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Enabling, force-multiplying capabilities: The glue holding the ‘integrated, focused force’ together

Aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force and United States Marine Corps participate in an Elephant Walk on the RAAF Base Tindal flight line for Exercise Pitch Black 2022. (Source: Defence)

The modern era of warfare requires increasingly complex “enabling” capabilities that serve as the “connective tissues”, allowing the Australian Defence Force to deliver combat power across the domains. Getting them right will be critical and, in some ways, they’re the unsung heroes of the National Defence Strategy and Integrated Investment Program.

The modern era of warfare requires increasingly complex “enabling” capabilities that serve as the “connective tissues”, allowing the Australian Defence Force to deliver combat power across the domains. Getting them right will be critical and, in some ways, they’re the unsung heroes of the National Defence Strategy and Integrated Investment Program.

While much of the public focus has been centred on the “big” and “sexy” items like armoured vehicles, nuclear-powered submarines, fighter aircraft and the like, the unsung hero of the contemporary Australian Defence Force is the critical “connective tissues” behind the scenes.

For many, the often esoteric and non-kinetic nature of the domains of cyber and space – coupled with the less than glamourous nature of logistics, command and control, and even missile defence – means such capabilities are often overlooked.


Yet these areas are set to play an increasingly important role in the future make-up and capability of the Australian Defence Force and the expansion of Australia’s defence industrial base and technologically advanced economy in this era of competitive geopolitical tensions.

Importantly, these “connective tissue” capabilities will form a critical component in the delivery of Australia’s new “strategy of denial” as articulated in the new 2024 National Defence Strategy and the Integrated Investment Program.

With Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles announcing a rapid and expansive increase in the nation’s defence budget over the next decade, these capabilities will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of Australian combat power throughout the Indo-Pacific, the defence of the Australian continent, and our national interests in this period of mounting geopolitical tensions.

The Deputy Prime Minister explained, “This financial year, spending in Defence will be $53 billion. These increases will see annual Defence spending almost double over the next 10 years to $100 billion in the financial year 2033–34.

“It will see Defence spending as a proportion of gross domestic product projected to increase to around 2.4 per cent by 2033–34 ... The growth from 2.0 per cent to around 2.4 per cent of GDP in defence spending is the largest growth since defence spending went from 2 per cent to 5 per cent between 1949 and 1953 as Australia engaged in the Korean War. But taken over a 10-year period, it will be the largest sustained growth in the Defence budget since the Second World War,” the Deputy Prime Minister detailed.

But what does this all mean for these critical “enabling” capabilities?

Securing the final frontier and the digital frontier

Beginning with the key warfighting domains of space and cyber, the 2024 National Defence Strategy and the Integrated Investment Program articulate the need for a significant investment in both areas over the coming decade, with the Integrated Investment Program calling for between $27–36 billion over the next decade.

In the space domain, this investment will see $9–12 billion invested in critical space capabilities, including resilient and survivable space-based communications, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, supported by enhanced space-domain awareness and a new emphasis on space control.

This will see the continued delivery of a “a sovereign‑controlled Australian Defence Satellite Communications (SATCOM) system capability over the Indo‑Pacific” which will include a constellation of communications satellites, paired with supporting domestic ground stations and operations centres as part of a broader, integrated satellite communications management system.

Supporting this, Australia will continue to support the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability in conjunction with our AUKUS partners, the United States and the United Kingdom, with the dispersed locations designed to “provide continuous global detection and observation of satellites and other space objects and increase Defence’s ability to understand and monitor threats to its space capabilities”.

Rounding out the investment in our national space capabilities, Defence will leverage investment to “enhance Defence’s space control capability to deny attempts to interfere with, or attack, Australia’s use of the space domain”.

Shifting to the cyber domain, the government has announced it will invest between $15–20 billion over the next decade to deliver “enhanced cyber domain capabilities to develop both defensive and offensive options to impose costs on malicious cyber activity in an increasingly contested cyber domain”.

The government anticipates that these investments “will provide greater visibility of threats to critical infrastructure, increase the resilience of our infrastructure to cyber attacks, provide new intelligence functions and enable offensive cyber operations” largely through existing programs such as REDSPICE, the nation’s largest investment in Australia’s signals intelligence and cyber capability.

REDSPICE is designed to enhance Australia’s cyber capabilities, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and deliver resilient communications and computer network defence and disrupt options, while also delivering new “offensive cyber capability to support the ADF” alongside “enhanced strategic and operational intelligence” and “increased survivability and resilience of communications, classified networks, and the Australian Signals Directorate’s most critical functions”.

