2016-03-16 By Robbin Laird
The three Australian Service Chiefs – Air Marshal Davis (RAAF), Vice Admiral Tim Barrett (Royal Australian Navy) and Lieutenant General Angus J. Campbell, (Army) – provided a perspective on their services and the dovetailing of their efforts.
What was clear from the three presentations was the clear shared understanding each had of the central significance of the other services in achieving the outcomes desired by the ADF over all and in terms of strategic outcomes desired by the Government.
The RAAF Plan Jericho was dovetailing with similar plans of the other two services.
But there was a clear understanding that shaping convergence of networks and sharing of data to get the right information to the right person at the right time was clearly a challenge, but one central to the transformation of Australian forces.
In a discussion later in the day with Deputy Chief of the RAAF, Air Vice-Marshal Warren McDonald which will be published later, the Air Force leader underscored how farsighted Army leadership was in pushing the ADF towards more convergence on data sharing and joint operations.
He argued that the three services which focused on a core platform as a center point for shaping the convergence or in effect establishing a triangle of cross-cutting platforms/systems which could provide for a focus on the effort, namely Wedgetail or E-7 for the RAAF, the Hobart class frigate and its combat systems for the Navy, and the Army’s Battle Management Systems, including the Land Network Integration Center or LNIC for bringing together significant joint efforts.
In effect, because the RAAF was in the throes of a significant modernization and with the coming of the F-35, Plan Jericho was a lead element.
According to the RAAF chief, “Plan Jericho is designed to transform the RAAF into a fifth generation enabled force. This is not a singular airpower effort.” It is multi-domain and cross-cutting with the other services.
The Navy chief underscored that the new shipbuilding approach which was highlighted in the White Paper was about having continuous production and shaping technological refreshes throughout the life cycle of the fleet.
And doing so meant, that his fleet needed to effective connect with the other elements of the ADF force structure.
The P-8s and Wedgetails flown by air force obviously needed to be integrated into fleet operations and vice versa.
The Army Chief has an impressive and wide- ranging background and that background interacts nicely with the broad approach which he is bringing to his role as a leader for Army modernization understood in a much broader sense of providing for land operations within the multi-domain agile force which Australia is building.
Not only is shaping the right kind of C2 and ISR approach crucial, but shaping a new approach to Army Aviation is crucial as well. The Army is indeed undertaking a major rethink about Army Aviation and its look at its place within 21st century three-dimensional warfare.
Former Chief of the Defence Force, ACM Angus Houston, has been tasked to look at the reshaping of Army Aviation within a multi-dimensional 21st century force.
Army aviation lies at the seams of air and ground power and the Chief is clearly concerned that its role evolve effectively in terms of how airpower is overall transforming.
He underscored the need to shape ways for the various ISR systems to work effectively together going forward as the Army added new unmanned systems, and modified manned systems and to work with Wedgetail, JSF, P-8 and other Air Force systems coming online.
He argued that we can not assume the air dominance we have had in the past decade of land wars.
He argued for the formation of small, agile units, which could depend on, or not air support, and to ensure that they could be hard to find on the battlefield when necessary.
“We need to draw upon the past, but move forward towards a very different environment in shaping the Army of the future.”
Air Marshal Davis Meeting with the Australian Press
During the first day of the conference, Air Marshal Davis sat down with the Australian press and discussed additional issues with them which also provided insights in to his thinking about the way ahead.
He started by going back to an announcement made by the Minister that the RAAF would receive additional P-8s.
He was pleased, of course, but noted that the focus would clearly have to be on how to connect the P-8 to the overall force, both Navy and Air Force, and Army as well.
It was not just about adding a platform; but ensuring that it was a multi-dimensional capability as well.
He also discussed simulation, including Live Virtual Constructive Training, and argued that the expanded ranges over which an agile force needed to operate was a challenge for Australia and its allies.
And he saw simulation as part of getting live exercises more advanced in terms of operational training by ensuring that systems worked with one another much earlier in the training process so that more effort can be placed on achieving desired outcomes from an operation.
When asked about Middle East operations, he noted that on occasion the RAAF has gone into Syria but has largely operated outside of Syria.
He noted that they had no incidences with Russian aircraft, but obviously took account of their operations, and given the reach of the Wedgetail system, the RAAF was able to operate more effectively even in Syrian airspace.
Two policy questions were raised.
The first was about statements made by PACAF that suggested there was a US interest in basing aircraft, including bombers, in Australia.
The RAAF chief dismissed these concerns as he argued that US aircraft were cycling through Australia regularly, but there were no plans to forward base US aircraft in Australia.
In should be noted that the previous PACAF, now the ACC Commander, General “Hawk” Carlisle focused on places not bases as the USAF approach in the Pacific.
While the US was clearly interested in shaping mobile and flexible deployment packages, such as Rapid Raptor with 4 F-22s and a C-17 for support, which could rotate through places like Australia, this was clearly not about permanent basing.
The second was about the regional response to Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
Interestingly, the Air Marshal highlighted that the presence of the regional air bosses at the Airpower conference provided an opportunity to discuss mutual concerns and responses.
Clearly, there was an interest on Australia’s part to understand the perceptions of the various regional players and how they might respond.
But the Australian response was clear both at the government level and from the Air Marshal.
The Australian government underscores the importance of rule based behavior in the area, obviously having in mind the Chinese trying to make up their own rules.
And the Air Marshal said that the focus was ensuring that we could do for the next fifty years what we have done for the last in terms of transit and “gateway continuity.”
Editor’s Note: The biennial Air Power Conference on 15 and 16 March 2016, explores the idea of seamless joint effects.
The theme of Multi-Domain Integration – Enabling Future Joint Success explores the integration of air, sea, land, space and cyber operations to evolve to a truly joint force.
Day one focused on strategic multi-domain integration, while day two focuses on the implementation of operations through Plan Jericho.