The five-domains update

Sea state                                                                                 

A contract for 1,500 tonnes of steel has been signed between BlueScope Steel and ASC Shipbuilding. ASC Shipbuilding, as a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia, has been engaged to construct nine Hunter-class frigates in South Australia at a cost of over $35 billion. The first vessel is set to be under construction by 2022. The frigate program is part of the government’s $90 billion investment in modernising the navy over the next 30 years—the largest such expansion since World War II.

A Turkish firm has laid the keel for Pakistan’s first Ada-class corvette, a new design of warship focusing on anti-submarine and high-seas patrol capabilities. The ship is expected to be delivered to Pakistan’s navy in 2023, and will be the first of four in one of Turkey’s largest shipbuilding contracts. The contract is a part of Turkey’s ‘MILGEM’ or ‘National Ship’ program, under which four Istanbul-class frigates, four Ada-class corvettes and four TF2000-class air-warfare destroyers will be built for the Turkish Navy, in addition to the four corvettes destined for Pakistan.

Flight path

The Royal New Zealand Air Force has announced it will purchase five Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules for US$1.52 billion. The new transport aircraft, which will replace ageing C-130Hs, will be used primarily for humanitarian and disaster-relief operations, and search and rescue missions. The J model can carry bigger payloads and travel at faster speeds than the RNZAF’s current Hercules. Defence Minister Ron Mark said the new planes will ‘support New Zealand’s community resilience, our national security, our contribution to our Pacific neighbours and the wider global community’.

An air-to-air showdown between a manned fighter jet and an autonomous combat drone is set to happen in July 2021, according to the US Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. The proposed demonstration, which has been described as a ‘moonshot’, is part of an ongoing US Air Force project known as ‘Skyborg’. The project aims to develop an AI-driven system that can fly ‘autonomous, low-cost platforms to enable expeditionary operations that can generate massed combat power with minimal logistical footprints’, a capability that could revolutionise aerial warfare.

Rapid fire

US President Donald Trump has ordered the removal of about 9,500 of the 34,500 American troops currently stationed in Germany. The move has raised concerns across Europe and the UK over growing Russian influence, and the future of NATO and American operations in the Middle East and Africa. The decision has yet to be confirmed and may still be challenged by the Pentagon or Congress, and comes at a time of heightened tensions after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic she wouldn’t travel to a G7 meeting Trump intended to host.

The border standoff between India and China continues after over a month of hostilities. Senior military commanders from both sides met on Saturday after the two countries agreed on Friday to work together to find a peaceful solution. Earlier last week India had accused China of advancing troops into disputed territory in Ladakh, and responded by moving its own troops after several failed attempts by local officials to defuse tensions.

Final frontier

The US Space Development Agency is seeking bids to develop sensor algorithms to track and identify hypersonic missiles. The ‘tracking phenomenology experiment’ will be an initial step in the agency’s plan to deploy a constellation of low-orbiting satellites for missile defence in 2022. These satellites will provide a ‘wide field of view’, while the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor will, once developed, provide data for interceptor weapons to shoot down incoming missiles.

The European Union has adopted a set of conclusions for a sustainable European space policy. The council says the space sector can offer opportunities to support long-term sustainable growth and calls on the European Commission and member states to identify future skills shortages and gaps in the industry. The EU delivered three space programs and invested more than €12 billion (A$20 billion) in space activities between 2014 and 2020.

Wired watchtower

Australia and India have signed a deal to cooperate on critical cyber technologies that includes a four-year, $12.7 million partnership fund. Both the cooperation agreement and a deal on mutual defence exchanges and exercises were agreed on during a virtual meeting between the prime ministers of both countries. Cooperation in the cyber domain will centre on promoting an ‘open, free, safe and secure Internet’, increasing digital trade, working to develop technologies like artificial intelligence, and tackling cybersecurity challenges.

K-pop fans have used their social media skills to flood right-wing hashtags and support the Black Lives Matter movement. The mobilisation began after the Dallas police asked people to submit videos of ‘illegal activity from the protests’ to an app. Fans responded by sending in videos of K-pop stars, causing the app to crash and forcing it to be taken down. Efforts have since shifted to drowning out right-wing hashtags and amplifying information on protests and how to support Black Lives Matter organisations.