The five-domains update

Sea state

It’s been a tragic couple of weeks at sea. The search is continuing for Argentina’s San Juan submarine and its 44 crew members, which went missing on 15 November. And three members of the US Navy are presumed dead after their C-2A Greyhound crashed into the Philippine Sea last Wednesday. The navy released the names of the men on Saturday after rescue efforts ceased, paying tribute to Lieutenant Steven Combs and airmen Matthew Chialastri and Bryan Grosso. Eight other sailors who were on board were rescued. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

The Australian government chose German shipbuilder Lürssen to build the navy’s 12 new offshore patrol vessels, but mystified many in the industry and defence media by teaming the company with WA company Austal, which had been part of a rival bid. That leaves Austral and Lürssen’s original partner, Civmec, to engage in ‘commercial negotiations’. ASPI’s own Andrew Davies and Mark Thomson previously dissected the government’s naval shipbuilding plans in The Strategist.

The Royal Navy has performed the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace for the first time in 357 years. Eighty-six sailors from 45 ships participated in the event to commemorate 2017 as the Year of the Navy. The Game of Thrones theme song was played during the handover.

Flight path

Egypt has responded to last week’s horror attack on a Sinai mosque with a series of targeted airstrikes west of al-Arish. The attack killed more than 300 people at the al-Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed. While no group has yet claimed responsibility, analysts are saying that it bears the mark of Islamic State. The Egyptian military began retaliatory strikes aimed at the alleged perpetrators’ vehicles just hours after the incident.

Airbus and Boeing are exploring artificial intelligence technology that could cut commercial aviation costs by enabling single-pilot operation. Airbus is also investigating the possibility of helicopter taxis and delivery drones that would operate completely autonomously. And Boeing announced last month that it plans to purchase Aurora Flight Sciences, a company working with Uber to produce flying taxis.

Rapid fire

If you’re in Adelaide, don’t be intimidated if you see uniformed troops around the Old Adelaide Hospital. CUE Adelaide 17, a multinational defence technology activity hosted by the Defence Science and Technology Group, is on until December 1. The exercise involves 100 soldiers and over 80 researchers, who are aiming to reduce risks by improving ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of soldiers when operating in overseas urban environments during a conflict’.

Foreign Policy reports that the US Army is considering replacing its battlefield communications system, in a competition worth US$6 billion. The Warfighter Integrated Network – Tactical (WIN-T) system has proven to be insufficient ‘where an enemy has electronic jamming or hacking capabilities’. Further flaws include its bulkiness and set-up time.

The Indian Army is also in the news: the Army Service Corps, a part of the army’s logistics arm, set a new world record by successfully having 58 men ride a single motorbike. Watch the video here. But elsewhere there are serious discipline problems: a senior army officer was arrested after allegedly ordering his bodyguard to shoot a journalist who was investigating financial fraud allegations against him, and a colonel has been arrested after allegedly raping a subordinate’s daughter.

Zero gravity

UNSW Canberra’s Australian National Concurrent Design Facility opened on Sunday, following the successful launch of a Cubesat into space last week in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Group. The facility will enable scientists and engineers to contribute to the development of Australian space missions, including spacecraft design and construction. UNSW plans to launch two additional Cubesats, which will reportedly be used for maritime surveillance.

A cigar-shaped asteroid has been discovered that transited through the solar system at a very high speed. It’s the first-ever observation of an interstellar asteroid. University of Hawaii astronomers named the asteroid Oumuaua, a Hawaiian name meaning ‘a messenger from afar arriving first’. They found Oumuaua to be ‘unlike any of the approximately 750,000 asteroids or comets currently known to humanity’ and said it was ‘simply going too fast’ to be from our solar system.

The Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex in the ACT went offline for an hour last Wednesday due to industrial action stemming from an enterprise bargaining dispute. While the US owns and funds the complex, Australia’s CSIRO manages the site and is pushing for staff to sign a Commonwealth enterprise bargaining agreement.

Wired watchtower

As many as 1 in 10 Australians could have had their data stolen as a result of the Uber hack. The ride-sharing company paid US$100,000 to the hackers in an attempt to cover up the incident, which compromised the information of 50 million customers and 7 million drivers. In February 2018, the Australian Information Commissioner’s notifiable data breaches scheme will come into effect, requiring companies to notify consumers if their data is compromised.

Some heavy hitters in the US are weighing in on the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to revoke net neutrality. The final draft of the proposal was released last Tuesday. The German Marshall Fund of the United States gives an interesting history of net neutrality, while Brookings details why the new plans laid out by the FCC are a betrayal to the consumers it is supposed to protect. The commission will vote on the issue on 14 December.

China will reportedly have 626 million surveillance cameras in use by 2020, compared with last year’s estimated total of 176 million cameras. The expected increase could mean that it steals the title of most-monitored country from the UK, which currently has 20% of the world’s cameras and 1% of the world’s population. China’s video surveillance market has an estimated value of US$6.4 billion.