The five-domains update

Sea state

Naval Group has contracted Schneider Electric France to provide the main DC switchboards for the Royal Australian Navy’s Attack-class submarines. The switchboards will distribute power from the submarine’s batteries and diesel generators to many of the submarine’s systems. While Schneider Electric plans on transferring some of the work to its Australian subsidiary and using local suppliers for equipment, the deal has sparked concerns that too little business from the submarine build is going to Australian companies.

SAMI-Navantia, a joint venture between Saudi Arabian Military Industries and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, has started building the first of five Avante 2200 corvettes for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. As part of the five-year €900 million (A$1.4 billion) contract, SAMI-Navantia will also provide combat system integration and installation, as well as logistical support and training programs, for the corvettes. Saudi Arabia finalised the purchase last year as part of its ‘Vision 2030’ program, which aims to lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign suppliers.

Turkish company Anadolu Shipyard could be banned from doing defence-related business in India due to its ties with Pakistan. Anadolu was selected in January as a technology partner in the Indian Navy’s US$2.3 billion program to build five fleet support ships. However, it is also developing anti-submarine corvettes for the Pakistan Navy. And last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised his concerns about India’s actions in Kashmir at the UN, effectively siding with Pakistan. With the deal now on hold, relations between India and Turkey may further deteriorate.

Flight path

China unveiled its ‘Sharp Sword’ unmanned combat air vehicle during its 70th anniversary military parade in Beijing last week. It’s thought the stealthy drone could have a payload of almost 2,000 kilograms and may eventually be deployed from aircraft carriers. Chinese state media said that the drone’s primary mission will be to conduct ‘deep penetrating strikes on critical targets’. Analysts have expressed concerns over the threat these drones could pose for Australia, and have stressed the need to respond to China’s growing military capabilities.

The South Korean air force has displayed four F-35A jets at the celebration of the country’s 71st Armed Forces Day to mark their official introduction into service. South Korea has already received eight of the 40 F-35s ordered as part of a US$6.15 billion deal—its biggest ever weapons purchase. In a possible response to the news, just a few hours after the show North Korea fired a missile off its east coast.

German defence officials have been notified by the Pentagon that it would take between three and five years less to certify Boeing’s F/A-18 to carry nuclear weapons than Airbus’s Eurofighter because the F/A-18 is already considered a nuclear-capable jet in the US. To comply with the NATO nuclear sharing doctrine, Germany currently has 80 ageing Tornado jets that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Germany wanted a ‘gap-less’ transition between the Tornados and their successor, which could tilt the race in the F/A-18’s favour.

Rapid fire

Team Defence Australia will take a delegation of 32 Australian companies to AUSA, the largest land warfare trade show in North America. The event attracts more than 30,000 attendees and will have 700 exhibitions from 100 countries. The Australian Defence Export Office’s assistant director said that AUSA will provide an ‘invaluable opportunity’ to display Australian products and services to the US military and major companies.

The US Army is reportedly considering the Lynx KF-41 infantry fighting vehicle as a replacement for the M2 Bradley as part of its optionally manned fighting vehicle program. The joint venture between Raytheon and Rheinmetall would share many features with the Lynx that has been offered to the Australian Army under phase 3 of the LAND 400 program and could provide opportunities for industry collaboration and supply chain linkages with Australian companies.

Defender 2020’ is set to be the third-largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War. The drill has been compared in scale to the ‘Reforger’ exercises held between 1969 and 1993 and will test the ability of US forces to move a division-sized contingent from North America to European ports and then to multiple locations across the continent. About 20,000 soldiers will be involved, along with heavy equipment, and they could be asked to deploy anywhere from the Nordic countries to the Caucasus.

Final frontier

Australia’s plans for an orbiting solar-power-generating satellite network have been revealed. The project is part of a joint venture between Australia and the US to develop space-based solar technologies. The satellites will sit in geo-synchronous orbit more than 35,000 kilometres above Australia and, if successful, will provide ‘limitless and unwavering’ power. ASPI’s Malcolm Davis writes that the move towards space-based solar power has the potential to ‘reshape global energy markets’.

The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency has outlined its plans to develop a large constellation of military satellites. According to the agency’s draft budget, it’s requesting more than US$10 billion over five years to develop a large communications network made up of around 1,200 satellites. The network would be used for military purposes, such as providing support for missile defence.

The Italian Air Force has signed a contract with Virgin Galactic to send a group of researchers on a suborbital spaceflight. It will be the first time that a government agency has sent researchers along to oversee payloads and conduct research on a commercial spaceship. The researchers will conduct experiments while they are in microgravity, to get a better understanding of the suborbital flight environment and the effects of exposure to microgravity. The SpaceShipTwo flight is expected to take off sometime next year from Virgin’s Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Wired watchtower

Microsoft has revealed that email accounts linked to a US presidential candidate’s campaign have been targeted by a group of hackers originating from Iran. The company noted that the hacker group, known as ‘Phosphorus’, carried out cyberattacks on 241 Microsoft accounts and managed to compromise four after making 2,700 attempts to identify their targets’ email accounts. Microsoft hasn’t revealed which candidate was the target.

Cybersecurity firm Check Point has traced a series of cyberattacks against Egyptian journalists, academics, lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights activists to the Egyptian government. Three apps were used to gain access to the targets’ phones. Once installed, the apps enabled the hackers to read the targets’ files and emails, track their locations, and identify who they contacted and when. Two of the targets were also arrested, which suggests that the Egyptian government is using the data for more than surveillance purposes.

Singapore’s communications minister has announced the launch of a Singapore–ASEAN cybersecurity centre of excellence. Over a five-year period, the centre will spend S$30 million (A$32 million) in an effort to support and strengthen capacity-building in the region. The centre will conduct research into legislation and norms, train national computer emergency response teams and promote information-sharing between participants.