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  • Evolving the ADF: Force Design for the Joint Force in the Direct Defense of Australia

    Dr Robbin Laird 10 October 2022 With the reshaping of the ADF as a manoeuvre force operating from the continent and projecting out to Australia’s first island chain and beyond (where desired, needed or appropriate), how then to build out that force going forward? What kind of lethality is needed at what range and with what effect? How to distribute the force effectively and integrate the force to provide the desired lethal effects? How to build out the force within the limits of what manpower, budgets and society can enable? Put in other terms, it is not about coming up with a platform shopping list and then going on a shopping spree and simply adding the new stuff to the force. The ADF can not afford significant disruption to the force as it needs to be able to fight tonight, but does need creative innovation driving forward a more lethal and sustainable force going forward. In my interview with Commodore Darron Kavanagh who is in charge of the Royal Australian Navy’s maritime autonomous systems, he underscored that his focus was on constructive disruption. As he underscored: “if you actually want to deliver something different, if you want to actually get what I’d call asymmetric war fighting effects, then you must be prepared to experiment. “Because those concepts of operations are not going to come from replacing what you have. Or indeed, an incremental improvement of what you have. “You actually have to leverage what the technology will give you. It is because less and less, it’s about a platform. It’s more and more about your intent. So, that’s command-and-control, and the payloads that deliver that intent.” Commodore Darron Kavanagh underscored that the ADF is evolving and building out an ADF capable of effective distributed operations. And maritime autonomous systems will be a key enabler for such operations. To do so, the systems need to be operating in the force as part of the overall operational capability for the force. As the ADF gains experience with these systems, these systems will face ongoing development and experimentation, both in terms of the payloads they carry as well as the operating systems on the platforms, as well as seeing platform development to better enable payload performance and targeted relevance to the operating force. As he put it: “The challenge is being able to field them at the speed of relevance. That is the difficulty in a bureaucracy such as any military. “And so, one of the reasons it’s important to spend that time to work out how do we constructively disrupt? We are not building a one-off system. The focus is upon delivering asymmetric warfighting effects again and again.” During the seminar, several speakers highlighted the importance of relying on robotic systems such as Kavanagh was working with as a key way to ramp up ADF combat capability going forward. This is necessary for manpower reasons (the operational size limits of the ADF), rapid upgrading reasons (software enabled things can be upgraded much more rapidly), cost factors, and the need to ramp up the effects of mass with a relatively small combat force. This is certainly a key part of shaping a way ahead in terms of force design. MAJGEN Anthony Rawlins, Head of Force Design, put the challenge of building out from the force in being to a more lethal and survivable force precisely in terms of looking beyond major platform buys. He started with a core emphasis on ramping up the capability of the force that has to fight tonight. As he underscored: “fighting tonight means going with what you have, and what you can feasibly obtain and field in the short term. We need to as a first imperative immediately and maximally lethal and survivable against a very different potential adversary in the short-term.” He then turned to the development of robotic and autonomous systems as a force multiplier in the short and medium turn as well as laying a foundation for a shift in the nature of the mission-payload mix in the combat force. This is how he posed the transition: “Has the hardening of expensive, exquisite, arguably irreplaceable platforms now reached its logical zenith? This is manifest in the arguments for the cheap or the expendable as a supplement or potentially a replacement for expensive crewed platforms going forward. “Defence is not just investing in exponential developments in autonomy, artificial intelligence, remote sensing, etc, etc as an R and D line of effort. But defence is doing so with a view to fielding capability in the immediate short term. And It hardly meets the definition of survivability to be investing in platforms and capabilities that are designed to be expendable.” In this sense the line between autonomous systems and weapons is a very thin one – the line between a loitering weapon and an autonomous air system when that system is not an expensive UAV but is designed as part of rapid upturn in ISR and C2 capabilities is not very deep. There is no area where the debate about how to shape force design going forward is more significant to the future of the ADF than the focus on lethality. Although there is a clear commitment to add long range strike weapons like Tomahawk to the force, what role do non-lethal tools play in enhanced lethality against an adversary? Rawlins put this point very clearly as follows: “What does it mean for a capability to be lethal in a gray zone or a competition environment? Can we describe a capability that is lethal or at least has effects akin to the definition of lethality in the competition or the phase zero environment? Can cyber or other non-kinetic effects be described, and therefore designed going forward through a lithology lens? “There’s no doubt that traditionally, we would argue and we have argued that they contribute to the efficacy or the impact of other lethal effects. “But the question now is should we consider them in the same way we have traditionally done with our explosive penetrative weapons sets. I can assure you that this isn’t just sophistry for a presentation purpose; it’s truly a force design consideration in the contemporary geo-strategic environment. And this is because many now contend that the cyber domain should be treated as another warfighting domain. In fact, this view is gaining increasing traction in other militaries as well as their own. “Many now contend that it’s no longer just an enabling domain. Lethal and destructive effects of great significance can be delivered through this domain. And it might be the chosen domain, the first domain through which we seek to do so. “But if we look beyond a mortality definition to lethality, into the harmful destructive realm, we’re into designing non kinetic capabilities to achieve lethal or highly destructive effects. We already use a very similar targeting methodology in this domain as well as our traditional domains…. “And it’s argued by many that greater deterrence at a lesser cost is achieved through investment in these types of capabilities.” If we continue with the discussion of weapons and lethality, how to best design a way ahead from a force design perspective with regard to kinetic weapons? Long range strike weapons are costly and are imported from the United States even with a ramping up in the short to midterm of Australian capabilities to participate in a broader arsenal of democracy with allies. What mix of weapons can be built going forward? What targeting options does Australia need? If there is no desire or need to strike Chinese territory directly (as China is a nuclear power), how best to strike Chinese forces to get the kind of crisis management and combat effect desired? Can Australia build a more cost-effective mix of weapons than the United States currently possesses? How to develop partnerships with other allies to do so? How to manage the inevitable conflicts among allies when priorities are dictated by national survival rather than working together an exercise regime? The weapons cost and availability issue was put to me very clearly during a visit to NAWDC in 2020 where I met with Captain Edward Hill, the oldest Captain in the U.S. Navy but who was also the most respected officer on weapons technologies as well. We discussed how the fleet will be empowered by new ways to build out weapons arsenals and provide for adequate stockpiles for the force. 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.” “To get to this point raises a second aspect, namely, working out where one engages an adversary and what weapons mix one might need in that engagement area. With regard to the Pacific, as we address sea denial and sea control reaching out into the Sea Lines of Communications or SLOCs, what weapons mix do we need in which particular engagement zone? It is not going to be all about hypersonic weapons.” At the seminar, the most comprehensive discussion of the challenges facing Australia in shaping a way ahead for the weapons enterprise was provided by Dr. Andrew Dowse, Director, RAND Australia. This is what he argued: “weapon demands might be assessed in terms of conflict intensity and conflict duration. In any substantial conflict, it’s likely that our stocks of exquisite weapons would be quickly consumed. “Even if supply routes remain open, we should not be too confident of resupply for two reasons. “First, high intensity conflict will also most likely involve our U.S. allies the source of most of our weapons. This raises the prospect of divergent allied priorities. “Second, weapons manufacturing over the years has been rationalized to peacetime efficiencies, with limitations on the global ability to surge production. So typically, the high end weapons that we need to fight need to be held in inventory.” He then went on to argue that targeting tradeoffs on high end weapons underscored the need to shape a broader weapons arsenal. “In any conflict, there will be tension in targeting processes between the use of such weapons early in conflict, and ensuring some capabilities are held in reserve. It will be important that the replenishment of weapons during protracted conflict keeps pace with demand. “Thus, it may be reasonable to prioritize domestic production of explosive ordnance and low end weapons that can be supplied in operationally relevant timelines. In developing priorities for inventory and domestic production, which might be somewhat aligned to demands of initial and protracted conflict, respectively, we should consider the value of affordable mass weapons, especially if they might be replenished at a rate that matches demand. “This quality through quantity approach is increasingly being facilitated through technological development, which provides greater precision for less cost. It is a concept that can be applied to employment of multiple weapons against high value targets, including use of asymmetry to simultaneously use dissimilar weapons. “It is also a concept that is relevant to our platforms with dispersion and integration of force elements, enhancing collective lethality and survivability, at the same time, reducing the impact of the attrition of our own force. “Hence, it may be opportune for the ADF to pursue smaller platforms and greater use of network uncrewed systems. And such a concept of reducing the concentration of our force is one that can be extended to passive defense as a significant risk for Australia is that of a pre-emptive attack. “Thus, measures of hardening redundancy, dispersion and disaggregation are critical to ensure that we don’t suffer attrition at the beginning of conflict. And this is not only about the physical domains, but also about protecting systems in the cyber domain.” In short, force design considerations build out from the reworking of how best to deploy, operate and sustain the current force and in so doing identify critical gaps that can be filled in the short to mid-term. Enhancing lethality through working an integrated lethal and non-lethal offensive strike force is a high priority. Leveraging automated systems for appropriate mission sets is a key part of enhancing both mass and reducing the challenge of survivability; when designed to be attributable, survivability is not the dominant consideration for that part of the force. Featured Photo: MAJGEN Anthony Rawlins, Head of Force Design Link to article: Evolving the ADF: Force Design for the Joint Force in the Direct Defense of Australia By Robbin Laird in 10/10/2022

