Robotics and Autonomous Systems 2040 - Call for Submissions


How will the future Australian Defence Force (ADF) exploit robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) to gain and maintain advantage across the spectrum of conflict? And how can the ADF counter threats posed by adversary RAS to the future force? These are the questions currently being asked by the ADF’s Force Exploration Branch (FEB) as they prepare to draft the ADF’s Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems 2040.

Earlier this year, FEB publicly released a call for submissions to support their development of this future concept. In a first for the Australian military blogosphere The Central Blue, The Forge, and  Grounded Curiosity will be collaborating to directly support the ADF’s concept development by amplifying FEB’s call for submissions through our reader and contributor networks, and using our platforms as an outlet for the resulting ideas.

Our #adfras2040 series will inform debate and contribute to the Concept for Robotics and Autonomous Systems 2040, which aims to describe how the future ADF will implement RAS to achieve strategic advantage.

RAS has been touted as a disruptive technology with the potential to usher the world into a 4th Industrial Revolution. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, swarming, additive manufacturing, and advanced materials are converging into RAS. Systems are already being developed with high levels of autonomy, stealth, and persistence; as systems such as the Sea Hunter and the Boeing Air Power Teaming System move beyond design documents into testing they are focusing attention on how RAS can improve current military capabilities. The ADF’s future concept developers want to look beyond the immediate and consider how the ADF of the future should embrace RAS so that it can succeed in 2040.

In addition to the opportunities RAS present, FEB is also looking at the threats they pose. The ADF will not be the only actor seeking strategic disruption using RAS. State and non-state actors will also pursue this technology for their own advantage against our strategic interests. The adversary gets a vote. So in addition to determining ADF requirements to employ RAS, it is vital that force designers also explore what the ADF needs to do to counter the threat of RAS? Do RAS have its own unique vulnerabilities that can be exploited?

The Central Blue/Forge/Grounded Curiosity  #adfras2040 series will explore these questions and consider how the future ADF can use RAS to pursue and assure a strategic advantage over potential adversaries. We encourage submissions from students, academics, policymakers, service personnel of all ranks, industry, and from others with an interest in these issues. We (the editors) encourage potential contributors to engage the editorial teams early in their writing process!

To help get you started, we pose the following topic suggestions:

  • Countering highly autonomous systems. How can the ADF exploit weaknesses in autonomous systems to counter the threat that they pose? Will the ADF need to adapt existing activities (like camouflage) to counter RAS or are there new weaknesses to exploit?
  • Meaningful human control. How does the ADF determine what is meaningful human control of RAS and how should its current command and control arrangements change for RAS?
  • RAS For Information Warfare. How can the ADF utilise non-physical systems to challenge the information environment?
  • Innovative Capabilities. Current RAS strategies use the ‘enhance/augment/replace’ mentality for implementing RAS into military forces. Could RAS provide the opportunity for entirely new capabilities, not just the replacement of existing capabilities?
  • Trusting autonomy. How does the ADF develop trust in autonomous systems? How does it adapt its current engineering processes to understand how RAS perform and generate trust in systems that may not perform as predictably as deterministic systems?
  • Training RAS. How does the ADF develop collective training so that it trains with RAS to gain trust in their capabilities? As well as training a human audience, how does the ADF provide training and experience to RAS in future exercises?
  • Personnel. What skills will the future workforce need to operate RAS? How could RAS change the structure of the ADF  workforce?
  • Data. What does the ADF need to do now to ensure that we have relevant datasets that RAS can utilise in 20 years time?

This series is the first of what we hope will be more collaborative efforts to support the ADF’s concept developers. Although #adfras2040 is a collaborative series there is no plan to cross-post. However, collaboration will be occurring behind the scenes, and on social media.

Submissions close 17 July 2020.

We encourage you to take the chance to have your voice heard by submitting your ideas to either:

  • thecentralblue [at] gmail.com (subject: RAS%20Submission) (The Central Blue)

  • The Forge

  • groundedcuriosity [at] gmail.com (subject: RAS%20Submission) (Grounded Curiosity​​​)

The Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems 2040 author’s brief can be found here.

Articles should be between 800 to 1500 words. Writing guidelines can be found here.