The five-domains update

Sea state

The chief of the Royal Australian Navy has confirmed that the first of the submarines being built by French contractor Naval Group may not become fully operational until 2035. Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said that the new submarines would need to undergo several rounds of testing before they could be declared fit for service. ASPI senior analyst Marcus Hellyer has argued that at least three, if not all, of the current fleet of six Collins-class submarines should have their life spans extended with a ‘life of type extension’ rebuild to offset the risks of the new submarines being delayed.

India’s first nuclear ballistic-missile submarine, INS Arihant, completed its first deterrence patrol last week, marking India’s acquisition of land-, air- and sea-based nuclear weapons. The submarine can be armed with long- and short-range nuclear ballistic missiles. Some experts argue, however, that New Delhi is still some time away from establishing a credible deterrence option at sea and a true nuclear ‘triad’.

One of the Norwegian navy’s Nansen-class frigates, Helge Ingstad, was involved in a major collision with an oil tanker near the port of Sture last week. The frigate’s 137-strong crew lost control of its steering and deliberately ran the vessel aground to avoid it sinking. That resulted in an oil spill, which has now been brought under control. The loss of the US$400 million ship is a big blow to the Norwegian navy.

Flight path

An F/A-18 Super Hornet from the US 7th Fleet crashed into the Philippine Sea near Okinawa yesterday after suffering mechanical problems. Two aviators were rescued and are reported to be in good condition. It’s the second time in less than a month that an aircraft from USS Ronald Reagan has crashed; in October an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter crash-landed on the carrier’s deck, injuring 12 people. The Hornet is widely used in the US Navy, but in January General Robert B. Neller commented that they had too many Hornets and not enough time to fix them.

Watch footage of what the US says is a ‘dangerous’ intercept of one of its aircraft by a Russian jet. The incident, which occurred in international airspace over the Black Sea, happened when a Russian Su-27 abruptly cut in front of an EP-3 Orion before igniting its afterburners, causing the US aircraft to vibrate. The Russian embassy in the US said the jet followed ‘all necessary safety procedures’.

Korea Aerospace Industries and the Indonesian Air Force have signed contracts for the delivery of three KT-1B training aircraft and for a capability upgrade to Indonesia’s T-50i Golden Eagle jet trainer. The contracts, worth a total of US$89 million, were announced at the Indo Defence Show in Jakarta on Thursday. Indonesia owns 19 KT-1Bs, which is South Korea’s first indigenous aircraft.

Rapid fire

The Indian Army has unveiled new long-range mobile artillery weapons known as the K9 Vajra and M777 ultra-light howitzers. India has spent US$1.31 billion buying 145 of the US-made M777s and 100 units of K9 Vajra, which is self-propelled. Both weapons fire 155-millimetre shells and the M777 will be deployed at high-altitude borders with Pakistan and China. In 2010 Pakistan acquired 115 used M109A5 155-millimetre self-propelled howitzers through US foreign military sales.

Colt’s Manufacturing has been awarded a contract worth US$88.6 million by the US Department of Defense to produce modified M4 and M4A1 carbine rifles. The department also announced that Colt’s has been awarded a contract for the procurement of close to 10,000 M4s and M4A1s to be delivered to US-allied forces as part of the foreign military sales program.

Turkey’s BMC has agreed to terms with the Turkish presidency of defence industries for production of ‘third-generation advanced’ modern tanks for the Turkish military. The Altay-T1 tanks will come with state-of-the-art technology including the ability to shoot down a tank-targeting missile in motion and to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets and missiles. The first of a batch of 40 tanks is scheduled for delivery within 18 months.

Zero gravity

One of three computers in the Russian module of the International Space Station crashed last week. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said the glitch shouldn’t affect operations and that it was able to reboot the system not long after it went down. This is the latest in a series of setbacks for international space exploration, particularly Russian operations. Since August, Mars rover Opportunity disappeared, a hole was found in a Soyuz spacecraft, the Hubble Telescope malfunctioned, and the manned Soyuz launch failed.

An unmanned Japanese cargo ship successfully replenished supplies on the International Space Station. The HTV-7, launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in September, delivered more than 5 tonnes of food, science gear and other supplies. The ship is disposable and designed to disintegrate in the earth’s atmosphere. It’s a key part of the robotic cargo fleet that has stocked the ISS for the past 18 years.

After many delays, Rocket Lab—a California-based aerospace company—launched its first commercial rocket on Sunday. The mission, dubbed ‘It’s business time’, took off from a private launch pad outside of Auckland, New Zealand, carrying six small satellites into low-earth orbit. The rocket also trialled ‘drag sail’ technology, which attaches a sail to the rocket’s kick stage, pulling it into the earth’s atmosphere, where it burns up. The technology is intended to be attached to commercial satellites and set to activate when their function is terminated, reducing the amount of debris in space.

Wired watchtower

Last week’s lone-wolf terror attack in Melbourne has added fuel to the ongoing debate on legislation to enable Australian authorities to access encrypted communications. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has stressed the need to authorise police to override encryption to prevent similar incidents in the future. Legislation outlined in the Assistance and Access Bill could compel communication service providers to build new interception capabilities or use existing ones and share the information with federal authorities, a proposal that has been met with concern.

Cybersecurity experts are urging Canada to ban Huawei from its 5G network over security fears. University of Toronto expert Christopher Parsons has cited Australian and American government concerns about Huawei’s obligations under Chinese law as a reason to drop the company from Canada’s 5G network. Huawei has collaborated extensively with Canadian universities and companies to develop 5G network infrastructure. The company has been banned from participating in the construction of the 5G networks in both Australia and the US.

The Bank of England held a day-long cyber war game to test the attack-readiness of the UK’s financial infrastructure. Around 40 firms and government agencies participated in the voluntary exercise designed by the bank in collaboration with the UK’s national cybersecurity centre, which is part of GCHQ, the country’s intelligence and security service.