The future landscape

The Defence White Paper 2016 provides guidance on the ADF’s strategic direction and capabilities for the future. It aims for a more capable, agile and potent future force, to conduct independent combat operations to defend Australia, protect interests in our immediate region, and contribute to global coalition operations. More emphasis will be placed on the joint force and bringing together different capabilities. This will enable the ADF to apply greater force, more rapidly and effectively, when required. Significant opportunities exist for extended use of robotics.

To provide forces with comprehensive situational awareness, Defence’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities will be strengthened. Defence’s imagery and targeting capacity will have greater access to strengthened analytical capability, enhanced support and space-based capabilities. Armed, medium-altitude unmanned aircraft will improve surveillance and protection. Defence’s ability to contribute to border protection will be enhanced with the introduction of more capable offshore patrol vessels, new manned and unmanned aircraft, and a new large-hulled multi-purpose patrol vessel. The land force will be equipped with a new generation of armoured combat reconnaissance and infantry fighting vehicles. These platforms have the potential to become robotic and autonomous, and to be augmented by off-platform robotic systems.

Over the next two decades, Australia’s defence forces will operate in a geostrategic environment of considerable uncertainty with traditional categories of conflict becoming increasingly blurred. This era will be characterised by protracted confrontation among state, non-state, and individual actors using violent and nonviolent means to achieve their political and ideological goals. National security agencies also face considerable uncertainty as climate change and natural fluctuations in weather patterns, couple with an increasing Australian population to put an unprecedented number of civilians at risk of experiencing increasingly violent environments. Changes in workforce demographics also challenge the technical competence of federal agencies, demanding innovative responses and careful compromises.

Defence has responded to these challenges by increasing future investment in industry innovation and next generation technologies.