The five-domains update

Sea state

The Indian and French navies have begun the 17th iteration of their annual bilateral naval war exercise off Goa. Varuna 19.1/19.2 features two aircraft carriers, FNS Charles de Gaulle and INS Vikramaditya, plus supporting flotillas of missile destroyers, frigates, submarines and tankers from both navies. The first phase of the exercise will include simulated attacks on ships and air combat drills.

The Indonesian Navy says one of its patrol vessels was rammed by two Vietnamese coastguard ships after intercepting an illegal Vietnamese fishing boat in its waters in the South China Sea. A video distributed by the Indonesian Navy seems to show armed Indonesian crewmembers shouting profanities at the Vietnamese ship during the collision. Indonesia has sunk hundreds of illegal fishing vessels from Vietnam, the Philippines, China and other nations since 2014.

Russia is planning to build a new logistics centre near the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk to help its northern fleet handle transport operations in the Arctic. The facility will be crucial for reloading and storing supplies for military activities. The site’s developers say it will have the capacity to handle 27,000 tons of solid goods, 78,000 tons of fuels and lubricants and 260 vehicles and units of machinery. It’s estimated the facility will cost 15 billion rubles (A$329.1 million).

Flight path

The Royal Australian Air Force’s EA-18G electronic attack aircraft has achieved initial operating capability. Based on the F/A-18F airframe, the ‘Growler’ provides Australia with unique joint electronic warfare capabilities. IOC has been reached despite the loss of one of the RAAF’s 12 Growlers to an engine fire incident in January last year at the annual Red Flag exercise in Las Vegas.

It’s unclear if the US Air Force has located the wreckage of the Japanese F-35A which went missing on 9 April. According to a Nikkei Asian Review article last week, the head of Pacific Air Forces, General Charles Brown, said the main wreckage of the missing jet had been located. But that has since been denied by a spokesman for US forces in Japan. The F-35’s Japanese pilot is still missing.

Four Italian Air Force F-2000A Eurofighter aircraft have been deployed to southeast Romania on a NATO air-policing mission. NATO forces support regular air-policing missions in Romania as well as air-defence missions in the Baltic states. But it’s the first time Italian Eurofighters have been deployed to the country, where they’ll support the Romanian Air Force’s Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft.

Rapid fire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the deployment of tanks, artillery and infantry forces to reinforce troops stationed near the border with Gaza, raising fears of a ground invasion. In the worst violence in the area since 2014, 24 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed. More than 600 projectiles have reportedly been fired from the Gaza Strip, and Netanyahu has ordered ‘massive strikes’ in retaliation.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay says his country will not back down on its planned procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. The US has threatened Turkey with possible sanctions if it pursues the deal, claiming the S-400 may compromise US-made F-35 jets. Turkey is taking part in the construction of F-35s and plans to buy some itself. Acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan says the US will pull F-35 support from Turkey if it buys the S-400 from Russia.

Raytheon has been awarded a US$159 million contract to provide support for training exercises at the US Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany through its Mobile Instrumentation System. The technology allows forces to train together while in different locations by gathering data from allied units in their home countries and sending it back to Germany to be analysed.

Final frontier

SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed during a recent test at Cape Canaveral. After footage of the test was leaked online, the company’s vice president of mission assurance said the destruction of the craft was linked to the starting of the ‘SuperDraco’ engines that power the spacecraft’s emergency escape system. The Crew Dragon project is already behind schedule, but NASA has said it wants the capsule to begin flying US astronauts later this year.

Japanese company Interstellar Technologies has successfully launched its MOMO-3 rocket into space, expanding ‘the horizons for private spaceflight’. It’s the first private Japanese rocket to reach space, after the company’s two previous attempts failed. Interstellar aims to provide an alternative to expensive government launches of rockets capable of ferrying satellites into orbit.

Rocket Lab has successfully launched three small satellites into space for the US Air Force from New Zealand. Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab has capitalised on the rapidly expanding small satellite launch industry, which has brought about a small revolution in the way the US and other countries have thought about space warfare.

Wired watchtower

The facial recognition system that Queensland police used during the 2018 Commonwealth Games was reportedly rushed and didn’t have enough data to work properly. The system was unable to identify any high-priority targets and there were difficulties with its ‘data ingestion’. During the games, the technology was also used for basic policing and only found five of 268 identities requested of it.

Police in the Philippines will investigate claims that the Chinese state could use Huawei to engage in espionage. The probe was announced after local media questioned Huawei’s sponsorship of an anti-cybercrime summit. Last year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a US$400 million agreement for Huawei to provide a video surveillance system called ‘Safe Philippines’ in Manila and Davao.

US military research agency DARPA is testing a network of sensors designed to detect and alert authorities to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. The ‘SIGMA+’ initiative aims to enable the detection of threats on citywide and regional scales through a network of sensors and network algorithms. The program’s pilot study at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was successful. This video gives a clear overview of the program and how it works.