The Electromagnetic Spectrum and Hybrid Warfare

The introduction in 1915 of the so-called ‘interrupter’ gear allowed pilots to fire a machine gun through the propeller arc of First World War combat aircraft.

This was a decisive change; pilots could now find and track targets in their field of view, assess their situation, manoeuvre their aircraft and engage threats with some degree of accuracy. Find, track, assess, manoeuvre and engage.

This critical development turned aircraft into competent air-to-air combat machines that could have a significant effect in their contemporary battlespace.

Presently, and moving into the future, high-intensity warfighting operations against a peer adversary will require a level of dynamic joint and combined integration in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) that is akin to an organisational interrupter gear.

The electromagnetic interrupter gear will need to synchronise spectrum requirements for communications, radars and precision navigation and timing as well as requirements for understanding what the similar threat systems are doing, and the conduct of offensive electronic warfare to degrade and disrupt the threat’s use of the spectrum.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and its allies will need to be able to find and track threats in the EMS, assess their future courses of action, manoeuvre both physically and in the EMS and engage through the most appropriate warfighting domain. Find, track, assess, manoeuvre and engage.

Potential threat nations learned from the West’s way of war after the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and the 1999 Kosovo air campaign; the strength of Russian, Iranian, and Chinese integrated air defence systems are a testament to this. Similarly, potential threat actors have observed the West’s recent campaigns and adapted to meet them.

Threat actors are exploiting the ‘grey zone’ that precedes a declared conventional war; they have sophisticated approaches for leveraging multi-domain effects to achieve their objectives.

Experiences from Syria, Ukraine and the South China Sea demonstrate that the ‘unconventional’ and hybrid are now conventional and will be part of the reality of high-intensity warfare. The presence of proxy, paramilitary or deniable forces of little green men or little blue men, an array of remotely controlled or robotic threats and a complex multi-pronged contest in the EMS should now be assumed in high-intensity warfare, and the grey zone of conflict escalation that precedes it.

It is therefore valuable to review some significant themes in recent campaigns to identify signposts for the role of EMS operations in high-intensity warfare.

Manoeuvre in the Electromagnetic Spectrum can be Decisive in the Physical Domain

Much has been written elsewhere over the last decade about the ‘unconventional’ threat that western militaries faced in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Western militaries were caught on the hop by the proliferation of improvised threats that exploited the EMS, particularly during the initial counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Remote controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had a huge impact on the approach to manoeuvre by western forces. IEDs targeted the strategic centre of gravity of the West; casualty numbers.

Arguably the constraints that these devices placed on the ability of western forces to manoeuvre at will in the physical domain and engage freely with the population had a strategic impact on the course of those wars. Behind the explosions, there was an unforeseen and dynamic battle of cat and mouse in the EMS.

There is a significant amount written elsewhere about the importance of being able to ‘manoeuvre in the Electromagnetic Spectrum’; the IED contest is a useful and tangible lesson in what that phrase means.

As IED makers developed new means of activating IEDs remotely, western forces developed jammers to defeat those devices; the IED makers then quickly adapted to another remote device in another part of the spectrum, and the dance continued.

Control of the Air depends on Control of the EMS – Examples from Hybrid Warfare

The Air Power Manual, AAP-1000D, Australia’s current capstone air power doctrine, defines Control of the Air as ‘the ability to conduct friendly operations in all three dimensions without effective interference from enemy air power.’

Recent and ongoing conflicts have demonstrated that the air is now contested through an array of remotely controlled and robotic devices; to defeat those devices requires an equivalent ‘Control of the EMS’.

The following examples will explore some recent examples that signpost the requirements of EMS operations in a high-intensity conflict.

In January 2018, non-state actors conducted a co-ordinated strike mission against Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria with a total of 13 improvised unmanned air systems (UAS). According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, all the UAS were ‘detected […] at the safe distance (sic) from the base’ and neutralised without hitting their target. Control of some of the UAS was ‘seized’ by Russian ‘Electronic Warfare hardware’ which forced them to land; short-range air defence systems destroyed some.

The Russian Ministry of Defence indicated that they used a layered system of multi-domain air defence that integrated EW and air defence batteries.

Ironically, this kind of unconventional targeted strike seems to have learned from and built upon the tactics recently employed with devastating success against ammunition dumps in Eastern Ukraine.

In those instances, the actor that conducted the attack is not clear or declared. The attacks were reportedly conducted by unidentified drones which dropped Russian thermite grenades onto their targets.  The results indicate that the Ukrainian armed forces either could not find and track these drones, or the ability to engage them to prevent the successful conduct of their missions. It is possible that they had neither.

In both examples non-state, proxy, or deniable forces demonstrated intent and capability to deliver effects through the air to disrupt logistics and operations in depth.

In the Syrian example, the Russians demonstrated that control of the EMS contributes significantly to control of the air in hybrid warfare; the Ukrainian example demonstrates that the absence of at least one essential part of the EMS interrupter gear undermines control of the air.

In February 2018, an Iranian ‘Saeqeh’ UAS conducted an incursion into Israeli airspace and was engaged and destroyed in around 90 seconds after crossing the border by AH-64 Apaches. This event has an interesting history that is very useful for understanding the relevance of effective EMS operations in high-intensity warfare.

The ‘Saeqeh’ UAS itself is a clone of the US RQ-170 UAS. This cloning was made possible for Iranian defence and industry through an opportunity to reverse engineer a US RQ-170 low observable UAS that landed in Iran while on a reconnaissance mission in 2011.

The Iranians claim that they forced that RQ-170 to land through a combination of datalink jamming and GPS spoofing by their EW Force, which fooled the RQ-170 into landing in Iran. Regardless of the truth in that event, the techniques that the Iranians claim to have used are plausible and point again to the role of EMS operations in control of the air.

Following the reverse engineering of the RQ-170 outlined above, the subsequent clone, called the ‘Saeqeh,’ conducted an incursion of Israeli airspace on February 18. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) reported that they were able to track the ‘Saeqeh’ throughout its mission from its launch site near Palmyra in central Syria.

It is not clear how this tracking was achieved, but it was almost certainly through the EMS through an electronic signature.

Based on this tracking information the IDF assessed the route of the UAS and manoeuvred AH-64 Apaches to wait for it when it crossed into Israel. The Apaches engaged and destroyed the Saeqeh. Based upon the active exploitation of information from the EMS and integration with operations the IDF was able to find, track, assess, manoeuvre and engage in neutralising this UAS; in this case with kinetic effects.

These RQ-170 and Saeqeh examples took place in the legal and political grey zone of armed conflict; the US and Israel, Iran and Syria are not in a formally declared war, and the borders are static. In both cases, it is likely that the defenders knew enough about the presence and nature of the UAS in question to have anticipated its activity and prepared a response; one kinetic, one non-kinetic but both appropriate responses based upon the fact that the engagements took place in the defender’s airspace.

These scenarios were very predictable for all sides and not a complex or dynamic operational EMS challenge.

In both circumstances, the ‘penetrating’ nation attempted to exploit low-observability and control of UAS through the EMS to achieve control of the air sufficient to achieve their mission. In both cases, the superior exploitation of the EMS by the defending force enabled them to maintain control of the air in their airspace.

It is apparent from the examples above that both the Russians and the Israelis demonstrated control of the air sufficient to defeat the threat that they faced.

They both demonstrated that they have been able to manoeuvre both physically and, in the EMS, to meet their threat.

They were able to find, track, assess and engage with EW or kinetic effects. It is apparent that the Ukrainian armed forces did not have Control of the Air sufficient to defeat the UAS attack through either kinetic or EMS effects and suffered the devastating success of the attack as a result.

The Russian and Israeli EMS ‘interrupter gears’ in these situations demonstrated an ability to anticipate and address threat manoeuvre in the EMS. It is important to recognise that the EMS environment that these defensive systems faced were essentially predictable and informed by several opportunities to understand the pattern of activity and character of their threat in the EMS.

Aside from the UAS involved, the defensive forces that were involved or affected by these EMS operations were also largely static and well established. The respective Iranian and Israeli EMS command and control then only needed to deal with an EMS threat that could evolve or change over time periods such as weeks or months.

EMS Operations in High-Intensity Warfighting

In future high-intensity warfare, EMS operations are likely to be more complex than the scenarios above, but they will be an extension of the same themes and activities.

The operating environment itself is likely to be more dynamic with a broad range of manoeuvring actors in the area.

A peer adversary is likely to attempt to conduct multiple coordinated incursions into friendly airspace and territory with a broad range of remote weapon systems, many of which will use data links, sensors and transmitters that are hard to detect, characterise and track.

The joint force will need to counter these across a coalition through integrated command and control of effects across the EMS and the warfighting domains.

High-intensity warfighting will place extraordinary demands on the EMS interrupter gear, which will be critical to the success of operations by the joint and combined force.

A Way Ahead for ADF EMS operations

The solution for EMS operations is not just a technological one; effective EMS operations will also require significant evolutions in doctrine, organisation and training. For the former, the US has developed a doctrinal concept that they call ‘Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations’ (JEMSO).

JEMSO is a strategic ‘top-down’ concept. JEMSO should create a common lexicon and a joint ‘umbrella’ framework for the US services to integrate their service-specific structures and approaches to EMS into a common command and control system at the joint force level.

The ADF will similarly need an ability to conduct this integrated command and control of EMS operations on its own and to be interoperable with the US framework.

Organisationally, the ADF will need to adapt the joint force so that it can integrate, plan, and execute EMS operations.

To properly exploit the potential of the EA-18G Growler and future electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, the ADF will need EMS Operations cells in operational and tactical level joint and single-domain headquarters.

High-intensity warfare will demand that this capability is networked and synchronised throughout the joint force.

Innovation, Acquisition, and the EMS

It is not just the operational force that requires adaptation to meet the requirements of high-intensity warfare in the EMS. Threat evolution requires rapid development, acquisition, and integration of new technologies into the force. Intelligence will need to be geared to keep ahead of this threat and to inform the direction of capability management.

To keep ahead of the threat, technological development and innovation will need to leverage the ideas of industry, academia and Australia’s own Defence Science and Technology Group; threat capabilities and warfighter requirements should lead this, not the availability of technology.

To achieve sufficiently cutting-edge technology, this requires an agile acquisition system.

