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Science, Technology and Industry (Spotlight Brief 3/21)

8 June 2021

The content in this article is an extract of Spotlight Brief 3/21.

Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in the Israel Defence Forces: blurring traditional boundaries

Journal of Strategic Studies – Dec 20

While there are significant differences between Israel and Australia’s geo-strategic situation, some points of comparison exist between the IDF and the ADF. Both focus on technological superiority to make up for a lack of mass, operate in a constantly contested space to shape future conflicts, and see future operations as precise, long range and not necessarily involving the seizure and retention of large swaths of terrain. Furthermore, and acknowledging the ambiguous nature of Israel’s nuclear weapon status, both nations require their militaries to provide a deterrence effect. This article provides an overview on how the IDF is investing in Fourth Industrial Revolution technology such as AI, autonomy, new sensors, and quantum technologies to improve its war fighting and deterrence capabilities. It clearly details issues the IDF has found, notably culturally, integrating such technology, especially when second- or third-order effects are initially unknown. The article further highlights the symbiotic relationship between industry and the military in the development and use of such technology.


‘Move over Amazon, the Israeli military is equipping its warehouses with artificial intelligence’, CTech, 16 Apr 21

‘Israeli defense-industry source on modern combat: ‘If not part of the network, you don’t exist’’, Jewish News Syndicate, 01 Apr 21

‘Israeli defense company looks to AI as game-changer in space and weapons’, The Jerusalem Post, 01 Mar 21

‘Rafael seeks to outfit IDF with drones, robots that spot threats by themselves’, The Times of Israel, 27 Dec 20

‘Top defense official tells ‘Post’ how Israel confronts quantum age’, The Jerusalem Post, 08 Dec 20

Industrial Mobilization: Assessing Surge Capabilities, Wartime Risk, and System Brittleness

Center for Strategic and International Studies – Jan 21

Mobilisation planning is essential to designing a force – most nations cannot maintain a force at the size or readiness needed for war within peacetime budget constraints. In this work, Mark Cancian provides a short history of how the United States developed its mobilisation capabilities. It examines the poor preparation of 1917, through to its role as the arsenal of democracy in the 1940s – 1990s, and into the scaling down as part of the peace dividend after 1991. Cancian focuses on key issues facing the contemporary system, including the mini-surges for Iraq and Afghanistan. He seeks to answer five questions relating to the ability of existing US capabilities, risks which exist, and an assessment of whether the system has become more brittle over time.


‘Building Resilience: Mobilizing the Defense Industrial Base in an Era of Great-Power Competition’, Heritage, 17 Nov 20

‘National mobilisation during war: past insights, future possibilities’, Australian National University National Security College, Aug 20

‘National mobilisation: What are the strategic risks to Australian national security planning?’, Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies, 21 Aug 20

‘Wartime lessons for industrial mobilization in a time of pandemic’, War on the Rocks, 03 Apr 20

‘What does mobilisation look like in practice?’, Australian Defence Magazine, 22 Jun 19

Space Threat Assessment 2021

Center for Strategic and International Studies – Apr 21

Space is vital for the contemporary land power. Armies are increasingly reliant on space, and the need for multi-domain and unified domain thinking, combined with technological shifts allowing land forces to effect space-based assets, further drive the space engagement imperative. This report provides a summary of kinetic and non-kinetic counter space weapons, as well as the current estimated status of ten nations beyond the United States that have such capabilities. While the Air Force remains the Domain lead for Space under the CLC, this assessment offers pathways for Army to develop, support, and advocate the vitality of space to the land domain.


‘Global Counterspace Capabilities’, Secure World Foundation, Apr 21

‘Interference with Space Maneuver and Communications of Concern, Space Force Official Says’, Defense Daily, 04 Apr 21

‘Counterspace 2020: All (Pretty) Quiet On The ASAT Front’, Breaking Defense, 01 Apr 21

‘JADC2 Critical To Counter Space Threats, Say Milspace Leaders’, Breaking Defense, 26 Mar 21

‘Threats to space aren’t just weapons’, Trends, 24 Feb 21

The sixth RMA wave: Disruption in Military Affairs?

Journal of Strategic Studies – Nov 20

Generally accepted to have occurred in five previous waves, contemporary RMA work has been information technology focused, seeking to integrate digital technology onto essentially industrial age platforms. Within this article, Michael Raska argues the existence of a sixth RMA, but one that is rooted within artificial intelligence and paired with Fourth Industrial Revolution tech. This so called ‘AI-RMA’, Raska claims, is different thanks to a combination of multiple axes of technological advancement, the lead of civilian markets over traditional military tech and increasing strategic competition. Raska argues that AI-RMA is not a continuation of the modernisation RMA’s previously seen, but a real RMA that provides a disruptive shift in warfare. He suggests that for those that can rethink processes, equipment and conduct of warfare it offers unparalleled opportunities.


‘Brown Says Networks are Key to New Revolution in Military Affairs’, Air Force Magazine, 29 Mar 21

‘Helping humans and computers fight together: military lessons from civilian AI’, War on the Rocks, 15 Mar 21

‘How Do You Measure a Revolution in Military Affairs?’, The Diplomat, 11 Feb 21

‘The faultline between Futurists and Traditionalists in national security’, War on the Rocks, 18 Jan 21

‘Militaries Are Planning for an Autonomous Revolution. What if the Tech Isn’t Up to It?’, The Diplomat, 13 Jan 21

‘Cavalry to Computer: The Pattern of Military Revolutions’, The National Interest, 01 Sep 94

Weaponising Blockchain

The RUSI Journal – Mar 21

Blockchain is a technological evolution that makes up the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It rests upon two key technologies (themselves that are at risk of being outdated by 4IR capabilities) that are familiar to the military: distributed computing and cryptography. It has already seen a period of hype within the civilian sector, most notably through cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Bilyana Lilly and Sale Lilly have conducted the first open source assessment of US, Chinese and Russian military applications, examining how they are similar and different. Two key findings are that network security and logistics are the two dominant themes across all three nations, and that all three nations couch their open source discussion in terms of great power competition, often focusing more on competitors than their own work. Importantly for the ADF, it appears bespoke military Blockchain work is not common, with commercial Blockchain protocol the preferred start point for all three militaries; in turn driving a need to understand commercial use, application and potential.


‘As bitcoin keeps booming, ignore blockchain at your peril’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Apr 21

‘America and its military need a blockchain strategy’, C4ISRnet, 05 Apr 21

‘What is a Blockchain? Is It Hype?’, The New York Times, 27 Jan 21

‘US Navy Commissions $1.5M Blockchain System for Tracking Critical Weaponry’, coindesk, 14 Jan 21

‘DOD eyes blockchain for medical use cases’, GCN, 04 Dec 20

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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