The five-domains update

Sea state

South Korea has revealed plans for an aircraft carrier capable of carrying F-35B fighter jets. While much smaller than a typical US aircraft carrier, the ship will be large enough for the short take-off and vertical landing ‘B’ variant of the F-35. The amphibious assault ship will be the largest ship ever built by South Korea and will significantly increase the country’s naval capabilities. In light of ongoing tensions in the region, Seoul is looking to substantially expand its navy over the coming decade.

A Defence Department assessment has found that foreign spies pose an ‘extreme threat’ to Australia’s $90 billion shipbuilding project. The government has not named a suspected culprit, but the ABC reports that China is believed to be behind efforts to steal information about the program. Questions have been raised about the size of the Chinese consulate in Adelaide, where Australia’s new submarines and frigates will be built. The government’s naval shipbuilding program is part of the largest upgrade to Australia’s defence capabilities since World War II.

Flight path

The US Air Force’s bomber program is back on track after subcontractors halted production of the B-21 stealth bomber due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The USAF has ordered a total of 100 B-21s under the program. Flight testing for the first B-21 Raider is expected to start in December next year before it enters service by 2025. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the B-21 will become the ultimate strategic deterrent due to its ‘ability to strike any target, anywhere’.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have stopped Australia’s largest aerial combat exercise from going ahead in the real world, but the Royal Australian Air Force has converted Pitch Black into a digital campaign called Exercise Pitch Black 2020 Online. The campaign, which was run through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, involved past participants recounting personal stories of Pitch Black since it was established in 1981 and video highlights from a wide range of air operations involving Australia and a number of other countries.

Rapid fire

A new study published in BMJ Military Health has found that almost 23% of Australian soldiers are overweight and around 4% are obese, based on waist measurements. Although the percentages are lower than in other armies in the West, this trend raises concerns about physical preparedness and the costs associated with improving health and fitness levels in the Australian Army, as well as addressing other issues related to mental health, alcohol use and smoking.

The Syrian Army was mobilised again in the northwestern part of the country by President Bashar al-Assad this week, sparking increased fears among experts that new clashes are near. Assad’s move follows Russia’s decision to cease joint patrols with Turkish forces in the de-escalation zone of Idlib Province due to attacks from militants. The patrols were originally launched in March after the latest ceasefire was agreed, but since then several Russian and Turkish soldiers have been injured.

Final frontier

South Australian company Southern Launch will test its space-launch systems later this year as part of the development of a home-grown Australian electronic warfare capability. Southern Launch has been working with DEWC Systems since last year on developing an orbital sensor system, backed by the RAAF’s Plan Jericho. The project reached its second phase in May and plans to launch prototype miniature satellites by 2022 to detect radio signals from space.

German researchers have become the first to test solar cells composed of perovskite and polymer for powering satellites in space. Perovskite is a lightweight mineral that produces 10 times more power than conventional silicon-based cells. These materials can be manufactured into ultra-thin sheets that can be used on satellites operating in light-deprived conditions.

Wired watchtower

Israel is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United States agreeing to keep Chinese technology and equipment out of Israel’s 5G network. The move to ‘only allow trusted vendors in its 5G network’ has been viewed as a way to ensure that Israel complies with the US’s recently expanded ‘Clean Network’ initiative. Israel’s communications ministry announced last week that a tender process for 5G operators had been concluded, with licences issued to a number of domestic telecommunications operators.

Following a reportedly rigged election process in Belarus, wide-scale protests have broken out in the capital. In response, authorities implemented an internet shutdown, preventing access to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and local and international news websites. However, protestors have managed to find ways to communicate and organise via the app Telegram which is still accessible. Protestors have also looked to virtual private network, or VPN, apps to avoid government censorship.