During the Rapid Force Projection conference at the Australian Defence Force Academy on April 9, speakers recounted a range of past examples of deployments – both short notice and forecast.
The conference was opened by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral David Johnston, who highlighted the need to think creatively about how Defence addresses rapid force projection, especially in light of changing global challenges.
“As our environment evolves, and more emphasis is placed on our region, we need to think creatively about the opportunities available to Defence, unbound by our current force or plans,” Vice Admiral Johnston said.
“It’s forums like this that allow us to consider the challenges and the opportunities for us to project force decades into the future.”
"We need to think creatively about the opportunities available to Defence, unbound by our current force or plans."
The conference’s keynote speaker, Brigadier Richard Iron, discussed readiness and rapid deployment in the United Kingdom’s May 2000 deployment to Sierra Leone.
“Although London was taken by surprise by events in Sierra Leone, the person in charge of the response [Brigadier David Richards] was not,” he said.
Professor Craig Stockings, the Official Historian of Australian Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor, gave an honest account of the challenges for readiness of the ADF when it deployed to East Timor in September 1999.
Another case study presented was the deployment of 50 Australian Army personnel to assist law and order efforts in Tonga in November 2006
All the case studies shared the common thread of the need to be able to deploy with a high level of confidence and preparedness.
While the introduction of platforms like the C-17A Globemaster and Canberra-class LHDs (Landing Helicopter Dock) have increased the speed and volume of future force projection, the environment will change further still.
Professor Mark Howden from the Australian National University summarised the implications of climate change, and its calamitous effect on our immediate region. Rising average temperatures will lead to an increased intensity and area-of-effect for cyclones in the region, affecting food security and damaging the infrastructure required for disaster response, he said.
"The speed at which situations can go from bad to worse, and the speed with which we, as a regional power, must respond requires adaptation and innovation."
But, force doesn’t always need to be projected physically.
Lieutenant Colonel Mick Cook’s address analysed the use of social media by Daesh to intimidate local security forces off the battlefield.
Giving the closing address for the conference, Air Commodore Kirrily Dearing, Director General Support for Headquarters Joint Operations Command, said speed had become synonymous with modern warfare.
“Certainly over my career, every aspect of the world has become exponentially faster – communication, the media cycle, and innovation,” Air Commodore Dearing said.
“As a result, it is no surprise that the speed at which situations can go from bad to worse, and the speed with which we, as a regional power, must respond requires adaptation and innovation.”
How the ADF resources ‘readiness’ for its logistics systems – within Defence and with industry – will be key to providing rapid force projection into the future.
The Rapid Force Projection conference was jointly hosted by the Sea Power Centre–Australia, Australian Army Research Centre and Air Power Development Centre.