Shaping the Way Ahead for Australian Defense: What Role for Independent Strike Capabilties?


Australia is engaged in a significant process of defense modernization and working closely with its closest allies in this process.

But looking beyond what the current trajectory of modernization, what course might Australia follow going forward?

We have published a look at paths which Australia might take going forward.

The Future of Australian Defense in a Dynamically Changing Region

The next Williams Foundation Seminar to be held in Canberra Australia on August 23, 2018 will address the core question of what role for independent strike for the Australian forces?

This seminar seeks to build a common understanding of the need for an independent joint strike capability to provide Australia with a powerful and potent deterrent and a means of demonstrating strategic intent.  It will highlight the impact on the national, campaign, operational and tactical levels, and discuss the ways joint strike can add a further dimension to future Australian Defence and national security policy.

And Central Blue, the Williams Foundation op ed section on their website is asking for submissions to their analytical efforts to understand the dynamics of change and options for Australia.

With this background and intent in mind, the editors at The Central Blue have come up with a number of topics to provoke your thinking in the lead up to the seminar. This is by no means an exhaustive list but we hope it prompts mental contact!

Questions to :

  • What is the impact of #jointstrike on the national, campaign, operational and tactical levels?
  • Can #jointstrike bring a new dimension to future Australian defence and national security policy?
  • How have partner forces developed and employed #jointstrike capabilities in recent campaigns?
  • What can surface forces bring to the #jointstrike capability
  • What does multi-domain #jointstrike look like and how would it work?
  • How does Australia’s emerging amphibious capabilities contribute to #jointstrike?
  • How do we best understand the #jointstrike options available and of the best way of delivering a balanced range of strike capabilities across the Australian Defence Force?
  • What emerging technologies should be considered to enable support, planning and targeting systems?
  • How do emerging #jointstrike options such as cyber and electronic warfare affect traditional notions of warfare and combat?
  • What are the impacts of emerging #jointstrike capabilities on training and exercise regimens?
  • What is the role of modelling and simulation in optimising and developing a mature and sophisticated #jointstrike capability?
  • Should Australia consider a nuclear #jointstrike option?
  • How would an nuclear strike capability in Australia’s region impact the power structures and relationships?
  • What impacts would prioritising #jointstrike have on Australia’s existing and future force structures?


The Certainty of Uncertainty: Brazil and Its Fall Presidential Elections

By Kenneth Maxwell

With the Presidential election in Brazil due this October the country remains profoundly split between uncompromising extremes.

And the political scene remains highly uncertain.

Hovering in the background is the figure of the ex-president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula.

He is a former two-term president who is now in prison charged with corruption and money laundering.

But if he were, by some implausible miracle, to actually run for President again, some 30% of the population, according to the most recent public opinion polling by DataFolha, would still vote for him.

But Lula’s rejection rate is equally formidable, standing, according to the latest DataFolha poll, at 36%. While half the population love him.

Half the population hate him.

Lula undoubedly remains a hero to many, both within Brazil and internationally, even though he is a leader who presided over a massive corruption scandal, where the state petroleum company, Petrobras, became a piggy bank for an astounding array of national and international corruption scandals, involving many of Brazil’s major national and multinational construction companies, and which has permanently blighted the reputation of the Worker’s Party he founded (PT).

The dimensions of the Petrobras corruption scandals, and in particular those involving the Brazilian multinational construction company, Odebrecht,  have had large national and international consequences, not least in Mexico, where the tentacles of Brazilian corruption are still being covered up by the Mexican government where a presidential contest is also underway.

It is a fact that if Lula was to return to office, he would not be at all friendly to those who he claims targeted him for unjust punishment.

He would not be the “market friendly” to those who he believes have conspired against him.

The other great protagonist of the last 20 years in Brazilian politics, the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) is also in tatters.

The putative candidate of the PSDB, is Geraldo Alckmin, the former long term governor of São Paulo. He held the post for the longest period since the redemocratization of Brazil in the mid-1980s. (Alckmin was Sao Paulo’s governor between 2001 and 2003, and again between 2004 and 2006, and again between 2011 and 2014, and again between 2015 and 2018.)

He is also a former presidential candidate for the PSDB having been defeated by Lula in 2006.

But he has only 7% support according to the latest opinion surveys while his rejection rate stands at 27%. (He also spent a year sabbatical as a visitor at Harvard.)

The octogenarian, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), the grand old man of Brazilian politics, and one of the founders of the PSDB, and a former two-term PSDB “Sociologist-President” (for such he was anointed when he was awarded the million dollar John W. Kluge Prize “recognizing an impact on public life” by the Library of Congess in 2015), meanwhile fulminates on the sidelines, seeking plausible (or rather inplausible) would-be presidential candidates.

He writes in the Washington Post that Brazil risks becoming a Venezuela.

But his PSDB is also mired in potential and actual corruption scandals, which has already severely damaged the reputation of Aecio Neves, the former Governor of Minas Gerais, and current senator from Minas Gerais, who was the PSDB’s candidate in its last unsuccessful  presidential campaign against the PT’s Dilma Roussef.

FHC spent a period as a visiting professor at Brown University after he left office, among many US academic visiting appointments he has held over the years.

