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  • Working the Sustainability Piece in Australian Defence: The Case of Munitions - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Working the Sustainability Piece in Australian Defence: The Case of Munitions, 10 April 2024 Link to article ( When shaping a relevant 21st century defence approach, sustainability is a key aspect of any credible effort. Gone are the days where just in time delivery from distant global supply chains is an effective means for deployed defense assets. Credible defense capability is built on a foundation of sustainability. The war in Ukraine has exposed the Achilles heel of Western defense, namely the lack of magazine depth. Munitions and weapons have been in perilously short supply. Digging into one’s war reserves to help the Ukrainians is short term necessity and folly. We collectively face the challenge of building a 21st century version of the arsenal of democracy, whereby allies build munitions in common and cross support one another in a crisis. Just having a single point of failure or having to wait for delivery from a global supply chain almost certainly to be disrupted is a strategic failure of the first order. If you are Australia, you face an especially difficult challenge as an island continent which is completely dependent in many areas on long global supply chains and a country in which manufacturing and self-processing of its rich natural resources has not been prioritized. Such a formula guarantees the absence of sustainable forces. This situation becomes even more significant when one looks at the most plausible allied engagement strategy, namely working with all of its Pacific allies to cross-support one another, and not simply focus on the United States. By enhancing its indigenous supply capabilities, Australia can also form a strategic reserve for allies in the region or forces that might operate from Australia in the future. But planning for such a future in the context of ongoing studies and briefing charts will not cut the cake. Briefing charts only kill the audience, not the enemy. So what can be done in the three to five year period do achieve something real and concrete? One answer is to build indigenous munitions capabilities, essentially a no-brainer from my point of view. If one looks at France, several years ago the government abolished the munitions facility established at the time of Louis XIV. Just in time was enough in our peaceful world. But with Macron focusing on the need for a war economy, the French have already rebuilt their munitions production capability and are proceeding apace. It is rather obvious that Australia needs to do the same on a priority basis. During my April 2024 visit to Australia, I had the chance to talk with a key munitions manufacturer, Robert Nioa about the challenge. He is head of the Nioa group which is described on their website as follows: NIOA is a privately-owned global munitions company. Established in Queensland, Australia in 1973, today the NIOA Group has strategic locations around the world. We are dedicated to the best practice supply and manufacture of firearms, weapons and munitions to Australian and allied nation defence forces, law enforcement agencies and commercial markets. My main question to him was could they work an effective strategy of sustainable munitions supply for Australia in the timeframe which I think is critical. According to Nioa: “Within a three-to-five-year window, we can enable Australia to provide the munitions required for an allied effort within the Indo Pacific region. We need dramatically expand our energetics production, and we can do that within that three-to-five-year window. “We don’t have enough production capacity in Australia currently to support what we need to do for ourselves, let alone to support allies in the Indo Pacific region. “But we can build factories within that timeframe to provide the explosives required to produce the kinetic enablers for the ADF and as we scale up for allies in the region. We can build a factory to make solid rocket motors. “We can build a factory to make the warheads. And then we can bring in technology for the guidance systems for long range strike or even expand conventional munitions production, everything from artillery munitions through to small arms production. It’s simply an allocation of funds and priorities.” The demand signal for such expanded sustainable capability is clearly there with the shortfalls exposed in the war in Ukraine. By Australia expanding capacity they can become a strategic reserve for allies in the region as well. And building such a sustainable infrastructure provides the material to enable lethal payloads in the future as new platforms and ways of delivering lethality evolve as well, such as I discuss in my latest book entitled The Coming of Maritime Autonomous Systems. One can get caught up in imagining weapons of the future and building planning scenarios: but if you don’t have the building blocks in place for effective force sustainability, it really will not matter when you face a determined adversary that has built a sustainable force. Photo: An Australian Army soldier from 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, fires the 84mm Carl Gustaf on 5th January 2024, Townsville Field Training Area, Queensland. Australian Army Soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment conducted static live fire with the 84mm Carl Gustaf, engaging 450-metre targets at the Townville Field Training Area. The training aimed to build confidence in members when using the weapon system and qualify junior non-commissioned officers as a part of the Section Commander Battle Course (SCBC). 5 January 2024. Credit: Australian Department of Defence See also the following:

  • Multi-Domain Requirements of an Australian Maritime Strategy - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Multi-Domain Requirements of an Australian Maritime Strategy: The April 2024 Sir Richard Williams Foundation Seminar, 13 April 2024 Link to article ( The first of two seminars of the Sir Richard Williams Foundation in 2024 was held on 11 April 2024 at the National Gallery of Australia. The seminar was entitled, “The Multi-Domain Requirements of an Australian Maritime Strategy”, and the aim of the seminar was identified as follows: “To examine the enduring and emerging multi-domain requirements of an Australian maritime strategy in the context of the Defence Strategic Review. The Seminar examines the requirements through a Defence lens but will consider all national means that contribute to a maritime strategy and the need for coherence across concepts, doctrine, equipment, basing and preparedness. This strategic coherence is needed to synchronise effects across the Whole of Australian Government, Defence and industry, as well as international partners.” Last year’s DSR highlighted the ramped-up threat to Australia and the need to focus on the region, its partnerships and the need to build a more effective defence effort by Australia in the regional deterrence context. The focus of the government in its subsequent priorities has tended to focus on longer term acquisitions, first in terms of nuclear submarines through the AUKUS relationship and then for a new surface fleet in its recently released surface fleet review. A multi-domain operations discussion builds on the work of the Foundation during the time I have been writing the reports since 2014. The focus has been upon building a fifth-generation force, which after all revolves around sensor-shooter relationships built across an integrated force delivering multi-domain effects or what I prefer to call a kill-web enabled force. The focus is upon how you get full value out of your force now and to build out that extant force in the future to become more lethal and survivable. If you are focused on the fight tonight, which any credible combat force must focus on, then long range assets are projections of the possible, not augmentations of the credibility of the operational force. So any multi-domain discussion inevitably focuses on the way ahead for the force in being, rather than a force planning discussion of a projected future. When you add a specific target of what is that force in being operating in support of, inevitably gaps are identified, and the question then is how do you close the most significant gaps which threaten your security and defence interests. Such a focus is in turn raised if one raises the question of the means to the end of what one might consider a maritime threat envelope and strategy to deal with that envelope. In other words, one would expect the seminar discussion to focus more on the transition challenges of the ADF and the nation to deal with threat environment in the near to midterm rather than in 2040. That is what happened at the seminar in which speakers started by highlighting the importance of focusing on the here and now rather than on the force that might exist in 2035 or 2040. After the initial presentations focused on the current challenges and the role of the ADF and the nation to prepare to deal with them, the discussion shifted to whether Australia had a maritime strategy and if so what were the priorities of such a strategy. The majority of the presentations focused on specific services or industrial perspectives of how best to meet the multi-domain requirements for the evolving Australian defence challenge. But at the heart of the discussion was really the major challenge facing Australia: how to close defence gaps? How to engage the nation beyond the ADF in the broader defence challenges facing Australia? How to build a sustainable force? In later articles, I will provide detailed looks at the presentations and how the presenters dealt with these and other issues associated with the transition of the ADF. But here I am going to focus on the key issue of how does the ADF get more capable in the next three-to-five years and to do so in a way that is a prologue to the anticipated force transformation being designed? Peter Jennings was the first speaker and he underscored that the DSR had highlighted the near-term threats but was putting its money in forces a decade away. He put the challenge as follows: Governments can and do promise to spend unbelievable quantities of money on the future force but you only know what you get when you open the box. Not one cent of it buys deterrence today. From a deterrence perspective there is potentially some risk in promising strong deterrent capabilities in the future while maintaining the military capabilities of a skinned cat in the present day. That is the risk of pre-emption. Indeed, one reason why analysists are so worried about a mid- to late-2020s risk of conflict against Taiwan, or in the South China Sea, is that Xi Jinping may calculate that he faces a ‘use it or lose it’ choice with the PLA. Xi’s best chance of strategic success to achieve unchallenged military dominance in the Pacific are maximised by early action before his opponents’ next generation military capabilities are realised and while the democracies are internally distracted and divided. The tragedy is that there is so much which could be done with a bit of political and Defence push to strengthen ADF and national capabilities in the relative short term. For example: Ramping up domestic ammunition production and stockpiling. Establishing offensive drone capabilities on the basis of existing technology – not everything has to be quantum, AI, hypersonically joint and enabled. Funding some of the incredibly smart military capabilities that have been developed by Australian businesses. Researching some of the remarkable military and operational achievements which the Ukrainians (with allied help) and the Israelis have used in recent months. Here I’m not just talking about drones; but also optimising air defence capabilities; integrating intelligence and battlefield situational awareness; finding the right balance between exotic and more prosaic technology; working out how to get things in production in less than a decade. There is so much that could be done, so much so, in fact that our failure to do any of this makes me wonder if it is not the case that the government and Defence establishment is actually getting what it really wants? The second presentation was by Mike Pezzullo, the former Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, who made an impassioned speech reminding the audience that building an effective defence structure is not simply the task of the ADF. The society needed to be engaged in shaping an Australia more capable of defending itself. You cannot outsource defence and security to an alliance or to the professional military for one needs to build a more resilient and sustainable Australian society and nation. Jennifer Parker of the National Security College (ANU) provided a comprehensive look at the maritime security challenges facing Australia and argued that in fact there was no strategy to deal with these comprehensive challenges. Her talk focused attention on what is the demand signal and what is the product needed to deal with that demand signal for maritime security and defence. Such an approach highlights what are the gaps to be met and how to meet them, which is quite different from force structure planning of an envisaged future force. Rather, one looks at demand drivers and what tools a nation has available to it, far beyond simply a professional military. The remaining presentations provided insights regarding how the ADF is changing to deal with the evolving challenges and I will take a detailed look at these presentations and focus on them in later articles. I will then return to the question of the match between the specific recommendations and the challenge of building an effective multi-domain force and sustainable society in dealing with the evolving threats and challenges.

