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  • 2024 Errol McCormack Member Lunches

    Financial members are invited to attend our Williams Foundation Errol McCormack Lunches. Dates for 2024 are Thu 22 February - AIRMSHL Leon Phillips OAM, Chief Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Thu 23 May - Speaker TBA Thu 29 August - Speaker TBA Thu 21 November - Speaker TBA To register for a lunch click here To apply for membership click here Inquiries:

  • 2024 Williams Foundation Conferences

    Dates for 2024 are Financial members and Defence personnel are invited to attend our Williams Foundation Errol McCormack Lunches. Speakers and topics for the 2024 program will be announced in the new year To register for a conference click here To apply for membership click here Inquiries:

  • Thinking CAP: air superiority and Australia’s defence by Chris McInnes

    Chris McInnes, Thinking CAP: air superiority and Australia’s defence, 10 December 2023 A misunderstanding of air power is distorting Australia’s defence discussion. The misunderstanding is the use of combat air patrols (CAP) over surface forces as a substitute for air superiority. CAP has its place but using it as a substitute for air superiority conflates presence with utility and ignores two key insights from history. First, securing enough air superiority in required times and places is a necessary precondition for broader air and surface operations and must take precedence in concepts and planning. Second, air superiority is best secured through concentrated and sustained campaigns of offensive actions, often far removed in time and space from surface operations. Addressing tough questions about Australia’s air superiority needs should be foremost among Australia’s defence considerations, not obscured by easier substitute questions like CAP radius. Air superiority allows friendly forces to use airspace or the surface below it without prohibitive interference from enemy air operations, including missiles. It is a relative and often temporary condition: enough air superiority to do what you want to do in a particular time and place for a given duration is sufficient. CAP is one among many options in the pursuit of air superiority. The present CAP confusion dates to at least this this 2013 article by Dr Andrew Davies, then of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). According to Davies the map below shows the approximate range to which the Australian Defence Force (ADF) ‘would be able to project force under the cover of our own airbases by having a standing fighter patrol or CAP overhead.’ The picture should be ‘compulsory reading for anyone contemplating ADF maritime power project projections’ because ‘unless they are relatively close to home, they’ll be done without persistent fixed wing air cover.’ Dr Marcus Hellyer echoed similar views (also while at the ASPI) in a 2019 series on the range of the F-35A (part 2, part 3, and part 4). Approximate ranges from Australian bases at which an F-35 JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] aircraft could remain on station for an hour. The inner line is for unrefueled aircraft. The outer line assumes an air-to-air refuelling at 500nm from base. (Source: ranges estimated from December 2009 Selected Acquisition report data.) Range rings for the Super Hornet with a weapons payload would be smaller. (Image and caption credit: Australian Strategic Policy Institute) Davies and Hellyer are first-rate analysts, but they have this wrong on two counts. The errors are conflating air power’s utility with its ability to remain on-station over a location, and the consequent use of CAP radius as a proxy for effective range. This bait and switch – doubtless unintended – lures analysts with a ready answer to an easy question about CAP radius but means they avoid thinking through tough questions about air superiority. In this example drawing on Hellyer’s work, the F-35A’s CAP radius is treated as a frontline in the sky behind which Australia is assumed to hold air superiority. This is a dangerous over-simplification to put it mildly. More recently a series on the future of the Royal Australian Navy cited Davies to illustrate Australia-based air power’s limited ability to support surface operations. According to the authors, this is a ‘major weakness’ because ‘naval operations in a hostile environment require continuous airborne early warning support and in situ or immediately on-call combat air support.’ The flaw here is insisting on the presence of aircraft without articulating the purpose of that presence. If it is true that Australia’s warships will need aircraft continually overhead to survive in hostile environments, we need to rethink our operational concepts and investment plans. On-call air power has always been attractive to surface forces because it is reassuring and responsive. It is expensive but doable in permissive environments and has enhanced Western militaries’ operating style since the Second World War. During Operation Okra Australian F/A-18 provided near-instantaneous reconnaissance and firepower to friendly forces for three to four hours or more in northern Iraq and Syria, more than 1,000nm from the aircraft’s base. The 90 percent survival rate of Western troops suffering traumatic injuries in recent conflicts owes much to rapid and assured aeromedical evacuation. But all this air support has depended on earlier air superiority campaigns, however brief or far removed in time and space they may have been. For the first time since the Second World War, Australia cannot assume air superiority in its region due to the Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA) growing air strength. Attempting to maintain CAP, and other forms of on-call air support, without sufficient air superiority is a short route to disaster. It ‘penny packets’ air power and puts it on the back foot, allowing enemies to concentrate and overwhelm thinly spread forces at the time and place of their choosing. Friendly air power is concurrently prevented from concentrating and is rapidly exhausted and bled dry. We should hope the PLA works this way. We know this because surface commanders repeatedly insisted air power be used this way during the Second World War, the last major conflict to see sustained struggles for air superiority. The approach failed every time, accelerating defeat for air and surface forces. Despite comparable numbers and technical capabilities, thinly spread Anglo-French air umbrellas were swept aside by concentrated German air power in 1940. Similar outcomes befell the Soviets in 1941 and the Americans in Tunisia in early 1943. The Western allies eventually recognised winning air superiority had to come first. Fighting for control of the air became the sine qua non and prime campaign for air forces with the full endorsement of their joint counterparts. As Dwight Eisenhower, a US Army general and supreme Allied commander in Europe, recounted in his memoirs ‘no great victory is possible without air superiority.’ The most effective methods for gaining air superiority were concentrated and sustained campaigns of typically offensive tactical actions targeting enemy forces in the air and on the ground. Air superiority was an outcome of many small independent actions by all instruments of power, often far from surface operations in time and space. It was rarely absolute and sustaining air superiority required continuous effort. B-17 Flying Fortresses and escorting fighters of the United States 8th Army Air Force leave contrails during a mission over Germany. (Image credit: Roger Freeman Collection, American Air Museum in Britain) Operation Pointblank, the Anglo-American campaign for air superiority over Western Europe in the lead-up to the Normandy invasion in June 1944, was the largest and longest such effort. From mid-1943, increasingly powerful bomber forces prioritised the destruction of Germany’s aircraft industry. The introduction of American long-range fighter escorts in late-1943 was important but constrained by defensive tactics that prioritised protecting bombers. A shift to more offensive tactics that emphasised destroying German fighters in the air and on the ground unleashed their potential. Offensive tactics were also important in defensive settings like Australia’s contemporary context. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, a sophisticated early warning and control system allowed British fighter aircraft to focus their efforts and fight offensively. Exhausting standing patrols were minimised as fighters could remain on the ground until German raids were detected. When launched, fighters were directed efficiently with time and awareness to gain advantage through altitude and approach angles. The British also attacked German airfields throughout the battle to disrupt attacks before they were launched. Just as important as the targeting and tactics was the Anglo-American air forces’ emphasis on training, maintenance, and welfare to build pressure on their opponents through continuous operations. This contrasted with the German (and Japanese) approach and proved a key advantage in the struggles for air superiority. Pointblank climaxed in February 1944 when thousands of American and British bombers struck aircraft production facilities on six consecutive days while their fighter escorts hunted at will. The Germans lost 2,605 aircraft in February 1944; more than half were non-combat losses as relentless pressure shattered Germany’s air power systems. Air superiority for the Normandy landings (and incidentally for Soviet forces in Russia) was won in distant skies over many months. Allied air power was then free to attack German defences throughout Western Europe and make ‘daylight movement virtually impossible throughout most of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.’ On D-Day itself Allied aircraft flew more than 20,000 sorties to drop airborne divisions, deliver firepower, and continually observe. The 200 German sorties over Normandy on 6 June 1944 serve as a reminder air superiority is rarely absolute. This pattern repeated wherever Western forces operated in the war and since. During the Cold War, improvements in surface-to-air defences drove the development of sophisticated techniques to suppress or destroy them. In 1991, the West’s Cold War air forces smashed Iraq’s air defences to seize air superiority in ‘the earliest hours – even minutes – of combat’  of Operation Desert Storm. The largest single air campaign since the Second World War then shattered Iraqi ground forces, allowing friendly troops to sweep aside the world’s fourth largest army in just 100 hours and with minimal casualties. Air superiority has since come so swiftly and easily as to be taken for granted by Western forces. Its physical and conceptual foundations have consequently atrophied. After decades of distraction, the United States Air Force has re-emphasised air superiority in the face of China’s growing power. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has laid bare alarming deficiencies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s European air forces while reinforcing the criticality of air superiority for all forces. The complacency has also reached the Royal Australian Air Force and the ADF. Australia’s limited public discussion on the topic has focused on technical evaluations of investment options rather than air superiority’s role in Australia’s defence. The last time Australia’s Air Power Manual explicitly identified the primacy of air superiority was in 1998. Later editions have diluted this clarity and air superiority has gone from the prime campaign to just another ‘contribution.’ It is little wonder muddled thinking like using CAP as a substitute for air superiority has emerged. Australian air power’s ability to CAP at a given place is a secondary consideration to questions like when, where, and to what degree and duration is air superiority needed for the ADF to operate in the region. These questions may, as Andrew Davies argues, raise unsettling doubts about the viability of some surface operations in contested environments, but they need to be asked – and first. From there, the discussion can turn to the best ways for Australia to win enough air superiority where and when needed. CAP will be an option, but down the list. It is certainly no substitute for air superiority. Chris McInnes is a historian and researcher specialising in air power. He is a former air force officer now in the private sector.

