Land warfare doctrine 1 - the fundamentals of land power

22 Sep 2014

Drawing on best practices in strategic thinking about land power, this paper is intended to provide the Australian Army with the philosophical guidance for achieving its mission.


War and warfare continue to plague the human race. War remains the most complex and dangerous strategic challenge faced by nations. In the future, warfare will be waged by information and technology-enabled military forces, in land, sea, air, space and cyber space. This will be notably irregular in style when compared with most interstate strategic practices in modern times. Preparing for such conflict requires the investment of very significant human, materiel and technological resources. Being able to fight and win under such circumstances depends ultimately on having the right force structure and military capabilities.

Australia’s geostrategic and environmental situation has shaped the development of the nation’s defence capacity. Demography, geography and economic power contribute to and influence doctrine which is unique to the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Army. For the Army, doctrine is the repository of military knowledge, and is a dynamic embodiment of the Army’s ethos. To remain relevant as the basis for military thinking, doctrine must evolve to allow for changes in policy and circumstances.

While Army’s doctrine must take into account these recent developments, it must also look beyond these to remain a firm foundation upon which Army can educate and train its officers and soldiers, particularly in peacetime. As such, Army’s capstone doctrine – Land Warfare Doctrine 1, The Fundamentals of Land Power – serves the Australian Army as a statement of its approach to land warfare. It encapsulates the Army’s fundamental philosophy for the employment of land power based on the broad lessons of military history and human experience. This document is independent of any specific organisation or structure, any level or type of technology, or any particular type or intensity of warfare. This publication codifies what the Australian Army regards as its philosophical foundation and aims to provide the fundamental aspects of the nature and conduct of war.

The use of the term ‘land power’ reflects the dynamism of the strategic environment over the past 15 years. Land power encompasses the employment of an array of land capability – from Army, the Australian Defence Force and across government – to achieve specified objectives. The Army must always view itself not in terms of simply ‘winning the land battle’, but as a force capable of exerting land power for strategic effect across the modern spectrum of peace, crisis and war. The term land power also raises Army’s concept of itself above this tactical ‘win the land battle’ and accepts that the generation of effects on the land also has strategic impact. It is multidimensional: land power may involve the employment of capabilities from all the operational environments (land, sea, air, space and cyberspace) to achieve results on land.

The Army is not employed in isolation. Commitment of land, sea and air forces in joint operations, as part of Australia’s maritime strategy, is the norm. Warfighting demands optimal force integration or ‘joint interdependence’ to combine the capabilities of all the Services to optimise overall effectiveness while minimising the vulnerabilities of the total force. This is further enhanced by cooperation between the joint team and other government agencies such as police, diplomatic staff, legal representatives, private sector and non-government organisations.

The Fundamentals of Land Power provides a base point in the Australian Army’s philosophy from which all doctrine, education and training is derived. As General Douglas MacArthur once noted, ‘in no other profession are the penalties for employing untrained personnel so appalling or so irrevocable as in the military’. The leaders of the Australian Army bear the ultimate responsibility; this publication provides them with the foundational doctrine in their execution of the Army’s education and training. The Fundamentals of Land Power also provides strategic decision makers and the Australian community with the Australian Army perspective on warfare and the defence of Australia and its interests. This edition of The Fundamentals of Land Power contains four chapters. Chapter One describes the nature, character and the conduct of war. Chapter Two, which represents one of the most significant changes from previous editions, examines the Australian Army and the development of distinct elements of Army culture. It builds on this to examine the Australian Army’s concept of land power, and its versatility in the execution of national strategy. Chapter Three describes the Army’s philosophy, while examining the provenance and historical, intellectual and contemporary influences on that philosophy. Finally, Chapter Four describes how the Australian Army generates the people and teams that constitute the Army’s capability and ability to generate land power.

Effective modern military doctrine usually reflects the interaction of three components: the enduring, the practical and the predictive. The tenets are based on the enduring principles of war; the practical component interprets the character of contemporary warfare; and the predictive component looks to the future to identify how military force development might be integrated with emerging technology.

Effective doctrine is therefore constructed from three elements; past experience, operational requirement and technological feasibility. It assists the institution to learn, anticipate and adapt. This document should foster professional discourse and debate on the Army’s past, present and future. Such a debate is essential for the Army as it continues to modernise and define its role in serving the nation into the early and middle decades of the twenty- first century.

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