The five-domains update

Sea state

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender is tailing a Russian naval taskforce as it edges close to the UK’s territorial waters. Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov was accompanied by three auxiliary ships as it sailed past northeast Scotland last week. The frigate is fitted with Fillin 5P-42, a ‘visual optical interference’ weapon that can cause nausea, dizziness and disorientation.

Pakistan says it has ‘stopped’ an Indian submarine from entering Pakistani waters. The Pakistani navy released a grainy black-and-white video timestamped at 8.32 pm last Monday. A Pakistani military spokesman said that Pakistan did not target the submarine, citing the ‘government’s policy of maintaining peace’ after a major spike in tensions between the two nations.

A Perth-based subsidiary of US company Phoenix has won a $388 million contract to provide submarine rescue services to the Royal Australian Navy. Phoenix will work with the West Australian government to develop facilities at the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson that will support both Collins-class and Attack-class submarines for more than 25 years.

Flight path

A week after Boeing unveiled its ‘Loyal Wingman’ unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) for the RAAF, the US Air Force’s own UCAV demonstrator made its inaugural flight in Arizona. Known as the XQ-58A Valkyrie, the unmanned aircraft is designed to operate autonomously or alongside manned aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35. It’s hoped that UCAVs will help the US Air Force address rising aircraft costs and a declining aircraft inventory.

The Polish Air Force is facing critical maintenance issues with its fleet of MiG-29 Fulcrums. Three Mig-29s have crashed in the past 15 months, most recently last week. Poor relations between Poland and Russia have made it difficult for Poland to maintain its fleet of ageing aircraft, most of which are more than 30 years old. In recent years, Poland has expressed interest in buying American F-35s to replace its Russian MiG-29 and Su-22 fighters.

The US has deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system to Israel for the first time, in what the US says is a test of its ability to deploy the system at short notice. Built by Lockheed Martin, THAAD is designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles. THAAD became the focus of a major diplomatic dispute in 2016 when China criticised South Korea’s decision to deploy the US system on its territory.

Rapid fire

The US Army will soon introduce a new combat helmet, the ‘integrated head protection system’, which increases the amount of protection against blunt impact to a soldier’s head by 100% over the army’s old lid. The new boltless retention system has reduced the number of holes in the helmet, making it significantly stronger. The helmet is part of the army’s new ‘soldier protection system’, which will provide personnel with better, lighter body protection.

The UK will form a new battalion of Gurkhas and will begin recruiting for it this year. As envisaged in the country’s 2015 defence review, the 3rd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles will be a specialised infantry battalion. Additional Gurkha engineer and signals squadrons will also be established, and the role of Gurkha units in the UK-led NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps will be enhanced. Gurkha veterans are also set to receive a pension increase of up to 34%.

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has announced the 10 successful applicants of the 2018–19 Army History Research Grants Scheme. The $48,746 of government funding will support research on a wide range of topics, including the Rats of Tobruk and foreign-born soldiers’ experiences in the Australian Imperial Force.

Zero gravity

As a part of their efforts to increase their collaboration in space, France and India have signed a deal to start joint space-based maritime surveillance. Under the agreement, a ‘constellation’ of satellites will be established to track shipping in and around the Indian Ocean and experts will be trained in France. The two countries’ space agencies are now working towards establishing the necessary orbital infrastructure for the next phase of the program.

Canada has announced its new national space strategy and become the first country to commit to NASA’s lunar gateway project. Under the new strategy, artificial intelligence, lunar science and robotics will be focuses for Canadian involvement in space. A new generation of ‘Canadarm’ robotics will be developed to help repair and maintain the gateway.

NASA has announced plans for its first all-female space walk. On 29 March, astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain will undertake a seven-hour mission to replace batteries on the International Space Station. It’s another in a line of milestones since cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space (and first person to weld in space) in 1984.

Last week we reported that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon had docked with the International Space Station. Over the weekend, the capsule  landed safely landed back on earth.

Wired watchtower

Leaked documents reveal that the US government created a secret database of journalists and immigration activists who worked with asylum seekers in Mexico. At the end of last year, around 5,000 immigrants travelled from Central America to the southern US border. Those who helped migrants or covered their journey have since reported being regularly targeted by border officials, but until now there had been no information confirming that US citizens were being monitored.

Thousands of people in Russian cities protested a new cybersecurity bill over the weekend. The bill, which passed parliament last month, requires all Russian internet traffic to move through Russian servers, preventing the use of VPNs and isolating the country’s internet service from the rest of the world. The government claims the law will improve cybersecurity, while activists say it will be used for censorship and have labelled it an online ‘iron curtain’.

Facebook will roll out a plan to reduce the amount of anti-vaccination misinformation on its social media platforms. Lawmakers and public health advocates have pressured the company to take down anti-vaccination content following a resurgence of measles cases in the US. YouTube has also announced new measures to prevent the dissemination of harmful misinformation.