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The Human Dimension Of The Hardened And Networked Army: The Lessons Of Friendly Fire

Controlled explosions simulate a mortar attack for the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) troops on the ground during Exercise Kapyong Warrior.
31 May 2006
Lieutenant Colonel Robert C Stevenson

Fratricide is an ever-present problem, and its effects are devastating and widespread. Like a tsunami, fratricide's influence spreads from the epicentre to engulf the victim's family and friends, the military, the broader public and the Government. At each level, the damage takes on a different form, but as the effect widens it leaves a trail of grief, trauma and eroded confidence.

The second in a series of three, this study draws on the Australian Army's experience of fratricide during the Vietnam War (1959–1975). The infliction of casualties by the military's own forces, ‘friendly fire', was a frequent and inevitable occurrence during this and other wars. As explored previously in ‘Not-so Friendly Fire: An Australian Taxonomy of Fratricide' (LWSC Working Paper 128, March 2006), Australian forces in Vietnam did not face one type of fratricide but rather three distinct varieties: accidental, military-industrial, and calculated. The second paper suggests that, far from being an aberration in war, these types of incidents are an ever-present danger when humans are placed in positions of fear, fatigue and uncertainty.

This paper analyses the human dimension of the Hardened and Networked Army (HNA) through the prism of fratricide. It adopts this method because fratricide is multifaceted, inevitable and one of the most significant problems any army has to endure. It cannot be dealt with via simple solutions or ‘silver bullet' options. In this respect fratricide is an ideal vehicle through which to examine some aspects of the human dimension of HNA and the challenges of complex warfighting. The paper attempts to address some of the underlying causes of fratricide and explores the complex decision-making behind each cause. The conclusion is that the real challenge for today's Army is to embrace the realities of human performance when incorporating emerging technology.

Last updated
13 December 2017
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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