The five-domains update

Sea state

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. Beijing has invited more than 10 countries to take part in a fleet review and is expecting naval delegations from 60 other countries. While Chinese state-run media has presented the fleet review as an attempt to build better transparency and avoid naval conflict, China will also use the parade to showcase its newest warships and submarines, including the Type 055 destroyer and Type 001A aircraft carrier.

After repeated postponements, Indonesian shipyard PT PAL in Surabaya has launched the first Indonesian-built electric submarine. The construction of KRI Alugoro was assisted by the South Korean company Daewoo under its US$1.1 billion project DSME1400. That contract has produced two other submarines; KRI Nagapasa was commissioned in 2017 and KRI Ardadedali was transferred to the Indonesian navy in 2018.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if the country is unable to export its oil. The vow follows US President Donald Trump’s announcement that all countries importing Iranian oil will be subject to US sanctions. Exports of Iranian oil have halved since US sanctions took effect last year. The revolutionary guard was designated as a terrorist organisation by the US earlier this month.

Flight path

The US may give Japan secret information on the F-35 fighter jet to jumpstart the development of a new fighter aircraft for the country’s air force. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force will take delivery of 147 F-35s, but Japan still wants to develop its own stealth fighter jet, years after the US refused to export its F-22 Raptors. Lockheed Martin may receive US permission to give Japan information on sensitive technology.

US F-35s, meanwhile, have begun their first combat deployment to the Middle East, landing at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. The F-35s are replacing F-15Cs, which themselves replaced a deployment of the US Air Force’s ‘most capable’ fighter aircraft, the F-22. The stationing of F-35s in the UAE follows recent deployments of the aircraft to the South China Sea and Europe.

The first of three leased Dassault Falcon 7X aircraft has been delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force. The aircraft will be based at Fairbairn in Canberra, replacing Bombardier Challenger CL-604 aircraft used to transport government VIPs—though two larger 737-based business jets will remain on the books. The Falcon has a range of up to 11,000 kilometres and can land on remote airstrips.

Rapid fire

The US Army will deploy a ‘terminal high-altitude area defence’ interceptor to Romania in the first THAAD deployment to Europe since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The THAAD system will temporarily replace NATO’s Aegis ballistic missile defence system, which is a land-based variant of the US Navy’s Aegis weapons system, while Romania’s Aegis Ashore site undergoes maintenance.

British defence chiefs have expressed anger over the plan to mothball a third of the army’s tanks. The British Army is planning to upgrade only 148 of its 227 Challenger 2 tanks, with the remaining 79 tanks to be used for spare parts. The Times reports that £31 billion ($57 billion) has been stripped from the army since 2010. The proposed cut to the armoured force follows rumours that the UK might try to offset some of the cost of Brexit by cutting military spending.

French military strategists met in Paris to consider the future of warfare and how the country’s army can adequately prepare for high-intensity conflict. The use of robots to supplement French ground forces was a key topic. But it doesn’t seem likely that France will integrate fully autonomous robots into the army anytime soon. The susceptibility of such systems to cyberattacks was also highlighted as a challenge to future fighting capabilities.

Zero gravity

On the sidelines of the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado, the USAF hosted a meeting with its allies—including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and European nations—about the need for greater cooperation in space as a part of the ‘Combined Space Operations’ initiative. With space situational awareness in focus, USAF Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said information-sharing in this domain will become increasingly important among allies. It’s expected that the meeting will become an annual event.

SpaceX has suffered a setback after an explosion was reported during engine testing of its ‘Crew Dragon’. The glitch is likely to delay NASA’s plans to launch astronauts from US soil. Meanwhile, SpaceX managed to land and recover rocket boosters from the first stage of its Falcon Heavy rocket. However, one booster was lost at sea. Rough conditions meant that SpaceX couldn’t send any crew members to secure the boosters once they had landed on the platform.

The US Department of Defense has awarded a US$605 million contract to Boeing to develop and build the 11th wideband global satellite communications system. The satellites are used mainly to support the USAF’s warfighting capabilities, but, through a partnership agreement, the Australian Department of Defence has access to them.

Wired watchtower

The US Central Intelligence Agency reportedly has proof that Chinese telecom giant Huawei has received funding from Beijing’s state security apparatus. A source for the Times has said that Huawei has taken money from the People’s Liberation Army, China’s National Security Commission and a third branch of the Chinese state intelligence network. If these allegations are true, Huawei will no longer be able to maintain its long-running denial that it depends on Chinese government support.

Embassies across Europe have been targeted by Russian hackers. The hackers used spearphishing attacks containing malicious Microsoft Excel files to corrupt and weaponise remote-access service TeamViewer, giving them complete access to and control over computers. The malicious files were created to resemble official documents from the US State Department. It has been reported that Nepal, Guyana, Liberia, Bermuda and Lebanon were successfully targeted in the attack.

US and Japanese officials have confirmed in a joint statement that the security treaty between the two countries could apply to cyberattacks against Japan. Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya met their US counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, for the first ‘2+2’ dialogue held since 2017. The joint statement also reaffirmed that the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea are covered by the security treaty.