Contemporary Operating Environment

Multi-Domain Operations – 16 REGT RAA PME Session

By Adam Other-Gee November 26, 2020


Background

On 18 Jun 20, 16th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (16 REGT RAA) conducted a  Professional Military Education (PME) session to discuss the topic of Multi-Domain Operations. The discussion sought to answer two specific questions:

1.   How important is the Multi-Domain Operations concept to 16 REGT RAA and wider 6 BDE?

2.   What were the five main lessons from 16 REGT RAA’s experience with the US Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) on Ex Talisman Sabre 2019 (TS19)?

 

Part 1 – How important is the Multi-Domain Operations Concept to 16 REGT RAA and wider 6 BDE?

 

Multi-Domain Operations – The US Army Understanding

In order to answer these questions a definition and framework of what Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) are and how they relate to the wider ADF was discussed. To quote CO 16 REGT RAA – “Multi-Domain Operations describe how the US Army, as part of a joint force will militarily compete, penetrate, 'dis-integrate' and exploit their adversaries in the future”[1]

The MDO concept deals primarily with great-power, peer competition, and with war. It is applicable more specifically within areas of the world where there is a significant number of modern military forces capable of operating within the current five domains of military operations: land, maritime, air, space and cyber.

One key point is that MDO is not just “combined arms’ with some space and cyber capabilities mixed in, but a fundamentally new way of thinking about warfare across both the competition and conflict phases of war; to either make conflict unpalatable or victory decisive.

MDO requires the Australian Defence Force to think in new and innovative ways, and at a more rapid rate. Due to the relative size of battlefields increasing, commanders have less time to act. As is evident now in war, time and space for decision making are not just created through physical distance but rather through Echelonment. Echelonment creates depth which enables Convergence and therefore the synergy of effects.

The Relevance to 16 Regiment RAA and 6 Brigade

Five key topics discussed in relation to the relevance of MDO to 16 REGT RAA and 6 BDE:

1.   Convergence

2.   Battlefield Expansion and Contraction

3.   Echelonment

4.   Training Innovation and Development

5.   Force Structure.

Convergence – What is it and how is it different to Combined Arms?

A simple definition of Convergence is, “the ability to enable any shooter, with any sensor, through any headquarters with the right authorities, in near real time”[2].

The following key aspects were discussed:

1. Joint Enabled C2

It is essential to let commanders know the operational, logistic and communication requirements in order to exploit any and all opportunities that present themselves in “near-real’ time.

2. Rehearsing and Training in a realistic fashion

While the statement that we must 'train the way we fight' is applicable to most military operations, it is undoubtedly critical when conducting Multi-Domain Operations. The need to normalise connectivity and understanding between the different domains, places an emphasis on joint and realistic training, and is ideally conducted in a communications and electromagnetic denied environment.

3. Convergence from the ‘top down’

A key point raised was that Convergence is not the synchronisation of single domain effects timed well to create an effect, but rather a top down approach. As raised in ‘Expanding the Battlefield’, this intuitively means that, “it is necessary to develop a solution that is integrated from the top down at inception, not cobbled together later in a federation”[3].

For 16 REGT RAA and wider 6 BDE this could mean that our organisation becomes more ‘purple’ rather than ‘green’ into the future.

Battlefield Expansion and Contraction – Battlefield size has increased but we have less time to act

When we consider what capabilities are available to commanders in all of the five domains, it is clear that the battlefield has spatially expanded. While the space of the battlefield has expanded; however, the advancement of technology across the domains has meant that commanders at all levels now have less time to act or respond to emerging situations.

A key point raised was that many of the current ADF's capabilities in the Cyber and Space domains are in their infancy. This means that while the ADF would be a very valuable contributor to a coalition Multi-Domain Task Force, the current assessment is that it would be unfeasible for the ADF to fight autonomously in a Multi-Domain Task Force construct.

Echelonment – How does 16 REGT RAA and wider 6 BDE units fit into Multi-Domain Echelons?

Echelonment is the allocation of capability and responsibility in order to solve specific problems that the force is presented and in conjunction with the commander’s intent and vision.

Within Multi-Domain Operations, in which the five domains are integrated, echelonment allows for simultaneous and synchronized engagements. Within the assigned echelons, tasks and purposes can be allocated based on the design and composition of that echelon. Thus making delegation and responsibility for achieving the desired outcome easier to control and therefore achieve. This includes the delegation of authority for lethal and non-lethal effects across the domains. This delegation enables a faster speed of decision making and therefore presents tactical and strategic depth that was previously associated with physical distance. Echelons are also established to develop their particular capability by hopefully applying foresight and preempting the requirements for the next war and effectively counter the emerging threat rather than being reactive.

The key benefits of echelonment are:

  • Increases efficiency
  • Relieves the burden of subordinate commanders
  • Provides resilience
  • Provides agility

Echelonment seeks to enable the commander to:

  • Seize the initiative
  • Establish momentum
  • Control the tempo
  • Dominate the adversary

16 REGT RAA, with the acquisition of enhanced National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (eNASAMS), has the potential to effect several of the designated echelons, primarily from tactical to operational; however, could influence above these. This is primarily through the increased situational awareness offered by surveillance capabilities and the ability to defend important strategic assets.  Other 6 BDE units have a wide range of capabilities, therefore their reach and influence with the echelons is spread across all four.

