Future Operations

Current project

The Future Operations Research Group seeks to understand and analyse the operational environment, and the threats, risks and opportunities that military forces will face, in the 2030-2050 timeframe. Urbanisation, climate change, rapid advances in technology, emerging flashpoints, unconventional and hybrid forms of warfare, and changes in the economic and geo-strategic  setting for military operations all form part of the analysis. The group aggregates available information from the widest possible variety of sources, develops a series of testable, integrated projections using recognised futures methodologies and datasets, and then updates and validates projections through continuous monitoring of the environment. The group draws on the multi-disciplinary expertise of a core research team at the school of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the broader research capabilities of the University of New South Wales, and external partners.


Future Unconventional Warfare 

Projects might focus on 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 Technologies

Projects might focus on the impact of technological advances on future operations in the land, air, space, sea, cyber and joint domains. Relevant technologies include (but are not limited to) artificial intelligence, hypersonics, electro-magnetic pulse weapons, quantum computing, 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.

Emerging Flashpoints

We are particularly interested in projects focusing on flashpoints with direct strategic relevance to Australia, to include issues emerging in the Asia-Pacific Region, Antarctica and space.

Examples of Current Projects

Rhiannon Neilsen

Supervisor(s) - Professor Toni Erskine, Professor Anthony Burke

Violent acts that “shock the moral conscience of mankind” are certainly not unique to this century. But what is unique is the pervasiveness and sophistication of cyber-capabilities – including in sites of extreme violence. Rhiannon Neilsen’s doctoral thesis provides empirical and ethical analyses of what she has termed ‘cyber-humanitarian interventions': cyber-operations designed to disrupt potential perpetrators’ means and motivations for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Rhiannon also considers whether there is a case for using computational propaganda and disinformation campaigns for atrocity prevention, and which international agents might be responsible for discharging such cyber-capabilities for human protection purposes.