The party of “permanent” power within the Brazilian political constellation (it has been a part of every Brazilian government since the mid-1980’s), the party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), recently cosmetically rebranded as the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), has since the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, actually emerged from the shadows to hold the presidency of Brazil.

But Michel Temer, the current MDB head of state, is the most unpopular President in Brazilian history, with only 2% of popular support.

He is dead fish drowning in very polluted water. But unlike Jesus, neither Lula, nor Alckmin, nor Michel Temer, has much hope of resurrection.

The candidate most closely associated with the deeply unpopular Temer regime, former BankBoston head, and Michel Temer’s former Minister of Finance, Henrique Meirelles, has only 1% of the intended votes.

But those seeking a new saviour think they have found a “Tropical Trump” “in the person of the far-right Rio de Janeiro congressman, former army parachutist and army reservist, Jair Bolsonaro, who without Lula as a candidate, is running ahead in the latest opinion polls.

Jair Bolsonaro has extreme opinions on all matters.

He is an outspoken admirer of the torturers of the military regime.

When he voted for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff he eulogized one the the most notorious torturers of the military regime. Dilma was of course a victim of torture.

Bolonario needless to say is hostile to gays and same sex marriage.

He is also courting the evangelical vote, and he is rapidly becoming the putative darling of the “markets.”

He is in any case already the favourite of the richest Brazilians.

The other candidate with popular support is Marina Silva, an environmentalist, and the inheritor of the mantel of Chico Mendes, the assassinated leader of the Amazon rubber workers. She is a women with a personal biography to match that of Lula.

Of humble origins she comes from the Amazonian state of Acre. She only learnt to read and write in her late ‘teens. She is an evangelical Christian (which is the fastest growing group in Brazil even though Marina is not thought to be sufficiently “overt” in her evangelical faith by many evangelicals, unlike Bolsonaro.)

Marina served as environmental minister in the first Lula government until she fell out with Lula over Dilma Russeff’s policies when Dilma was Lula’s minister of mines and energy.

Marina is also a previous presidential candidate.

The other potential candidate with tranction is Ciro Gomes, affiliated with the Democratic Labour Party (PDT). Ciro Gomes has previously been associated with six political parties. He is another perennial political figure who has long campaigned at home and abroad. (He has spent time as a visiting reseacher at the Harvard Law School).

Ciro Gomes is from the northeastern state of Ceara. He was a former mayor of Fortaleza, a former governor of Ceara, former minister of finance under  President Itamar Franco.

Like Michel Temer, Itamar Franco, was a vice-president who inherited the presidency of Brazil after an impeachment.

Under Itamar Franco, he implemented the “Real Plan” which ended Brazil’s chronic inflation.

He served as minister of national integration under Lula.

He could well receive the tacit support of Lula in the upcoming presidential elections.

Meanwhile Brazil faces a chronic on-going crisis of public security and the lingering consequences of severe economic recession.

It is also expereiencing creeping militarization of public institutions (the minister of defence is now held by a general for the first time since the position was created).

And the national mobilization of truck drivers has demonstrated they can strike and bring the country to a standstill, and force the capitulation of a weak and unpopular government to their demands.

With a totally discredited and weakened president in Brasilia hanging onto office by default, the political class in Brasilia is seen by many Brazilians as ever more isolated and ineffective.

It is a very dangerous cauldron for democracy in a critical election year.

The featured photo shows truckers protesting rising fuel costs blocking a major highway in Brazil in late May 2018, displaying a sign that urged the military to “help the nation.”CreditAndre Penner/Associated Press






Drone Shield: A Case Study of the Impact of the New Australian Defense Export Strategy


Recently, we received a note from a company called DroneShield which highlighted not only its product but its assessment of the importance of the new Austrian defense export strategy in supporting its efforts.

The note follows:

8 June 2018, Sydney Australia – The Australian developer and manufacturer of cutting-edge high technology counter-drone products DroneShield Ltd (ASX:DRO or DRO.AU) (DroneShield or the Company) today released the following statement on the practical application of the Turnbull / Pyne Defence Export Strategy.

On 29 January 2018, The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Australian Minister for Defence Industry, announced the new Defence Export Strategy (the Strategy) of the Turnbull Government. After a careful review of the strategy, in late February 2018, DroneShield released its analysis of the Strategy and its conclusion that the Strategy was not an aspirational theoretical policy, but rather is a carefully thought-through and practical roadmap to attaining ambitious but perfectly achievable goals that will benefit Australia.

On 14 June 2018, DroneShield announced a $3.2 million sovereign order for 70 units of its DroneGun™ tactical jammer product for a Middle Eastern Ministry of Defence allied with the Western countries. 

This is not only the largest order in DroneShield’s history but also the largest known order for tactical drone mitigation equipment of this kind globally in the history of the nascent counter-drone industry. 

The order firmly establishes DroneShield as the leader in the space and is expected to pave the way for substantial additional orders for DroneShield’s products from a number of other allied foreign governments.

DroneShield would like to acknowledge that, consistent with the “whole of government” approach employed by the Strategy, DroneShield has been receiving valuable assistance from Australian Defence Attaches in several locations in Europe and the Middle East. 

This assistance, which lends weight and credibility to a small company like DroneShield has been very valuable for the Company, and DroneShield expects that it will continue to prove important, in securing substantial further orders globally.

