The five-domains update

Sea state

The US Navy will hold its first-ever joint maritime drill with all 10 ASEAN member states next month. According to the US embassy in Bangkok, the purpose of the maritime exercise is to ‘maintain maritime security, focus on prevention and pre-empt wrongdoing in the sea’. The announcement came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought support for the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy at a regional summit earlier this month.

The UK has sent a third warship to the Persian Gulf to as part of the US-led effort to safeguard freedom of navigation. The destroyer HMS Defender will join HMS Kent and HMS Montrose in providing ‘reassurance to the shipping industry’ against Iranian aggression. The deployment comes as tensions continue to rise between Iran and Britain after their tit-for-tat detainments of each other’s oil tankers.

Photos have revealed that China is building what’s set to be the Chinese navy’s largest amphibious assault ship. The Type 075 ship, which is being constructed in Shanghai, will feature a flight deck for five or six large transport helicopters and is expected to launch at the end of this year. Once complete, the vessel will dwarf most of its international counterparts and will become the centrepiece of China’s amphibious capability.

Flight path

Chinese military officials ‘responded with fury’ after US President Donald Trump approved the sale of 66 F-16V jets to Taiwan in a US$8 billion deal. Somewhat confusingly, a Chinese officer also claimed the new jets would be ‘useless’ for Taiwan’s protection and will be an ‘extra financial burden’ on the Taiwanese people. This is the second time this year that Beijing has condemned American arms sales to Taiwan. China said it would sanction US firms involved in the sale, though manufacturer Lockheed Martin does little business in China.

Boeing has been awarded a US$999 million contract to supply the US Air Force’s remaining 109 A-10 Warthogs with wing replacements after it completed a package of 173 wing replacements earlier this month. If all options are implemented, Boeing will supply 112 wing assemblies and 15 wing kits, which will ‘increase the flexibility of the aircraft, depending on how many are needed in the future’. The USAF had considered retiring the A-10, which has been in service for about 40 years, but this announcement is expected to extend the lives of the planes into the 2030s.

The Israel Defense Forces have confirmed that Israeli soldiers on the Golan Heights last week opened fire on a civilian light aircraft that they believed was hostile. It’s possible the aircraft was mistaken for a Syrian drone since there have been previous drone incursions into the area. Local media reports the plane was a crop-duster that was spraying fields near the Syrian border.

Rapid fire

The Australian Army has announced a $30 million deal with Saab Australia to provide ‘fully integrated maintenance support’ for its ground-based air defence and counter-rocket, -artillery and -mortar systems as well as its radar capability. The contract streamlines existing agreements to ensure the ‘availability and effectiveness of these important capabilities’ being fielded by the 16th Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery.

Around 220 engineers from Australia, Timor-Leste, Japan and the US are in Dili for Exercise Hari’i Hamutuk, which means ‘build together’ in Tetum. Australian Brigadier Matt Pearse said the exercise is ‘a great opportunity for our sappers to work alongside and learn from other security forces in the region’. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the exercises will ‘enhance regional partnerships at a time of historical significance for Australia and our Timorese neighbours’, a reference to the 20th anniversary of the Australian-led intervention in the country.

Jane’s reports that ‘Centre 2019’ will take place next month and will be Russia’s largest military exercise this year. It’s expected to involve ‘at least 128,000 personnel from seven nations, as well as 600 aircraft and up to 450 artillery systems’. Quoting Russian news agency TASS, Jane’s says the exercise will also involve China, Pakistan, India and other Central Asian nations to demonstrate the ‘readiness of the military of Russia and Central Asian states to protect national interests’.

Final frontier

India’s Chandrayann-2 mission entered the moon’s orbit last week, putting it on track for its scheduled lunar landing in early September. The mission, which was launched on 22 July, will be the first to examine the moon’s southern polar region and includes a lander designed to execute a soft landing on the moon’s surface. If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth nation to land on the moon, following Israel’s failed attempt earlier in the year.

Sierra Nevada Corporation revealed its ‘Large Inflatable Fabric Environment’ (Get it?—Eds) prototype in Houston last week. The prototype is an inflatable ‘human-tended orbital platform’ designed to ‘support missions on the moon’s surface and future flights into deep space’. It’s one of five concepts NASA is considering for its lunar outpost known as Gateway. Sierra Nevada repurposed technologies from its Dream Chaser program to develop the habitat, which will be able to fit inside a rocket and then expand to 8 metres by 8 metres once deployed.

The Trump administration has formally issued a new space policy that establishes a three-tier approval system for the use of spacecraft with payloads carrying systems to support the use of nuclear power in space. The first two tiers require the approval of a spacecraft’s sponsoring agency, and in certain cases a yet-to-be-established interagency nuclear safety review board, while the third tier requires presidential authorisation.

Wired watchtower

Australia will block access to internet domains that host terrorist material during terror attacks and that host ‘abhorrent’ material recorded by the perpetrator of a terror attack. The e-safety commissioner has been tasked with determining what to block on a case-by-case basis, and a 24/7 crisis centre will be established to monitor online content. The government will also consider whether to force digital platforms to improve the safety of their services through legislation.

Amid ongoing unrest in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, the Indonesian government has enforced an internet blackout in the region. A spokesman for the country’s communications ministry confirmed that the internet would remain blocked to the population there ‘until the situation gets back to normal’.

Ukrainian security services have discovered an illegal bitcoin mining operation at a nuclear power plant in the south of the country. A worker had installed bitcoin-mining equipment in one of the nuclear plant’s administrative buildings, inadvertently exposing the plant’s internal network to the internet. The worker responsible was demoted and ordered to pay for the electricity used by his computers.