The five-domains update

Sea state

Israeli naval forces thwarted an infiltration attempt by Hamas divers on Tuesday. The divers entered Israeli waters through a tunnel that took them from land directly into the sea. They were intercepted by the Israeli navy, which opened fire and killed two divers. Since Hamas’s invasion of southern Israel earlier this month, Israel has foiled a number of infiltration attempts by sea, including on the morning of 7 October.

Thailand has announced that it will suspend its purchase of Chinese-built diesel-electric attack submarines. The country has already paid a US$193.7 million instalment to China for one of the three submarines, but has proposed that the money be applied instead to the purchase of a Chinese frigate. Thailand was supposed to receive the first submarine from China this year, but Beijing failed to deliver, citing issues with obtaining ‘appropriate’ engines.

Flight path

Lockheed Martin has withdrawn from consideration to build at least 75 refuelling tankers as part of a multibillion-dollar US Air Force contract. Airbus, however, which Lockheed Martin had planned to collaborate with to build the promoted tankers, will still compete for the contract, which is at the request-for-information stage. Lockheed Martin’s decision to drop out could increase the chances that its competitor Boeing will sell the air force more of its KC-46 Pegasus tankers.

The US Air Force has increased its presence in the Middle East to six squadrons with the deployment of the 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to US Central Command. The addition of the squadron’s F-16 jets will support coalition air operations throughout the region as the US works to deter any further widening of the Israel–Hamas war. The squadron’s deployment follows a series of missile strikes and drone attacks on US bases by Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq and Syria.

Rapid fire

The Australian Defence Force’s MRH-90 Taipan helicopters have been withdrawn from service, more than a year earlier than planned. The ADF is instead focused on acquiring a fleet of 40 UH-60M Black Hawks, the first of which already flying in Australia. Defence Minister Richard Marles has said that the announcement doesn’t suggest any particular outcome of the ongoing investigation into an incident on 28 July this year in which a Taipan crashed during Exercise Talisman Sabre, killing the four crew members on board.

Lithuania has finalised a US$100 million deal to procure 36 AIM-120C-8 air-to-air missiles from the US. The news comes just three months after Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anusauskas, urged NATO members to quickly implement the decisions made at the bloc’s summit in Vilnius. The missiles possess beyond-visual-range and home-on-jamming capabilities and will be used with Lithuania’s two ground-based advanced surface-to-air missile systems to strengthen the Baltic’s collective missile defence.

Final frontier

A Chinese military satellite had a near miss with an Australian commercial satellite earlier this month, prompting fears of a collision that would create dangerous space debris. Details of the incident emerged around the same time that the head of Australia’s Defence Space Command warned of new risks from the proliferation of satellites in the skies above earth. According to Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Defence Space Command worked with Canberra-based company Skykraft to manage the situation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signed a new technology safeguards agreement to strengthen space launch activities with the US during his official visit to Washington this week. The agreement provides a legal and technical framework for American space companies to launch vehicles from Australia and is an important step for Australia’s growing space sector. ASPI’s Malcolm Davis says the deal may pressure decision-makers to more quickly approve commercial launch plans at sites in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Wired watchtower

Cyber volunteers are helping evacuees fleeing Gaza regain access to their online accounts and lock out potential intruders. Hamas is holding at least 220 people hostage and has reportedly hijacked victims’ Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts to issue death threats, live-stream attacks and lure civilians from safe rooms. The new tactic is a worrying development, particularly as the war is poised to enter a new phase.

The Australian Signals Directorate will partner with Microsoft to build a ‘cyber shield’ to bolster Australia’s cyber defences as part of a US$5 billion digital infrastructure investment agreement. The initiative forms a key part of the government’s new cybersecurity strategy and will enhance authorities’ ability to identify, prevent and respond to cyber threats. Microsoft will also expand its hyperscale cloud computing in Australia over the next two years and increase its local data centre footprint in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.