Crafting Tron Warfare Capabilities for the Integrated Distributed Force


By Andrew McLaughlin

When introducing a new capability, a major factor in its success – or otherwise – is its ability to be successfully integrated with other capabilities.  

This has become particularly crucial with the plethora of increasingly capable and expensive new generation capabilities coming on board, each of which may have multiple sensors which generate huge amounts of data which cannot possibly be processed, exploited, and disseminated by humans alone.

A small defence force like the ADF can no longer afford to buy multiple systems with overlapping capabilities which cannot integrate with other services, allies, and coalition partners.

And so it will be with the MC-55A which will provide an exponential leap in electronic warfare support capability compared to the AP-3C (EW). So great is the leap that, in our Peregrine feature, RAAF Director of ISREW GPCAPT Jason Lind describes it as a “…a new capability, not an evolution”, and that it “…will be airborne ISR done in a different way”.

The challenge of integrating these and other new electronic and information warfare capabilities into the ADF’s order of battle is a key tasking of the Joint Capabilities Group (JCG) headed by AIRMSHL Warren McDonald, and specifically, JCG’s Director General Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare and Cyber, BRIG Stephen Beaumont.

In the May-June 2019 issue of ADBR our profile on JCG lightly touched on the role its Information Warfare Division (IWD) plays in developing what has been dubbed the ‘fifth domain’ – the other four being air, land, sea, and space.  Information Warfare capabilities include cyber; electronic warfare; information operations; space-based systems; command, control, and communications systems; and intelligence – all of which need to be integrated to generate coherent information capabilities for the ADF.

Now that the ADF has multiple platforms and systems equipped with high-end active and passive electronic warfare capabilities – and has more on the way – it is now developing a ‘Force level EW’ concept that describes how these capabilities can ‘plug into’ a useable whole-of-ADF network.

“The way I think about force level EW is – they’re building some exquisitely joint, really usable capabilities which all single service EW capabilities can plug into,” BRIG Beaumont told ADBR.

“This will ensure the networks that they need are there, and the data they need to function properly is available.

“And when it comes to data, I’m strongly of the view that we aim to, ‘build once, use often’,” he added. “That is, we should build data sets that are accessible and are of a format and standard that many different platforms can use.

“We are fast moving away from the days where we had stand-alone, platform specific databases that were invisible and inaccessible to other users. If we think of the contemporary battlespace where characterisation of actors/emitters is critical, access to common, shared, data sets will be important.

“From this we have a chance to build a common understanding of what is occurring in the electromagnetic spectrum, which will help us make choices about how we might wish to manoeuvre in the spectrum – seeking to degrade the adversary’s use of spectrum while enhancing our own.”

BRIG Beaumont says the IWD is responsible for not only providing the Joint ’back-end’ for existing multi-service EW and IW capabilities, but for also working with Capability Managers and their staff to ensure, as far as possible, new capabilities are designed with the need to integrate into the broader Joint EW capability.

“Everyone is working towards this end,” he explained. “And it’s not just JCG. Plainly, everything these days is going to have to plumb into an enterprise network, and when you’re talking enterprise networks you very quickly get into the domain of the CIOG (Chief Information Officer Group). So we work very closely with CIOG’s ICT Delivery Division to ensure platforms are integrated into those networks, so the data can flow and be available for processing and reprogramming as necessary.

“We also have a body of work of our own that we’re progressing through the Joint EW Sub-Program,” BRIG Beaumont added. “This body of work is focussed on building those Joint EW capabilities that will help knit single-service EW capabilities together and enhance the decision making of deployed commanders and EW staff when it comes to spectrum management and the delivery of kinetic and non-kinetic effects. The key capability elements of this program are collaborative geolocation, electromagnetic battle management and EW data management and analytics.

“A key feature of the Joint EW Sub-Program concerns Electromagnetic Battle Management. Our vision is to have a tool – a scalable tool – that allows commanders and staff at all levels to visualise how the spectrum is being used by all actors in a defined area of operations.

“This capability will enable genuine manoeuvre in the Electromagnetic Spectrum and should facilitate best possible decision making around use of the spectrum. We are working very closely with the Growler community, other EW users, and Industry as we try to solve this difficult capability problem.

“This is a hard problem, to have a single tool or interface that allows you to characterise what’s going on in the electromagnetic spectrum. We talk about manoeuvre, JEMSO (joint electromagnetic spectrum operations) and the idea of manoeuvre…I would argue you need a pretty good battle management tool as a first stop capability to allow you to do that.”

Another of JCG’s challenges in working with Capability Managers to knit single-service EW capabilities together into a coherent whole with the high number of stakeholders involved in determining what capabilities are to be acquired.

“Stakeholder engagement is one of the key challenges of being in Joint Capabilities Group,” BRIG Beaumont said. “Making this task easier has been the reforms instituted under the First Principles Review. Defence has appointed VCDF as the Joint Force Authority, stood-up Joint Capabilities Group, and established defined capability programs with clear accountabilities for Program Sponsors and Capability Managers.

“This has provided the organisational framework to allow us to really progress the development of Joint capabilities. Behaviours have also evolved, and I have witnessed a shared purpose when it comes to the progression of Joint capabilities.

“For example, as sponsor of the Joint EW Program, I am invited to attend the Program Steering Groups of other relevant Programs, such as the Land ISREW Steering Group, where there is opportunity to listen and to shape and influence outcomes.

“Equally, my fellow program sponsors are invited to my Joint EW Steering Group. The new structures we’ve got in place, they’re maturing and evolving, but the trend line is very positive, allowing us to collaborate and share routinely.

“It is also worth noting that there is a realisation that a joint approach makes sense from a value for money perspective. This is particularly the case when it comes to data. Data is not a free commodity, so it makes sense to have, as far as possible, a common approach to EW data.”

The First Principles Review also saw the creation of the Investment Committee, and that has allowed the capability managers and other stakeholders to review proposed capabilities with a joint mindset.

“The diligence that goes into preparing those submissions is very thorough and includes detailed collaboration and consultation,” BRIG Beaumont said. “The behaviours and culture that we’re seeing are very positive and I’ve seen a keen eye on achieving value for money and joint capability.

Just as GPCAPT Lind observed in the Peregrine article, BRIG Beaumont agrees that senior leadership and the political decision makers recognise the importance of these ‘back-end’ joint capabilities that aren’t necessarily hardware or platform-related.

“I think everyone appreciates the idea of the contemporary operating environment being ‘contested and congested’,” he said in closing. “This is especially the case when it comes to the electromagnetic spectrum.

“We need to build capabilities that allow us to characterise and understand – as best we can – what is occurring across the spectrum so we can make choices, bringing to reality the idea of electromagnetic spectrum operations and manoeuvre.”

This article appeared in the Nov-Dec 2019 issue of ADBR.

The featured photo: Royal Australian Air Force’s first AP-3C Orion A9-751 taxis in for the last time upon its arrival at RAAF Base Point Cook on 16 November 2017. (Australian Department of Defence.)