Shaping a New Build Platform for an Integratable Force: What is the Role Then for Suppliers?


By Robbin Laird

I have focused in recent months on the shaping of the integrated distributed force as the core outcome of shaping a sixth-generation force.

At the heart of being able to do so is to have C2/ISR systems operating on platforms which allow for synergy management, or the ability to provide for the connected tissue for platforms operating in an area of interest which can mix or match to work as an integrated force.

This means that if you are building a new platform which is being designed from the outset to be a player in this new world, then the nature of how to build out that capability is crucial.

A clear challenge is to shape the new platform’s integratable capabilities, both in terms of its ability to draw from the wider force and to contribute to it as well. 

And for the OPV team working in the Australian Department of Defence, the clear commitment is to work the combat, C2 and mission systems as an ongoing enterprise not just on a particular platform but force wide.

But what does it mean to be a supplier to such an effort in which the prime contractor is tasked to deliver ongoing capabilities and contribute those capabilities across the force, rather than to provide simply capabilities defined solely by a single platform?

Rather than a prime contractor working the integration of systems platform by platform, the Australian Department of Defence is working with a new model, one in which the prime contractor works with suppliers which will reach beyond the platform on which they are operating, for which the prime contractor is primarily responsible.

This is a whole new world, but one designed to achieve what Vice Admiral (Retired) Barrett calls a new approach to prime contracting.

“We see new shipyard capabilities and new industrial partnerships being forged to build a new approach to shipbuilding.

“It is being done with a new approach which is not just focusing on a traditional prime contractor method of building the hull and having the systems targeting that specific platform.

“It is about building a sovereign capability for our combat systems so that we can upgrade our systems onboard this class and all future classes of Australian ships.

“The OPV is providing some concrete manifestations of what we set out to do.

“It should be the marker for what follows in the continuous shipbuilding program.

A new approach provides new challenges and opportunities for the defense industry.

In the second part of this article, I will look at this new approach as being experienced by L3Harris Australia.

USMC Attack Helicopters Demonstrate Core Maritime Capabilities

In a story by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner from 3rd Marine Air Wing published on December 11, 2109, the key role which Marine Corps attack helicopters play in operating the Marine Corps at sea was highlighted.

In a powerful demonstration of aviation lethality, 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters proved their worth during a complex training event that combined sea based principles with expeditionary operations and live-fire engagements. The exercise, known as Viper Storm, took place in Southern Calif. Dec 11, 2019. The attack helicopters flew from two separate locations – one on the coast and one inland – and struck simulated enemy targets representing peer and near peer threats capable of denying naval and joint forces the freedom of navigation essential to maritime control and enhancing operational-level flexibility. 

Beginning at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, eight Vipers took to the sea to hunt for maritime threats that could negatively impact simulated sea lanes. After being passed new targeting information they rerouted to link up with four additional Vipers and engage multiple land targets before rehearsing rearming at an expeditionary forward arming and refueling point. Once rearmed they again took to the sky to engage targets and support follow-on ground operations. 

“Viper Storm was an opportunity to validate the modern maritime capabilities of the AH-1Z Viper to joint commanders within the Department of Defense, United States partners and allies, and potential peer adversaries,” said Col. William Bartolomea, commanding officer, MAG-39. “We were highlighting the maritime component of the Viper, the ability to go from ship-to-shore in a large element and address peer threats.” 

Bartolomea’s comments underscore a shift in the Marine Corps’ focus back to the maritime domain. Gen. David H. Gen. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, released guidance earlier this year directing the Marine Corps be trained and equipped as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness and prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations. Viper Storm showcased the AH-1Z’s vital role in supporting Gen. Berger’s directions.

In the fall of 2017, U.S. Pacific Fleet defined sea control as total control of the seas for the free movement of all. It means control of air, surface, and subsurface areas, when and where needed. Sea control is crucial to national strategy and allows the Navy to use the oceans as barriers for defense and as avenues to extend influence and assistance where needed. 

The exercise was designed to showcase the AH-1Z Viper’s capabilities and how the aircraft could operate symbiotically and in support of the Navy, flying from the sea and striking simulated threats that the Navy and joint force is likely to face. In the week leading up to the exercise, Gen. Berger published an editorial in “War on the Rocks,” which stated “for the first time in a generation, sea control is no longer the unquestioned prerogative of the United States.” Viper Storm demonstrated that the AH-1Z Viper is a uniquely qualified platform capable of enhancing sea control.

These exercises are essential for MAG-39 to maintain readiness and training standards. The 12 Vipers employed AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, emphasizing the versatility the Viper provides. With larger stub wings than its AH-1W Super Cobra predecessor, the Viper can carry a combination of up to 2 Sidewinders, 16 Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGM) or Hellfires, auxiliary fuel tanks, and up to 76 rockets with various fusing options, including the newest Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) LASER-guided rockets. This allows the platform to be tailored to any mission whether it be sea, land, or air related.  

The AH-1Z Viper is more lethal and survivable than its predecessor in large part because of the modernized ordnance, sensory, and communication equipment. For example, it can carry the JAGM, which will replace the Hellfire missile. The JAGM is a multi-sensor, aviation-launched, precision-guided munition for use against high-value land and naval targets. It provides precision point and fire-and-forget targeting day or night, regardless of weather.

