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Emerging Threats and Opportunities

Soldiers from 20 Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, gather around their workstation as they guide their AE Wasp III Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAV) over the Orroral Valley fire in the south of the Australian Capital Territory. The aircraft are being used to monitor spot fires in the Tharwa area in the early morning hours when helicopters are not operating. Integrated into the massive ACT Emergency Services Agency’s intelligence collection capabilities, the small reconnaissance aircraft are fitted w

Emerging Threats and Opportunities (ETOs) is a regular blog series on the Land Power Forum that collects together blogs, podcasts and articles of interest with the goal of creating discussion on the topic of land power.

Understanding the emerging threats and opportunities presented by the operating environment is an important aspect to organisational adaptation. Akin to the Boyd cycle, or OODA loop, continuous observation of the environment can help the organisation orientate-decide-act, and do so in a manner that ensures organisational readiness. It is not just militaries that gain from this ‘posture’–the Harvard Business Review has argued the benefit of using the OODA loop as a means of managing uncertainty in the corporate world.  


From the US Army Press, a dissection of the tactical lessons from the Battle of Mosul, where the largest urban combat engagement since Hue and arguably the Second World War. This case demonstrates the lessons argued by General Rupert Smith’s War amongst the People. Further, it reinforces the observation made in 2014 that Army would fight in crowded, connected, congested terrain, thus making isolation difficult, nigh impossible. Further lessons explore the culmination of attack with penetration into the city, the challenge of maintaining the initiative and the influence of the local population. Such lessons can be compared and contrasted with the experience of the Battle of Marawi in the Philippines.

The Information/Cyber Domain

From the Strategy Bridge, a journey through the history of disinformation to help contextualise today’s discussion of the harmful effects of disinformation. Importantly, this piece helps us understand that while the cyber domain and social media capture attention, the mechanisms of disinformation, propaganda and influence are far from new.

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

From Small Wars Journal, an interesting analysis of the Colombians’ experience in Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Narcotics and how it might offer a roadmap for conflict resolution in Afghanistan. The confluence, or nexus, between insurgency and criminality has also been masterfully explored by Aisha Ahmad in Jihad & Co: Black Markets and Islamist Power, for those interested in reading further in this space.

Major Power Competition

From NATO Defence College, an interesting review on the Russian perspective of Hybrid Warfare and colour revolutions. This piece adds nuance to the often discussed Gerasimov doctrine and introduces the idea of ‘controlled chaos’. Of importance is that the Russian perspective is one of Western support to revolutions in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 90s which fragmented the Soviet Union, and then eroded its influence in Yugoslavia (Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), Georgia (Rose Revolution of 2003) and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip Revolution of 2005). This is a reminder to ‘readers that many in the Russian policy community see the post-Cold War chronology in rather different terms…’

Defence innovation

On the Land Power Forum, an insight into the application of the MakerSpaces concept, offering a tangible insight into experimentation concepts and how they might support Army capability innovation. This type of innovation builds upon a broader trend of ‘power to the edge’ that seeks to empower practitioners charged with employing equipment is the field. In this space, the ends is less important than the means—the desired outcome is the development of an innovative mindset that accepts the need to ‘fail fast’ in order to learn and adapt quickly to future problems.

The Regional worldview

From ASPI, an overview of Indonesia’s defence and foreign policy, of use to those less familiar with the outlook of our northern neighbour. Also from ASPI, this overview provides an insight into the Bougainville referendum.

Longer reads

From RAND, an analysis of what they define as Hostile Social Manipulation. The mechanisms driving a search for competitive advantage in the Informational/Cyber Domain is topical following the US Presidential Election of 2016. This is a foundational piece for a line of articles which will explore the topic of Information Warfare over coming weeks through this forum.

From the Soufan Centre, an analysis of the way Iran coordinates the employment of proxies in the Middle East. Although over half a year old, this document captures lessons from the way Iran grew its influence in the turbulence of conflict in Iraq and Syria over a seven-year-period (2012-2019). It also precedes the popular nationalist protests in Iraq in October 2019, which objected to the level of Iranian influence in Iraqi politics (amongst other issues). The proxy strategy employed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is topical following the targeting of MAJGEN Qassim Souleimani, leader of the IRGC-Quds Force in January 2020. You can also read further on the IRGC-Quds Force in the Australian Army Journal, Autumn 2018.

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The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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