A heavy appetite for innovation risk will be required; we should be prepared for projects to ‘fail’ when developing cutting-edge technologies, without seeing the activity as a failed effort.

Innovation and technological solutions will need to be lockstep with the warfighter to ensure that the appropriate training, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) are developed by services or the joint force to introduce them to service. My previous review of The Hunter Killers highlighted the incredibly high casualty rate suffered by the first Wild Weasel surface-to-air missile hunting squadrons; half of the aircrew of the first squadron was killed-in-action.

Within the early Wild Weasel programmes, technological developments were poorly integrated with intelligence for the warfighter which manifested in weak tactics development before their initial deployments. The high mortality rate is a testament to this lack of integration. To avoid a similar fate, the joint force will need a means of rapidly developing, prototyping, and fielding new technologies and a coherent means of integrating intelligence-led TTPs development to employ them effectively.

Train the Force to Operate in the EMS

Technological solutions can enable us to move EW effects to the frequency band that the threat is in, but only education and training can deliver the ‘skill and care’ necessary for effective EMS manoeuvre. The effective conduct of EMS operations needs educated warfighters that understand not just the technical aspects of this contest, but the operational concepts and inter-relationship with the other warfighting domains.

The Russian military has integrated EW capabilities throughout their forces; ‘It’s found throughout every arm of service, every branch of service, it’s almost impossible to avoid EW capability, which very much contrasts to western militaries.’ Russian EW activity is integral with but not subordinate to signals intelligence, cyber and conventional combat capabilities.

Along with the distinct operational advantages of EW integration into combined arms units and formations, this has a significant second-order effect; Russian officers become familiar and comfortable with the integration and use of EW at a very early stage of their career. They train to fight in and with it.

Education provides warfighters with the understanding to identify operational changes and adapt promptly; most significantly it enables warfighters with the ability to adapt to unique and unforeseen circumstances in an innovative but logical fashion.

The ADF does not have such familiarity with EW within the joint force. It will require a new cadre of EW generalists throughout the force that can assist in the integration of EW at the lowest level; it will also require specialist planners at the tactical and operational levels.


The examples above demonstrate clear patterns in the exploitation of the EMS by state and non-state actors in hybrid warfare; use of remote devices in land and air to attack high profile and high payoff targets at the front line and in the rear area should be assumed to be the new baseline threat in hybrid warfare. Non-state actors increasingly have access to ever more sophisticated capabilities.

However, it is apparent that conventional forces in future high-intensity warfare will use a broad spectrum of remotely controlled devices in land, sea and air that have much better range, are much faster, agiler in the EMS and more destructive than their non-state peers.

JEMSO offers the ADF a suitable model to develop an organisational EMS interrupter gear and a vector for the supporting capability management and force generation structures that are required to underpin it.

Dynamic joint force acquisition and capability management will be a vital element of preparing the ADF to win the EMS contest in high-intensity warfighting; however, and while it has not been considered in this article, it remains a truism that the human component is likely to be the key to winning or losing.

Ultimately, the ADF will need appropriately educated and trained warfighters able to anticipate, integrate and exploit the EMS.

Warfighters empowered with education in operations in and through the EMS will be the foundation of victory in #highintensitywar.

Find, track, assess, manoeuvre and engage.

Squadron Leader Jimmy is an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. The opinions expressed are his alone and do not reflect those of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Defence Force, or the Australian Government.

This was republished with the permission of The Williams Foundation and first appeared in their column The Central Blue.



A Special Relationship in Collusion: Clapper and the Steele Dossier

A recent Fox News piece reminded us that there has been clear collusion to derail a US presidential election, and it was not orchestrated by Moscow.

Rather, it was backchannel collusion between Brits and Americans to defeat Donald Trump.

In a London courtroom this week, lawyers for Christopher Steele, the former British spy and author of the Trump dossier, fought to protect his sources, which claimed the Kremlin had salacious and compromising information on Donald Trump.

In March, Steele was ordered by the English High Court to appear for an upcoming videotaped deposition in London to be used as trial testimony in ongoing civil litigation against Buzzfeed for publishing the unverified dossier.

Buzzfeed, the online publication, is being sued by Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev in the UK and in Florida for publishing the dossier prepared by Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, that named companies owned by Gubarev, a technology executive.

In the complex litigation, Buzzfeed, according to the Times of London, is now seeking to quiz Steele on “the dossier as a whole,” which is a change in tactics.

“Shameful” was the word quoted by the British newspaper, attributing it to an anonymous associate of Steele’s company. Steele’s colleague, Chris Burrows…..

Fray-Witzer alleged that “Buzzfeed wants to pretend that it was reporting on some government investigation. It wasn’t. The Dossier wasn’t some government report, it was a bunch of memos written by a private opposition research firm hired to try to find dirt. 

And when Buzzfeed threw it up on the internet, they weren’t publishing the Pentagon Papers, they were doing exactly what they admitted they were doing – publishing salacious, unverified information because they thought people would click on it. If you publish clickbait you should own up to it and not pretend it’s journalism.”

But this goes way beyond “Fake News,” given the role of a prominent American in the last Administration.

It clearly seems that Lt. Gen in the USAF and then Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper, conspired to furnish information, concocted by Christopher Steele a retired British MI-6 intelligence agent, to undercut the Trump campaign.

In this Monday, May 8, 2017, file photo, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

As Rowan Scarbourough underscored in a Washingotn Times story published on April 28, 2018:

James Clapper, while the nation’s highest ranking intelligence officer, leaked to CNN sleazy anti-Trump information contained in the Christoper Steele dossier that was privately briefed to the president-elect, according to a new House intelligence report.

Now a paid CNN analyst, Mr. Clapper had denied he was the leaker. He is an ardent Trump critic and has predicted his downfall.

President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, Mr. Clapper admitted to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in private testimony that he briefed CNN’s Jake Tapper in early January 2017.

He had pressed FBI Director James Comey to present to Mr. Trump at Trump Tower on Jan. 6, 2017 the dossier’s salacious parts, according to Mr. Comey’s own memos.

CNN then ran a story on Jan. 10, 2017 about the briefing which said the Russians own compromising material on the new president concerning prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.

The report gave the dossier instant legitimacy. Its unverified charges have dogged the Trump White House ever since.

Mr. Steele, an British ex-spy, was paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The CNN report made no mention of its partisan origins as opposition research, although the intelligence community knew this at the time.

CNN received the prestigious Merriman Smith Award on Saturday for its Jan. 10 story at the annual White House Correspondents dinner.

The Clapper-dossier chronology

Mr. Clapper had urged the Trump briefing, then leaked the information to CNN, which ran the story. Mr. Clapper later was hired by CNN as an analyst, and CNN won an award for the story based on his leak.

The Clapper admission is contained in the final Russia election report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Republican majority concluded there was no election collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Clapper subsequently acknowledged discussing the ‘dossier with CNN journalist Jake Tapper,’ and admitted that he might have spoken with other journalists about the same topic,” the committee report said.

After the CNN leaked story, Mr. Clapper issued a statement condemning the leaks and expressing his “profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press … I do not believe the leaks came from with the [intelligence community].”

Committee Republicans said that the CNN report was the spur that prompted the news website BuzzFeed to post the entire 35-page dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.

Mr. Clapper joined CNN in August 2017, a month after his committee testimony.

He said on CNN earlier this month that he had not spoken to any reporters until after he retired as director of national intelligence.

“I talked about it after I left government,” he said. “I don’t understand how I leaked it to CNN.”

The award citation to four CNN journalists, including Mr. Tapper, reads:

These four journalists and a number of other CNN reporters broke the story that the intelligence community had briefed President Barack Obama and then-President elect Donald Trump that Russia had compromising information about Trump. The CNN team later reported that then-FBI Director James Comey personally briefed Trump about the dossier.

Thanks to this CNN investigation, ‘the dossier, is now part of the lexicon.

The depth of reporting demonstrated in these remarkable and important pieces, and the constant updates as new information continued to be uncovered showed breaking news reporting at its best.

The citation omits the fact the dossier was unverified opposition research…..

Looking back in history we have other such attempts to influence US policy.  The Cambridge spies come to mind with the role of Donald Maclean working within US intelligence to shape core judgments within the US government.

Maclean served in Washington from 1944 to 1948, achieving promotion to First Secretary. Melinda Maclean was again pregnant, giving birth to a son in New York City. The Macleans frequently visited Melinda Maclean’s mother and step-father in Manhattan and at Dunbar’s country place in the Berkshires and vacationed on Long Island and Cape Cod with Mrs. Dunbar and Melinda Maclean’s sisters.

The Macleans became part of the liberal Georgetown social set in Washington, which included Katharine Graham, as well as participating in the diplomatic life of the city, Donald Maclean playing tennis with the Ambassador.

Towards the end of that period Donald Maclean acted as Secretary of the Combined Policy Committee on atomic energy matters. He was Moscow‘s main source of information about US/UK/Canada atomic energy policy development.

Although Maclean did not transmit technical data on the atom bomb, he reported on its development and progress, particularly the amount of plutonium (used in the Fat Man bombs) available to the United States.

As the British representative on the American-British-Canadian Council on the sharing of atomic secrets, he was able to provide the Soviet Union with information from Council meetings. This gave Soviet scientists the ability to predict the number of bombs that could be built by the Americans.

Coupled with the efforts of Los Alamos-based scientists Alan Nunn MayKlaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall (who had been identified but was allowed to remain at large), Maclean’s reports to his NKVD controller gave the Soviets a basis to estimate their nuclear arsenal’s relative strength against that of the United States and Britain. In addition to atomic energy matters, Maclean’s responsibilities at the Washington embassy included civil aviation, bases, post-hostilities planning, Turkey and Greece, NATO and Berlin.

Looking back further in history we have the UK-US tandem of General Benedict Arnold and Major André working to affect outcomes in American history.Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) was an early American hero of the Revolutionary War (1775-83) who later became one of the most infamous traitors in U.S. history after he switched sides and fought for the British.

At the outbreak of the war, Arnold participated in the capture of the British garrison of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. In 1776, he hindered a British invasion of New York at the Battle of Lake Champlain.

The following year, he played a crucial role in bringing about the surrender of British General John Burgoyne’s (1722-92) army at Saratoga. Yet Arnold never received the recognition he thought he deserved.