  • The Whole of Nation Challenge: Australia Focuses on the Way Ahead for Defence, Williams Seminar Sep

    Dr Robbin Laird 9 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. With the shift from a primary focus on the away game to the direct defence of Australia, the broader focus on defence and security needs to move from warfighting to war. Or put in other words, the ADF has been focused on the evolution of capabilities for warfighting while working with allies in the Middle East land wars, but now is focused on building defence in depth for Australia in its region. Both efforts entail working effectively with allies; but in the land wars case, the ADF is part of a broader allied logistics and sustainment effort with just in time logistics being sufficient. In the direct defence of Australia case, how to work with allies and with whom in what specific circumstances and to be able to ensure that Australia’s priorities have more than a seat at the table is a work in progress. Because the challenge posed by the 21st century authoritarians, notably China, has a direct impact on the entire paradigm in which Australia has thrived economically and globally, the entire gamut of economic, political, cultural, informational and global trade relationships are involved now in the broader whole of government and whole of nation effort to ensure the survival of Australia as a liberal democratic nation in a congenial global order. The most direct statement of the intersection between the ADF and the nation was made by the new Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond. This is how he put it in his presentation to the Williams Foundation seminar on September 28, 2022: “I believe it’s important to raise our eyes above the tactical level for a moment to reflect on why we build and employ an integrated force. And I say this because what we build and what we do with it matters only in so much as it enhances our national well-being. “Our national well-being like all nations is derived from sustained economic prosperity, and peaceful coexistence with nations. And as a trading island nation connected to the global trading system by seabed cables, and maritime commerce, our economic well-being is almost exclusively enabled by the sea and by the seabed. “Enablement though is not enough. Sustained economic prosperity has only been possible because these systems — freedom of navigation for commerce, and seabed infrastructure which enables our financial and strategic connectivity with the global trading system — have flourished in an environment of acceptance and adherence to the complex array of treaties, laws and conventions that for almost 80 years have been iterated, improved and almost universally supported. “We call this the rules-based order, and we credit it with providing it with good order at sea in the collective interest of peace for all nations. Those of us who understand Australia derives its well-being from this system are alarmed that such norms are being challenged. “We are concerned that the right to peaceful coexistence with other nations can no longer be assumed. As former minister for defence the honorable Kim Beazley stated in Perth last month, and I paraphrase, what right do we have to exist as a sovereign nation of only 25 million people occupying an island continent with room and natural resources the envy of the world? “The answer is the rights conferred by adherence to the rules-based order. The very rights we have assumed to be enduring and beyond contest for decades. But that is no longer the case. This system is now being challenged and our government has commissioned the defence strategic review in response to these challenges. “It is reasonable to conclude that that which cannot be assumed, must be guaranteed. And that is why the lethality and survivability of our defence forces is being re-examined. In this context, there is a direct and distinct nexus between the lethality and survivability of the integrated force and the survivability of our nation. “And this relationship is recognized by our prime minister in the last month. The Honorable Anthony Albanese has stated that he sees the three key principles of our current security policy are to defend our territorial integrity, to protect our political sovereignty from external pressure and to promote Australia’s economic prosperity through a strong economy and resilient supply chains…. “Australia is a paradox. The geography which makes it difficult to invade and conquer Australia also makes Australia dependent upon seaborne trade. In other words, Australia might not be vulnerable to invasion, but the hostile power does not need to invade Australia to defeat Australia.” Unpacking an understanding of the evolving relationship between the nation and the ADF is at the heart of reworking the defence of the nation in the years to come. The defence capabilities which have enabled the ADF to deliver significant but targeted warfighting capability will now be adapted and refocused on Australia’s direct defence and role in its region. But how will this intersect with how national efforts unfold? How will the necessary ADF mobilization potential intersect with the mobilization of the nation? How will the ADF build out its workforce and be supported by the enhanced capability of domestic defence industry to support the ADF in a crisis or sustained conflict? The pandemic as a prologue to the kind of macro crisis which faces Australia highlighted the need for more secure and stable supply chains. How can Australia build resilient supply chains and with whom? How to build the knowledge base with regard to what needs to be protected by such an effort and what can be left to the forces of globalization? The fuel challenge is notably significant as the geopolitics of fuel and setting climate change standards without regard to geopolitical reality will only leave Australia and the liberal democracies vulnerable to energy supply extortion. It is difficult to miss what is going on in Europe and its relationship with Russia as a basic lesson in the relationship between geopolitics and energy. And the question of Australia’s geography is a foundational point for understanding how the ADF will re-deploy and re-calibrate as the nation prioritizes infrastructure in the regions in Australia central to the projection of power from the continent to the first island chain of Australia and beyond. The importance of shaping enhanced capabilities for operations from the North of Australia was a frequent point made in various presentations to the seminar. For example, AVM Darren Goldie, Air Commander Australia, underscored the following: “Australia’s North is key economic, geographic and cultural terrain in the Indo-Pacific. Our sovereign control over the north increases Australia’s role and influence in the region, and with our key ally like never before.” His boss, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, reinforced Goldie’s point as follows: “As we consider strategies to deter conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, we should consider how we might contain conflict geographically and/or within specific domains. And what actions might lead to runaway escalation?” With the return to a priority on the direct defence of Australia, albeit in a broader alliance context, “geography should shape our approach to national security. The ability to deliver effects at a distance from, and in the approaches to Australian sovereign territory will be a critical feature of our future security strategy. Air power will make a vital contribution to our joint force structure and posture in this context.” But he warned that the traditional view of the strategic geography has been modified by technological and warfighting advances. “Our traditional view of a contest in the physical domains is obsolete. Operations in and through the space and cyber domains have extended Australia’s strategic geography. They don’t displace the maritime, land and air domains, but rather demand a lift in our capacity to contest them all, and importantly, integrate our warfighting effects between them in order to conduct joint all-domain operations.” This point highlights another key aspect of how to understand the intersection between ADF development and the shift in focus for the nation for a peace time mindset. The digital enterprises which underlie modern liberal democratic service economies are battlegrounds for cyber warriors. This is clearly not simply the province of the ADF nor primarily the responsibility of the ADF short of total war. And that returns us to the key question of mobilization: what then does mobilization of the nation mean when the liberal democracies have become service economies rather than industrial ones. By outsourcing industry to its main competitor – China – Australia and its allies have outsourced the industrial production central to having an arsenal of democracy in times of conflict. How then might Australia and its allies and partners build or rebuild an arsenal of democracy? And let me highlight a final point with regard to Australian geography and shaping a way ahead for the ADF. In my own view, the kind of integrated distributed force which can evolve from the joint force already created by the ADF is very symmetrical with the blending of a kill web force with Australian geography conceived in archipelagic terms. In an interview I did prior to the seminar, Dr. Andrew Carr provided an insightful way to look at Austral’s geography. This is how he put it: “There is an underlying paradox of is Australia an island or a continent? Determining your focus has important implications for the kinds of defence forces you want to build and the way you think about your relationship with others and the role of the state. “We go back to Athens and Sparta, a land power, and a sea power, fight in different ways, they create different kinds of empires. In the 1980s, when Australia was thinking seriously about home defence and how you would build a force structure for that, the implicit idea was that Australia was an island. “We focused on the SE gap to our north, on long-range understanding of traffic that might come down through the first island chain, developing JORN, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network and other systems like that for understanding that environment. “Our maritime focus drove a lot of our defence policies. There was actually very little conception about how do you use Australia’s own geography for your advantage in a way that the Chinese or the Russians as classic continental powers have done so. And that was appropriate for the time and circumstances. “There are examples of Australians in a crisis thinking about how to leverage our continental advantages. “The classic example is the Second World War, where in desperation we suddenly considered whether Australia needed develop an insurgent or gorilla strategy with the public volunteering to fight the Japanese if they landed in Australia. “Could we trade space for time? But the Australian continent isn’t very useful for such an approach because all of our key population and industrial centers are along the coast often with a mountain range very close to the coast with the result that we are clustered near the sea in de facto “island chains.” He then argued that there was a third approach to conceptualizing Australia’s strategic geography which suggests a way in turn to conceptualize the way ahead for Australian direct defence. “If you look at where people have lived since British invasion in 1788 on this continent, it’s closer to being an archipelagic nation. You have the island of Sydney, the island of Melbourne, the island of Tasmania, the island of Brisbane and Darwin, with vast gaps in between. “Our early patterns of settlement were all about supporting these distinct islands. The Australians didn’t run railways across the continent and have an expanding frontier as the Americans had. Everything ran to the sea because economically it made more sense to send goods to the nearest port, and then send it by ship from city to city, island to island effectively, or off to America or to Europe for trade. “In other words, we have an archipelagic country that has very distinct cultures that are also connected and for a defence perspective, that leads to a different way of operating or thinking about your ability to move across and between settlements, rather than being tied to the direct defence of every specific inch of territory. “How do we extract benefit from such an approach? “How you can we move force between sea and lands seamlessly and recognizing that it’s not simply the defence of your territory but having the ability to move move out into the region in cooperation with partners and allies, where Indonesia is the largest traditional archipelago in the world? “There’s many significant archipelagic nations in the South Pacific, and we are going to need an ADF that is able to operate seamlessly across those environments as well.” This means working mobile basing, force mobility, agile combat employment, leveraging land, sea and air bases to concentrate force against key threats in the region. And with the autonomous revolution at hand finding ways to get enhanced mass of payloads in support of the missions from a diversity of uncrewed as well as crewed platforms. Conceptualizing of Australia’s geography in archipelago terms raises the question of rethinking the ADF as an archipelago defence force and as such can help both in restructuring the ADF in the near to midterm but also providing a sense of priorities for defence modernization and what mobilization of the nation might need to look like going forward. And Carr commented on the intersection of geography conceived of archipelago terms with the evolving force structure of the ADF as follows: “There are clearly many overlaps between the archipelagic concept I’ve put forward and an ADF which is integrated with the U.S. and our allies in a kill web logic across our northern shores and into the Pacific.” The featured photo is of VADM Hammond speaking at the Williams Foundation Seminar on September 28, 2022. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, The Whole of Nation Challenge: Australia Focuses on the Way Ahead for Defence, Williams Seminar 28 Sep (DefenseInfo) 9 October 2022

