The five-domains update

Sea state

The US Navy is developing a new network architecture with the US Air Force to better link all their platforms together. Named the ‘new Manhattan project’, the aim is to allow the navy to network with air force command and control platforms over a wide area, in order to meet the rising challenge from China. This comes as the chief of naval operations also hinted that the navy may look beyond traditional aircraft carriers for its future aviation needs.

Captain Miho Otani has become the first woman to assume command of a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis missile destroyer. She will take charge of the Myoko, which has a crew of around 300. Speaking to reporters, she said she would like appointments like hers to become the norm. Otani became the first Japanese female warship captain in 2016, when she was promoted to the command of the destroyer Yamagiri.

France has ordered six offshore patrol vessels from shipbuilder Socarenam. While no official specifications have been published, it’s reported that they could carry remotely controlled weapons systems and will be used to patrol France’s economic exclusive zone ‘in a context of increasing threats to [its] fishing resources, biodiversity and international maritime rules’. The vessels are set to be delivered between 2022 and 2025, and will be based in France’s Pacific Ocean territories and islands.

Flight path

The Royal Australian Air Force held its inaugural Exercise Christmas Drop Australia last week. The RAAF airdropped gift parcels to isolated Indigenous communities in Queensland and Western Australia, using a C-27J Spartan aircraft. Wing Commander Ben Poxon said the exercise was a chance for the air force to test out the C-27J, which is used to deliver combat supplies to troops, allowing crews to conduct tactical training while also delivering some Christmas cheer.

The USAF is looking to use augmented reality and virtual reality technologies for pilot training, but because many of the technologies use Chinese components, their ability to be used for secure training is limited. The use of virtual reality systems has shortened basic training programs for new pilots, but the risk of data breaches is preventing the technology from being used with the air force’s most advanced aircraft like the F-35.

A MiG-23 fighter aircraft belonging to the Libyan National Army (LNA) was shot down by opposition forces last week. According to an online video, people claiming to be members of the Libyan Government of National Accord used a portable missile to target the aircraft, though the video doesn’t show the aircraft being hit. The LNA has acknowledged the loss of the MiG-23, but said it crashed due to technical issues. The pilot apparently managed to eject from the plane.

Rapid fire

For the first time in 10 years, Australian and Bruneian soldiers took part in a joint training exercise named Mallee Bull at Brisbane’s Gallipoli Barracks. The two-week exercise focused on ‘integration training in urban environments with mechanised vehicles and reconnaissance’. The Australian Army says the exercise was an opportunity to enhance security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as deepen regional counterterrorism partnerships.

For 80 years, the Land Engineering Agency has been designing, developing and testing critical equipment for the Australian Army. The agency provides specialist engineering support for a wide range of equipment, ensuring the army is combat-ready. Most of the testing occurs on a 260-hectare site in Monegeetta, Victoria, where weapons, body armour and vehicles are subject to rigorous testing including extremes of heat and cold and electro-magnetic interference.

The US Army should look to 3D printing, especially for parts that require regular replacement, according to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. Parts made by 3D printers can be lighter and more durable than their traditional counterparts and can also reduce costs and increase the availability of weapons and vehicles. Compared to the commercial sector, which now routinely uses 3D parts, the uptake of 3D printing has been slow in the military mainly because of concerns over reliability.

Final frontier

The European Space Agency has signed on to NASA’s mission to test whether a ‘kinetic impactor’ could successfully deflect an asteroid. As part of the mission, ESA and NASA will each send a spacecraft to Didymos, a double-asteroid system, to test and assess the impact of NASA’s double asteroid redirection test, known as DART. NASA will first slam a probe into a satellite of Didymos called Didymoon. The ESA will then assess the effects using a spacecraft and two cubesats.

The second version of the ‘crew interactive mobile companion’ known as CIMON 2, has reached the International Space Station. The robot, built by Airbus, is equipped with IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system, has received an upgrade called the ‘Watson Tone Analyzer’, which enables it to assess and react to astronauts’ emotions. An IBM representative said the update means ‘CIMON has transformed from a scientific assistant to an empathetic conversational partner’.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station over the weekend, delivering more than 2,585 kilograms of supplies and equipment. The delivery was the 19th resupply mission for NASA by SpaceX under the company’s commercial resupply services contract and the spacecraft’s third trip to the station. The mission had been scheduled for launch on 4 December but was postponed for a day due to high winds.

Wired watchtower

The federal government has agreed to establish a Senate select committee that will look into the risk posed to Australia by cyber-enabled foreign interference. The focus of the inquiry will be the spread of ‘fake news’ on social media and its impact on Australia’s democracy. The committee is expected to hold a series of hearings with policy experts over the next 12 months before presenting a final report to parliament.

Reddit has issued a statement linking the account involved in the leak of the details of UK–US trade talks on its platform to a campaign ‘originating from Russia’. As a result of its investigation, the company has banned one subreddit and 61 accounts. The UK government has said that it’s ‘looking into the matter’, news of which comes amid heightened concerns over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision not to publicly release the parliamentary intelligence committee’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Russian investigative outlet MBKh Media has revealed that access to Moscow’s network of more than 170,000 surveillance cameras is being sold on the black market. For A$690, anyone can purchase the username and password of a government-accredited official with access to the cameras, and gain access to the entire network, which includes 3,000 facial recognition cameras. Access to live footage from a specific camera can be gained for ‘tens of dollars’.