Further, DroneShield would like to acknowledge the assistance provided by the staff of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) section of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) to DroneShield this year.

Additionally, since late 2017, DroneShield has been a member of Team Defence Australia, a join initiative with Austrade and the Department of Defence. Participation in Team Defence Australia has enabled the Company to showcase its products at a range of key defence and security events globally, something that would not have happened in the absence of the Team Defence Australia initiative.

Peter James, DroneShield’s Chairman, commented, “In February 2018 we were the first, if not the only, Australian company to publicly come out and say that the Strategy will make a difference for Australia. 

“Now, less than six months later, it has already made a difference. With the initial orders for DroneShield’s cutting-edge anti-drone products DroneGun™, DroneSentinel™ and DroneSentry™ now coming in, the help provided by the government to DroneShield (all of it non-financial) will provide the Australian public with a multiplier effect in employment, domestic manufacturing, cash in-flows for the economy, innovation, and our domestic ability to defend Australia without relying on others.”

The featured photo shows a Queensland Police Service officer with DroneGun MKIITM during Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in April 2018


On June 17, 2018, Steven Valinski provided his latest article covering USMC developments at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

In his latest piece he highlighted the most recent MAWTS-1 training event, WTI 2-18.

While the main objective is to provide advanced aviation tactical training and certification of unit instructors, USMC Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 2-18, hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) aboard USMC air Station Yuma showed that WTI is much more than training.

It is research, testing, development and perfecting….where ‘proof of concept’ become a realty and new technologies and tactics evolve to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF)…..

The WTI curriculum is constantly evolving under MAWTS-1, incorporating new tactics, procedures and technologies across all spectrums of 21st century warfare…

“The WTI 2-18 Period of Instruction underwent minor changes from the previous class. There were no new events, but events were modified to incorporate a more aggressive focus on contested domains,” accoring to Major Tim “Monk” Miller, MAWTS-1 Operations Officer.

“MAWTS-1 has adapted by leaning on the unique capabilities of the F-35 and also incorporating joint assets, like the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler,” Major Miller added.

For the rest of the piece, see the following:

An Update on Leveraging the F-35 in Shaping a Way Ahead: The Perspective of Air Commodore David Bradshaw

By Robbin Laird

Air Commodore Bradshaw was appointed as Lighting Force Commander, Royal Air Force Marham in April 2017 and he succeeded Air Commodore now Air Vice-Marshal H. Smyth.

Earlier, I have had the chance to discuss the standing up of the F-35 within the RAF with Air Vice-Marshal Smyth and that conversation in 2016 highlighted the core significance of RAF and Royal Navy collaboration in standing up the F-35 as a carrier based aviation system.

“As an RAF pilot with significant maritime and carrier operational experience, we are shaping a collegiate and joint way ahead with the Royal Navy which brings the RAF domain knowledge of ways to operate in the extended battlespace with the coming of the F-35B to the new Queen Elizabeth class carrier.

Being radical, I think it would make sense to put a picture of the Queen Elizabeth class carrier on our RAF recruiting poster;the RAF and the RN are jointly delivering the UK’s future Carrier Strike capability, and a all RAF Lightning pilots will spend some of their time at sea, as I did throughout my 16-year career in Joint Force Harrier – we are forging an integrated approach together, which is incredibly exciting.”

This collaborative aspect was driven home during the May 1 2018 visit to RAF Marham by having a chance to talk with both the RAF Lighting Force Commander and his deputy, Captain Adam Clink, Royal Navy.

Air Commodore David Bradshaw is a fast jet pilot with almost 3000 hours flying experience of which 2000 hours were in Harrier GR7 / 9 as a front line pilot, Qualified Weapons Instructor and Display Pilot. 

He has seen operational service over the Balkans and Iraq, the latter from both land and HMS Illustrious.

As a group captain, he commanded 904 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), Kandahar, followed by RAF Leeming and 135 EAW. Staff roles have included: Group Captain Lightning; Assistant Director (Integration) within the Directorate of Equipment Capability, Deep Target Attack; Chief-of-Staff Strategy within the Air Staff; and as the MoD member of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Communications Team during the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.

Air Commodore Bradshaw assumed command of the UK Lightning Force in spring 2017 and is responsible for generating an Initial Operational Capability in 2018 with an embarked operational capability from HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2020.

 The discussion with Air Commodore Bradshaw focused on standing up the Lightning Force at RAF Marham but in such a way that the RAF and Royal Navy could work together to shape innovative ways to pursue combat innovation in the period ahead.

This image shows the Lightning Operations Centre at RAF Marham. UK Mod.

Much of the effort currently under way at RAF Marham is to set up the F-35 while continuing to operate two squadrons of Tornados, but the infrastructure is being put in place to reach beyond that point and to shape the kind of multi-domain combat learning essential for effective 21st century operations.

Recently, I visited RAAF Williamtown and talked with Air Commodore Kitchner about the RAAF rebuild of the base and the transition in the next couple of years from Hornets to F-35s. My conversation with Air Commodore Bradshaw started with his comparing the RAF approach to that of the RAAF.

Air Commodore Bradshaw: “The RAAF at Williamtown have carved out an entire part of their airfield and have created a hugely impressive F-35 enclave in which everything needed to support the air system is clustered.