  • The Evolving Strategic Environment and Its Impact on the ADF

    Dr Robbin Laird 7 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. The launch point for the Williams Foundation Seminar held on September 28, 2022 was the presentation of Dr. Alan Dupont. Dupont provided a comprehensive examination of how fluid and dynamic that environment was for Australia and the liberal democracies. He underscored that several crises were happening at the same time, and that the demand side on nations of having to deal with multiple crises at the same time presented an overload situation. For Australia, this meant that its economy was challenged by several developments at the same time. The pandemic exposed the supply chain vulnerabilities of an island continent. The globalization disruption and re-direction meant that the core relationship between China and Australia which has been part of Australia’s prosperity was significantly undercut. The war in Ukraine posed both supply chain disruptions, economic downturns and brought back dramatically the threat of global conflict. For the nation, Dupont underscored that defence and security were clearly not simply an ADF challenge or to be funded simply by defence budgetary requirements. How to build more secure supply chains? How would doing so disrupt the trade order and the global WTO rules? How to deal with the energy crisis? How to ensure energy supply? How will Australia deal with coal and nuclear energy issues? The broader point was simply that defence was no longer the province of the professional ADF; the global crises posed challenges beyond the remit of a professional force like the ADF could deal with. And what is required was shifting from a peacetime mindset to one which understood the cascading challenges to Australian sovereignty and to the nation. The Chinese challenge to the region is broad based. It is military, it is commercial, it is political, and it is about comprehensive security challenges, such as cyber intrusion and actions like its security pact with the Solomon Islands. Just deal with this challenge alone provided the need for a comprehensive rethink concerning how Australia dealt with its security and defence challenges. This requires a geographic shift for the ADF. This is how Dupont put it on a piece published in The Australian shortly after the seminar: “Our posture is far from ideal. There is an imbalance between where our forces are and where they need to be. Most of the ADF is comfortably located in our major southern cities, along with their equipment and supporting infrastructure and enablers. But the main threats are to our north. Northern Australia is poorly defended and doesn’t have sufficient capacity to support enhanced ADF and allied deployments into the western Pacific, the most likely conflict arena. “None of the navy’s major fleet units are based in the north. People’s Liberation Army intelligence collection and war-fighting ships patrolling the Timor, Arafura and Coral seas know our frigates and destroyers will take days to reach them from their bases in Perth and Sydney. The only significant naval ships in Darwin are patrol boats, which are used primarily for constab­ulary tasks. There is no air-defence system in northern Austral­ia able to protect vital oil, gas and military installations from missile attack.” In other words, the more specific military challenges require Australia to focus on how to use its geography to its and to allied advantage. This means finding ways to work in Western to Northern Australia to Australia’s first island chain. Dupont both in his presentation and in the interview he had with John Blackburn and me a few days after the seminar, highlighted the importance of leveraging the Northern Territory. But to do so he argued that innovative new ways to raise capital for infrastructure development was required. Notably, he highlighted the importance of public and private partnerships to do so. Dupon also underscored that shaping new defense and security infrastructure and training facilities was an important opportunity to involve core allies of Australia, notably the United States, Japan and South Korea, in involvement in building out the defense infrastructure in the Australian continent and find ways to shape more effective integrated training at the same time. It should be noted that building 21st century basing involves force mobility, so the question of how one builds defense infrastructure in this area involves as well significant innovation regarding basing mobility and shaping both Australian and allied capabilities for what has come to be called agile combat employment. Former PACAF chief Hawk Carlisle referred to this dynamic as “places not bases.” During the day, other presenters weighed in with regard to how the evolving environment changed the defence dynamic. For many of the speakers, the focus on defence from the continent to the first island chain required a major focus on how to reset the force for this primary mission set. This meant force mobility and working tradeoffs between enhanced hardening of bases and base mobility. With regard to base protection, what would be the role of active and passive defense? How might the Air Force and Army work more closely to deliver more survivable distributed force basing? What kind of mobile basing was feasible? What role for seabasing in relationship to the force mobility dynamic? What role might civilian assets, such as merchant marine assets might play in such an effort? Longer range strike has been identified a key element of the building out of Australian defence capabilities. In 2018, the Williams Foundation held a seminar which directly dealt with the need for shaping longer range strike for the force. Air Marshal (Retired) Brown had summarized a key aspect of that seminar as follows: “I think we need a serious look within our focus on shaping industry that both meets Australia’s needs as well as those of key allies in the missile or strike areas. “We build ammunition and general-purpose bombs in Australia, but we have never taken that forward into a 21st century approach to missiles and related systems. We should rethink this aspect of our approach. There are plenty examples of success in arms exports; there is no reason we cannot do so in the weapons area, for example.” Since that time, the Australian government has committed itself to do so, but given the threat envelope and the affordability challenges, how best to build out long range strike for the ADF? How to manage targeting tradeoffs? At what range does the ADF need to be able to strike an adversary? How does the ADF manage risks in the targeting areas in terms of getting a crisis management impact without leaving the Australian strike inventory at perilously low levels? How does Australia build a capability with allies in which a range of strike weapons could be built, stockpiled and used in a crisis? How to get a more affordable inventory of weapons? It was not mentioned in the seminar, but the coming of directed energy weapons to capital ships could have a significant impact on the deployed distributed force and deliver enhanced integrated lethality and survivability at the same time. For example, the new Hunter class frigates could deliver such a capability if so configured. And longer range strike is not simply kinetic. What role can cyber offensive operations play in disrupting Chinese military operaitons, supply chains and Chinese domestic control and manufacturing capabilities? In other words, the evolving strategic environment and the impact of multiple crises is setting in motion in Australia the biggest change in defence seen in recent years. And in dealing with this challenge, the ADF re-set will not be defined by the acquisition of big new weapons programs, but by taking the current force, re-setting it, re-deploying it and building out from this effort to force design modernization defined by the gaps identified and the needs which can be met within the short-to-midterm rather than envisaging a force in 2030 or 2040 in abstract war-gaming terms. And if it is only left to the ADF and what the defence budget can fund, the defence and security re-set will fall far short. The featured graphic is a slide from the presentation to the seminar by Dr. Dupont. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, The Evolving Strategic Environment and Its Impact on the ADF (DefenseInfo) 7 October 2022