In 1779, he entered into secret negotiations with the British, agreeing to turn over the U.S. post at West Point in return for money and a command in the British army.

The plot was discovered, but Arnold escaped to British lines.

His name has since become synonymous with the word “traitor.”

John Andre — handsome, artistic, beloved by the Loyalists, admired by Washington … a spy brave and cunning … convinced Benedict Arnold to sell out West Point … hanged at age 31.

John Andre was born in London in 1750 to French Protestant (Huguenot) parents. His father was a merchant, born in Geneva, Switzerland; his mother was born in France and moved to England when she was young. He attended school in Geneva, returning to London in 1767, two years before his father died.

The young Andre was a charismatic and charming man whose manners and advanced education set him apart from his contemporaries in England. He was fluent in English, French, German, and Italian. He drew and painted, wrote lyric and comic verse, and played the flute.”

What we have in the Clapper-Steele team is even worse. 

Here a key US intelligence official used his ties with foreign intelligence to work to shape the outcome of a free election, not in some distant land, but in his own.

With daily breaking news as opposed to fake news on stilts we are seeing the opening act of an historical American tragedy with another American General and a British spy trying to destroy our democratic process.  What has occurred against a duly elected President is nothing less than an attempted “deep state” Intelligence Community (IC) coup:

The House Intelligence Committee released the final report on its Russia investigation on Friday April 25, 2018) which concluded that the yearlong probe “found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government.”

The report also found that leaks of classified information alleging Russia’s intentions to elect Trump intensified after Trump was elected. The leaks “damaged national security and endangered lives” according to the summary. The report singled out Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in the section on leaks and said that he “provided inconsistent information about his contacts with the media.”

What we seem to know is that Clapper worked with British spy to generate disinformation and to circulate to the US media as real information.  But what remains to be determined is the relationship between UK and other allied intelligences and US intelligence in playing this role.

According to an article published in the Guardian on April 13, 2017 is that there may well have been a role.

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.

GCHQ  first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence – known as sigint – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.

Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors

The article interprets this foreign spy intervention as relatively positive as it was “exposing” activities of the Trump campaign team.

But given the doggy nature of the “Steele file,” it is more a question of the US spymaster used his foreign sources to generate information coming from outside the United States to influence political events.

This is a dramatic set of actions, which may make historical examples pale by comparison.


















High Intensity Warfare and Air Force Culture

To say that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is a hackneyed quote is an understatement. Indeed, the critical problem here is that the phrase is used so often that it has increasingly lost any meaning to be useful as a lens through which to analyse organisational behaviour.

What do we mean by culture?

Why does it eat strategy for breakfast?

What is the relevance of culture to air forces and how can we conceptualise its meaning for a force structure seeking to grapple with the challenge of high-intensity warfare.

Broadly speaking culture is the values, beliefs and assumptions that shape the behaviour of a group.

Culture exists at several levels and finds its outgrowth in both ideational and materialist areas.

Regarding levels of culture, authors often discuss strategic, organisational, sub- and countercultures as critical areas of analysis, though not often together.

However, while understanding the culture of an organisation is useful for conceptualising the ideas that underpin the behaviour of a group, the term is not without its challenges. Primarily, the issue of definition remains contested, and the term culture has become malleable and nebulous. Added to this is the unwillingness of some to engage deeply with the anthropological origins of culture.

Nonetheless, several of the articles in this joint high-intensity war series run by From Balloons to Drones and The Central Blue have alluded to the importance of establishing the ‘right’ culture in an organisation.

As such, this article, which forms part of a larger project by the author on the culture of small air forces, seeks to offer some thoughts on the meaning of culture and unpack its ‘black box’ of tricks.[1]

Sources of Culture

Broadly, military culture is derived from two sources. ‘First, culture is derived from what individuals bring to the military from broader society and second, it is a consequence of military experience and training.’[2] Concerning the former; social, educational, and economic backgrounds are essential frames of reference.

For example, due to the social background of its officer class, many of the ideas underpinning early Royal Air Force (RAF) culture, such as honour, strength of character, sympathy, resolution, energy, and self-confidence found parallels with those present in public schools of the period. This was because it was from this source that the RAF sought its preferred recruits.

The latter issue of operational experience is especially critical for small air forces, such as the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), as they typically operate in a coalition context. As such, it is axiomatic that large air forces with whom small air forces operate will have influenced their cultural evolution. Indeed, in the RAAF, and other Commonwealth air forces, we see a degree of mimetic isomorphism in their evolution at both the ideational and materialist levels with regards to the influence of the RAF.

However, in more recent years, the US military has become a more pervasive influence, and this is especially noticeable in areas such as the such as operating American military hardware.

As well as societal factors and experience, broader environmental considerations also influence culture. Specifically, the environment in which air forces operate has helped shaped their culture.

As Ian Shields reflected, the conception of time and space by air force personnel is different from those of the other services, in part, because of the nature of the air domain.

Characteristics such as speed, reach and height are seen as defining the use of the air domain, and factors such as the large area of operations, flexibility, tempo, and the number of personnel directly involved in the delivery of air power continue to shape the culture of many air forces.[3]

While it is possible to suggest that this is a parochial single service observation, it is worth considering that this is not limited to air force personnel.

For example, Roger Barnett, a retired US Navy Captain, has suggested that the US Navy thinks different to its sister services, in part, because of its maritime context.[4] However, while differences do exist, there are often shared aspects of culture between the services, which have been underexamined.

A Transnational Air Force Culture?

National air forces have, like any other organisation, their own inherent culture and ethos. The ideas underpinning air force culture frames the way in which air forces view their role in a countries national security structures. It is the values and ethics of these organisations that make them distinct. These values are often derived from a countries national character and influenced by sources such as social background. For example, in 1919, Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard espoused the RAF’s values as that of the ‘Air Force spirit.’[5]

Underpinning this value was a recognition that for the RAF to develop and survive, there was a need to generate a culture commiserate with the organisation defence mission. For Trenchard, central to this process was the development of the RAF’s social capital through the ‘Extreme Importance of Training.’

While national character and environmental factors have influenced the values of air forces, it is possible to suggest that there are several broad ideas can be seen to transcend national barriers when it comes to discussing the culture of air forces. Specifically, the belief in command of the air and assumption of independence pervades the structure of air forces to a greater or lesser degree depending on national proclivities. Command of the air stems from the belief that to enable the effective use of the battlespace requires control of the air.

This view is as much cultural as it is conceptual as it resonates with the idea that to command air power efficiently requires a force well versed in the employment of aviation at the strategic level. However, this is an idea that increasingly became associated with strategic bombing rather than a broader conception of the strategic use of the air domain to achieve effect.

This is unfortunate as while bombing may have for a time been seen as the means through which to employ air power it ignores broader thinking on its application often evident in doctrine. Indeed, if doctrine is not only a guide on how to apply military force but also an illustration of how military organisations think, then a careful analysis of these critical ‘stories’ illustrates a more nuanced way of thinking than often suggested.

For example, AP1300, the RAF’s capstone doctrine of the interwar years, dealt with more than just bombing. Moreover, while written in the context of a period when the RAF provided Britain’s strategic nuclear deterrent, the fourth edition of AP1300, published in 1957, recognised the need for a balanced air force to deal with different contingencies.[6]

The assumption of independence has become the cornerstone of most air forces and has been a contentious area for debate amongst the services and external parties. Indeed, some have viewed the emergence of independent air forces as an impediment to national security. For example, as Robert Farley has written, ‘The United States needs air power, but not an air force.’[7]

While it is true that the emergence of a third service in many countries has generated tension between the services, it is overstating the argument to lay much of this blame at the door of air forces. For example, many of the interwar debates between the RAF and its sister services can be seen as an issue of control and the desire of the British Army and Royal Navy to see returned what they perceived as their air arms.

However, if military aviation is to be efficiently utilised in any future conflict, then there is a need to have personnel well versed and educated in the strategic application of air power who can sell its relevance and use in the joint sphere to both the other services and policymakers.

Indeed, in many respects, it is this idea that underpins recent developments in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

It can be argued that since unification in 1968, while Canada had military aviation, it did not do air power thinking at the strategic level.[8] This has begun to change.

The Need for Strategic Builders

While the ideas underpinning the culture of an air force has many sources, senior leaders are central to driving the development of the organisation.

A crucial role of the senior leader is that of the strategic builder, in that they set the vision and pace for an organisation’s development. Senior leaders provide the necessary architecture that ensures an organisation moves in a consistent direction and is fit for purpose.[9]

The clearest example of a strategic builder in the development of an air force’s culture comes from the experience of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Trenchard. When Trenchard returned as the RAF’s Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) in 1919, he had to deal with several crucial strategic challenges as the Service transitioned from wartime to peace.

First, Trenchard had to deal with demobilisation, which linked to the second challenge of establishing the permanency of the RAF. This, of course, was also linked to the final issue of finding a peacetime role for the RAF. Trenchard quickly recognised the utility of aerial policing in the British Empire as a means of ensuring the final challenge.

However, to ensure the longevity of the RAF, Trenchard espoused the value of the ‘Air Force spirit,’ which focused and the development of the Service’s personnel. Central to this was the establishment of three key institutions that helped transfer the RAF’s culture and ethos. These were the RAF (Cadet) College at Cranwell, the RAF Staff College and the apprentice scheme at RAF Halton. Through these institutions and other schemes such as Short Service Commissions, Trenchard ensured the RAF’s independence.

As the RAF noted in 1926 a ‘spirit of pride in [the RAF] and its efficiency permeates all ranks.’[10] However, this was not without its problems.

Modern air forces also face numerous challenges in a disruptive world ranging from issues of retention to dealing with the changing geostrategic environment while still operating in persistent counterinsurgency operations. To deal with these challenges, air forces such as the RAF, RCAF, and the RAAF have launched several initiatives to reinvigorate themselves and promote cultural change in their organisations. For example, the RAAF’s Plan Jericho, launched in 2015, seeks to:

[t]ransform [the RAAF] into a fifth-generation enabled force that is capable of fighting and winning in 2025; a modern, fully integrated combat force that can deliver air and space power effects in the information age.[11]

Such a forward-looking aim will not only need to see a change in the way the RAAF works and operates but also supportive strategic builders who will provide the support and architecture that will lead the project to fruition and success. Indeed, Trenchard’s advantage over his modern-day counterparts is that he served as CAS for just over a decade and was able to leave the RAF when he felt it was safe to do so.