“We have taken a different approach, in part because we are operating two squadrons of Tornados at RAF Marham through the transition period but mainly to make best use of existing infrastructure to keep costs as low as possible while still delivering a Main Operating Base fit for the future.

“You can see going around the base the build up of our new F-35 infrastructure but see the Tornados flying over head.

“We need to manage both and we are leveraging Tornado infrastructure in part as well as we draw down the Tornado Force.

“For example, we are reusing Tornado hardened aircraft shelters from which to operate F-35s in the future.”

The Dambuster squadron arrived on June 6, 2017 and thereby began its operational life at RAF Marham. As Air Commodore Bradshaw noted: “We are building out a standard squadron infrastructure that you expect but one modernized to exploit the best of F-35 and meet the security requirements as well.”

Aerial imagery of the first of the new RAF fighter Jets flying across the Atlantic and tanked by the Voyager prior to their arrival at RAF Marham. Credit: UK MoD

They are also building what they call “Freedom of Action” facilities to ensure UK sovereignty over their operational aircraft. Such a facility is the stealth finishing facility to ensure maximum stealth performance of the aircraft in operational conditions.

But the UK is building out from outset an approach to leverage the F-35 as a driver of combat innovation, something I like to call F-35 2.0.

This is how Air Commodore Bradshaw put it. “The F-35 Integrated Training Center is the jewel in the crown of the F-35 effort at RAF Marham.

“We are working from the start to leverage the synthetic training environment enabled by the ITC, to provide a foundational capability that can empower our broader effort.

“We call this broader effort the Defence Operational Training Capability (Air) Core System.

“This approach will be to link the various key warfighting elements together to innovate and train for the evolving 21st century battlespace.”

“With the DOTC system, we are looking to work F-35 with Typhoon, with AWACs, with Type 45 Air Warfare Destroyer and our JTACs, to shape a multi-domain warfare approach.

“We are building the ITC as a key element not just to empower our use of the F-35 but to leverage its information and C2 capabilities to drive change throughout the force.”

The UK has built an all-F-35 fast jet carrier. This makes it the only one in the world.

Although the US carrier community has certainly been a key partner in helping the UK stand up its new carriers, a point made often in discussions with the RAF and the Royal Navy, they are clearly going down a path of doing something a bit different.

This is how Air Commodore Bradshaw put it:

“We have designed the Lightning Force from the very beginning to be joint. My deputy is a Royal Naval officer. The entire Lightning Force is a mix of light and dark blue.

“From the outset, we have a different view to many other Air and Naval forces about how we will use our F-35s.

“Taking our unique joint approach either to a deployed operating location or onto the Queen Elizabeth Class carrier, we need to exploit the opportunity to do it the right way for the UK and not necessarily slavishly follow another model that might exist elsewhere in the world.”

Obviously, with the political changes underway in Europe and elsewhere, the UK is looking to shape partnerships which protect its interests and provide strategic opportunities to shape its capabilities going forward.

And flying a force of F-35s and Typhoons provides them with an interesting opportunity to work with Europe going forward.

“With the F-35, we will have unique opportunities to work with our Northern European allies, including the Norwegian, Danish and Dutch Air Forces as well as out USAF neighbors at RAF Lakenheath.

“And with the Typhoon, we have good opportunities to work with the Germans, Spanish and Italians.

“And with the Italians flying a mixed force of F-35A, F-35B and Eurofighter, we have great opportunities to work together as well.”

In short, shaping a new operating base at RAF Marham and working with the two Queen Elizabeth carriers provides a significant opportunity for shaping air combat innovation, including in the sustainment area.

The featured photo was taken during a 2017 visit to RAF Marham and showed the building of the new Maintenance and Finishing Facility. Pictured FLtoR Dean Burgess( Balfour Beatty) David Bradshaw RAF Marham Air Commodore.Rich Davies then RAF Marham Base Commander Group Captain. David Baird BAE. Richard Bannon

Working F-35-HIMARS Integration: Shaping a Way Head for a 21st Century Distributed Shooter-Sensor Capability

By Robbin Laird

During my latest visit to MAWTS-1 in May 2018, the work of the MAWTS-1 team during WTI-18-2 was the focus of attention.

MAWTS-1 is working on reshaping Marine Corps approaches to moving forward from a primary focus on counter intersurgency.

The strategic shift from counter-insurgency to contested operations was the focus of the most recent seminar of the Williams Foundation provides a baseline examination of the strategic shift.

At MAWTS-1, one can see the focus on the key building blocks for shaping a capability appropriate to mastering the strategic shift.

The shift is a significant one, which requires reshaping approaches, leveraging new capabilities, and integrating those capabilities into the overall evolution of the MAGTF.

It is a work in progress, and one driven by technology, combat experience and cross-learning from other US services as well as allies.

An example of the work in progress is providing a capability for an advanced ground based strike missile to operate with greater lethality when guided by a low observable air combat system which identifies targets beyond range of sight and not identified by the systems organic to that ground based strike system.

This is an example of how the sensor-shooter relationship needs to evolve when operating at greater distance and in a contested battlespace.

F-35 Integration with Ground Fire Systems: The Case of HIMARS from on Vimeo. October 19, 2017.

The core approach is to find ways to leverage the F-35 to provide an expanded aperture of support for the Ground Combat Element when executing the ground scheme of maneuver in a peer-to-peer conflict.

