The five-domains update

Sea state  

The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded a 10-year contract worth £270 million to British multinational BAE Systems to support the Royal Navy’s three main radar systems: Artisan, Sampson and Long Range Radar. Under the contract, BAE Systems engineers will upgrade and provide maintenance support for radars on navy ships. The minister for defence procurement said that the contract will boost investment in the UK’s supply chain and let adversaries know that the UK is ‘equipped, prepared and ready’.

Royal Australian Navy divers have assisted the Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police and Western Australian Police Force in a joint operation to seize about 800 kilograms of cocaine from a merchant vessel off the WA coast. The divers found 29 packages of the drug submerged in a water-filled ballast tank while the ship was detained at a berth at Kwinana in Perth’s south. The Defence Department said that the operation showcased the navy’s ability to ‘enhance maritime security, deter illegal activity at sea and protect national interests’ through close cooperation with Australian partners.

Flight path

The Indonesian Air Force will receive a second-hand fleet of 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighters by January 2025. The French-made jets were bought by Qatar in 1997 and will be sold on to Indonesia in a $1.1 billion deal financed by foreign loans. The sale is intended to plug a capability gap ahead of the introduction of 42 Dassault Rafale fighters in 2026. The decision also marks a reduction in Indonesia’s historical reliance on Russian military equipment, following the imposition of sanctions on Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine last year.

French aerospace company Dassault Aviation will introduce two new key capabilities to its ‘Super Rafale’ F5 program under France’s 2024–2030 military budget bill. According to an amendment tabled in the French parliament, the Rafale F5 will be paired with loyal wingman combat drones from the nEUROn program. The sixth-generation fighter will also be equipped with joint jamming radars and self-defence systems in a bid to challenge the air superiority and market dominance of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II.

Rapid fire

Additional NATO troops have been deployed to northern Kosovo following a surge in unrest that left more than 30 NATO soldiers injured. Violence escalated this month after ethnic Albanians were appointed as mayors in Serb-majority areas through an election boycotted by Serbs. The NATO-led peacekeeping mission Kosovo Force, deployed since 1999, now consists of around 4,200 troops. The majority of the reinforcements come from the Turkish Army’s 65th Mechanised Infantry Brigade Command.

African Union officials and Somali authorities have announced that the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) will withdraw 2,000 soldiers by the end of this month, aiming to conclude the mission completely by December 2024. ATMIS was formed in 2022 to replace the African Union Mission to Somalia that started in 2007. Concerns have been raised that a withdrawal of African Union troops could lead to a collapse of state institutions and spark a remobilisation of the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab.

Final frontier

South Korea has recovered part of a rocket used in North Korea’s failed attempt to launch its first military satellite last month. Military personnel salvaged a large cylindrical object from the sea last week and are continuing the search for additional objects. South Korea is investigating the debris alongside the US. One question it is hoping to answer is North Korea’s proclaimed name for the rocket—an anomalous label on the top of the rocket is missing a syllable.

Russia has announced that it has enhanced its ability to track and detect foreign spacecraft. The Russian defence minister was briefed about the capability contained at a new military facility by the commander of the Russian Space Forces. Russia’s drive for stronger space surveillance capabilities reflects its growing emphasis on space as a domain for military activities. These latest advancements in tracking and identifying space objects will likely bolster Russia’s situational awareness in space.

Wired watchtower

Russia-linked ransomware gang BlackCat, also known as AlphV or AlphaSpider, has claimed responsibility for an attack on major Australian law firm HWL Ebsworth, whose clients include 40 Australian government departments and agencies. The hackers reportedly obtained files on the redevelopment of the secret Woomera missile testing site, the Australian navy’s attack helicopter replacement project, and Australia’s Indo-Pacific enhanced engagement strategy. The government has established a crisis group to investigate what Commonwealth information is among the 4 terabytes of stolen data.

The UK has pledged an additional $47 million in funding for Ukraine to help the embattled country shore up its cyber defences. The support builds on the foreign secretary’s prior commitment of $12 million for the UK’s Ukraine cyber program. The funds are intended to bolster Ukraine’s ability to detect and disable Russian malware targeting critical infrastructure. The announcement follows an uptick in Russian cyberattacks and Ukraine’s ascension to NATO’s Cyber Defense Center, a move Kyiv said was ‘a step on the way’ to NATO membership.