The Strategist Six: Dale Bennett
20 Nov 2017|

Welcome to The Strategist Six, a feature that provides a glimpse into the thinking of prominent academics, government officials, military officers, reporters and interesting individuals from around the world.

‘Fifth generation’ is a term we first heard associated with the Joint Strike Fighter. In making the RAAF, and the ADF more generally, fifth-generation forces, what will be the impact of linking up communications among platforms?

Fifth-generation capability brought not only stealth technology to air platforms, but also tremendous sensor data and sensor data fusion to give a very clear operational picture. That’s the common thread. Defence forces are able to take sensor data, whether it’s in electronic warfare, radar, LiDAR [light detection and ranging] or an infrared sensor, and bring it together to create a detailed picture. You’ll hear the term ‘cross-domain’ as we link space, aircraft, ships at sea and vessels under the ocean’s surface. The traditional way to communicate was stove-piped, with navy ships talking to navy ships, airplanes talking to airplanes, and space assets talking to space assets or ground controllers. The aim is to take all of this information and bring it across all of these domains to build a clear operational picture. If that data could magically be available to everybody and they could see the threat when it’s further away, it would give them more time to react and they might react differently and smarter. It changes the game substantially.

What will the integration of key elements of the RAAF and those of the navy and army under Plan Jericho and the introduction of the joint battle management system and its weapons under AIR 6500 mean for the future of the ADF and the increasing emphasis on joint operations?

Plan Jericho and AIR 6500 is progressive thinking. The common picture is bigger than any one sensor can see. We understand how the navy fights with its surface ships and its submarines, and how an aircraft fights in anti-submarine warfare, whether it’s a P-8 or a P-3, or how an F-35 fights. If we can network them all together, we can build a common operational picture that’s bigger than any one sensor. It allows us to use what we have smarter and to shape what we have in the future by harnessing the potential of fifth-generation capability.

What advantages will joint operations and interoperability provide to the ADF?

All defence forces have a great need to maximise capability. In the end, it’s the capability they’re looking for, and they don’t care if it comes from a ground radar or a radar at sea—they just want the effect. I think the technology has advanced to the point where aspirations of old can become reality. Australians are very progressive in pushing the envelope around this thinking. For joint operations to work effectively, the stovepipe effect must be demolished. You take stock of what you have already, such as the Poseidon and the Wedgetail, and what’s coming, such as the F-35, the air warfare destroyer, the frigates and the new submarines. Then you look above that and ask, ‘How can you use it all together and better?’

What difference will C4ISR make to future combat and what advantages will it bring to forces involved in conflicts ranging from high-end fighting to counterterrorist operations?

That’s the glue, the systems that bring all this data together, fuse it and create this common operational picture that all the different services can use to make more informed and better real-time decisions.

How will Lockheed Martin’s contributions to Australia’s future submarine program make a difference for the navy and Australian industry?

The submarine community is referred to as the silent service because they live and breathe by staying just one notch ahead of the competition in terms of their submarine’s ability to be quiet and sense things in the ocean. The company has a long-standing partnership with the US Navy and many navies around the world on acoustics, acoustic processing, command and control, weapons systems and fire control systems. We bring that rich history and partnership with the US Navy. I think as the US government partners with the Australian government to make sure we’re thinking about interoperability while dealing with the threats that are continuing to emerge in this region of the world, everyone wants to make sure the Australian capability is on par.

What is the company doing to provide advanced technology for the ADF while also transferring skills to Australians?

The government-to-government partnership is very strong and assurances were given that top-shelf technology will be made available. As an industry partner, we’ll help that happen. We’re always interested in new ideas and we’ve invested heavily in the Science, Technology, Engineering Leadership and Research Laboratory (STELaRLab) in Melbourne to think through the workforce of the future. How do we get them to know who Lockheed Martin is, how do we invest in research that can help our products be better?

To support the growth of sustainable industry, we’re developing the capabilities of our local suppliers by providing technology transfer to grow sovereign Australian capability. We help strengthen the Australian supplier base via programs such as the global supply chain partnership with the Commonwealth. This develops the world-class competencies necessary for Australian suppliers to be both globally competitive and export-ready so that they can move up the value chain.