The Coming of the Australian Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel: A Case Study of Building a New Platform for the Australian Fifth Generation Force
Dr Robbin Laird, Research Fellow, The Williams Foundation, Canberra, Australia,
The Williams Foundation research fellow, Dr Robbin Laird, has opened the aperture on the debate around an integrated 5th generation ADF with an insightful examination into the development of the Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessel. Conceived not simply as a replacement platform but as an adaptable and integrated capability within a joint force, Dr Laird presents the OPV program as a model for future capability development. This report compliments his previous work on 5th Generation air power Concepts within the ADF. VADM Tim Barrett AO, CSC, RAN (Retd), Former Chief of Navy and Williams Foundation Director
Introduction The Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel is the first of the new build platforms. It provides the template with regard to the entire reset of how the Australians are seeking to build out their integrated distributed force. The contours of the new template are in place and can be identified and this report provides an initial identification and assessment of the new approach. The new build OPV is not just a new platform; it is the spearhead of a new approach. And that approach as well as the OPV template is the focus of this report.
The Williams Foundation conducted an Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) study
between Sep16 and Feb17 to explore the challenges of building Australia’s IAMD capability
and the implications for the Department of Defence’s integrated force design function. The
study was focussed at the Program level of capability.
The study incorporated a visit to the US for a month to explore the IAMD challenge with
United States Defense Forces and Agencies, think tanks and Industry. The initial study
findings were then explored in Australia in three Defence and Industry workshops on 31 Jan
17 and 1 Feb 17, using a Chatham House model of unaNributed discussions. Many of the
statements made in this report are not referenced as they are derived from these Chatham
House discussions and associated meetngs.
IAMD is a highly complex issue; comments made in this report should not be construed in
any way as being critical of the IAMD approach of the Department of Defence. This report
cannot account for the full complexity of the integrated force design process that is being
addressed within Defence; however, it may offer some value in providing suggestions based
on the study findings.
This study would not have been possible without the support and assistance of several areas
within the Australian Department of Defence, the US Defense Department, Industry and
think tanks. The Williams Founda=on deeply appreciates the support of the IAMD Study
major sponsors, Lockheed Mar=n and Northrop Grumman. Thanks are also due to Jacobs in
funding the services of Dr Gary Waters who provided valuable support in the research for
the study and in the production of the workshop notes.
This report represents the views of AVM Blackburn (Retd), the IAMD Study lead. This study
report is intentionally high level and brief; in the author’s experience, long and detailed
reports are rarely read by senior decision makers.
Williams Foundation submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
On 2 December 2015, the Senate referred the following matter to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee for inquiry and report by 1 May 2016. On 17 March 2016, the Senate extended the reporting date for the inquiry to 29 June 2016.
The planned acquisition of the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter).
Training for an Integrated ADF: Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC)
On the third of June, The Sir Richard Williams Foundation held its first seminar for 2015. Top Defence and Defence Industry players gathered to discuss the current and future state of joint collective training in the ADF and the advancement of LVC. The theme of the day was interoperability and how government, different branches of the ADF and industry need to work together in order to operate in an increasingly complex and evolving environment to maximise fifth generation technology opportunities.
A special report from the Integrating Innovative Airpower Symposium in Copenhagen on 17 April 2015 has been prepared by Dr Robbin Laird from Second Line of Defense. Dr Laird and SLD are supporting the Williams Foundation’s exploration of the implications of 5th generation technology.
Much has been written in recent years about the RAAF’s ongoing efforts to replace its F-111 long-range strike and F/A-18 ‘classic’ Hornet multirole fighter fleets with a new air combat aircraft. Despite the F-35 rightly remaining the ultimate choice to fulfil this role, ongoing project delays have seen the RAAF’s introduction of the F-35 slip some six years, and forced the Howard coalition government to acquire the F/A-18F Super Hornet as a gap-filler capability. Read full editorial here
The issue is not the limits of airpower, the issue is the ineffective use of airpower. According to [The Department of Defense's] own website, two B-1 sorties can deliver more ordnance than did all the strikes from the aircraft carrier Bush over the last six weeks. Two F-15E sorties alone are enough to handle the current average daily task load of airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria. Read full comment
The CAF gave a very informative speech at the Williams Foundation Dinner on 29 May 2014. While highlighting the Air Combat System that will be in place in 2025, he amplified on what it will mean and identified what needs to be done to achieve the effective and supportable capabilities for the years ahead.
The Sir Richard Williams Foundation conducted its biannual seminar on ‘Air Combat Operations – 2025 and Beyond.’ in March 2014, the day before the RAAF Air Power Conference. The seminar explored the challenges and opportunities afforded by the introduction of 5th generation air combat capabilities. Review the summary.
In a recent visit to Australia for the RAAF Air Power Conference, Robbin Laird said "What clearly came through is that Australia is building out a modest but effective 21st century Air Force built around the best available 21st century platforms and technologies. And in a discussion with a senior Canadian Air Force officer attending the RAAF air power conference, the point was made that “Australia is very relevant to our thinking about the future.” Read
Australia’s geography is uniquely well-suited to the use of UAS in a variety of military and civilian missions and roles over water and land. Official action consistent with the report’s Conclusions and Next Steps could allow Australia to take full advantage of this transformative technology. Read the Report
Over the past 20 years, the ADF's Anti-Submarine Warfare capabilities have been allowed to degrade in both the RAN and the RAAF. As a nation dependent on maritime trade, this capability must be restored as a matter of priority.