With an increasing focus on the deployability of broader ADF capabilities at the heart of the “strategy of denial” the government’s investment in cyber capabilities will also see significant investment in the “the delivery of an enhanced deployable defensive cyber operations capability for the ADF and a comprehensive training program to support the growth of the ADF cyber workforce”.

Establishing electronic warfare dominance

For most Australians, the most visible component of our electronic warfare capability is Australia’s fleet of E/A-18G Growler fleet; however, electronic warfare capabilities permeate the entire Australian Defence Force and will continue to play an increasingly important role in the future “soft” capabilities across the “integrated, focused force”.

In order to deliver this, the government’s Integrated Investment Program outlines a $2.7–3.7 billion investment to further integrate the nation’s electronic warfare capabilities while also supporting the research and development of next-generation electronic warfare capabilities in conjunction with partners under the auspice of organs like AUKUS Pillar II.

Targeting, long-range strike and guided weapons enterprise

Perhaps belatedly, Australia has accepted that we are living in the “missile age” which has served as the driving force behind the nation’s push to rapidly accelerate and increase the long-range strike capability of the Australian Defence Force and the supporting industrial infrastructure that will serve as a critical input to the “whole-of-nation” response to the deterioration of regional security.

To support the delivery of Australia’s long-range strike ambitions, the government has announced it will invest $28–35 billion to “develop and enhance targeting and long‑range strike capabilities across Defence”. It should be noted that this is separate to the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise (GWEO) which is set to receive $16–21 billion worth of investment.

As part of this investment, the $28–35 billion government investment will also pave the way for Australia to acquire a suite of advanced long-range strike missiles and develop robust domestic weapons stockpiles and developing and integrating targeting capabilities, including sensors and ICT systems, to “ensure these weapons can be used effectively”.

Navy is set to receive the planned Tomahawk cruise missile system to be integrated on the Hobart Class destroyers and Hunter Class frigates (subject to a feasibility study) and the future Virginia Class submarines. These strike missiles will also be complemented by the acquisition of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II, SM‑2 and SM‑6 missiles capable of being deployed in the Hobart Class destroyers and Hunter Class frigates, alongside the planned Naval Strike Missile integration across the surface fleet.

Army’s planned acquisition of the HIMARS capability will continue as planned, with the integration of both the Precision Strike Missile and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions, enabling the Army to eventually hold adversaries at – as described by the Deputy Prime Minister – “tactically and strategically relevant ranges in excess of 500 kilometres”.

This will be supported by the raising of an additional long-range fires regiment, providing Army with a persistent, land-based maritime strike capability. In order to enhance the targeting capability, Army will also receive a new land-based radar and communications system designed to “extend Army’s sensor and command and control networks”.

Air Force will proceed with the integration of the Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) capability into the Air Force’s fleet of Super Hornets, P-8A Poseidon, and F-35A, with further analysis into the integration of the Joint Strike Missile, the air-launched version of the Naval Strike Missile with the F-35A on the agenda.

In addition, Air Force will proceed with the integration of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) onto both the Super Hornet and F-35A that “will enable Air Force to defeat a more diverse set of land targets at longer ranges”. Air Force will also proceed with the integration of the Northrop Grumman Advanced Anti‑Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) onto the EA‑18G Growler and the F‑35A Joint Strike Fighter will improve Air Force’s ability to disrupt potential adversary surveillance and targeting capabilities.

Finally, Air Force will begin the development of “hypersonic air‑launched weapons for employment from the F/A‑18F Super Hornet will provide the ability to engage targets at longer ranges with high‑speed weapons” which will be further complemented by the development and acquisition of loitering precision munitions and their “associated launch platforms”.

Supporting this is the government’s $16–21 billion investment in the GWEO Enterprise, designed to enhance Australia’s self-reliance, enabling Australia to “produce, maintain, repair and overhaul select weapons” and is supported by the development of necessary “mass” through the acquisition of “sufficient stock of weapons and munitions to help ensure sustained operations in a time of conflict”, in accordance with the key objectives of the 2024 National Defence Strategy.

Integrated air and missile defence

Defending both mainland Australia, our outlying territories and deployed ADF forces will require a flexible, adaptable, and “layered” approach to delivering integrated air and missile defence capability. Delivering this, Defence will continue its investment in the advanced Joint Air Battle Management System as part of AIR 6500, along with continued investments in the JORN network and next-generation radar technology and sensor capabilities developed through CEA Technologies.

