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  • The Role of Maritime Autonomous Systems - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, The Role of Maritime Autonomous Systems: Mission Thread Capabilities to Meet the Needs of Modern Warfare, 11 May 2023 Link to article ( If you are looking at the potential role of maritime autonomous systems from the standpoint of traditional acquisition approaches, the legacy concept of platforms, and are not focused on the priority for software transient advantage in modern warfighting, then you will totally miss what the coming of maritime autonomous systems is all about. During my March-April 2023 visit to Australia, I had a chance to meet again with Commodore Darron Kavanagh, Director General Warfare Innovation, Royal Australian Navy Headquarters, to discuss maritime autonomous systems and their role going forward. As a nation facing major maritime challenges, there is probably no nation on earth that needs to get this right more than Australia. Threats tend to focus the mind and the efforts. Maritime autonomous systems don’t fit into the classic platform development mode or the sharp distinction between how particular platforms operate or perform and the various payloads they can carry. They are defined by the controlling software and the payloads they can deliver individually or as a wolfpack with the role of platforms subordinated to the effects they can deliver through their payloads. The software enables the payloads to be leveraged either individually, though more likely in combination as a wolfpack or a contributor to a combat cluster. We started our discussion by focusing on mission threads as a way to understand the role and contribution of maritime autonomous systems. What missions does a combat commander need to accomplish? And how can maritime autonomous systems contribute to a mission thread for that combat commander, within the context of combat clusters? As CDRE Kavanagh underscored: “One of the issues about how we’ve been looking at these systems is that we think in terms of using traditional approaches of capability realization with them. We are not creating a defense capability from scratch. These things exist, already, to a degree out in the commercial world, regardless of what defense does. AI built into robotic and autonomous systems are in the real world regardless of what the defence entities think or do. “And we have shown through various autonomous warrior exercises, that we can already make important contributions to mission threads which combat commanders need to build out now and even more so going forward.” And that is really the next point. The use of maritime autonomous systems is driven by evolving concepts of operations and the mission threads within those evolving CONOPS rather than by a platform-centric traditional model of acquisition. CDRE Kavanagh pointed out that traditional acquisition is primarily focused on platform replacement, and has difficulty in supporting evolving concepts of operations. This is how he put it: “We’re good at replacing platforms. That doesn’t actually require a detailed CONOPS when we are just replacing something. But we now need to examine on a regular basis what other options do we have? How could we do a mission in a different way which would require a different profile completely?” Put another way, combatant commanders can conduct mission rehearsals with their forces and can identify gaps to be closed. But the traditional acquisition approach is not optimized for closing such gaps at speed through the use of disruptive technologies. The deployment and development of autonomous systems are part of the response to the question of how gaps can be closed or narrowed rapidly and without expensive solution sets. In an interview I did earlier this year with a senior Naval commander, he identified the “gaps” problem. “Rehearsal of operations sheds light on our gaps. if you are rehearsing, you are writing mission orders down to the trigger puller, and the trigger puller will get these orders and go, I don’t know what you want me to do. Where do you want me to be? Who am I supposed to check in with? What do you want me to kill when I get there? What are my left and right limits? Do I have target engagement authority? “This then allows a better process of writing effective mission orders. so that we’re actually telling the joint force what we want them to do and who’s got the lead at a specific operational point. By such an approach, we are learning. We’re driving requirements from the people who are actually out there trying to execute the mission, as opposed to the war gamers who were sitting on the staff trying to figure out what the trigger pullers should do.” But how to close the gaps? As CDRE Kavanagh argued: “We need to deliver lethality at the speed of relevance. But if I go after the conventional solution, and I’m just replacing something, that’s actually not a good use of my very finite resources. We need to be answering the operational commanders request to fill a gap in capability, even if it is a 30% solution compared to no solution on offer from the traditional acquisition process.” These are not technologies looked at in terms of a traditional acquisition process which requires them to go through a long period of development to form a platform which can procured with a long-life use expectancy. CDRE Kavanagh simply pointed out that maritime autonomous systems are NOT technologies to be understood in this manner. “We build our platforms in a classical waterfall approach where you design, develop and build a platform over twenty years to make them excellent. But their ability to adapt quickly is very limited. This is where software intensive systems such as maritime autonomous systems are a useful complement to the conventional platforms. Maritime autonomous systems are built around software first approaches and we are able to do rapid readjustments of the code in a combat situation.” And the legacy acquisition approach is not well aligned with the evolution of warfare. Not only is the focus changing to what distributed combat clusters can combine to do in terms of combat effects but the payload impacts at a point of relevance is also becoming of increased salience to warfighting approaches. What is emerging clearly is a need to adapt more rapidly than what traditional platforms and their upgrade processes can do. Gaps will emerge and need to be closed not just in mission rehearsals but in the combat operations to be anticipated in the current and future combat situations. And to endure in conflict, it will be crucial as well to protect one’s core combat capital capabilities and platforms which calls for increased reliance on capabilities like maritime autonomous systems to take the brunt of attrition in combat situations as capital ships become mother ships rather than simply being the core assets doing the brunt of combat with whatever organic capabilities they have onboard. As CDRE Kavanagh noted: “The nuclear powered submarine is absolutely necessary for what we need to do for our defense in depth, but what we’re focused on with maritime autonomous systems completely complements it, because what I want to do is ensure that the dangerous stuff gets done by the autonomous forces as much as possible, because we can rebuild that capability much more rapidly. We can actually restore it whereas we can’t restore a nuclear powered submarine quickly if lost.” I wrote in a previous piece about the shift from the distributed force being shaped in the Pacific to an enduring force. The distributed force and its correlated capabilities are a near to mid-term answer to providing for enhanced Pacific defense and deterrence, but longer-term answers are needed for an enduring force. CDRE Kavanagh closed our discussion by emphasizing the crucial need for Australia to have an ability to stay in the fight in case of conflict in the Pacific. He argued that having their own abilities to innovate in autonomous systems areas was part of such a desired capability. “Resilience in a combat situation is an ability to be able to experiment and adjust on the fly. To have an enduring force that can operate until statecraft can shape an end state, the warriors and their support community must adjust the combat force rapidly to the real-world combat conditions. By shaping a deployment and ongoing development process in the maritime autonomous systems area, we are contributing to such a combat capability.“ Featured Photo: Director General Warfare Innovation, Royal Australian Navy, Commodore Darron Kavanagh inspects the ‘Dive-LD’ autonomous underwater vehicle. Credit: Australian Department of Defence

  • Rethinking Sustainable Defence Forces: A Discussion with Dr. Alan Dupont - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Rethinking Sustainable Defence Forces: A Discussion with Dr. Alan Dupont, 9 May 2023 Link to article ( In an earlier discussion with David Beaumont, I focused on the challenge facing the ADF of managing what I called the strategic triangle for force enablement. That triangle is conceptualized in the featured graphic for this article. At the core of the triangle is the challenge of sustainability, the provision of supplies, magazine depth and what can produced by the allied arsenal of democracy. At the 28 March 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar, Dr. Dupont looked at the sustainability challenge as understood in terms of the capabilities of the defence industrial base. He provided an assessment of the significant limitations facing the Western industrial base to support sustainable defense forces which could endure through a significant period of conflict. As Dupont characterized the very significant challenge facing the liberal democracies: “The country or alliance that can deliver the biggest punch and outlast adversaries will win. Right now, that is not us. The arsenal of democracy has been replaced by the arsenal of autocracy. The Ukraine conflict has exposed Australia’s and the West’s thin, under-resourced defence industrial base. If we don’t fix the problem – and quickly – we won’t prevail in a conflict with a better equipped adversary.” This is a key challenge as the West simply has hollowed out basic consumable production for just-in time wars supported by just-in time supply chains. But neither the industrial base nor the supply chains are up to prolonged conflict of any sort. If Australia and the West want to deter the post-Cold war legacy approach to defense industry and supply chains will simply not be adequate. A major re-think and re-structuring is in order. I had a chance after the seminar to discuss with him on 3 April 2023 on how to do so. One could consider this a discussion of the defense industrial base, but we both think this is too limiting as it really is about shaping the entire eco-system for sustainable defense forces, which includes specific defense companies, new acquisition approaches, companies that support the core capabilities which defense taps into but are not specifically defense companies per se, and tapping into new logistical and support approaches to support distributed force. As Dupont concluded our conversation: “I think we should move away from this defense industrial base language which can be very clunky and 20th century. People think in terms of big factories and production and development cycles of 20 years. We need a very different focus.” Dupont started the discussion by laying out his methodology for building what he considers to be an appropriate Australian defense industrial effort. As it stands know, Australia is almost entirely dependent on overseas supplies and when Australia orders what it needs it joins the queue along with other customers, with no certainty be supplied in a timely manner. Added to this the tyranny of distance facing the transportation of military parts to Australia, and you have a perfect storm facing Australian defence in terms of conflict. To deal with this challenge, Australia needs to enhance its sovereign defense production capabilities. But to do so, Dupont suggests the need for a realistic methodology to shape the way ahead. What does Australia need in terms of defense capabilities over the next two decades? How much of what it needs could realistically be produced in Australia? What can it do with co-development or co-production with key allies? And what will it simply have to procure from allied countries and producers? In those areas where it feasible to build sovereign capabilities, a new development approach is needed. Many of the dynamic new capabilities being used by defense forces come from smaller more innovative firms. Australia has such firms but there is no Australian government policy to support them or to ensure that they have the capital to grow. There is a need for an Australian industrial policy in this area. In areas where Australia could produce for its own needs, the government should commit to a South Korean, Israeli, or Swedish path of growing for exports. He pointed out that South Korea now exports 17 billons of dollars of exports which provides a key pillar for its own defence. In addition, to discussing his methodology for the development of Australian sovereign defense industrial capabilities, we discussed the strategic direction of defense and how best to support it. Defence forces in the Pacific for the liberal democracies are focusing on force distribution for survivability. There are new technologies to support force distribution such as synthetic fuel production and 3D printing in the field. New approaches to sustaining distributed forces through a relevant development and production support are crucial to provide enhanced capabilities for distributed forces. New platform/payload combinations are being introduced through such sectors as aerial and maritime autonomous systems. How will Australia support this effort? How will it do so in a way that allows for exportability? How will it work with core allies to enhance the rapidity of change in this area? Cost effective and expendable platforms carrying a variety of payloads are a key element of the new defense equipment ecosystem. How will this ecosystem be supported and thrive? Most likely not with old acquisition approaches and older concepts of a “defense industrial base.” In short, a reworking of the Australian approach to supplying its forces is required. But it should be done a realistic manner but with a focus on the force structure changes taking place and the need to help sustain a distributed defense force both now and in the future.