In the modern era, no air force chief serves for such a tenure. As such, it will be necessary for the successive chiefs to buy into the vision created by their predecessors to ensure cultural change is not only generated but becomes established in the way air forces think and operate.

For example, the ideas promulgated this series on the need for Australian expeditionary air wings and exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum will require the support of senior leaders who not only support such ideas but can communicate their effectiveness to the other service and government departments. This, as Randall Wakelam suggested, will need air force officers who emerge into senior leadership positions to be well educated in the profession of arms and air power.

Power and Consent

The maintenance of a culture that allows air forces to fulfil their stated defence mission requires not only strategic builders but also the development of a power and consent relationship between the many ‘tribes’ that make up these organisations.

Air forces consist of several different subcultures, or tribes, such as pilots, aircrew, and ground crew. The emergence of such cultures can potentially affect the performance of air forces.

As such, it is a crucial role of strategic builders to ensure that the challenges created by the existence of these different ‘tribes’ in air forces are managed to ensure the organisation is fit for purpose. All personnel need to feel as if they are members of the same organisation seeking to achieve shared goals. It is arguably for this reason why we have seen the emergence of management phrases such as the ‘Whole Force’ in modern air forces such as the RAF. However, such constructs are made challenging by the dominance of pilots who only make up a small proportion of air force personnel but dominate senior leadership positions. As Air Marshal Sir John Curtiss reflected, ‘It’s a pilots air force,’ and ‘pilots have always been more equal than others.’[12]

Curtiss was the Air Commander during the Falklands War and a navigator in RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War. Curtiss’ reflection neatly sums up the ethos of the RAF and many other air forces with their focus on pilots and flying. For the RAF, this ethos was codified by the emergence of the General Duties Branch in the interwar years and that, apart from professional branches, officers had to be pilots and then specialise.[13] While this model became increasingly untenable and a bifurcation of the RAF branch system emerged, pilots remain the Service’s preferred senior leaders. This remains true of many air forces.

For example, while the RAAF have had an engineer as their CAS, Air Marshal Sir James Rowland was required to transfer to the General Duties (aircrew) Branch to take up his position thus illustrating the power of this construct.[14] Rowland had also served as a pilot during the Second World War.

The United States Air Force has taken this model even further with senior leaders being broadly split between the so-called ‘Bomber Barons’ during the Service’s early years and then the emergence of the ‘Fighter Generals’ after the Vietnam War.

There are undeniable examples, such as in the early years of the RAF, where the development of an ethos framed around pilots and flying was essential both for the maintenance of independence and for maintaining the focus of air forces on the delivery of air power. However, a critical question that needs to be asked by modern air forces is whether this ethos needs to change so that they remain effective in the twenty-first century.

While having an aviator as the professional head of an air force makes a degree of sense, that person need not necessarily be a pilot. They need to have experience in the delivery of air power and have professional mastery of the subject but does the number of hours flown make them well suited for senior positions? Also, are aviators, in general, the right people to run, for example, the personnel department of an air force?

Indeed, there is a need to change the organisational models used by air forces to broaden the base of power and consent and diversify the opportunities for all tribes by efficiently managing talent. This will require a change in culture to ensure air forces remain effective.

Summary – Why does this Matter?

Culture remains a complex and contested area of study, and some might argue whether it matters in the modern world. However, in a disruptive world where military forces are called on to operate in increasingly complex environments, having the right culture is paramount.

Moreover, while this series of articles have focused on the requirements of so-called high-intensity warfare, the reality is that while future warfare is likely to be a case of Another Bloody Century, conflicts will be conducted in and across all domains utilising both conventional and unconventional means. Additionally, as the UK Ministry of Defence’s Future Air and Space Operating Concept noted in 2012, the ‘future operating environment is likely to be congested, cluttered, contested, connected and constrained.’[15]

As such, air forces will need to adapt to the changing character of warfare and ask some complicated questions about both their culture and organisation to be effective and fit for purpose.

For example, should air forces be the controlling agencies for the overall management of the space and cyber domains? Alternatively, does the management of these domains by air forces move them away from their primary task of generating air power?

To answer these questions, it is imperative that air forces understand their culture and from whence it comes as it shapes how they confront and adapt to emerging challenges.

This is not something that air forces, and the military more broadly, has been good at and that needs to change.

Dr Ross Mahoney is an independent historian specialising air power and the history of air warfare. He is the editor of From Balloons to Drones, an online platform that seeks to provide analysis and debate about air power history, theory, and contemporary operations. Between 2013 and 2017, he was the resident Historian at the Royal Air Force Museum in the United Kingdom, and he is a graduate of the University of Birmingham (MPhil and PhD) and the University of Wolverhampton (BA (Hons) and PGCE). To date, he has published several chapters and articles, edited two books, and delivered papers on three continents. In 2016, he was elected as a member of the Royal Historical Society, and in 2011 he was a West Point Fellow in Military History at the United States Military Academy as part of their Summer Seminar in Military History programme. He is an Assistant Director of the Second World War Research Group.

[1] For this author’s discussion of early RAF culture, see: Ross Mahoney, ‘Trenchard’s Doctrine: Organisational Culture, the ‘Air Force spirit’ and the Foundation of the Royal Air Force in the Interwar Years,’ British Journal for Military History, 4:2 (2018), pp. 143-77.

[2] Ibid, p. 146.

[3] Ole Jørgen Maaø, ‘Leadership in Air Operations – In Search of Air Power Leadership,’ RAF Air Power Review, 11:3 (2008), pp.39-50.

[4] Roger Barnett, Navy Strategic Culture: Why the Navy Thinks Differently (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009).

[5] The National Archives, UK (TNA), AIR 8/12, [Cmd. 467], Permanent Organization of the Royal Air Force, A Note by the Secretary of State for Air on a Scheme Outlined by the Chief of the Air Staff, 11 December 1919, p. 4.

[6] AP1300 – Royal Air Force Manual: Operations, Fourth Edition (London: Air Ministry, 1957), p. 24.

[7] Robert Farley, Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (Lexington, KT: University Press of Kentucky, 2014), p. 1.

[8] Brad Gladman et al, ‘Professional Airpower Mastery and the Royal Canadian Air Force: Rethinking Airpower Education and Professional Development,’ Royal Canadian Air Force Journal, 5:1 (2016), p. 10.

[9] David Connery, ‘Introduction’ in David Connery (ed.), The Battles Before: Case Studies of Australian Army Leadership after the Vietnam War (Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2016), pp. x-xi.

[10] TNA, AIR 8/97, The Organisation of the Royal Air Force, 1919-1926, p. 5.

[11] Anon, Jericho: Connected, Integrated (Canberra, ACT: Royal Australian Air Force, 2015), p. 3.

[12] Air Marshal Sir John Curtiss, ‘Foreword to the First Edition’ in Wing Commander (ret’d) C.G. Jefford, Observers and Navigators: And Other Non-Pilot Aircrew in the RFC, RNAS and RFC, Updated and Expanded Edition (London: Grub Street, 2014), p. vii.

[13] The RAF did at one point have airman pilots in the interwar years and during the Second World War.

[14] Alan Stephens, The Australian Centenary History of Defence: Volume II – The Royal Australian Air Force (Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 296.

[15] Development, Concept and Doctrine Centre, Joint Concept Note 3/12 – Future Air and Space Operating Concept (London: Ministry of Defence, 2012), para. 202.

This is republished by permission of The Williams Foundation from the Central Blue Column.


The Role of Kill Webs in High Intensity Warfare

We are focusing on several aspects of change in the global strategic situation as well the approach which U.S. and allied forces are taking to engage effectively as the strategic situation changes.

One key dynamic of change is the distribution of sensors and strike throughout the battlespace and the use of C2 and task forces to concentrate force on leveraging a strike and sensing grid to gain combat dominance.

When Rear Admiral Manazir was the commanding officer of N-9, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, we discussed with him the core concept and its implications.

The kill chain is a linear concept which is about connecting assets to deliver fire power; the kill web is about distributed operations and the ability of force packages or task forces to deliver force dominance in an area of interest.

It is about building integration from the ground up so that forces can work seamlessly together through multiple networks, rather than relying on a single point of failure large network.

And when discussing how the USAF and US Navy need to work more effectively together in the future, this is how he put it:

How do we achieve distributed effects across all domains in the battlespace?

We are working closely with General Goldfein through various Service interaction groups; most effectively at the highly classified level.

We talk about issues that are common to our Services on a regular basis.

The core commonality between the two is that both are expeditionary services.

When we get into the battle area, Air Force assets can strike, reset, and strike again.

Naval forces operating in the maritime domain provide persistence.

If you combine Air Force and Naval combat capabilities you have a winning combination.

If you architect the joint force together, you achieve a great effect.

It is clear that C2 (command and control) is changing and along with it the CAOC (Combined Air and Space Operations Center).

The hierarchical CAOC is an artifact of nearly 16 years of ground war where we had complete air superiority; however, as we build the kill web, we need to be able to make decisions much more rapidly.

As such, C2 is ubiquitous across the kill web.

Where is information being processed?

Where is knowledge being gained?

Where is the human in the loop?

Where can core C2 decisions best be made and what will they look like in the fluid battlespace?

The key task is to create decision superiority.

But what is the best way to achieve that in the fluid battlespace we will continue to operate in?

What equipment and what systems allow me to ensure decision superiority?

We are creating a force for distributed fleet operations.

When we say distributed, we mean a fleet that is widely separated geographically capable of extended reach.

Importantly, if we have a network that shares vast amounts of information and creates decision superiority in various places, but then gets severed, we still need to be able to fight independently without those networks.

This requires significant and persistent training with new technologies but also informs us about the types of technologies we need to develop and acquire in the future.

Additionally, we need to have mission orders in place so that our fleet can operate effectively even when networks are disrupted during combat; able to operate in a modular-force approach with decisions being made at the right level of operations for combat success.

Rear Admiral Manazir has retired from the US Navy and now is working with Boeing.

