The five-domains update

Sea state  

A US destroyer and Canadian frigate transited the Taiwan Strait last week in a second joint passage in less than two months. According to US Pacific Command, the event was an ‘unremarkable’, ‘unprovocative’ and demonstrated the commitment of the US and its partners to ‘a free and open Indo-Pacific’. While Taipei has welcomed such manoeuvres, describing them as promoting regional peace and stability, China said that its troops were ‘on constant high alert’ after the transit.

Lisa Franchetti has been sworn in as the US Navy’s 33rd chief of naval operations. Admiral Franchetti is the first woman to take on the top naval role, which also makes her the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She was confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 95 to 1. She had been performing the job in an acting capacity since August and was first commissioned into the navy in 1985.

Flight path

Last week, the US Air Force terminated an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test over the Pacific Ocean due to an anomaly. A launch analysis group will investigate the cause of the failed test and correct any issues. The Minuteman IIIs have been operational since 1970 and will be replaced by all-new LGM-35A Sentinels in the next decade. The Sentinels will feature upgraded motors, engines and guidance systems but use the same configuration and nuclear warhead design as the outgoing Minutemans.

On 2 November, the Israeli Air Force announced that one of its F-35I Adir fighter jets had shot down a cruise missile fired from Yemen. Video footage taken by the pilot and shared online appears to confirm that Iran-backed Houthi rebels had fired the cruise missile and that an AIM-9X Sidewinder was used in the interception. The mission was a world-first for the American-made stealth fighter, building its combat credibility by showcasing its ability to detect and defeat high-speed threats flying at a low altitude.

Rapid fire

The US Army has received the first of four ‘indirect fire-protection capability—high-power microwave’ prototypes designed to protect American soldiers and facilities from swarms of aerial drones by hitting them with neutralising microwave radiation. The prototypes were developed by Epirus, which won the contract after its Leonidas system outperformed six other systems during testing. The transportable, containerised system will provide fixed and semi-fixed sites with short-range defence against small and medium-sized drones. The last prototype is slated for delivery early next year.

France will send dozens of armoured vehicles to the Lebanese army to help it coordinate with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. The vehicles will be used to protect Lebanese forces as they conduct patrol missions in the country. The news follows reports of a coordinated attack by Hezbollah on 19 Israeli border positions. Since the outbreak of the Israeli–Hamas war on 7 October, intensifying clashes between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon have claimed the lives of at least 50 Hezbollah fighters, seven Lebanese civilians, eight Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian.

Final frontier

South Korea is set to launch its first domestically developed spy satellite at the end of November, aiming to improve its surveillance of North Korea’s nuclear activities. The satellite will be deployed from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. South Korea, which currently relies on US spy satellites, plans to launch four more of its own by 2025, strengthening its independent space-based surveillance capabilities with the goal of achieving near-real-time monitoring of North Korea. This development complements South Korea’s ‘three-axis’ system, a military strategy to deal with threats from North Korea that comprises pre-emptive strike, missile defence and retaliatory strike capabilities.

China successfully launched its Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing-10 (TJS-10) satellite last week, aboard a Long March 7A rocket. Chinese state media said that the satellite will be used for multiband and high-speed communication experiments, operating in geostationary orbit approximately 35,786 kilometres above the earth. However, Chinese authorities haven’t disclosed further details about the TJS-10, raising speculation about its true purpose. Analysts have suggested that it might be part of a broader program encompassing improvements to signals intelligence and missile early warning systems.

Wired watchtower

The US, South Korea and Japan have formed a high-level consultative group to counter North Korean cyber activities. While the primary objective is to bolster the three nations’ collective response capabilities against global cyber threats, it puts specific emphasis on jointly addressing North Korea’s use of cyber activities to finance its build-up of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The strategic collaboration delivers on a commitment made in August during the trilateral leaders’ summit at Camp David.

Australian government online service platform myGov has suspended thousands of accounts due to concerns that they were compromised by ‘scam-in-a-box’ kits purchasable on the dark web. The kits enable the creation of fake websites and teach scammers to launch phishing attacks on government agencies. Some also offer security controls, helping cybercriminals conduct multiple scams simultaneously and evade detection. Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said Australians had already lost $3.1 billion to scams this year, including through breaches of myGov.