  • Shaping a Way Ahead for the ADF: Meeting the Financial Challenges

    Dr Robbin Laird 6 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. During my current visit to Australia, I had a chance to discuss challenges facing Australia as the country re-focused on the direct defence of Australia. And such a shift clearly raises questions of shaping forces to defend the perimeter of defence for Australia as well re-shaping the force for this core mission. I had a chance to discuss these challenges with my colleague John Conway, Managing Director of Felix Defence and a Research Fellow at the Williams Foundation. As the ADF moves forward, Conway has underscored the “triangle of tradeoffs” for development of the force, namely, lethality, survivability, and affordability. It is not about investing in balanced force development for its own sake; rather investments need to be directed to those elements of the ADF which can deliver lethality and survivability at the most affordable cost. For a distributed but forward operating force this requires sustainability and an increased focus on mission rehearsal. We focused the discussion on the challenges of enhanced investment in survivability pressuring investments in the lethality of the force, and the overall challenge of affordability due to the general global economic situation affecting the liberal democracies. This is how Conway put it: “I think we’re seeing now an increasing number of unknowns, particularly regarding the business and economics of defence, not just in Australia, but globally, where the impact of a potentially deep-seated recession across all of the Western nations is underway. “A number of risks – supply chain shortfalls, exchange rate fluctuations, fuel costs and others –translate into higher costs, in particular for sustainment. And while the general metrics for measuring defence budgets is a percentage of GDP, and with GDP shrinking, then obviously a % of GDP yields less money for defence. “There’s a clear limit to that overall bucket of money available. And if through the global economic situation, we have to spend proportionately much more of our money on sustainment and training, and in the re-posturing of our force such as with regard to basing and mobility, it leaves less money available to acquire new technology and the new platforms which are necessary to give us a lethality edge. “What we are going to see across all Western defence forces for the foreseeable future is increasing costs through sustainment and force development. This means that less money will be available to buy the new technology and the platforms that the Services require in an environment where the threat is dictating a change in our force structure. “With the money getting tighter and at the same time the threat becoming more demanding, it will be much harder for the ADF to do the things that government might want us to do. One obvious area of investment over and above new platforms is therefore training or more specifically mission rehearsal. “Increasing capability by investing in training systems through existing sustainment contracts would be a great quick way of improving both survivability and lethality.” Featured Photo: John Conway chairing an earlier Williams Foundation Seminar. Conway also argued for the importance for the business sector, and not just those labelled defence companies, to work new relationships with government to be able to deliver the right capabilities for an affordable cost and part of an overall national effort for enhanced national resilience in the region especially for force posture initiatives. This is how he put it: “We need to find innovative ways of bringing money into defence and ways to bring a wider range of industry into the broader social and national defence enterprise so that we can continue to invest in new technology as well as the sustainment systems. “The pandemic plus the knock-on consequences of Ukraine are driving significant pressures in in how we do defence and fund defence. The way the trends are going at the moment with affordability and survivability, they are not acting in our favor. They’re working against us” Conway underscored that notably in the basing, sustainment and stockpiling of capabilities areas, there was a clear need to rethink the template of how defence forces are supported and funded. At the September 28, 2022 Williams Foundation Dr. Alan Dupont talked about the potential of Public-Private Partnerships as an alternative means of funding defence. This is an approach which Conway underscored as an important one going forward. H underscored: “How do we incentivize defence industry to come up with smart answers especially regarding force posture changes? Because they’ve historically been excellent at responding to market conditions to innovate and to make things happen. “There’s a responsibility on defence industry shoulders now to get out front of the problem and start coming up with ideas rather than simply saying, we need to buy more of something, and we need to buy a depot to store it in. “There have to be a smarter way of doing that, which incentivizes industry, but at the same time provides defence with the mission assurance it requires from its supply chains. And we need to unlock market power in another sense, namely allowing companies coming from outside of traditional defence background to bring in new ideas about the development of our critical supply chains, through trusted partnerships rather than simply relying on legacy global supply chains. “We need to start looking outside of defence for new ideas and be more welcoming of new partnerships to deliver the sustainment enterprise we need. We need to break outside our bubble and stop trying to sort the problem out from a narrowly defined legacy defence family. “In spite of the deep challenges, we need to have a winning mindset. “Part of achieving this result is that we need to unlock the power of the private sector and be more open minded about how we manage risk within defence.” Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping a Way Ahead for the ADF: Meeting the Financial Challenges (DefenseInfo) 6 October 2022 Featured Photo: Photo 3587492 / Australian Dollar © Robyn Mackenzie |

  • Shaping a Way Ahead for the Australian Army: The Perspective of LTGEN Simon Stuart

    Dr Robbin Laird 6 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. At the Williams Foundation Seminar on September 28, 2022, the new chief of Army, Lt. General Simon Stuart, provided his perspective on shaping a way ahead for the lethal and survivable within the context of affordable, ADF joint force which the nation needed in the evolving strategic environment. He started his presentation by reminding the audience that war was a national endeavour and required a whole of nation approach. He warned that the duration and brutality of armed conflict often was of a character that those who forecast short and clean conflicts tend to overlook or minimize. Lt. General Stuart warned: “There is a prevailing commentary today that speaks with undue precision and certainty about the ‘next war’. It generally comes from a perspective that focuses exclusively on the changing character of war, which either dismisses or ignores its enduring nature. “It discounts the effects of fog, friction, chaos and individual agency on the course of a war. It describes a symmetrical response in a single modality of warfare. It supposes will can be imposed and can be resisted at ever increasing distance and without having to close with an adversary. “It focuses on the outcome of the first battle or battles rather than the war. It imagines that the next war will be short, decisive and clean. And it confuses targeting and tactics for operational art and strategy. “Unfortunately, history, including Australia’s history, does not support these hypotheses.” The way ahead for the ADF needed to be placed in such a context. He argued that “the unpredictability of war demands an ADF that is relevant and credible in all domains, and integrated – as a system of systems – that has the best probability of mission success whether deterring war or prevailing in its contest.” His comments clearly implied that the shift from the land wars in the Middle East to the direct defense of Australia would form the framework within which Army and joint force modernization would proceed. He identified the way ahead in the following terms for the Australian Army: “to prevail in the 21st century, Army must be protected, connected, lethal and enabled. Army will make a greater contribution at the operational and strategic levels through new and transformed capabilities such as networked long-range fires, littoral manoeuvre, cyber, space, information warfare, and functionally aligned special operations forces. “We are modernising our scalable, world-class combined arms fighting system – which is a system of systems in and of itself. It is the only part of the ADF capable of fighting and persisting in the most lethal of land environments to give our soldiers the best probability of mission success, and the best chance of surviving and coming home. “We are enhancing and expanding our health, logistics, engineering and aviation capabilities, as well as our command and management laydown in order to be better positioned to modernise, scale, and contribute to mobilisation. “We are equally active in modernising the ways in which people can serve to help us generate the flexibility and capacity we need. “We are transforming the way we train, build partnerships, and embrace contemporary learning approaches to thinking and education – to leverage the incredible potential of our people. “Underpinning all this is the application of new and emerging technologies. We are focused on four areas: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, Quantum and human performance optimisation through an applied, ‘learn by doing’ approach with industry and academia. “We are also adjusting our posture by leveraging the potential of our Total Workforce System (full-time, part-time and everything in between), investing capability and seeking to leverage joint basing opportunities and the dispersal and resilience of our estate across the 157 Army locations that span the breadth and depth of our nation.” He concluded by identifying what he sees as two key challenges to delivering the right kind of Australian Army force appropriate to the challenges facing Australia. “The first is what might be described as conventional wisdom that describes with great certitude how the next war will unfold. It is a perspective that does not contemplate an ADF that will need to be able to fight on land, in complex and urban terrain and among populations – either in support of Joint Force air and maritime manoeuvre, fires, or indeed to prosecute Joint land combat. “The second is how this thinking intersects with the necessary prioritisation of resources. The land domain is the least modernised and Army the least capitalised service. “This in itself is not the issue – but reapportioning resources beyond the point where the ADF is relevant and credible in the land domain most certainly is the point. These two contemporary challenges are consequential for the future of our Army, for a relevant and credible Australian Joint Force. Our quest for an integrated force is built on the assumption that we are more than the sum of our constituent parts – but equally each of the parts must be viable in the first instance. “ He pointedly ended his presentation by arguing that “With a 60-year-old Armoured Personnel Carrier at the core of our Joint Land Combat system and a sustained campaign by some to scuttle it’s planned and long overdue replacement.” It should be noted that Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown, Chairman of the Williams Foundation, specifically commented to the Army Chief that a 60 year old weapon system should be in a museum, not on the battlefield. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping a Way Ahead for the Australian Army: The Perspective of Lt. General Simon Stuart (DefenseInfo) 6 October 2022

  • Air Marshal Robert Chipman on Shaping a Way Ahead for the RAAF within the Integrated Defence Force