Recently, he came to Australia to participate in his third Williams Foundation Conference, but the first one as a civilian.

AT this seminar, and speaking in a private capacity, he provided an update on how he analyzed the shift to fifth generation warfare and crafting a kill web approach.

That briefing can be read below:

Mike Manazir Presentation to Williams Foundation, March 22, 2108 from ICSA, LLC

The Future of High Intensity Warfare

High-intensity war is often equated with conventional or regular war, as after the Middle Ages, this was the ‘usual’ type of war.

However, high-intensity war has somewhat fallen from the regular discourse. Being replaced by what is ironically known as irregular war.

However, this is starting to change.

High-intensity war has become a distinct possibility in the near future, so we must prepare for and try an understand what that means for us.

This article aims to explore the possible characteristics of future high-intensity war as a crucial step in preparing ourselves for it.

An attempt to control a domain typifies high-intensity warfare.[1]

In recent decades, the requirement and ability to control the air domain has been somewhat of a non-issue.

Recent conflicts have instead been labelled irregular or low intensity, and seeks to hurt, harass or demoralise the enemy; there is less of an intent, or perhaps a requirement, to control a domain.

In looking to the future, we need to consider the context in which control of a domain, which in the case of this article is air, is required before any further action.

The ability to forecast when and where this high-intensity war will occur with any accuracy is challenging to say the least.

However, with that said, why should we have to predict such an occurrence?

If western air forces were able to maintain a seamless mastery of the full spectrum of operations, then the finer detail such as whether it was to be high or low intensity, would not matter.

We would be prepared regardless.

However, as Austin Long, an Associate Professor at Columbia University asserted ‘no military has been able to achieve this goal.’[2]

In preparing for high-intensity warfare, the best we can do is outline potential realities with the aspiration that they will, in some way, prepare us through the generation of discussion and preparedness of the mind.

One. Displacement, trauma and bloodshed are unavoidable.

According to The Economist, in:

[2040] two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. The number of megacities with populations of more than 10 million has doubled to 29 in the past year, and each year nearly 80 million people are moving from rural to urban areas.[3]

So, while the exact location of future conflict is unknown, it is safe to assume, high-intensity war will be fought in an urban environment.

More significantly, these urban areas will be more densely populated than any time in history. High-intensity warfare in such an environment will be confronting to the moral sensibilities of a western society conditioned to small-scale conflict in less populated areas.

This will be further compounded as scenes of mass destruction are broadcast over media networks worldwide.

One needs only to recall the recent global outcry over the Syrian civil war as an illustration.

The humanitarian disaster that unfolded in the wake of the Syrian civil war would be nothing compared to high-intensity conflict in a modern mega city. Syria had a pre-civil war population of 22 million, but only two cities with a population more than one million. One can only imagine the implications of a war in a city with a population ten times that of a Syrian city.

Civilian death, displacement and trauma are not the aims of modern democratic governments, noting that there have been some historical exceptions, but are unfortunately unavoidable.

Combine a high-intensity conflict and a significant population centre, and the scale of destruction is exponentially increased from anything witnessed in recent history.

The effect of a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe will be two-fold.

There will be a requirement to prevent the overflow of conflict and refugees into surrounding nations and potentially cause further unrest.

However, secondly, as these images are broadcast into our living room, it will be the responsibility of the government to maintain a supportive domestic base in the face of such horrific scenes.

The morality of this scenario is complex and must be considered prior to its eventuality.

Two. Competition with near-peers will challenge our resilience and capacity.

For the first time in 10 years, the United States has released a new National Defence Strategyin which it outlines strategic competition to be the ‘central challenge to US prosperity and security as Russian and Chinese military capabilities expand’.

This document highlights that great power competition is now the focus. Given the accelerating regional military modernisation that is occurring in the Asia Pacific region, Australia too must focus resources on overcoming the challenges that the growing confidence of China or Indonesia poses.

The fight against a near-peer offers several challenges not experienced in the preceding decades. One such example is the effect of a significant loss of platforms.

There are assets in the Australian order of battle that will not be able to enter a contested environment without a high probability of loss, and to do so would deplete capability at an untenable rate.

Should we lose aircraft at an untenable rate, we also face the prospect of losing our highly specialised aircrew.

With such a small air force relative to our potential adversaries, we lack the capacity and redundancy offered by larger forces.

To win the high-intensity war, an organisation needs enough people who are willing to commit their lives to the higher objective.

Unfortunately, due to the small population of our nation, we lack the recruitment pool to both enlist personnel at a high rate in the case of war or prepare adequately through the employment of additional personnel in times of peace for redundancy.

Three. High-intensity war will be fought through a multi-domain construct.

One hundred years ago there was debate as to the utility of an independent air force. With the acceptance that land and maritime control could not exist without control of the air; an independent, specialised air force was born.

In 2018, the same argument must be made for the cyber and space domains.

Without control of the cyber and space domains, we do not control the air domain. Greater knowledge of the benefits and limitations of these domains must be established and socialised within the broader warfighting community if success in a high-intensity war is to be achieved.

In fighting a high-intensity war, warfighters cannot continue to think from a domain-first perspective. Success in high-intensity war will need to:

[f]eature militaries capable of complex combined arms operations, as well as lethal offensive threats. These conflicts will engage US allies and disrupt the ability of the future joint force to move within operational reach of the adversary.[4]

In analysing the ‘Context of Future Conflict and War,’ Jeffrey Becker explained that:

[t]hreats will transcend tidy categories, cutting across land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, while being distributed across military domains and/or reaching across broader geographic range and scope.[5]

It is not only Western militaries that are faced with this realisation.

Chinese military publications also indicate that war is no longer a contest between units or specific services. The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) refer to this concept as systems confrontation [体系对抗]. Systems confrontation is:

[w]aged not only in the traditional physical domains of land, sea, and air, but also in outer space, nonphysical cyberspace, electromagnetic, and even psychological domains. Whereas achieving dominance in one or a few of the physical domains was sufficient for war fighting success in the past systems confrontation requires that “comprehensive dominance” be achieved in all domains or battlefields.[6]

This inevitably leads to the question as to the suitability of the current organisational structure, and if we are truly ready to fight the joint fight. However, that is a whole other post.

Four. Implications for capability transition.

From an Australian air power perspective, we are both blessed and disadvantaged by the new capabilities entering service. In the coming five years, the RAAF will see several new platforms enter service.

Platforms such as the F-35 Lightning, EA-18G Growler and P-8 Poseidon enable greater integration with coalition forces, while also enhancing connectivity with command.

However, while the RAAF may have exceptional new, high-end capability, if these assets cannot fully integrate into the joint fight, or, if the wider warfighting community does not fully understand their capabilities, then their effectiveness is partially lost.

With capability transition must come education.

Air power practitioners need to emphasise the effects of their platforms rather than just assume the joint force knows what each platform brings to the fight. High-intensity warfighting must emphasise effects-based operations.

Five. We cannot rely purely on advanced technology to win; we need a contest of ideas.

Given the intricacies of the new, high-end capabilities as well as a large number of unknowns within the new domains, it will take everyone, from airmen and women to the Chief of Defence Force to achieve success in an effects-based operation. No one person, organisation or government holds the panacea to predicting and defeating an adversary in a high-intensity war.

It is vital members at all levels are engaged and given the freedom to voice their ideas and concerns. It is through the contest of ideas that innovation is realised.

This concept was aptly summarised by Air Marshal Leo Davies, Chief of Air Force, when he states that:

It is far, far better that we should respectfully engage in that contest than to hide our thoughts, only to find them wanting when it matters most.[7]

It is only through engagement and conversation that we become truly prepared for the future.

The five observations mentioned above about the character of future high-intensity warfare are in no way to be considered an exhaustive list.

However, a common thread can be identified.

Education and discussion into the broader warfighting community are vital.

Future high-intensity war cannot be considered from a single-domain perspective, and consequently, a greater knowledge of all domains and capabilities is required.

Squadron Leader Jenna Higgins is an Air Combat Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and editor at The Central BlueYou can follow her on twitter at @jenna_ellen_The opinions expressed are hers alone and do not reflect those of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Defence Force, or the Australian Government. 

[1] Michael Muehlbauer and David Ulbrich, Ways of War: American Military History from the Colonial Era to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 3.

[2] Austin Long, ‘Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence – The U.S. Military and Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1960-1970 and 2003-2006,’ RAND Counterinsurgency Study – Paper 6 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2008), p. 28.

[3] Matthew Symonds, ‘The Future of war – The new battleground,’ The Economist, 25 January 2018.

[4] Jeffrey Becker, ‘Contexts of Future Conflict and War,’ Joint Forces Quarterly, 74 (2014), p. 18.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Jeffrey Engstrom, Systems Confrontation and System Destruction Warfare: How the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Seeks to Wage Modern Warfare (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018)

[7] Editorial, ‘A Central Blue debrief with Air Marshal Leo Davies, AO, CSC – Chief of Air Force,’The Central Blue: The Blog of the Sir Richard Williams Foundation, 20 August 2017.

This article was republished with the permission of The Williams Foundation and was first published in their column The Central Blue.

Reshaping Diplomacy: The Trump Effect

What has happened so far on North Korea is certainly dynamic.

What will happen may be equally dynamic.

If one reads the various forecasts of what was certain to happen under Trump’s presidency with regard to North Korea, you will not find a lot of assessments that got it right so far.

Indeed, most of the advice was that we would have to wait till he left and then clean up the mess.

For example, Nicholas Kralev has already worked out a plan with regard to “how to prepare a post-Trump renaissance in diplomacy.”

And we have been counseled by Rick Burt that Trump will not succeed given his style, performance and personal proclivities.

“Trump loves the chaos and the bluster—and to mouth off and get people off balance.

“He wants to destabilize them, get them out of their comfort zone, then try to dictate the terms.

“By doing that, he believes he can get the upper hand. It’s the triumph of technique over substance.”

And he warns those observing the Trump dynamic:

“This (cutting a deal on Korea) requires an enormous amount of creativity and great historical understanding.

“Trump doesn’t have that kind of patience.

“That’s way more than these guys can do. Trump thinks he’ll get through this with bombast and pressure, rather than mastering the details.

“I don’t know anything about Kim.

“But he’s not an idiot.

“If he does his homework, this could go very badly for Trump.”

Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway as of April 2018. Credit Photo: Second Line of Defense

The title of the article written by Robin Wright which provides us with Burt’s wit and wisdom is telling:

“For Trump, Diplomacy Is a Four-Letter Word.”

The problem with all of this can be put simply: Trump has been doing diplomacy in a style designed to get results with dictators.

And what seems to have been forgotten is rather simple: dictators use diplomacy to get inside the debates within liberal democracies to foster debate and to gain maneuver space.

Trump is different for sure and the challenge of working the details and working with allies to sort out any future Korean order is a significant challenge, and one which will require more traditional negotiating skills

But what can be forgotten is that we would not even be having this discussion if what was not Donald Trump’s approach to information war, something which we forecast would be significant at the very beginning of his Presidency.

Is Trump, Information Warrior, Key To Defeating Daesh (ISIL)?

Perhaps it is time for the High Priests of Washington and the chattering classes to take a hard look at themselves rather than just spending their time reaffirming their moral superiority.

Trump is not an easy show to watch; but it can have the icebreaking impacts which Harald Malmgren has underscored.

And icebreaking has now come to the Korean peninsula.

I was in Oslo last week, and passed by the building where they honor those who have contributed to peace efforts.

I did not see any Trump signs nearby, but the antimony between giving a Peace Prize to President Obama and what perhaps the Trump team might achieve should not be lost on one.

The photo shows the Nobel Peace Center under reconstruction, an irony not to be lost in the context of current events.


The Strategic Shift Facing the Western Democracies

Since 2014, the Williams Foundation has held a series of seminars, which have looked at the nature of military transformation enabled by new platforms, new technologies and new approaches.

Now, the Foundation is focusing on the new strategic context within which this force will operate and the kinds of further changes necessary for Australia and allied forces in facing the challenges posed by peer competitors.

On March 22, 2018, the Williams Foundation hosted a seminar which began the process of examining these key questions.

This report is based on that seminar.

This enhanced version of the report includes the interviews conducted prior to, during and after the seminar.

We have published on, a version with just the seminar report itself.

The US military has been focused along with core allies in dealing with counter-insurgencies for more than a decade, which represents a defining generation of combat experience for the joint, and coalition force. We have an entire generation of military officers with little or no experience in dealing with the direct threat from peer competitors.

With the return of great power conflict and the return of core nuclear questions with the coming of a second nuclear age, force structures are changing along with concepts of operations as well as the need for relevant and effective crisis management strategies.

A strategic shift is underway for the military.

The past decade the military has primarily focused its training and operations dealing with counter-insurgency and stability operations. Now the need to deal with operations in contested air and sea space from adversaries who can bringing significant capability to bear against US and allied forces requires a significant reset of efforts.

It is a strategic space in which operations in contested settings is where the military will operate. It is about learning how to deal with the policies and capabilities of peer competitors who are seeking strategic and military advantage against the liberal democracies.

And this challenge is one which will require the civil leadership to come to terms with the challenge of crisis management in which escalation and de-escalation will have to be mastered as a strategic art form.

It is not just about sending off the military to fights thousands of miles away and welcoming them back from time to time.  It will be about facing the adversary squarely and forcing his hand and shaping outcomes to the benefit of the liberal democracies against those of the illiberal powers, and by doing so with using military means as one of the key tool sets

The nature of the threat facing the liberal democracies was well put by a senior Finnish official in a recent briefing: The timeline for early warning is shorter; the threshold for the use of force is lower.

What is unfolding is that capabilities traditionally associated with high end warfare are being drawn upon for lower threshold conflicts, designed to achieve political effect without firing a shot.

Higher end capabilities being developed by China are Russia are becoming tools to achieve political-military objectives throughout the diplomatic engagement spectrum.

The non-liberal powers are clearly leveraging new military capabilities to support their global diplomacy to try to get outcomes and advantages that enhance their position and interests.

The systems they are building and deploying are clearly recognized by the Western militaries as requiring a response; less recognized is how the spectrum of conflict is shifting in terms of using higher end capabilities for normal diplomatic gains.

We have seen several manifestations of a new strategic era in which contested operations require a different approach, a different force structure response, and, above all, shaping a relevant crisis management capability.

It started with the Russian seizure of Crimea, continued with the Russian projection of power into Syria, a rapid expansion of the number of intercepts by Western quick reaction forces in Northern Europe of Russian aircraft, with events such as a simulated Russian strike against Norway’s northern C2 facilities, the Chinese build out into the South China Sea, a very aggressive North Korean nuclear test and missile modernization approach, and significant modernization of the forces of the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans, and Iranians, with real uncertainty about how the edges of warfare begin and end with regard to the use of the increasingly diverse arsenal which the illiberal powers have at their disposal.

And this new period comes as the Western liberal powers are modernizing their own forces, which raises the question of how their modernization processes will be shaped to deal with the new threat dynamics, threat envelopes and evolving strategic behavior and decision-making capabilities of the authoritarian powers.

How will Western liberal democratic military modernization reshape capabilities which Western leaders have to deal with the challenge of the authoritarian powers?

How will conflict with various authoritarian powers be managed to avoid all-out war?

How will escalation management be shaped to ensure that Western democratic interests are met and not put under the pressure of constant compromises which simply allow for the expanded power and influence globally of the authorization states and powers?

Such questions are emerging as key ones for what is shaping up to be a new strategic period ahead for the Western liberal democratic powers.

Featured photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony following the talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia July 4, 2017. Credit: Sergei Karpukhin | Reuters

 The report can be downloaded here:


ADA Trains for the Way Ahead in the Offensive-Defense Enterprise

When journalists and many policy makers discuss an area like missile defense they often do so from the perspective of catalogue shopping.

What items in the catalogue are of interest?

And what do they cost?

This is often reflected in presenting the reporting and analytical focus on “order of battle” data.

It is an important component but only goes so far in understanding effective weapon employment and human dimensions of combat.

Traditionally with only an “order of battle” look/see at the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, one would identify the separable programs, and discuss their modernization strategies and how to make each key element better in terms of themselves and to add up a modernization bill.  Each item in a “modernization catalogue” and putting it in a commercial analogy would add shipping costs and a service contract to keep the catalogue item in service during the covered period.

But the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Proponent at Fort Sill internally does not have just an “order of battle” mindset.  Of course, all technology in the ADA fighting inventory has to always respect the truism that all military technology is relative against a reactive enemy and the other truism “quantity has a quality of its own.”

All solders we engaged with at all ranks fully understand the imperative for cross cutting modernization that going on in ADA. Effective cross-cutting modernization better integrated with an appreciation for evolving con-ops development and ever improving all dimensions of Command and Controls including an artificial intelligence  (AI) research effort can all shape a war winning transformation of core capabilities, rather than  only focusing on stove piped platform modernization.

As we refocus on the challenges posed by peer competitors and engaging in higher tempo and higher intensity operations, it is often not just back to the future. 

An anti-unmanned aerial vehicle defense system (AUDS) searches the skies of Fort Sill for UAVs, April 6, 2017 during the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX). (Photo by Monica K. Guthrie)

Russia is not the Soviet Union.  And China is not Mao’s PLA.  There are lessons learned from the past and domain knowledge, which can be leveraged in the migration in back to the future to harvest the best but leave the rest, such knowledge is to be leveraged not slavishly copied.

We must also try and learn what we don’t know. 

Effective military organizations around the globe respect what Secretary Rumsfeld once sagely focused on “the unknown unknowns”

This problem was put very clearly in a recent interview with the Royal Australian Air Force head of their Air Warfare Centre which is totally focused on joint warfare as the driver for change.

Throughout the interview, he was very clear on the importance of breaking out of legacy patterns and thinking and finding ways to train for the future fight with the force you are crafting and respect what one doesn’t know.

“Our senior leadership, including myself, has never grown up in the combat environment which is now evolving rapidly. We need to unlearn as well as learn to shape an effective way ahead.”

The change is to effectively shape a future force structure based on where you need to go, rather than what you have inherited?

During our visit to Fort Sill, we experienced a Command clearly thinking through ways to deal with all of these challenges.

The Command is led by a soft spoken but clear leader in empowering his Command to think through how to break through to the next level, rather than training to the past.

During our visit we had a chance to talk with Brigadier General Randall A. McIntire a couple of times and he set in motion an opportunity to talk with several members of his staff who provided us with a clear sense of the work underway to train with the force they have and the one which is emerging.

Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire, Air Defense Artillery School commandant, emphasizes the importance of air defense artillery to protect the maneuver force and preservation of key combat power at the Industrial Breakfast at Cameron University Jan. 31. (Photo Credit: Monica Wood

When visiting the Command, it strikes one that the ADA warriors have much in common with the US Navy’s silent service on a strategic deterrence patrol– always ready.

Sargent First Class Nicholas Martin and Sargent First Class Johnathan Pace put this point to us about their life as ADA warriors:

“Whether you’re stateside, whether you’re deployed for overseas, whether you’re in a combat zone, or you’re in a friendly nation, you have to be ready for action. No matter where I am, the question is the same: are we ready to start?

“Can we heat up the missiles now and fire them? Are we watching the skies correctly? Even if you’re in an area that’s not in a combat area, you’re always watching the sky, because in a scenario where nobody’s fighting, the air defense is still watching.

“There’s always been that intensity that if something kicks off, we’re the first ones to see it. We’re the first ones to react. And you’re on the line, they coming after you.”

Colonel David Baxter, Brigade Commander, 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, underscored as well the complexity of getting troops ready for the “always ready” mission set.

Col. David Baxter, 30th ADA, Fires Center of Excellence

“We require our operators to be extremely knowledgeable of threat and to understand the weapons systems.

“It’s not just a one man crew, it is three people who hone their skill sets together and have to think and operate as a rapidly responsive team.

“We have to be prepared at all times but the challenge is that our skill set is not developed overnight. It takes four to six months to develop what in my opinion would be a well-trained crew.

“By which I mean, a crew that is cognizant of the operating environment, of the enemy, of their weapons system, and that can perform. And it take more than one crew per battery. You have to build a minimum of three. You can only sit in the van for so long looking at the scope.”

And we learned during our visit that the Command has already been training for the transition from the land wars in the Middle East to a new global strategic situation. 

