In 2023, The Cove selected a number of themes to focus our resources on and provide an ongoing stream of content for your professional military education. in 2024, we will be continuing this with our three PME themes of 2024.

Our themes have been selected to enhance your knowledge and understanding of three highly topical and relevant areas of interest to the profession of arms. To support the generation of high-quality and relevant PME content, The Cove has partnered with an SME for each theme. Each theme is expanded upon below, as an overview our themes and partners of 2024 are:

  1. Large-scale combat operations - in partnership with Headquarters 1st (AS) Division
  2. Future warfare - in partnership with Future Land Warfare Branch
  3. Ethical decision-making - in partnership with Land Combat College

Cove Themes of 2024

Large-Scale Combat Operations 

What are large-scale combat operations (LSCO)? You may have heard the terms used in an informal or colloquial sense in general discussion at some point, perhaps on a professional education course or during unit PME. In general use, the name itself 'large-scale', 'combat', and 'operations' is descriptive. LSCO is often used in contrast to other types of warfighting operations, such as COIN (counter-insurgency) or LCO (limited contingency operations). Tere is a general understanding in the profession of arms that there is a distinction between the types of wars Western militaries have been fighting for the last several decades, dominated as they were with COIN in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the type of warfighting experienced during the Second World War. Indeed, the current Russo-Ukrainian War has clearly demonstrated that state-on-state, high-intensity, conventional warfare requiring a vast amount of national resources is not a vestige of the past, but a very real possibility.

But this generalised view is not sufficient to engage in meaningful study. So what exactly is LSCO? And what does LSCO mean in the context of the Australian profession of arms? ADF and Army doctrine do not provide clear definitions of LSCO. ADF Capstone Concepts APEX and ASPIRE do not use the term 'LSCO'. Neither does LWD 3-0 Operations, although it does note on page 9 that "the level of military commitment can vary from large-scale combat and high-intensity smaller tactical actions". LWD 3-0 goes on to define combat operations, but without bounding this definition by scope or scale. Likewise, LWD 1 The Fundamentals of Land Power also do not explicitly reference LSCO, reserving itself to defining strategic manoeuvre, operational manoeuvre, and tactical manoeuvre in the context of manoeuvre warfare. Yet, Headquarters 1st (AS) Division provides the following explanation of its' role: "The Division is Army's unit of action for large-scale combat operations and represents Army's highest warfighting echelon."

So what is LSCO in the Australian context? And how are we approaching it?

Our allies and partners are considering the spectre of LSCO and what it implies for the future. Understanding how our allies conceptualise this level of war is necessary for the Australian military professional, noting the high likelihood future operations will be conducted with international partners.

U.S military resources provide more insight in LSCO. 'Through A Glass Clearly: An Improved Definition of LSCO' is a recent article by two U.S Army majors published in the U.S Army University Press (Army UPress) that provides an excellent overview of the doctrinal underpinnings of LSCO in the U.S military. It goes onto review the concept of LSCO from a PME perspective and suggest an improved definition. We recommend reading this article to introduce yourself to LSCO as a PME topic.

The release of the DSR has commenced a period of strategic change in the ADF and Army. 1 (AS) Div once again commands brigades, and new divisional capabilities such as long-range fires are being raised. These changes, coupled with the trends in the contemporary operating environment create an imperative to understand LSCO. For this reason, LSCO is The Cove's first theme of 2024.

Want to contribute to the professional discussion? The Cove is seeking contributions from SMEs and other PME writers on this this theme. If you are interested in contributing but aren't sure where to start, you can consider some of our suggested LSCO topics:

  • Theory of LSCO / history of LSCO
  • Manoeuvre and C2 of echelons above Brigade (EAB)
  • Combined Arms and joint effects in LSCO
  • Multi-domain operations (MDO)
  • Sustainment to LSCO
  • Mobilisation to support LSCO
  • Force projection in a LSCO context
  • Joint force entry operations (JFEO) for LSCO, including amphibious or littoral operations
  • Collective training for LSCO

Our partner for this theme is Headquarters 1st (AS) Division. We look forward to delving into this topic of direct relevance to the profession of arms, and bringing you some great PME content throughout 2024.