As the F-35 operates in its low observable mode and generates through its DAS and integrated sensors a battlefield situational awareness ‘map,’ targets can be identified deep within the enemy’s operating area.

Targeting information can be generated to the Marines or to other joint forces to provide for precise fires targeting.

It is clear that the F-35 has an extraordinary sensor capability and sensor system integration, which can empower C2 in the operational battlespace.

In visits and discussions I have had with allied air forces flying the F-35 the use of the new systems was already evident.

In one case, an Air Force was using sensor data from its aircraft to provide significant SA to that ally’s navy as well as other capabilities for the fleet as well.

In another case, an ally is flying a single F-35 along a border where low flying threats are crossing the border regularly with drugs, weapons and other undesirable deliveries onto that ally’s territory.

The F-35 is providing coverage of the entire border area and delivering that information including guiding border forces to mission success.

The aircraft qua aircraft is part of the “renorming of airpower,” but the capability of the aircraft’s ultimate benefit is to leverage it as part of an information dominance capability, which is what I am calling F-35 2.0.

The Marines are clearly among the most inventive of forces in pursuing ways to leverage the F-35 as a multi-domain flying combat system.

But this is not simply going to happen without work of the aviation with the ground communities working closely together as they do at MAWTS-1.

For the Marines, working F-35 integration with HIMARS as one of the building blocks in F-35 2.0.

Last Fall, I discussed progress on this effort with the then Commanding Officer of MAWTS-1, Col Wellons, and one of his officers involved in the WTI course.

Question: Can you now describe the HIMARS integration with F-35?

Col Wellons: “This class we continued the learning process.

“We were able to validate and verify, via ground testing, the ability of the F-35 to share digital targeting information with a ground node

“But I will ask my Aviation Development, Tactics and Evaluation Department Head, LtCol Ryan Schiller, to further discuss the process.”

LtCol Schiller: “Utilizing the targeting capabilities of the F-35 and its inherent survivability as a 5th-gen fighter combined with the standoff range and capability provided by HIMARS gives us a key capability to fight and strike in the A2/AD environment.

“We are clearly expanding the aperture of our focus on how to leverage the F-35 for the MAGTF.

“With regard to HIMARS we are looking to shipboard use in certain scenarios as well.

The progress continued at WTI-2-18 and I had a chance to discuss the way ahead with Major “Doctor: Buxton, MAWTS-1 Air Office Department, Major Andrew Crist, Fixed Wing Offensive Support Specialists, and Major Joshua Freeland, a Direct Air Support Control Officer.

What these officers described was a clear work in progress, one which will relied on leveraging software upgrades on the F-35 but concurrent progress with regard to the software and hardware evolutions of the data link systems as well.

From this point of view, the F-35, much like the Osprey before it, is playing a forcing function within the USMC for change.

With the Osprey, significant change was driven in how the Marines operated in the land wars, and in how they approached counter-insurgency operations.

The F-35 has come precisely at the point when the strategic shift is underway and it is clear that the US and the allies are using the F-35 as a trigger point for broader transformation as well.

And through this effort, the Marines are looking at broader issues of the F-35 and its role within the overall effort to shape greater digital interoperability for the force as well.

The GCE fires elements use a data link communication system, which operates by sending what is called K messages.

The immediate challenge was to find ways to work the F-35 systems with an ability to work with the data links used by the GCE.

The data links for the GCE are being reworked to be more effective in its operational integration with the Air Combat Element.

As the GCE receives new software and hardware systems and as the F-35 evolves to its 3-F configuration an ability to link systems more effectively in the distributed battlespace will be possible.

But the Marines are working the opportunity to do so prior to arrival of the optimal situation.

As one Marine put it: “We are looking to build in surface fires capability into the F-35.

“We started by looking at ways we could use CAC2S as a gateway to enable us to move in this direction.”

CAC2S is the USMC’s C2 system designed to provide for integration between the ACE and the GCE. It like the F-35 is a work in progress

As the Marine Corps has defined CAC2S:

CAC2S will provide a complete and coordinated modernization of Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) equipment.

CAC2S will eliminate current dissimilar systems and provide the MAGTF Combat Element with the hardware, software and facilities to effectively command, control and coordinate air operations integrated with naval, joint and/or combined C2 units.

CAC2S will comprise standardized modular and scalable tactical facilities, hardware and software that will significantly increase battlefield mobility and reduce the physical size and logistical footprint of the MACCS.  CAC2S Phase 1 successfully completed its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in 2011. 

Subsequently, Phase 1 received its full deployment decision on 25 Oct 2011 and limited deployment capability in February 2012. 

Phase 2 successfully achieved Milestone C decision in 31 Mar 2015 and IOT&E in Apr 2016. 

A Fielding Decision Review (FDR) was conducted on 11 Aug 2016 and ADM signed on 25 August 2016.

 As the Marine Corps gets its updated versions of CAC2S, they are looking to the new capabilities to provide an effective gateway between the message set capabilities of the platforms.

The DASC or the Direct Air Support Center is where the translation and validation occurs on the battlefield and where Link 16 messages from the F-35 would then be translated into K messages for the GCE.

