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Modernising the Australian Land Force - Ready for Tomorrow's Challenges - MAJGEN Toohey

28 September 2017
Major General Kathryn Toohey, AM, CSC

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Major General Kathryn Toohey AM, CSC

Head Land Capability


Modernising the Australian Land Force: Ready for Tomorrows Challenges


Address to Defence and Security Equipment international Event

ExCel London, One Western Gateway

Royal Victoria Dock, London, E16 1XL

Tuesday 12 September 2017



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(Slide 1 – Title Slide)

Good Morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. 


On behalf of the Chief of Army, LTGEN Angus Campbell, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present today on modernising the Australian land force.

I am here at DSEI for two reasons.

Firstly, DSEI provides a great forum for us to share ideas with and learn from allies, Government, academia and industry.

Secondly, and most importantly, I am here to demonstrate our ongoing support and appreciation for the UK as a key ally and friend.

Recent world events highlight the importance of strong partnerships and mutual support. It is our assessment that, collectively, we need our friends and allies now more than ever before.

We are in the midst of exciting times for the ADF. Last year, with the release of the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Australian Government committed us to the largest ever Defence acquisition program.

New capabilities will include submarines and frigates as part of a broader national shipbuilding program, the Joint Strike Fighter and, for Army, replacement of our land combat vehicles. 

Before I talk about our modernisation program in detail, I think it is useful to understand the context for these decisions.

(Slide 2 – Australia’s Current Strategic Circumstances)

Australia has the unique advantage of being an island continent, solely occupied by one sovereign nation, in a part of the world that many tell us will be the geographic fulcrum of the 21st Century.

We are very proudly a multi-cultural society. From this year’s census we understand that 28% of Australians were born overseas, and an additional 21% of Australians have at least one parent born overseas.

Over 50% percent of the world’s people reside in the Indo-Pacific region, including 12 member countries of the G20. 

The region contains the most populous nation on earth, the largest democratic nation on earth, and the largest Muslim majority nation on earth.

The busiest international sea lanes are in the region, as well as nine of the world’s ten busiest ports.

I think it is fair to say that the true picture of the Indo-Pacific is not one of vast, maritime deserts, but rather it is of crowded, dense and rich areas of human endeavour.

 (Slide 3 – Defence’s Strategic Guidance)

In response to Australia’s strategic and security circumstances, the 2016 Defence White Paper is expeditionary in its approach.

It directs Defence’s role in the security of our nation with three equally weighted Strategic Defence Objectives, broadly providing for:

  • The Defence of Australia;
  • Security of our immediate region
  • Contribution to the rules-based global order.

The direct implication of the equal priority being given to the three objectives (ranging from domestic to global) is the need for an adaptable, flexible force.

To that end, the White Paper places a particular emphasis on developing an integrated ‘Joint Force’ that brings together the full range of capabilities of the Navy, Army and Air Force.

This requirement triggered a significant reorganisation within the Defence Department. As a result of this, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force is now responsible for force design and ensuring a balanced force across the three Services. He chairs the Investment Committee.

And, in Jul this year, Chief of Joint Capabilities was established as the capability manager for joint capabilities such as cyber and C4ISREW.

In the Defence White Paper, Government also directs the development of a capable, regionally superior Defence Force with the highest levels of military capability and technological sophistication.  

To underpin this aspiration, Government committed to return the Defence budget to 2% of GDP by the early 2020s, with much of this additional funding going to a recapitalisation of capability across the three Services.

(Slide 4 – Army of today)

So what does the Australian Army look like today?

Well, the last two decades has seen a fundamental shift in the Australian Army, influenced by two main factors. 

Firstly, we have experienced a sustained period of operationally high tempo that started with the East Timor intervention in 1999 and continues today.

Australia remains actively engaged in the fight against Daesh, security efforts within Afghanistan, maritime counter-piracy operations, United Nations missions, and other commitments worldwide. Today we have approximately 2300 ADF personnel operationally deployed across the world.

Secondly, over the past 11 years, the Australian Army has embarked upon four major enterprise-level reforms.

Amongst other things these reforms created the current 36 month force generation cycle of Reset, Readying and Ready, created three ‘like’ combat brigades and established Forces Command to prepare our forces for ‘the future war’ and Headquarters 1 Division to certify forces for ‘the current war’.

Though these reforms have been overwhelmingly positive there remain a number of initiatives still outstanding. To give you a sense of this, the Hardened and Networked Army initiative was approved in 2006 but we are still not a networked Army.

As a result, when LTGEN Campbell assumed command of the Army he signalled his intent to complete the task.

Recently he reflected, “We have spent the last two years very deliberately trying to progress the delivery of that Army design. With plenty of newly minted Defence policy and an incomplete Army design, it has been a season to consolidate and deliver.”

With this in mind, the challenge for modernisation is to concurrently consolidate the reforms of the past, while continuing to support operations today, and to provide the capabilities to support the Army in the future.

(Slide 5 – Future Operating Challenges)       

I can say with confidence that we see the future operating environment through a similar lens to most in this room – and, it looks increasingly congested, contested and complex.  

