The five-domains update

Sea state

Australia’s third and final Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) was launched in a ceremony last weekend. NUSHIP Sydney was built by ASC at Osborne Naval Shipyard, South Australia, and is based on Spanish shipbuilder Navantia’s design. Navantia’s entry for Australia’s future frigate is based on the same hull design as that of the AWD. Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri’s FREMM frigate and British shipbuilder BAE Systems’ Type 26 are also in the running, with the winner expected to be announced within the next month. ASPI’s latest Strategic Insight paper examines the pros and cons of each contender and the operational requirements that the winning ship must meet.

Ukraine claims that several of its military dolphins captured by Russia have gone on hunger strike. Ukraine had a secret program to train sea mammals for military tasks at the Crimean military dolphin centre in Sevastapol. Russia took over the centre after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Four years later, most of the dolphins have died because—according to Boris Babin, Ukrainian government representative in Crimea—they ‘patriotically’ refused to eat or to follow orders given by the ‘Russian invaders’.

The US and French navies teamed up for combined exercise Chesapeake 2018. Central to the exercise was fully integrating a French navy air wing with a US Navy carrier air wing aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The exercise is partially driven by routine maintenance to France’s only aircraft carrier—the Charles De Gaulle—which requires an 18‑month overhaul every 10 years. French pilots must participate in similar exercises to maintain their flying competency during the overhaul period. The combined forces trained for several scenarios, including search and rescue. US and French planes flew 458 sorties totaling 724.5 flight hours.

Flight path

US Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said that the US has an advantage over Russia and China in the production of fifth-generation aircraft like the F‑35. The comments were made during his testimony to Congress about the USAF’s FY2019 budget. The F-35 is the centerpiece of the US Air Force’s next-generation fleet, but even without it the USAF’s current generation F‑15s may be able to match Russia’s Su‑57 stealth fighter.

Taiwan’s defence minister re-iterated Taiwan’s interest in purchasing the F 35B, which he said matches the country’s stealth fighter requirements. The US has been non-committal about selling the fighter to Taiwan, probably because of fears of Chinese espionage. The more pertinent question is whether the F- 35B is really the most useful for Taiwan’s air defence. On 15 May reports emerged that Taiwan is deploying mobile air radar systems on its F‑16Vs, which could detect and possibly destroy China’s J‑20 stealth aircraft.

India and Russia began devising a plan to get around US sanctions on Russian weapon makers. India was set to purchase the S‑400 Triumf air defence systems from Russia. While the US has long encouraged India to switch to US defence suppliers, sanctioning India over the S‑400 may be counterproductive—for India’s ruling party, re-starting the acquisition process would be costly and politically poisonous.

Rapid fire

The Australian Defence Force put its new equipment to the test during a live-fire exercise at Victoria’s Puckapunyal training centre in Victoria. The stand-out piece in the training was the Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle, which offers increased protection from IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades, and fires up to 200 rounds of ammunition per minute. Also included were a range of vehicles selected under the LAND 400 Phase 2 Project, including the Australian light armored vehicle. A showpiece of military hardware, Exercise Chong Ju is described as Australia’s greatest ‘fireworks’ display.

In a shocking statistic, military training kills more US troops than war. reports that nearly four times as many military personnel died in routine training accidents in 2017 as were killed in combat. In particular, aviation accidents are at a six-year high, likely due to aging equipment and a faster deployment schedule. The House Armed Services Committee reported that 80 service personnel dies in non-combat accidents compared with 21 deaths in combat.

The Taliban has declared that it will not target Afghan police and military personnel who quit those forces. In the rare statement, the Taliban distinguished between Afghan security forces and NATO forces, announcing that it intends to focus its attacks on Americans and their foreign allies. The amnesty pledge follows the Taliban’s unsuccessful offensive in Farah, in western Afghanistan, which killed 58 Afghan security personnel.

Zero gravity

Move over Elon Musk, there’s a new space company in town. Last week Chinese company OneSpace launched its first rocket, the first by a private company in China. Some have pointed out the similarities between OneSpace and SpaceX, in particular that both receive government funding. It will be interesting to see how this affects the small-satellite market, as OneSpace aims to become a global player in small-satellite launches. A report by Mordor Intelligence says that China, India, Japan and Singapore are the countries leading the small-satellite market in the Asia–Pacific.

Although some argue that there’s a space race in Asia, rapid developments in space technologies aren’t occurring only in that region. The UAE Space Agency is looking to develop an earth observation satellite. The preliminary design of the MeznSat 3U CubeSat satellite has been reviewed, with the hope to launch it in late 2019. Earlier this year, the UAE built its very first satellite, which it sent to South Korea to be launched.

Wired watchtower

Australia’s cybersecurity minister indicated that the government would soon issue new legislation to compel providers of encrypted services to take ‘reasonable steps’ to assist law enforcement. Criminals and terrorists use encrypted communications services, but concerns about privacy have made services like Telegram unwilling to cooperate with police and intelligence agencies. The arrest of a French terror suspect on 19 May based on Telegram messages may indicate another solution: cracking the encryption code.

Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon is poised to spend almost $1 billion on a range of combat-ready robots. Bryan McVeigh, the US Army’s Project Manager for Force Prevention, anticipated that there’ll be robots in every Army formation ‘within five years’. The US deployed 800 robots in the last 12 months, and has ordered more than 1,200 more. The acquisition comes amid heightened debate about the role of robots and artificial intelligence in warfare, and its moral and philosophical implications.

India and the Netherlands have taken a step to strengthen their cybersecurity cooperation. The Indian city of Hyderabad will get a new cybersecurity cluster, bringing together institutions from Hyderabad’s Security Foundation and the Netherlands’ Hague Security Delta. The centre will focus on cybersecurity, counterterrorism and information sharing. It will be launched today. Earlier this year India hosted a seminar calling for greater cooperation with the Netherlands in science and technology.