Autonomous Systems Matrix Wargame

by Gordon Pendleton

A team of Cordillera Applications Group experts recently designed and delivered an Autonomous Systems Matrix Wargame for the University of New South Wales, Canberra. The wargame was set in an Urban Environment of 2035 and the aim was to identify and assess the impact of Autonomous Systems in a future multi-domain joint urban operation. This included the consideration of the ethical challenges autonomous systems may present and the generation of recommendations for conceptual and capability development for future ethical frameworks to the Australian Defence Forces. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the wargame was conducted physically by a team in Brisbane and virtually by teams in Europe, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

To provide a framework for the wargame the Cordillera Applications Group design team provided a scenario, synthetic model – Archaria – of a future 2035 Smart City, current and future technology capability cards, and the use of ConceptBoard (an online collaboration tool) to visualise the wargame virtually. Four player teams were included in the game design to provide alternate and adversarial perspectives. The Blue Force was provided by the Battle Group WARHORSE consisting of the HQ Staff, 2/14th Light Horse Regiment and supporting assets from the Australian Defence Forces. Higher Blue Force direction was represented by a Marine Expeditionary Brigade HQ and this was provided remotely by the US Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group, Marine Air Ground Combat Center in California. The Red Team was provided by Urban Subject Matter Experts in Land, Air and Information Manoeuvre from the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States of America. The Green Team was drawn from military and city SMEs from NATO and the University of Texas at Austin, United States of America respectively. Facilitation was provided by Dr D.J. Kilcullen and Dr D.P. Baker from the University of New South Wales, Canberra and analysis was provided by an onsite team and remotely from the United Kingdom.


The urban wargame was delivered over two weeks at the Battle Simulation Centre, Enoggera, Brisbane. To answer the ethical challenges of using robotic and autonomous systems in an urban environment, the design team created a futuristic – 2035 timeframe – scenario and five vignettes which included counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and offensive and defensive operations against a near peer/peer future adversary. The vignettes provided a basis for the Blue team to plan courses of action which were then played out in the matrix wargame using current and future Australian Defence Force capabilities. A bespoke data capture and analysis plan designed for the wargame, focussed player considerations to generate data and findings directly related to the overall aim and objectives.  This included the identification of capability gaps against a modified Defence Capability Framework, the Defence Lines of Development, in addition to the capture of ideas for future concepts and ethical challenges.


The two-week event was a huge success for the Cordillera Applications Group team, and we were able to demonstrate our unique future, multi-domain wargaming capabilities by delivering a virtual wargame over multiple time zones. Furthermore, we created a robust multi-national wargaming and communications architecture which combined with the use of online collaboration tools, data capture and analysis plan and the provision of the Archaria synthetic urban model ensured a hugely successful event. The analysis and results from the wargame have provided the sponsors with unique insights for the development of future operational capability and concepts across the multi-domain battlespace.