Training Innovation and Development – Is our current training model suitable to train for Multi-Domain Operations?

Multi-Domain Operations presents a big change in how the ADF, 6 BDE and 16 REGT RAA will need to train and fight. Currently Air and Missile Defence (AMD) training is heavily Army centric and while it does contain some Joint elements, these are not sufficient to capture the full nature of Multi-Domain Operations. The following proposal was made to amend current Artillery Learning Management Packages to include a focus on Multi-Domain Operations:

  • Introduction: During ab-initio training as an idea and concept
  • Operate: During Sub 4 SGT/ROBC to fight the battle
  • Effect: During MANOPS/ROGC to analyse and shape the battle.

Further engagement with both RAAF and RAN throughout these career courses was also highlighted as critical.

A possible consideration for further development in the training and innovation was the development of a specialist role within SNCO ranks in a similar mould to the US Army such as the Chief Warrant Officer rank. This would see the development of highly skilled, single trade speciality officers. A decision point at the rank of SGT would see a soldier separate from a regimental-like stream and become highly skilled in a focused area, such as Multi-Domain Operations.

This could in turn support a RAA transformation, with the development of three specialist trades.

  1. OP Fires. An effects trade that specialises in the provision of and deployment of fires systems (M777, eNASAMS, MLRS)
  2. OP BMS. An OP Battle Management Systems trade that specialises in systems integration and C2 (FAAD, AMDWS, AFATADS)
  3. OP Sensor. A sensor trade that specialises in all joint fires sensor systems (GAMB, Locating Radars, UAS)

Force Structure – Does our current ADF and Army force structure optimise conducting Multi-Domain Operations?

The current ADF force structure is effective but not optimised to conduct Multi-Domain Operations. For example, the US pull together intrinsic units that are specialised in their field of operation in order to achieve the sole focus of MDO.

As Multi-Domain Operations are focussed on all phases of warfare between the competition and conflict stages, it is necessary to have units and headquarters that are dedicated to both training for and conducting Multi-Domain Operations constantly.

The current ADF construct of bringing together multiple capabilities and conducting one major joint exercise each year (like Exercise Talisman Sabre) is not optimised for the conduct of Multi-Domain Operations.

One possible solution to ensure that units such as 16 REGT RAA are prepared to conduct Multi Domain Operations constantly, is to adjust HQ 6 BDE to become an operational headquarters as opposed to a Raise Train Sustain HQ. An operational focus would ensure a level of preparedness consistent with the requirements of Multi Domain Operations and the need to conduct operational actions throughout all phases of warfare.

Conclusion

Clearly, Multi Domain Operations are extremely important to 16 REGT RAA and the wider 6 BDE. The need to rethink the way in which we both conceptually think about warfare but also prepare and structure ourselves for it is also evident. This includes potentially restructuring HQ to be constantly prepared to conduct both kinetic and non-kinetic operations, ensuring that Multi Domain Operations are part of the ongoing training transformation and changing the way we train to better suit the way we will likely fight in the future.

 

Part 2 - What were the five main lessons from 16 REGT RAA’s experience with the US MDTF on Ex TS 19?

The five main lessons from 16 REGT's experience with the US MDTF on Ex TS19 were:

  1. Joint Planning is essential
  2. Communications infrastructure is vital
  3. The Command and Control structure must be flexible
  4. MDTFs are modular and task-oriented
  5. We need to reframe our understanding of the enemy and environment

Joint Planning is essential - How do we best posture ourselves to contribute to Multi-Domain Operations in the planning phase of operations? Are we doing this currently? Will this change with eNASAMS? The nature of 16 REGT RAA and the wider 6 BDE means that Joint Planning is an essential part of our capabilities. It was noted; however, that our contributions to Joint Planning need to be formalised at each command level including at the Operational level. It was recommended that to enable our own understanding of Joint Planning at 16 REGT RAA that personnel (Sergeant and above) conduct the Joint Operations Planning Course in order to further our own understanding of Joint Operations.

An example of the importance of Joint Planning was in relation to our unique Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) capability and the requirement to resupply this bespoke capability through a logistic chain that was unfamiliar with the requirement.

A greater understanding when it comes to joint planning is the solution. When commanders understand our capability, they can adequately plan to employ it. If we cannot accommodate the required parameters in planning then, in the spirit of Multi-Domain Operations, another partner or domain can provide a solution. This is going to be especially pertinent when we start to introduce eNASAMS. There will need to be a shared understanding and the capability will need to be integrated by design rather than at the last minute.

Communications infrastructure is vital - How do we retain connectivity in Multi-Domain Operations while we struggle to connect to ourselves? Do we have enough signals support? Where should they be?

As the ADF develop or investigate the Multi-Domain construct, a key area of focus is the connectivity between our systems. They need to be highly interoperable, multi frequency and format enabled, as well as capable of several means of transmitting and receiving data. Another point raised was the utilisation of fibre-optic cables to reduce the chance of interception and jamming.