  • The Strike Enterprise and the Royal Air Force - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, The Strike Enterprise and the Royal Air Force, 3 Oct 2023 Link to article ( Storm Shadow – Take off Warton (November 2015) Credit: Eurofighter With the signing of AUKUS, Australia certainly closely aligned its way ahead with regard to weapons development and acquisition with the United States and the Britain. While most attention has been paid appropriately to TLAMs and long-range strike, what is Britain doing in the strike area of note for Australia? At least part of an answer to that question was provided by the presentation by the current head of the RAF, Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, to the seminar. In his presentation, he focused on the RAF’s experience with the evolution of its strike enterprise in terms of the development of its airborne strike force as well as providing a very helpful reflection on what the experience of the current conflict in Ukraine and Russia might mean for working a way ahead in the strike area. Smyth started his presentation this time as he did the last by citing the importance of the UK’s “refresh” of the strategic defence review which was issued in March 2023 at almost the same time as Australia’s DSR. The “refresh” reaffirmed the core approach of the earlier strategic review but emphasized that the pace of change was accelerating. And obviously there was a major war ongoing in Europe, which although referred to often as the conflict in Ukraine, I would label it more accurately as a NATO-Russian war in Ukraine. And given the central impact of this war on British interests, it obviously is having a major impact on British thinking as well. Indeed, Air Marshal Smyth noted that 80% of his “day job” was focused on Ukraine. The “refresh” underscored that “We are now in a period of heightened risk and volatility that is likely to last beyond the 2030s. IR2023 updates the UK’s priorities and core tasks to reflect the resulting changes in the global context. “First, IR2023 responds to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s act of aggression has precipitated the largest military conflict, refugee and energy crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War. It has brought large-scale, high intensity land warfare back to our home region, with implications for the UK and NATO’s approach to deterrence and defence. “As IR2021 set out, Russia is the most acute threat to the UK’s security. What has changed is that our collective security now is intrinsically linked to the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine. We must also analyse, learn from and adapt to the changing nature of warfare – notably in the land domain.” So what is Britain learning? According to Smyth, the war is proving amongst other things that “possessing the ability to successfully execute deep strike missions in a sustained manner, with precision and pace amongst a very dense and complex defense system, whilst in parallel defending against the enemy’s ability to conduct similar operations against you is a fundamental cornerstone to modern high intensity conflict. “Hence, President Zelensky has continued to campaign around the need to gift additional long-range capability like the Storm Shadow cruise missile. “This missile is currently being utilized with very positive effect. And we’ve recently witnessed and many successful Ukrainian strikes against targets like the Russian Black Sea Fleet, deep in Crimea hugely symbolic in terms of Ukraine’s ability to reach deep into Russian held territory, specifically in terms of penetrating one of the world’s most densely complex defenses to achieve precision effect against strategically important targets. “This is fundamentally altering their dynamics of this whole conflict.” Smyth’s example is an important one. What exactly is the relationship among an ability to deliver long range strike and war termination, deterrence or “victory”? The NATO-Russian war in Ukraine is raising a lot of questions concerning the relationship of strike to what kind of warfighting and diplomatic outcomes occur and are desired. And the question of what kind of strikes lead to WMD escalation remains a critical one as well in this war. It is not an exercise: it is not a drill: it is a war in the center of Europe and is driving significant change in the thinking of a number of European countries bordering Russia with regard to what their strike posture needs to be facing Russia. A key element of the evolution of strike involved in Ukraine clearly is with regard to land-based operations utilizing drones and a decentralized (to put it mildly) C2 system. Here Ukrainians have used a variety of drones to strike and kill Russian ground forces by a combination of space-based commercial capabilities, cell phones, and localized decision with regard to targets. The Russians have used their drones to attack infrastructure and inflict civilian causalities. This is a good reminder that authoritarian states and liberal democracies have very different targeting philosophies and any asymmetry in this regard musts be considered in warfighting and deterrent calculations. Air Marshal Smyth speaking at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. This dynamic of strike and defense is a key one and Air Marshal Smyth warns: “We should pay particular attention to Russia’s ability to sustain an extremely capable long range attack force, bringing to bear on a routine basis coordinated standoff attacks with cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons, and one way attack drones targeting Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure on a very regular basis. “This is a point that will become ever more important as we enter another winter of warfare, where the targeting of energy and power supplies adds a dramatic humanitarian effect and dimension to the challenge. “For me, the biggest lesson here is that any discussion about the development of multi-domain strike capability must go hand in glove with the discussion around your own integrated air and missile defense. One must be able to defend against the adversary’s ability to strike you once you break through their defenses to strike them.” The remaining discussion by Smyth focused on RAF considerations concerning the evolution of the strike enterprise. Here he focused on the evolution of the Storm Shadow to a new family of strike weapons, which they have labelled Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR). This family of weapons is being developed by the European company MBDA where especially important is the UK-French weapons cooperation. But these weapons are being developed by a construct created earlier in the UK called the Complex Weapons Project which was set up by Lord Drayson, then the Defence Minister, to build weapons in an era of defence dollar scarcity. I remember this development well for I was working at the time for the U.S. Defence Acquisition Chief, and then Secretary of the Air Force Mike Wynne. In a 14 July 2008 article by Craig Hoyle, the nature of the enterprise was identified: “Including MBDA, Qinetiq, Roxel, Thales Missile Electronics, Thales UK and the MoD, the partnership was formally launched with a signing ceremony at the show involving Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Baroness Taylor. “Team CW will help to maintain the UK’s key skills and technologies in missile development and protect our operational sovereignty in this sector for the future,” she says. “This is a real landmark,” says Team CW industrial chairman and MBDA UK managing director Steve Wadey. “It has taken radical change in industry and the MoD to reach this point.” “The new framework seeks to remove duplication, simplify platform integration, encourage modularity and provide planning stability to the UK’s guided weapons sector. This has suffered a 25% decline in its business over the last few years, but is expected have a potential worth of £6 billion over the next decade, says Wadey.” With this approach and with a strong partnership with the French MoD, the RAF has benefited from the arrival of Storm Shadow and building the new SPEAR family. But as Smyth notes the time line envisaged for SPEAR pre-dates the new situation, and how do we accelerate building the new generation of weapons? Air Marshal Smyth also underscored that it was important to work the relationship between high-end precision weapons with less costly and more numerous weapon stocks in equipping the force. What is the right balance? How to fund it? How to deploy it? How to connect strategic and tactical effects from the use of such an integrated weapons enterprise? He noted: “High tech weapons are of course clearly used (in the war in Ukraine), but all must be defended against and these one way attack drones offer a very significant cost differential compared to defensive systems, sending a cardboard drone to an airfield that’s being defended by an S-400s. “This can potentially induce a critical stockpile imbalance and this means that saturation weapons can draw fires from the defender to create an undefended gap because of stockpile depletion, which risks ultimately a loss of control of the air. “Based on such experiences from Ukraine, we’re looking very closely in UK at our future weapons mix. We are trying to understand this in a number of ways. Again, unfortunately, the details of which becomes very classified very quickly.” But he did underscore two key areas where he saw the need for missile modernization which needed to be made for the RAF going forward. The first involved providing “a proper long-range strike capability for the F-35.” This will be done with the coming of the SPEAR family of weapons. The second involved “the RAF current lack of a viable standoff anti-ship weapon. This was a very hot topic for our last defence secretary. And at present, we’re investigating a range of options to meet this requirement and are working with France on two different missile concepts under a specific program.” Air Marshal Smyth concluded: “An appropriate mix must constitute weapons that contribute to deterrence because of their capability and or their mass, alongside weapons that can be manufactured at a pace to sustain follow on stockpiles, and continue to feed the fight. Getting this balance right is critical, and will undoubtedly be informed by the specific adversity we face.”