These developments are to be complemented by a suite of technologies “in space-based sensors and geospatial intelligence capabilities, to detect and locate air and missile threats” and continued investment in the existing E-7A Wedgetail capability ahead of its scheduled replacement. Feeding into this, the government has committed to the acquisition of enhanced variants of the NASAMS capability currently in service across NATO countries, along with the development of “counter‑small uncrewed aerial systems in response to the proliferation of uncrewed aerial systems and loitering munitions”.

Importantly, this “layered approach” will serve to provide additional mass and economic benefits via the GWEO Enterprise, best described by the Integrated Investment Program, which stated, “This layered approach to IAMD also includes strengthening Defence’s reserve of munitions and providing the ability to scale up the production of munitions through the GWEO Enterprise.”

Theatre command and control and logistics

While by far the “least sexy” of the key, “connective tissue” announcements, both theatre command and control and logistics are arguably the most vital components of military power outside of kinetic effects to the successful and sustained defence of Australia and its interests.

In recognising the importance of these two capacities, the government has committed $11–15 billion over the next decade for theatre command and control investment, with an additional $15–21 billion in support of critical theatre logistics capabilities.

The investment in command and control capabilities is designed to support military and civilian leaders make time-sensitive decisions quickly, while undermining an adversary’s potential response time, thus limiting the tactical and strategic effects it can bring to bear, while complicating its risk calculations.

This multi-billion investment is designed to enhance and modernise “Defence’s joint, sea, land and air warfighting command and control systems and intelligence capabilities” as they “directly support ADF operations and provide strategic decision‑making advantage”, enabling Australian and allied forces to take the initiative across the Indo-Pacific.

John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I, famously said, “Infantry wins battles, logistics wins wars”, in recognising this fact, the Australian Defence Force and government have committed $15–21 billion in support of critical theatre logistics capabilities over the coming decade.

This emphasis is designed to, as the Integrated Investment Program stated, “underpin the ADF’s posture, preparedness and ability to deter threats and project force”. Importantly, this will lean into the “whole-of-nation” emphasis of the 2024 National Defence Strategy, with the government calling on this approach to integrate “this system with civil society and civil infrastructure will also be strengthened, as a key element of national resilience and National Defence”.

In order to deliver this capability, Defence and the government will establish “additional logistics centres and capacity in central and northern Australia to enhance Defence’s ability to rapidly move forces and supplies where they are needed”, with an emphasis on resilience and dispersed supply nodes across the nation to leverage industrial and population centres while also securing national security.

One of the long-recognised vulnerabilities of Australia has been our lack of fuel security, particularly when it comes to liquid fuel oils, along with the collapse in Australia’s domestic refining capacity, all of which culminates a major tactical and strategic vulnerability, not just for the Australian Defence Force, but also the national economy in the event of hostilities across the Indo-Pacific.

In recognising this, the government and Defence stated, “Defence will continue to work with industry, the Commonwealth, and state and territory governments as part of a national approach to improving the resilience of its fuel supply ... The government is investing $3.7–$4.8 billion in improvements to develop and enhance fuel holdings and storage and distribution capabilities. Defence’s current deployable bulk fuel distribution capability will be replaced and modernised with new vehicles and systems that will provide timely and reliable transport, storage, and distribution of fuel.”

Finally, the government will invest around $1 billion to provide for the next generation of the ADF’s deployable health system to provide “a cutting‑edge deployable military healthcare capability, including the delivery of clinical and operational medical training and shelters and other deployable infrastructure”, with this to be supported by the development of a robust, survivable healthy knowledge management system.

Final thoughts

The rapidly deteriorating geopolitical and strategic environment that is transforming the global and regional security paradigm requires a realistic analysis, assessment, and acceptance by Australia’s policymakers.

Whether or not the right assessments and assumptions have been made in developing the 2024 National Defence Strategy and the Integrated Investment Program remains to be seen, we now have a doctrine (at least in part) and the plan (for the most part without an updated Force Structure Plan) about how and what the ADF of the next decade will look and function.

For the time being, I have two key questions, first, how committed to the developments outlined in both documents is the government and the opposition for that matter, and second, are we being ambitious enough in securing our national interest and security?

If we are going to emerge as a prosperous, secure, and free nation in the new era of great power competition, it is clear we will need to break the shackles of short-termism and begin to think far more long term, to the benefit of current and future generations of Australians.

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific region and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of partisan and bipartisan agenda setting in the comments section below, or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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