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Emerging Threats and Opportunities


Colonel Mark Armstrong has published for the AARC an occasional paper examining the Implications of the Army Reserve call out for Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020. This occasional paper explores resultant issues pertaining to improved national resilience to natural disasters.

RAND have released a study examining the need for military and local government collaboration for climate adaptation. This report explores the case study of the impact of sea level rises on the Hampton Roads cluster of military installations which faces significant impact from forecast storm surge inundation. This report finds a need for collaboration and coordination across government, military and private entities to overcome siloed planning processes.

Major Power Competition

From the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Thomas Mahnken examines how the United States might adopt a more strategic approach to long-term competition. Importantly, it argues the adoption of ‘selective disclosure’ for deliberately determining what new capabilities are publicly revealed in order to create uncertainty in the minds of potentially hostile nations. This supports a U.S. deterrence effect.

From the Modern War Institute, a reflective examination of the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign plan, written by Kevin Benson, the then J5 of the Combined Forces Land Component Command. Failures in transition planning in Iraq have become cliché, and consequently, this piece offers useful insight into how this might have transpired and therefore pitfalls in campaign planning for major combat operations. 

Information Warfare and Cyber

From Graphika, testimony to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories Online. This report argues that the QAnon movement is ‘the most pressing threat to trust in government, public institutions and democratic processes.’ This argument builds upon an earlier Graphika report examining the evolution of the QAnon movement.

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

A useful resource for researching contemporary conflicts is Conflict Armament Research which publishes open-source weapons intelligence reports. These publications offer insight into state-sponsorship arrangements, tactical evolution of targeting methods and insurgent logistics networks. A sample of reports available from this site examine maritime interdictions off Somalia and Yemen, weapons supplies into South Sudan’s civil war and the weapons of Islamic State. The importance of such work is in illuminating the evolving tactics that threat groups are likely to employ.

From the CTC Sentinel, comes a magisterial examination of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) in Iraq. This analysis identifies “mafia-like” employment and threatened employment of violence, in order to exert control over politics, business interests, and strategic terrain (such as Jurf as Sakr, 40 km southwest of Baghdad). With such control, comes leverage; the explosive drone attacks against Saudi Arabian oil pipelines on 14 May 2019 reportedly having been launched from Jurf as Sakr. The author, Michael Knights, exploits over 15-years-experience examining Iraq’s insurgency and primary source interviews to compile this report, offering granular detail of how the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF) generates influence through KH. Noting recent recognition of the resurgence of Islamic State, the actions of non-state actors like KH on the opposite side of the sectarian divide, will continue to pressure the Iraqi state for the foreseeable future.

The Irregular Warfare podcast interview David Petraeus on his reflections upon two decades of fighting violent extremist organisations and the lessons Western nations should draw for the future.


A concept of particular interest that is being pursued by Project Convergence is the idea of an aerial “arsenal aircraft” involving the deployment of precision munitions from transport aircraft. Defense News reports that this concept will be tested in 2021, employing the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) which reportedly has approximately 1000 km standoff range for a 450 kg warhead. RAAF has acquired the JASSM under AIR5418, therefore making this test of interest to the ADF. The employment concept Project Convergence intend to test is for a C-17 airframe to be capable of deploying up to 32 JASSM-ERs without requiring penetration of contested airspace.

From Breaking Defense, insight into the experimentation of AI-enabled targeting software anticipated to be fielded within a robotic 50mm turret, named ATLAS. If successfully trialled, this equipment is forecast to reduce crewing of armoured vehicles. This development should be viewed in the context of experimenting with evolved Brigade and Division ORBATs. Such formations will soon field land-based SM-6 surface-to-air missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, generating multi-domain challenges at significant range. 

The next instalment of the Stanford University course, Technology, Innovation and Modern War progresses to Class Nine and Ten, presented by Maybard Holliday of RAND (former senior technical advisor to the Under-Secretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics), and Michele Flournoy (former Under-Secretary of Defence in the formulation of national security and defense policy and former CEO of the Centre for a New American Security).


  • ASPI continue their series of discussion with DG ASIS, Paul Symon. A conversation on how ASIS pursues its mission can be found here.
  • 17 November (1730-1830): Professor George Lawson of ANU is presenting for AIIA on Revolutions and World Order. Details are available here.
  • 19 November (1200-1300): The AARC Seminar series is hosting its 2020 Honours Students presenting their research findings and the implications for Army capability. Details are available through Eventbrite here.
  • 1 December (0900-1000): COL Armstrong will present on lessons from the 19-20 Bushfires for the AARC Seminar series at the R1 Theatre. Details will soon be available through Eventbrite here.
  • 8 December (1900-2000): Professor Sir Simon Wessely and Richard Iron will present for AIIA on the Psychological Cost of War. 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.

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