The five-domains update

Sea state

Two new Chinese warships have been launched at Dalian shipyard in northeastern China. Chinese media say that the new Type 052D guided-missile destroyers bring the country’s total to 20, as the People’s Liberation Army Navy plans to compete with the US Navy’s 66 Arleigh-Burke destroyers. Analysts have argued that the rate of shipbuilding will slow in China as the PLA Navy refocuses its attention to training, crew management and fleet operations.

Turkey launched the Denizkurdu, or ‘Sea Wolf’, exercise last week to display its deterrent capability. Denizkurdu is taking place in the eastern Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas and involves 31 warships, including frigates, corvettes, submarines and naval artillery. It’s the second major exercise to be held by the Turkish Navy this year, after ‘Blue Homeland 2019’ in February.

The Royal Navy’s explosive disposal team has detonated a sea mine off the Isle of Wight. The mine was picked up by a civilian vessel’s fishing net on Saturday. The Ministry of Defence said that the mine contained 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of explosives and was likely to have been laid by a German vessel during World War II. Watch the mine being detonated here.

Flight path

The US Air Force has brought a B-52H Stratofortress bomber back into service 11 years after it was sent to the ‘boneyard’ in Arizona. This is the second time the USAF has brought a B-52 back from desert storage; the first time was in 2015. The bomber’s return brings the US fleet of B-52s back to 76, the highest number the US is allowed to keep in service under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiated between the US and Russia in 2011.

Seven Rafale fighter aircraft assigned to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle were forced to make emergency landings in the northwestern Indonesian province of Aceh due to adverse weather conditions. The French aircraft carrier, which has been taking part in multilateral exercises with India, Japan and Australia, will be docked in Singapore during the Shangri-La Dialogue later this month.

Angola has taken delivery of its final two Su-30K fighter aircraft after ordering 12 of the fighter jets from Russia in 2013. The Su-30Ks were retired by the Indian Air Force in 2006 and sent to Belarus in 2011 when India replaced them with more advanced Su-30MKIs. Angola is governed by the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, which has maintained positive relations with Russia ever since it received military support from the Soviet Union during the Angolan civil war between 1975 and 2002.

Rapid fire

Members of the Colombian army have been ordered to double the number of criminals and militants they ‘kill, capture, or force to surrender in battle’. The head of Colombia’s army made the order in response to continuing criminal, guerrilla and paramilitary violence. The new order also says operations may be launched with just 60–70% ‘credibility or exactitude’. The pressure to increase body counts has prompted fears of a return to the unlawful killings of the mid-2000s, when, according to the UN, up to 5,000 civilians and guerrillas were killed outside of combat operations.

The Thai army will buy 37 refurbished ‘Stryker’ armoured vehicles from the US. The US$80 million deal is the first time the Strykers have been sold to another country and supersedes Thailand’s earlier plans to buy Chinese VN1 armoured personnel carriers. The Bangkok Post reports the US will give the Thai army a further 23 Strykers for free as part of the deal.

The US Army will explore the potential for commercial exoskeletons to be used on the battlefield. Exoskeletons can enhance a soldier’s physical capabilities, prevent injury and reduce strain on the body. The US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center has issued a four-year, US$6.9 million agreement in order to undertake an operational evaluation of exoskeletons including Lockheed Martin’s Onyx suit.

Final frontier

NASA’s ‘Astrobee’ flying robot has undergone its first checks on the International Space Station as the agency trials automated caretaking on the spacecraft. Using electric fans, the robot is able to guide itself around the ISS using cameras and sensors. The robot is intended to assist with maintenance and caretaking duties, alleviating the burden on astronauts. Systems like these will become more important as humans endeavour to push deeper into space.

NASA has selected 11 companies to develop technologies for its lunar lander program in an effort to boost public–private partnerships to enable greater space exploration and reach the moon again by 2024. These companies will now be able to develop prototypes of technologies needed for a lunar lander, and will likely focus first on smaller hardware such as cooling systems and pumps.

SpaceX’s launch of its first batch of ‘Starlink’ satellites has been delayed. Launch was originally set for last Wednesday but was postponed due to high-altitude winds. It was called off again the following day because more software upgrades were reportedly needed to maximise the chances of mission success. The rescheduled launch is set to take place this week but no date has yet been confirmed.

Wired watchtower

Israeli company Archimedes Group has been banned from Facebook for using disinformation to interfere in elections around the world. Archimedes Group is a political marketing firm that advertised the ability ‘to change reality according to our client’s wishes’. According to the Facebook investigation, countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America were targeted. Facebook reportedly removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, groups and events associated with the company and other unidentified groups from Israel.

China is set to implement a more stringent regime of ‘cyber rules’ for foreign companies operating in the country. The new rules would strengthen the country’s ‘multilevel protection scheme’ and extend supervision to mobile internet, the internet of things, cloud computing and industrial security systems. Foreign companies in China face unclear cyber rules and are concerned that they will have to surrender business-critical data or permit inspections by the Chinese government.

Sri Lanka was hit by a wave of cyberattacks over the weekend. TechCERT, Sri Lanka’s computer emergency readiness team, said the attacks were politically motivated and related to celebrations marking the end of the Sri Lankan civil war on 18 May. The Kuwaiti embassy, as well as a research institute, a university and 10 private institutions, were reportedly targeted.