    Dr Robbin Laird 5 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. Air Marshal Robert Chipman has participated in Williams Seminars for many years. Initially, he appeared as part of the Plan Jericho leadership team, and the kind of innovation which that team focused upon for the RAAF has been a key element of his focus during his career. As part of his career, he served as Australia’s Military Representative to NATO and the European Union, As I am also based in Paris, France, I was hoping to meet him in this capacity in Europe. But the COVID crisis took that option off of the table, and reduced our interactions to phone calls while I was in Europe from time to time. During my visit to his office in Canberra after the latest Williams Foundation seminar, we started by focusing on how he saw his experience in Europe as folding into his new role as Chief of the RAAF. According to Air Marshal Chipman: “It was my first experience of a multilateral institution. It’s the first time I’d ever see nations trying to work together as an alliance to find out where their middle ground is and where they can work together. “NATO relies on the consensus of allies to guide collective security efforts, but that also means the space for NATO to operate is small when nations disagree. NATO has proven effective in managing disagreements among allies. However, the strength of the Alliance comes when there is a clear security challenge, such as we have seen with the war in Ukraine. “But it is clear that it is impossible to do everything you need to do for your defence and security through a single alliance. You have to have multiple working relationships to determine which path will allow you to achieve your objectives in a particular case. “Within NATO there are several alliances, in effect. “For example, there is a line of cooperation among the Nordic states and the southern European states. In other words, the alliance is in effect a complex spider web of international engagements. “I was there as the Alliance was coming out of Afghanistan and focusing more on great power deterrence. There was a refocus on peer competitor warfighting concepts. And this shift clearly has been important to shaping my thinking now as Chief of Air Force and certainly to my input to the Defence Strategic Review.” We then focused on the shift towards more emphasis on the direct defence of Australia and what that meant for the RAAF and the joint force. And clearly given the financial challenges facing Australia and its allies in the wake of the pandemic and the Ukraine war shock, such thinking needs to find ways to leverage the force Australia has and to rework in a more effective template for direct defence. This is how Air Marshal Chipman put it: “You are certainly right about the challenges of rapidly building more defence capability. We need to focus on ways to enhance dispersion, agility, movement, and manoeuvre as a force. “We need to understand how we will manoeuvre as an air force and that encompasses the ground and air infrastructure that’s required to do that. And we need to manoeuvre as a joint force. We need to have a joint scheme of manoeuvre that involves both ground and air elements. And in building out the ADF as a joint force, the challenge is to enhance the readiness and capabilities of the current joint force to deliver enhanced capabilities for the direct defence of Australia but at the same time position the ADF for force modernization and capability enhancements. Managing this trade off is a key challenge facing the RRAF and its sister services making up the joint force. Air Marshal Chipman at the Williams Foundation Seminar, September 28, 2022. Air Marshal Chipman underscored: “We will fight with what we’ve got today. And for the next 20 years, possibly up to 80% of our future order of battle will have already been fielded today. “But If you look at the quality of our platforms and the quality of the training and the quality of our people, then we’re as well placed for a nation of our size as we could be with our air power, with what we’ve got today. But the challenge can be put this way. He noted: “It’s how we use air power to achieve that agility, how we use it to make sure that we are survivable and that we can get mass to the right point when we need it to influence the battle space. It’s that approach that we are changing with our focus on force agility. “We are focused on agile combat employment and thinking about dispersal, moving quickly, moving lightly, even with F-35, taking small numbers of maintainers and less support equipment than we would typically require at a major base. “Our approach will take us to a kill web environment, but we will be looking for ways to accelerate our mission threads in such an environment and we’ll be looking for ways to make sure any new capabilities are integrated and operational as quickly as possible. “And the two areas that are of greatest focus to me are integrated air missile defence and space. With the integrated air and missile defence piece, there’s a lot of opportunity to work with Army. “With regard to the space domain, we are focused on the evolving interfaces between air and space. With effective integration, we can have joint fire systems so that I can achieve effects throughout the joint force from common systems. “I believe that the integrated air missile defence project is a genuine step along our pathway to fielding a kill web.” Air Marshal Robert Chipman, AM, CSC Air Marshal Robert Chipman joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1989 as an Officer Cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy, graduating from Sydney University with an Honours degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1992. He completed Pilot’s Course in 1994, F/A-18 Operational Conversion in 1995 and Fighter Combat Instructor Course in 1999. Following various operational and instructor assignments, he commanded No 75 Squadron from 2006-2009 and No 81 Wing from 2013-2014. In 2008, No 75 Squadron was awarded the Duke of Gloucester Cup for the most proficient flying squadron and the Kittyhawk Trophy in 2009 for the most proficient fighter squadron. Air Marshal Chipman has staff experience in capability development roles within Capability Development Group and Air Force Headquarters. He has completed a tour as Director of the Australian Air and Space Operations Centre within Headquarters Joint Operations Command. He was an inaugural Director of Plan Jericho in 2015, an Air Force transformation program intended to deliver joint, integrated air and space capability for the Australian Defence Force. On promotion to Air Vice-Marshal in 2019 Air Marshal Chipman served as Australia’s Military Representative to NATO and the European Union. He was the Head of Military Strategic Commitments, responsible for the strategic level management and situational awareness of current and potential Australian Defence Force commitments from January 2021, until his selection as Chief of Air Force and promotion to Air Marshal in July 2022. Air Marshal Chipman deployed on Operation SLIPPER in 2012 as a Battlecab Director in the United States Air Force 609th Air and Space Operations Centre. He deployed on Operation OKRA in 2014 as inaugural Commander Air Task Unit 630.1, for which he was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross in 2015. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2019 for his exceptional service to the Australian Defence Force in coalition air operations, air combat capability preparedness, and strategic capability development and sustainment. Air Marshal Chipman has completed a Masters in Business Administration and graduated as a fellow of the Defence and Strategic Studies Course in 2016. He is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership Programme. He is also an alumni of the Cranlana Institute and has completed the United Nations Senior Mission Leaders Course. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Air Marshal Robert Chipman on Shaping a Way Ahead for the RAAF within the Integrated Defence Force (DefenseInfo) 5 October 2022

  • What does it take for Defence tech innovation to succeed?

