The five-domains update

Sea state

Former admiral Kenneth Braithwaite has been confirmed as the US Navy’s top civilian official, six months after Richard Spencer was asked to step down from the role over his alleged mishandling of a demoted Navy Seal. Thomas Modly, who acted in Spencer’s place, resigned in April following criticism of how he handled a coronavirus outbreak aboard aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Braithwaite has pledged to increase discipline within the navy, and he may enjoy a closer relationship with President Donald Trump than Modly or Spencer. In his most recent role as ambassador to Norway , he reportedly pushed for NATO countries to raise their defence spending.

Taiwan intends to buy ground-launched anti-ship Harpoon missiles to defend the island against possible attack from the other side of the Taiwan Strait. Beijing recently promised to use force to seize control of Taiwan if other efforts to ‘reunify’ the island with the mainland fail. The development comes after the People’s Liberation Army Navy deployed its two aircraft carriers in an exercise reportedly meant to simulate the invasion of some of Taiwan’s outlying islands.

Flight path

The US Air Force says a pair of B-1B bombers undertook an anti-surface-warfare training mission over the Black Sea alongside NATO and other European aircraft. A planner for Bomber Task Force emphasised the importance of the long-range exercise that included training with the new long range anti-ship missile, or LRASM, which helps ensure the US can undertake anti-surface-warfare missions ‘due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range’.

Two recent videos shared on social media have revealed just how close low-power carrier launches of the F-35C get to the water’s surface. The videos demonstrated the minimum catapult power required for a safe launch of the fighters by the US Navy. The test pilot in the exercise didn’t rely on afterburners to get airborne, saying, ‘That sink is scary, but it was a part of the test plan.’

Rapid fire

Spain is reportedly withdrawing all troops stationed at its main base in Iraq, Gran Capitán, in July as their training mission there is now complete. The Covid-19 pandemic had already pushed Madrid to withdraw 200 soldiers from Iraq in late March. France, the UK and Australia have also pulled troops out in recent months, raising concerns about potential gains by the Islamic State group in the country. During their five-year mission, Spanish forces have trained more than 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and federal police.

Adelaide-based defence company Babcock Australia will work with American company Bell to bid for the provision of 12 Bell 429 helicopters for the Australian special forces. The companies say the chopper offers an innovative design that will be safe and adaptable to the needs of the ADF, which has already used the model in the navy since 2012. The partnership, according to Babcock, also creates opportunities for further collaborations with the US defence industry.

Final frontier

SpaceX’s Endeavour has successfully docked with the International Space Station a day after the private company became the first to launch astronauts into orbit. The two NASA astronauts who were on board could spend up to four months on the ISS while SpaceX engineers analyse performance data for future missions possibly as early as August. The Falcon rocket that sent the astronauts into orbit successfully landed on its return to earth, in a good sign for the viability of reusable space technology.

The UK Space Agency is providing up to £1 million (A$1.8 million) for companies to monitor objects in low-earth orbit or apply artificial intelligence to existing orbital data. The funding is to help seed a growing UK space start-up sector. Analysts believe the international market in space surveillance and tracking may reach A$200 million per year by 2035. The UK is currently the largest investor in space safety for the European Space Agency.

Wired watchtower

The UK is aiming to form an alliance of 10 democracies to supply 5G equipment in an effort to reduce reliance on China for the technology. Dubbed the ‘D10’ by Downing Street, the group would comprise G7 members plus Australia, South Korea and India. One part of the proposal suggests investing in telecommunications companies such as Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson to provide credible alternatives to China-based suppliers. The idea is expected to be raised at next month’s G7 summit, and follows a change in the UK’s position on Huawei’s involvement in its 5G network.

The Minneapolis Police Department and several other city agencies have been targeted by denial-of-service attacks. The cyberattacks have been seen as a way for protestors to express their anger without entirely preventing agencies from communicating with the public and carrying out their normal operations. Protests against police brutality increasingly feature denial-of-service attacks, with hacktivists targeting police during the Ferguson protests and government websites in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray.