The five-domains update

Sea state

The US Navy has contracted Raytheon to modify the Tomahawk missile so that it can be used for long-range strikes against moving naval targets. The US still uses the 1970s Harpoon anti-ship missile, which has only a 70-nautical-mile range. The Chinese and Russian navies operate long-range supersonic anti-ship missiles, which gives them an advantage over the US Navy. The contract for the upgrade is worth US$119 million and delivery is expected by 2022.

Four Chinese ships set out last week for joint naval exercises with the Russian Navy in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhostk. The exercises are the second stage of Maritime Co-operation-2017, which kicked off with drills in the Baltic in July. This phase involves seven Russian and four Chinese surface ships, accompanied by submarines, anti-submarine aircraft and shipborne helicopters.

The US Navy plans to introduce Xbox controllers to help seamen manoeuvre the periscopes of Virginia-class submarines. Currently, the periscopes are controlled by joysticks, which submariners need hours of training to learn to use. In trials, young crew members were able to get the hang of the Xbox controllers within minutes.

Flight path

The US military has released a statement blaming Russia for injuring six fighters who were working with the US in Syria to defeat ISIS. The Russians are ferociously denying any claim of wrongdoing, saying that the US had prior warning of the strike and that the operation only targeted ISIS fighters. The air raid occurred in an industrial area in Deir el-Zour last weekend.

More information about a trade dispute between Canada and US company Boeing came to light last week. The US trade department has been investigating Canadian aircraft company Bombardier, at Boeing’s request. The investigation concerns reports that the Canadian government was financially supporting Bombardier, allowing it to sell aircraft in the US at a reduced price. In response, Canada has threatened to revoke its planned order of 18 F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, but said last month that the deal could proceed if the investigation was dropped. The Bombardier ruling will be finalised next week, so time is running out for reaching a mutually beneficial solution.

US President Donald Trump praised the F-35 in a speech to the US Air Force during its 70th birthday celebration on Friday. Trump has been a vocal critic of the program in the past, but had high praise on Friday, saying, ‘Now, when our enemies hear our F-35 engines, when they’re roaring overhead, their souls will tremble and they will know the day of reckoning has arrived’.

Rapid fire

Last week’s opening of the new Australian Peacekeeping Memorial was accompanied by many stories of Australian peacekeepers, with one standing out: it was an Australian officer, serving as a peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1994, who motivated former refugee Theogene Ngamijeto to join the Australian Army earlier this year. Ngamijeto says that it was his way of paying back ‘the beautiful nation, specifically the peacekeeping soldier that helped’ him. You can listen to his story, along with some others, here (video).

While Russia is dominating the (European) defence headlines with its current Zapad exercise, the armies of India and the US have started a military exercise at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state. The 13th edition of the Yudh Abhyas exercise will focus primarily on counterterrorism operations.

It doesn’t include videos of puppies, but this story by Claire Apthorp explores the history of animals in the military and provides insights into how the British Defence Animal Training Regiment operates. Working there involves training horses and dogs, exploring ways to use them safely in the military, and finally preparing them for life after service. Meanwhile, the Australian Army has made headlines with its handling of feral pigs at the Tully training area.

Zero gravity

Kim Peart, a Tasmanian man running in the state election, recently registered the Australian Space Party as a business name. In an interview with the ABC on Saturday, Peart announced his intention to attract 500 members so that the party can reach official national political party status, saying that ‘Australia is the only advanced nation without a space agency and we really need to be directing our attention to the opportunities it presents’.

If we’re going to colonise space one day, we’ll need plants that grow in zero gravity. In this article in The Conversation, Gina Riggio, a PhD student at the University of Arkansas, explains the future of space agriculture and reviews our attempts to germinate seeds in space thus far.

Last Friday night, Deep Space Station 43, a 70-metre-diameter radio telescope located near Canberra, detected the final transmission from the Cassini-Huygens probe. Cassini was launched in 1997 and spent 13 years and 76 days orbiting Saturn (see NASA’s image gallery here). Scientists ended Cassini’s mission by de-orbiting the probe, leading to its destruction in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Grief councillors and Cassini-branded tissues were on site for those who had dedicated a large part of their lives to the project.

Wired watchtower

Last week’s story about Facebook selling ads to fake Russian accounts and being used to amplify disinformation campaigns has developed further. As part of his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Robert Mueller is reportedly seeking and executing a search warrant to investigate the inauthentic Facebook accounts. The move has unleashed a flurry of speculation, like this Twitter thread suggesting that the warrant is potential evidence that a criminal case is in the works. The move also comes amid a longer-term and developing conversation about the increasing need to regulate tech companies, which has raised its head in the Economist and is driving major lawsuits and new legislation in the European Union.

After long-simmering murmurs of a ban on Kaspersky software due to concerns about Russian state access, the US government’s decision-making process has finally ticked over. The Department of Homeland Security has given federal civilian agencies 90 days to remove all Kaspersky Lab software from their networks. That move comes despite Kasperky’s vehement protests, which the chief executive will get a chance to air in a congressional hearing later this month.

Lastly, the Australian public service kicked off a series of long-anticipated war games this week, with the Department of Human Services hosting 10 agencies battling it out for control of a Lego city. You can follow the fun on Twitter under #cyberwargames.