air superiority is a short route to disaster. It ‘penny packets’ air power and puts it on the back foot, allowing enemies to concentrate and overwhelm thinly spread forces at the time and place of their choosing. Friendly air power is concurrently prevented from concentrating and is rapidly exhausted and bled dry. We should hope the PLA works this way. We know this because surface commanders repeatedly insisted air power be used this way during the Second World War, the last major conflict to see sustained struggles for air superiority. The approach failed every time, accelerating defeat for air and surface forces. Despite comparable numbers and technical capabilities, thinly spread Anglo-French air umbrellas were swept aside by concentrated German air power in 1940. Similar outcomes befell the Soviets in 1941 and the Americans in Tunisia in early 1943. The Western allies eventually recognised winning air superiority had to come first. Fighting for control of the air became the sine qua non and prime campaign for air forces with the full endorsement of their joint counterparts. As Dwight Eisenhower, a US Army general and supreme Allied commander in Europe, recounted in his memoirs ‘no great victory is possible without air superiority.’ The most effective methods for gaining air superiority were concentrated and sustained campaigns of typically offensive tactical actions targeting enemy forces in the air and on the ground. Air superiority was an outcome of many small independent actions by all instruments of power, often far from surface operations in time and space. It was rarely absolute and sustaining air superiority required continuous effort. B-17 Flying Fortresses and escorting fighters of the United States 8th Army Air Force leave contrails during a mission over Germany. (Image credit: Roger Freeman Collection, American Air Museum in Britain) Operation Pointblank, the Anglo-American campaign for air superiority over Western Europe in the lead-up to the Normandy invasion in June 1944, was the largest and longest such effort. From mid-1943, increasingly powerful bomber forces prioritised the destruction of Germany’s aircraft industry. The introduction of American long-range fighter escorts in late-1943 was important but constrained by defensive tactics that prioritised protecting bombers. A shift to more offensive tactics that emphasised destroying German fighters in the air and on the ground unleashed their potential. Offensive tactics were also important in defensive settings like Australia’s contemporary context. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, a sophisticated early warning and control system allowed British fighter aircraft to focus their efforts and fight offensively. Exhausting standing patrols were minimised as fighters could remain on the ground until German raids were detected. When launched, fighters were directed efficiently with time and awareness to gain advantage through altitude and approach angles. The British also attacked German airfields throughout the battle to disrupt attacks before they were launched. Just as important as the targeting and tactics was the Anglo-American air forces’ emphasis on training, maintenance, and welfare to build pressure on their opponents through continuous operations. This contrasted with the German (and Japanese) approach and proved a key advantage in the struggles for air superiority. Pointblank climaxed in February 1944 when thousands of American and British bombers struck aircraft production facilities on six consecutive days while their fighter escorts hunted at will. The Germans lost 2,605 aircraft in February 1944; more than half were non-combat losses as relentless pressure shattered Germany’s air power systems. Air superiority for the Normandy landings (and incidentally for Soviet forces in Russia) was won in distant skies over many months. Allied air power was then free to attack German defences throughout Western Europe and make ‘daylight movement virtually impossible throughout most of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.’ On D-Day itself Allied aircraft flew more than 20,000 sorties to drop airborne divisions, deliver firepower, and continually observe. The 200 German sorties over Normandy on 6 June 1944 serve as a reminder air superiority is rarely absolute. This pattern repeated wherever Western forces operated in the war and since. During the Cold War, improvements in surface-to-air defences drove the development of sophisticated techniques to suppress or destroy them. In 1991, the West’s Cold War air forces smashed Iraq’s air defences to seize air superiority in ‘the earliest hours – even minutes – of combat’ of Operation Desert Storm. The largest single air campaign since the Second World War then shattered Iraqi ground forces, allowing friendly troops to sweep aside the world’s fourth largest army in just 100 hours and with minimal casualties. Air superiority has since come so swiftly and easily as to be taken for granted by Western forces. Its physical and conceptual foundations have consequently atrophied. After decades of distraction, the United States Air Force has re-emphasised air superiority in the face of China’s growing power. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has laid bare alarming deficiencies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s European air forces while reinforcing the criticality of air superiority for all forces. The complacency has also reached the Royal Australian Air Force and the ADF. Australia’s limited public discussion on the topic has focused on technical evaluations of investment options rather than air superiority’s role in Australia’s defence. The last time Australia’s Air Power Manual explicitly identified the primacy of air superiority was in 1998. Later editions have diluted this clarity and air superiority has gone from the prime campaign to just another ‘contribution.’ It is little wonder muddled thinking like using CAP as a substitute for air superiority has emerged. Australian air power’s ability to CAP at a given place is a secondary consideration to questions like when, where, and to what degree and duration is air superiority needed for the ADF to operate in the region. These questions may, as Andrew Davies argues, raise unsettling doubts about the viability of some surface operations in contested environments, but they need to be asked – and first. From there, the discussion can turn to the best ways for Australia to win enough air superiority where and when needed. CAP will be an option, but down the list. It is certainly no substitute for air superiority. Chris McInnes is a historian and researcher specialising in air power. He is a former air force officer now in the private sector.
