Philip Swinsburg



Phil Swinsburg

A 24-year veteran of the Australian Army, involved in the creation and deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Phil Swinsburg is a retired Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel, having previously served over 24 years in the active military and has deployed three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, with shorter operational visits to Timor Leste and Bouganville.

Phil graduated from the Royal Military College in Duntroon in 1987 and was allocated to Artillery. During various military postings, Phil Swinsburg specialised in the operations and employment of surveillance and target acquisition sensors, including ground surveillance radars, thermal camera and unattended ground sensors. In 1992, Phil Swinsburg attended the Royal School of Artillery, Larkhill in the United Kingdom, where he graduated as a military instructor. During this training, Phil Swinsburg undertook his first involvement in Unmanned Aircraft, and various other sensor systems. Following the instructors course in the UK, Phil Swinsburg lived and worked in Germany for 6 months with the British Army instructing on surveillance systems including unmanned systems.

Upon returning to Australia, Phil conducted a series of instructional and management positions in both Sydney and Brisbane. In 1999, he was posted to the United States to attend the US Command and General Staff College, where he was awarded the Eisenhower Award for Dux of the class and was also awarded the title of Master Tactician. During this year, Phil completed his first Master’s degree majoring in Strategy. He was subsequently selected by the US Military to continue his studies in the United States and Attended the School of Advanced Military Studies; Phil was the first Australian Military officer to attend this course. During this further year of academic studies, Phil Swinsburg completed his second Master’s Degree in Operational Planning.

In 2001, Phil returned to Australia and was posted to Canberra where he was involved in the development and writing of the Australian Military Strategy. From 2002 to 2003, He was responsible for the strategic management of Australia’s involvement in numerous military operations around the world; including East Timor (Timor Leste), Bouganville, Lebanon, Sinai, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Bosnia, Pakistan, Bali, and the Solomon Islands. During this posting to Canberra, Phil was the initial strategic lead response coordinator for Operation Bali Assist, after the Oct 2002 Bali bomb attack; Lead planner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Mar 2002 as well as the lead planner for the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Island (RAMSI). In Late 2002, as part of a small team of planners, Phil was the lead Army planner for Australian involvement in the Iraq War. In 2003, he deployment to the Middle East and lead a small team to conduct an evaluation of Australia’s planning and execution of Military operations during the invasion of Iraq.

In 2004, Phil was posted to Brisbane as part of the Headquarters of the 1st Division as the senior manager strategy and planning. During this posting he was responsible for the planning and execution of a major military exercise involving the deployment of over 3,000 personnel from all three military services into Northern Queensland.

From 2005 to 2007 Phil was the senior capability management for the development of Unmanned Aircraft in the Australian Army. During this time he oversaw the selection and deployment of unmanned aircraft to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was involved in some of the first operational unmanned aircraft missions. In June 2007 he was deployed to Afghanistan with unmanned aircraft as part of the expansion of the autonomous systems into this operational area. During 2006 and 2007, Phil was responsible for the raising of the 1st Unmanned Aircraft unit in the Australian Defence Force with the creation of the 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment in Brisbane. Phil was the first Commanding Officer of the unit and during his time as the Commanding Officer, the unit was responsible for surveillance support operations in Timor Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously. The unit remained continuously deployed in either Iraq and/or Afghanistan from 2005 until the withdrawal of the majority of Australian forces from Afghanistan in December 2013.

In 2008, Phil was nominated to represent the United Nations in Iraq as the Assistant Military Advisor to the Special Representative to the Secretary General as part of UNAMI (United National Assistance Mission Iraq). During his time with the United Nation Phil spent 12 months working with the Kurdish, Arabic and Turkmen groups and local governments in Northern Iraq. He established a new United Nations Office in the Kirkuk Township and oversaw the establishment and building of United Nations facilities in adjacent Iraqi Armed Forces facilities. During his time in Iraq he planned and conducted over 200 security and engagement patrols, in an around the areas of Kirkuk, Mosul and wider Iraq as part of the UNAMI mission. As part of a lasting legacy for the UNAMI mission, Phil Swinsburg development a long-term United Nations military engagement strategy for Northern Iraq.

Phil retired from the activity military in 2010. Since that time, he has created and managed his own consulting and training services company, Unmanned Systems Australia; specialising in the employment of autonomous systems. He has been involved in numerous contracts since leaving the military – specialising in unmanned systems, both air and ground and has held board positions in the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems and is a recognised CASA Multi-Use Aviation Safety Consultant.

Unmanned Systems Australia is a member of the Rapid Prototyping and Development Establishment, a part of the Department of Defence and is the Asia Pacific representative for the Schiebel Aircraft Company who make unmanned vertical take-off and landing UAVs. Since leaving the military, Phil and Unmanned Systems Australia has been at the forefront of civilian autonomous systems development, and has previously been involved with Google [X] Project Wing and the commercial delivery of parcels by drones. Unmanned Systems Australia remains actively engaged with numerous companies in the ongoing development of parcel delivery solutions and is involved with unmanned aircraft capability development as part of a variety of Defence projects.

Panels and Talks

Moral Machines

From intelligent algorithms to driverless cars and autonomous drones
With Toby Walsh, David Tuffley, Phil Swinsburg, Chris Griffith and Scott Stephens (Chair)
watch now