  • Conference Final Report: Sharpening the Edge of Australia’s National Deterrence Capability

    Final Report: Sharpening the Edge of Australia’s National Deterrence Capability National Gallery of Australia 30 March 2023 Final Report Dr Robbin Laird More articles from Dr Laird are posted in Event Proceedings Synopsis and Program

  • Deterrence in Shaping Australia’s Path in the Global Transition - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Deterrence in Shaping Australia’s Path in the Global Transition, 18 April 2023 Link to article ( As global conflict continues apace, and Australia navigates its way ahead, there is a clear desire to defend Australia’s interests and to deter actions by China which significantly undercut those interests. But what does Australia wish to deter? How does it do so? And how does it work its allied and partner relationships in conjunction with defining its new relationship with China? During my current trip to Australia, I had a chance to discuss these questions with Dr. Andrew Carr of Australian National University. We started by focusing on the salience of deterrence and its discussion and debate in Australia to shaping Australia’s way ahead in dealing with China. Carr: “What are we deterring China from doing? This is not just a military task. We need to address it publicly, both to gain ongoing support from the public but also to clarify what we expect from government coordination across the whole of government to deter China. “Deterrence is very new in the Australian experience. We have been part of a Western coalition for a very long time, but we have never had to do the kind of messaging and communication which is a crucial part of deterrence. There is not a lot of muscle memory in Australia for deterrent discourse.” China has become a different kind of competitor and adversary and partner as it changed from the reform years and building its economy to that of the China under President Xi who is combining elements of power to shape the global system more in the Chinese image. What will Australia accept in working with its main trade partners? And what will it not? What role will foreign students from China play in Australian universities? What actions by China are clearly to be countered? Which tolerated? Which ignored? All of this is part of shaping deterrent language and narrative. What tools does Australia need to deter against which types of actions? Where does the military fit into a broader deterrent effort involving broader Australia economic, social, cultural, information and security interests? Carr’s key point s that such questions need to be central to Australian debate and consideration, and regularly so. There are ongoing considerations of what is to be deterred and what means need to be developed to do so. Carr concluded our conversation by highlighting a central problem facing Western policy makers. Simply put, with the end of the Cold War and the seeming end of history and the victory of liberal democracy underwritten by the United States, policy makers saw the rules-based order as global with little clarity with regard to what are core versus peripheral interests. The term global commons came into vogue and suggested a global interdependent order in which interests were dictated by the need to deal with the gaps in the seams wherever and whenever they occurred. Deterrence is national in character and to be effective requires clarity with regard to core interests versus peripheral interests. It also requires a realistic sense of limits. What can the nation actually do that will be seen as credible by the adversary? And will the nation have the will to do so? As Carr put it: “The gray zone challenge comes from this global lack of clarity. With our “rules-based order” language, we tend to suggest that everything in the status quo is of interest for the West. Chinese actions in the South China Sea and Russia’s actions in Crimea in 2014, called our bluff. “Deterrence is then a policy of limits as well as focus. But it cannot remain a policy only pursued by the military, while absent from the discussions of the political class and the public” The China relationship shaped in the past two decades cannot continue; but what kind of relationship can it be? What are its limits and what are the paths of cooperation and the focus of deterrence? Dr. Andrew Carr Andrew Carr is a Senior Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. His research interests include Australian foreign and defence policy, middle power theory and Asia-Pacific security. His recent books are Winning the Peace: Australia’s campaign to change the Asia-Pacific (MUP, 2015) and Asia-Pacific Security: An Introduction (Georgetown University Press, 2016). Dr Carr is also the editor of the Centre of Gravity policy paper series, a co-editor of the journal Security Challenges and a frequent media commentator for both Australian and Asia-Pacific press.

  • The Role of Geography in the Direct Defence of Australia - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, The Role of Geography in the Direct Defence of Australia, 17 April 2023 Link to article ( As Australia reworks its deterrence and defence strategy to deal with China, the question of the reach of the Australian defence force as well as its survivability is a key one. In providing answers to these questions, Australia’s geography can play a key role, in both providing for deployment and sustainment mobility as well as providing diverse launch points for longer range effects, alone or with allied engagement from Australian territory. I had a chance to discuss these developments with Dr. Andrew Carr of Australian National University during my current visit to Australia. Carr started by reminding me that the question of the use of territory in the direct defense of Australia has a long history. “Looking back at Australian history, there has been experience which can be drawn on as we look forward. And much of our investment in the ADF has focused on infrastructure in Australia. But with the more direct challenge posed by China, there is a re-think and re-focus going on with regard to how best to leverage Australian territory in our defence posture.” Carr noted that the focus has previously not been fighting off Australian territory, but that is a focus now. But the focus now is upon “what are the key areas of Australia for defence efforts, whether population centers, bases, supply centers, production centers and so on. In effect, what is being considered is an archipelago concept in terms of understanding how the Australian territorial chessboard can be most effectively utilized in deterrence and defence.” This has an important impact on the Australian Army, for example, as the Army shifts from a primary focus on being an expeditionary force going somewhere globally, to being a key enabler of the direct defence of Australia and leveraging Australian territory as an enabler in regional defence and deterrence. The Northern and Western parts of Australia provide significant territory in such an effort, but resources and population are scarce to do so. But new technologies – notably various autonomous technologies, such as UAVs, USVs UUVs, and ground robotic vehicles – provide for new ways to leverage Australian territory even in the presence of limited civilian infrastructure. If one thinks of Australian territory as a launchpad for operations into the region, then how do you organize the ADF to do so? How do you work with core allies such as the U.S. and Japan to share use of territory for projection of force? What kind of new basing solutions might be created to share operations between Australians and allies and to enable more robust ADF national operations? Care noted: “We are perhaps talking about a new alliance bargain for Australia. We would work together as coalition partners, and we would be doing tasks towards a common mission. “But I think clarity about how Australia contributes to the alliance, what Australia is getting from that alliance are actually going to be first order questions in order to make the specific operations from Australian soil more effective. “If we just simply have more Japanese forces and more American forces here on Australian soil, and they’re replicating what the Australians are trying to do, or they’re competing for use of the key locations and key airfields, and things like that, then there’s going to be real challenges and impediments to operations and potentially negative public spillover from such strategic confusion.” Carr concluded: “When we think in terms of a chessboard or archipelagic metaphor, then some of the distinctions between what is specifically Australian territory and what are kind of forward presence points are crucial will start to become clearer. It will be our ability to move between a whole range of access points that will be absolutely critical.” Featured image as presented in briefing by John Blaxland presented at RUSI Australia, Canberra, meeting on 12 April 2023.

