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 Future Wars - Futuristic Forces : Is the Future Here Already


Future Wars - Futuristic Forces : Is the Future Here Already?

Chief of Australian Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, addresses the Land Warfare Conference. Brisbane, October 22, 2002. Source: Media Release 585/02 issued by Public Affairs and Corporate Communication, Australian Department of Defence, Canberra. (Photo POPH R. Fengler).

Chief of Army (CA) Lieutenant General P.F. Leahy, AO

The events in Bali last week have horrified and saddened us all. They have caused all of us to think of the future.

  • What are the implications?
  • What can we do?
  • How can we even understand what seems to be unfolding?

Now, in our immediate neighborhood, indeed in a place many of us considered as our playground we have seen the same mass casualty terrorism which devastated the United States homeland on September 11 2001.

As we gather at this important conference we have been challenged to ponder the nature of future wars and the type of soldier, doctrine, training, equipment and force structure required for the army to be able to operate effectively in the 21st century.

The Nation State has no greater obligation than to ensure the security of its people and its territory.

The Australian Army has served the nation for 101 years. over those one hundred years we have served the nation faithfully and well.

We have been involved in many wars and campaigns.

Almost without exception they have seen us operating offshore as a partner in a coalition.

Apart from bombing raids during World War II we have not had to provide for the direct defence of Australian sovereign territory.

We have generally acted to defend Australia away from our shores.

This "outward strategy" has been a very practical method of ensuring Australia's security.

It has been:

  • A clear indication of our commitment to alliances,
  • A very positive statement of our view of ourselves as a world citizen,
  • A recognition that we have clearly defined national interests offshore
  • Warfare has always been difficult and dangerous.

We have structured ourselves to deal with a particular kind of war. We are prepared for wars between states. This is the most dangerous type of war and remains our primary responsibility.

In Australia's case we have based our strategy on the advantage offered to us by geography and the sea - air gap to our north.

This has resulted in a tightly defined force structure based on a maritime strategy.

There have been allowances for other activities but only in a "marginal" sense.

During the 90’s army operated in these margins and found the going difficult. who would have thought that under a "Defence of Australia" construct within a maritime strategy that we would operate in Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda and East-Timor?

Army did not see that these activities were in the margins. These were offshore activities that stretched our preparedness, our flexibility and adaptability, as well as our ability to deploy across large distances and sustain ourselves.

Through our activities in the 90’s we saw that there was a fundamental disconnect between strategic doctrine and strategic practice.

Indeed, I recall when "Land Warfare Doctrine One" was published in the late 90’s under General Frank Hickling.

Responding to the lessons of the 90’s and published before Timor, Frank had urged that Army had a responsibility to be prepared for expeditionary activities.

The gatekeepers of strategic doctrine did not view this at all well. scorn and derision were thrown our way.

Army was simply saying that we needed the capability to be able to operate offshore at considerable distances from our support base.

Today we have forces deployed in Timor and in Afghanistan. we are offshore and operating on exterior lines.

  • I have a question - Will the wars of the 21st century be the same as those of the 20th century?

I have my doubts. Certainly the strategic environment appears to be changing dramatically and rapidly.

We would all note the crucial decisions to be made in the United Nations over the next few weeks and months.

It is too early to predict with any certainty what form of international system will replace the power blocs of the cold war era. As we look back now we can see that it was a fairly stable, predictable period.

Even a cursory look around the world shows that our stable and predictable period has vanished amid ethnic tensions and failed and failing states.

We are experiencing a troubled and fractured planet where it seems civilisations are clashing along fault lines, one of which is well and truly in our region.

There does not appear to be a peace dividend and I can't see that we have reached the end of history.

We now inhabit a mad max world of failed and failing states where mass civilian casualties may be the objective of conflict rather than its by-product.

These are very challenging and stimulating times.

