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Defence scientists reach forward to operations

The Defence Science and Technology Support to Operations program deploys scientists and engineers to Australian Defence Force operations to support command decision making, address immediate operational needs and provide technology advice to joint task force commanders.

Defence analysts Hans Evertz, Maya Drobnyak and David Matthews with Lieutenant Colonel Jack Gregg
Defence analysts Hans Evertz, Maya Drobnyak and David Matthews with Lieutenant Colonel Jack Gregg

During 2015–16, the number of deployed scientists increased from one to four, with the inclusion of a second position at the Joint Task Force 633 headquarters in the United Arab Emirates (Operation Accordion), and individual placements at Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters and Combined Task Force 150, both operating out of Bahrain (Operation Manitou).

In total, 12 scientists deployed during the year to support one of these headquarters. A further four scientists joined short-term ‘fly-away teams’ to Iraq and Fiji in support of Operation Okra and Operation Fiji Assist, while 40 scientists were on standby to move at short notice across a range of high-readiness capabilities.

In Iraq, deployed scientists, with the support of a ‘reach-back’ capability in Australia, produced a conflict analysis which highlighted drivers of insider attacks at Taji Military Complex. They also developed effective heat stress management strategies for Air Task Group aircraft and personnel, liaising with staff in Australia to instigate advanced modelling and assessment of cooling technologies.

In Bahrain, scientists assisted with the management and analysis of operational intelligence as well as technology solutions for identifying boats engaged in smuggling activities. In the United Arab Emirates, the scientists conducted a major study of information flows across the Middle East region in order to enhance situation awareness and decision making.

‘Deployed scientists also act as the forward presence for Defence Science and Technology Group and are able to generate a number of longer-term operational support requirements to be undertaken back in the laboratories’, said Operational Support Centre manager Dr David Matthews.

Examples of such work have ranged from threat prediction, detection and neutralisation to protect ADF personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan to the radar cross-section management of naval vessels operating in the Persian Gulf and extending the limit of the air carriage of the advanced short-range air-to-air missile (ASRAAM), allowing longer flying hours in Iraq.

Fly-away teams are also deployed at short notice. In the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston, two analysts were sent to conduct an evaluation of the ADF disaster relief operation under Operation Fiji Assist.