As another Marine put it: “Link 16 J series messages received by the DASC will then be translated into the K series format which the GCE utilizes to generate fire missions and is passed along to fires approval authorities with airspace clearance”

During WTI-2-18, the Marines used a new VIASAT radio as part of the firing sequence for the F-35/HIMARS tandem.

And with a handheld radio able to handle Link 16 messages, and the team was able to use a Link 16 data link from the F-35 to enable a HIMARS firing.

But it was clear that working the integration was a hard task, one that needs to become much simpler to be effectively operational on the battlefield.

What is impressive for sure is seeing the Marines work the process and in a way that can inform both the upgrade processes on the F-35 as well as with regard to HIMARS and related equipment.

Clearly, working the data links and communications is a key part of being able to operate on the distributed battlefield. 

Although a work on progress, it is clearly working in the right direction towards the threat envelopes central to the nation.

Editor’s Note: in the 2017 USMC Aviation Plan, the way ahead for the ACE/GCE enablers was outlined.

As outlined in the 2016 Marine Corps Operational Concept (MOC) and throughout this year’s Marine Aviation Plan, the operating environment is evolving and our next conflict is largely unpredictable.

What remains constant though is the role of aviation’s enablers – the ability and credibility to control our own airspace and operate from expeditionary sites equates to MAGTF freedom of action.

As we field exponentially more capable systems, the ways in which the MACCS enables MAGTF freedom of action must evolve as well.

We now must refocus, innovate, and exploit the future of warfighting across the MAGTF in ways that are different from what has been done in recent history, such as recognizing the role information as a weapon and manning, training, and equipping a force where digital interoperability in the norm.

This transformation is what the aviation expeditionary enabler community has embarked upon.

The future MACCS and AGS communities will be highly expeditionary; operate in a distributed manner; and be capable of fusing and integrating MAGTF aviation command and control, sensor input and weapons data across the joint force to provide shared situational awareness and increase the decision space for the MAGTF commander.

Because of the unique position as the integrator between the ACE and GCE, the aviation enablers must ensure the ability to bridge divergent communication efforts within the MAGTF and joint force by providing beyond line‐of‐sight

(BLOS) tactical data links (TDLs), data forwarding, radio relay, tactical gateways, and ground‐based air defense (GBAD) capable of engaging low radar cross section targets.

The most critical resource is the individual Marine.

As we transition to a common set of equipment, new operational concepts, and operations in complex battle spaces, we must transition to a training paradigm that provides baseline knowledge for all AC2 operators to excel.

The goal for MACCS operators is to become air command and control experts who will assist the commanders and decision makers in receiving and interpreting operational information and translating this information into effective direction and control for Marine aviation.

The primary missions for our tactical agencies will remain throughout our MACCS modernization. As new common sets of equipment are fielded, the ability to employ future hybrid agencies becomes relevant.

For example, the clearance requirements for extended range munitions have made knowledge of the ground situation and MAGTF fires critical for all MACCS agencies.

The proliferation and persistent presence of UAS and civilian aircraft through the AO require all MACCS agencies to have access to an air picture.

Integration with special operations forces and the increased capabilities of new MAGTF platforms, such as the F‐35 and MV‐ 22, will enable hybrid employment options for MACCS agencies as we modernize and align our equipment and personnel.

We must recognize the significant challenges of the future operating environment and develop an aligned approach to fight and win.

The MACCS and AGS communities enable the MAGTF commander to maintain control of the battlespace, maximize effects, and shorten the kill chain.

The next generation of aviation expeditionary enablers are approaching Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of our AC2 family of systems (CAC2S, TPS‐80 G/ATOR, and CTN) and we are on pace to provide game‐changing capabilities to the MAGTF ensuring continued freedom of action.


SANDF Way Ahead: Priorities and Challenges

By defenceWeb

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has revealed its short and long term priorities, including border safeguarding, anti-piracy patrol and continental peacekeeping, which it aims to pursue in spite of severe funding cuts.

In the Department of Defence 2018 Annual Performance Plan, Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube states that “the Department of Defence continues to defend and protect the Republic of South Africa through the execution of the borderline safeguarding function, the continued contribution to domestic, regional and continental stability through the deployment of military capabilities and the provision of safety and security related support to the South African Police Service where so directed.”

In explaining its priorities, the DoD outlined the threats and challenges facing South Africa.

On the political side, it said increasing political instability, predominantly on the African continent, continues to demand the presence of international peacekeeping operations.

“The DOD will remain ready to participate in resourced peace support operations as ordered by Government if and when so required.”

“National interests will continue to drive the involvement of major powers in Africa, specifically where vital interests are at stake.

“While ‘traditional’ interests such as oil and strategic minerals remain important, the perceived threat posed by increases in Islamic extremism to intra-state security is becoming increasingly more predominant.

“According to the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2016 the world has become less peaceful since 2008. Deaths due to terrorism attacks have increased by 286%, deaths related to military battles increased over fivefold and in 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (NHCR) recorded 57 million refugees and internally-displaced people at levels not seen in sixty years.

“Globalisation continues to create opportunities for transnational operating aggressive non-state actors that make use of global cyber-, financial and transportation networks, especially when terrorist and criminal groups have a common cause of destabilising and breaking-down governmental systems.