  • Conference: Final Report - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Final Report, 8 Oct 2023

  • Preparedness and Fighting with the Force You Have Now - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Deterrence and Multi-Domain Strike: The Perspective of PACAF 8 Oct 2023 Link to article ( I have had the privilege to work with military officers throughout the Western world for more than 30 years. If there is one constant, it has been their concern with the ready force. Long-range thinking is important, but you have to “fight tonight with the force you have.” Preparedness and availability of the ready force is what deterrence is built on; not the dreams of force planners and politicians. When one faces real world conflict, rather than war games, with your life on the line, how ready and sustainable the force is becomes your only priority. Not surprisingly at the 27 September 2023, Air Commodore Nick Osborne, Director General Preparedness within the RAAF, underscored how important a focus on preparedness of the current force really is for deterrence. His recent command was of the Surveillance and Response Group which is a key element for providing for the direct defence of Australia and is a group that has undergone fundamental transformation over the past few years, as it has added among other capabilities the P-8 and now will add the Triton. He noted that preparedness has been largely understood with the following formula: Platform x Training x Aim Point x Sustainability. But he argued that “We now have a different understanding of Preparedness, and what it means to us. It’s about what we do, and how well we do it, and to whom.” “For many years, preparedness was synonymous with readiness. And it was as simplistic as having an aircraft or a platform ready to go in a certain mode. It was very platform centric, and it didn’t clearly state what the target was, or what we had to do to the target.” Air Commodore Nick Osborne, Director General Preparedness within the RAAF, speaking at the Williams Foundation seminar 27 September 2023. “Now we have a whole new concept of preparedness in the last couple of years. It’s not just about having a capability or platform ready to go at a certain time. But it must be ready to go at a certain time to do something to a certain standard against an adversary of a certain skill, and to continue to do so for a certain length of time. “But a few years ago, we tended to look at preparedness as if we were playing a game of football. We didn’t really know who we were playing against, how good they were, or when the game would occur. And in fact, we weren’t even sure whether we were playing rugby, soccer, AFL or League. Now we’ve got a bit more clarity. “We’ve got a different understanding of preparedness and what it means to us. It’s not just about platforms, but it’s about what we do, how will we do it and to whom. “In a world marked by evolving geopolitical landscapes, and technological advancements, our ability to anticipate, adapt and accelerate air warfare has become the lynchpin of our national security. Air power remains the pillar of our defense strategy. Long gone are the days when a strong army alone could guarantee victory. Today, the ability to project airpower swiftly and decisively has become a cornerstone of military superiority. “And we live in an age where battle space extends beyond what we can see and is reaching into the digital realm. “To maintain our edge and safeguard our interests, we have to be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead and be equipped with cutting edge strike capabilities to counter our emerging threats. And enhanced preparedness actually refers to our ability to rapidly and effectively respond to a wide range of potential threats and contingencies that will occur in modern warfare. “It encompasses a multifaceted effect, and that approach includes readiness, technological advancements, training, strategic partnerships, and the capacity to adapt quickly. And of course, strike is one of those areas in which we have to be very proficient.” After the seminar, I had a chance to sit down with Air Commodore Osborne and correlate his presentation on preparedness with the challenges of being commander of the SRG. I have visited the SRG in the past, and it is a place where various parts of the surveillance capabilities of the Air Force and the ADF has been bundled. Over the past decade, the SRG has evolved into a more integrated capability and with the addition of the P-8 and Triton and the ISR enterprise built at the Edinburgh Air Base in South Australia is shaping new integrated data management capabilities. But takes time: You cannot simply take the force you have and plop into some future force structure design and presto bingo have a new force structure. It is about taking the force you have and having practical, doable steps forward in force transformation. That takes time, commitment, money, leadership and manpower and does not occur over night. I have written three books on three different new combat air systems for the USMC, the Osprey, the CH-53K and the F-35B, and all have together transformed the force, but to do so has requires operational experience, training and force structure redesign. The ADF has gone and is going down a similar path. The DSR will not create a new effective force unless the practical steps are taken to allow the ADF to find its way ahead in terms of real operational capabilities, missions, training and new approaches to sustainability and preparedness. Osborne gave an example of the new working relationship between the Australian Army and Air Force where they are working to shape how to more effectively shape and execute agile operations in areas such as Northern Australia. And I would add that will require new training, new ops approaches, and new effectors and some new equipment. It is about force mobility on the Australian landscape and probably using a new generation of UAVs as the platforms launched into the key defence area for Australia which Osborne indicated in a slide which he used during his presentation and which is the featured graphic at the beginning of this article. But put bluntly, 80% of the force you have now will be in your force structure in 20 years short of it being destroyed in conflict. So what is the plan to leverage the current force – which has made great progress in many areas of modernization in the past decade – and the force the writers of the DSR want?

