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The environment in which we live today is one of continual technological change and development. This persistent characteristic particularly affects organisations that operate in the air and space environments, and presents problems to those who must decide on what capabilities are to be acquired for future use. Capability decisions made today may be threatened by the appearance of a new technology or concept that could alter the training, structure, organisation, equipment or employment of our own forces or those of an adversary.
Professional judgement alone has proved insufficient as the basis for making capability decisions. To help reduce the uncertainty of the future, and to help identify the most appropriate military concepts of operation for Australia's unique circumstances, the Australian Defence Organisation has implemented a process of concept development and experimentation. The aim of this process is to better inform decision-makers by learning about the future through experimental activities that allow us to employ future capabilities, and gain experience of them, before they are created. This process not only provides greater insight into the future but also reduces the costs and risks that would otherwise be incurred by acquiring this same knowledge after the capability is actually created.
Alexander the Great, the Romans, Napoleon and especially the German Army of the interwar period used this process to completely change their armed forces into superior warfighting systems that dominated armed conflict in their respective eras. The Germans, in particular, provide a good example as they used the analysis of historical and future factors to completely alter the training, organisation, equipment and tactics that they used. Significantly, all this work began at a time when the German forces themselves did not possess a single tank or combat aircraft.
Although capability development is the central focus of military experimentation programs, additional benefits can also be derived. The methods and techniques used for experimentation can also be employed for improved training, enhanced operational planning, and for developing a greater awareness of a capability's attributes. This in turn may generate new ideas and concepts that will feed the concept development and experimentation process. But perhaps the most important benefit will be the enhanced professional mastery of the RAAF's personnel, developed through their participation in military experimentation. People, after all, are the real source of our warfighting capabilities.