“The nodal points, such as seaports, airports, computer servers, banking systems, form the centres of their operations with the ultimate end-state to bring about national and regional political instability

Domestically, the DOD will continue to defend and protect the sovereignty and the related priorities of territorial integrity, constitutional order, the security and continuance of national institutions, the well-being, prosperity and upliftment of the people of the RSA, contributing to the creation of a stable environment conducive to economic growth and demonstrable good governance.

“Regionally, the RSA will continue to contribute to the stability, unity and prosperity of the Southern African region and the African continent in general.

“The DOD will continue to support resourced peacekeeping support operations under the auspices of the United Nation’s (UN) and African Union (AU) on the African continent as ordered by National Government and compliance with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force pledge.”

The Department of Defence said it will position itself, within available resources, to respond appropriately when called upon to do so through ordered commitments in accordance with Government policy.

The Annual Performance Plan said a “high level of SANDF combat readiness is required with resourced capabilities” due to the possibility of inter-state conflicts. “Conflicts in Africa may require the deployment of SANDF members who will face armed groupings using heavy conventional weapons.

During SANDF deployments in support of international peace support operations, the SANDF may increasingly face rising challenges of global tensions, hybrid threats that contain a mixture of international and non-international forms of conflict, and the reality of weak and failing states.

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is expected to increase. While the nature of war is not expected to change, the SANDF takes note that the character of conflict and war is changing and constantly evolving.

“The risk regarding international military conflict is growing. The possibility of international military crises which might draw South Africa in, through its existing treaty obligations. The DOD will focus on the preparation of its forces (structure and training doctrine) to ensure that the SANDF is positioned to respond to future complex military environment,” it stated.

External Deployments

As part of efforts to ensure peace and stability on the continent, the SANDF will continue to supply an Infantry Battalion plus supporting elements to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the auspices of the UN Mission (MONUSCO). “The bulk of the SANDF elements deployed as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern parts of the DRC and selected specialist SANDF elements, amongst other, military observers and staff officers, are deployed in and around the capital city of Kinshasa,” the Performance Plan said.

Apart from the DRC, the SANDF will continue to provide military observers as part of the UN/AU hybrid mission in Sudan during the 2018/19 fiscal year. An amount of R3.3 billionis provided over the medium term in the Force Employment programme for activities related to peace support operations.

Maritime Security

Border security is a major consideration for the SANDF, especially the land and sea borders.

The DoD said the focus of the SA Navy continues to remain on the preparation of naval forces for operations in support of the Maritime Security Strategy (MSS). Naval operations involving patrols in the Mozambique Channel for the prevention of piracy-related activities “remains a National and Departmental priority”.

“The SADC Maritime Security Strategy will require continued capacity building in (regional) Maritime Domain Awareness to ensure a safe and secured SADC Maritime environment.

“The latter will be achieved through Joint International Military exercises and other forms of military cooperation with strategic partners such as the BRICS and SADC defence forces to cite but a few.

“The focus of the SADC MSS will remain on maritime crime prevention close to East Coast shores and highlights the requirement for the littoral states to be able to exercise control over their territorial waters and the role of the DOD in protecting the maritime resources in support of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries as part of Operation Phakisa.

“Over the next three years, the South African Navy plans to conduct maritime border patrols and combat piracy in the Mozambique Channel. A suite of surface (frigates), sub-surface (submarines) and offshore patrol vessels will be deployed to keep the country’s maritime space safe and support the execution of the Southern African Development Community’s Maritime Security Strategy.

“The Department aims to maintain the number of hours at sea per year at 12 000 until the FY2018/19, after which they are expected to decrease to 10 000 to align performance with the available budget following the Cabinet-approved budget reduction of R1.6 billion in the Maritime Defence programme over the medium term.

“An amount of R1.5 billion is allocated over the medium term to implement the Maritime Security Strategy mainly in the Maritime Defence programme.”

Border Security

The Department of Defence said that as a sovereign state, South Africa has a duty to safeguard its borders against the possibility of transnational crime, international crime syndicates and cartels, the illegal flow of undocumented migrants, and illicit economic activities.

Over the medium term, the Department will deploy 15 sub-units along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. For this purpose, R3.1 billion is allocated for this over the medium term in the Force Employment programme.

“The DOD is considering new methods of fulfilling its border safeguarding function in the context of a declining departmental budget and commensurate resource allocation. The draft Border Safeguarding Strategy has been developed to secure the air, land and maritime borders during FY2017/18.

“However the finalisation of the departmental Border Safeguarding Strategy is still waiting the promulgation of the National BMA [Border Management Authority] Strategy. Therefore the submission of the Border Safeguarding Sub-Strategy for approval through the departmental processes will only take place during FY2018/19.”

The Department of Defence envisages the Border Management Authority, responsible for the management of South Africa’s borderline and the country’s ports of entry, will be established by 2019.

Economic Recession

An area of concern is the economic recession. “Lower economic growth for South Africa is expected for the year 2018, and the weakening of the RSA currency against other major currencies will further adversely affect economic growth, which is estimated at 1.1% for the FY2018/19.…Unemployment within the traditional work force sectors, including mining and agriculture, may contribute to industrial strikes which will further affect the economy and national security to which the SANDF may be called upon in support of Government intent.

“Statistics South Africa has indicated that unemployment increased by 27.7% for the first and second quarters of 2017 and the latest Statistic South Africa survey indicates poverty levels to be as high as 55.5% among the South African population, estimated at approximately 57 387 892 people.

