The five-domains update

Sea state

Albayrak Savunma, a Turkish drone manufacturer, says it has developed a ‘mobile naval mine’ capable of destroying any ship. The Wattozz sea mine features two cameras mounted in the eye sockets of its  titanium and aluminium ‘stingray’ body. The mine is designed for both surveillance and assault missions. A creative CGI video of the Wattozz in action can be viewed here.

It has been a big week for new ships. The US Coast Guard has commissioned its 27th Sentinel-class cutter, the USCGC Richard Snyder (WPC-1127), named after a World War II hero. And when the Coast Guard has a new ship, the Navy must have one too. It christened its newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship the USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) in Wisconsin. It’s the fourth ship to bear the name. The Royal Navy also commissioned the HMS Forth (P222). It’s the first of five planned offshore patrol vessels.

French frigate FS La Fayette (F 710) apprehended over 400 kilograms of heroin from a dhow in the Indian Ocean. The La Fayette is deployed as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, a multinational naval force focused on intercepting drug shipments in the Horn of Africa area. Earlier this month the French destroyer FS Jean de Vienne intercepted 530 kilograms of heroin while also assigned to CTF150.

Flight path

The UK Defence Secretary ‘cut the first turf’ of the UK’s new maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) facility. The site will house nine P-8A Poseidons are submarine hunters which are planned to become operational just as the site is completed in 2020. Last year the NATO chief warned of Russia’s increasing submarine activity. Recent reports say that Russian submarines may have chased a British nuclear submarine off Syria’s coast.

Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation, announced that it had sold over 50 Y-12 series aircraft to other countries as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The Y-12 is mainly used for passenger and cargo transportation and surveillance. During the National People’s Congress in March, Zhu Huarong, an executive of China South Industries, hinted at a plan to build a US-style military–industrial complex and export arms to Belt and Road countries.

The US Air Force is set to reorganise its equipment procurement procedures following last week’s Space Symposium. ‘Fast prototyping’ is the name of the procurement game, with the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center playing a central role in expediting the USAF’s development and testing of new missile and data processing technology.

Rapid fire

Australian soldiers are no longer permitted to wear symbols of death. Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell issued an edict that such ‘violent’, ‘murderous’ and ‘vigilante’ symbolism eroded the Army ethos and undermined its most serious responsibility: the legitimate and discriminate taking of life. In contrast, the Australian reports that the symbols—dubbed ‘morale patches’—have a long history in the armed forces. The pervasiveness of such symbolism is apparent in Campbell’s recent retweet to Duntroon troops that included a now-banned Spartans helmet patch.

Saudi Arabia is holding talks with the US about deploying Saudi troops to Syria as part of an Arab coalition to replace US forces. Concerns abound about the strategy’s operational feasibility because Saudi Arabia remains bogged down in Yemen and is locked in a dispute with Qatar. But Qatari armed forces participated in the Gulf Shield 1 military exercise in Saudi Arabia last week, hinting at a thaw in relations.

According to the Guardian, the more likely option for Saudi Arabia is to fund an army of private contractors and to recruit soldiers from elsewhere, such as Sudan. Though contentious, this wouldn’t be the first time that private contractors are used. US contractors and Russian private military corporations are already deployed on a large scale in Iraq and Syria. Sudan also participated in Gulf Shield 1, suggesting deepening military cooperation between Khartoum and Riyadh. However, using contractors ‘could bring major powers to the brink of direct conflict’.

Zero gravity

Happy Space Day of China. Today China celebrates the 46th anniversary of its first man-made satellite, sent into space in 1970. In the lead up to this official celebration, a spokesperson for the China National Space Authority commented that China will ‘continue to strengthen its international cooperation in peaceful utilisation of outer space’. However, that cooperation may not be with the US. At the 34th US Space Symposium, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson outlined America’s new space training courses, saying it will invite US allies Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, France, Germany and Japan to participate.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing—an all-male mission—it’s timely to reflect on how many women have flown into space. According to NASA statistics, 59 women have flown as ‘cosmonauts, astronauts, payload specialists and foreign nationals’. Germany is yet to send a women into space. It intends to send its first female astronaut to the International Space Stationin 2020. Netflix released a new documentary that tells the story of the 13 US female pilots who underwent the same training as the ‘Mercury Seven’ male astronauts but weren’t permitted to join any missions.

Although rocket launches tend to capture the headlines, an American analytics company argues that we should be focusing our attention on space technology patents. In a report by Govini, the number of patents related to space technologies gives a good indication of the level of development of a country’s space program. The report states that the number of Chinese patents has increased by approximately 13% over the past five years.

Wired watchtower

Israel has claimed second place in the global number of cybersecurity deals, according to a report by CB Insights. The US accounted for 69% of the market, followed by Israel’s 7% share. The number of deals and investments in cybersecurity increased in 2017. This isn’t surprising given the increased global awareness of cyberattacks following the WannaCry ransomware and NonPetya ransomware attacks last year.

China called on the UN Security Council to ban ‘lethal autonomous weapon systems’ (LAWS). While this was a surprising move for a country ahead of the curve in military applications of artificial intelligence, the ban has limited applicability—an earlier position paper narrowly defined LAWS, excluding systems that in any way involves a human when executing tasks or in terminating the device, leaving untouched huge segments of the sector.

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism delves deeply into misinformation and political polarisation propagated on WeChat. WeChat is widely used by first-generation Chinese immigrants. TOW finds that fake news on WeChat influenced rates of conservativism among Chinese Americans using the platform. In contrast to analyses that fake news has ‘wide reach but little impact’, TOW highlights WeChat’s effectiveness in the cultivation of loyal target audiences, which come to closely resemble echo chambers.