The five-domains update

Sea state

The Department of Defence is scoping ways to modernise its submarine shipyard in Adelaide so that the navy’s Collins-class submarines can continue to be serviced there. This comes amid political and industrial tensions and concerns about a proposal to move full-cycle dockings for the class to Perth. Defence officials are reportedly  planning to visit the UK later this year to speak with British officials about how they redeveloped their shipyard in northern England.

The US Navy has deployed its littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords to the Indo-Pacific region, carrying with it new naval strike missiles that can travel more than 100 nautical miles and precisely target adversaries through image-matching technology. The deployment is the latest sign that the US Navy is stepping up its presence in the Pacific. A navy spokesperson has said that it could have as many as 66 deployable littoral combat ship crews within the next five years.

The Academician Ageev, the first ship of Russia’s Project 16450 class, has reportedly been transferred from the Pella Leningrad Shipyard to the Kanonersky Shipbuilding Plant for completion because the Pella shipyard’s dock wasn’t big enough. The oceanographic research vessel is being built for the Russian defence ministry’s main directorate for deep-water research, which is responsible for ‘underwater engineering’ and systems like undersea drones.

Flight path

Japan’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed that it’s seeking to increase its fleet of Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tankers, in accordance with its latest budget request. The ministry has asked for an additional US$1.05 billion to complete a 2015 order for two tankers and buy two more. Japan already has two KC-46A tankers on contract with Boeing, which are scheduled to be delivered in 2020 and 2021, though both could be delayed due to missteps in the program.

The RAAF’s No. 4 Squadron flew four Pilatus PC-9As over the New South Wales Hunter region to celebrate the end of an era. The planes are scheduled for retirement next month and will be replaced by new PC-21 aircraft in early 2020. The PC-9As were routinely used for integrated training and were ‘invaluable’ in joint ground and air units. The turboprop aircraft were useful because they could fly low and in noise-sensitive areas where faster jets could not.

US Air Force officials are investigating the accidental firing of a live rocket from an A-10C Thunderbolt II jet near Tucson, Arizona, during a training mission. The M156 air-to-ground rocket eventually landed in a remote desert area and no injuries or damage were reported. This is at least the second accident involving an A-10 this year. In July, a bird strike on an A-10 caused it to release three practice bombs over a restricted area in Florida.

Rapid fire

Injecting nanoparticles that convert infrared light into visible light may help soldiers see in the dark without cumbersome night-vision goggles. Tests on mice have shown that the particles attach to photoreceptors for up to 10 weeks with no apparent lasting side-effects. More study needs to be done on the technology’s safety and fitness for purpose before it can be deployed in humans in the field.

British Aerospace firm BAE Systems and the Australian Army are working together to ‘take soldiers off future battlefields’ by converting two M113 AS4 armoured personnel carriers into autonomous vehicles. The vehicles, which will be completed by October, are part of the army’s ‘robotic and autonomous systems strategy’ and could eventually provide logistical support and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

US and Turkish Forces have conducted a joint observation patrol of the Syrian ‘safe zone’ along the Syria–Turkey border. The buffer zone will help Turkey address its security concerns by keeping the US-backed Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, away from the Turkish border. The YPG is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey. Turkish officials claimed the patrol as a success as the YPG withdrew troops and defensive fortifications from the area.

Final frontier

India’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has located the missing Vikram lander on the moon’s surface. The craft went quiet during its scheduled landing on the moon’s southern polar region, losing contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation two kilometres above the moon’s surface. While Vikram has been located, ISRO is still in the process of establishing a connection with the lander as it attempts to find out what went wrong.

The Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo campus will be home to Australia’s first quantum optical ground station—a transmitter that uses lasers rather than radio waves to send and receive data from space. The ANU’s Francis Bennet predicts that the station will ‘put Australia at the forefront of what could be the next space race in terms of data communication’.

The US Air Force Space Command’s annual Schriever Wargame began last week at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. This year’s game is set in 2029 and the scenario involves an adversary using a diverse range of threats associated with the five operating domains—sea, air, land, space and cyber—to gain a strategic advantage. Around 350 military and civilian personnel from the Five Eyes countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US) are participating in the exercise.

Wired watchtower

The UK National Cyber Force will be led by a female intelligence officer who is considered the best offensive cyber spy in Britain. The force is being set up as part of a joint venture between the Government Communications Headquarters, better known as GCHQ, and the Ministry of Defence. The agency, which has been allocated a budget of £250 million (A$448 million) and an initial intake of 500 hackers, will undertake both offensive and defensive cyber operations against state and non-state actors.

Huawei has accused the US government of targeting the company with cyberattacks and misinformation, as well as intimidating and misleading Huawei employees and partners. The company’s accusations were outlined in a bullet-point list, though it didn’t indicate whether the US had been successful in its purported efforts to ‘disrupt [Huawei’s] normal business operations’. The statement came after it was revealed that the US Department of Justice was investigating the company over alleged technology theft.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has issued a directive to internet service providers to continue to block eight sites that have refused to remove content relating to the Christchurch terror attack. The directive provides ISPs with the legal authority to maintain the blocking of the sites for another six months. It’s the first time the commissioner has used her powers since the government passed legislation aimed at preventing the spread of violent material online.