The five-domains update

Sea state

Australia’s defence strategic update and new force structure plan include funding for advanced sea mines, patrol vessels, an undersea surveillance system, and research on uncrewed vessels. Those capabilities will complement the warships already being built as part of the government’s continuous naval shipbuilding plan. The $75 billion investment in the Royal Australian Navy will cover acquisitions of or upgrades to up to 23 different classes of watercraft.

British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has completed a series of training exercises and is now ready for deployment. The carrier is the largest ship ever put to sea by the Royal Navy and has a displacement of approximately 65,000 tonnes. After spending nearly 10 weeks undertaking a wide range of training exercises—some including Britain’s new F-35B fighters, which will fly from the carrier—it will continue training ahead of its first planned mission in 2021.

Flight path

Australia is set to receive its first MQ-4C Triton drone in 2023 despite a US production pause flagged earlier this year. News of the acquisition of ‘lot five’ examples of the semi-autonomous aircraft came amid the release of Australia’s defence strategic update and force structure plan, which includes a $65 billion investment in air power over the next decade. Defence has laid out a number of procurement options, including the purchase of up to 200 long-range anti-ship missiles, and research into hypersonic weapons, autonomous combat aircraft, advanced loitering munitions and electronic attack capabilities.

India has approved a US$2.4 billion purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Su-30 MKI fighter jets, as well as upgrades to its 59 existing MiG-29s. Amid rising tensions with China following border clashes in the Himalayas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that there was a ‘need to strengthen the armed forces to protect our borders’ and uphold a ‘self-reliant India’. The Indian Air Force has been increasing its readiness for combat in response to the increased tensions.

Rapid fire

The Australian Army’s Hawkei and Bushmaster vehicles will get more than 250 additional remote weapon stations. The acquisition is part of Defence’s new force structure plan, which allocates 20% of its $270-billion investment in capability, or about $55 billion, to the land domain. New investments include improved artillery, long-range rocket and missile systems, directed-energy weapon system, smart anti-tank mines, a new watercraft base in the Northern Territory, and a new squadron of long-range helicopters.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread across the US, the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division is proceeding with plans to conduct a large training exercise in Hawaii on 21 July. Exercise Lightning Forge will involve 5,500 troops and will be the first exercise of this scale after the Pentagon eased travel restrictions in May.

Final frontier

Defence’s new force structure plan includes a $7 billion investment in space capabilities over the next decade with a focus on space services and control. The government will invest in sovereign-controlled satellites for communications and for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to provide Australia with assured access to this increasingly crucial technology. Defence will also enhance its space awareness capabilities to counter emerging space threats and invest in ‘resilient multi-mission space’ as set out in Defence science and technology strategy 2030.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket failed to make it into orbit from its New Zealand launch site, losing seven small satellites onboard. It ascended 195 kilometres before a problem occurred during the second-stage burn. The mission, dubbed ‘Pics or It Didn’t Happen’, aimed to send five SuperDove imaging cubesats developed by Planet, a six-unit Faraday-1 cubesat developed by In-Space Missions, and the primary payload, an imaging satellite built by Canon Electronics.

Wired watchtower

The cyber capabilities of Australia’s defence organisation are set to grow significantly over the next 10 years. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that $1.35 billion of the existing defence budget will go to the Australian Signals Directorate over 10 years to enhance its ability to ‘disrupt overseas cybercrime’, boost its ‘data science and intelligence capabilities’, create a ‘data-sharing platform’ and increase ‘national situational awareness capability’. The funding is part of a $15 billion investment under the 2020 force structure plan in capabilities to protect Australia in cyberspace and ensure it can carry out ‘operations against adversary systems’.

The UK plans to begin phasing out Huawei from its 5G network in the next six months. The news came after reports that the National Cyber Security Centre at GCHQ no longer believes the security risks presented by Huawei’s involvement in the network can be managed. The former head of MI6 said that the shift in the UK’s assessment was related to US sanctions on Huawei, which prevent the China-based company from using American technology.