As we ponder the nature of the future I would like to give you indication of what our opinion makers and leaders are saying.

slide 2

  • Paul Kelly in Saturdays Australian:

Australia faces a new challenge to its strategic outlook and internal harmony - the opening in south East Asia of a second front in the global campaign by Islamic fascism to destroy moderate pro-western governments in the Muslim world.

slide 3

  • With regard to our strategic debate Kelly tells us:

The backdrop will be a national mood of grief, apprehension, conservatism and strong patriotism. the Australian public is likely to be dogmatic on border security, insistent about citizen loyalty, searching in its evaluation of plans for military action and resolute when its leaders make a convincing case.

slide 4

  • In the same paper, Greg Sheridan offered:

We must recast our approach to South-East Asia, to Indonesia and to domestic security. the challenge is radical, pervasive and profound.

slide 5

  • The treasurer in a speech to the Asia Institute this week said:

The point is that Australians are part of Asia.

Security problems in Asia are security problems for Australians and for Australia.

We must not withdraw. We must increase our engagement. We should work from our strengths as an advanced country in the region to stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours in the fight against terrorism.

slide 6

  • Our own minister has also been consistently and insistently giving us his views of the future:

The geographical spread of these ADF deployments highlights what might be called the globalisation of security. now, more than ever before, security is indivisible. threats transcend borders and cannot be met by any one country acting alone. for Australia, it demonstrates again that defence of Australia and its interests does not stop at the edge of the sea-air gap.

slide 7

The current strategic environment means a narrowly geographical approach to strategy and force structure may not give us the range of capabilities the government needs to be able to call on ... We are seeing fundamental changes in the notion that our security responsibilities are confined largely to our own region. the ADF is both more likely to be deployed and increasingly likely to be deployed well beyond Australia.

I don't know about you but I hear our minister calling. he is asking us some difficult and challenging questions.

I for one, want to be able to respond. I want to be able to say to the minister, "don't worry, the army has been listening and this is our response informed by our experiences of the last decade."

I have another question:

Do we need to change? To my mind the answer is yes, but there are many competing thoughts and imperatives.

Is this seeming mad max world a passing fad or is it here to stay?

Do we need to change the fundamental nature of our defence to cope with a new future?

How many futures will we have? will they run in parallel with each other like the marine three block war?

  • Can Buck Rogers in a UAV or JSF deal with mad max?

Are we only talking about changes in the margins and if so how big is a margin?

How do we achieve the necessary flexibility, adaptability and agility within the force to be able to cope with these changing demands.

I think I have finished my questions. Now I have a challenge for you.

Every one of us is under a personal obligation to strive for professional mastery in this era of ambiguity, uncertainty, fear and diverse threats. It is an exacting professional requirement. But we have witnessed the potential price of failure etched on the faces of our fellow Australians in Bali this last week.

That is why conferences such as this on future wars and futuristic forces are a vital element of our professional development. the old certainties are evaporating.

The price of intellectual stagnation and doctrinal failure in the future will be brutally high. Nor will it be confined to the men and women under our command. It seems that our civilizations rather than our armies, navies and air forces may well be the target of our enemies.

slide 8

  • Let's listen to the minister again.

He has identified five new features of the different strategic landscape of the early 21st century;

  • A greater disposition towards unilateral action and preemption of threats at a distance by the United States,
  • The globalization of security
  • The growing indivisibility of major security threats
  • The rise of non-traditional, transnational threats such as terrorism,
  • The rise of a broader spectrum of threats and tasks ranging from war fighting through peace operations to border security.

slide 9

Perhaps, because we haven't been listening, the minister has made his own interpretation of these new circumstances. he sees that the ADF must:

  • Recognise the likelihood of deployment well beyond Australia as evidenced by the fact that since 1999 the ADF has operated as far apart as East Timor, Afghanistan, Krgyzstan and the Persian Gulf so highlighting the globalisation of security,
  • Place a premium on flexibility in assets and doctrine in a "come as you are" operation,
  • Place a premium on coalition operations and interoperability both regionally and globally,
  • Prepare for a future involving increased inter-agency security planning,
  • Recognise that habit and tradition must not be allowed to impede necessary change.

