Australian Perspectives on Deterrence in the 21st Century: A New Report on Shaping a Way Ahead for the Australian Defence Force


On August 23, 2018, the Williams Foundation held its latest seminar, this one on independent strike. The seminar represents a next phase of examination of the way ahead for the ADF.

Over the past five years, the seminars have focused on the introduction of the F-35 and the generation of new opportunities to shape a fifth-generation combat force.

And the seminars have built out the concept and approach to crafting such a force.

A key question addressed in these seminars was how best to build an integrated force which could go beyond a platform centric approach?

How best to shape a multi-domain force capable of operating throughout the spectrum of warfare?

During the 2018 seminars, the focus shifted from building the force to the conditions in which that force would operate in the period ahead.

How to shape an effective deterrent strategy for higher end conflict and crisis management?

Put in other words, the focus shifted from the acquisition of new platforms and to the process of shaping a more integrated force, to the environment in which that force will operate and shape demands for enhanced deterrent effects from the force.

The seminar in March 2018 addressed the strategic shift and its consequences for the warfighting approach for the ADF and the core allies for Australia.

And with the August seminar, the question broadened to begin an examination of new means to enhance sovereign options as part of an evolving deterrent strategy.

As such, the August seminar began a process of looking at the evolution of Australian defense capabilities through a sovereign lens.

The seminar provided a series of snapshots of how best to understand the challenge and how to shape a way ahead to provide for enhanced sovereign options.

The morning session broadly looked at the question of deterrence in the period of the strategic shift and how the ADF might operate effectively to provide for deterrent options.

Several questions were framed as tasks to be worked in the period ahead, notably in terms of nuclear threats, and evolving capabilities and strategies of competitors as well as evolving approaches and interests of key allies.

The afternoon sessions addressed the evolving environment within which strike systems themselves were evolving.

Notably, with a fifth-generation force fundamentally changing the sensor-shooter relationship how best to incorporate new strike capabilities?

How best to leverage diverse platforms or capabilities within which strike could be more effective in playing a deterrent function?

A key question on the table was how best for Australia to shape its strike portfolio, lethal and non-lethal, as well as the question of how best to deliver such strike, from land, sea and the air.

What are the best ways to deliver effective deterrent strike for an evolving fifth generation force and how best to do so to ensure the defense of Australia within an effective alliance structure?

Next year’s seminars will continue to focus on the question of how best to evolve Australian defense capabilities from the standpoint of enhanced Australian sovereignty, undoubtedly a key element to be addressed in any future Australian defense white paper as well.

Certainly, a key question facing Australia is how best to build out its strike capabilities and within this effort, how might a missile industry might well be developed to enhance the sustainability and capability of the force.

And as geography returns as a key element in the defense of Australia, how might basing and mobility be introduced as key capabilities in the North and West of Australia?

While a work in progress, clearly considering sovereign options and building them into the evolving force is a key consideration for Australia and the ADF going forward.

The report encompassed as well a number of interviews conducted prior to, during and after the Canberra seminars, and those interviews were conducted in Sydney and Adelaide.

The report can be found and downloaded at the following location:

The featured graphic was taken from the presentation at the Williams Seminar by Michael Tarlton, Program Director, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.