The five-domains update

Sea state

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has successfully tested its next generation of submarine-launched ballistic missile in Bohai Bay in northeastern China. The Julang-3 will be added to the future Type 096 submarine and is thought to have a range of 12,000–14,000 kilometres. Meanwhile, three PLAN warships have stopped over in Sydney as they make their way from the Gulf of Aden, where they were conducting anti-piracy operations. The arrival of the warships, which wasn’t announced to the public beforehand, came a day before the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The US Navy has confirmed that it received a request to ‘minimise visibility’ of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain prior to President Donald Trump’s visit to Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan last week. Trump has clarified that he would never request such a move, saying that it had been done by a ‘well-meaning’ person who thought he didn’t like McCain. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said that he never authorised any action around the movement of the destroyer. The Pentagon has since told the White House to stop politicising the military.

Flight path

Last week, the Royal Australian Air Force wrapped up exercise Diamond Storm in the Northern Territory. More than 2,000 personnel, including some members of the US Air Force and US Marine Corps, trained on a range of high-end warfighting scenarios. Almost every type of RAAF aircraft was used during the exercise. F/A-18A/B Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, C-130J Hercules, P-8A Poseidons and E-7A Wedgetails flew alongside Hawk 127s, C-17A Globemasters, and KC-30A refuellers.

Poland’s defence ministry has made a formal request to the US for the acquisition of 32 F-35A fighter jets. Poland is speeding up the modernisation of its air force due to a series of accidents and maintenance issues that have occurred with its ageing Russian-made MiG-29 and Su-22 aircraft. Poland could receive its first F-35s shortly, as the US may stop the delivery of F-35s to Turkey.

France will take delivery of new H160M Guépard (‘Cheetah’) joint light helicopters two years ahead of schedule. The start of the H160M program has also been brought forward by one year to 2021. It will replace five other helicopter types currently in use by France’s three armed services. French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the decision is motivated by operational requirements and the need to demonstrate the helicopter’s capabilities for the export market.

Rapid fire

South Korean defence group Hanwha has announced it intends to bid for the $10–15 billion Land 400 Phase 3 project to replace the Australian Army’s M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers. Hanwha plans to provide the AS21 Redback infantry fighting vehicle, which would be built in Victoria in partnership with Australia’s Electro Optic Systems and Israel’s Elbit Systems.

The US Army has launched a market survey to see if American companies can make ammunition for Russian-designed weapons. Many US-backed groups in places like the Middle East use Russian- or Soviet-made weapons and this plan could allow the US to send groups ammunition instead of switching them to US arms. In response, Russian arms manufacturer Rostec said it would sell ammunition to the US if sanctions were lifted.

US Army leaders have discussed the potential for 3D printing to meet the demands of fast-moving combat units in future warfare. There are concerns that the current supply system would be unable to meet the demand for spare parts in a future war. The technology can produce plastic or metal parts quickly and could have significant battlefield potential.

Final frontier

Australian start-up Equatorial Launch Australia has been selected by NASA to provide launch services from 2020. Four rockets will be launched from the Arnhem Space Centre next year. This is the first time NASA has selected a provider to conduct launches from a non-government-owned location and represents an exciting opportunity for Australia’s space industry.

Just months after US-based space launch company Stratolaunch successfully flew the world’s largest plane, it’s being reported that the company will be shutting down and selling off its assets. Questions about the company’s continuation have swirled around since founder Paul Allen’s death late last year. There has been no confirmation from Stratolaunch about the company’s future yet.

The recent launch of 60 Starlink satellites by SpaceX to mark the beginning of its telecommunications ‘megaconstellation’ has raised questions about the effect satellites have on astronomy. The solar panels on satellites like these reflect light back to earth and may pose an obstacle to astronomical photography. However, others say any obstruction would be minor and that any reflections will only be particularly noticeable at certain times of year.

Wired watchtower

NTT Security’s 2019 global intelligence threat report has found that Australia’s government-funded organisations have stronger cybersecurity than their international counterparts. After analysing the data of 10,000 clients globally, the report’s authors gave Australia’s public sector a score of 2.92 out of 5 for cyber maturity—above the global public sector average of 1.45. The organisation said that the result was due to the sector’s response after cyberattacks in recent years.

Over the weekend, Twitter suspended the accounts of more than 100 users in China who had been critical of the government, three days before the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Twitter apologised, saying that the accounts had been wrongly suspended during a ‘routine action’ that can sometimes ‘catch false positives’. Twitter said the accounts were not reported by Chinese authorities, but many commentators and activists remain unconvinced.

The US city of Baltimore has been hit with a ransomware attack targeting city services. The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency lost control of the hacking tool EternalBlue in 2017, and that the cyber criminals had paired it with malware nicknamed ‘RobbinHood’ to attack Baltimore’s computer systems. City authorities say they will seek Federal Emergency Management Administration funding to help clean up the damage caused by the ransomware.