  • Reshaping Australian Defence Infrastructure and Leveraging Australian Territory - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Reshaping Australian Defence Infrastructure and Leveraging Australian Territory, 7 Oct 2023 Link to article ( Part of the re-working of Australian defence entails enhancing Australian defence infrastructure. It is about enhanced hardening, resilience and redundancy. It is as well working ways to enhance the engagement of allies with the ADF in terms of operating together from Australian territory. This clearly involves the Americans but increased involvement with other allies as well, such as the Japanese.It is about building enhanced defence in depth. At the 27 September 2023 seminar, there were two presentations which dealt with the issues of infrastructure and what I am calling the con-ops of an enhanced ability to leverage Australian defence, although I think much more consideration needs to be given to this con-ops dimension. Air Commodore Sandy Turner, Director General of Force Posture Initiatives, provided an overview brief on how Australia is working with the United States with regard to the overhaul of Australian defence infrastructure. Her main responsibility is overseeing and planning with regard to the U.S. Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. She noted that such activities are governed by the 2015 Force Posture Agreement with the United States. “The FPA gives permission for U.S. activities to be conducted in and through Australia. The agreement allows for U.S. forces and contractors to undertake construction on and improvements to these agreed areas and facilities. “When completed, the projects that are constructed and funded by the U.S. become the property of the Commonwealth of Australia, while they are approved for use by the U.S. forces until no longer required. Air Commodore Sandy Turner, Director General of Force Posture Initiatives, speaking at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation seminar. “Under the agreement, both nations are investing in a range of infrastructure projects, including airfield upgrades and fuel storage facilities, and accommodation and training area upgrades. The costs are shared between Australia and the U.S…” Air Commodore Turner highlighted work in the major areas covered by the agreement which can be seen in the slide below from her presentation: She underscored:”Key USFPI related elements within the DSR include further investments in our defence capabilities to deter through denial, or any attempt to project force against Australia, enhancing the ADF’s ability to operate from our northern bases, and a shift to a national defense strategy which involves a mobilization of the entire nation, including state territory and federal government agencies.” But sho posed a key question with regard to shaping an effective way ahead: “How can we find ways to include our industry partners and regional allies to meet the challenges of these growing expectations?” Air Commodore Turner noted a number of recent developments: Upgrades at Northern bases, including RAF bases Darwin and Tyndall, as well as scoping new investments at RAF bases, Curtin, and Shergar; Increased rotations of U.S. capabilities in Australia, including U.S. Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, and army watercraft; More frequent and longer nuclear powered submarine visits to Australia; The pre-positioning of U.S. Army stores and material following exercise Talisman Sabre, a first step towards a longer-term establishment of an enduring logistics support area in Australia. She then provided a more detailed look at current & completed USFPI Australian and U.S. funded projects which can be seen In the following slide: Air Commodore Turner concluded her talk with a cautionary note with regard to the challenge of translating investments into capabilities. “Australia is currently experiencing a record level of investment in infrastructure. Defence in industry cooperation will only grow as USFPI continues to deliver on the government’s strategic objectives. To that effect. Australia and U.S. Defence representatives routinely engage with industry interested in delivering force posture initiative construction projects. “To date, Australian businesses and joint ventures have won four from five U.S .funded contracts at a value of 198.4 U.S .million dollars. Earlier this year, the U.S .released four requests for proposal for US-funded infrastructure. “These will provide additional opportunities for Australian businesses, particularly on a subcontractor basis. “But we cannot shy away from the fact that we are still facing workforce and resource challenges to deliver on the current and future programme of work. The government has already had to approve a significant real cost increase for Tyndall upgrades due to supply chain issues, labor shortages and increased costs of doing business. The average annual growth rates in work availability outstrips industry’s confidence in being able to deliver on time and on budget. “The scale of demand for skills and resources is highly likely to exceed the normal capacity increases expected in the market over the next five years. We must continue our planning and engagement with industry and government agencies to ensure our developments are delivered as and when required.” Building an adequate defence infrastructure is part of the problem. Shaping the con-ops to leverage Australian geography is another part of the challenge. During my visit in March and April 2023, I talked with RAAF leaders about this aspect of the challenge which boils down to how to use Australian territory to disperse RAAF assets in times of crisis. In the presentation by Air Vice Marshal Stephen Chappell, Head of Military Strategic Commitments, he outlined such a con-ops. He projected a future “fictional” scenario. “Australia’s DSR investments in hardening and dispersal of our northern bases, and infrastructure along with the implementation of concepts for resilient and agile maneuver have paid dividends. The realization by defense bases within Australia were no longer sanctuaries has led to a deep understanding of vulnerabilities and increased preparedness to operate systems in contested environments. “The need was the need was identified to protect bases and critical supply lines, and when necessary, generate alternate pathways to sustain operations. This included combat support with command and control that will less vulnerable to disruption.” He goes on to provide more detail with regard to the scenario, but the point I want to underscore is a rather simple one: just building better infrastructure will not lead to effective deterrence unless it is combined with an ability to operate more effectively as a dispersed force across Australian territory. If we are talking about multi-domain strike, an effective strategy must encompass this scenario.

  • Shaping a Way Ahead for Australian Defence: The Perspective of Malcolm Davis - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping a Way Ahead for Australian Defence: The Perspective of Malcolm Davis, 6 October 2023 Link to article ( During my current visit to Australia in support of the 27 September 2023 seminar, I had a chance to visit with my colleague Malcolm Davis. Dr. Davis is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra and has focused a good deal of attention in the recent past on the importance for and the need to develop Australian sovereign space capabilities as part of the way ahead for Australian defence policy. There has been significant concern within defence circles in Australia about the government releasing a hard-hitting defence review which called for enhanced defence capability relevant to dealing with the challenges in the Pacific and then the failure to increase defence spending. We started there in our conversation. Davis made it clear that we are in a very difficult period of history in which Australia needs to enhance its capabilities both to protect its sovereign interests and to work with allies in the region. According to Davis: “The DSR talks about the strategic outlook as being much more adverse and uncertain, but then does nothing really to address that threat into it within a reasonable timeframe. “We seem to still be locked in the sort of paradigm and mindset that we have embraced really since the 1980s. We have a slow, steady capability acquisition process that takes 10 or 20 years to deliver new capabilities. “This is simply not relevant to the threat environment in which we now exist.” He warned: “We haven’t got ourselves into a mindset that would be more suitable for what might be called a pre-war period. It’s not just about capabilities in terms of hardware; it’s also about sustainment, mobilization, and readiness. “All of these capabilities are a national level challenge, not simply for the ADF to deal with. Issues such as onshore oil refineries to produce fuel for vehicles, or ships or aircraft or the hardening of key critical infrastructure against kinetic and non-kinetic attack are significant tasks which need to be addressed. “Strategic risks for Australia are growing not simply because of the actions of Beijing and Moscow, but because of the inability of Western capitals and Western leadership’s to respond to these challenges as well.” We discussed the importance of leveraging new industrial technologies associated with the 4th industrial revolution to rebuild the Australian manufacturing sector and to do so as part of a larger allied effort to shape a 21st century arsenal of democracy. We have seen a very robust arsenal of authoritarianism in operation in Ukraine which has challenged the West to rethink its manufacturing capabilities, many of which have been outsourced to China. Dr. Davis underscored the need to build for the kind of strategic resilience which Australia will need in the event of protracted conflict. The wars of choice so called were fought far from Australian shores and the West collectively built a support structure uncontested by a major power. That simply is not the case when facing major authoritarian powers. The point is rather simple: the DSR has not lead to any evident actions by the government to address resilience. Davis expressed concern that the delay in actions on shipbuilding which are being pushed to next year by the government are being done largely for budgetary reasons. The government may be waiting until they have a better sense of the economic situation next year and its impact on the budget before making any further defence procurement decisions. Dr. Davis has done a lot of work on the way ahead to shape an Australian national space capability and its importance for Australian sovereignty. He has been an advocate for the importance of having sovereign launch capability. But he sees the current government retracting from the past government’s efforts to build a national space policy, and such capabilities are crucial for the kind of sovereign capabilities which the DSR underscores as well. The discussion with Dr. Davis reminds me of a note which an Australian colleague sent me during my time here. He wrote: “I think there’s a strong case to discuss preparedness more than capabilities now.”

  • Deterrence and Multi-Domain Strike: The Perspective of PACAF - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Deterrence and Multi-Domain Strike: The Perspective of PACAF 6 Oct 2023 Link to article ( What is the relationship among multi-domain strike capabilities, warfighting and deterrence? Multi-domain strike capabilities can only be done with foundational capabilities which enhance one’s viability in warfighting, and by being able to do so to enhance the adversary perceptions of their risk calculus. They need to believe that continuing a conflict is not worth the effort because they can not easily defeat you or intimidate you into capitulating to their demands. But I would argue that strategically enabled multi-domain strike also requires political-military leadership which understands how to engage in war termination. And I would argue being able to do effective war termination rests on the adversary’s understanding of the robustness of our ability to continue a campaign. And this rests as well on a viable distributed force structure whose continued ability to punish an adversary suggests that war termination is in their interest as well as ours. The presentations of General Wilsbach at the March and September Williams Foundation seminars provide several insights which suggest the relationships among multi-domain strike, war fighting and deterrence. From General Wilsbach’s video presentation to the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. At the March seminar, the General argued the following: “The message of cost imposition is simple on its surface but has layers to consider. First and foremost, we all understand that no one wins if a conflict with China breaks out in the Indo-Pacific. That would be the worst-case scenario for every nation that calls the region home and is the last thing any of us want. “So if an aggressor chooses to cross that line, they are already willing to bear considerable cost. That’s why the deterrence must be credible and convincing. You cannot leave room for doubt that the cost could be tolerable. “To do that, you need to know who should receive that message. In authoritarian regimes, it must reach the few people at the top who hold all the decision- making authority. They may never bear the cost personally, but their power relies on the fear and submission of those who will…. “Denial, cost, resilience. Ideally, our deterrence actions should convey all three messages simultaneously. If I were an adversary planner, seeing capable forces across multiple, like- minded nations committed to action, able to deny my goals at overwhelming cost to me, and resilient enough to weather any of my attacks, that would keep me up at night. Integrated deterrence requires integration, readiness, and willingness, but it also needs one more thing—belief.” In the September seminar, Wilsbach focused then on how multi-domain strike empowered deterrent capabilities. He underscored in his video presentation the following: “There are many reasons to lean into multi domain operations, but I want to focus on one in particular, multi domain operations allow us to overwhelm and trip the adversary. Historically, warfare carries certain constants. “One of the most important of these is gaining and maintaining the initiative. A combatant seizes the initiative, not through advanced technologies or superior training, but because they hit the adversary hard enough to knock them off balance, then hit them repeatedly to maintain an enduring advantage. pressure generated by synchronizing operations in time and space creates the opportunities where technology and training can make a difference.” To be able to do multi-domain operations requires a warfighting ecosystem which reflects and embodies effective warfighting and deterrent capabilities, of the sort no adversary could miss. Of course, the failure to build such an ecosystem will mean that multi-domain strike will not be feasible or viable. The adversary understands this and targets force integration across a distributed battlespace, and works to enhance antagonisms among allies in a way to undercut the kind of integration which is both possible and necessary. Wilsbach emphasized three key elements of the warfighting ecosystem which enables multi-domain strike and deterrence. “The three angles of attack I’ve covered today, optimizing internal Air Force capabilities, joint integration, and allied and partner integration are areas we need to push. If we want to execute multi domain operations. “All three will fail, however, if we don’t leverage our decisive angle, our airmen and aviators, our people are the best in the world, something our competitors recognize as they tried to copy our methods and attempt to hire our former members to train their forces….” He concluded with a fundamental warning regarding the importance of shaping multi-domain strike capabilities throughout an integrated joint and coalition force as a core enabler of warfighting and deterrence. “As I conclude allow me to make one more pass to stress the importance of multi-domain strike, Seizing and maintaining the initiative remains a key tenant of success in conflict. And you can only do that by hitting your adversary from every angle. The modern battlefield has one overarching rule–overwhelm or be overwhelmed.”

