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How DATE Supports an Army in Motion and Training Transformation

Soldiers with rifles in the shoulder

Numerous single-service training adversaries have been developed by the Australian Army over the past 70 years. This process has created a variety of training adversaries, all of which have rapidly become out-dated. These training adversaries usually represented either opponents the Army was actually fighting, or opponents it had just fought. This led the Army to train for operations against an adversary it was unlikely to fight, rather than preparing for probable future conflict against a reality-based, contemporary adversary. The use of the Musorian Armed Forces as a training adversary for the period 1980 to 2016 is an example of this approach to training for operations.

Adoption of the DATE Operating Environment and Adversary Construct

In a break with tradition, the Australian Army adopted the US Army Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) enterprise in 2018. This decision represented a prescient change to adapt the training environment to the competitive strategic re-alignment centred upon the Indo-Pacific region.  DATE provides both a sophisticated operating environment (OE) and a contemporary adversary construct that employs hybrid warfare or ‘Grey Zone’ activities. The current DATE OE is fictitious but is constructed from a composite of real-world terrain (Caucasus Region), and operational combat conditions.  The DATE adversary construct features conventional and irregular adversaries, which are constantly updated to reflect current real-world operations. In so doing, our training environment affords broader professional development outcomes from understanding the DATE adversary.

DATE is designed to support tactical training needs across the individual and collective training continuums, continuously informed by the rapid infusion of lessons learned, and features operations short of war and a Hybrid opposing force. In this sense, this training adversary supports Army in the adaptation contest of innovation, counter, and counter-action.

Thus, breaking new ground for the Australian Army, DATE offers a contemporary adversary who employs current, real-world tactics, techniques and procedures. The adversaries within DATE do not conform to tactical templates. The Australian Army will be required to adjust its approach to tactics training; a mechanistic mathematical template is patently inadequate for understanding adversary courses of action within a rapidly evolving environment. Tactics instruction must be re-emphasised as a competitive contest if we are to realise the full benefits of a versatile adversary, as delivered by DATE. The DATE OE and adversary construct thereby ensure that Army is both Ready Now and Future Ready.

Australian DATE Campaign Plan and Identified OPFOR

From 2018 Army began to introduce the DATE enterprise as its single-service adversary and operating environment for Army Training Levels 1-5 (ATLs). In order to standardise training scenarios, a DATE Campaign Plan has been developed. The Campaign Plan is based upon an invasion of Atropia by the armed forces of Ariana. The United Nations response to this invasion was to raise a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF). The land component of this CJTF includes an Australian-lead Multi-National Division, with an Australian Combat Brigade (Plus) allotted. Its opposing force (OPFOR) fields irregular actors (such as guerrillas and Salafist-jihadist groups), combined-arms divisional capability and asymmetric weapons systems, such as long-range precision fires.

The identified OPFOR centre of gravity for this Campaign Plan is the 25th Mechanised Division (APC), part of the 2nd Operational Strategic Command of the 3rd Arianian Army.

As the Australian Army introduces new equipment into service, this OPFOR will adapt. For example, as the Land 400 vehicle is introduced into service, the identified peer OPFOR will upgrade to become the 24th Mechanised Division (IFV), thus ensuring that the Australian Army remains Future Ready.

DATE-Pacific (DATE-P) is an evolution to the current Caucasus-based OE commensurate with the Australian focus upon our immediate region. This OE is based primarily on the real-world geography spanning the vast distances of the Indonesian archipelago, representative of approximately 10% of the earth’s surface. Within this area, five country OEs called Belesia, Gabal, Olvana, North Torbia and South Torbia comprise the DATE-P OE. When delivered, this OE will accurately model the conditions which the Australian Army can expect to encounter in the Indo-Pacific Region. In addition, the DATE-P OE will provide the ideal OE for amphibious operations training scenarios. The Australian Army intends to use the DATE Caucasus OE for individual training and the DATE-P OE (when delivered) for collective training.

The DATE Contribution to Training Transformation

DATE is a major piece of the Training Transformation “jigsaw”. DATE strongly supports Army’s mission to prepare land forces for war. It will enable the Australian Army to prepare for the next war and will replicate the environment in which Army will fight. DATE users will drive change with DATE and will make both the Enemy and the OE better through their demands for change. It will assist Army to identify capability gaps e.g. electro-magnetic manoeuvre, and eventually, will migrate to the joint environment to illuminates service and agency gaps in capabilities, procedures, authorities, policies and mandates.

DATE supports accelerated learning via the Virtual Opposing Force (OPFOR) Academy and the Information Operations Network (ION). The Virtual OPFOR Academy comprises a total of 28 Hybrid Threat tactical examples (from Platoon to Company level) which trainees can access via the DATE Collaboration site on the DPN.

The ION emulates social media and digital domains, housed on closed intranets, unique to each exercise and accessed via the web. This allows the trainees to search social media content specifically built to match their scenario. This network supports intelligence, Information Operations and Civil Military Cooperation training (CIMIC), integrating the Cyber/Information Domain into all levels of command, thereby facilitating Multi-Domain Operations as the new normal mindset within Army.

The DATE OPFOR is experienced in the application of the attributes of Information Warfare (INFOWAR), thereby presenting the realistic challenges of contemporary Hybrid Warfare / Grey Zone challenges to Army commanders. Furthermore, the ION enables the training adversary to conduct INFOWAR activities to support training outcomes and heighted the understanding of the impact of Cyber / Information effects on the Land Domain.


The adoption of the DATE OE and adversary construct is making, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to both Army in Motion and Training Transformation.

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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