Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Learning Amphibious Operations from Europe

Greetings from the Pacific 2012 Maritime Defence Conference in Sydney, where DSTO is hosting a stream on Technology for Amphibious Operations session. Interestingly the speakers are from Spain and the UK, as new ships have been purchased from these countries. This must be culture shock for the Australian Department of Defence and Australian Navy, who normally look to the US Navy and American industry.

It might seem a ship is just a ship and you can use it however you like. But a particular way of working is built into the design of the ships. Also the relatively small European defense forces are closer in the way they operate to Australia.

There are considerable challenges for Australia to adapt European experience, as the distances involved are much larger and they will need to learn to work with the US 7th Fleet (commanded from the USS Blue Ridge).

The need for bridging different approaches is best illustrated by the . The main structure of the ship is being built in Spain and then will be transported to Australia. The "island" with the bridge of the ship, radars and other electronic systems, is being built in Australia. The island will then be placed on the ship and everyone will hope the two parts work together. In the same way the ship has to work with navy, army, air force and civilian personnel aboard and work with the US Navy.

Looking at some of the screen-shots of ICT systems used for planning amphibious operations on display at Pacific 2012, it struck me that these look very dated. The systems have a lot of text based forms and spreadsheet-like tables. These are typically presented using the X-Windows system on a graphical screen. Such a display can be hard to understand for new personnel, or those under stress (both of which are normal on an amphibious operation). The i-Pad like interface with big bold icons and a touch interface, as used on SAAB's 9LV SAT, might improve usability

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