In relation to signals support, one key output was rather than having more signalers or specialist communications personnel, the better solution is to streamline our equipment and therefore reduce the training burden for our own soldiers.

The Command and Control structure must be flexible - What command relationships will we expect to encounter? How will this be exercised on the ground?

When forces are joined in the early stages of an operation they should expect to encounter the traditional C2 relationships recognised within NATO, which allows for quick deployment and a known start point. There will of course be friction exposed through differing doctrine, differing information and C2 systems and differing risk tolerances, to name a few.

To overcome these command relationship difficulties, training together routinely as a force is incredibly important; however, not always achievable. If unavoidable, effort is required to obtain a common understanding of doctrine and the information system architecture. This can be facilitated by effectively placed and selected liaison officers to achieve a common understanding of SOP, that can then be considered within planning and execution phases.

MDTFs are modular and task-oriented - How can we support Multi-Domain Operations at varying/modular scales? Is it viable in our current configuration (RBS-70/GAMB)? Will it be viable with eNASAMS? What are the issues we need to overcome/planning considerations?

It was assessed that currently we have a very limited ability to support Multi-Domain operations. Deployment durations of more than 24 hours is not viable for the RBS-70 unless a PMV is also co-located with the detachment. The removal of ancillary equipment from the detachment can have an effect on achieving ROE requirements, our reaction time and situational awareness.

eNASAMS will also have an increased logistic support requirement that 16 REGT RAA has not encountered in many years; however, the ability to allocate targets and tracks to eNASAMS externally may mean that smaller task orientated modules could be deployed, which would reduce the logistic support burden. The lack of organic sensors or a large quantity of missiles; however, would increase the overall risk to achieving the Air Defence mission, and this would need to be balanced against the smaller footprint and mobility of the Air Defence module.

We need to reframe our understanding of the enemy and environment - We need to elevate our thinking beyond the tactical and in some cases beyond operational. How do we train relatively junior soldiers to think strategically?

Multi-Domain Operations have enormous reach. Whilst the tactical and operational threats may still exist, the Multi-Domain fight requires a greater understanding of our strategic context and the ramifications of engaging aircraft and weapon systems.

It was argued that exercises like TS-19 are not designed to train our personnel in an Operational or Strategic construct, but rather are designed to certify and qualify certain capabilities. One method that was identified to improve this capability moving forward was the use of simulation systems. Simulation systems can immerse trainees in a near real-time scenario with operational and strategic ramifications made clear for the decisions that are made.

This is not only a low cost option but one that also enables junior officers and soldiers to realistically train for potential strategic scenarios. One possible method to ensure realism in these scenarios is to utilise current HQJOC CONPLANS and exercise those in a simulation.

Conclusion

In conclusion Multi-Domain Operations is something that 16 REGT RAA and the wider 6 BDE will be intimately involved with into the future. To face the challenges that Multi-Domain Operations present, some of the key recommendations that were made from the PME session are as follows:

1. Our future capabilities must be integrated from the “Top Down” and at inception. What this really means is that current ADF projects and procurements must be nested and integrated. In the case of 16 REGT RAA and eNASAMS this means that Land-19 Ph7B must be able to integrate with the sensors, effectors and communications infrastructure being procured under the Air 6500 project.

2. Future ADF training and exercises must be conducted in a predominately joint environment. They should also have a focus on being in a communications-denied environment as well.

3.  HQ 6 BDE should be adjusted to become an operational HQ as opposed to a Raise Train Sustain HQ. This would ensure a level preparedness from 6 BDE units which is required when conducting Multi Domain Operations across the full spectrum of conflict.

4. Our current Learning Management Packages should be amended to include elements of Multi-Domain Operations and have more of a focus on Joint Planning and Integration. This includes both actively conducting courses and training with our RAAF and RAN counterparts, such as Joint Operations Planning Course.

5. Our future eNASAMS capability must be scalable. In certain operational scenarios, the logistic support requirements will mean it will not be feasible to deploy an entire Battery of eNASAMS, so the Troops must be able to operate independently.

6. Simulation systems and activities/exercises must be developed to the point where we can adequately rely on them for training and certification. Current HQJOC CONPLANS should be actively exercised in eNASAMS simulation as well.

 

Reference List

Mankowski, M. (2019). Does the Australian Army Need Multi Domain Operations? The Cove.

Wesley, E and Simpson. R (2020) Expanding the Battlefield – An Important Fundamental of Multi Domain Operations. The Association of the United States Army. pp. 5

 

End Notes

[1] Mankowski, M. (2019). Does the Australian Army Need Multi Domain Operations? The Cove.

[2] Wesley, E and Simpson. R (2020) Expanding the Battlefield – An Important Fundamental of Multi Domain Operations. The Association of the United States Army. pp. 5

[3] Wesley, E and Simpson. R (2020) pp. 6


Portrait

Biography

Adam Other-Gee

Captain Other-Gee is an Artillery Officer, and the current Battery Captain for 1st Air Ground Operations Battery.

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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