  • Shaping a Nuclear Submarine Enterprise in Australia - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping a Nuclear Submarine Enterprise in Australia: The Perspective of Vice-Admiral Jonathan Mead, 13 April 2023 Link to article ( In March 2020, I was visiting Western Australia including HMAS Sterling. I was there to visit the HMAS Rankin, one of the Collins class submarines homeported at HMAS Sterling on Garden Island. When I informed a senior U.S. Navy Admiral that I was going to visit the Royal Australian Navy at Garden Island, he wrote: “Awesome, say hello to the fellas down south, incredible team! And absolutely critical in/out of a fight.” Little did I know at the time of my visit which was 12 March 2020, that in fact I was visiting a future SSN base. I also did not know that I was about to have to escape Australia to get back to the United States with the onset of the pandemic. In my visits to Australia during the period when Australia was working with France on the build of a new generation diesel-powered submarine, my work with the U.S. Navy, my time in France at my Paris apartment and discussions with the French, and my discussions in Australia gave me a good view of progress on this program. Then in September 2021, while in my apartment in Paris, the Australian, British and American governments announced that Australia was to cancel the French program in favor of an SSN program which would involve the three countries or the Anglo-Saxons as the French refer to the three, although it is difficult to view the United States or the UK in this light as the two countries change significantly. Being in France, I certainly had a chance to talk with the French and with colleagues in the United States I could do so by phone and video, and of course reached out to Australian colleagues to sort out an initial read on all of this as well. I wrote several pieces on this development at the time, but not surprisingly, the most perceptive of the pieces was built around an interview with Vice-Admiral Tim Barrett (Retired). This is what I wrote in a piece published 19 October 2021: “During my visit to Europe earlier this Fall, the surprise announcement of the Morrison Administration’s decision to shift from their French alliance to deliver a long-range diesel submarine to acquiring nuclear submarine capability through an alliance with the United States and Britain was made. I talked with both French and Australian analysts and provided my initial assessment in a series of articles which highlighted the decision and the dynamics of change associated with that decision. “But what was clear that the strategic environment has changed dramatically from when the Australian government made its decision to stay with a conventional submarine capability. The nature of the Chinese threat as well as the actions of the Xi Administration has clearly driven a shift in Australian thinking and perceived needs for longer range operational capability in the Indo-Pacific region. “At the same time, its closest allies in the region the United States and Japan clearly recognize the need to expand their capabilities to operate throughout the region to complicate Chinese operational considerations, and to deter via more capability to operate throughout the wider Pacific as well. “The announced decision highlighted an 18-month period with Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead in charge on the Australian side of negotiating within the new nuclear submarine alliance to deliver Australian solutions. I interviewed Mead when he was head of Navy Capability in 2016. He then went on to be Commander Australian Fleet and then Chief of Joint Capabilities and Command of Joint Capabilities Group. He has a strong ASW background as well as working closely with the other member of the Quad, namely India. He is now the Chief of the Nuclear -Powered Submarine Task Force…. “I had a chance to discuss these issues on October 14, 2021, in a phone interview with Vice-Admiral (Retired) Tim Barrett, with whom I have had the opportunity to discuss maritime issues since 2015. As the exact nature of what will happen in the program is a work in progress and not really open to public disclosure until that 18-month period is completed, we focused on the context and how one might assess that context. “Vice-Admiral (Retired) Barrett made three key points. First, the nuclear submarine effort was a strategic one, which was about Australian defense and not primarily focused on a priority on ship building on Australian soil. It is crucial to understand that this is about adding core defense capabilities earlier rather than later and would almost certainly encompass interaction between shaping the eco system for the operation of Australian nuclear submarines and the presence of allied nuclear submarines working with the Australian eco system. “The second key point was that the priority needed to be focused on adding nuclear submarine capability to the evolving USW or ASW capability which Australia was already building out. The Australian government recently decided to add another squadron of Romeo helicopters to the fleet, and has procured P-8s and Tritons as part of an expanded ASW or USW warfighting capability. The submarine is not a silver bullet for ASW or USW mission sets but part of the evolution of the kill web approach to ASW and USW missions going forward…. “According to Barrett: “The submarine decision is part of a broader set of decisions with regard to how the ADF should respond to the challenges in the Indo-Pacific. This was a deliberate and considered position from the Navy’s perspective, but the political and geopolitical circumstances have changed. This is not the first time that Australia has sought or considered the acquisition of a nuclear submarine.” “The third key point was that flexibility and innovations will be part of working out a way ahead and he noted that Mead had worked with him previously. When Commander of the Australian Fleet, then Commodore Mead was instrumental in working an innovative plan to manage a temporary capability deficiency for fleet fuel tanking. To shore up a gap, the RAN ‘leased’ a Spanish Navy oiler for 8 months, and the RAN crews trained on the ship and operated the ship in support of the Australian Fleet. “Eventually, the RAN acquired two new Spanish oilers, but the kind of innovation demonstrated in this example, will almost certainly be part of the way ahead in meeting the challenges of accelerating the operational acquisition of nuclear submarine capacity in support of Australian defense. “According to Vice Admiral (Retired) Barrett: “The strategic environment has changed. We need to reconsider the balance between sovereign capability for a thirty-year build and the need for creation of capability in the near term. The earlier 30-year period build approach should not be the dominant approach; the capability and its presence to shape deterrent capabilities is crucial and work out over time how the build side of this effort is clarified and put in place. The program needs to be driven by the need for creative capability options first.” Now after the 18-month period, the three countries announced their joint decision on how to proceed on the Australian approach to acquiring nuclear attack submarine technology and capability. To do so, will require Australia to build a comprehensive enterprise to operate, maintain, to sustain, and build an Australian nuclear attack submarine. The comprehensive approach to do so was announced in mid-March 2023 in San Diego by the three heads of state. The Williams Seminar was held on 30 March 2023 and is sandwiched between this event and the public release of the strategic defence review sometime in April. Australian Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Richard Marles MP speaks to the media during a visit to HMAS Stirling, Western Australia. The Australian government released a report laying out how it saw the “partnership for the future” or “the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine pathway.” In that report, the government describe the advantage of nuclear-powered submarines and why Australia was transitioning to an SSN capability. “In the future security environment of the Indo-Pacific, conventionally-powered submarines will be increasingly less able to meet Australia’s needs. The United Kingdom Royal Navy and United States Navy retired their last conventionally-powered submarines in the early 1990s because SSNs have superior stealth, speed, maneuverability, survivability and endurance when compared to diesel-electric powered submarines.” At the Williams Seminar, Vice-Admiral Mead provided an overview to the approach being taken to establish a nuclear submarine enterprise in Australia. In essence, the approach is three-fold. In the first phase, UK and US nuclear submarines will visit HMAS Stirling, and the Royal Australian Navy will learn how to support these ships during their visits. As part of this standup phase, Australia will work with the United States in operating Virginia class submarines. In the second phase, Australia will obtain Virginia class submarines and operate anywhere from three to five of these boats going forward. And in a third phase, Australia will particulate with its partners in shaping a new class of SSNs, which will be British designed but enabled by U.S. technologies. In this third phase, Australia will have built its own submarine yard at Osborne where in effect this would be the fourth nuclear submarine yard in the trilateral alliance. In other words, the notion of building an arsenal of democracy through allied cooperation would be realized. Vice-Admiral Mead started his presentation by indicating that “in 2027, the U.S. will forward rotate Virginia class submarines to Australia and the UK would rotate one nuclear submarine to HMAS Sterling. The aim of this effort will be to allow Australia to deeply immerse itself in a nuclear-powered program. We will be doing maintenance on Virginia class submarines and will be doing crewing of these submarines out of Western Australia. “After a period of about four or five years, we will reach the point where our partners and we will be able to ensure that Australia is a safe and secure steward of nuclear technology, of nuclear materials and a nuclear reactors. From that point in time, the United States would offer us for sale or transfer up to five Virginia class submarines.” This would constitute the standup and launch phase for Australia shaping a nuclear submarine exercise, and really the key one to ensure a capability being able to operate to replace the Collins class submarines. This is really the key effort which enables the threshold to be crossed into a period of operating nuclear submarines. In my view, this also allows Australia to build its con-ops for integrated USW and ASW with the P-8s, Tritons, and various air and maritime assets, including the coming of maritime autonomous systems to build an integrated offensive-defensive capability to protect Australian sea lanes. What then follows is working through what a follow-on submarine program would look like. And this effort will entail in depth cooperation with both the UK and the United States. According to Mead: “It will be a follow-on to the British nuclear-powered submarine but will incorporate U.S. technology, including weapons, sensors, VLS combat systems and torpedoes.” Vice-Admiral Mead speaking at the Williams Foundation seminar on 30 March 2023. Vice-Admiral Mead then looked beyond the pathway discussion to the broader question of what Australia needs to do for this effort to be successful. The first element is addressing the strategy and being able to gain support for the effort within the Australian public. “We are going to have to be very clear on our strategy.” Second, Australia must successfully manage the trilateral working relationship. “How can we make the best of Australia working with the U.S. and the UK to delver this capability?” Third, creating, training and sustaining the appropriate workforce for the enterprise is a major challenge within Australia. “We will be the first country in the world to operate a nuclear submarine without having a civilian nuclear industry. This presents some unique challenges.” Fourth, Australia needs to build the appropriate infrastructure both in terms of basing and in terms of the shipyard itself. There will be some unique aspects to the yard including shaping high security protection for the yard as well. “We need to design the yard, build the yard and start building the nuclear-powered submarine by the end of the decade.” Fifth, Australia needs to build an industrial base for this effort which can support and sustain the effort into the indefinite future. Osborne will become the fourth nuclear submarine yard to go with the two in the U.S. and the one in the UK. “Osborne will become one of the most advanced and complex technological hubs in the world.” Sixth, the security of the enterprise is a major element for success. In addition to the physical security mentioned earlier, the IAEA involvement will be significant in verifying the quality of Australian nuclear power stewardship. “If we don’t have the international community along with us, the enterprise will fail.” But the point of all this effort was highlighted by VADM Mead at the beginning of his presentation: “there is no more powerful instrument of conventional deterrence than a nuclear-powered submarine capability.”

