Sea, air and land updates
I'm so drone-ry

Sea State

This week’s release of ministerial advice under freedom of information laws has revealed that by discussing the high likelihood of Japan winning the SEA 1000 contract last year, Prime Minister Abbott acted against  advice provided to government by the Department of Defence. Defence’s overwhelming preference was for the submarines to be built in Australia by ASC. Defence labelled a local build Australia’s only option for ‘assembly capability’, though it conceded that an international design partner would be required.

Also on future submarine fleets, The Diplomat released a piece on Thailand’s quest for three new submarines by 2020. The Bangkok Post reported on the possibility that the committee will propose to buy Chinese subs over other nations in contention, including South Korea, Russia, Germany and Sweden.

Navantia has launched Australia’s final fast landing craft. The 12 landing craft are expected to operate with the two Canberra-class LHD amphibious assault vessels, the second of which will commence operations in 2016.

And finally, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced that an increased US presence in the Strait of Hormuz is there to stay. This comes as a response to two incidents in the last week: first, Pentagon officials announced that an American-flagged ship was harassed by patrol vessels belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and second, a Marshall Islands-flagged shipping container was fired at and seized by the Guards.

Flight Path

Recent drone-related events such as them dropping radioactive sand onto the roof of the Japanese PM’s office or flying around the Eiffel Tower have brought to attention the risks posed to air defence systems by irregular unmanned systems. They tend to be controlled by amateurs seeking to cause mischief, but could be used to cause serious damage, or potentially to carry an explosive payload. The Economist discusses the serious challenges for drone detection and monitoring. It notes that while the technology for their detection appears more developed (acoustic and radar technology), drones remain a challenging target to defeat. The article identifies some useful options that include disrupting the control signal to cause an uncontrolled crash, hijacking the navigation by feeding fake GPS signals to the drone computer (also known as drone spoofing) and using other drones to hijack a rogue drone’s wireless connection to the operator. The use of a shotgun and nets to entangle rogue unmanned systems are other less sophisticated methods being considered. Washington State is contemplating making ‘nefarious drone enterprise‘ a felony.

A new research paper by academics from ETH Zurich and University of California allegedly provides instructions on how to hack a US military drone using spoofing attacks. It’s not known if the study has directly facilitated an attack on US drones, but the release of such information highlights the complex challenges for drone management.

In case you haven’t had enough drone news for one week, there’s even a Drone Law Journal blog.

Rapid Fire

With the ANZAC centenary having just passed, we’ve seen a renewed push to allow New Zealand citizens living in Australia to join the ADF. Currently anyone wanting to enlist must be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident, which rules out New Zealand citizens who reside in Australia long-term on a special category visa.

Ahead of the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), US Special Operations Command has put the call out for vendors to make the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) come to life. Early designs have the body armour resembling Tony Stark’s famous Iron Man suit, but it’s one that could be a reality by 2018.

Reports from Yemen over the weekend revealed what’s thought to be the beginning of a Saudi-led ground operation against Houthi rebels; the al-Ghad newspaper reported that an Arab ground force was seen entering the battle. The reports have been denied by Saudi officials, who’ve also declined to comment on follow up reporting from Al Jazeera of 40–50 Special Forces troops operating in Yemen.

For readers interested in Army’s LAND 400 project—a subject of ASPI’s forthcoming Army Force Structure Options conference—the May edition of Asia–Pacific Defence Reporter has an analysis of the tender process for Army’s new Mounted Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle.