Contemporary Operating Environment
RACT Corps Conference | A Primer: Balancing Ready Now and Future ReadyBy Royal Australian Corps of Transport | Head of Corps Cell March 6, 2020
The Army is preparing to meet the challenges of the future operating environment through the development of new capabilities and changes to force structure. As a corps, the Royal Australian Corps of Transport (RACT) must invest the intellectual capital to ensure that we are enabling the Army for success. Over recent years there has been unprecedented investment in logistics capabilities and it should be expected that the most recent Force Structure Plan will continue to make significant investments in this area. These new capabilities are being considered agnostic to corps and as a cohort it is incumbent upon every member of the corps to consider how the unique skills and attributes of the RACT can contribute to the employment of these new capabilities.
The 2020 corps conference provides an important forum to critically consider the current strategic environment while identifying opportunities the RACT must leverage, and challenges that must be addressed, over the next decade to ensure the continued relevance of the corps. The paragraphs below summarise a number of opportunities and challenges that will be considered during central presentations and working groups through the conference.
Challenges and Opportunities
Land 121. The introduction of the Land 121 (L121) fleet of vehicles is providing Defence with a once in a generation opportunity to redefine how we conduct land distribution operations. These vehicles are more capable, survivable and connected than the legacy vehicles they replaced; however, at present we continue to operate them in much the same manner as the legacy fleet. To maximise Defence’s investment in this new capability, we must better consider how we employ the vehicles and how they integrate within the Land Force Support System.
Protected Mobility Training Framework. One initiative the Army School of Transport (AST) is pursing is the development of a Protected Mobility Training Framework (PMTF) which will ensure better employment of Army’s protected mobility assets. This framework recognises the core requirement for all personnel engaged in protected mobility operations to be trained to operate in this environment. The training is based on an all-corps requirement and is designed to be delivered as modules commencing with Mounted Soldier, progressing to Mounted Leader and culminating with Mounted Commander. At the upper end of the training, the Mounted Commander training replaces the PMV-M Crew Commander Course and will enable our NCOs and junior officers to effectively employ and integrate protected mobility assets on the battlefield.
Land Vehicle Safety. The introduction of the L121 Medium / Heavy vehicle capability, combined with a trend of preventable vehicle accidents and changes to national heavy vehicle legislation, has led to considerable focus on Land Vehicle Safety across Defence. The Army Headquarters Land Vehicle Safety Cell is attempting to address many of these challenges through policy changes and a range of innovative ideas, many of which will be discussed and demonstrated throughout the conference. As a corps we need to become experts in this space to better define our role and responsibility in land distribution operations.
Regional Driver Training and Safety Wing. An initiative resulting from the 2018 Driver Training System Review is the establishment of the Regional Driver Training and Safety Wing (RDTSW). It is intended that this Wing be established from January 2022 as a sub-unit of AST. The Wing aims to reduce some of the exported driver training liability in regional locations (BNE, TSV, DWN, ADL & SYD) through the employment of a cohort of dedicated uniform and contracted staff. In addition to the physical conduct of exported training, one of the key drivers for the establishment of the Wing is to support the development of a Land Vehicle Safety culture across Defence. Accordingly, Wing detachments will have a strong focus on delivery of land vehicle governance outcomes. As a corps we need to better understand regional driver training requirements and identify key areas where the Wing can contribute to enhanced Land Vehicle Safety and governance outcomes.
Land 8710. It was only a decade ago that Army water transport was under review with potential for the capability to be discontinued. These questions are now well and truly in the past and given our regional focus on the South West Pacific there is a clear requirement for Army watercraft to support littoral manoeuvre. Land 8710 (L8710) will deliver the watercraft to support this capability requirement with both the LCM8 and LARCV to be replaced by 2028. Given the increased size and weight of the ADF inventory, the replacement craft will be larger, more complex and significantly more capable than the current fleet. The new fleet will present challenges in terms of the concept of operation and associated training requirements and our corps SMEs must begin shaping and addressing these challenges now to ensure that opportunities can be realised.
Land 8120. Similar to L8710, Defence is presently working through the recapitalisation of its C and D vehicle fleet. These new Land 8120 (L8120) vehicle fleets will be more capable than the current in-service equipment and we must begin considering how they can be leveraged to best support terminal operations in the future Land Force Support System.
Training Transformation. The Chief of Army’s publication Accelerated Warfare describes a number of initiatives that will ensure the Army is well postured to meet future challenges. One of these initiatives is in relation to training transformation. The Army requires a shift in thinking if we are going to force generate the required personnel and skills to succeed on the future battlefield. The future environment will not afford the luxury of long residential courses to prepare our soldiers and officers for war. Accordingly we must develop new and flexible approaches to training now. These approaches must leverage technology and we can no longer view training as something that is conducted solely in our schoolhouses. There is a requirement to recognise the Army as a training organisation and accept that more training must be conducted in small teams in unit locations. This concept will be uncomfortable for some; however, if we are to generate the skills, attributes and throughput required for future conflict we must commence this transition now.
Driver Testing Officer. For a long time the corps has made the argument that ECN 274 (with limited exceptions) should be solely responsible for the management and issue of licenses in the Army. With the proliferation of mobility assets, and their wide employment across the Army, it is time to review how best to manage license testing and qualification across the force. One framework being considered is the establishment of Driving Assessors (any corps skills) and License Testing Officers (primarily ECN 274). While this framework remains only a proposal at this time, the corps needs to consider it now rather than awaiting direction and losing influence in the modernisation process.
Distribution Employment Category Review. The Distribution Employment Category Review (ECR) commenced in 2018 and sought to make a number of recommendations to ensure the Army is achieving the most from its distribution capabilities. While this review is ongoing, it has already resulted in some significant changes, including the restructure of the Operator Movement trade and, notably, the creation of the ECN 104 Distribution Operator in January 2021. This year, the ECR is considering ECN 171 and ECN 099 in detail and will likely result in the amalgamation of these trades with the technical air skills from ECN 099 being transitioned to ECN 345. ECN 274 will be considered in due course. As a corps we need to approach the ECR with an open mind, recognising the ECR is not about what is good for RACT; rather it is about meeting Army’s capability requirements. We need to bring expert knowledge to the discussion, ensuring that as proposals are presented they are considered with an informed understanding of the consequences of change.
What differentiates RACT soldiers and officers. As the Army continues its transformation journey, we need to better define what skills and attributes the RACT brings to the capability argument. What differentiates our professional drivers from other all-corps drivers? How are our RACT officers different from those in the other logistics corps? What makes our terminal operators different from other D vehicle operators? The purpose of asking and considering these questions is not to mount a shallow argument against change: it is to help best inform that change. As a corps we need to do the intellectual homework now to ensure that as new capabilities are introduced - as the Distribution ECR progresses, as the Land Vehicle Safety becomes more encompassing and as the operating environment continues to evolve - we are best placed to respond.
It is acknowledged that there is presently considerable change in the Army and with change comes a degree of anxiety and discomfort for those that have become accustomed to the current way of doing things. This anxiety and comfort is normal. However, as a corps we cannot let it overwhelm our thinking. While change is difficult, irrelevance is more so.
If we are to gain the most from these modernisation initiatives, and best understand the future requirements of the RACT, it is imperative that all conference attendees come prepared with their own well developed perspectives and are ready to engage in conversation and discussion through central presentations and working groups. If you would like further information on any of the opportunities and challenges described in this paper the HOC cell can provide further reference material.