The five-domains update

Sea state

The Defence Department has confirmed that the Royal Australian Navy was tailed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy as the Australians transited through the South China Sea for Exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019. Defence has said that the engagement was ‘friendly’ and ‘professional’. The RAN was also challenged by the PLAN last year on a friendly visit to Ho Chi Minh City. The Indo-Pacific Endeavour exercise wrapped up on Monday, as HMAS Canberra docked in Darwin.

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have visited Yokosuka, where the US Navy’s 7th Fleet and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet are based. The leaders went aboard the Kaga, Japan’s largest current warship. The Yokosuka base is the US Navy’s biggest forward operating base.

The launching ceremony for the Italian Navy’s multipurpose amphibious vessel Trieste was held yesterday at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Castellammare di Stabia near Naples. The Trieste has been designed as a multirole landing helicopter dock capable of deploying aircraft and amphibious vehicles and equipment. The vessel is being constructed in line with the navy’s ‘green fleet’ environmental policy and will carry out command-and-control functions at sea and undertake evacuation and humanitarian assistance operations. The navy is expected to take delivery of the Trieste in the first half of 2022.

Flight path

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar says Turkish military personnel have flown to Russia to start training to use the S-400 missile defence system. Tensions between the US and Turkey have increased in recent months over Turkey’s decision to buy the system. There are concerns Russia could use the Turkish S-400 to collect valuable information on the F-35, which Turkey also plans to buy. The US has suspended deliveries of the F-35 to Turkey and has threatened to impose sanctions if Turkey doesn’t cancel the S-400 deal.

Royal Air Force F-35B Lightnings have started their first overseas deployment. The aircraft are taking part in Exercise Lightning Dawn from RAF Base Akrotiri in Cyprus, a training exercise that’s designed to help the RAF familiarise itself with the logistical and technical challenges of deploying the F-35B overseas. The Royal Navy is expected to fly F-35Bs from HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year.

Danish Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen has said Denmark will station fighter jets in Greenland if Russia’s military expansion in the Arctic threatens Danish sovereignty. Russia doesn’t currently pose any immediate threat to Greenland, but the minister’s warning may signal increasing unease about Russia’s military activities in the Arctic. The Royal Danish Air Force has 30 F-16s in its inventory, but none of them are permanently stationed in Greenland.

Rapid fire

The National Interest has taken an in-depth look at the US Army’s M-1A2C Abrams tanks, which are expected to come into service in the next few months. They are the latest variant of the Abrams, which first entered service in 1980. The latest version boasts the Trophy active-protection system, more armour and more electric power. It’s also easier to upgrade, meaning it will be able to host technology that’s still being developed by the US.

For Memorial Day, the US Army tweeted, ‘How has serving impacted you?’ Many of the nearly 12,000 replies recounted stories of the dark consequences of army service, including PTSD, depression and anxiety, chronic pain and suicide. The army replied that it is ‘committed to the health, safety, and well-being’ of its soldiers and shared the contact details for the Veterans Crisis Line. The tweet has been criticised as tokenistic, and there have been continued calls for broader reform and better government support of veterans.

Israel has attacked a military post in the south of Syria, killing two people. The Israeli Defense Forces said they were responding to a Syrian anti-aircraft system that fired at an Israeli aircraft which was reportedly undertaking a routine flight in Israel. Syrian media reports that Israeli strikes have hit targets in Syria twice already this month.

Final frontier

Writing for Defence Connect, Stephen Kuper has analysed Australia’s need to develop anti-satellite capabilities. In light of Australia’s rapidly modernising and expanding military capabilities, he says it’s essential that the satellite systems which support the networked systems of the Australian Defence Force are protected. That means exploring both ‘soft kill’ and last-resort ‘hard kill’ capabilities.

China’s space program suffered a blow last Thursday when one of its Long March 4 rockets failed during launch. State media reportedly confirmed that the first and second stages of the rocket operated normally before the third stage failed. It was carrying a remote-sensing satellite, which experts say may be used for military reconnaissance purposes. This is the first rocket launch failure for China since 2017.

A meteor, thought to have been the size of a car when it hit the atmosphere, landed off the coast of southern Australia last week. Social media was ablaze with videos and reports of the fireball that lit up the night sky on Tuesday. According to NASA, objects like this enter the atmosphere only three to six times a year, so residents in Victoria and South Australia were lucky to catch a glimpse of this incredible phenomenon.

Wired watchtower

Two proposals to limit the sale of facial recognition technology were rejected by a majority of Amazon’s shareholders last week. The proposals were pushed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is concerned that the unregulated use of Amazon’s Rekognition software may infringe Americans’ right to privacy. Earlier this month, San Francisco became the first US city to ban the use of facial recognition technology.

The US Air Force and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will collaborate to develop the USAF’s artificial intelligence capabilities. The USAF will contribute US$15 million to undertake cooperative research into the use of AI in areas which will serve the ‘public good’, such as humanitarian aid. In the past, there has been backlash from students about research being used to develop weapons, though MIT says it doesn’t undertake such research.

The 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which was just approved by the World Health Organization, classifies ‘gaming disorder’ as a disease. The health risks of addiction to video games are well documented, but some experts have criticised the WHO’s decision, saying video-game addiction could be a symptom of other underlying issues like depression.