  • ISR, Counter-ISR, C2 and Multi-Domain Strike - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, ISR, Counter-ISR, C2 and Multi-Domain Strike, 6 October 2023 Link to article ( The featured photo is a slide from Jovanovich’s presentation at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. One can conceive of multi-domain strike over an extended operational area by building on a virtual revolution in the relationships among ISR, counter-ISR and C2. The dynamics of change involving ISR, Counter-ISR and C2 is obviously a major subject on its own but it is a central one to understand how a distributed force will generate multi-domain strike in areas of tactical and strategic interest. The intersection of these subjects has been one which the Williams Foundation has addressed in some of the presentations in past seminars. For example, then AIRCDRE Phillips who is now Air Marshal Phillips, Chief of Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance, noted in a 2019 Williams Foundation Seminar: “Earlier we built a dedicated single network connection for a specific task, such as providing targeting information to the platforms involved in a specific operation…With the new technologies and capabilities, we are now reusing networks for multiple purposes and making sure that they can adapt to the changing con-ops as well.” “We are seeing integration of the networks and the integration of the information management services and then the dual nature of the applications on top of those integrations. Rather than building a single purpose intel common operating picture, we are now capable of building an integrated intelligence and battlespace management common operating picture for the use of the combat forces engaged in operations.” In other words, “we are building an adaptable network of networks. In traditional networks, when data is brought in from a dedicated system, it needs to be repurposed for other tasks as needed.” Put in other terms, the “networked” force was built around platforms that would use networked information to create desired and often scripted events. But the C2 and ISR revolution we are now facing is reversing the logic of platforms to infrastructure; it is now about how flexible C2 and ISR interactive systems can inform the force elements to shape interactive combat operations on the fly. That is, the new capabilities are enabling tactical decision making at the edge and posing real challenges to traditional understandings of how information interacts with decision making. It is about learning how to fight effectively at the speed of light in order to achieve combat dominance. And these new capabilities are providing a real impact on force development, concepts of operations and force training as well. At the 27 September 2023 seminar, the enablement of the force to cross-operate, to do third-party targeting (which is a hallmark of fifth generation aircraft by the way) and to be able to use ISR to deceive the enemy as well as to guide operation actions to deliver meaningful strike for the desired “proportional effect” was the assumption underlying the notion of expanding the way ahead for multi-domain strike. Or put in other words, the dynamics of change involving ISR, Counter-ISR and C2 are part of the multi-domain strike enterprise. With the sensor revolution, not only are sensors much smaller but they proliferate through the operational force. If one operates a dedicated ISR platform, the range of tasks which that platform can do now compare to the past is truly amazing. The case of the Triton is a case in point of what it can see, what it can sense, what it can communicate and what it can target. And sensors can operate from a variety of platforms as integral elements of dedicated modular payloads, as we are seeing on the new maritime autonomous systems. But it it not only seeing the battlespace writ large, it is the ability of the tactical combat force or cluster to have at its service incredible ISR assets given the dynamics of change associated with sensor sets. And associated with this is the ability of decentralized C2 to operate a force with mission command which by being distributed enhances its survivability but can reach out to other platforms and work with such platforms to deliver the multi-domain strike which the seminar has focused upon. But not discussed at the seminar is the other aspect of the ISR revolution, what might be called counter ISR. In an interview I did earlier this year with a senior commander in the Pacific, he underscored the importance of counter-ISR in providing operational deception giving the force greater ability not only to survive but to find the choke points where multi-domain strike could have its most decisive impact. The mix of C2, ISR and counter-ISR was described by this senior commander as follows: “The higher headquarters may have access to better information and when it does it needs to have the ability to reach out to the tactical level to tell them to do or not do something associated with the larger political and strategic picture.” He felt that they were making significant progress in commanding a distributed force, which is a core element of shaping a force capable of deterrence in the Pacific. “We are capable of commanding from various locations and can be able to see and understand how to command in the battlespace dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, thousands of personnel. We are capable of seeing, understanding, and deciding what is going on in the battlespace, and tracking the enemy force using exquisite means way beyond a grease pencil and a radio call. We can and do so through links and sensor from the sea floor to the heavens.” Holding all this together is not only assured command and control but the tissue of ISR systems enabling distributed fleet operations and adding the key element of deception through various counter-ISR systems as well. In effect, fleet distribution built on a kill web effects infrastructure is being combined with what me be called a wake-a-mole operational capability. You can’t target me, if you can’t find me. The force is being distributed for survivability, but the joint force has focused considerably attention on a core capability which many cubical commandos have ignored – namely the ability of the force to become very difficult to target when on distributed operations. In my discussion with this commander, he indicated that one of highest priorities for ongoing development and funding is what he calls “counter-ISR” capabilities. As he put it: “That is why counter-ISR is the number one priority for me, to deny the adversary with to high confidence in his targeting capabilities. I need to deceive them and to make a needle look like a needle in a haystack of needles. It is important to have the capability to look like a black hole in the middle of nothing.” This particular interview put together the relationships among C2, ISR and counter ISR for a distributed maritime force quite succinctly. And at the seminar, a number of the presentations provided insights with regard to the dynamics of change in the ISR and C2 areas. Jake Campbell, Northrop Grumman Australia, at the last seminar discussed the importance of having layered ISR to allow for both the strategic and technical operational visibility necessary to make rapid, timely and effective decision making, notably for a distributed force but which would allow for strategic C2 as well. In his presentation to the 27 September seminar, he highlighted the challenges of providing the kind of ISR which is needed in a contested environment for net-enabled weapons. Actually, Jake was the only speaker who use this term but the multi-domain strike being discussed was built around net-enabled weapons or put in other terms third party targeting where a weapon launched for land, sea, or air could then be targeted from somewhere else. And that clearly is only going to work if you have accurate targeting information that comes from your ISR capabilities and a correct decision made by the shooter. He argued: “Within the ADF we really need to get our minds around the problem of doing such targeting in a degraded environment.” He noted: “The ability to generate a 24/7 target quality information, perhaps over some weeks, so that operational commanders have flexibility to generate a strike at the time and place of choosing is going to be challenging, but it’s the demand. And as you’re getting closer to those strikes, you have to have the ability to maintain what I call a chain of custody.” “You’re going to need to have eyes on that target with high fidelity target quality information and have the ability to communicate that to the weapons when they are fired.” Jake Campbell presents at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. Triton is a key capability which Northrop Grumman is working with the RAAF for the ADF ISR and T capabilities. Campbell noted Triton has can provide data outside of the adversaries weapons engagement zone but also provide a range of data which will allow the ADF to make more effective targeting decisions with the reach and range of Triton’s onboard sensors. This reminded me of a comment made to me when visiting Jax Navy a few years ago. I asked a Triton operate: “What happens when your system is targeted?” His answer was direct: “Well I can see weapons at a distance few can match. I have a jet engine so I move and maneuver.” Campbell noted that the U.S. Navy and its use of the the Minotaur fusion engine is of significance in how the U.S .Navy is integrating ISR information across the force.He raised this in the context of discussing the involvement of the Triton surrogate in a Northern Edge exercise. “We operated the Triton surrogate, which is it’s a test platform that we put all the Triton sensors on, in the Northern Edge exercise, in a maritime strike scenario, where the goal was to generate a 24/7 maritime Common Operating Picture to be able to provide target quality information for the commander and then generate strike options against representative threats but to do so outside of the adversary’s weapons engagement zones of significance. “In contrast to other platforms, Triton sensors are actually able to operate and function well outside of the adversary’s weapon engagement zones right now and we are working on an ongoing basis to evolve this capability. And the height and perspective of Triton is an important factor in being able to so. “But the other thing that came out of the exercise was the importance of data fusion. There’s a system that was used in this exercise called