For example, the Patriot batteries train to two core situations.  The first being to prepare to the area of interest to where they are scheduled to be deployed with the simulators targeted on the real combat situation likely to face the operators.

Captain Matthew Ludemann a former Patriot battery commander and current staff officer in the ADA School with two deployments to the Middle East, underscored that there was a second type of training as well, namely for what they call Global Response Force or GRF scenarios.

These scenarios are very flexible and involve preparing for rapid deployment to a crisis area, which might pop up worldwide.  Here, they are training against a variety of threats and within a variety of scenarios.

In a 21st Century U.S. Army “back to the future” effort increased emphasis has been placed on ramping up Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) for the U.S. Army forces. SHORAD initiatives for an Army on the move was a good example of a Command leveraging the past but not being captured by it.

The core competence in operating SHORAD in the U.S. Army resides in the National Guard. That competence along with those of the allies is being leveraged as the Army brings new SHORAD capabilities into the force.

Because the most urgent priority for SHORAD is in Europe, the Army made a clear decision to go with a wheeled vehicle to support the initial modernization efforts around SHORAD. 

Rather than letting the vehicle choice and the historical battles over tracked versus wheeled vehicles derail the pace of progress, the Army has chosen a Stryker variant for the initial modernization efforts.

As BG McIntire put it: “We got the platform figured out.  Now what is under debate today are the ornaments to be placed on the platform. And when we do that we will spiral develop the capability.”

One Army officer highlighted the role of the allies in rather blunt terms.  “The Czech the Romanians, the Danes and the Germans have all kept their SHORAD capabilities operational.  They have provided officers onto the NATO staff and when we deploy on operational maneuvers in Europe we have those officers with us providing their SHORAD expertise. And as for me, I learned from a Czech officer about SHORAD integrated into the maneuver force.”

A key challenge facing the Air Defense Artillery community as a more integrated approach to defense is shaped, and with it greater integration with offensive capabilities, is to focus on the network as an integrated weapon system.

A key driver of change here is working Patriot with THAAD integration via the new Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS). 

Here the focus is upon shaping a common operational picture to drive an integrated firing solution set.

As IBCS is continued to be tested and refined the ADA branch is also looking at how the military specialties will change as well. With the enhanced integration of THADD with Patriot envisaged under IBCS, there is a planned transition in the military specialties.

As one Army officer put it:  “So instead of identifying oneself as a Patriot operator or a THAAD operator they will be radar operators or launch operators.”

And when the Army deploys IBCS, the Army has the opportunity to drive fundamental change in how it transforms and modernizes the force.

As BG McIntire put it: “This will allow us to componentize acquisition in the future. We can prioritize sensors or weapons and hang them on the network, rather than having to drive stove piped modernization of a particular defensive system. We need to ensure that every requirement we write for a future system is IBCS compliant in order to drive such a fundamental change.”

The goal for enhanced ground defense capabilities is to empower the joint maneuver force able to operate in the integrated battlespace. Again the Commanding General captures the forte of the American military as operating as a joint force globally.

“The goal is to be able to open up operational space for the maneuver force, whether led by the Air Force or the Army, and to be able to go into the objective area and dominate the adversary.  We can debate forever what we think the multi-domain battle means.  But at the end of the day, my tactics have to change and my ability to collarbone I the battlespace enhance with my other service mates.”

After important individual discussions with Sargent First Class Nicholas Martin and Sargent First Class Johnathan Pace, Colonel David Baxter, CW5 Eric Maul and CW5 Christopher Wehmeier, we were given the opportunity to discuss with ADA officers who had different weapon experience or a battle system connectivity focus during a round table.

These officers have operated Patriot, THADD, SHORAD for many years, but the focus was talking through the future of ADA not focusing simply on the platforms.

Our ground rules were not to try and capture individual quotes but let a free flow of ideas drive the understanding of the Air Defense Artillery team working together.  So we are grateful to Captain Keller Howell, Captain Jessica Perales, Captain Andrew Clark, Lt. Col. Ron Niedert, Major Blake Seibold, and Lt. Col. James Reese.

As the session ended the Fort Sill former combat officer now historian made a brilliant point about the challenges the U.S. Army faced in moving ADA into the missile age after World War II. In this case, as single innovative Army Officer drove that revolution and today the U.S. has a world class ADA community of innovative warriors at the cutting edge of technology by coming up with a way to develop the Nike missiles.

In August of 1944, Lieutenant Jacob W. Schafer submitted a memorandum proposing a new antiaircraft weapon system.  His proposal which brought together rocket guidance, and radars linked to computers was evolutionary and catapulted U.S. as the leader of air defense.  Bell Laboratories took on this initiative and LT Schafer lead the newly formed Nike project as an officer working with industry.

Nike Missiles deployed. Credit: US Army

After WWII the U. S. Army Air Defense witnessed the genesis of the missile age through its defense against V-1 and V-2 rockets.  As Wernher Von Braun worked through Operation Paper Clip, the U.S. Military’s development into the rocket age, a young lieutenant was working through the scientific methods associated with missile defense.

At the heart of change is reworking how the Army will do maneuver warfare, with defense at the heart of reshaping the offensive and defensive relationship. 

As BG McIntire put it and the officers at the round table fully grasped  “We are reworking the tribal differences between those responsible for defense and those responsible for offense in the brigades.  We need an integrated mix of offense with defense for the maneuver force to be effective in the conflicts we are likely to fight going forward.”

In short, the Air Defense Artillery is working the challenge posed by the question; “How do you shape a future force structure based on where you need to go, rather than what you have inherited?

We wish to thank BG McIntire and his staff for their time spent with us.  This article could have not been written without their insights and forward looking vision while also capturing the current challenges faced by an Army team essentially at war since 9/11.

Reshaping Missile Defense: The US Army ADA Community Works the Way Ahead

We had a chance recently to visit Fort Sill and to experience first hand the efforts and thinking of Army innovators shaping a way ahead for Missile Defense.

With the Army’s focus on insertion of new capabilities as rapidly as possible and doing so in a way that lays an evolving foundation for further innovation, Fort Sill provides a key focal point for understanding the perspective of the Army’s silent service.

Just like the tactical and strategic mission of the USN Submarine fighting force, skilled and dedicated Army ADA combatants serve the nation every day and every minute both tactically and strategically. At Ft Sill we found dedicated Army soldiers preparing to go forth to stand their silent vigil on the ramparts in defense of all free people.

You only hear about them when there is a crisis but if they were not there the result would be catastrophic in a time of war

As one ADA officer put it during the visit with regard to the deployment of Ground Based Missile defense in Alaska: “It is a case of the 300 working to protect 300 million.”

Innovation is being pursued on several levels with regard to the Command at Fort Sill.

It starts from the core dynamic whereby Brigadier General Randy McIntire, 41st Commandant of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School and as the Chief of Air Defense Artillery, is also working as the head of the Army’s Cross Functional Team (CFT) dedicated to air and missile defense.

This intersection of responsibilities provides a key opportunity for driving innovation.

The School is focused on training the ADA warriors; and the CFT is working to drive innovation and prototyping of technology forward in a timely manner.

For 21st century capabilities, having strategic direction but informed by bottom up experience, thinking and training is clearly a very commendable way ahead.

According to the US Army, the role of the CFTs is to “compress the timeline to modernize and procure new equipment by involving the end user, defining the requirements, integrating, prototyping and validating a concept prior to low-rate initial production”

The intersection of this mandate with the training going on at Fort Sill can drive innovation over all, in a core combat capability for not just the US Army but the joint combat forces around the globe.

A core area of strategic interest is ramping up as quickly as practical enhanced short-range missile defense for the maneuver force (SHORAD).

This effort can be viewed as a template for driving innovative change for Army and joint service commanders who will put the US Army OTM in combat -on the move-to engage any enemy.

Rather than debating endlessly which vehicle to put the new systems the “track” vs. “wheel” debate, the Army chose to proceed in rapid fielding to pick a variant of Stryker. By so doing, they are able to leverage existing logistics systems and deployment experiences.

As BG McIntire put it: “We will get the modified vehicle; and work with the evolution of the capabilities on top of the vehicle as we use it.”

This allows for both fielded technology and evolving con-ops to merge as the Army prepares to modernize with a future ground vehicle.

The European theater is viewed as the near term driver for the deployment of this new evolving SHORAD systems.

And here the Command is also driving significant change with regard to preparing those capabilities, with a significant focus on deployment of lasers, notably to deal with various threats from unmanned aerial vehicles.

In looking to the future the Army has also proven to be very innovative in fielding prototype Directed Energy (DE) systems.

Last year, experiments were held at which several contractors participated in working with the Army to shape DE laser capabilities.

And last year, the first US Army soldier destroyed a UAV with a ground-based laser.

A drone appears just below the horizon, its small frame camouflaged against the trees. Soldiers track the drone, lock on and, with the push of a button, a laser destroys the enemy aircraft.

Sounds like something from a galaxy far, far away, when in fact a Soldier, for the first time, shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle with a laser during the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment, April 3 through 13 at Fort Sill.

The shot was made by Spc. Brandon Sallaway, 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery, part of 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Sallaway, a forward observer, came from Fort Carson to help experiment on the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser (MEHEL) which is a 5-kilowatt laser mounted on a Stryker armored vehicle. Sallaway had no prior experience with the equipment and was trained on how to use the MEHEL once he arrived at Fort Sill.

 Additionally, we found that the allied dimension is present and seen as crucial to the command. We learned that working with allies on SHORAD in Europe has now been seen as essential to the US Army in Europe.

Indeed, we were told that contributions from core allies, notably from the newest members of NATO, were integral to the operations of the US army in Europe.

The skills and lessons learned from existing Allied SHORAD teams was commented on as being truly noteworthy.

The “cross-learning process” is clearly underway with regard to SHORAD but we also learned how extensive the Patriot global cross learning network is as well.

The latest member to join the Patriot global alliance is Poland.

As Poland deploys Patriot other allied Patriot forces, not just US can synergistically deploy in support of Poland to enhance deterrence.

For example, the Germans deploy one of the best Patriot forces in the world, according to the experienced soldiers we visited at Fort Sill.

In a crisis, the German government could chose to deploy Patriot to Poland and work with the Polish Patriot systems to shape a more capable defense force in the face of any enhanced Russian threat.

