Research Themes

Future Operations Research Themes


Our particular expertise includes:

  • Future Urban Warfare—on a rapidly urbanising planet, conflict increasingly takes place in and around cities. But smart-city systems, enhanced connectivity and new military and non-military technologies are already rendering traditional approaches to urban conflict obsolete. This research theme explores the urban warfare of 2030 to 2050, with a focus on future joint combat operations (across the domains of land, sea, air, space, the electro-magnetic spectrum, and cyberspace) in a crowded, cluttered, highly connected, and extremely complex urban battlespace. 


  • Future Unconventional Warfare—as competition among great powers returns to the international scene after decades of U.S. and allied dominance of a particular, narrowly-defined form of warfare that has come to be called “conventional” conflict, adversaries are seeking means to side-step western dominance. This research theme explores patterns in the evolution of special operations, hybrid and proxy war, economic and political warfare, and other non-conventional means and methods of conflict, with a focus on the unconventional warfare of 2030-2050. 


  • Emerging Flashpoints—rapid warming in polar regions has already triggered a dramatic increase in military competition in the Arctic. Other emerging flashpoints—including those driven by climate-induced migration, conflicts over water, energy and other scarce resources, great-power realignments and a shifting global economic balance—will mean that conflict in 2030-2050 may occur in new places, over new issues, among new actors. This research theme seeks to develop a set of testable indicators and warnings for emerging flashpoints, and to continuously monitor and update these to build a picture of where and how such conflicts may occur.


  • Future Information Warfare—in the form of political warfare, manipulation of media (including social media) and the use of deception, disinformation and “fake news”—has become an increasingly important aspect of great-power military competition, affecting operations below the threshold of war and driving the pre-conflict shaping operations in which military actors engage. This research theme seeks to map the disinformation and political warfare activities of great powers in key contested regions of the world, understand the impact of emerging information warfare capabilities on future conflict, and develop research products of relevance to the ADF and allied militaries. 


  • Emerging Technologies—dominance of a handful of conventional military technologies played a key role in western primacy since the end of the Cold War. But emerging technologies, ranging from hypersonic missiles to electro-magnetic pulse weapons, directed-energy weapons, nuclear power, renewable energy, human performance enhancement, bio-engineering, nanotechnologies, advanced materials and manufacturing methods, and novel chemical and biological weapons technologies, are changing the face of war. This research theme attempts to explore, evaluate and model the impact of emerging technologies on future conflict in the 2030 to 2050 timeframe.