Australia Details Plans for Network Centric Warfare
Defense transformation and the move toward network-centric warfare (NCW) is on the agenda of countries as diverse as the USA, Britain, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, et. al. On October 6, 2005, Lt. Gen. David Hurley officially released the Australian Defence Forces’ own updated Network Centric Warfare Roadmap, outlining the steps to achieve the goal of a combined joint seamless Future Joint Operations Concept force by 2020. Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, continue to demonstrate the operational benefits of enhanced information flows and agility: “The NCW Roadmap is a dynamic document that provides an overview of the milestones that we view as critical to the realisation of our vision for NCW”. It achieves this by outlining:
- The ADF’s future NCW capability requirements,
- The ADF’s current NCW capabilities, and
- How the ADF’s future NCW capability requirements are to be realized
- How the plan itself may change as the effort progresses
The NCW Roadmap provides both industry and armed forces with and idea of where opportunities for future development may exist, and offers some context re: how the Minstry of Defence will implement the idea of Network Centric Warfare. It identifies four key steps to set the ADF on the road to becoming a mature NCW force:
# Set the NCW related targets and milestones for the ADF;
# Establish the Network;
# Initiate changes in doctrine, and education and training, and;
# Accelerate the process of change and innovation through mechanisms such as RPDE in concert with industry.
Australia’s $600 million JP 2072 Battlespace Communications System (Land) project, covered earlier today, will certainly be part of this process. The following milestones have been established to measure progress, as Ausralia seeks to evolve its NCW capability:
- 2008: Broadband Networked Maritime Task Group – initial capability.
- 2008: Networked Aerospace Surveillance and Battlespace Management capability.
- 2009: Interim Networked Land Combat Force.
- 2010: Networked Fleet – mature capability.
- 2010: Integrated Coalition Network capability.
- 2012: First Networked Brigade.
- 2013: Networked Air Warfare Force.
- 2014: Second networked Brigade.
- 2015: Robust Battlespace Network.
- 2015: Networked Joint Task Force.
While this Roadmap outlines the Ministry of Defence’s plan to achieve the desired NCW target states, the pace of change in technology provides significant potential for industry to play a key role in enhancing the ADF’s NCW capability development. Indeed, Chapter 9 of the report is explicitly titled: “The Emerging Role of Rapid Prototyping, Development and Evaluation” (RPDE). Apart from the RPDE program, avenues in which industry could participate in the development of an NCW capability include:
- Collaborative development in conjunction with Australia’s DSTO;
- Concept technology demonstrators;
- Involvement in industry fora (for example, Australian Defence Industry Electronic Systems Association [ADIESA]); and
- Experimentation to develop the human dimension of NCW.
Australia will continue to face a zone of instability in the South Pacific, which means that its “deputy sheriff” role for the region is likely to continue for some time. At the same time, its presence on the fringes of Islamic extremism’s ambitions will continue to embroil it in what US General Abizaid has termed “The Long War” against Islamofascism. In the background are growing links to both India and China, whose contest for influence is likely to play out right on its doorstep.
Given its constrained defence budgets, Australia faces hard choices and high stakes. Lively discussion will certainly continue regarding Australia’s role, capabilities, and spending priorities. Transformation efforts require a roadmap, however – and with the publication of its 2005 NCW Roadmap, Australia has at last placed its efforts and discussions on a more solid footing.