Our task now is to listen to the minister and deliver the army he is clearly asking for.

  • What do I think.

Let me give you my very brief take on what the "futuristic force" will look like.

slide 10

The future force will be characterized by the following:

  • Strategic agility
  • High precision lethality
  • Pervasive situational awareness
  • Highly networked sensors and shooters
  • Joint effects
  • Part of a seamless force
  • Ready and flexible
  • Focussed on littoral warfare
  • Based on combined arms groups
  • A learning organisation solidly based on Australian and army values

I believe we are in excellent shape to undertake this journey of modernisation.

slide 11

My intent is to continue the terrific work begun by my predecessors, Frank Hickling and Peter Cosgrove. they laid the vital doctrinal foundations for army to ultimately achieve professional mastery of littoral manoeuvre.

Frank Hickling through his commitment of army to a maritime concept of strategy in 1998 initiated one of the most significant changes by an army leader since federation.

In turn Peter Cosgrove with the lessons of East-Timor under his belt, presided over the initial stages of major enhancements to Army's capability to operate away from our domestic support base.

Consequently we are in good shape to transition towards the Future Force and introduce in a timely fashion those capabilities which we will need to remain relevant in the new and uncertain security environment of the future.

At this point let me make one thing very clear. I intend to maintain army's baseline mastery of warfighting. this has been our strength in the past and will be our strength in the future.

But it will not be good enough for the army to merely focus on the conventional capabilities required to defeat the army of another state.

We are going to need to be versatile, agile, scalable and adaptable. we will need to be deployable by air and sea and interoperable with likely coalition partners. We must also be prepared to take a leadership role in coalitions.

This is why the intellectual and doctrinal framework provided by our manoeuvre operations in the littoral environment - mole concept is essential to how we conduct warfare in the future.

It is unlikely that in the future we will be fighting large scale conventional defensive battles on Australian soil.

It is very likely that joint task forces will be conducting rapid deployment / decisive effect operations further afield in support of our allies. we will be seeking security with and in the region rather than from the region.

Our junior leaders and soldiers will need to be able to handle ambiguity and to exploit broad directive command. they will be operating in a cluttered and dangerous terrain where every action will be closely scrutinised.

  • The strategic corporal is a reality not a cliché.

There is an area where army can play to our strength. that strength is our people.

We have good people who are well trained, well led and because they operate on the ground are able to support, protect and persuade populations.

What I have spoken about today is not a Tom Clancy vision. I have actually described the types of operations our special forces have been conducting in Afghanistan.

I am confident that we are well placed to move to the future. The Defence Capability Plan and our emerging objective force set in 2020 both underpinned by a robust experimentation framework will keep us on course for the ensuing modernisation process.

In closing I would like to set the scene for the remainder of the conference.

Our sub themes are going to be:

  • Firepower,
  • Homeland security, and
  • Littoral manoeuvre.

These are important topics.

Because these are important topics that weigh heavily on our future I am particularly pleased to see the active involvement of DSTO and industry in this conference and our experimentation process.

Indeed, without the support and leadership of DSTO we would not be able to conduct this conference. Let me also note my pleasure in being able to move this conference between the capital cities. The magnificent response from industry and the ability to involve many firms is a clear vindication of our policy in sharing this conference between our major industrial centres.

In closing let me say I am delighted to announce that for the first time there will be industry participation in the army experimental framework studies in 2003.

It is clear that in the future we must achieve technological and knowledge supremacy.

Against any foe, but especially a shadowy, dispersed and elusive foe our ability to link commanders, sensors and shooters, to process information and acquire and engage targets in real time is going to be critical to success.

I wish you well for your deliberations over the coming days.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).