Sea, air, land and space updates

Sea state

It looks like the Russian government might have spoofed naval GPS in the Baltic Sea. A report from an American ship says that the GPS placed the ship at an airport 25 nautical miles from its actual position at the Russian port of Novorossiysk. GPS spoofing has been worrying experts for some time, but this is thought to be the first time the technique has been used ‘in the wild’. These technologies are of such concern that some countries, such as South Korea, have been developing alternative navigation systems in case of an attack on GPS.

Navantia of Spain has submitted its response to the request for tender for Australia’s future frigate project. The proposed F-5000 anti-submarine warfare vessel is an evolution of Navantia’s Hobart-class guided missile destroyer, currently used by the Australian navy, and will draw on lessons from Navantia’s F-310 for Norway.

The Chinese navy has conducted a live-fire drill in the Yellow Sea, which separates China from the Korean peninsula. During the exercise, ‘various missiles, dozens of torpedoes and hundreds of shells’ were fired. China’s defence ministry claimed that the drill was a regularly scheduled military exercise, but some pundits believe it was a response to North Korea’s recent missile tests.

Flight path

An unauthorised drone successfully landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth while it was docked in Scotland, raising concerns about the warship’s security. The drone’s pilot was taking photos of the aircraft carrier when he received a wind warning from the drone with a recommendation to land. He told BBC reporters afterwards that he ‘could have carried two kilos of Semtex and left it on the deck’. That comes after a near miss at Coogee Beach last month, when a drone flew within three metres of a helicopter. Last week, the Pentagon announced that military bases in the US are now permitted to shoot down drones that fly over them.

The Australian Defence Force has opted to temporarily ground all Tiger helicopters, after two UN peacekeepers were killed when a German aircraft of the same type crashed in Mali in July. The ADF has 22 Tigers and, on the advice of the manufacturer (Airbus Helicopters), has effectively grounded the fleet, declaring that they are to be flown only in the event of an emergency until the details of the crash and the potential shortcomings of the aircraft come to light.

For those keeping up with the US Air Force’s OA-X (light attack) aircraft experiment mentioned in our previous wrap, media has emerged from the trials in New Mexico, along with speculation about the possibility of further evaluations in combat scenarios.

Rapid fire

The ADF has a zero-tolerance policy on illicit drug use. Positive drug-testing results are declining, but the Department of Defence has announced that it will increase testing, and apply new testing methods, including taking hair and saliva samples. A report from the weekend showed that the Australian army discharged 79 soldiers from Townsville over the past five years after positive tests for illicit drugs. The case also highlights the need to investigate the motivation behind drug usage, including possible mental health struggles.

The Canadian army is putting its camping expertise to work in Quebec. Public Safety Canada is being increasingly overwhelmed by asylum seekers arriving from the US, and the troopers have been called in to set up tents that can house up to 500 people. Arrival numbers have ‘quadrupled in the past two weeks from about 50 a day to 200 a day’. They include Haitians facing deportation under President Trump who are hoping to be settled in Canada. They are lured by (false) online claims promising easy access to asylum. The Canadian government has publicly spoken out against those claims, as the temporary protected status program for Haitians was closed last year.

The importance of partnering with industry (and universities) to make the lives of soldiers safer can be seen in this video by the US Army Research Laboratory, which introduces the next generation of crash test dummies as a part of the ‘Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin’ program.

Zero gravity

Last week, 38 North released an exclusive analysis based on recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea. They concluded that North Korea may be accelerating development of its submarine-based nuclear capabilities. That conclusion is partially based on the use of netting to conceal activity taking place in the Sinpo South Shipyard. The last time North Korea concealed its activity in that way was prior to the failed 9 July 2016 Pukkuksong-1 ICBM launch. And while we’re paying a significant amount of attention to North Korea, you may want to check that you can find it on a map. Many Americans cannot, as Jimmy Kimmel discovered (video).

An international coalition of lawyers is developing a much-needed manual on the legalities of space warfare. The Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS) Project is a collaboration between universities in Australia, the UK and Canada. While there haven’t been any instances of space warfare thus far, getting ahead of the issue and building norms is important for regulating the future behaviour of nation-states. Earlier this week, Clare Anthorp interviewed lawyers from the University of Exeter about the project.