  • The United Kingdom and Integrated Deterrence - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, The United Kingdom and Integrated Deterrence: The Perspective of Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, 12 April 2023 Link to article ( At the recent Sir Richard Williams Foundation Seminar held on 30 March 2023, Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, the Deputy Commander Operations, presented a UK perspective of the challenges facing the UK and her allies in the contentious 2020’s. I first met Smyth when he was the head of the UK F-35 program. In an interview I did with him 2016, Air Commodore Smyth highlighted the coming of the F-35 the UK joint force. In that discussion, he highlighted the importance of the F-35 in enabling coalition operations, which is now considered a key element for integrated deterrence. This what we emphasized in that interview: “It can be easily forgotten that the USAF and the RAF have not flown the same aircraft for a very long time indeed. The RAF and the Marines have flown Harriers and along with the Spanish and Italians formed a three-decade Harrier community. And Smyth as a Harrier pilot underscored the importance of this shared legacy moving forward. “As an RAF pilot with significant maritime and carrier operational experience, we are shaping a collegiate and joint way ahead with the Royal Navy which brings the RAF domain knowledge of ways to operate in the extended battlespace with the coming of the F-35B to the new Queen Elizabeth class carrier. “Being radical, I think it would make sense to put a picture of the Queen Elizabeth class carrier on our RAF recruiting poster: the RAF and the RN are jointly delivering the UK’s future Carrier Strike capability, and all RAF Lightning pilots will spend some of their time at sea, as I did throughout my 16-year career in Joint Force Harrier – we are forging an integrated approach together, which is incredibly exciting.” The point simply put is that Smyth has been working integrated deterrence via the F-35 program for several years. But this was before Brexit, before several years of turbulence in UK and European politics and the return of war to the European context. (Oct. 3, 2021) The United Kingdom’s carrier strike group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth (R 08), and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) led by Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH 182) joined with U.S. Navy carrier strike groups led by flagships USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to conduct multiple carrier strike group operations in the Philippine Sea. The integrated at-sea operations brought together more than 15,000 Sailors across six nations, and demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s ability to work closely with its unmatched network of alliances and partnerships in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gray Gibson) But it was also prior to the recognition of the broader challenges posed by the global reach of the 21st century authoritarian powers. When my co-author and I decided to write a book on the return of direct defense in Europe, which we started to write in 2014 and published in late 2020, our original publisher wanted this book to focus on Russia. We significantly disagreed. We argued that the challenge for Europe’s direct defense was posed equally by China as a force within Europe and operating globally. Our view was an anomaly at the time, but it is no longer. In fact, Air Marshal Smyth underscored that we now face a Euro-Atlantic-Pacific global threat envelope and that the UK is focused on shaping its contribution accordingly within the scope of its means. He argued that the UK recognized that global deterrence was the critical focus of their defense effort, but such a focus clearly needed to encompass close working relationships will allies going forward. He made the point that even for the United States it was beyond its capability to fight a two-front war. This meant that shaping more effective allied cooperation through a process of integration was critical and that is what is meant by integrated deterrence. But such an aspiration cannot be realized within the legacy limits on information and technology sharing. As he underscored: “The key to success will center on our ability to share more of our intelligence, share more of our information, sharing more data, and share more technology. We need to work together to identify the gaps and the vulnerabilities in our deterrence posture that an adversary might exploit. And we need to work out how best to work as a collective, rather than as individual nations. This is really, really hard to do.” Air Marshal Smyth emphasized that in spite of its successes, NATO scoped to European defence was not enough for today’s UK deterrent structure. “It is clear that given the changing threat picture, effective defense deterrence will mean working through other groupings further beyond NATO, and beyond the Euro Atlantic theater, with a renewed emphasis on the concept of strategics, developing and establishing new frameworks, and building a new international security architecture to manage systemic competition and escalation. “And in today’s multipolar environments, the UK will continue to develop a broader deterrence toolkit to include information operations and offensive cyber tools and make greater use of open source information alongside our historically more classified intelligence capabilities.” “We will launch a new economic deterrence initiative to strengthen our diplomatic and economic tools to respond to and deter hostile acts by current and future aggressors. On nuclear, of course, the foundational component of UK is an integrated approach to deterrence with our minimal but credible, independent, UK nuclear deterrent. It is assigned to the defense of NATO to ensure that potential adversaries can never use their capabilities to threaten the UK, or indeed our NATO allies… “We would consider using our nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of self-defense, including the defense of NATO allies, and of course, only the Prime Minister can authorize their use. “But in addition to our nuclear deterrent, the UK’s conventional, cyber, and space forces are now becoming sufficiently capable, resilient, deployable and adaptive, to deter potential adversaries from engaging in conflict and to win if indeed, deterrence fails. “Beyond these military instruments, we’ll also see UK working the much wider aspects of state power to increase the costs of aggression by hostile actors above and below the threshold of armed conflict. The UK will continue to develop such levers to adapt to the changing global threat environments. In particular, we will strengthen our economic capabilities and information statecraft…” Air Marshal Smyth brought to the attention of the audience, the recent update of the 2021 UK Strategic Defence Review. The Integrated Review Refresh 2023 or the IRR was released last month. And in that review, deter and deterrence was frequently cited throughout and provides a good overview of the current UK government’s view of the deterrence challenge facing Britain and her allies. Based on this document, Air Marshal Smyth discussed the UK current concept of deterrence. As Air Marshal Smyth underscored: “We are all very familiar with the three C’s of traditional deterrence: capability, credibility, and communication. But in the UK, we’re now finding it helpful to consider integrated deterrence through the lens of an additional three C’s: comprehensive, coordinated, and coherence. “First, deterrence must be comprehensive, as discussed in the IRR. This means taking into account all state levers of power and tailoring our approach to maximize use of those levers of power that are best suited to change the perceptions of a specific adversary. The integrated approach attempts to avoid the age-old temptation of over focusing on the military instruments of power… To be truly comprehensive, integrated deterrence must be both multi domain and multi-agency. “Second, deterrence must be impeccably coordinated with allies and partners so that the impact of our actions are greater than the sum of the parts, from force posturing, all the way to the imposition of economic sanctions. None of us can do this alone. “And whilst we have all worked hand in glove for many decades in terms of deterrence and defense, in today’s information driven, intimately connected, rapidly dynamic but ever shrinking world, there is always more effort required, especially if we are to truly deliver a coordinated, integrated, and determined effect. “Lastly, we need to take a more coherent approach to developing our deterrence strategies, understanding the complex interplay across the spectrum of conflict and considering the temporal nature of crises to ensure that our activities remain aligned with the overall objectives and desired end states. “It is fair to say that capabilities available to state and non-state actors in today’s complex world have blurred the traditional thresholds of conflict…And also understanding the role and the impact of strategic or nuclear messaging well below the nuclear threshold, as well as how to manage escalation over time. And this is definitely something Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought into sharp focus. “Thus, alongside the long standing capability, credibility and communication aspects of deterrence, we add three more C’s of deterrence: comprehensive, coordinated and preparedness. “And for me, there’s no question that the development of integrated deterrence remains incredibly complex both by necessity and by design across government, and working with allies is challenging enough in the best of times, but for sure, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.” AIR MARSHAL HARVEY SMYTH The Deputy Commander Operations is the senior Royal Air Force war fighter responsible for the conduct of air operations at home and overseas. Working together with other Services and international operational commanders, he oversees the generation and employment of air power in all environments. This wide remit includes the Air Defence of the United Kingdom, the delivery of intervention operations abroad and the conduct of humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Air Marshal Harvey Smyth was born and educated in Northern Ireland and joined the RAF in 1991 via the Sixth Form and Flying Scholarship Schemes. After qualifying as a fast-jet pilot, he spent 15 years as a frontline Harrier pilot and weapons instructor. He has extensive combat experience having flown hundreds of operational missions from both land bases and aircraft carriers over: Bosnia; Kosovo; Serbia; Iraq; and Afghanistan. In staff roles, Smyth has worked in the UK Air & Space Warfare Centre and spent 2 tours in the F-35 Lightning programme: the first as the Requirements Manager in MOD’s Directorate of Equipment Capability, and the second based in Washington DC as the UK’s F-35 National Director, where he was at the forefront of bringing the first UK Lightnings into service. In 2013 Smyth retrained as a Tornado pilot and became the Station Commander of RAF Marham, supporting concurrent operations in Afghanistan, West Africa, Iraq and Syria. On promotion to Air Commodore (1*) in 2015 he became the Tornado Force Commander, and shortly thereafter, the UK’s first Lightning F-35 Force Commander. He followed this with a short appointment as the Head of Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) within the MOD, before then conducting an operational tour as Director of the Combined Air Operations Centre in Qatar, responsible for planning and authorising ~1000 daily air & space missions at the height of the counter-ISIS campaign. Promoted to Air Vice-Marshal (2*) in 2018, Smyth retrained as a Typhoon pilot and became Air Officer Commanding Number 1 Group (AOC 1Gp), where he was responsible for the Air Combat Group of the RAF. In early 2020, Smyth then became UK MOD’s inaugural Director Space, building the Space Directorate and setting the foundation for the stand-up of UK Space Command. As a member of the PM-chaired National Space Council, and co-chair of the National Space Board, he was responsible for the production of UK’s first National and Defence Space Strategies, and establishment of a more ambitious Defence Space Programme. Smyth was promoted to Air Marshal (3*) in 2022 and appointed as the RAF’s Deputy Commander (Operations).

