The five-domains update

Sea state

British shipbuilder BAE systems announced that, if it’s successful in its Sea 5000 bid, it will provide work for more than 1,000 apprentices and graduates in South Australia. The Early Careers Program is part of the company’s strategy ‘to build a diverse and skilled workforce in Australia’. BAE’s announcement comes amid concerns about the role of Australian shipbuilding companies in the Sea 5000 process. The request for tender for the future frigate program didn’t require international companies to partner with an Australian company. Austral chief executive David Singleton and ASC Shipbuilding CEO Mark Lamarre told the Senate on Friday that the release of tender ‘was … the end’ of the bidders’ engagement with them.

A group of Australian warships deployed last Monday for the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017 regional naval exercises. The Australian-led exercises are conducted with several key regional partners ‘to promote security cooperation in the region’, said Defence Minister Marise Payne. The Australian contingent in this year’s exercises is the ‘biggest coordinated Australian task group deployment since the early 1980s’ and will include five frigates and more than 1,200 ADF personnel.

The Chinese flotilla that took part in the Baltic Sea exercises with Russia has stopped at South Africa on its way home. Unlike its arrival at Finland and other European countries, the flotilla’s Cape Town appearance was a ‘low key’ affair, with the South African Navy ‘requested to keep the media away’.

Flight path

At least 34 civilians were killed in a Russian air strike in Dier ez-Zor, Syria, on Sunday. The strike reportedly targeted a number of ferries leaving the town of al-Boulil, not long after Syrian troops regained control of the highway between Dier ez-Zor and Damascus. The reports follow a separate airstrike last week, when Israeli war planes struck a military facility in Hama, Syria. While the Israeli military declined to comment, a Syrian official said the missiles were launched from Lebanese airspace, killing two workers and damaging the facility.

Textron is fast approaching the first trials for the new Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor, a second-generation tiltrotor design like the V-22 Osprey. No official launch date has been set, but a Bell Helicopter representative has said that the aircraft, which has a load capacity of 12,000 pounds and flies at a speed of 280 KTAS, could fly for the first time ‘within days’.

Earlier this week military aircraft were used to fly 300 medical professionals to Orlando to help with the recovery from Hurricane Irma, which is currently wreaking havoc in Florida. The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division has relocated aircraft and personnel, in preparation for search and rescue efforts. Air force bases in Georgia and Alabama are also being used to coordinate relief efforts.

Rapid fire

A new memorial will be opened on Anzac Parade in Canberra this Thursday to mark 70 years of Australian involvement in international peacekeeping. It will honour the contributions and sacrifices of ‘more than 80,000 Australian military, police and civilian peacekeepers who had served on more than 60 operations’.

Thursday is also a significant day in the northern hemisphere: Russia’s week-long Zapad 2017 exercise is set to begin. Experts and officials, including Germany’s defence minister, claim that more than 100,000 troops will partake, despite the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Vienna Document requiring the presence of foreign observers when more than 13,000 troops participate. Russia officially claims that only 12,700 troops are part of the drill on Russian and Belarussian territory. Meanwhile, Jüri Luik, Estonia’s defence minister, repeated an earlier call by former US Europe Commander Ben Hodges for a ‘military Schengen zone’, which would allow rapid movement of military tools and troops across the EU.

Amnesty International has accused the Myanmar army of planting landmines along the border with Bangladesh. Lieutenant Colonel S.M. Ariful Islam, the commanding officer of the Bangladesh border guard in Teknaf, has supported accusations of the neighbouring army ‘planting explosives’. Meanwhile, pressure on Australia is growing to end the defence and peacekeeping training the ADF provides to Burmese soldiers.

Zero gravity

Ann Druyan, the creative director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project and Carl Sagan’s widow, spoke to Time about the 40th anniversary of the Voyager 1 spacecraft launch. The Voyager 1 carries ‘the golden records’—gold-plated disks encoded with images and audio from earth. The recordings include greetings from children, pictures of dolphins and gymnasts, and music from around the world. Druyan described the records as a ‘Noah’s ark of human culture’. Voyager 1 is currently 13 billion miles away from earth.

Cosmonaut Roskosmos Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Jack Fisher and Peggy Whitson landed safely in the Republic of Kazakhstan after completing their missions at the International Space Station (video). The successful descent was achieved in the Russian Soyuz TMA-44a spacecraft.

The most powerful sun flare in more than a decade was observed on 6 September. The flare was rated at X9.3 and resulted in high-frequency radio blackouts and the degradation of low-frequency communications for around an hour. During strong solar flares, the sun can sling out a cloud of energetic plasma. Those events are called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). In this case, the CME created extreme auroras over Alaska.

Wired watchtower

Equifax, a credit reporting service in the United States, announced last week that criminals had taken the sensitive personal information of over 143 million of its US customers. The data leaked was particularly sensitive as it included birth dates, names and social security numbers, which has caused a ‘lifelong increase in identity theft threats’ to those affected. Equifax’s response to the breach has been criticised for being slow, insecure and unethical.

Equifax’s notification website has copped the most flak. Some wonks discussed the security shortcomings of the breach notification website, but most focused on its precondition that use of the notification service would waive the right of users to sue—a whopper of a waiver that has been criticised as ‘unacceptable and unenforceable’, and which Equifax was quick to retract.

Facebook disclosed that it had discovered purchases by Russian ‘troll farms’ of over US$100,000 of advertising on its network. The ads apparently had little in the way of discernible common content or themes, instead being described as a move to sow chaos and amplify divisive social and political messages. The New York Times published an investigative piece about the extent of such information operations taking place over Facebook and Twitter, which has apparently included a fairly popular Texas secession movement.