The AH-1Z’s glass cockpit provides pilots with superior situational awareness and the upgraded Target Sight System has an incredible range that enables the Viper to detect and engage targets from distances not previously possible for Marine attack helicopters.

Modern technology enables the Viper to cue naval and joint kill-chains, which is a capability Gen. Berger stated was important to complicate an adversary’s decision making calculus. It is because of those technological advancements that Bartolomea, who grew up listening to stories of Cobra missions from his father, stated, “The Viper is not your dad’s Cobra.”

Viper Storm also focused on expeditionary operations to include its ability to refuel and rearm from a temporary location and then conduct assaults deeper inland. The Chief of Naval operations directed the Navy and Marine Corps to master operational concepts in support of fleet-level warfare.

The intent is to provide fleet commanders the option of persistently posturing naval expeditionary forces forward in key areas as a complement to the seagoing elements of the fleet. Viper Storm demonstrated this capability and showed that MAG-39 can conduct distributed operations in austere environments in support of maritime and joint objectives. 

“Posturing Vipers forward is what the aircraft was made to do,” said Bartolomea. “We are an attack helicopter, killing enemy forces is what we do for a living. We don’t provide a whole lot of value on the ground unless we are refueling, rearming, and getting back to the air to engage the enemy or facilitate other joint weapons platforms and systems.”

Viper Storm would not have been possible without the diligent efforts of the Marines and Sailors of MAG-39 who “Fix, Fly, and Fight” the AH-1Z every day. It is thanks to their efforts that MAG-39 was seamlessly able to conduct this large-scale strike with AH-1Z Vipers and continues to stand ready to support Marine, naval expeditionary, and joint forces across the globe. 

In conducting strikes from the sea and temporary bases inside a simulated peer adversary’s threat ring, MAG-39 demonstrated their commitment to remaining ready to enhance sea control and remain at the forefront of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations development.

As the Marine Corps shifts its focus from land-locked wars to rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, MAG-39 will continue to train its “Marines and Machines” to fight and win, from the sea.

Bartolomea summed up the event, “We demonstrated the unique 21st Century capabilities of the AH-1Z Viper from a maritime environment.

“As we continue to adapt to near-peer threats in accordance with the National Defense Strategy and the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, we are focused on modernizing the digital interoperability, survivability, and lethality of the ‘Z’. These improvements will help to maintain the operational viability of the Viper in support of naval and joint forces beyond 2030.” 


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.)



U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Year in Review: 2019

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain.

NRL headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, Key West, Florida, and Monterey, California, and employs approximately 2,500 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.


Video by Jonathan M Sunderman

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Aussie Politicians Get to Experience LIfe on Deployment


By Captain Jarrad Baldwin

Three Australian politicians recently experienced what life is like for deployed Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel in the Middle East region (MER).

Federal Member of Parliament James Stevens and Senators Hollie Hughes and David Van participated in the ADF Parliamentary Program (ADFPP), visiting the main ADF operating base to gain an insight into operations conducted in the MER.

On arrival the participants were immersed in reception, staging and onwards movement (RSO), a process that ADF personnel undertake to prepare them for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After donning a uniform, helmet and body armour they completed care of the battle casualty and explosive hazard awareness training.

“The practical part of the training really stood out to me – getting in and doing combat first aid with the troops. That was really an experience,” Senator Van said.

“It brought everything into very sharp focus that this is real.”

Since its inauguration in 2001 the ADFPP has performed a valuable role in building mutual understanding between the ADF, senators and members of parliament.

Senator Hughes said it was important to see the preparation Defence personnel undertake.

“RSO gave us a hands-on experience. It also gave us direct access to personnel who were arriving in theatre,” Senator Hughes said.

“It put us alongside those people deploying forward, to share experiences and develop relationships.”

The program also included flying on an air-to-air refuelling mission on board a RAAF KC-30A over Iraq, something Mr Stevens said was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I’m so lucky in my role that Defence has given me the opportunity to experience and see our contribution in the Middle East and the very important roles that are being performed in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mr Stevens said.

“We leave as great advocates and very proud of the service that Defence personnel are providing and we will be making sure that we are making the decisions to keep supporting their efforts.”

This article was published on the Australian Department of Defence website on March 20, 2020.


Inside USNS Mercy

Video package of the inside of the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) March 28. Mercy deployed in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, and will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.

This allows shore base hospitals to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases.

One of the Department of Defense’s missions is Defense Support of Civil Authorities. DoD is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, as well as state, local and public health authorities in helping protect the health and safety of the American people.


Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano

Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet

USNS Mercy Pulls Into Port of Los Angeles


Video package of the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) as it prepares to pull in the Port of Los Angeles March 27. Mercy deployed in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, and will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.

This allows shore base hospitals to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. One of the Department of Defense’s missions is Defense Support of Civil Authorities.

DoD is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, as well as state, local and public health authorities in helping protect the health and safety of the American people.



Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano

Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet

USNS Comfort Departs Norfolk In Support of U.S. Coronavirus Response

NORFOLK, Va. (March 28, 2020)

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departs Naval Station Norfolk, Va. March 28, 2020. Comfort is deploying in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts and will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.

This allows shore-based hospitals to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. One of the Department of Defense’s missions is Defense Support of Civil Authorities.

DoD is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, as well as state, local and public health authorities in helping protect the health and safety of the American people.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard)