In this report, the major presentations and discussions at the Williams Foundation seminar on new approaches to air-sea integration held on August 10, 2016 in Canberra, Australia are highlighted along with interviews conducted before, during and after the seminar as well.
Interviews with the Army, Navy, and Air Force have been woven into the evolving narrative of joint integration, as well as inputs from the two major foreign guests to the seminar, Rear Admiral Manazir, the Deputy Chief of US Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, and Captain Nick Walker of the Royal Navy.
Beginning in March 2014, the Williams Foundation began a series of seminars and workshops to examine both conceptually and practically ways to build a 21st century combat force, which can prevail in the extended battlespace.
This can be looked at as a force operating in what the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations as kill webs or what an Australian Army General called building an Australian anti-access anti-denial strategy.
What is unique about what Williams has done is to shape a public discussion of the opportunities and challenges to shaping such a force.
And through the seminars, the conversation has evolved and generated more joint force involvement as well.
The seminar and interviews provide insight into the way ahead to shape an integrated Australian Defence Force. As Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Barrett put it: “We are not building an interoperable navy; we are building an integrated force for the Australian Defence Force.”
He drove home the point that ADF integration was crucial in order for the ADF to support government objectives in the region and beyond and to provide for a force capable of decisive lethality.
By so doing, Australia would have a force equally useful in coalition operations in which distributed lethality was the operational objective.
The Australian military is shaping a transformed military force, one built around new platforms but ones that operate in a joint manner in an extended battlespace. The goal is to extend the defense perimeter of Australia and create, in effect, their own version of an Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy.
They also recognize a key reality of 21st century military evolution in terms of shaping an integrated information-based operating force. Interactive modernization of the force is built around decision-making superiority and that will come with an effective information dominant force.
That makes the Aussies a key partner to the US and other allies in discussing openly a path for force transformation along lines where cutting edge thinking is occurring in the US and allied forces. Put bluntly, they are driving a public discussion of transformation in a way we have not seen in the United States for a long time.
The goal was put clearly in an interview by Craig Heap, commander of the Surveillance and Response Group in the Royal Australian Air Force in an interview.
“We are small but we want to be capable of being a little Tasmanian Devil that you don’t want to play with because if you come at us, were going to give you a seriously hard time that will probably not be worth the effort; deterrence in its purest form.”