Future operating environment

Network Centric Warfare development from the 1990’s accelerated the ADF’s networks that connect ISR assets, decision-makers, and strike assets. The US has recognised in their 3rd Offset Strategy that this approach has since been widely emulated in unique ways by state and non-state actors. This creates vulnerabilities in existing protective networks. For example, ADF protection by establishment of close-in ports and airbases become vulnerable to attack, surface ships become easier to detect at range, non-stealthy aircraft become vulnerable to integrated area defence systems, and Australia’s reliance on space for ISR, navigation and communications services is open to denial and is termed Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2/AD).

Future operating environments are unlikely to be the same as they are currently. The explosion in population growth towards ‘mega cities’ will see an increasing chance of our Army operating in urban environments. Many of these cities will be in littoral environments, where the air, land surface, under-ground, riverine, sea-surface, sea sub-surface, electromagnetic and cyberspace meet. Such environments will be lethal, where urban guerrillas mix with non-combatants in a complex social and technical infrastructure.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Plan Jericho considers a new capability development imperative where “transient advantage is the new normal”. In the past, slow and steady updates yielded a sustainable capability advantage in a relatively predictable environment. Today, the ADF needs to move fast to achieve transient advantages to stay ahead of adversaries in a relatively unpredictable environment. Australia’s significant long-term investments in manned platforms, in the form of future submarines, joint strike fighters, and combat vehicles, remain critical. These stalwart platforms may be ‘capability augmented’ to achieve transient advantages by rapid development of deployable Trusted Autonomous Systems.