It is a defensive move, which provides significant strategic and tactical deterrent advantage to NATO.

It is important to also note that the command is working on a practical way ahead to shape a kill web approach to missile defense.

The classic missile defense approach was founded on the kill chain – linear thinking of essentially a silver bullet against incoming.

Clearly, as the threat advances, better integration of offense with defense and reshaping the sensor shooter relationship is crucial. Essentially recognizing the Kill Webs payload utility dynamic.

This visionary shift from the kinds of land wars fought in the past decade and a half to operating across the range of military operations to insert force and to prevail in a more rapid tempo conflict than that which characterized counter-insurgency operations carries with it a need to have a very different C2 structure and technologies to support those structures.

The shift to higher tempo operations is being accompanied by platforms which are capable of operating in an integrated battlespace where hierarchical, detailed control simply does not correlate with the realities of either ops tempo of combat requirements or of technology which is part of a shift to distributed operations.

ADA troops at time must deal with threats in seconds to minutes and that is a very significant evolving command and control issue.

Distributed operations over an extended battlespace to deal with a range of military operations require distributed C2; not hierarchical detailed micro management.

In effect, the focus is upon shaping the commander’s intent and allowing the combat forces to execute that intent, and to shape evolving missions in the operations, with the higher level commanders working to gain an overview on the operations, rather than micro-management of the operations.

For the US Navy the move is from a linear kill chain to a distributed fleet able to tap into capabilities available throughout an integrated force.

For the US Army, it is reshaping a maneuver force that can tap into a variety of strike, ground and air, and defensive systems to get the desired effect.

And this will not happen without integration of the ground based missile defense systems.

This is precisely what the Command is working on with regard to a core program called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System or IBCS.

By shaping integration initially of THAAD with PATRIOT, the US Army is laying a solid foundation for new systems in the future, which will become part of the kill web, rather than simply being developed and deployed as stove piped shooters in a kill chain.

The kill web approach is not simply a conceptual idea; the Army is working on making it a reality as it introduces IBCS.

And the allied dimension is reinforced as the Army does so, because Poland is committed to an IBCS approach to the missile defense systems they deploying and buying.

The government of Poland has signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) with the US government to purchase Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS).

The LOA allows the US government to start contracting with Northrop Grumman for production and delivery of IBCS that enables Poland’s modernized air defense capabilities.

Poland becomes the first international partner country to purchase the IBCS. By implementing IBCS, Poland will transform its IAMD capabilities in a manner consistent with how the U.S. Army is revolutionizing IAMD. Poland will also ensure seamless integration of its air defense forces in allied operations….

With its open systems architecture, IBCS enables incorporation of current and future sensors and weapon systems and interoperability with joint C2 and the ballistic missile defense system.

The impact of IBCS on the overall innovation being shaped at Fort Sill and in the Army’s missile defense commands was highlighted in a statement made by BG McIntire last Fall after a successful test of the system.

Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire, commandant, Army Air Defense Artillery School, and chief, Air Defense Artillery, explains the importance of IBCS for the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) program:

“It is going to open up the aperture in terms of how we will be able to fight in the future.

“What we are working on today will be key for decades to come in our ability to combine offensive and defensive fires into one entity that is fast and agile.”

Finally and actually most importantly, we were surprised to learn of unheard of sustainability of the missile defense systems deployed by the Army.

Dependent on the system, the rates of availability ranged from 95-98%.

This is an incredible performance metric, and is supported by an approach to ensure priority of supply to the force, but also working an effective supply chain and well-trained soldiers.

Of course, as the US forces have to consider conflict with a peer competitor, shaping a mobilization supply base for the force is a key consideration.

For the future there is a lot of discussion about the importance of artificial intelligence for the force. But again it must be noted is how much AI is ALREADY in the force.

Clearly, the missile defense warriors rely on and train in simulation with AI decision aides and could in combat extremis turn the system over to an automatic release system.

It was very clear that going forward there will be enhanced attention to AI and its role in the “decide, act” phase of the famous OODA loop during high intensity combat operations.

It is also clear as the Army works the fires capability, that it is both defense and offensive fires integrated in terms of its effect.

ADA is the transformational part of that technology equation, while offensive ground based strike is the linear technology modernization part of that equation. Working integration, between innovation and modernization may require significant organizational change as well to get the outcomes desired.
During our discussion with the BG McIntire, he highlighted a success story the Army had in the Middle East in developing and deploying the Counter-Rocket Artillery Mortar (C-RAM) system within 11 months from the Warfighters call for a solution.

Soldiers and Sailors working together on the C-RAM system quickly developed capability from an existing Navy system, Phalanx – Close-in Weapon System, connected with Army command control systems.

The C-RAM system was designed to defeat the enemy’s incoming rounds launched at our friendly Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in Iraq.

According to BG McIntire, they were effectively working integration of defense fires with offense fires within the Army just prior to a ramp off of the control of operations and response efforts from the US Military to the host nation Iraqi government.

“We already started working offensive and defensive fires with the C-RAM system. We linked C-RAM into a network of sensors by leveraging the field artillery sensors and the air defense radars and we were able to determine where the enemy rounds were coming from, the point of origin (POO).

“Then, we were able to effectively provide localized warning for our troops in the vicinity of the Point of Impact (POI), while intercepting the incoming round when it was appropriate to protect the defended asset.

“Simultaneously, we responded with an appropriate level of reaction force: counter-battery fire, Army attack aviation or local ground forces towards the launch point for further investigation or defeat.

“Now, we need to take these Fires concepts already demonstrated at the Tactical level and experiment with them at the Operational and Strategic levels.”

In short, we found Fort Sill, to be a place of significant ADA efforts and big Army innovation crucial to the evolution of not just the fighting US Army but the joint and allied forces as well.


A “Strategic Pause” to Fix the Department of Veterans Affairs For a Generation

President Trump actually gave President Obama a vote of confidence in his elevating Dr. Shulkin in rank from Undersecretary for Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Consequently, let us all now see how that act of bipartisan comity is going to be repaid with the nomination of Rear Admiral Jackson USN MD.

He is retiring as an Admiral.

The selection of Admiral Jackson is being attacked on the issue of his lack of significant command qualifications.

When he was announced, I was sorry to see the shallow negative quotes about Admiral Jackson to become DVA Secretary and I took an opportunity to praise his selection.

Right now with an “Acting Secretary,” pending the confirmation of Secretary Jackson MD, it is a perfect time to initiate a GAO audit of the ability of DVA employees to make accurate and timely payments to the providers of private medical treatment for disabled veterans, who had used the “Choice” option.

Basically the current DVA “Choice” program means that if a veteran has to wait longer than 30 days or needs to travel over 40 miles as measured by distance the veteran can qualify to be treated by private sector physicians or have medical procedures such as an MRI.

There is a DVA “Choice” fact sheet that is rather accurate in going into much more detail:

A just completed DAV IG audit, which was very professionally done, focused on “Choice” waiting times and availability:

As did a very professional GAO audit, again focusing on waiting times:

However “Choice,” yes or no, is currently just a test of raw political power without all the facts of how it is truly working.

Many professional Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) see “Choice” as a harbinger of the eventual privatization of the VA, while other more recently charted Veteran organizations are saying “why not?”

Unfortunately the most important component of the “Choice” initiative is not well understood.

Before any changes can be made to expand or contract this relatively new initiative from August 2014, there is a very practical need for a system wide audit to see if ALL the dimensions of “Choice” are good for the veteran and their family.

It is not just about fixing the all-important waiting time issue.

So far, the DVA competence of having timely accurate payment for services is not well understood and reported as going poorly.

US private sector medicine is first rate, the envy of the world and expensive.

The administrative failure in Choice can rest on the fact that in most cases the people running and overseeing the current bureaucratic “pay for service” including any contract support teams are lifetime DVA employees.

A simple auditable question with profound implications is:

Can DVA career employees who have been totally socialized into public sector bureaucracy training and thinking, be successfully trained to the skill sets and financial responsiveness of the best of the private sector medical insurance corporations?

Look at one option legislative and executive branch employees have which is “FedBlue” it is first rate in payout responsiveness and just one of many options for civil service employees.

Good private sector insurance companies understand the need for both rapid “pre-qual” or if emergency medicine is required then make a decision that the emergency care was justified, and either way they are then consumer friendly and responsive to quickly pay their insured client’s legitimate medical bills.

The anecdotal evidence to date says those utilizing the Choice option have had both “pre-qual” administrative issues, and then sadly once treated the current DVA pay out bureaucracy is very weak in rapidly covering their bills.

This unaddressed pay for service weakness cannot be allowed because it must be a zero defect system.

This is because some veterans are facing staggering amounts of unpaid private sector medical bills.

If they die without bills being paid, their widow and orphan will have a terrible time to engage with DVA to have all their love ones delinquent medical bills paid.

Creditors hitting a deceased veteran’s estate for legitimate unpaid medical bills is unconscionable.

American Veterans do not deserve to die alone in the dark nor have their loved ones saddled with any financial liabilities from their earned service connected disability treatment.

I have personally experienced billing buffoonery and also seen other real examples of this type of tragic ineptitude in action.

A comprehensive GAO audit of DVA responsive bill paying is needed before a full “Choice” commitment can be made.

So far all veterans have seen is years of burning through people, with no indication of progress.

To summarize, President Trump and his Secretary Designee Admiral Jackson MD have in my professional judgment a one-time generational opportunity to finally “fix” VHA.

New leadership can begin to start by calling for audit of pay-out times and accuracy to combine with earlier GAO and DVA IG work on waiting times.

When the new Secretary is confirmed a comprehensive fact based total understanding of all the ramifications of the “choice” benefit can be addressed to see if it is a truly viable option for the veteran and their families, or not.

During this essentially a strategic pause, an ‘acting Secretary” must initiate this most important of all audit.

“What gets measured gets managed’” is a true statement.  

Calling in the GAO can early on forge a continuing Executive/Legislative bipartisan partnership that will be a significant move to bring all the necessary fact based evidence to the current debate and perhaps finally get VHA health care right for at least a generation.

Ed Timperlake was the first Assistant Secretary of DVA for Congressional and Public Affairs and then Public and Intergovernmental Affairs when VA went to Cabinet Status