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Redefining Strategic Strike: The Strike Role and the Australian Army into the 21st Century

31 March 1999
Martin Dunn

This paper considers Strike as a strategic and operational-level technique from two perspectives: historical and theoretical. The historical perspective shows a long record of the land and maritime forms of Strike. The advent of the aeroplane opened new options for strategic strike, but changes in technology and the nature of the state also provided new opportunities for surface forces. Strike by land and maritime forces grew at the same time as air forces were proving themselves.

The theoretical perspective strips away many preconceived notions about Strike. The purpose for which Strike is being used drives the method pursued; and several different objectives are possible. The paper examines the various strike force options, and their different characteristics. The optimum mix depends on the circumstances—particularly the objectives pursued and the nature of the enemy system. Special forces and conventional land forces, with their innate flexibility, are often attractive Strike options. Further, by concentrating on objectives, it is possible to think laterally about the options. The paper argues that unconventional options such as guerrilla warfare, covert action, psychological operations and information warfare should not be ignored simply because they do not coincide with a view of Strike modelled on air attack.

Depending on the target set and objectives, strike forces usually need to be large enough to achieve a critical mass to be effective—and for deterrence to be seen to be effective. The paper argues that they also need to have the preparedness to give a timely and sustained response as circumstances unfold.

It is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about the ideal force structure for Australian Strike because of the ambiguous nature of Australia’s strategic guidance—particularly the lack of information on conflict objectives, conflict termination and identification of the threat. This problem is further compounded by the size and diversity of the region, and the capacity for its economic, political and social structures to change rapidly. While some conclusions could be drawn for other roles relying simply on observations from Australia’s geography and the limits of regional capability, the Strike role does not permit this. Resources would not allow Strike to do everything, and without a basis for identifying preferred target sets, it is not possible to derive an optimum force mix.

Last updated
1 December 2017
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