  • Agile Basing and Endurability as a Key Deterrent Capability - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Agile Basing and Endurability as a Key Deterrent Capability: A Conversation with the Air Commander Australia, 11 April 2023 Link to article ( My colleague John Blackburn and I met with Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, the Air Commander of the RAAF, in his office on 4 April 2023. One key element which we discussed was the growing significance of agile basing and operations as part of the evolving Australian deterrent posture. In my earlier conversation that week with Goldie’s boss, Air Marshal Chipman, we discussed the new basing and support structure being worked in Australia and across the alliance. As highlighted in that interview: “A key aspect of the evolving alliance situation in facing the China challenge is how the core allies Japan, Australia and the United States actually will craft more effective use of the air, maritime and land baes they use over the Pacific thought of as an extended operational space. “If the three countries can work creatively land basing, with seabasing, with air basing with the use of new autonomous systems they can field and evolve an effective force for the long game of competition with China. Certainly, from this perspective, I would view Australia is the strategic reserve of the broader alliance. “As Chipman commented: “I haven’t heard it described that way. But I think that’s what we are working towards. I think that’s the mindset that we have. The idea that Australia provides strategic depth for forces moving forward, is absolutely part of our thinking.” Air Vice-Marshal Goldie picked up on that theme as follows: “Our engagement through two decades in the Middle East has arguably driven us down a single service route to force generation, focused on expeditionary operations, hosted from secure bases. We now need to look to evolve our approach to joint force generation from Australian territory. “We don’t have the level of knowledge and normative experience we need to generate regarding infrastructure across Western and Northern Australia for the Australian version of agile combat employment.” He contrasted the Australian to the PACAF approach to agility. The USAF in his view was working on how to trim down support staff for air operations, and learning how to use multiple bases in the Pacific, some of which they owned and some of which they did not own. The Australian concept he was highlighting was focused on Australian geography and how the joint force and the infrastructure which could be built — much of it mobile – could allow for dispersed air combat operations. This meant in his view that “we need to have a clear understanding of the fail and no-fail enablers” for the kind of dispersed operations necessary to enhance the ADF’s deterrent capability. A key element of this is C2. Rather than looking to traditional CAOC battle management, the focus needs as well to focus on C2 in a dispersed or disaggregate way, where the commander knows what is available to them in an area of operations and aggregate those forces into an integrated combat element operating as a distributed entity. Goldie commented: “We are developing concepts about how we will do command and control on a more geographic basis. This builds on our history with Darwin and Tindal to a certain extent, although technology has widened that scale to be a truly continental distributed control concept. “We already a familiar with how an air asset like the Wedgetail can take over the C2 of an air battle when communications are cut to the CAOC, but we don’t have a great understanding of how that works from a geographic basing perspective. What authorities to move aircraft, people and other assets are vested in local area Commanders that would be resilient to degradation in communications from the theatre commander – or JFACC? “We need to focus on how we can design our force to manoeuvre effectively using our own territory as the chessboard.” Air Vice-Marshal Goldie underscored that the ability to work with limited resources to generate air combat capability is exercised regularly by the normal activity of 75 Squadron, flying F-35s in Australia’s Air Combat Group. This squadron operates from RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory and as Goldie put it: “they have to operate with what they have in a very austere area.” He highlighted a recent exercise which 75 squadron did with their Malaysian partners. The squadron operated their F-35s, and each day practiced operations using a different support structure. One day the operated with a C-27J which carried secure communication, along with HF communications systems and dealing with bandwidth challenges each bearer posed. Another day they would operate with a ground vehicle packed with support equipment and on another day they would operate without either support capability. The point being the need is to learn to operate in austere support environments and to shape the skill sets to do so. By learning how to use Australian territory to support agile air operations, and to take those capabilities to partner or allied operational areas, Australia will significantly enhance its deterrent capabilities going forward. This is a key challenge being squarely addressed by the RAAF. Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, AM, CSC The Air Commander Australia is responsible to the Chief of Air Force for effectively preparing air combat forces. Headquarters staff help the Air Commander control the activities of six Force Element Groups. Growing up on the Gold Coast, Air Vice-Marshal Goldie joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1993 and attended the Australian Defence Force Academy. Following pilot training, Air Vice-Marshal Goldie flew C-130 E, H and J model Hercules on Operations in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was an A Category Captain and has 5,000 flying hours. Air Vice-Marshal Goldie was Commanding Officer No. 37 Squadron in Sydney from 2012 to 2015 and Officer Commanding No. 92 Wing in Adelaide in 2017 and 2018. His staff appointments include Aide de Camp to the Chief of the Defence Force, Staff Officer VIP Operations, Director Military Strategic Commitments and Director General Air Combat Capability. In 2020-21 he was seconded to International Division at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where he provided strategic foreign policy advice to Government. Air Vice-Marshal Goldie received an Australia Day Medallion in 2007 for his work as a Flight Commander at 37 Squadron, a Conspicuous Service Cross in 2012 for his tenure at VIP Operations and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to Air Mobility in 2015. He also captained a crew that received a Chief of Joint Operations Gold Commendation for the rescue of an international sailor over 1,000km south of Tasmania. He has a Bachelor of Science from ADFA, a Masters of Management from UNSW and a Masters of Strategic Studies, obtained on posting to US Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. Air Vice-Marshal Goldie assumed the role of Air Commander Australia in April 2022. In the featured photo, Air Vice-Marshal Goldie is seen attending the Williams Foundation seminar on deterrence held on 30 March 2023 and seated next to chief of army and chief of the RAAF.