As is the case today, we expect intensified challenges to the rules-based global order by assertive states, empowered non-state actors and extremist individuals.

In the Indo -Pacific region, we believe the impact of climate change and global warming will also be prevalent. And, as regional populations increase, food and resource demands will also rise, likely seeing increased competition for natural resources.

Finally, as I briefed yesterday in the RAS seminar – our assessment is that the nature of war will not change (it will remain a fundamentally human endeavour), but the possibilities afforded by technology (such as artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous systems) may change the character of war.

(Slide 6 –Future Land Force)

So what does a modernised Australian Army look like?

The reality is that our Army and our ADF will always be relatively modest in size. The Army currently comprises 30,000 regular soldiers and we are aiming to have around 15000 reservists (we are not quite there yet).  

We will continue to train for joint coalition warfighting. We believe the focus on warfighting is important. While we can always adjust ‘down’ to meet simpler tasks; we cannot quickly and easily adjust up to meet our ultimate responsibility to the nation.

Every two years we conduct Talisman Sabre – a joint Australian-US exercise. This year around 30,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women participated in the exercise. Activities included special forces exercises, amphibious landings, parachuting, air and urban operations and live fire drills.

Every year we conduct our own Army collective training activity to certify the ready brigade.

Our imperative, as a small Army defending a large country with national interests spanning the globe, is to combine superior warfighting concepts, with optimal force structure with the best technology we can afford. 

It is important to note that we have moved past being an Army that just equips the soldier.  The Australian Army is a force that both equips the soldier and soldiers the equipment.

Through Government agreed spending in a number of key acquisition programs, we are about to embark on a period of technological transformation. As a result, the Australian Army of 10 years hence will be very different to the Australian Army of today.

(Slide 7 –Modernising to  the Future Force)

As Head of Land Capability I am responsible to the Chief of Army, for ‘end to end’ design and management of land capability – including future concepts, requirements setting and sustainment.

Our capabilities are divided into nine programs, as shown on this slide with an O6 responsible for each of the programs. The Australian Army’s warfighting capability bricks – scalable, tailorable and agile combined arms teams draw from across these programs.

Given an increasingly resourced constrained environment, CA has been very clear on his priorities across the programs. The priorities for delivery are::

The C3 program to connect our force.

The Armored Fighting Vehicle Program to protect our force.

And, the Soldier Combat System program to empower our soldiers.

I will now discuss these programs in more detail.

(Slide 8 – Modernisation Priority - Connected)

As I mentioned earlier, despite the Hardened and Networked Army initiative started over a decade ago, we are still not a networked Army today.

In reality, I should acknowledge that by many standards we are not doing too badly. We have had digital radios and deployed data since I was a young officer and we have capable strategic communications through a partnership with the US for wideband satellite communications and an indigineous high power HF network.

And ,the network fielded by Headquarters 1 Division on the recent Talisman Sabre exercise was truly impressive for the situational awareness it provided.

However, our systems are not uniformly distributed throughout our combat and logistics units and we struggle to support the increased demand for bandwidth and mobility whilst balancing the associated imperative to reduce signatures and protect against cyber threats.

Notably we have been platform focused rather than network focused. For the best part of a decade we have acquired off-the-shelf platforms – alas, Australia is yet to find a shelf that we haven’t liked. As a result we have an inventory of proprietary systems – some highly functional in isolation but many not meeting our requirements for interoperability.

Our objective is to transition our current C3 and situational awareness system designed from the bottom up,  towards becoming a top down ‘integrated by design’ digital Land Combat System analogous to Naval and Air Force Combat systems.

To achieve this we will introduce a Weapons Integrated Battlefield Management System based on the Elbit TORC2H System.

This capability will provide the framework to digitally connect sensors and weapons on a platform and between platforms to enable Army’s combined arms teams to, over time, be able to fight digitally - enabling machine to machine interfaces to reduce the time it takes from detection, through decision, through the soldier to engagement.

This system, combined with the US AFATDS system, the Digital Terminal Control System (DTCS) and a future US certified Air Defence Control System will be at the heart of the Australian Army’s fighting capability.

It will also provide the glue for Army to connect with our two sister Services and coalition partners. Interoperability with our Air Force and Navy will require us to expand our use of joint protocols such as Link 16 tactical data links.

A key consideration is our ability to defend our networks against cyber attack. Next year, Army is establishing its first permanent Defensive Cyber Team. The doctrine, policy and training for this team will be provided by the newly appointed two star Deputy Chief Information Warfare – MAJGEN Marcus Thompson within the Chief of Joint Capabilities Group.

(Slide 9 – Modernisation Priority – Protected)

The Australian Army’s armoured capability is currently provided by M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, Hercules Recovery Vehicles, M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers and Australian Light Armoured Vehicles. The newest of these vehicles is 11 years old - the Main Battle Tank – the oldest vehicle is 52 this year – the M113.

The venerable M113 entered Australian service in 1965, an era where the Australian Air Force was flying the F-86 Sabre. Since then, the Air Force has gone from the Sabre, to the Mirage III, to the F/A18 Hornet, to the F/A 18 Super Hornet to the JSF. Meanwhile we have had the same vehicle in service, with one upgrade, for 52 years – or 5 generations of Air Force fighters.  As a result of the age of our vehicles, the threat has moved well past us, especially in regards to RPGs and IEDs.

