Addressing Australia’s electronic warfare skills shortage
A new Centre of Expertise and degree course will build the next generation of Old Crows*.
A looming shortfall in electronic warfare (EW) skills, and awareness of the importance of EW capabilities in Defence’s plans to ‘Shape, Deter and Respond‘ to increasing threats in the Indo-Pacific region, has led to the establishment of a Centre of Expertise for EW at Flinders University, with DSTG defence scientist Professor Sam Drake appointed as the inaugural Flinders University Chair of Electromagnetic Systems and Security.
The Centre is a joint initiative of Defence (DSTG and Joint Capabilities Group [JCG]), Flinders University and industry partner DEWC T&E. It was launched in April at a meeting of the Association of Old Crows (AOC)*, a community of EW, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and cyber practitioners. EW is a field that changes rapidly and continuously; to stay abreast and maintain relevance requires constant training, awareness of the defence environment and the ability to rapidly prototype EW equipment. According to Professor Drake this will only be achieved by academia, Defence and industry working together.
Creating a sovereign, self-sustaining EW talent pipeline
EW is now ubiquitous across all warfighting domains, and the current EW challenge is about people as much as it’s about technology, DSTG Chief Dr Dale Lambert noted at the launch. “Current projections indicate that Defence will fall below critical EW skills mass within three years,” he said. “Establishment of a self-sustaining, sovereign EW talent pipeline is a necessary strategic response. Having a skilled EW workforce of researchers and practitioners is key to ensuring Defence EW capabilities are in place and fit for purpose.”
Professor Drake has outlined a bold five-year plan that will see Flinders University become internationally renowned for EW training, education and research. “I want people to think of Flinders University when they think of EW. For that, we must create strong links with Defence, and part of my role is to be that link between the unclassified university environment and Defence’s needs.”
“For our EW degree course to be most useful, we also need to collaborate shoulder to shoulder with Industry,” Professor Drake explained to AOC members. “We need your help, we need to work together. Ideally within five years we’ll have a significant cohort of job-ready future-ready students graduating each year. Our focus will be on familiarising the students with what is really needed by Defence, the mathematics, physics and engineering that are really used in practice. That push for practical knowledge that is coming from Industry.”
Help us to help you
To compete with university courses covering popular fields such as cyber and artificial intelligence, Professor Drake will be highlighting the course’s aim to produce vocationally trained, job-ready graduates in a high-demand area tackling some of the most challenging security problems facing Australia. On that front, he is calling on industry subject matter experts to help design and teach the course. “Medicine courses bring in specialists to train young doctors, and plumbers teach apprentices on the job. We want EW experts from the field to come into the university to assist us with lectures, tutorials and practicals. We’re in this together. Help us help you. Talk to us about course design, tell us what to include. It’s a living course.”
*The name “Old Crows” emerged from the first use of electronic warfare in World War II to disrupt Axis communications and radars. Allied equipment and operators were known by the code name “Raven”. Common jargon changed the name to “Crows” and those engaged in the profession became known as “Old Crows”. Source: Wikipedia