The future of logistics in the Australian Defence Force is about big data, robotics and combining our forces

Once upon a time the Air Force, Navy and Army were truly seen as separate entities. That might have worked in the 20th Century, but it’s not going to cut it anymore — the stakes are higher and the game is moving faster. The Defence Force is also having to adapt to a world that’s more, in their words, “complicated, contested and congested.”

A report released by the Australian Defence Force in late 2020, “Concept for Future Logistics“, looks at how recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019–20 bushfires in Australia, highlighted vulnerabilities in their resources and in the global supply networks. It emphasises the need to integrate key aspects of our forces — specifically logistics, which they say needs to be recognised by Defence personnel as “a core part of warfighting”. This will take a cultural shift as, even now, the logistics division is seen as more of an “enabling function” to many within the armed forces.

The report says their aim, now, is to create a centralised logistical team that will, at a minimum and concurrently, be able to:

1. support a regional or global deployment of a major Joint Task Force (ie. focus the ADF’s forces on one big challenge);
2. deploy of a minor Joint Task Force regionally or locally; and
3. complete routine Raise, Train and Sustain (RTS) tasks (ie. maintaining and building our team).

With a team of just under 60,000 full-time members, it’s not going to be an easy task.

The “Concept for Future Logistics” report proposes reforming the current “Defence Logistics Enterprise” (aka DefLogEnt) into a new Logistics Authority that can work across the Air Force, Navy and Army as part of a broader, joint Defence Force logistical network. It would also work with government, allies, industry and academic partners to support the Force in completing their operations.

FUTURE LOGISTICS WILL USE BIG DATA AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO MAKE BETTER DECISIONS

Key to the proposed Logistics Authority working effectively is going to be the analysis and exploitation of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

“Of most significance will be the growing rate of digitised operating systems and proliferation of connected sensors”. Combined with 3D (and 4D) printing, the report says it will allow the Australian Defence Force to “produce a range of items (such as food and ammunition but especially repair parts)” in deployed locations. One can see how this will lead to the Force being more resilient, because it will allow equipment to be manufactured remotely, rather than relying entirely on a supply chain from Home Base.

Big data will also allow better inventory management and highlight improvements within the existing supply chain so that the Australian Defence Force can optimise the movement of personnel and equipment — in turn improving resilience and adaptability. Some of this will occur by copying technology that is being used well in the commercial sector by companies such as Amazon — staffing warehouses with robots, and delivering loads through autonomous trains, trucks and drones. Even maintenance and engineering tasks and salvage operations, according to the report, could be performed by miniturised robots.

Read the full report here.

More articles at www.tactics-and-logistics.com

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Military strategy, tactics and logistics fanboy. Editor at tactics-and-logistics.com

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