  • Shaping the Australian Defence Base for Greater Deterrent Effect - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping the Australian Defence Base for Greater Deterrent Effect, 10 April 2023 Link to article ( A major aspect in shaping Australia’s approach to enhanced deterrence is greater sustainability for the ADF and greater resilience for the Australian nation as a whole. Part of the equation is how to augment defence stocks and the ability to sustain the force when external supply chains are under pressure or attack. What changes does Australia need to make to better positioned to do so? And how does Australia work with its allies to shape a more credible allied arsenal of democracy? Dr. Alain Dupont provided a wide-ranging overview on the challenges facing the credibility of an allied arsenal of democracy, in terms of an ability to produce weapons and other war consumables, as well as the ability to sustain equipment in higher intensity operations. Dr. Alan Dupont speaking at the Williams Foundation seminar 30 march 2023. As Dupont characterized the very significant challenge facing the liberal democracies: “The country or alliance that can deliver the biggest punch and outlast adversaries will win. Right now, that is not us. The arsenal of democracy has been replaced by the arsenal of autocracy. The Ukraine conflict has exposed Australia’s and the West’s thin, under-resourced defence industrial base. If we don’t fix the problem – and quickly – we won’t prevail in a conflict with a better equipped adversary.” Dupont illustrated his argument by focusing on the production of a key consumable in the Ukraine war, namely 155mm artillery shells. This aspect is what the French have referred to recently as the need to have an effective “war economy” by which they are referring above all to the consumables namely, the things you need to have to fight a protracted war. This is a key challenge as the West simply has hallowed out basic consumable production for just-in time wars supported by just-in time supply chains. But neither the industrial base nor the supply chains are up to prolonged conflict of any sort. If Australia and the West want to deter the post-Cold war legacy approach to defense industry and supply chains will simply not be adequate. A major re-think and re-structuring is in order. What the West can do to deal with this problem is to shape more alliance wide production and stockpiling. By realizing that the United States is no longer configured to be the arsenal of democracy, one credible way ahead is alliance-wide production, such as the recent EU decision on community wide weapons production. But this will not happen in Australia unless the government actually funds buying the consumables necessary for prolonged operations. Another speaker at the seminar, Kate Louis, head of Defence and Industry Policy, Australian Defence Group, underscored that although the Australian government had put in place various “push” efforts to incentivize Australian defence industry, there have not been robust, consistent and steady “pull” efforts to grow that industry. Put bluntly, if you don’t spend a steady stream of cash on munitions, as an example, industry will not build them and shape the industrial base capable of being ramped up. It is difficult to ramp up if you have hollowed out. Kate Louis speaking at the Williams Foundation seminar 30 march 2023. A second element highlighted by Dupont was more effective ways to work with the various foreign suppliers. He noted that Australia is the fourth largest defence importer globally which means that its platforms are foreign sourced even if in some cases they are assembled in Australia. But if the allies have tight supply chains with no real depth, how on earth can Australia expect to be at the head of the line in getting timely supplies with any tactical or strategic sustainment depth? A major aspect of any Australian rethink must entail generating local production to support their foreign equipment, and building on a new model of an alliance arsenal of democracy, building for allied needs not just Australian needs. Ken Kota speaking at the Williams Foundation seminar 30 march 2023. This point was made by a third speaker in the defense industrial section of the seminar. Ken Kosta, Vice President, Australian Defence Strategic Capabilities Office, Missiles and Fire Control, Lockheed Martin, made this point. He commented: “Our goal is to participate in global operations which includes meeting demand in excess of Australian initiatives. “Lockheed Martin, in partnership with the U.S. government, and the government of Australia intends to cooperatively add to near term operations, and supply chain capacity for key munitions and subsystems. In support of capability depth, Lockheed Martin plans to construct a flexible factory in Australia that can quickly adapt to meet a multitude of integration platform requirements.” A third element discussed by Dupont are the challenges which he thinks must be met to move forward in creating a realistic and effective industry in Australia to support defense. He summarized these challenges in a single slide in his presentation: To shape the kind of industrial system which could support the ADF in its wider deterrence efforts, sustainability and self-reliance are critical. Deterrence is rooted in an ability to endure; not just to engage and support a 10-day military excursion. Dupont emphasized that to be successful Australia needed to build to scale in selected sectors. He argued that in this sense, “we need to seriously invest in our own defence industry and scale-up emulating South Korea, Sweden and Israel. And that growing a competitive, export oriented defence industry must be a national priority requiring a whole of nation approach.” But to generate the capital to build targeted industry which could become effective in export markets is a challenge to be met. In Dupont’s view: “Private capital must be incentivized to invest in defence infrastructure and national security enablers.” He argued to do so requires new approaches to partnerships between the public and private sectors. Kate Louis also focused on the importance of government getting behind a scaling up of the defence sector, but being realistically effective in so doing. She noted: “the government has a range of levers to shape the industrial base and the industrial strategy that that wants to shape.” But what are the objectives to be met by working in a particular defence industrial area, and will government be consistent in supporting buys from that industrial sector and support exportability of that sector? What defense industrial infrastructure does Australia need to operate in prolonged conflict? How can it do so? How can it fund those capabilities? How can government focus in a consistent way on sustaining those capabilities? The question of industry and defence infrastructure is different in many ways from what was needed in World II. Cyber and space infrastructure are two cases in point. At the seminar, Nick Leake, head of satellite and space systems, Optus, provided a presentation which highlighted how challenging supporting and defending space infrastructure can be. Nick Leake speaking at the Williams Foundation seminar 30 march 2023. In his presentation, Leake highlighted the space network which OPTUS operates. As he put it: “the best kept secret in Australia is that we actually have a satellite business as well. We operate critical infrastructure every single day through our satellite networks. We maintain infrastructure to the highest level. And what keeps me awake at night is what could happen in space to that infrastructure.” During the presentation, he discussed how their network serves the Australian Department of Defence as well. They operate a satellite in a particular location (as required by international regulations) to provide spectrum to support the Department. But to operate any of their satellites within the location allowed by their international filings, they navigate the satellite within their allocated space to provide for the services provided. What Leake indicated was that they faced the significant challenge of maintaining the integrity of their satellite and its network which requires constant effort on their behalf not only for cyber security but for the physical security of the satellite itself. What is required to ensure satellite physical security is ongoing space domain awareness (SDA). “We need SDA capability to operate our spacecraft. The SDA capabilities are extremely important for OPTUS to maintain and operate our spacecraft. This means that the SDA capability that gets built by Defence, allies and private organizations is critical to operate our space infrastructure.” He added: “It does worry me a lot is the effect states like China which have launched more satellites than the U.S. over the past 12 months will have on our infrastructure. What are they doing with their satellites? What capabilities will they have?” Leake indicated as well innovations which they are pursuing in the dynamic development of their space network as well. One such innovation will be seen with the launch and operation of their 11th satellite. “This will be Australia’s first fully software defined satellite. What does this mean? It allows you can alter the capacity of the satellite operating within its area of operations by altering the software to offer new services.” Another innovation is the planned launch of a fuel pod to hook up with one of their satellites to provide more energy for the satellite to operate. The basic satellite functions well but is running low on fuel and by hooking a pod up with it, they will be able to extend the satellite’s life. “The particular satellite in question will run out of fuel by 2026. We have decided to use what we call a mission extension pod which is fundamentally a fuel tank to extend the operational life of the satellite.” Thus, when talking about the defense industrial base needed for Australia or its allies, one needs to widen the lens to understand what is required in terms of industrial and services infrastructure. A final point made by Dupont was that the AUKUS agreement – which is been largely discussed in terms of nuclear submarines – could be part of reshaping how key allies can work together to shape a collaborative arsenal of democracy effort. Specifically, Dupont was referring to what has been called Pillar 2 of AUKUS. The second pillar is focused on cooperative development between the AUKUS partners on Advanced Capabilities. The AUKUS pillar two covers an array of strategic technologies, most of which could be regarded as general technologies, or dual-use technologies. It is in this sense that Dupont argues that “AUKUS could revolutionise Australia’s defence industry if we can make both pillars work.” Kate Louis made a similar point highlighting the need for the U.S. to deal with the way it implements its ITAR system. She noted: “AUKUS is not just a military capability, but offers a way to operatize new industrial ways of cooperation. For example, AIA (The Aerospace and Industrial Association) generated an excellent input to the Congress with regard to ITAR and Export Reform. This is really an excellent piece of work that I have not seen before in terms of driving change.” In short, shaping an Australian enterprise to support defense in terms of the technologies most relevant to Australian deterrence is a key challenge facing Australia as well as those allies who wish to create an arsenal of democracy in common.

  • Australia and Deterrence in a Global System in Flux - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Australia and Deterrence in a Global System in Flux, 9 April 2023 Link to article ( The Williams Foundation Seminar held on 30 March 2023 started a new phase of the foundation’s work on a broader look at how Australia can best shape effective and relevant deterrent capabilities in the context of significant global change. The initial presentation to the seminar was by AIRMRSHL John Harvey (Retd). He has written a well-regarded assessment of deterrence published in 1997 and in his presentation he looked back at that assessment as well as discussing the way ahead in the current decade. His presentation focused largely on establishing a base-line understanding of deterrence, and in a meeting with him in the week after the seminar he discussed key challenges going forward. Harvey noted that the “most common definition of deterrence is the following: “the threatened use of force to convince an adversary ‘not to do something.’ “There are three threat mechanisms on which deterrence is based: denial—where the aim is to defeat the aggressor’s forces involved in the potential hostile action; retaliation—where the aim is to exact a proportionate cost from the aggressor without necessarily directly defeating the attacking forces; punishment—where the aim is to raise the cost of aggression, through, for example, targeting the population of the aggressor force without necessarily targeting their military capability.” AIRMRSHL John Harvey (Retd) speaking at the 30 March 2023 Williams Foundation Conference. Harvey then identified three determinants of the success of deterrence: capability –the ability to carry out the threat on which the deterrent threat is based; credibility—whether or not there is seen to be commitment to carrying out the deterrent threat; communication—how effective the deterrer is in communicating the threat to the potential aggressor.” Harvey noted that deterrence is a means to an end, that it is “a tool at the service of policy.” He went on to argue that “at best, deterrence is a stabilizing mechanism—it cannot remove the source of tension in an adversarial relationship. It may, however, be essential in stabilizing a situation such that diplomatic and political solutions can be found.” At the outset, Harvey stated that although the essentials of deterrence remained the same for Australia, there are significant changes since he wrote the book. On the one hand, there are changes in the means. He identified two: “the importance of the information domain and the emergence of cyberwarfare; and the increased importance of space to military operations and space as a future warfare domain.” On the other hand, there is a major geopolitical shift: “the rise of China as a major military power across all warfare domains, including nuclear weapons.” If we add to this the significant shift in the alliance structure along with the adversarial set of challenges, the magnitude of the shift can be seen in terms of the deterrent challenge facing Australia. As the Chief of Army, LTGEN Simon Stuart put it in his presentation: “Pax-Americana was an historic anomaly. The norm in human history is a violent transfer of power from one empire to another – and 14 of the 16 transitions between empires in human history have involved wars. We live in an era that might be described as post-peak globalisation. Understanding how the international system works, what the great economic or trading blocks are, is an endeavour we need to understand.” I would add that understanding China as an adversary is a major task all on its own. We have a younger generation who grew up as beneficiaries of the benefits of the Chinese way of playing globalization. Why are they now an adversary? China and Russia have operated within our societies in ways the Soviet Union could only dream of doing. A great term which captured this reality is the term Londongrad. Similar realities exist in the United States and Australia concerning the degree of Chinese involvement in our domestic lives. And the significant deterrence history we generated in the 1980s is more an historical museum than a set of experiences to be learned from. And when you add to that the state of our knowledge of our authoritarian competitors and how their leaders define risk assessment and knowing what deters them, we face a real challenge. You cannot rely on funding from Confucius Institutes to train our own analytical capability on the nature of our competitors. This means that shaping effective deterrence and practicing the art of statecraft for Australia and its allies in a world in flux will be difficult, challenging and not easily achieved. When I talked with AIRMRSHL Harvey (Retd) the week following the seminar, he underscored the challenging nature of the transition. In our discussion, Harvey underscored that what was required in the new context a whole of government, society and whole of alliance capability. With regard to mobilization, he made the very sound point that mobilization was important across the whole of government and society to deal with a variety of challenges, not just defence. Indeed, if one correlated mobilization simply with defence, that would lead to failure to focus on the much broader challenge which is best characterized by a capability for national resilience. From this point of view, deterrence then is based on social cohesion and national cohesion to sustain Australia through the pressures which the changing global system puts upon her. The presentation by Secretary Michael Pezzullo of the Department of Home Affairs indeed focused specifically on this question of the broader question of national resilience which was of enhanced importance in the new phases of Australian defence. Pezzullo focused largely on the experience of Australia in World War II when the country was slow to respond to the threat but over time became mobilized to in fact deal with the challenges. Pezzullo cited Brendan Sargeant’s work on strategic imagination to make the point that “our capacity to envisage and prepare for the future is a function of the limits of our strategic imagination. The effective exercise of strategic imagination in the 1930s would have seen a better prepared and more resilient Australia.” Secretary Pezzullo speaking at the 30 March 2023 Williams Foundation seminar. Pezzullo then noted: “Strategies are tasked with conceptual as well as particulars, different strategic assumptions, policy settings and operational capabilities, Australia’s part would have generated different risk calculations for Japan. Amongst other things Australia should have adapted a geographically focused strategy, which would have dictated the building of a different military force based around an air defense system across the north of Australia, a long-range bomber force, a larger army and a land force which was able to deploy to the Australian territories and Papua and New Guinea, across northern Australia and potentially into our new littoral region.” Pezzullo concluded: “My thesis is in terms of resilience and deterrence, democracies will always be slow to start. Because we don’t focus on war. We don’t focus on conquest. And we don’t focus on the totalitarian aggregation of all functions of states around a single leader, around a single ideology for a single program. We live our lives. So we’re slow to stand, because we live freely. “My contention is that history teaches us that we finish more strongly. And why is that? As you’ve seen that today in the Ukraine, the mobilization of consent is by popular will and organic and is not dictated and a ferocity that can overcome any tyrant and that is perhaps the ultimate deterrent.” Clearly, we have now entered such a tine and how will the art of statecraft be combined with the enhanced deterrent effect of the ADF and allied military forces in the service of an effective practice of the art of statecraft? If we look back at Sargeant’s essay referred to earlier, a number of the key challenges facing Australia and its allies are underscored: “Two decades of ADF deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan has built operational capability but perhaps at the cost of narrowing our ability to think strategically about our interests. This has been recognized, and recent policy statements such as the Defence Strategic Update 2020 have begun a process of reorientation to the Indo-Pacific as the area of our primary strategic concern. There have been the beginnings of an outreach towards other strategic relationships in our region, notably Japan and India, though this work is slow and will be very challenging. “We have struggled to develop a confident position in relation to China, and we have perhaps been more optimistic than we should have been about China’s strategic ambition. This argues for a much more agile policy and a much more aggressive approach to the construction and management of our strategic interests. Others have framed this in terms of a stronger, more geographically centered regional focus in our policy and activity that might manifest itself in a much greater engagement with Indonesia and other South East Asian countries. “I agree with this approach, but I would frame it also in terms of a much richer imaginative engagement with the Indo-Pacific more broadly, with a recognition that even as we have our own distinctive Australian identity, we are part of this community and that the nature of the community also shapes our identity and the way in which we might live in this world. Such an imaginative engagement might lead us to see what we might learn from the strategic traditions across the many Indo Pacific countries if we allow them to challenge our strategic imagination. “We might also question why, as a community, we have in recent years made border protection the overriding policy and institutional imperative for the construction of our national security system, when the much larger and more strategically pressing issue is how we engage with the Indo-Pacific during a period of major change to the global strategic order? We might ask whether this preoccupation with the border constitutes the major contemporary failure of our strategic imagination.. “The work of policy, an art of desire, is to say what the world might be. The work of strategy is to create the path towards that world, responding to all the known and unknown impediments that are likely to emerge. Policy lives mostly in the world of imagination; strategy lives mostly in the world of experience. The art of the policy maker and the strategist is to bring imagination into the world of experience and through this to create strategy that can change the world. In times of great change, the challenge is to imagination, for continuity in strategy is likely to lead to failure. Sir Arthur Tange, an important figure in Australian foreign and defence policy making and strategy, once said that strategy without resources is no strategy. “In my professional life those words were a touchstone. My argument now is that as we learn to live in the Indo-Pacific, strategy without imagination is sterile.”

  • Shaping a Way Ahead for Australian Defence - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping a Way Ahead for Australian Defence: A Discussion with Vice-Admiral (Retired) Barrett, 9 April 2023 Link to article ( The Williams Foundation seminar on deterrence held on 30 March 2023 provided a chance to think about the way ahead for Australian defence. The seminars started with the introduction of the F-35 as a forcing function into the ADF and the shaping of a joint force by design. But much of that thinking was built to support the strategic environment envisaged in the mid-decade best expressed in the defence white paper of 2016. As the late Brendan Sargeant characterized the 2016 White Paper: “The 2016 White Paper was an important document because it restored the underlying funding framework that the 2009 White Paper envisaged but was never able to sustain. The underlying vision of the force that was evident in 2009 was reinvigorated in the 2016 White Paper and a funded investment program was established. This was an important achievement. “The 2016 White Paper also recognised that Defence was more than the ADF, but also included the broader Defence system. We saw a much more sophisticated recognition of the importance of enablers (what Nick Warner in a landmark speech when he was secretary had called the broken backbone of Defence). “It put renewed emphasis on defence industry, particularly with the recognition that industry is an element of capability. At the heart of this White Paper was a recognition that we needed to rebuild the Australian Navy, so the shipbuilding agenda, which we are all now grappling with, was born in that document. “But it also had two other very interesting features. One was that it removed the prioritisation framework for the development of the force structure that had been evident in the 2013 and 2009 papers, and in preceding papers such as the ones in 2000, 1994 and, most importantly, the one in 1987. It was a significant break with the past. This is perhaps the most controversial element of the paper. “But perhaps the most interesting element of the 2016 document was that it gave enormous enormous priority to the maintenance of the rules-based order, a theme that also occurs in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper. The 2016 Defence White Paper has many achievements, but its focus on the rules-based order is now starting to look a bit wistful.”[1] Wistful indeed and we have entered a global era with many chartered unknowns. The re-thinking of Australian defence is occurring precisely when its allies in the Pacific and in Europe are re-thinking and re-working their approaches to the future of defence in a very different world when it was simply trying to ensure that the authoritarian powers complied with the rules-based order. Now they are focused on building a new one. That is why the Williams Foundation team established a seminar which focused on first principles: what are the nature of the defense challenges which Australia faces in this new historical epoch? And what is the role of the ADF and its recalibration and re-design within the new context? Vice-Admiral (Retired) Barrett underscored the focus of the seminar in his concluding comments as follows: “As the Chairman of Williams, Geoff Brown, indicated at the beginning of the day we are taking a different tack with this seminar and the one to follow later in the year. “The subject that we discussed over the last couple of hours has been around deterrence where previously at these conferences, we’ve been talking very specifically around fifth generation capability throughout the ADF. “So the idea that we would gather, and we would have an array of esteemed speakers who would inform us, educate us, but also challenge us, to assist us in being able to formulate our thinking about the way ahead made a great deal of sense.” I discussed at further length Barrett’s thoughts on the transition a week after the seminar. He emphasized that “we have to look at the broader strategic redesign of Australian defence within which the ADF will be re-crafted. Our views of deterrence in this new period are not yet fully formed and it is the broader perspectives that need to guide the way ahead for the ADF. “We need to settle our understanding of deterrence as a foundational effort or we will simply end up with a platform centric perspective driving this or that new platform without consideration of what these new capabilities bring to the deterrence equation. “What is needed is a national enterprise that looks across all parts of government, be it statecraft, diplomacy, economic or military capabilities. It is essential that we drive towards an understanding of what deterrence means to us and for us.” We did not dwell on the submarine issue but he naturally touched upon it. His argument was the role of being able to operate successfully in the underwater domain is key for the ADF in a broader deterrence strategy. Clearly, my own work for the U.S. Department of Defence has made it very clear that the speed, agility, stealth and range of a nuclear submarine make it a key element enabling the U.S. Navy to play a much more effective role in operating in the underwater domain and with the multi-domain kill web approach they are finding ways t more effectively include the nuclear submarine fleet within joint firings solutions as well. Barrett argued: “I often hear comments that there has been little debate about the need for a submarine capability and that more needs to be done before a decision to proceed is made. In reality, there has been significant open debate and critique in the last decade – but few have taken the opportunity to read it, understand it, or educate themselves about that debate.” Building capability is part of deterrence. As Barrett concluded: “It is not simply about process; it is about outcome. Deterrence is empowered by a demonstration of the will of a nation to be able to act to meet its own interests which comes not only through political actions but industrial ones as well. It is an ability to draw on the strength of the whole nation which can be demonstrated in building out new capability which enhances the ADF’s ability to act supported by the nation.” [1] Laird, Robbin. Joint by Design: The Evolution of Australian Defence Strategy (pp. 325-326). Kindle Edition.