“These economic factors may slow job creation in the country, which will increasingly create the possibility of conflict emanating from the unemployed and unemployable youth.”

The world’s growing population and urbanisation will spur migration and there will be a tendency for people to migrate across borders. “Trans-national terrorism and crime syndicates continue to increase their illicit activities contributing to instability therefore highlighting the need to resource the SANDF in terms of the border safeguarding responsibility,” the Annual Performance Plan stated.

Social Protests

“During the FY2017/18, violent social protests increased and must be cited as a factor of the highest concern for political and economic risk to South Africa. An increase in social protests and service delivery protests may be expected during the FY2018/19 MTEF [Medium Term Expenditure Framework], in the build up to the 2019 National elections, possibly requiring the SANDF with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure domestic peace and security.”

Cyber Warfare

“There has been an increased cyber-attacks both globally and domestically in the past year against SA National Departments and companies. The DOD remains aware of the possibility of escalated cyber-attacks against South Africa should it become involved in a conflict perceived to be illegitimate. The DOD will implement robust network security architecture, including appropriate segregation and segmentation between the IT and control system (Including weapons systems) networks using firewalls and intrusion prevention/detection tools. The DOD will perform continuous network security monitoring thus enabling the identification of abnormalities on the network,” it stated.

During the 2017/18 fiscal year, the development of the Cyber Warfare Strategy continued within limited resources, and the DoD envisages the Cyber Warfare Strategy will be submitted to the Justice, Crime, Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster Ministers for approval and partial implementation during the 2018/19 fiscal year.

“The DOD Cyber Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) will be established to either prevent or recover from an information warfare incident through the establishment of a Cyber Warfare Command Centre Headquarters. The implementation of the Cyber Warfare Plan remains a challenge due to the inadequate resource allocation adversely impacting on the establishment of the Cyber Command Centre as a national MTSF Outcome 3 imperative.”

Climate Change

The Annual Performance Plan noted that climate change may result in increased regional flooding and/or drought, requiring the SANDF to provide increasing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during General Military Assistance (GMA) operations both domestically and in the SADC region.

The SANDF is already committed to providing disaster aid and relief, and search and rescue operations, on request. A projected R48.8 million is provided over the medium term in the Force Employment programme for activities related to internal operations. The Annual Performance Plan stated that the SANDF will continue to provide assistance including drought relief support, helicopters for firefighting and land and sea search and rescue capabilities.

Lack of Funding

The SANDF has many priorities, but is being hampered by a lack of funding. In the Annual Performance Plan, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stated that “the Department of Defence continues to face the challenge of a persistent disjuncture between the defence mandate and the departmental budget allocation, which has an adverse impact on the ability of the Department of Defence to execute its legislative mandate.

“It must be noted however, that the impact of continued departmental budget reductions has begun to impact adversely on the ability of the South African National Defence Force to execute its mandate and responsibilities through the eroding of defence capabilities. Ongoing budget reduction will continue to hamper the implementation of the South African Defence Review 2015, Plan to Arrest the Decline as approved by Cabinet during 2015.”

The DoD stated that the decrease in defence allocations will continue into the medium term expenditure framework from 0.98% of GDP in 2018 to 0.97% in 2019. “The DOD budget allocation for the 2018 MTEF will have a direct bearing on the implementation of Government policy as articulated through the SA Defence Review 2015 deliverables and will affect defence renewal programs, the ability of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to prepare forces for internal and external commitments and to execute its Constitutional mandate effectively.

“The persistent disconnect between government’s defence expectations and the resources allocated to defence has eroded capabilities to the point where the Defence Force will be unable to fulfil its defence commitments. The SANDF therefore cannot even support the current modest level of ambition. South Africa’s defence ambition and defence capacity are clearly at odds with one another, further warning of the need to invest in its military if South Africa is to arrest its declining influence in Africa.”

The reduction in the budget allocation of the DOD from R50.6 billion to an amount of R47.9 billion resulted in a shortfall of R2.6 billion in both operating and capital budget to the Department for the 2018 MTEF.

“For the SANDF, the ongoing budget reduction, will result in the inability to meet the Governmental Outcome 3 “South Africa’s borders effectively defended, protected, secured and well-managed – border safeguarding” as this may affect the current deployed strength and will also create challenges to increase force levels to 22 sub-units.

“Furthermore this has an impact on the SANDF’s ability to provide trained forces, to renew and maintain combat operational capabilities, to ensure aviation safety during deployments and to counter the deterioration of facilities as well as the renewal of required technology and departmental information systems.

“The budget reduction will furthermore continue to adversely hamper the implementation of the South African Defence Review 2015, Plan to “Arrest the Decline” as approved by Cabinet during 2015.”

Republished with permission of our partner defenceWeb.

This article was first published on Tuesday, 12 June 2018.


SP-MAGTF Working with the French Navy


Earlier this year, the French Navy worked with the USMC’s SP-MAGTF in the US Fifth Fleet Area of Operations.

These photos show a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, landing on aboard French amphibious assault ship LHD Tonnerre (L9014).

The Tonnerre, with embarked Marines and Sailors from Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, is conducting maritime security operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to ensure regional stability, freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Wesley Timm/Released)

January 24, 2018.