Shaping Force Integration: The Aussies Work a Way Ahead


2017-06-02 By Robbin Laird

In Colin Clark’s recent coverage of the visit of RAAF Air Chief, Air Marshal Leo Davies,, to the United States, he highlighted the “institutional interoperability which the RAAF was shaping with its closest allies, and notably with the USAF and the USN.

On a regional level, the F-35 provides “interoperability not only of Australian and US forces, but other regional and allied JSF operators.” Japan and South Korea are buying F-35As and Singapore is widely expected to buy F-35Bs.

Combine that with his country’s decisions to buy the P-8 Poseidon, the EA-18G Growler and the MQ-4C Triton (the maritime version of Global Hawk) and the two countries now boast what Davies called “institutional interoperability.” Parts and equipment can be shared and many pilots have trained together.

But the Aussies are not simply camp followers – they are shaping a way ahead an integrated force, rather than staying at the service platform level.

Air Marshal Davies presentation at CSIS.

When Air Marshal Davies introduced the new RAAF strategy at the Avalon Air Show earlier this year, he highlighted how he saw the way ahead for the RAAF:

“I don’t believe we, as an Air Force, understand how joint we need to be.

“We have come a long way – we talk a lot about joint, but I am not sure we are culturally able to shift from doing Air Force stuff first. I would like the Air Force in a joint context to begin to put the joint effect before our own Air Force requirements.”


When I interviewed him last month in his office in Canberra, Davies underscored that the Air Force and the other services were adding new platforms as part of force modernization.

But adding a new platform, even a key one like the F-35 was not enough to generate force transformation.

“It is not about how does this new platform fit into the force as it is, it is about how does this new platform enable the force to fight the way we need to be able to in the future?

“It has to be realistic but in a sense the reality we are looking at is not just the Air Force as it has fought in the past and present, but the Air Force as it vectors towards the future fight.

“If you don’t do this you will be only discussing and debating platforms in the historical combat space.

“And when we come to new platform decisions, we are positioning ourselves to ask the right question of the services: How does a particular platform fit how we will need to fight in 10 year’s time? Is the Navy or the Army or the Air Force entitled to that particular capability choice if it doesn’t fit that criteria?”

The Aussies are debating ways to shape a more integrated force and did so at two seminars at the Williams Foundation last year, one on air-land integration and the second on air-sea integration.

This year, the Foundation addressed directly the question of how to design a more integrated force at its April 11th seminar on designing an integrated force. In simple terms, this means that the services are looking at how they could get beyond a service concept such as the Naval integrated fires approach to a Joint integrated fires approach?

There are a number of key factors or reasons why getting a better strategic grip on the evolution of the force from a joint perspective is essential.

First, given the shift in focus to high intensity operations the need to maximize one’s combat effect compared to the adversary is essential. A connected force can provide an advantage but only if it is synergistic and survivable; otherwise it is vulnerable and can generate fratricide rather than destruction of the adversary’s forces.

Second, the core enablers of combat power, such as C2 and ISR, are being dispersed throughout the services. Creating a tower of Babylon is not the outcome you want to have.

Third, a number of the new platforms being acquired are software upgradeable. It is desirable to be able to be able to manage tradeoffs among these platforms in terms of investments to get the best impact on the joint force. It is also the case that getting the kind of transient advantage one wants from the software enabling the combat force requires agility of the sort that will come with applications on top of middleware on top of an open architecture system.

Fourth, much of the force, which will be operating in 2030, is already here. This means that there will be considerable adaptation of the platforms towards greater joint effect. How to ensure that the legacy modernization programs provide effective joint effects, rather than simply stovepiped upgrades?

Fifth, the information and communication systems, which are the enablers for the joint force, are dynamic elements subject to market change and adversary disruptions. How to best develop IT and Coms packages which can support cross-cutting modernization and evolving force integration?

Sixth, to get the kind of cross cutting modernization one needs with an evolving 21st century force, how can the acquisition system be altered in order to provide for open-ended change? How to move from a platform linear project approach to a broader program approach which allows trade offs to be made with regard to platforms within a capability stream?

Seventh, the only way there will be the ongoing rapid transformation of the force will be shaping an effective industrial-military partnership whereby there is shared understanding and shared risk to achieve outcomes which are more targets than well defined platforms. How can this be achieved?

