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General document | Modelling Complex Warfighting (MCW) Research Agenda

The Defence problem space has expanded considerably in recent years, with the operating environment now ranging from cooperation through to conflict, often with blurred boundaries in between. Additionally, the physical domains of air, land and sea have been expanded to include information and cyber and space. Defence seeks new sources of adversarial advantage to prevail in this contested environment. New operations analysis approaches are required to provide meaningful evidence-based decision-support associated with this problem space.

In 2017 the Modelling Complex Warfighting (MCW) Strategic Research Initiative was founded as a means for Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group to address and better respond to these emerging requirements. MCW's mandate was to develop novel techniques for operational analysts to enhance decision-support across the Defence and national security enterprise.

This MCW Research Agenda details three projects that form the cornerstone of the next phase of the MCW initiative:

  • Project 1: Modelling the Grey Zone
  • Project 2: Agile Force Design
  • Project 3: Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics for Decision-Making

Each project is designed to focus effort, and collectively they will conduct the specific research required to provide transformational operations analysis to current operations and future force decisions. Each project is centred around grand challenges that are designed to be: focused on critical Defence and national security operations analysis problems; aspirational with the potential to help Defence leap ahead; and inspiring to research partners.

This document additionally details how the MCW initiative will coexist symbiotically with the newly formed DST STaR Shots, as operations analysis plays a critical role in problem characterisation, developing future scenarios and consistent application environments, and assessment/evaluation methodologies which can be applied to individual STaR Shots, and provide transdisciplinary guidance in their potential integration to transform Defence capability.

Recognising that innovative breakthroughs are made at the intersection between disciplines, and across different sections of society, DST Group explicitly seeks to partner with interested teams in both academia and industry. Thus, this document represents an aspirational starting point for future conversations of interested research groups that are able to offer diverse expertise.

Key information


Renée Kidson and Mathew Zuparic (Editors)

Publication number


Publication type

General document

Publish Date

August 2020


Unclassified - public release


research programs, operations research, socio-technical analysis, force structure, decision analysis