Centralised control and decentralised execution is attracting an increasing level of critical attention in the US military, particularly in the light of the experience gained during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Australia, however, the position of centralised control and decentralised execution, as the cornerstone of command and control in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), remains largely unquestioned.
EW systems in offensive air operations have been used since WWII, but it was not until Vietnam that they were deployed extensively in operations, and then in the USAF, not the RAAF. EW systems are essential in offensive air operations. In addition to the USAF and USN, the RAF, Russian and other Air Forces have employed EW systems for many years. With the available nano technology, EW systems are becoming more capable, smaller in size and are fitted to many electronic attack aircraft, eg, the USN E/A-18G, the EW version of the Super Hornet. Although mostly podded systems are deployed currently, integrated suites are being developed for the E/A-18G and F-35 aircraft.
The threat of man-portable air defence systems, small IR heat-seeking missiles, has resurfaced and may well rear its ugly head in the near future. The catalyst for this danger is the revolutionary war in Libya.
Western politicians and military leaders need to understand very clearly that the defeat of the Gaddafi regime in Libya represents a major achievement for advanced air power. NATO’s campaign deserves careful study. Al Stephens discusses the core capabilities that achieved the outcome.
In 2014-2015, the Royal Australian Navy plans to commission two LHDs (Landing Helicopter Dock). They will be the biggest warships the RAN has ever operated. Their size and the capabilities they will bring to the ADF, and the implications inherent in their deployment, mean that they will also bring very big challenges.
5th generation fighters incorporate significant technological advantages over previous 4th generation fighters,eg, F/A-18. The onboard combat systems on the new generation fighters automatically present the pilot with the optimum solution to the current situation. The pilot doesn't make the decision - the system does. Revolutionary!
The effective use of air power is without doubt the most important strategy that any country can employ in a campaign. In Australia's position in the world, it is a strategy that is critical in seizing the initiative with a small, but technologically superior, force. Alan Stephens discusses USAF Colonel John Warden's success in 'Instant Thunder' in Iraq in 1991.
The respected International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) recently described Australia's defence policy as one 'preoccupied with alliance management'. This is concerning: alliances are a means of defence policy, not an end in themselves. Read Chris McInnes' paper on the topic.
The NATO-led no-fly zone over Libya attained air supremacy within days, with minimal allied and civilian casualties. As long as NATO's political will remains resolute, air operations will ensure that Gaddafi can not win in his attempts to remain in power. Al Stephens discusses the operation.
Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper lists ISR as an area that requires ‘particular attention to secure our unique strategic interests’. But what exactly does the government think needs ‘particular attention’? Is it referring to the collection and processing of information, exclusive of deeper analysis; or a broader definition of ISR that incorporates traditional ‘intelligence’ functions?
Indonesia has announced their intention to acquire 180 Sukhoi Su-30 strike/fighters. How will this decision affect Australia and the SE Asian region? Alan Stephens discusses the implications for Australia.
The ‘Taiwan Strait Crisis’ initiated by Chinese missile tests in 1995 illustrated the delicate balance and animosity that still remains between Beijing and Taipei vis-a-vis Taiwan’s legal status within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its precarious alliance with the United States. Sean Scrivener, a post-graduate student at Macquarie University, provides interesting perspectives in his paper.
Dr Alan Stephens discusses perception and reality as they relate to air power and military strategy. He presented his paper at the RAAF Air Power Conference, The Art of Air Power, held in Canberra, on 29 March 2010
Australia is, like every other country, girt by air, a more pervasive and flexible medium for pursuing military influence than either sea or land. Any shaping and deterring the ADF pursues during the Asia-Pacific century will be at least as reliant on the air component of its maritime forces as on its navy component, probably more so. Air Power and the Defence of Australia, addresses these aspects, with special reference to the recent Defence White Paper, 'Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century : Force 2030'
Implementing the Defence White Paper 2009 examines the programs that followed the many papers and reviews and the resulting failures which adversely impacted the war-fighting capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
The Defence White Paper 2009 places significant emphasis on maritime capabilities and particularly on development of a large submarine force. Australia's Strategic Sting, a paper published by the Australian Submarine Institute and reproduced here with their approval, examines the case for submarines in the RAN. Written by Peter Briggs.
Air combat capability is the ability to engage in air operations against external threats that use the air or sea to enter Australia or threaten Australia’s interests and combines fighter and strike aircraft, together with supporting air components, command and control elements, logistics and technical support essential to provide the air power required.
Enabled by stunning advances in sensors and information processing capabilities, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – ISR – is invariably described as central to Australia’s current and future military capabilities. The hyperbole is based on technological advances, but intellectual developments in Australian ISR have not kept pace. Traditional perceptions of the roles and boundaries of intelligence and operations are being challenged, and new thinking is needed to capitalise on the opportunities technology makes possible. Read paper here
Enabled by stunning advances in sensors and information processing capabilities...