  • Managing Trade-Offs in Force Structure Development - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Managing Trade-Offs in Force Structure Development, 13 April 2024 Link to article ( When a nation is facing a deteriorating threat environment, one key challenge in ramping up defence investments is how to balance enhancing the current fight to night force with new future platforms as part of a future force structure. This problem is compounded by the changing nature of the threat envelope for the liberal democracies. They now face a multi-polar authoritarian state and movement threat envelope whereby these states play off of one another and have various kinds of working relationships which fall short of a complete alliance, but together generate a diverse and diffuse threat to the liberal democracies. And when it comes to information war, they have a huge advantage of access to the social media-dominated world provide by liberal democratic systems compared to the face recognition controlled authoritarian regimes. But there is another challenge as well facing force structure design. The most dynamic new systems for innovation are software designed and AI enabled systems which simply do not follow the pattern of developing and procuring legacy platforms. If you don’t use maritime autonomous systems, for example, you cannot re-design them for you do so in direct relationship to their use. And as your current force becomes a hybrid one with the growing input from autonomous systems, what then is the nature of the future force which one designs based on legacy thinking? The challenge of the tension between dealing with growing threats now and delaying design responses much later was highlighted in Peter Jennings, Director of Strategic Analysis Australia, presentation to the recent Sir Richard Williams Foundation Seminar held on April 11, 2024. The main thrust of the presentation was Jennings perceiving a significant gap between the government’s emphasis on the near-term threat and its defence investments. The Australian government is not dealing with ways to enhance ADF capability in the near term but putting their priority investments into a future force. Jennings noted: Our worsening strategic outlook is a constant theme in Defence Minister Richard Marle’s speeches. Here is Mr Marles’ comments at the Sydney Institute on April 4: “Recorded military spending in the Indo-Pacific region has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past ten years, with China engaging in the biggest conventional military build-up in the world since the Second World War. “In the year 2000, China had six nuclear-powered submarines. By the end of this decade, they will have 21. In the year 2000, China had 57 major warships. By the end of this decade, they will have 200. “These investments are shifting the balance of military power in new and uncertain ways. We are in an environment where the risk of miscalculation increases, and the consequences are more severe. “And as China’s strategic and economic weight grows, it is seeking to shape the world around it. “For a country like Australia this represents a challenge.” In these comments Mr Marles is absolutely right. If you don’t understand that Australia is facing an increasingly threatening strategic environment, one where the risks of war in the mid-2020s is substantially growing, well, either you must be paying no attention to international developments, or you might conceivably be working in DFAT (Defence Foreign Affairs and Trade). But what has been the practical response according to Jennings? “The more our governments seem to talk about strategic risk, the less it seems that we are actually able to take practical steps to strengthen the ADF to present a deterrence to conflict.” In his presentation, he ends by highlighting the impact of investment in the autonomous systems technologies which Australia already has access to and has experimented with. Indeed, one of the great ironies is that Australian industry has contributed significantly to Ukrainian defence efforts in various forms of air and sea autonomous systems, but has not applied this technology to the operational ADF. Here is what Jennings emphasized: Australia really should engage in a crash program to field an array of drone technology relevant to the maritime domain. There is existing capability available – including Australian proprietary IP which we could bring into service this year or next. Imagine how motivating for Defence and industry it would be if the Government said there was a billion dollars available for the rapid development of TRL level 9 — System Proven and Ready for Full Commercial Deployment – drones. The challenge would be to have fielded capabilities in 2025, let’s say before the next federal election. Impossible I hear you cry? The Ukrainians are doing it every week. Our enemies – everyone from the PLA through to the other authoritarian powers, organised crime and the people smuggling cartels – these groups show themselves to me more agile and faster technology adopters than we are in Australia. We need to think fast and laterally about how to respond. By definition that means current policy processes in Defence are not well adapted to this task. Not fit for purpose as the DSR said. Hopefully this conference will be able to surface some new and creative ideas for Australian maritime strategy and that those ideas will get a fair hearing. I would note that a clear example of what Jennings is talking about is what is happening in the context of Nordic integration. And when one looks at recent Norwegian decisions to ramp up its defense budget and to spend it on programs already being built, one gets the idea of what is possible for a focus on enhancing the current force rather than pushing investment into a conceived of future force. Notably, several years ago the Norwegian Ministry of Defence worked with the German government on building common procurement of a German submarine. The Norwegians are putting forward more money to build out this program, rather than putting that money aside in a future design build. Jennings highlighted a crucial question: How do you ramp up ADF capabilities now? And I would add, how do you do so in a way that is a building block for your future force? It is not about putting money in a drain hole: it is about pump priming the process of improving your fight tonight capabilities and building towards a more capable future force.