- New airpower and force design thinking | Williams Foundation
We promote independent and innovative thinking to enhance Australia’s integrated 5th Generation force capability. Through our events & programs , we connect a wide network of practitioners, experts and academics to forge new ideas for future military force design with a networked edge. EXPERT ANALYSIS In-depth thinking by our highly experienced network of non-resident fellows, scholars and active practitioners Dec 13, 2023 7 min Thinking CAP: air superiority and Australia’s defence by Chris McInnes Chris McInnes, Thinking CAP: air superiority and Australia’s defence, 10 December 2023 A misunderstanding of air power is distorting... MORE EXPERT ANALYSIS NEWS & UPDATES Stay up-to-date with the latest in the Foundation's news and activities > Oct 8, 2023 1 min Conference: Final Report - Dr Robbin Laird Dr Robbin Laird, Final Report, 8 Oct 2023 CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS EVENTS Errol McCormack lunches and Conferences are complimentary for financial members of the Williams Foundation. 2024 Errol McCormack Member Lunches Dec 15, 2023 1 min 2024 Williams Foundation Conferences Dec 13, 2023 1 min More information and registration here Informed discussion and debate about force design issues affecting Australia - presented by emerging thought-leaders in the field. Finding your voice - writing, ranting and risk Revolutions in Military Affairs? Evolve Your Thinking Announcing the 2022 Dr Alan Stephens Air Power Literary Prize winner MORE TCB ARTICLES Platinum Corporate Partner
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EVENTS Our events are a fusion of influential ideas and powerful networking opportunities Our events attract an influential cross-section of Defence leaders, researchers and industry practitioners to share international and local experiences around future force thinking. Whether it be our day-long conferences, or our popular luncheon series, they're proven to be forums that offer focused, sharp insights that generate crucial ideas for the future. Upcoming Events Click here for more infomation and registration Event Proceedings Anchor 1 Download presentation packs, speeches and other materials from our previous events. The Strike Enterprise and the Royal Air Force - Dr Robbin Laird Preparedness and Fighting with the Force You Have Now - Dr Robbin Laird Conference: Final Report - Dr Robbin Laird MORE PROCEEDINGS
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RESEARCH Our work has a future strategic focus Our research and conference papers draw on the expertise of leading Defence, Industry and thought leaders in Australia and internationally. Our studies are succinct, future-focused and action-orientated. They assess the challenges ahead and raise policy issues to shape the future. Apr 30, 2020 Williams Paper: The Coming of the Australian Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel: A Case Study The Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel is the first of the new build platforms. It provides the template with regard to the entire reset o Oct 31, 2019 Conference: The Requirements of Fifth Generation Manoeuvre - Final Report ...major presentations and discussions at the Williams Foundation seminar on the requirements for fifth generation manoeuvre Apr 11, 2019 Conference: Hi-Intensity Operations and Sustaining Self Reliance - Final Report The latest Williams Seminar held in Canberra on April 11, 2019 focused on the strategic shift for Australia within the context of the evolvi Sep 7, 2018 Conference: The Imperative for an Independent Deterrent: A Joint Strike Seminar - Final Report Since 2014, the Williams Foundation has held a series of seminars, which have looked at the nature of military transformation enabled by new May 1, 2018 Conference: The Requirements of High Intensity Warfare - Final Report the Foundation is focusing on the new strategic context within which this force will operate and the kinds of further changes necessary for Sep 15, 2017 Conference: A New Approach, and Attitude, to Electronic Warfare In Australia - Final Report In this report, the major presentations at the Williams Foundation seminar on the evolution of electronic warfare, notably from the standpoi Apr 30, 2017 Williams Paper - Integrated Air and Missile Defence Study: The Challenge of Integrated Force Design The Williams Foundation conducted an Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) study between Sep16 and Feb17 to explore the challenges of bu Apr 27, 2017 Conference: Air / Sea / Land: Integrated Force 2030 - Final Report On April 11, 2017, the Williams Foundation held its latest seminar on shaping a way ahead in the shaping of a 21st century combat force. Thi Apr 30, 2014 Conference: Air Combat Operations 2025 and Beyond - Executive Summary Report The seminar explored the challenges and opportunities afforded by the introduction of 5th generation air combat capabilities. Apr 30, 2014 Conference: Air Combat Operations 2025 and Beyond - Laird Special Report Australia is building out a modest but effective 21st century Air Force built around the best available 21st century platforms and technolog Feb 28, 2014 Williams Paper: Protecting Australia with UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) The capabilities and use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has grown rapidly over the last decade or so. Australia’s geography is uniquely we Jan 31, 2012 Williams Paper: Flawed Doctrine: The Problem With Centralised Control And Decentralised Execution This paper focuses on two objections to current ADF doctrine. First, reliance on a ‘bumper-sticker’4 as the basis for developing command arr