  • Australia, Deterrence and Shaping a Way Ahead for Australian Defence - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Australia, Deterrence and Shaping a Way Ahead for Australian Defence: The Perspective of LTGEN Simon Stuart, 8 April 2023 Link to article ( With the Australian Army having been heavily invested in the Middle East land wars and working closely with the U.S. Army in those endeavours, what is role in the enhanced emphasis on the direct defense of Australia? Of course, each of the services and the joint force itself is facing how to meet the challenge of direct defense, but the question of the relationship of the land forces to the joint direct defense of Australia is especially challenging. At the Williams Foundation Seminar on deterrence, LTGEN Simon Stuart, COS of the Australian Army, provided a general look at the deterrence challenge, the role of the ADF and of the Australian Army. Although he noted in his speech “that that there is anything uniquely Australian about deterrence as part of our strategy, or indeed how we might practice it. “ But with the emergence of what is often called great power competition, the role of nation has been enhanced and the need to shape national approaches even when interactive with key allies is central to the way ahead for national deterrence. LTGEN Stuart then addresses the question of an Australian approach from that perspective. ”If there were to be such a thing as a uniquely Australian way of deterring, it would surely be founded by what defines us as a nation and what defines us Australians. “Who are we as a nation, and who are we as a people in the middle decades of the 21st century? “A uniquely Australian approach to deterrence would surely be founded in what our national aspirations were, our strategic culture, and approaching the task of deterrence from that perspective. So, the founding question for me is: how do we conceive of and combine our amazing national endowment? “Our enviable strategic geography, our stewardship of a significant proportion of the Earth’s surface – both the land mass and the seas that we are responsible for, and over 40 per cent of the Antarctic continent, which we lay claim to. “We are among the world’s top 15 economies, we have convening power both regionally and globally, we have a vibrant and diverse successful social experiment in our society today, our amazing human capital, and we have a series and a set of alliances and partnerships which are the envy of many. “We have the capacity to be a global energy and food superpower. “We have incredible natural resources, both those that have been in demand up until now, and those that will be in demand in the future. And the capacity to draw on 65,000 years of human history and endeavour on our continent. LTGEN Stuart speaking to the Williams Foundation Seminar 30 March 2023. “So how can we conceive of that wonderful endowment, and how do we conceive bringing it together? “Are we outwardly focused and engaged, or are we insular and closed? “And, for everyone who wears or has worn our uniform today – and certainly for every Australian soldier – the answer to the question ‘who are we?’ is of fundamental importance to service. “Because we need to understand for whom and for what we are serving. And if we are in the fight, those questions are brought into even sharper relief. LTGEN Stuart then addressed the key question of the nature of the new strategic context within which Australia or other liberal democracies are now operating. “Pax-Americana was an historic anomaly. The norm in human history is a violent transfer of power from one empire to another – and 14 of the 16 transitions between empires in human history have involved wars. “We live in an era that might be described as post-peak globalisation. Understanding how the international system works, what the great economic or trading blocks are, is an endeavour we need to understand. “There are a range of theories, but personally I like Parag Khanna’s new regionalism model because it emphasises partnerships, and partnerships within the context of regional blocks from an economic perspective – but also from the other elements of national power, which are in the ascendancy in the global system today. “To some of our more recent history and the thinking from the 1980s that shaped our national security and defence policy, strategy and practice over the last 30 years. “The thinking that we do today, and the decisions that our elected representatives make today, will influence our policy and practice over the next few decades. “That thinking, in my view, failed to engage with the world as it was, failed to engage with globalisation, either refused to engage or didn’t recognise pretty much everything we’ve actually been doing these past few decades. “It was defensive and inward looking. “And finally, the wars we’ve been involved in, the wars we’ve been fighting over the last 20 years, the so-called ‘wars of choice’, did not touch Australia and did not touch Australians. “They were a Defence endeavour, involving only the military element of our national power, and largely an ADF endeavour. They did not touch the society we live in.” What then shapes a way ahead for the ADF in this new historical era is the importance of being embedded in a broader national approach requiring skill sets beyond those expected of the military LTGEN Stuart then addressed some of these broader capabilities. “How does our national aspiration and our national identity find expression in our strategic thinking and our policy and practice. It finds expression via statecraft, which is the mobilisation and orchestration of all elements of national power. And the key areas of focus are that people like us need to help our elected representatives deal with are founded in national identity, and national unity, and therefore the wellspring of unity and purpose. “It relies on social cohesion, it relies on the means by which to execute the strategy – that is our economy – the means connote and provide agency for us as a nation. “It will rely on an involved relationship between the private and public sector, on better harnessing the incredible capacity of our academy. “It will rely on the practice of statecraft on a more expansive engagement with partners and the development of partnerships.” LTGEN Stuart finally focused on the military element of deterrence. “The military element of national power needs to be four things. Firstly, it needs to reflect our national identity and aspiration. “It needs to reflect the nature of the challenges, the threats and the competition. And it needs to reflect the nature of our strategy, which in its broadest terms is shape, deter and respond. “It needs to respect the arc of human history, and the history of warfare, and respect the requirement to balance between the enduring human nature of warfare and its changing character – which is generally speaking dominated by technology. It needs to ensure relevance – relevance and credibility that are relative to a pacing threat, and an operating environment, and the opinions of our allies and partners. “It also needs to be resourced, because a strategy without means is an illusion. “So our strategy today calls on us to shape the environment, deter actions against our interests, and be ready to respond with military force in all five domains when required. “But shape, deter and respond does not connote a linear progression or the luxury of focusing on one at the expense of others. “It is all three, all at once and in five domains, in the context of the execution and application of statecraft. “If deterrence fails, war and its very unpredictability demands an ADF that is relevant and credible in all five domains – a system of systems that has the best chance of mission success whether we are deterring or we are prevailing in the conquest of war. “To come back to the point about strategy being an illusion is it is not resourced, there are key questions that are being asked today in our nation. “We have a pretty good sense of what it costs. There is a sharp focus on what we can afford, and then there are choices about what we are willing to pay. “Each of those price points brings with it a risk profile, and those are the difficult decisions that our government needs to make. “Those are difficult decisions to which we need to contribute the best advice that we possibly can.” LTGEN Stuart then focused on the way ahead for the ADF and the Army. “Given the nature of our strategic circumstances, whatever we do requires us to do it quickly. Velocity matters. “One way we can sharpen the edge of deterrence is by embracing new and emerging technologies and balancing that with the incredible human capital we enjoy in our country. “I’m going to quote our Chief of Air Force from his excellence speech, which I commend to you, which he gave as a keynote at the Chief of Air Force Symposium in Melbourne as a precursor to the Avalon Air Show recently. “He said: “It is easy to be seduced by technology; to do so would be to forget that national security is a national endeavour. “The impediments to boosting capability delivery are often policy related, procedural or cultural. While advanced platforms teamed with cutting edge and disruptive technologies can be game-changes, we won’t realise their advantage without evolving our thinking that delivers the military power element of deterrence.” “I think for me that really summarised the set of dilemmas and choices we face today in terms of responding to the strategic environment. “Another way forward is leveraging the existing strengths of our Defence Force by ensuring we have a sharper focus on how we design our force, which is integrated and greater than the sum of our constituent parts. “One that is increasingly builds into the architecture a strong and abiding sense of partnership with allies and regional partners. “Because in an era of great power competition, having more friends is better than having less. “In our region we have very good relationships with our partners. And the people to people relationships we enjoy have been grown and cultivated and reinforced over many, many years and stand us well for the future. Shared interests matter, and the many collective agreements like AUKUS and like FPDA and the Quad, and like the support we have of the ASEAN political architecture matter and stand us in good stead for tomorrow. “From an Army perspective, from the contribution of land power to that integrated force, we offer presence, persistence, asymmetry through first-mover advantage, utility, and incredibly good value for money.” I would add that I believe there a number of ways the land forces can play an important role in the direct defense of Australia and will identify some thoughts in future pieces.

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