Future Warfare

What does the future operating environment look like? Where will it be located? Who will be the stakeholders? What technologies will be employed? And most importantly, how will this change how the next war will be fought?

Following on from our 2023 Theme of Artificial Intelligence/Quantum Technology, our second theme of 2024 is future warfare. Future warfare refers not just to technology, but the changes to the operating environment, methods, force structures and organisation. Understanding the face of war beyond 2030 is vital to the military professional. The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) has only confirmed that any strategic warning time has ended, and the ADF must be prepared for rapid change. So, what does the future of warfare look like, and how does this impact the ADF both now and tomorrow? As autonomous systems proliferate, the ability for a force to achieve asymmetry in lethality relative to cost has expanded. The space and cyber domains will continue to increase in relevance to the integrated force, but what will this change for the conduct of operations? What tactical or operational effects will the junior commanders of 2045 be able to call on that aren't available today? Conversely, what threats will the Army of 2045 face that have not yet been realised?

In order to adequately predict the coming changes and prepare for the operating environment of the future, we must grapple with these concepts now. Future warfare encompasses all of the questions and more. If you are interested in contributing your expertise to the future warfare theme, consider creating content relating to topics such as:

  • Robotics
  • Artificial intelligence / machine learning
  • Automation in a military system
  • Simulation and the augmented world
  • Force structure
  • Future operating environment
  • Cyber and space effects

...or any other topic related to future warfare.

Our partner for the future warfare theme is Future Land Warfare Branch, AHQ. Stay tuned for some great forward-thinking content from FLW and other contributors.

Ethical Decision Making

As members of the profession of arms, military personnel encounter ethical challenges not commonly experienced in other walks of life. As members of the ADF, we work in a situation unique in modern society - we charged with application of lethal force. Military members may be asked to kill; the contract of unlimited liability means they may find themselves obligated to place themselves in a situation where they can be killed. Beyond this, the unique nature of military service confronts individuals with ethical dilemmas beyond what it commonly encountered in daily life. Throughout all of these challenges, as representatives of the nation, we are expected to fulfil our role and these tasks to the highest ethical standard.

So how do we make ethical decisions as an individual and an organisation? This what the Cove's third theme of 2024, ethical decision making, explores. The release of ADF-P-0 Military Ethics, Edition 1 in 2021 provided the ADF with joint, ADF-wide doctrine on the application of ethics in the Australian profession of arms. The release of this doctrine provides the ADF with a clear delineation between ethical concepts that align with the ADF, and those that do not. Virtue ethics, duty ethics, and natural law theory are provided as ethical theories appropriate for application in the ADF. Conversely, consequentialism and ethical relativism are not. So, how does this inform our ability to make decisions that are ethical, in high-stress environments?

As ADF-P-0 Military Ethics points out, unethical conduct goes far beyond the individual. A single wrong act by a member of the ADF can have strategic implications with far-reaching consequences. Ethical decision making should be seen as not just the realm of philosophical discussion, but a combat behaviour that is trained and practiced as part of practicing good soldiering. For that reason, ethical decision making is our third and final theme of 2024.

Interested in this topic? Some suggested areas of discussion include:

  • Ethics of emerging technologies
  • Ethical decision-making in high-stress environments
  • Mental fitness and ethical decision-making
  • The ethical strategic digger/corporal/lieutenant
  • Training and selecting for ethical fitness

Our partner for the ethical decision-making them is Land Combat College. We can't wait to see thought-provoking discussions around this topic, and your submissions.

What to Contribute

Interested in contributing to one or more of these themes? You can contribute content to the Cove in multiple ways. We would love to receive your written article, but if writing isn't your thing, you can also submit content in video or audio forms. See our Editorial Policy and Submission Guidelines for more detail.

So Contribute Today!

Written articles, audio articles, videos or podcasts - whichever you prefer, contribute to the Cove this year and help hone our intellectual edge. Remember, PME isn't the main effort - warfighting is.