Skip to main content

Emerging Threats and Opportunities


Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. John Hyten recorded a presentation for the National Defence University about the ongoing relevance of deterrence. Gen Hyten spoke to deterrence as a component of the forthcoming U.S. Joint Warfighting Concept, which will be enabled by four underlying concepts: joint contested logistics, all-domain command and control, joint fires and information advantage.

Major Power Competition

Foreign Policy has analysed a Finland Ministry of Defence production titled 'Taistelukentta 2020' (Battlefield 2020)' that illuminates the country's response to 'hybrid warfare' tactics. This article is a good summary of the 18-mins production, but this video is nonetheless highly recommended for viewing for the following reasons (available here on YouTube):

  • 'Battlefield 2020' calls out 'grey zone' escalatory tactics with a clear message that such tactics are understood, anticipated, and will be defeated. By articulating a message of societal resilience to such tactics, able to be rapidly escalated into resistance to aggression, Finland is communicating a deterrent message. This theme, resilience-resistance-deterrence, is examined further in the forthcoming AARC Q3 Strategic Assessment. 
  • 'Battlefield 2020' visually provides tangible examples of what hybrid warfare looks like for those who might not have a good understanding of military terminology. This is another attribute of the Finnish approach; the video communicates to the average Finnish citizen to help prepare them for what may come in a period of heightened tensions.
  • 'Battlefield 2020' demonstrates a number of military capabilities that are being considered for Army modernisation, including NASAMs, riverine patrol craft and ATGMs. It therefore may illuminate visual examples worthy of consideration across Army Modernisation streams.    

The Finnish example comes as a useful reminder of unorthodox response options to aggression. The Finns remain proud of their 1939-1940 defence against a Russian invasion of over 600,000 troops in the 'Winter War' that ended with a negotiated Finnish surrender. Using ski-equipped troops, the Finns were able to wage guerrilla warfare at an operational level, isolating and wearing down numerous Russian advances, causing tremendous Russian losses. The Winter War began with subversive 'false flag' actions and radio propaganda, echoing forward to the Finnish production of 'Battlefield 2020.'

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

The Combating Terrorism Centre (CTC) have published the September edition of the CTC Sentinel which profiles the new leader of Islamic State, following the targeting of al-Baghdadi almost a year ago. Of interest, is that Amir Muhammad Sa’id ‘Abd-al-Rahman al-Mawla was captured by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008, and his detainee interviews have been publically released to CTC in order to support this profiling. 

Also within this issue of CTC Sentinel, Brian Jenkins (who was highlighted recently in ETOs) contends that the U.S. defence establishment should be cautious in its pivot toward major combat operations and ensure that it retains lessons from the post-9/11 counter-terrorism period. In his analysis, Jenkins points towards the skills in dismantling clandestine networks as of enduring relevance in identifying proxies operating in the grey zone of conflict. This might be due to proxy sponsorship (an example being Iran's support to Hezbollah for the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut to force a withdrawal) or competition in the third world (an example being the engagement of weak governments in Africa for resource exploitation during the Cold War). Jenkins anticipates that major power competition will incentivise the state-sponsored resourcing of non-state armed groups, and thus that terrorism cannot be expected to vanish.

Presenting a broad overview of the 'state of terrorism' after the past twenty years of counter-terrorism policies, Levi West of Charles Sturt University, presented for the AARC on September 10, with his recording available here

Information Warfare and Cyber

A report by Graphika examines a Chinese network with a particular focus upon the South China Sea. The report ‘enhances the understanding of information operations emanating from China.’ The loosely distributed network consisted of 155 Facebook accounts and 6 Instagram accounts which used several techniques to disguise its fake accounts.


The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) hosted an historic meeting with officials from 13 countries on the ethical military uses of AI. JAIC’s head of strategy and policy, Mark Beall, stated in an April interview, ‘at the highest level, JAIC is very much interested in how it is we upgrade our alliances for the digital era.’

JAIC’s intentions tie in with concerns from China and Russia’s increasing use of AI and their collaboration on new technologies. In this context, RAND delivered a report on the ‘Military Applications of AI: Ethical Concerns in an Uncertain World’. RAND’s identified the steady increase in integration of AI in military systems will present a number of issues:

  • The various forms of AI will have serious ramifications for warfighting applications;
  • AI will present new ethical questions in war, and deliberate attention can potentially mitigate the most-extreme risks; and
  • Despite ongoing United Nations discussions, an international ban or regulation on military AI is not likely in the near term.


  • 7 October: ASPI holds their Indo-Pacific Leaders Dialogue: ‘The Future of US-Australia Relations’. This is an online webinar. Details are available here.
  • 7 October: 1000-1100, US Studies Centre hosts a discussion on ‘Managing US-China Nuclear Risks: A Guide for Australia’ via online webinar. Details are available here.
  • 7 October to 25 November: 2020 Australian Naval Institute Goldrick Seminars ‘Remote and Autonomous Systems at Sea’. This series of 8 webinars will be held each week from 7 October via Zoom. Details are available here.
  • 13 October, 1730-1830, AIIA Victoria is hosting an online presentation on ‘The Kurds in a Fragmenting Middle East.’ Details are available here.
  • 23 October: Defence Innovation Network’s: Virtual Industry Forum: High-speed Sensors, Effectors and Directed Energy. This is an online event. Details are available here.
  • 1 November: DSTG is hosting their Emerging Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium Agile Command and Control (AC2). Details are available here.

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.

Using the Contribute page you can either submit an article in response to this or register/login to make comments.