Over the next ten years, Army has been allocated around $20b to upgrade or replace every armoured vehicle in our inventory.  Importantly we will deliver all of these vehicles as nodes on the digital Land Combat System.

The vehicles will have Active Protection Systems and employ a range of smart munitions. Collectively they will be closer to the JSF in terms of sensors, networks and lines of code than the compressed aluminium boxes they will replace.

(Slide 10 – Land 400)

The first project being progressed within this program is Land 400 Phase 2 – Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle. This project will replace our Australian Light Armoured Vehicles with a like 8x8 wheeled vehicle, equipped with an auto-cannon and ATGM armed turret.

This project is in its closing stages – final tender offers were submitted last month and we expect an announcement by the Australian Government in first half of 2018.

(Slide 11 – Modernisation Priority - Empowered)

The Soldier Combat System program is about empowering the individual solder. Our soldiers must be lethal, mobile, protected, sustainable, and situationally aware.

This slide shows the evolution of how we have equipped our soldiers over the years. In the past we have treated them like “Christmas trees” where we have progressively just hung more kit off them.

We now treat the soldier as a system and make trade-offs across the various sub-systems. For example the body armour today is smaller and 8 kg lighter than the body armour in the early 2000s.

In part this is because of advances in ballistic materials but it is also reflective that we appreciate that mobility enhances protection in its own right.

We are delivering the Soldier Combat System using a ‘spiral development’ pathway. This offers several advantages, including: regular tech refresh, incorporating lessons learnt from operations and ensuring an up-to-date threat profile.

Some of our recent successes include doubling the effective range of the Australian built EF88 enhanced assault rifle through increased reliability and improved thermal and image intensifications sights. The range has effectively doubled from 300 to 600m. Alas, the unintended consequence is the requirement to now upgrade our ranges.

We are currently delivering highly capable night vision goggles and the Black Hornet UAS down to platoon level and the Wasp to combat teams.

Not surprisingly - given its increased capability, the cost of the soldier combat ensemble has also increased – from around $3700 in the early 2000s to around $37,000 today -  a ten-fold increase.

In order to contain the overall expense of this we have initiated a provisioning model of ‘access’ rather than ‘ownership’. That is, a Tiered or tailored kit solution which is appropriate to meet a soldiers primary role and task rather than a one size fits all approach.

(Slide 12 - Greatest capability: Our People)

By design, I am Head Land Capability rather than Head Land Equipment.  This reflects the importance we continue to place on our people. Like any organisation centred around its people I could talk to a wide–range of personnel initiatives. Instead I will concentrate on just three.

Women: All combat roles in the Australian Army have been opened up to women. Despite the messaging by some areas of the Australian media, this has not resulted in a tidal wave of women in our arms corps or any reduction in the combat effectiveness of the Australian Army.

The small number of women who have elected to join these corps meet the same physical employment standards as the men, and are valued members of their teams.

The Chief of Army has set a target of 25% female by 2025. The reason for this is quite straightforward – we want to recruit, indeed we have an obligation to recruit,  the best talent that is available. And, in Australia at least, many of the top graduates from schools and universities are women.

Army’s percentage of females is currently 13%. However, there are some encouraging signs in that 22% of lieutenants and 18% of commanding officers are female.

Education: The Army is currently developing a STEM strategy to better attract, train and retain an increasingly technical workforce.

Amongst other things this workforce will be required to support cyber and the maintenance and operation of new systems being delivered over the next decade.

Army understands that we are in competition with other organisations for STEM expertise so we are considering a wide range of novel initiatives. The strategy seeks to retain and develop specialist STEM personnel but to also improve the STEM expertise within the general workforce.

Reserves: we are currently seeking to reinvigorate our Reserve by offering them more flexible pathways to complete their training.

Previously they had to complete long, contiguous blocks of training. As of this year they are able choose a mix of distance and part-time delivery. This flexible training is coordinated by one of our Reserve brigades which has been re-roled to concentrate on the delivery of individual training.

We have also aligned our Reserve units with regular units such that reserve battle groups participate in our annual collective training activities.

(Slide 13 – Conclusion)

In conclusion, the Australian Army has embarked on a major period of modernisation which will recapitalise our force over the next decade. This recapitalisation is driven by our unique strategic circumstances and challenges of the future operating environment.

Today, because of time, I have only touched on the so-called ‘big three’ that are essential to the Army’s success in the close fight, now and into the future. These three programs provide for the connectivity, protection and empowerment of the Australian Army. It goes without saying that the other 6 programs also deliver important capability to Army.

The Chief of Army has directed that we should unashamedly aspire to be the best Army in the world (albeit not the biggest). We believe this aspiration can only be met through the combination of superior warfighting concepts, optimal force structures and the best technology we can afford.  This is what we are intent on delivering.

Again, many thanks for the opportunity to present to you today.


Thank you.

Last updated
28 September 2017
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