    This year has seen three Defence Innovation Hub (DIH) Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) innovation successes become open source. These innovations are exemplars for how Defence tech innovation can succeed, and shine a light on important considerations for future innovation activities. The greatest of those three (so far) is the Ascent Vision Technology (AVT) CM234 Spitfire Gimbal, which was chosen as the primary electro-optic (camera) and targeting system for Defence’s Tactical UAS. The inclusion of the CM234 Spitfire in the project replacing 20th Regiment’s RQ-7B Shadow 200 under LAND129 Phase 3 was announced in March 2022, with the project itself having been confirmed by Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) in 2021. The other two are spun out of the first ever DIH Special Notice in 2017, the Small UAS (SUAS) of the Future challenge. They are: SYPAQ Corvo-X SUAS, announced in March 2022 by SYPAQ as their product bid for LAND 129 Phase 4B, the project replacing the RQ-XX Wasp AE; and AVT CM62 Micro-Gimbal, a very small electro-optic (camera) system, announced in 2021 as production ready and bid by another L129-4B tenderer as included in their tender. These three stories are something to be proud of. These capabilities illustrate how Army can successfully team with industry to take whiteboard ideas to technology innovation in production. But the journey wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. These properties make them fantastic case studies, so let’s look at five big lessons to learn… A flood of good ideas. Since DIH opened in 2017, approximately 17% of all submissions are for uncrewed technologies. These submissions resulted in approximately 25% of awarded DIH contracts. Lesson: ADF is spoiled for choice. We can be confident that our UAS, robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence industries are something that Australia could be great at, globally, if we invest in these early years. However, the Service capability managers are swamped. It is not usually part of their duty statements and is above and beyond their core role of delivering their major projects. Fix: Tech innovation must be resourced to succeed and steered by challenge statements. Start-ups: The three highlighted success stories started as efforts of the Army UAS team within the Battlefield Aviation Program and small to medium enterprise companies with a technology innovation focuses, as low Technology Readiness Level Concept Explorations i.e. collaborations around whiteboards with subject matter experts. Lesson: Capability managers need to care and allocate time to early tech collaboration, to understand how innovation contracting is undertaken (as opposed to ASDEFCON contracting), as well as play the long game. Further, they need to be faster and more agile in their policy/procedure approaches, particularly given that Defence is not used to working and contracting with start-up companies. Fix: Train capability managers in innovation phases, talent identification, partnering and support requirements, including light-touch, agile contracting. This could be led by the Defence Innovation Hub or the Office for Defence Industry Support. It takes time: All three of these success stories started on whiteboards in 2017/8. That’s 4 to 5 years to get them to production or at least mature enough to be tender-ready. Lesson: The expectation that you can just ‘do’ innovation between first and second pass government approval, when the risk reduction activity funds are available, is flawed. Tech innovation has to happen early, at or before Gate 0 and in concert with concept led capability and prototype development. Depending on the need, this might mean responding to the concept, or driving it. Fix: Build tech innovation into the Gate 0 of capability life cycle as a standard feature. Funding: SUAS of the Future is, to the best of my knowledge, the only DIH Special Notice that has been kicked off by major project funds. It worked because there was a known time of approximately 4 to 7 years until L129-4B, was championed as a concept by the senior leaders such as the Chief of Army and Head Land Capability (HLC), supported by the Chief Defence Scientist (CDS)) and driven by motivated staff who were playing a long game. The strategic goal of that L129-4 seed funding was to ensure that Australian Industry competed for L129-4B. That goal has been met. Lesson: Project funded Special Notices can work, but they need to be triggered at project commencement, or earlier under development funding, if we’re to expect that industry will be able to bid that innovation / technology at second pass government approval. Fix: In conjunction with building it into the process as a standard feature, tech innovation needs to be funded from Gate 0 of capability life cycle as a standard feature. Phase transition, where the tech is evaluated and approved to receive more investment: This was not simple and needed to be argued to new decision makers at each phase transition in each case. In the case of the Sypaq Corvo-X transition to Phase 2, despite Army funding being available and allocated, the DIH phase transition process was very immature.We had to work around the system by undertaking Phase 2 Technology Demonstration as an Army Innovation Contract; disrupting the flow of innovation development by jumping responsibility from the Hub, to Army: slow, clunky and highly inefficient. The optic had changed for Corvo-X’s Phase 3 transition, which returned prototyping to a DIH Contract. Fix: Phase transition should be assumed and planned for, and work to transition should be scheduled appropriately ahead of current phase completion. Criteria for off-ramps should be clear, and off-ramp health indicators established ahead of Phase completion. I.e. assume success rather than failure. If one chooses to look closer, there are three additional, albeit smaller, lessons to also learn: Championship of an innovation project can not be assured due to posting cycles. Five years to go from whiteboard to production is two or three posting cycles for the responsible staff officers/decision makers. If the replacement staff officer doesn’t believe in the innovation or can’t find the time, there is a good chance the innovation will wither on the vine. Fix: Championship, Commander’s intent and issued directives from the senior leaders above the staff – this will hold the new staff to account. Recognition. Due to the time to go from whiteboard to production, and those posting cycles, it is very difficult to recognise the effort and vision of the innovation staff officers: It’s almost impossible to deliver real innovation in a single posting cycle as our Defence processes take too long. Achieving strategic outcomes over a long game and real Australian Industry Capability development is conspicuous and commendable. I’m sorry to say that sometimes it is a point of criticism of those staff officers: I have heard it said by senior leaders and peers; “Why would you waste your time on that?” and “They’re not a prime, it’ll never get up, so it’s a waste of time.” This is very similar for minor projects staff officers where our people are generating significant strategic effect by filling capability gaps in their Services, but rarely complete the task in one posting. Stirling service and strategic foresight in both scenarios is rarely recognised. Our innovation system is not innovative. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that we have the DIH, but these contracts have not moved at the pace of the technology or at the capacity of the innovation companies. In the case of the L129-4 funding, the first year of funding was lost (unspent) because the DIH took so long to spin up the Special Notice framework. If we are to replicate and improve case studies such as these three, our processes need to be made much more effective. Innovation should not be treated under standard procurement processes. I am hopeful, but not at all confident given it has been a full year now, that last year’s review of the DIH will yield the improvements necessary to have an effective innovation system. The release of these stories come at a perfect time as it aligns with industry strategy to celebrate our successes. They are stories to be proud of for anyone involved. They prove that through partnering with Australian Industry Capability, Defence can make a real difference to generating a warfighting advantage. By extension, they show that capability development can be done in many different ways along with the traditional support given by the Primes. But it could be so much better! Above are eight lessons for how to do innovation better. If you are running a project (top down) or pitching for a Brigade Innovation Day (bottom up), these lessons are applicable and I hope can generate real, winning tech innovation for you. Wing Commander Keirin Joyce, CSC is an Air Force officer who has been supporting UAS technology development within the ADF for the last 15+ years.

  • The Scene Setting for the Next Phase of ADF Development: The Williams Foundation Seminar, Sep 22

    Dr Robbin Laird 1 October 2022 The most recent Williams Foundation Seminar was held in Canberra, Australia on September 28, 2022. The seminar was entitled, “Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force.” The seminar in effect provided a scene setting for discussing the next evolution of the ADF generated by the evolving strategic environment and the much wider demand side of dealing with security and defense that really requires a whole of nation approach. Since 2018, the Williams Foundation seminars have turned towards the major transition facing Australia and its partners and allies namely, the global confrontation between the 21st century authoritarian states and the liberal democracies. Rather than simply maintaining a “rules-based order,” the ADF and its allies and partners are now contesting the clear efforts of the major authoritarian powers to displace this order and replace it for a world safe for the authoritarians. And we have seen the Russians move from “hybrid warfare” to open industrial age warfare with some new aspects of the conduct of war introduced into the war as well. We have entered a new historical epoch, and determining how to deter, defect, contest and defeat major powers becomes part of the new context facing the ADF and the Australian nation. There are obviously no quick fixes for such challenges, but a major re-orientation for the ADF and Australia is required. As has been noted by a sage former senior U.S. defence official: “We have 80% of our force now which we will have in 20 years.” This means that reworking and reorienting the force you have but introducing new elements to make your force more lethal and survivable is a major part of the challenge from a force building perspective. The seminar speakers highlighted various aspects of what needs to be done to provide for rethinking the way ahead for the force but in the context of what is realistic to do as well as what needs to change to get the job of deterrence done effectively. At the heart of the shift is focusing on the direct defense of Australia, and working Australian geography to advantage. This means that the joint force needs to focus on how to work together to defend the continent and project relevant power into the region. The Australian Service Chiefs attending the Williams Foundation Seminar. This means as well that the new power projection instruments – those represented by cyber and space – neither of which is geographically limited are now part of the deterrence and warfighting efforts. If we can consider there is a return to a core focus on the direct defense of Australia and shaping an understanding of the strategic space defining Australia’s defense perimeter, how might the current ADF force be restructured in a template which allows for the kind of innovation going forward that will enhance ADF direct defense capabilities? How might new capabilities be added over the near to mid to longer term that enhance this defense restructuring to extend Australia’s direct defense capabilities? In other words, if one focuses on the priority of the direct defense to Australia, what kinds of force restructuring might be necessary for the current ADF? And then ask what new capabilities are coming into the force or could be integrated into the force in the near to midterm, what would that ADF look like as an integrated combat grid over the extended area of operations? If one re-shifts the focus of your force, one has to ask what is most relevant and what is not in such a strategic shift; and then determine what one needs to form the relevant concepts of operations for that force, It is crucial as well to find cost effective ways to enhance that forces capabilities and train appropriately to shape the most lethal and survivable force possible within the various constraints facing the nation. But that raises another key point. If indeed the priority of the defense of Australia is from the continent to the first island chain, then the resources necessary to do so are much greater than the ADF will possess. What kinds of infrastructure can be built in the relevant areas of sustained operations? How to enhance force mobility throughout the region? How to shape mobile basing options and capabilities? These challenges obviously require key innovative efforts for reshaping the joint force and requires government to consider investments and approaches beyond that which would be considered narrowly considered for a defence budget. The September 28, 2022 seminar provided a significant look at the reframing challenges and to how to think about the way ahead. This is how the Foundation invitation highlighted the seminar: Aim The aim of the September 2022 seminar is to examine specific measures which enhance both the lethality and survivability of an integrated Australian Defence Force. It will examine gaps and opportunities in the 5th generation force and identify priorities which accelerate preparedness for complex, sustained, high intensity operations. Background Since 2013 the Sir Richard Williams Foundation seminars have focused on building an integrated 5th generation force. Recent seminars have evolved from the acquisition of new platforms to the process of shaping and better understanding the environment in which the integrated force will prepare and operate. Moreover, they have highlighted the challenges of acting independently at an accelerated tempo and in sustained, high intensity, complex operations across all domains. Almost a decade later, the 2022 seminars reflect on the journey towards a 5th generation force and identify gaps, opportunities, and priorities for the development of next generation capability in the face of new threats and new risks, paving the way for the 2023 seminars. Despite the operational challenges, the framework and apparatus of the 5th generation force is substantially in place. And while there is still plenty of work to be done, the shift from a focus on platforms to a broader appreciation of an integrated 5th generation system of systems represents an important milestone. As identified in the March 2022 seminar, there is a shared understanding of the scale of the challenges ahead for both defence and industry, and across coalition partners, too. However, the strategic circumstances continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate, driving the need for prioritisation in both what and how we acquire new capabilities. On top of that, there is the challenge of progressing integration with the force-in-being as well as the future force. The need to balance the requirement to ‘fight tonight’ with the ability to meet future threats is vitally important, noting that the force we will have in 20 years’ time will contain 80% of what we have today based upon a series of major systems with an upgradeable software core. Towards a Lethal, Survivable, and Affordable Force The September seminar will develop the ideas identified in March and expand on the theme of an increasingly sophisticated and time-sensitive ‘lethality-survivability-affordability’ trade-off necessary to build a balanced and relevant force. A trade-off which is set within the context of a need for increased deterrence, decision-making advantage, and a commercial reality that we no longer have the time to establish the competitive tension the acquisition system has traditionally demanded to demonstrate best value for money. The seminar will focus on the gaps and opportunities as they relate to the broader requirements of the Australian Defence Force, notably in terms of enablers and integration priorities. Above all, it will focus on preparedness and the need to focus on outcomes which improve training throughput and performance at the force level, backed up by enhanced fuel, infrastructure, weapons, basing, and supply chain resilience. A core consideration will be the need for an increasingly integrated relationship between Defence and system providers to develop the industrial depth and responsiveness necessary for future operations. A relationship which works towards a better understanding of our industrial production capability needs, while recognising that competition in some areas has the unintended consequence of reducing overall sovereign production capability and capacity. Another area of interest is the need for greater exploitation of technology to enhance human performance and decision making at the force level to complement training systems associated with individual platforms and weapon systems. Improving training system effectiveness and efficiency, described in terms of ‘Mission Rehearsal’ at the March seminar, not only increases throughput but also ensures the enterprise is ready to operate across the spectrum of conflict while being disrupted, deceived, and degraded. To introduce different perspectives from elite, high performance sport, the Seminar also includes former Australian test umpire Mr Simon Taufel. For five years he was formally recognised as the world’s best cricket umpire based upon his consistent ability to make accurate decisions under pressure and his ability to integrate technology into real time decision-making. In the final session, Service chiefs will provide insight into their thoughts about the future operating environment and key observations and lessons from the transition to a networked integrated force. In later articles, I will highlight the presentations, as well as insights from interviews conducted in September 2022 with service chiefs, industrialists and analysts to expand the discussion of the challenges and opportunities to meet the challenges discussed at the seminar. Link to article: Evolving the ADF: Force Design for the Joint Force in the Direct Defense of Australia By Robbin Laird in Def 10/10/2022

