The new era of armed conflict: the imperatives of digital defense

Matt Gollings, Managing Director and Chief Defense Officer at Accenture ANZ, examines the changing nature of warfare amid the proliferation of digital transformation technologies.

There is no doubt that we are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, with the ongoing pandemic exacerbating geopolitical trade tensions, while simultaneously accelerating the pace of digital transformation across all industries.

In recent times, we have seen more and more threats to Australia’s national security, which has drawn attention to Australia’s defense capabilities and our ability to deal with looming threats.

Defense organizations, government and industry recognize that the nature of military action is changing and, therefore, armed forces must be ready and effective for pan-domain operations.

We have seen our regional neighbors advance their military capabilities by incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and big data to develop innovations such as autonomous and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

As Australia has applied these technologies, such as the commissioning of the Loyal Wingman drone, there is a palpable sense of urgency for a faster, more advanced defense system to deal with new and unpredictable threats.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that defense leads the digital realm, as strategy and technological prowess will be vital in gaining and maintaining a material advantage over numerically advanced opponents. Digital defense is now essential.

It applies to all functional and operational elements of defense – from intelligence and targeting, recruitment and retention, supply chain and combat network resilience, to program management, to shipbuilding and improving force readiness.

Digital engineering and digital twin technology will be particularly valuable in gaining and maintaining situational awareness, predicting and mitigating risk, and understanding the potential consequences of failed execution on the battlefield.

The untapped potential of digital twins

Digital twins are a smart technological tool used to create vivid end-to-end representations of the real world, providing significant benefits and a world of possibilities for the military.

Digital twins are linked to their physical assets by a “digital thread” that runs through processes and systems to generate data and input in real time.

While the Australian Defense Force currently uses flight and weapon simulators, digital twinning allows simulators to be connected to real forces on the ground in real time and to use AI to simulate unit movements in the field. soil, whether friendly or hostile.

The result is a multi-layered environment where augmented personnel and virtual components coexist with military personnel in a physical environment, allowing multiple scenarios to be simulated simultaneously and multiple outputs to be analyzed and understood.

Digital twin technology can also provide views across the force – battalions, units and individual soldiers, to determine the readiness of people and equipment, the state of weapon systems, the transportation of maps and movement of mission essentials such as food, water and fuel.

By enabling testing and training for a wide range of scenarios, digital twin technologies can help the men and women of ADF services anticipate the unexpected – and thus be a game-changer for Australian defense.

The advent of AI and automation

It wasn’t until March of this year that Australia’s first semi-autonomous UAV made its maiden flight, demonstrating the potential of integrated defense technology systems.

According to Boeing, the design of the Loyal Wingman drone involved a ‘digital twin’ simulation, which allowed Boeing to virtualize the operation of the aircraft, identify and mitigate potential problems, as well as plan for ongoing maintenance. from the plane.

Autonomous systems present immense opportunities, not only for the ADF, but also for industry and businesses, to enhance Australia’s sovereign defense capabilities and develop the defense supply chain of Australia. ‘Australia.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies capable of collecting and interpreting situational data to take rational action on the battlefield, without human intervention, will have a transformative impact on traditional combat, let alone provide a significant strategic advantage to the Australian armed forces.

While automated technology can help reduce the risk of injury or loss of military personnel, they will inherently have their own set of vulnerabilities, such as destruction or neutralization in combat or the compromise of a cyber attack.

From a governance perspective, ADF and industry developers will need to consider that non-liberal democratic adversaries might have greater governance freedom when it comes to maneuvering unmanned systems, compared to non-liberal democratic adversaries. Australian and Allied forces, and factor this into simulations and scenario planning to understand, assess and prepare for operational implications.

Our global research shows that 84% of defense leaders believe their organizations need to accelerate digital transformation, having recognized that digital is central to their mission success.

Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector has the industrial capacity, coupled with government support and funding, to develop advanced technologies and grow our defense industry in revolutionary ways.

With the right ecosystem partners and a commitment to improve digital literacy among senior defense officials, driven by the sheer need for transformative change, Australia can maintain its military prowess in the new landscape of the United States. digital war.

Matt Gollings is the Managing Director and Head of Defense of Accenture ANZ.

The new era of armed conflict: the imperatives of digital defense

Last updated: July 22, 2021

Posted: July 22, 2021