Minotaur. Minotaur is a data fusion system that allows multiple aircraft and ships to share the network information. “It is a data fusion engine by which users can access information from whatever terminal they are on as long as you’re on the Minotaur Web. Triton and P-8s have Minotaur on them as part of their capability. And the U.S. Navy is headed full steam down the Minotaur pathway. It’s important for the ADF to get their head around what Minotaur brings to the fight and how we plug into it.” In an interview I did a few years ago, I discussed Minotaur with the then head of the US Navy’s Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Enterprise. According to Rear Admiral Garvin who was the head of the enterprise at the time: “The Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance aviator of the future will be well versed in the synergy inherent in both manned and unmanned platforms.” “The unblinking stare of a Triton enhances the Fleet Commander’s MDA and understanding of an adversary’s pattern-of-life by observing their movements in the optical and electromagnetic spectrum.” Slide from Campbell’s presentation at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. “Moreover, Triton serves as a force multiplier and enabler for the P-8. Early in Triton program development, we embraced manned and unmanned teaming and saw it as a way to expand our reach and effectiveness in the maritime domain.” “One key software capability which empowers integration is Minotaur.” “The Minotaur Track Management and Mission Management system was developed in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Minotaur was designed to integrate sensors and data into a comprehensive picture which allows multiple aircraft and vessels to share networked information.” “It is basically a data fusion engine and like many software capabilities these days, doesn’t physically have to be present on a platform to be of use.” “These capabilities ride on a Minotaur web where, if you are on the right network, you can access data from whatever terminal you happen to be on.” (See chapter six “an ISR-empowered force” in my co-authored book entitled: A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making: Deterrence and Warfighting in the XXIst Century.) The Navy experience working with ISR was also significant to the perspectives of WGCDR Marija Jovanovich. In particular, she talked about her work with Pete “Two Times” Salvaggio, Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC), Maritime ISR (MISR) Weapons School, Department Head (DH), MISR & EP-3E Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) at Resolute Hunter. The WGCDR made it very clear that the work of “Two Times” and of the Navy led Resolute Hunter expressed her core emphasis on the expanded role for ISR in shaping any multi-domain strike enterprise. And in this context, she is one of the few people discussing the subject which highlighted the new innovative role in the Navy of what they call MISR officers. WGCDR Marija Jovanovich presenting at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation seminar. In an interview I did with “Two Times” in 2020 (and later that year I went to Resolute Hunter), he explained what they were all about and what the WGCDR was advocating. “Kill chain is to find, fix, track, target, engage and assess. For the US Navy, the weight of effort has been upon target and engage. As “Two Times” puts it “But if you cannot find, fix or track something, you never get to target.” “There is another challenge as well: in a crisis, knowing what to hit and what to avoid is crucial to crisis management. This clearly requires the kind of ISR management skills to inform the appropriate decision makers as well. “The ISR piece is particularly challenging as one operates across a multi-domain battlespace to be able to identify the best ISR information, even it is not contained within the ISR assets within your organic task force. And the training side of this is very challenging. Slide from Jovanovich’s presentation at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. “That challenge might be put this way: How does one build the skills in the Navy to do what you want to do with regard to managed ISR data and deliver it in the correct but timely manner and how to get the command level to understand the absolute centrality of having such skill sets? “Two Times” identified a number of key parameters of change with the coming of MISR. “We are finally breaking the old mindset; it is only now that the department heads at NAWDC are embracing the new role for ISR in the fight.” “We are a unique organization at NAWDC for we do not own a platform. And the MISR school has both officers and enlisted in the team. We are not all aviators; we have intel specialists, we have cryptographers, pilots, crewmen etc. “Aviators follow a more rapid pace of actions; non-aviators do not have the same pace of working rapidly within chaos. Our goal at MISR is to be comfortable to work in chaos.” “Another part of the shift is to get recognition that ISR does not SUPPORT the force; it is essential element of the combat capability for the force to be able to operate effectively. It is inherent to the force; not external to it. “The kill web approach is about breaking the practice of correlating specific sensors with specific weapons; it is about shaping a much broader understanding of how to work sensor networks to deliver the outcome one is seeking. “Two Times” argued that the training within NAWDC to train MISR officers is not bad, but the big challenge is to work to break down habitual operational patterns of senior commanders, who really are not focused on how the ISR revolution is changing warfighting.” (See chapter six “an ISR-empowered force” in my co-authored book entitled: A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making: Deterrence and Warfighting in the XXIst Century.) The C2 piece of all of this was discussed by Carl Rhodes in his presentation. He most recently was the director of RAND Australia and now director and founder of a consulting firm based in Australia, Robust Policy. In his presentation, he discussed the evolving C2 approaches which underlie multi-domain strike and which enable distributed operations but within a mission command context. He discussed the various new approaches to C2 underlying distributed operations. Two in particular stand out. The first is a kill web approach in which there are multiple ways to move information and to complete a weapons engagement. The second is the DARPA version of this which they call mosaic warfare. He argued that this approach was very adaptable and was based on an ability to have resource interchangeability including during execution of the strike. He argued that new C2 concepts require new systems and new doctrinal thinking. But I would argue that is clearly underway and has been achieved in some areas. But another part of his presentation leads nicely to the final presentation I will discuss here. Rhodes provided an interesting discussion of the Ukrainian experience in ISR and C2 and then considered its relevance to the Pacific theater of operations. But on his way to his conclusion on this subject he highlighted the question of how a space-based system, namely, Starlink has played a key role in typing together Ukrainian military efforts. Carl Rhodes presenting at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation seminar. He noted that: Starlink facts Over 4,500 satellites in orbit, more than 50% of all active satellites Eventual plans for 42,000 satellites Laser crosslink service is rolling out Ukraine employment C2 of aerial and maritime unmanned system Tactical communications Coordination of artillery fires Moving information around the battlefield He then underscored the advantages of LEO constellation over GEOs has been clearly demonstrated in a number of ways in the conflict: Lower latency Better anti-jam capability Less vulnerable to kinetic attack: it is a distributed system that degrades gracefully. Nick Miller, Optus Satellite and Space division, dealt with the space aspect of ISR and C2 and certainly reinforced both Campbell’s and Rhodes’s presentations. Here Miller talked about how Optus was shaping a way ahead to work with LEO operators to provide both the increased ISR layering Campbell talked about and the C2 for distributed operations that Rhodes talked about. The focus of his presentation was on “how LEO operations benefit government and defense organizations, and how we plan to integrate LEO and GEO capabilities into our own network for the future.” LEO constellations or networks have significant advantages for the creation of the layered ISR and C2 capabilities mentioned earlier by Campbell. As Miller noted: “Due to their proximity to Earth data transmission, time for latency are significantly reduced, allowing enhanced real time communication and decision- making.” The basic approach taken by Optus is to interweave their GEO satellites with other providers LEO constellations. Miller argued: “The advantage we have as Australia’s longest standing satellite operator is our agnostic ability to actually access and assess each of these technologies and its capabilities to determine the best fit for purpose for enterprise fit for government, and in some cases fit for defense. We see the advantages and disadvantages of each and how they best fold into a GEO network to provide interoperable coverage.” Nick Miller, Optus Satellite and Space Division, presenting at the Williams Foundation seminar 27 September 2023. He added: “The integration of these networks can also offer redundancy and resilience in the face of disruptions or fast changing environments. For instance, if you have a satellite network that becomes compromised, or faces issues such as jamming, the other satellite network can pick up the data to minimize downtime. “This type of redundancy allows for better support in longer term capability planning, or fast paced decision making when it’s required. When LEO and GEO satellite networks are integrated, critical data can also be efficiently routed between the two systems based on the specific requirements of the mission. High Priority data can take advantage of the low latency LEO connections while less sensitive time sensitive data can be relayed via GEO satellites.” Slide from Nick Miller’s presentation at the 27 September 2023 Williams Foundation Seminar. In short, the dynamics of ISR and C2 are shaping the foundation for the multi-domain strike enterprise. They are part of a kill web not just to be fitted into a legacy kill chain approach.

