Major General Gus McLachlan, Commander Forces Command, discussed the role of Army's Accelerated Warfare doctrine in helping the service and industry collaborate to develop the capabilities of the future.
"Army in motion and accelerated warfare essentially boil down to: change is normal, lets make Army more agile and flexible across the board," MAJGEN McLachlan told Defence Connect.
Accelerated warfare seeks to identify the key future touch points for Army, while identifying the role it will play in future conflicts as part of the ADF's joint force. New Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr identified four areas of disruption for the Army to respond to in the coming decades, namely:
- Geopolitics: The Indo-Pacific regional order is defined by a rapidly changing threat environment and operating spectrum of co-operation, competition and conflict. The days of unchallenged coalition operations are quickly fading as state and asymmetric actors all develop capabilities that threaten the natural advantages Australia and her allies have leveraged for supremacy over the past 50 years.
- Threat: Indo-Pacific Asia's operating landscape is changing. Adversaries, including violent extremist organisations and state-based threats can now control and influence all operating domains. Future strike capabilities will not just be physical but also digital, executed often at the speed of a mouse-click. Sophisticated anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capabilities offer the ability to deny manoeuvre while distributed systems that are ‘smarter’ and smaller are becoming increasingly essential to survivability. Networking will be critical in terms of generating a system capable of ‘co-operative engagement’.
- Technology: As in civilian life, technology is changing the way war is fought. The rapid development turn around of technologies like UAS, the proliferation of non-traditional intelligence gathering devices, the convergence of big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and precision strike capabilities all present significant challenges, not only to operations, but to the decision making process of soldiers and commanders.
- Domains: The reach of sensor and precision fire means Army must be across all domains and comprehensively integrate across them. Space and cyber have not been fully contested in previous wars and there is limited knowledge on how conflict in these domains will play out in the future. Army's ability to operate in the traditional air, sea and land domains are at risk of being debilitated from space and cyber, yet there is also great opportunity in these domains for military advantage.
In responding to these unique challenges, Army has established Accelerated Warfare as not only the successor to Plan Bersheeba, but the next stage in the evolution of the Australian Army into a fully-fledged, combined arms fighting force for the 21st century battlespace and every domain that may encompass.
"In Plan Bersheeba we have the spine, the backbone of our 21st century, combined arms force, but it isn't the future. That is where Accelerated Warfare comes into play, it aims to make Army an adaptable and capable force," MAJGEN McLachlan explained.
Accelerated Warfare seeks to enable Army to leverage key technological developments across UAS, big data, and sensors from key multi-domain platforms like the Navy's new Air Warfare Destroyers and Air Force's F-35s and E-7A Wedgetails to understand the battlespace and create both persistence and lethality on the land domain to ensure that Army shapes the environment.
MAJGEN McLachlan expanded on the multi-domain co-operation between key platforms, saying, "It is Army's response to the ADF's journey to develop an internet of things (IoT) approach to data gathering nodes across the services, like Navy's AWDs and Air Force's F-35s, and then Army being able to provide a shooting solution, should it be required."
Teamwork makes the dream work
Industry plays a key role in supporting Army's transition to Accelerated Warfare and the key force multipliers that will transform Army's capability in the future.
While traditional tensions between industry and the services may remain in some way, MAJGEN McLachlan is very clear in describing Army for its part as a "willing partner" that is eager to engage with industry to shorten the capability procurement life cycle and ensure that it can support the Chief of Army's ambitious plan to make the service an agile, highly capable component of the joint force.
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MAJGEN McLachlan said, "Army has had a history of hiding behind its own capability acquisition group internally, but with recent projects and leadership pushes by key personnel like Major General Kath Toohey, Head of Land Capability, driving change, Army has come a long-way in a short amount of time."
Programs like the five-week doctrine turn around forums, which sees collaboration and thought leadership development from across the service respond to existing or emerging threats to Army.
Industry serves a key role in Army's response to the democratisation and proliferation of emerging technologies like UAS systems, which MAJGEN McLachlan explained was one of Army's best results in capability acquisition for the future force.
"The Army UAS program is a key example of how Army and industry collaborated to deliver a leading-edge product to the service in short order," he said.
Army as a strategic deterrent in the joint force
Accelerated Warfare aims to develop the Army into a strategic linchpin for the wider ADF joint force. Industry plays a key role in supporting this development by developing the core capabilities Army requires and helping the service to identify key growth areas for future capability.
"Australian industry is really seizing on the opportunities presented by by reduced capability procurement life cycles. The services need to ensure that the feedback they provide is accurate to what they want and need," MAJGEN McLachlan explained.
For Army, key projects like LAND 400 Phase 2 and 3, LAND 19 7B, the future surface-to-surface long-range strike missile and integrated air defence platforms provide the service with the ability to leverage key inter-service platforms like AWD and F-35 to develop a robust shooting solution and a unique A2/AD network.
Inter-service relationships and collaboration are critical to ensuring the success of this model and the Navy's amphibious platforms, particularly HMA Ships Canberra, Adelaide and Choules have been key drivers for breaking down some of the traditional rivalries that have held the development of a joint force back.
Additionally, ADF deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, which have seen each of the services operating together in varying capacities, have further supported the development of a joint force 'mentality'.
"We have what is called the ADFA generation of leaders, a lot of the old rivalries between the services are fading away because of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq and the introduction of key platforms like Navy's amphibious ships, so Army can really position itself as a strategic deterrent within the joint force structure," MAJGEN McLachlan explained.
The full Defence Connect podcast with Major General Gus McLachlan will be available shortly.