Defence Details Plans for Network Centric Warfare

The Australian Defence Department has released its long-awaited Roadmap for Network Centric Warfare (NCW), designed to guide the Australian Defence Force's (ADF's) transition to a joint seamless force by 2020.

Convinced of the potential operational benefits of NCW in the wake of its activities in conjunction with other coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ADF sees NCW as essential to enhancing its war fighting capability.

The transition to network centric warfare is intended to allow forces to deliver enhanced combat effectiveness by linking the ADF, coalition systems and decision-makers into an effective and responsive whole. At its core, network-centric warfare seeks to translate an information advantage into a war-fighting advantage. Underpinned by information connectivity, this demands new concepts and doctrine for command and control, planning and operational conduct to achieve the required degree of interoperability between Australian forces and those of our allies, and the enhancement of Australian response capabilities.

Releasing the roadmap, chief of the Department of Defence Capability Development Group, Lt Gen David Hurley said while the ADF already has experience in NCW operations, the potential to influence the manner in which the ADF conducts operations in the future has not been underestimated. Accordingly, the realities of capability development require important decisions about future platforms and systems be made now to ensure that the ADF realizes the benefits of NCW into the future.

The NCW Roadmap outlines the steps by which the ADF will become further network and sets the long-term goals for the development of the ADF's NCW capabilities through to 2020. The ADF has already begun that transition, with work to date focussed predominantly on the equipment aspects of the network dimension and networking.

The roadmap defines Australia's future NCW capability requirement as defined as an integrated series of grids (Command and Control, Sensor, Engagement and Information network) able to facilitate cooperative activity by ADF personnel. It says three key components will underpin this capability requirement:
- the network dimension,
- the human dimension, and
- networking.

It also explains to both industry and the wider defence audience how Defence will implement the concept of Network Centric Warfare, and alerts industry to opportunities for future development.

"The NCW Roadmap provides the vision by which the ADF will become further network enabled, and operationally more effective. It encompasses the whole of Defence and outlines the key responsibilities for NCW implementation by all NCW stakeholders within Defence. The NCW Roadmap is a dynamic document that provides an overview of the milestones that we view as critical to the realization of our vision for NCW," Lt Gen Hurley said.

"When in its mature state, NCW will improve the integration of the Command and Control, Sensor and Engagement Systems to facilitate enhanced situational awareness, collaboration and offensive potential. Critical to achieving this potential are the networks we establish. The implementation of NCW is about capitalizing on technology to be able to do things better.

"Equally it is understood that the human dimension, the way our troops interact and utilize the information, is just as important in achieving maximum effectiveness. NCW will change the ADF's training, education, organization and culture.

"The path from the first generation NCW to a mature state is a complex and technological journey that will witness the most significant change in the way we do business than any other 15 year period in the history of the ADF," Lt Gen Hurley said.

While the Roadmap outlines the Ministry of Defence's plan to achieve the desired NCW target states, the pace of change in technology provides significant potential for industry to play a key role in enhancing the ADF's NCW capability development. It says avenues in which industry could participate in the development of an NCW capability include:

- Collaborative development in conjunction with Australia's DSTO;
- Concept technology demonstrators;
- Involvement in industry fora (for example, Australian Defence Industry Electronic Systems Association [ADIESA]); and
- Experimentation to develop the human dimension of NCW.