  • 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.

  • Conference: Final Report - Dr Robbin Laird

    Dr Robbin Laird, Final Report, 8 Oct 2023

  • Conference Proceedings: The Enterprise Requirements of an Australian Multi-Domain Strike Capability

    The Enterprise Requirements of an Australian Multi-Domain Strike Capability National Gallery of Australia, 27 September 2023 Dr Robbin Laird Link to Conference summary Final Report More articles from Dr Laird are posted in Event Proceedings Synopsis and Program Conference speakers AIRMSHL Geoff Brown AO (Retd) Chair, Sir Richard Williams Foundation Host SQNLDR Sally Knox Sir Richard Williams Foundation MC Jake Campbell AM Triton Program Director Australia Northrop Grumman Australia Contested Maritime Strike and Industry considerations AVM Stephen Chappell DSC, CSC, OAM Head Military Strategic Commitments Whole of Defence Perspective (no PPT presentation) LTGEN John Frewen AO, DSC Chief Joint Capabilities Perspectives CJC (no PPT presentation) COL Casey Guidolin Director ADF Multi-Domain Strike Joint Force Integrator Perspective RADM Stephen Hughes AM, CSC, RAN Head Navy Capability View of Maritime Domain (no PPT presentation) WGCDR Maz Jovanovich CSM Commanding Officer 10 SQN Setting the Conditions for Success Dr Ian Langford DSC and Bars Lockheed Martin Australia The Enterprise Requirements of an Australian Multi-Domain Strike Capability – A Perspective Chris McInnes Sir Richard Williams Foundation The Elements of Strike Nick Miller Optus Enterprise Space Capability MAJGEN Brett Mousley CSC Head Intelligence Capability Intelligence and Targeting Capability (PPT presentation unavailable) AIRCDRE Nick Osborne Director General Preparedness – Air Force Enhancing Preparedness Dr Carl Rhodes Robust Policy Emerging Command and Control Concepts AVM Steven Roberton DSC, AM (Retd) Sir Richard Williams Foundation Policy Perspectives: Strike in the Defence Strategic Review Air Mshl Harvey Smyth CB, OBE, DFC Air and Space Commander, Royal Air Force UK Perspective (no PPT presentation) AIRCDRE Sandy Turner CSC Director General Force Posture Initiatives US Force Posture Initiatives: Contribution to Deterrence AVM Gerry van Leeuwen AM, CSM Head Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Establishing the GWEO Enterprise Speech Transcript Gen. Ken Wilsbach Commander, Pacific Air Forces Enabling Strike in the Indo-Pacific -Pre-recorded video (Video not available)

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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?

  • 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.”

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