  • Shaping a Way Ahead for the ADF: Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown Provides His Perspective

    Dr Robbin Laird 30 September 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. The title of the seminar was “enhancing the lethality and survivability of the integrated force.” At the seminar, the three service chiefs as well as the head of defence design provided key contributions to framing answers to these questions. They were joined by a distinguished group of presenters from the analytical world, defence industry and government. And next month, I will publish a report on the seminar itself. The ADF faces a double challenge. First, there is the transition away from land wars to preparing forces for higher intensity operations against global authoritarian powers. I have written several books which address how challenging this shift is for a whole generation of warriors and policy makers who have only known the land wars as a core focus for their defense forces and efforts. But Australia faces a second challenge affecting the future of the ADF as well: where is the ADF going to operate primarily in the direct defense of Australia? What exactly is the defense perimeter for Australia? How best to operate within that defense perimeter? And how to sustain the force for the time needed to prevail in conflict or crisis management? After the seminar, I had a chance to talk with the Chairman of the Williams Foundation, Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown, to get his perspectives on the seminar and the way ahead for the ADF to deal with these challenges. He also provided a preview of the next seminar to be held in the first quarter of 2023. Having written the reports on the seminars since 2014, it was clear to me that the ADF was changing focus from 2018 on with regard to how to deal with the high-end fight. Seminars dealing with long range strike and on shaping a fifth-generation manoeuvre force especially underscored the nature of the shift. According to Brown, “it is becoming apparent that the timeframe for getting it right has shortened up significantly. This means that the normal pace of acquisition to shape the way ahead for the ADF is too slow. Accelerating acquisition for major platforms is very difficult, so we need to look at other elements of the force to do so. “We need to focus on the low hanging fruit to increase more rapidly our defence capabilities. At the seminar, several aspects of such an approach were highlighted, such as rapidly closing the gaps in the communications infrastructure. We need to do the tasks which we can more rapidly bulk up the force. Increasing crewing ratios by looking for ways to shorten the training process. You bulk up the force by leveraging commercial solutions that are available now. “Accelerating the procurement of unmanned systems that can be developed quickly is one way we can get a much better deterrent posture than we have now.” I noted that the entire shift to building out a kill web force provided a solid foundation for doing so as the focus in building out the kill web is focusing payloads to missions, not platforms to missions. And in the robotic areas AI areas there are a number of low hanging fruit, there a number of missions to payload capabilities which can bulk up the force. Brown noted; “We are seeing in the Ukraine conflict a number of examples of the Ukrainians using Western weapons and various gap fillers to do in a month what Western forces would need three to four years to do if we stay in the business-as-usual approach. “We can no longer afford two and a half years of staring at our navels while we decide which path we’re going to go on; we’ve actually got to make procurement to operations decisions in a much timelier manner.” He then highlighted the example which came from a presentation of how umpires made decisions at cricket matches. The core point of that presentation was simply that the initial umpire decisions have a high probability of getting it right; an extended review process added greater accuracy but delays as well. As the presenter put it: “The gut feelings if the umpires were almost always right.” Brown underscored that we need more rapid procurement to operations decision making and lengthy reviews on procurement choices really impeded combat innovation rather than enabling it. And given the compressed time line of dealing with the threats facing Australia meant that time was of the essence in accelerating the ADF’s combat capability. What comes next in terms of the Williams seminar series? Brown: “That is a good question and we are in preliminary stages of sorting that out. I think we will revisit, maybe reinforce, what our priorities need to be going forward. In this seminar, we’ve looked at the challenge of enhancing the lethality and survivability of the force. “I’d like to focus the next one on how to speed up our processes to get enhanced capabilities for that twin challenge in the next three to five years.” Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Shaping a Way Ahead for the ADF: Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown Provides His Perspective (DefenseInfo) 30 September 2022

  • Conference: Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force - Program

    Program and Presentations Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force National Gallery of Australia 28 September 2022 Final Report Dr Robbin Laird Link to the final report on Defense.Info Download Final Report Synopsis and Program Download PDF Presentations Welcoming Remarks and Formal Close AIRMSHL Geoff Brown AO (Retd) Sir Richard Williams Foundation Introduction and MC SQNLDR Sally Knox Sir Richard Williams Foundation Managing Strategic Risk in a Disrupted World Dr Alan Dupont AO Chief Executive Officer, The Cognoscenti Group Thinking Through Tradeoffs Chris McInnes Sir Richard Williams Foundation ACAUST Priorities AVM Darren Goldie AM, CSC Air Commander Australia Mission Rehearsal (video recording) Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach Commander, Pacific Air Forces Research and Analytic Support to the Integrated Force Dr Andrew Dowse AO Director, RAND Australia Controlling Your Destiny John W. Nicholson Jr. Retired U.S. Army General Lockheed Martin Middle East Resilient Communications in Contested Environments AIRCDRE Jason Begley CSM Director General Joint C4, Joint Capabilities Group Delivering on the Promise of Joint All Domain Command and Control Bill Lamb Director of the Multi-Domain Mission Command Operating Unit, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems RAF - Decision Superiority AVM Ian Duguid CB OBE MA RAF Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group, Royal Air Force Decision Making – You and Technology Simon Taufel Integrity Values Leadership Defence Intelligence Enterprise RADM Stephen Hughes CSC, RAN Head Intelligence Capability Chief of Army Perspective LTGEN Simon Stuart AO, DSC Chief of Army Force Design Considerations MAJGEN Anthony Rawlins DSC, AM Head of Force Design Chief of Navy Perspective VADM Mark Hammond AM, RAN Chief of Navy Chief of Air Force Perspective AIRMSHL Robert Chipman AM, CSC Chief of Air Force

  • AVM Donald Bennett: Australia’s Greatest Military Leader?

    Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett arguably is Australia’s greatest wartime leader, yet very few Australians have heard of him. He particularly played a critical role in the formation of Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force in World War II which led to the German's "greatest lost battle" of the war. With the 80th anniversary of the first Pathfinder mission marked on August 18, 2022, Williams Foundation fellow Dr Alan Stephens OAM wrote a retrospective obituary on Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett and was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 30. Celebrating Don Bennett on 80th anniversary of WW2 Pathfinders When Don Bennett died in 1986, the Herald ran a short obituary filed by the Press Association. Descendants of Pathfinders and serving RAAF personnel acknowledged the founding of the Pathfinders group of Bomber Command 80 years ago at a luncheon in Sydney in August. This obituary, coinciding with the anniversary, remembers his contribution to World War II. Years after World War II, Hitler’s minister of armaments and war production, the organisational mastermind Albert Speer, reflected on the bomber offensive waged against Germany. Speer’s verdict was unequivocal: the Allied air forces’ victory represented “the greatest lost battle on the German side”. The Combined Bomber Offensive was the most important sustained campaign fought by any Australians during World War II. It brought the Nazi war economy to its knees, and it crushed the spirit of the German people who enabled it. As the most authoritative historian of the war, Richard Overy, concluded, “it is difficult not to regard the campaign as decisive”. Air Vice-Marshal Donald (Don) Bennett, the Australian who commanded the Pathfinder Force (PFF) that recently celebrated the 80th anniversary of its first mission, was one of the principal architects of that victory. Widely regarded as the technically most brilliant airman of the war, Bennett was a driven man, utterly determined, and ruthless with those who didn’t meet his demanding standards; but he was also an inspirational leader touched by genius. His singular achievement was to bring expertise and method to a campaign that previously had been deficient in both. Context is everything. World War II was a war of necessity (as opposed to a war of choice); it was nothing less than a fight for civilisation against a depraved enemy committing genocide. The consequences of defeat were unthinkable. Set within that context, Don Bennett might be regarded as Australia’s greatest military leader. Bennett assumed leadership of the PFF on its formation in July 1942, at the age of 31, via an already remarkable career. He was born in Toowoomba on 14 September 1910, the youngest of four sons of stock-and-station agent and grazier, Queensland-born George Thomas Bennett, and English-born Celia Juliana, née Lucas. A strict Methodist, Celia was the greatest influence on Don’s character. “Somewhat of a loafer” at school, Bennett worked as a jackeroo on the family property, where he developed an intense interest in motorised vehicles, at one stage helping a neighbour rebuild a Maurice Farman biplane. Unable to follow his brothers into medicine or law because of his modest academic record, and inspired by seeing flying displays by the Wright brothers, Bert Hinkler, Amy Johnson and Charles Kingsford-Smith, Don determined to become a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. He moved to Brisbane, studied science at night school, and was eventually selected by the RAAF as one of only fifteen successful candidates from thousands of applicants. Training began at Point Cook airfield outside Melbourne in July 1930. Australia was mired in the Great Depression, and while the RAAF was able to train pilots, it couldn’t afford to retain them; consequently, Bennett and his fellow cadets had to agree to transfer to the (British) Royal Air Force upon graduation. Don topped his course in flying, and in August 1931 began a four-year commission with the RAF in the United Kingdom. Bennett excelled, flying a wide variety of aircraft, and qualifying for navigator’s and wireless operator’s licences, three different ground engineer licences, a commercial pilot licence, and a flying instructor’s certificate. A teetotaller who was never known to swear, he was regarded by some as an “arrogant aviation obsessive” who “could not suffer fools gladly”. That was a little harsh: Bennett held everyone, including himself, to the highest professional standards, but he could be warm and charming. In April 1935 he met Elsa Gubler, a young Swiss woman. “Ly” was beautiful, intelligent, spoke seven languages, and shone at sport. It was a classic romance: their eyes met, they were both smitten. Four months later they married at the registry office in Winchester. It was to be a close and rewarding union of equals. On their honeymoon cruise to Australia, Bennett asked Ly to help him with a book he was writing on aerial navigation. The Complete Air Navigator became the standard text on the subject. Permanently settled in England, Bennett left the RAF and in January 1936 joined Imperial Airways, where he played a major role in the establishment of international civil aviation. He pioneered long-distance flights to Africa, India and the United States; made the first commercial trans-Atlantic flight; trialled aerial refuelling; and constantly enhanced operational techniques. When World War II started, Bennett became superintendent of the Atlantic Ferry Organisation, flying American aircraft to the UK. He rejoined the RAF in September 1941 and by December was commanding a bomber squadron. Shot down by ground fire over Norway in April 1942 while leading a strike against the battleship Tirpitz, he evaded capture and escaped back to the UK via neutral Sweden. With the Allied armies in retreat, Bomber Command (later joined by the United States Army Air Forces) assumed responsibility for opening a second front in western Europe. But the campaign suffered from a severe absence of method. An official investigation in August 1941 made the alarming finding that, of those crews recorded as having completed their mission, only one in three had been within eight kilometres of their target. This was massively ineffective and unsustainable. The RAF decided to form an elite “Pathfinder” unit to guide the main bomber force and mark its targets. The decision was vehemently opposed by the head of Bomber Command, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, who argued that it would be counter-productive to take the best crews out of his squadrons. Perhaps more to the point, Harris rejected the strategy of attacking “precision” targets such as factories, oil, transport, and power generation, instead cleaving to his conviction that his Command’s primary goal should be to “de-house” the workers who were enabling the Nazi war machine. Overruled by his superiors, Harris personally selected Bennett to lead the PFF, describing him as “the most efficient airman I have ever met”. Initially the Pathfinders were hampered by unsuitable aircraft, obsolescent technology, inadequate training, poor organisation, and obstruction from the recalcitrant Harris. Their first mission on 18 August 1942 was a fiasco. Bennett became the necessary agent of change, applying his unrivalled expertise, intellect and strength of character at every level of the Pathfinder’s activities. Uncompromising standards were set; obsolescent aircraft were replaced by the war’s best bombers, the Lancaster and Mosquito; and vastly improved navigation aids and a sophisticated system of target-marking pyrotechnics were introduced. The best crews were designated as “Master Bombers” and circled overhead targets to marshal the main strike force. Contrary to regulations, Bennett frequently flew on operations. By December 1943 the PFF had grown to nineteen squadrons and Bennett, aged 33, was the youngest air vice-marshal in the history of the RAF. Eighty percent of the tonnage of bombs dropped on the Nazi homeland fell between January 1944 and May 1945, with 95 percent of missions meeting the RAF’s accuracy parameters. Led by the Pathfinders, the campaign “placed a clear ceiling on German war production in 1944, and undermined it fatally in 1945”. It was the greatest lost battle on the German side. The danger was extreme, the cost grievous. Some 3700 PFF aircrew were killed (including 500 from the RAAF), a loss rate of around 44 percent. Bennett was one of the principal contributors to the Allied victory, but he was treated shabbily by the British establishment in post-war commemorations, being the only senior RAF commander not to be knighted. His relationship with Harris was often fractious; while he personally felt that many of his RAF counterparts were prejudiced against Australians. He left the RAF and resumed his career in commercial aviation, with varying success; and he became involved in increasingly far-right politics, again with varying success. His autobiography, Pathfinder, was published in 1958. He died in Slough on 15 September 1986, survived by his wife and two children. Air Vice-Marshal Donald Bennett’s life was defined by his peerless leadership of the Pathfinders. No other Australian held such an important command for so long, and none contributed more to victory in the most consequential war this country has fought. Given that compelling context, it is not unreasonable to suggest that he is Australia’s greatest military leader. Alan Stephens is a historian and visiting fellow at UNSW Canberra. With thanks to the Sydney Morning Herald for permission to repost this piece.

  • Combat Call | #FightReady: What is your recommendation for the Defence Strategic review?

    On 3 August 2022, the Government announced an independently-led review that will consider Defence's force posture and force structure. The Defence Strategic Review aims to help Defence better understand where it should prioritise investment, as well as ensure the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is well positioned to meet the nation’s security challenges through to 2033 and beyond. The review comes on the back of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update which highlighted the region's rapidly changing strategic circumstances, and significant reduction in warning time. In calling for the review, the Defence Minister emphasised the rapidly evolving situation “necessitates an immediate analysis of where and how ­defence assets and personnel are best positioned to protect Australia and its national interests.” According to Minister Marles, the review would also explore opportunities to “better integrate and operate” with the United States, the United Kingdom and other strategic partners. Given the potential for significant change to the structure of the ADF and capability prioritisation, the topic has already generated much discussion on #miltwitter. While it may be tempting to capture your thoughts in 280 characters, The Central Blue is putting the call out for your thoughts in short (300 word) or longer (500-1500 word) formats. Send us your ideas Given the speed of the Review, we want to hear from you by 20 November 2022. Pieces submitted by this time will be eligible for the Dr Alan Stephens Air Power Literary Prize, and be sure to checkout our Author Guidelines before sending your work to Themes to consider Interested to respond, but unsure where to start? Consider writing a response to one of these thematic questions: Strategy & Air Power What is the ADF’s strategy and what role does the RAAF play in it? Is the ADF too focused on one threat? What future strategic challenges require an operational response involving the RAAF? How would you reprioritise air capability in the Integrated Investment program? What investment is required to support ADF preparedness within the air and space domain? What air and space power capabilities do we need to bolster? In what ways should we rely on the AUKUS arrangement? What lessons from recent state-on-state conflict do we need to incorporate into our thinking and investment? What is the role of space capabilities in the current environment? Acquisition, industry & technology What capabilities should we seek to acquire? What are the pro/cons? What do we cut to fund it? What is industry's role in Australia's future strategic posture? Is the acquisition process adequate to meet the current challenges? Are there any other options? What are they? Should we be investing in more creative ISR and IAMD systems (think floating rigs, balloons and other disposable capabilities) in our northern approaches? Personnel & basing What ADF & civilian workforce challenges need to be considered in a potential rebasing program? What incentives and initiatives will be required to attract the right technical expertise away from key population centre's to bases and longer-term deployments? What can be learned from FIFO industries such as mining? How might this model be applied in a Defence setting? Are our air bases suitability agile and adequately prioritised and funded? How agile are infrastructure and estate planning & management processes?

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