On 24 October 2019, the Sir Richard Williams Foundation held a seminar examining the requirements of #5thgenmanoeuvre. The aim of the seminar, building on previous seminars and series looking at #jointstrike and #highintensitywar, was to examine the differences and potential gaps in how the Australian Defence Force (ADF) must equip and organise for multi-domain operations. During the seminar, The Central Blue interviewed several speakers to gain greater insight into senior leadership thoughts on the topic. The following is a quick summary of those interviews.

Brigadier Ian Langford, Head Land Capability, Australian Army

Brigadier Langford has held a range of command and staff appointments in the Army and Special Forces during his career and is currently Acting Head Land Capability. Brigadier Langford is a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the School of Advanced Warfighting. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management, a Master of Arts, a Master of Defence Studies and a Master of Strategic Studies. He has been published in multiple service journals and as an independent author and is currently undertaking PhD studies.

What is 5th Gen manoeuvre?

It is a philosophical construct. It is about a way of thinking, not about technology. It is a way of codifying and understanding the world and being able to anticipate change.

Why is it different from what has come before?

It is different because of the changing character of war and the pace at which change is occurring.

Things are occurring quicker. In the current context, there will be some degrees of change with the volume of data over the next five to seven years.

If we accept that we need to change the way in which we fight, how do we identify and test ideas that will work and those that won’t?

This can be achieved through the aggressive use of experimentation in training environments. By the plausible future developments of concepts to future proof ourselves. By pulling the future towards us and by embracing what is about to happen.

Who will be best placed to command a force that will be required to orchestrate new ways of fighting characterised by increased tempo and new ways and means of projecting power?

The person who is viewing the operational level of war is best placed to command a force and orchestrate operations. Big data is leading to compression of decisions for tactics and operations. This new paradigm can enable the digitising of networks to conduct targeting operations.

And how do we identify and train them to fight with adaptability and agility?

This can be achieved through classical training and rhetoric akin to the Prussians. Studying natural history and humanities as they matter for the fact that they reflect the human experience.

How do we engage the workforce to not only think about this problem set but also encourage them to speak and shape the battlespace?

Once again, through a contest of ideas. Rich discourse contesting of ideas not people. Use of German methods-Bildung.

Brigadier Langford’s presentation is available here, on the Williams Foundation webpage.

Air Commodore Phil Gordon, Commander Air Warfare Centre, Royal Australian Air Force

Air Commodore Gordon joined the RAAF in 1987 has an extensive background flying fast jets. Air Commodore Gordon has commanded Air Task Group 630 from July 2016 to February 2017 and was subsequently appointed of Director General Air Command Operations in Headquarters Air Command, and Director General Air in Headquarters Joint Operations Command. On 30th November 2018, Air Commodore Gordon commenced his current appointment as Commander Air Warfare Centre.

What is 5th Gen manoeuvre?

I tried to provide my own definition of 5th Gen manoeuvre:

The ability of our forces to dynamically adapt and respond in a contested environment to achieve the desired effect through multiple redundant paths. Remove one vector of attack, and we rapidly manoeuvre to bring other capabilities to bear through agile control.

Why is it different from what has come before?

It is an evolution, not a revolution. We are reaching a tipping point, changing from an uncontested C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) leading to centralised control. This construct is not ready for contested space.

If we accept that we need to change the way in which we fight, how do we identify and test ideas that will work and those that won’t?

This can be achieved by a deliberate plan to train and experiment in degraded environments and free from assumptions. This can include different forms of command and control. Namely, learning through doing.

Who will be best placed to command a force that will be required to orchestrate new ways of fighting characterised by increased tempo and new ways and means of projecting power?

Commander, Joint Operations, is the right person to command and the use of Joint Task Force commanders is correct and valid. There is a difference between command and control. Control depends on the environment and the person with the best SA that can enact the Commanders’ intent.

And how do we identify and train them to fight with adaptability and agility?

By implementing more sophisticated ways to anticipate the Commander’s intent. Train and develop by exercising and experimenting when the comms is broken/degraded. There is a lower risk profile when everything is working. Graceful degradation whereby 1st, 2nd, 3rd tier within the CoC cleared to execute mission. This may include acceptance of higher levels of risk to get the job done.

How do we engage the workforce to not only think about this problem set but also encourage them to speak and shape the battlespace?

Through attending courses delivered by the Air Warfare Centre and advanced air warfare courses. I am not sure about professional military education and training.

Air Commodore Leon Phillips, Chief Information Officer Group, Department of Defence

As an engineer and project manager, Air Commodore Phillips has over 30 years of experience in the RAAF, predominantly delivering highly complex aerospace projects and managing their in-service support. He is currently Director General Business Relationship Management within the Chief Information Officer Group, helping to connect Defence Groups and Services with ICT solutions.

What is 5th Gen manoeuvre?

5th Generation manoeuvre is distributed sensors, a fusion of information and quick decisions for effect. Technological improvements will compress our decision-making time and potentially paralyse us with choice. The threat from ballistic, hypersonic and cruise missiles will challenge any single weapon system to respond as will the proliferation of unmanned technologies. Shorter response times and the need to prioritise response options is driving the need for greater information sharing and greater system co-ordination. For us to be effective we need to ensure our systems are well connected, through robust, multi-pathed networks and that we are capable of operations despite degraded networks.

Why is it different from what has come before?

There is a need for more integration, and it is not platform-centric.

If we accept that we need to change the way in which we fight, how do we identify and test ideas that will work and those that won’t?

Exercising decision making. Time to think and practice in exercising command in grey zone degradation. Understanding and experiencing complexities of choice in the grey zone.

Who will be best placed to command a force that will be required to orchestrate new ways of fighting characterised by increased tempo and new ways and means of projecting power?

Those who best understand the source and exploit it. In this context, is the traditional framework the correct way to operate into the future?

Moreover, how do we identify and train them to fight with adaptability and agility?

How do we engage the workforce to not only think about this problem set but also encourage them to speak and shape the battlespace?

Air Commodores Phillips’ full presentation is available here, on the Williams Foundation website.