  • The Multi-Domain Strike Enterprise: Building and Providing the Weapons - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, The Multi-Domain Strike Enterprise: Building and Providing the Weapons, 6 October 2023 Link to article ( Featured Graphic is from Ian Langford’s presentation. It will do little if one crafts the force for effective strike and does not work to ensure that the enterprise does not go Winchester much more rapidly than the duration of conflict. This is a major problem and at the first Williams Foundation seminar of 2023, the challenges of building a 21st century arsenal of democracy were discussed at length. The simple fact is that the United States and all of its allies have NOT built magazine depth. Each has had almost just in time delivery of weapons systems with very very limited supply. This is true for both precision and non-precision weapons. And then there is the key problem of having weapons mixes which allow the force to be able to operate throughout a prolonged operation. And almost assuredly this will not happen with the weapons production paradigm of the past twenty years. In a 2020 visit to Fallon at NAWDC, I discussed this problem ironically with the Navy Captain who is the acknowledged expert on TLAMS, the very weapon prioritized by the DSR. He warned against over reliance on such weapons alone. “A key point really would revolve around the weapons enterprise itself and how the fleet will be empowered by new ways to build out weapons arsenals and provide for adequate stockpiles for the force. That was the subject of conversation with Captain Edward Hill, the oldest Captain in the USN at sixty years of age. Because he goes back to the Cold War operating Navy, he can bring forward that experience to the return to the contested environment challenges facing the weapons enterprise. “Clearly, building adequate stockpiles of weapons is crucial. But also important is working a new weapons mix to ensure that one is not forced by necessity to rely on the most expensive weapons, and the ones that will almost always have a stockpiling issue, but to have a much more cost-effective weapons set of options. “As Captain Hill put it: “We need to get beyond golden bee-bee solution. We need to have a weapons barge come with the battle group that has an affordable weapons mix. We need $50,000 weapons; not just million-dollar weapons. We should have weapons to overwhelm an adversary with Joe’s garage weapons and not having to use the golden bee-bees as the only option.”[1] So simply buying TLAMS from the United States is not an answer to how the ADF will have adequate stockpiles of weapons in a crisis and in prolonged conflict. It is an input to a re-think but not a substitute for a rethink. If we are to have really an arsenal of democracy, we need to move beyond single production line production models. The United States needs to get on with sharing a production line for TLAMS in Australia. This is not just for Australia but the United States and various Pacific allies. It is about redundancy; it is about security of supply; and it is getting on with the key barrier the United States continues to have which is its bureaucratic interpretation of security requirements. And the Australian contribution could be significant to the collective allied rethink and redesign of a weapons enterprise. Namely, we need a new approach to building weapons and to do so in terms of something like standardization on the 155mm-artillery shell. I talked with a senior USAF officer earlier this year about this challenge and the opportunity to rebuild a weapons enterprise around standardization and multi-national production lines. This is what he had to say: “I want an 80% solution that is built about around two important criteria– the weapon or the cost per round, so I can buy a ton of them by the 1000s. And I can make them very easily. And I can keep up with wartime usage. So I don’t have the problems like we have in Ukraine, where I’ve expended all of them.” Australia is clearly focused on addressing these problems but it is early days. In the presentation by Ian Langford, formerly a senior Australian Army officer, and now with Lockheed Martin, he provided a slide which the way ahead for Australia in this area: How multi-domain strike fits into an evolving Australian deterrence strategy was provided by BRIG Langford at the March 2022 Williams Foundation Seminar. “Certainly, the ADF as a force for a medium power faces the challenge of deterrence of larger powers in the region. Here he noted:” To quote a former prime minister of Singapore, “How does a small fish in a pond of big fish become a poison shrimp?” How do we provide the kind of deterrence functions in a period where we are always at risk of being out escalated and how do you provide those shaping, or pre conflict, or competition effects? and are credible?” “BRIG Langford underscored the importance of decision superiority in shaping favorable outcomes. “It is about being able to generate relative tempo and superiority at certain points in the conflict that enable victory going forward.” And one could add – making sure that the ADF force elements are able to deliver such strikes with the right weapons, in the right numbers and the right places. AVM Gerry van Leeuwen, Head of the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordinance, provided the overview on the projected way ahead for the ADF in the weapons area. His group is within Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group within the Department. In his role, he is primarily responsible for the acquisition, sustainment, and disposal of all guided weapons and explosive ordinance for Defence and the delivery of associated joint force (effector) capability outcomes. Ian Langford, presenting at the Williams Foundation Seminar 27 September 2023. The AVM started by noting that the strategic direction of the effort is to shape a joint acquisition approach to the weapons area. And with the appointment of a three-star overseeing the effort, Air Marshal Phillips, structural change with the Department is under way to achieve this objective. He noted that the services will continue to sponsor weapons acquisition projects but the overall types and quantities acquired will be shaped by the new joint approach. In particular, he underscored, that the DSR highlighted the “need for long range strike, increased war, stock or inventory and the development of domestic manufacturing capabilities.” With regard to long-range strike, “we need to attack targets at greater range and hold our adversaries at risk at increased distance.” An example of the focus is upon the Army. “Our army has been challenged to reach beyond a notional 50-to-100-kilometer range and to beyond 500 kilometers in time and then out beyond 1000 kilometers.” AVM van Leeuwen underscored that the Ukraine war demonstrated the need to be able to enhance war stocks. He also noted the need to diversify sources of production in supply in this intriguing comment: “To use an analogy, it looks like everyone’s in the same buffet line. AVM Gerry van Leeuwen, Head of the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordinance, presenting at the Williams Foundation seminar on 27 September 2023. And if you’re the back of the queue, you better not be too hungry. We’re currently working with the U.S. on creative ways to accelerate FMS orders, and especially with regard to long range strike weapons. “And not surprisingly, those weapons are the same weapons in high demand by the U.S., given our common interest in the Indo-PAC region. But our relationship is strong and collegiate. The U.S. seems willing to work with us in that regard, but I would caution that if they sell advanced weapons to Australia, we sure as hell better be prepared to use them.” This in turn leads the challenge of logistics and sustainment. “Increased inventory brings with it logistical challenges like storage and distribution, maintenance, repair and overhaul, given the shelf life associated with limitations associated with energetics and environmental degradation.” AVM van Leeuwen then turned to the knotty challenge of Australian domestic weapons production. He noted that Australia is not starting from scratch. “We already manufacture a range of munitions from small arms to aerial bombs, and we do have manufacturing capabilities already in place.” But with regard to building on these capabilities and expanding domestic production capabilities, they are adopting a “crawl, walk, run approach.” “Our decision to build a domestic manufacturing capability is in part in order to build enhanced regional resilience in supply chains, especially when supply lines across the Pacific are degraded or denied in a time of conflict. But in the longer term, we will build a stronger sovereign industrial base here in Australia on an assumption that we’re working to a readiness window of 2026 or 2027.” He added: “We need to look at production rates beyond our domestic consumption and offer access back into the global supply chain that will involve certification, quality and security requirements. The industry needs to be prepared and be ready.” He mentioned three areas where the focus will be in the short to midterm: On the Standard Missile families; on the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile; and with regard to 155mm artillery shells.[2] He then focused on the comprehensive nature of the challenge Australia faces in the weapons area: “As a DSR priority, we have been allocated an additional $1.5 billion over the forward estimates to make a total provision of $2.5 billion for domestic manufacturing war stock. Perhaps it’s the risk is not so much about the amount allocated but our ability to spend it and realize the ambitious plan over the next five years. “Another challenge we face is workforce. The job market is heavily contested and people with the right qualifications for certain jobs are increasingly hard to find. Attracting the required workforce to realize the ambition of domestic manufacture will be a significant challenge and represents significant risk to our overall success. People have choices and the cost of living is weighing heavily on the minds of Australians.” “The selection of sites where domestic manufacture will factor into things like population demographics and logistics, for example, transport lines and distribution hubs.” [1] Robbin F. Laird, Robbin, Training for the High-End Fight: The Strategic Shift of the 2020s (pp. 82-83), Kindle Edition.) [2];;;

