As a proud Briton writing to a predominantly Australian audience, I have to tell you that as I work with militaries all around the world I often find myself wondering whether it will be the Australian Defence Force (ADF), rather than the British Armed Forces, that will become the most operationally effective military in the world by 2025.
I don’t say 'most capable' – because some militaries will get vastly greater budgets – but I do say 'most operationally effective', and for the purpose of this article I’m going to define 'operationally effective' in terms of delivering the most operational effect for any given level of taxpayer’s dollars.
I am writing to people who are far more entitled to have a genuine opinion on whether Australia is already the most operationally effective military – and even more entitled to have an opinion on whether they will be in the future. So, giving you the answer is not what I’m trying to do with this blog.
What I want to do is make you think about some of the dynamics and whether you can leverage them in your nation – and that will apply equally to the Australians as well as the other nations reading this. The fundamental concept I’m going to build on is that of leveraging a small quantity to create a far bigger effect:
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it,
and I shall move the world.”
So, together we are going to think about the question of operational effectiveness by considering Australia against three hypotheses:
- Hypothesis 1: The more connected a fighting force is, and more capable its Communications and Information Systems (CIS), the more operationally effective it is;
- Hypothesis 2: The rate of commercial innovation in communications and CIS is vastly outpacing that of defence specific innovation; and
- Hypothesis 3: The military that most effectively leverages commercial networks by adding bespoke military features will have the most effective communications and CIS, and hence (all other things being equal) the greatest level of operational effectiveness.
As you can see from the bio at the bottom of this article, I run the global government business of the mobile satellite services company, Inmarsat. So, fairly obviously, I’m going to mainly focus on using Satcom as an example, but the trends are far more pervasive across communications and information systems.
The more connected a fighting force is, and more capable its CIS, the more operationally effective it is.
This is probably a statement of the obvious. Nevertheless, there are an enormous number of case studies in many nations that clearly validate this hypothesis. The trials and demonstration work done by NITE works in the UK, the US Army’s Mission Command Battle Lab and joint experimentation and trials such as JWID, clearly re-enforce this proposition.
In fact, at Inmarsat, we’ve built a business based on this reality – because I’ve never met a government customer who isn’t challenged every day to deliver more with less. In response to these challenges, we strive to provide solutions through working with our government clients to enable them to deliver more cost effective operational success through the utilisation of our satellite network.
By way of a very simple vignette to help prove the point, last year we loaned a Latin American military some of our IsatPhones for testing.
When I next visited, I was summoned to see a senior Operational Commander because rather than merely testing them, they had decided to trial them on live operations.
Such summons tend to cause trepidation as you don’t know if it’s good or bad news. The Commander actually wanted to share with me the fact that when the team had been trialling the IsatPhones while out on patrol, they had inadvertently run across a senior cartel leader.
The cartel massively out-gunned them, and they were out of very high frequency (VHF) range of meaningful support, but because they had the IsatPhones with them they were able to call in helicopter back up and not only win the encounter, but also capture the drug lord. The commander was clear that without this Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) connectivity, his team would have been in perilous danger.
These kinds of recounts are always a highlight for those of us in an industry that serves the military, it shows how we are helping to connect those who protect. At Inmarsat, I am pleased to say that such feedback is not uncommon. This is a very simple vignette I have chosen to share, and I could give you many more complex ones, but hopefully it’s sufficient to accept the hypothesis that the more connected a fighting force is, and more capable its CIS, the more operationally effective it is as a reality?
Let us now look at Australia and whether the Australian Defence Force has accepted this hypothesis and is building it into its core thinking. Personally, I think Plan Jericho in the Air Force, and Plan Beersheba and Plan Pelorus for the Army and Navy respectively, speak volumes for supporting this hypothesis.
This is Part 1 of Andy Start's blog special - Look for Part 2 coming next week.