There are just some of the core questions, many of which were discussed during the seminar. But the core point is that raising questions, which drive you towards where the force needs to go, is the challenge; it is not about generating studies and briefing charts which provide visuals of what a connected force might look like. It is about creating the institutional structure whereby trust among the services and between government and industry is high enough that risks can be managed, but creative destruction of legacy approaches is open ended as well.

It is about empowering a network of 21st century warriors and let the learning cycle being generated by this network drive acquisition, modernization and operational concepts.

It is about innovations within concepts of operations generated by the network to flow up into strategic change.

Rather than pursuing after market integration or simply connecting stove piped service platforms after the fact with a bolt on network, how might integration be built from the ground up?

The approach being taken is not theological or an application of set of propositions or laws written down in a guidebook. The approach is to work greater integrative processes within and among the services, and to highlight the need to pose hypotheses along the way concerning how greater integration is achievable where appropriate and ways to achieve more effective outcomes for the development of the force.

It is a quest, which is being shaped by realigning organizations, and trying to build from the ground up among the junior officers a willingness to shape interconnectivity from the ground up. With regard to organizations, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, VADM Griggs is in charge of much of the force structure redesign. There is a Force Design office headed by AVM Mel Hupfeld and the Joint Capability and Management and Integration Office headed by RADM Peter Quinn which are especially direct reports to the Vice Chief as part of the way ahead in shaping force integration.

In his presentation to the seminar, VADM Griggs underscored that “we are seeing real changes in culture and behavior across defense.” In part this is due to the fact that the warfighting domains are blending and becoming highly interactive with one another.

He argued that as we returned to a more congested and contested environment the five war fighting domains are becoming increasingly blurred. Effective integration then is critical to gain superiority in 21st century warfighting.

He argued for an integrated strategic direction but flexibility in shaping operating concepts. “We need central orchestration of the effort rather than a top down dictat.”

He highlighted the need to shape a continuous capability review cycle within which to manage ongoing modernization, new acquisitions and effective management of trade offs in budget terms. He chairs the investment committee where the principals met to make strategic decisions on investments. Obviously, control of the purse strings is crucial to make suggestions turn into recommendations with clout for force structure development.

Shaping a way to conduct the quest is very difficult; but the ADF is clearly been empowered to do so by Government.

Such a quest inevitably will fail and succeed along the way; but without setting this objective from the ground up, it will be difficult to change the operating concepts and the then the concepts of operations, which can drive the transformation of the force.

The United States may have Joint Forces Quarterly; the ADF has a transformation process underway.

They are definitely following the Nike model: Just do it!

And for the United States, even when the Aussies are adopting out own platforms, they are doing so in a very different context in which force integration is set as a strategic goal, rather than the pursuit of service modernization. In effect, the Aussies are providing the experimental model, which can be quite relevant to others, including the United States.

In the mid 1990s when I worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses, one of the tasks on which I worked was for the Roles and Missions Commission. One of the key tasks, which the Congress had tasked the Commission to pursue, was to determine what the United States might learn from allies. We worked hard on our white paper but when delivered to the Commission we were told by a very senior member of the Commission: “Good work; but why did you really examine the question? We are so much bigger than any of our allies, there is very little we could learn from them or apply to our own practices!”

Unfortunately, not much as changed in the attitude of many defense civilians, but many leaders in the US military do not share such views, notably with allies and the US adopting some of the same key platforms at the same time, like P-8, Triton, and the F-35, and some allies operating more advanced equipment than the US itself.

Obviously this is a work in progress and perhaps always will be.

The challenge is to get in place a template which allows for greater capabilities to shape force integration but in an ongoing manner; more of an ongoing inquiry rather than a fixed point on the compass.

In short, the Aussies are taking the new platforms and systems and working to bend these towards a more integrated force.

And being Aussies they will not lie to you and argue that this easy or not contentious.

But it is the way the technology and the warfighting capabilities are pointing.

but remaining within service islands will not get you there.

This is something the United States will continue to learn until it leverages the new platforms more effectively to shaping greater warfighting capabilities from the new platforms it is introducing, developing and innovating with largely on a service level.

Editor’s Note: The interview with Air Commodore Chipman provided some significant insight with regard to integration and shaping a way ahead.

2017-04-20 By Robbin Laird

I first met Air Commodore Chipman when he was leading the initial Plan Jericho movement.

He now has become Director General of Capability Planning in the RAAF and is now faced with the challenge of infusing the forward thinking represented by Plan Jericho into actual capabilities.

And doing so clearly is about shaping the evolving force into a more integrated direction.

Plan Jericho is a compass not a road map; but now is working the challenge of shaping programs to move down the direction where the compass is providing some guidance.

And it is clearly not easy.

Notably, with the RAAF introducing new platforms across the board, weaving those into a comprehensive capability, let alone an integrated one, is very challenging.

Slide from Presentation by Air Commodore Chipman, Williams Foundation Seminar, April 11, 2017

In his remarks to the Williams Foundation seminar on force integration, he underscored the importance of generating key thrusts within force development that allow movement in the right direction.

In my interview with him, he underscored that one of the problems is clearly ensuring platforms stay on track, such as the F-35 transition effort which is under his office’s responsibility.

His office also has responsibility for the missile defense program discussed at Williams.

He highlighted that the challenge of generating a future direction comes into conflict with program management.

“The biggest danger, is that as things crop up, and one particular project has a crisis, a financial crisis or something that jeopardizes what government has approved you to achieve, then you get focused in on solving that problem at the expense of thinking more broadly about our strategic direction.”

He sees a key ahead as shaping a community of 21st century operators who have a shared perspective on shaping joint effects as the strategic direction.

Effective joint force design is essential, but it won’t deliver an effective joint force in the absence of greater collaboration in the operational community.

He saw the Air Warfare Centre and its service counterparts as a key locus where shaping such a community of thinking and interest in shaping a way ahead for building a joint force.

Slide from Presentation by Air Commodore Chipman, Williams Foundation Seminar, April 11, 2017

“I don’t own the Air Warfare Center, but I think what I can do is start to influence the goals that we set for the Air Warfare Center so that we start to drive the kind of collaboration we need to integrate Air Force, and the Australian Defence Force.”

And clearly there needs to be practical cases or thrusts within program development which can provide the push necessary for greater program design for integration.

“We need to have broad enough of a perspective so that we can drive programs towards joint outcomes.

“For example, it will be crucial to bring E-7, with F-35 and air warfare destroyers into a common decision making space so that we can realise built in capabilities for integrated air and missile defense.”

“And that needs to be informed by shaping a common perspective with the USN and USAF as well.

“Let’s take integrated air missile defense as an example, because the project part of that at the moment within Air Force is Air 6500, a project that I’m responsible for.

“We’ve received strategic guidance that we should be interoperable with the U.S. in their Pacific theater.

“We need to put a little bit more definition to that. What is our vision for a theater air missile defense system between Australia and the U.S.?

“We need to integrate our platforms with a clear view of how to maximize our working relationship with the USN and USAF as a key driver for change as well.”

Air Commodore Robert Chipman, Williams Foundation Seminar on Force Integration, April 11, 2017

He emphasized the need in effect for practical steps forward at the tactical levels as key drivers for change as well.

“The force is clearly innovating tactically and we need that innovation to be informing ways to reshape integrated capabilities going forward.”

For example, the RAAF is looking at a new UAV to add to the force, and the Air Commodore saw that as best done by shaping and leveraging the creation of the ISR hub at RAAF Edinburgh.

And any new UAV should emerge from the integrated P-8/Triton efforts from that hub.

“Our new platforms need to plug into a common organization that is thinking broadly about the mission rather than simply buying a new UAV and handing it to the common organization.

“Platform acquisition in future clearly will need to be informed by integrative innovations and the 21st century network of warfighters, as you put it.”

And the RAAF needs to find ways to prepare and promote disruptive change.

In part that will be done by shaping a community, which has confidence in its ability to promote change and work towards a joint effect from any acquisitions going forward.

“Predicting the future accurately is hard. What we need is to develop confidence in our ability to adapt quickly as the future changes and evolves in front of us and to be able to respond to those changes.

“It is about creating organizational capacity and confidence to be able to respond to an evolving future.”

The Jericho project team is now working on ways for the RAAF to understand and anticipate disruptive change.

They are focusing on a concept called disruptive thinking. We are working with the private sector and with academia to find pockets of excellence able to come up with new ideas and new ways of using fielded technology to help with defense’s mission.”

He articulated where he would like the RAAF to be able to position itself in the future.

“I would love to see Air Force become earlier adopters of technology. I think at the moment we wait until technology is too mature before we bring it into service.

“We live in a region where competitors are clearly innovating rapidly.

“If we’re able to bring ourselves forward on that technology acceptance curve, I believe that would be a really good outcome for us.”

The original version of this piece appeared on Breaking Defense. 

More Than Joint: The Aussies Forge A Way Ahead