• Australian Army officer trainees conduct a patrol during the Royal Military College training activity near Townsville, Queensland.
    Australian Army officer trainees conduct a patrol during the Royal Military College training activity near Townsville, Queensland. Defence

Significant potential changes to the ADF’s training ranges in Queensland and the NT were foreshadowed at the recent Northern Australia Defence Summit by Brigadier Mark Brewer, Director-General US Force Posture Initiative.

A former Director General Training Army, BRIG Brewer referred to planning for next generation training areas at Shoalwater Bay and a new training area west of Townsville, currently being undertaken by the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative.

Lessons learnt from this process could later also be applied to investments in training areas in northern Australia anticipated as part of the US Force Posture Initiative.

“I think we need to ask ourselves whether our traditional approach of heading out into the bush or flying over it and training on areas that have fixed and field firing ranges with a few containers stacked on each other which we call an urban facility is actually now fit for purpose,” BRIG Brewer said.

“At the moment I would observe that our training area design ideas culminate at developing roads, creek and river crossings, camp accommodation and range control. We also tend to develop ranges in service silos.

“Surely there is more to it.”

BRIG Brewer acknowledged that Army had made great progress in integrating constructive simulation with live simulation into live training, and stitching non-contiguous training areas and joint capabilities into a single training environment as part of that.

However, there was a need to integrate space and cyber environments into the more traditional training environments, support the use of robotics and autonomous systems, and be able to provide a repeatedly integrated joint training environment to even small team training.

“In my view we need to favour investing more in the network mesh and the emitters and system emulators than in the camp accommodation we build,” BRIG Brewer commented.

“In my mind it won’t be so much about fixed small arms and vehicle ranges – it will be more about autonomous and mobile targetry with a shootback capability –I’m talking lasers not rounds – that can integrate with a live and constructive force to provide the sternest test we can conceive to our people, platforms and systems – on land, sea, air and in cyberspace.

“We need to train against a threat with capabilities asymmetric to our own.”

Open discussions would be held with defence industry, bilateral partners and DST Group to ensure an adaptable approach for the incorporation of technologies and development, BRIG Brewer stated.

Also addressing the defence summit, Commodore Ian Murray, Deputy Commander Joint Logistics, disclosed that in view of the vast distances associated with movement in the NT and the legislative challenges around movement of specific commodities, Defence was re-evaluating the benefits of rail.

“In addition to general freight and armoured vehicles, Defence is also considering the use of rail to support the movement of bulk explosive ordnance and fuel,” CDRE Murray said.

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