Flying battle suits, swarms of combat drones and advanced artificial intelligence might be exciting on the big screen, but Defence is treating similar concepts as possible future realities.

“If it’s in a Marvel movie, it’s something we’re thinking about,” said Colonel Lara Troy, Director of Joint Futures and Concepts in Force Exploration Branch.

Colonel Troy’s staff look to 2040 and beyond, forecasting what the future operating environment could look like, including geopolitics, threats, demographics and technology.

They construct alternative futures and develop concepts with Defence Science and Technology, academics, industry and allies, to see what situations the ADF could be fighting in.

“We have to apply a lens of realism, but be as open-minded as we can to achieve our aim,” Colonel Troy said.

“We’re looking for something we don’t know exists yet.”

Futures and Concepts aim to explore the future and not rule out ideas seemingly unrealistic or unachievable today.

The team welcomes insights and ideas of the future from any Defence personnel through their Force Exploration Hub; these could be in the form of papers or blogs.

Rank or time served is no barrier to submitting ideas.

“It might be the one idea that seems the most ridiculous that is actually the most important,” Colonel Troy said.

The Hub engages with multiple thinkers to develop ideas, concepts and evidence to equip the future force to confront a world of “accelerated change and uncertainty”.

It contributes to capability decisions while building knowledge to support force structure plans and strategic assessments.

“We’re exploring how we can take science fiction ideas into science fact,” said Dr Nigel McGinty, Program Leader Integrated Force at Defence Science and Technology.

 “A common trait is for people to underestimate what technology can achieve today and overestimate future technology, so it’s important to be creative.”

Ideas can also be submitted in response to DEFGRAMS and sometimes surveys are used to gather opinions.

Remote autonomous systems, Ai, additive manufacturing and quantum computing are of interest, as are possible geopolitical developments and thoughts on key technologies.

“There are never too many good ideas; we welcome thoughts about the future that can be entertained,” Colonel Troy said.

“We then work back and apply a level of realism to see what’s actually possible for the ADF.”

While Colonel Troy didn’t believe Defence would operate a Marvel-inspired Helicarrier or Ironman’s armour by 2040, she did foresee the ADF workforce receiving a technical overhaul.

“The amount of technological change that’s coming will require different training and skillsets and an increased workforce. It will change the face of the ADF,” she said.

To find of more or submit ideas, go to: defence.gov.au/VCDF/Forceexploration/

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