Beyond the Planned Air Force (BPAF) expands Air Force’s perspective beyond the objective force envisioned in the Defence White Paper 2016 (DWP16) and the Defence Integrated Investment Plan (DIIP). Building upon the culture of innovation engendered by Plan Jericho, BPAF challenges our airmen to identify and explore how technological, societal, and environmental disruptors and drivers may shape Air Force’s ability to provide air power is support of Australia’s national interests. By encouraging creative and critical thinking, BPAF aims to prepare Air Force to extend the five vectors of the Air Force Strategy beyond 2027 into an uncertain future.

The DWP16 and companion DIIP describe the systems that will provide the foundation of Australian air power for the foreseeable future. These systems will be employed as part of an integrated joint force developed along the five vectors defined in the Air Force Strategy 2017-2027. This combination of cutting-edge capabilities integrated into a joint force by an adaptive and innovative organisational culture is referred to as the Planned Air Force: the world’s first Fifth-Generation Air Force.

Though Air Force has charted its preferred path into the future, we should not expect that the future will progress in accordance with our plans. New technologies, societal pressures, strategic shifts, and environmental change will work in isolation or in combination disrupt our future plans. Though the specifics may surprise us, we must be prepared to adapt rapidly and effectively to the opportunities that future uncertainty presents. To do this we must plan for disruption and not rest assured on the continued validity of our current assumptions.

Disruption refers to an event or development that prevents a system from continuing as usual or as expected. Disruption can take many forms and can occur unexpectedly or it can be anticipated. Regardless of the form that disruption may take, when disruption occurs Air Force will need to adapt to ensure that it continues to provide the air power capability required by Government to protect and further Australia’s national interests.

BPAF identifies seventeen potential disruptors that may affect Air Force into the future. But these are just a starting point.

BPAF is not a prediction of what the future will be, nor is it a development plan or force design document for Air Force beyond 2027. Instead, it aims to promote discussion, and creative and critical thought about what the future of Australian air power may be. Accordingly, readers must not see it as a policy document or a roadmap, but as a catalyst that should spark the imagination of today’s airmen in envisioning the Air Force as it may evolve in an uncertain and unpredictable future.