  • What has Happened Since the DSR has been Published: Marcus Hellyer - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, What has Happened Since the DSR has been Published: The Perspective of Marcus Hellyer, 5 October 2023 Link to article ( During my current visit to Australia to support the Williams Foundation Seminar held on 27 September 2023, I had a chance to talk with the well-known Australian strategist, Marcus Hellyer. Formerly of ASPI, he is now is head of research at Strategic Analysis, Australia. I asked Marcus a simple question as the basis of our conversation: What has been the progress and developments since the DSR was released earlier this year? Hellyer argued that the DSR was presented as a sharp break from the past but he sees it as in many ways a throwback to the famous Paul Dibb strategic defence review in the 1980s. Namely, it has updated the concept of the defence of Australian territory to “the latest industry standard. Instead of defending Australian territory with a 100 km range missile, we are now focused on procuring missiles of a 1000 km range. But the operating concept remains focused on controlling our air and sea approaches, although there is no consensus on what this means.” He went on to note that the decision to continue the effort to procure nuclear submarines did raise a fundamental issue: “Are we meeting the threat in the South China Sea or in areas closer to Australia? Are we focused on China’s first island chain or our own?” The problem for the ADF is posed by having a new DSR but not accompanied by a budget to pay for a force design reset. It is supposed to be paid for by the cannibalization of the current force structure and restructuring the inherited approach to joint force design, a process of force transformation already underway which we have documented in detail in Williams Foundation Seminars since 2014. The government did not establish a separate fund to pay for the costly transition from conventional to a nuclear submarine enterprise. The funding issue correlated with force re-design is crucial. As Hellyer noted: “The Department of Defense’s acquisition plan is completely broken. We knew going into the DSR that it was massively over programmed. There wasn’t enough money to acquire all the things in the plan, particularly after nuclear submarines were injected into it with no additional funding. “The DSR itself injected more things into that investment plan. And so there simply isn’t enough money. But the bottom line is you’re trying to stuff more things in there with no more money. It just doesn’t work. And so that’s why a lot of acquisition decisions are simply on hold, because at the moment, the department doesn’t have a viable acquisition program.” This has led to significant uncertainty within the ADF, local defense industry and the Australian public about the winners and losers in shaping the new force structure outlined in the DSR, and outlined is the right word, for there is much uncertainty surrounding what is the strategic direction really of the force design for deterrence by denial and impactful projection and the relationship between this effort and the extant force. Hellyer already sees signs of cancelling programs to provide for money for a new way ahead, but the problem is cancellation is not correlated with ensuring the cancelled capability is replaced. An example is cancelling the only Royal Australian Navy UAV with no replacement in sight. Hellyer noted that this will have a capability impact by limiting the utility of the Royal Australian Navy’s new Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels. He noted, “We’ve both written about the OPV and one obvious path is to leverage this program and to adapt it to the new warfighting approaches highlighted in the DSR. It is not terribly difficult to make these motherships for automated systems or to up gun the ship. “This is clearly the kind of approach which will be critical in shaping an operational force that is more capable in the 2020s rather than one that is being designed and planned for in 2030, 2035, 2040 or beyond. But the cancellation of the Navy UAV means the OPV won’t achieve its potential.” That said, there have been some important announcement since the DSR, such as the acquisition of a new, larger fleet of C-130J airlifters that will play an important role in archipelagic operations. Other key decisions have been deferred such as the location of an east coast SSN base. Hellyer noted that all analysis indicates an east coast base with access to Australia’s population centres will be vital to supporting a larger submarine force. But the government has put that decision off into the future as well. Because of the issue of un-affordability of new capabilities, it’s inevitable that the ADF will need to make the most of what they already have. SLD’s rule of thumb is that 80% of the force you will have in 20 years you already have—a metric that Hellyer agrees with. So how do you leverage what you have in reshaping the force to get what is envisaged by the new force design? Dr. Hellyer then focused on the key question of capability transitions: how to manage them and how to pay for them. Getting them right is essential to maintaining and increasing ADF capability without creating key operational gaps. Within recent ADF history there are some examples of transition management. The most successful one which he cited was the transition from third and fourth to fifth generation aircraft. Hellyer argues that the key piece in that transition that mitigated the risks of an ageing Hornet fleet and delayed development and delivery of the F-35A was the prescient acquisition of the Super Hornets. In contrast, there is a current example of an unsuccessful capability transition in the Australian Army’s utility helicopters. The decision has been made to replace the MRH-90s with Blackhawks, potentially allowing an orderly capability transition. But the government has decided simply to ground the MRH-90 fleet in the wake of a catastrophic fatal accident. Since there are currently only a handful of Blackhawks in country, the Australian Army will have no capability. Full stop. As the government faces the transition for conventional to nuclear submarines, how will they ensure that Australia will continue to have operational submarines in the transition? Is this following the Super Hornet transition model or that of the Army utility helicopter? In short, the DSR has introduced disruptive change. But without the money necessary to enable transition to a new force structure design. And at a time when the DSR and the government that produced it have clearly indicated that the strategic situation is worsening much more rapidly than our capabilities to deal with that environment. Featured Photo: The MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will be withdrawn from service in December 2024. Photo: Lance Corporal Riley Blennerhassett Taipans Withdrawn from Service Published 29 September 2023 by the Australian Department of Defence. The Australian Defence Force’s MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024. Defence Minister Richard Marles said the Government was focused on the introduction into service of the new fleet of UH‑60M Black Hawks. The first three Black Hawks have arrived in Australia and commenced flying in September, with remaining Black Hawks continuing to be delivered. Mr Marles said the MRH-90 had been an important capability for the ADF. “I recognise the hard work of the hundreds of people who dedicated themselves to acquiring, operating and sustaining the aircraft,” he said. “The first of the 40 Black Hawks that will replace the MRH-90 have arrived and are already flying in Australia. We are focused on seeing their introduction to service as quickly as possible. “The Government’s highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people. “We continue to support the families of the four soldiers who lost their lives earlier this year, and the broader Defence community.” The ADF will continue to operate its CH-47F Chinooks, Tigers and MH‑60R Seahawks to provide a ready aviation capability. From 2025, the new AH-64E Apache helicopters will also be introduced into service for the Army. Mr Marles said to help mitigate further impacts on Army’s operations and training, the Government was exploring options to accelerate the delivery of the Black Hawks and aircrew training. He said today’s announcement did not suggest the outcome of the investigations into the tragic incident on July 28, when an MRH-90 Taipan crashed near Lindeman Island, Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre, killing the four aircrew on board. Mr Marles said the Government made clear at the time Defence would not fly the platform until investigations into the incident were complete.

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