This is the Australian Army’s annual assessment of the future land operating environment out to 2035.
Since the end of the Cold War, the nature of military interventions and operations has become inherently unpredictable, making it difficult to define the character of future warfare. Interventions in East Timor, Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Iraq and Afghanistan have placed heavy demands on the Army — both anticipated and otherwise — and posed new questions concerning future employment, equipment and doctrine. The changing global environment continues to challenge our common assumptions, accelerating technologies in which information and precision dominate, and making it increasingly difficult for the Army to marry this technology with its core tasks in what is an increasingly cost-conscious Australian Defence Force.
Against this backdrop, this examination of future warfare and its implications for the Australian Army is both timely and relevant. Such an examination, however, necessarily avoids any attempt to predict the future. Given the almost infinite variability of human interaction, such prediction is unlikely to be helpful in designing forces for future conflict. However, there are certain trends which can be discerned even in such a dynamic environment. Understanding these will provide the Army the insight to shape the evolution of the land force capability and ensure it can provide the greatest utility for government.
As this report explains, the emerging regional and global outlook and the changing character of war clearly suggest that land forces will continue to play the decisive role in the security of modern states against both regular and irregular adversaries. Notwithstanding the potential threats, a sound understanding of the likely future land warfare environment will produce a number of valuable opportunities. A clever and adaptable Australian Army can exploit these to enhance its strategic utility and tactical effectiveness.
This 2014 edition of the Future Land Warfare Report describes five trends in the future operating environment and suggests their possible influence — individually or in combination — on the Army’s future land force. These meta- trends will increasingly define the operating environment from now and into the future beyond 2035. These trends will be inter-linked, with activities in one influencing the others. The meta-trends that define these conditions are grouped in a series of five, termed: crowded, connected, lethal, collective and constrained. This grouping is useful for several reasons. First, and most obviously, understanding these trends allows the Army to design its modernisation initiatives, conduct experimentation, and fund those areas of personnel development, material enhancement and joint and inter-agency connectivity that provide the broadest range of options for government.
Second, the report provides a sound basis for the Army’s contribution to the development of joint capability and to inter-agency cooperation. The Army’s national security role demands the ability to operate within a joint force as well as alongside a range of potential partners within government and from external agencies.
Finally, the Future Land Warfare Report equips the Army to provide well- informed contributions to policy and strategy development within Australia’s national security planning architecture. It is the Army’s responsibility to explain why maintaining its current strength and modernisation plan is vital to the security of the nation. It is imperative that the Army provides a coherent rationale for sustaining the existing force structure and supplies the evidence to senior decision-makers that allows them to appreciate the impact of capability choices.