The five-domains update

Sea state

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has commissioned its first Soryu-class diesel–electric submarine equipped with lithium-ion batteries. The lithium-ion batteries store significantly more energy than the lead-acid batteries used in earlier subs. The 4,100-tonne JS Oryu is the 11th Soryu-class submarine to be built and came at a cost of ¥66 billion (A$969 million).

China has rejected the US Navy’s report that it fired a laser at US maritime surveillance aircraft operating in international waters in the Philippine Sea. China’s defence ministry says instead that the US Navy P-8 Poseidon was circling its ship at low altitude despite ‘repeated warnings from the Chinese side’. Incidents at sea between China and other countries have been occurring more frequently in recent years.

Australian-based shipbuilding company Austal has handed over to Fiji the sixth of 19 patrol boats it’s constructing for a number of countries. This vessel will help Fiji combat transnational crime and respond to illegal fishing. It’s hoped the new boat will strengthen Fiji’s maritime capabilities and the Fiji–Australia Vuvale Partnership.

Flight path

Australia will sell 46 of its F/A-18 Classic Hornet jets to flight-training firm Air USA. The Royal Australian Air Force will retire its F/A-18 fleet by 2023 as it transitions to the new F‑35A. The Defence Department said that the US Air Force intends to use the aircraft, which first entered service in the 1980s, for adversary combat training. So far, the RAAF has taken delivery of 20 F-35s out of an order of 72.

The German government has approved more than €300 million (A$518 million) in funding to improve the capabilities of the Luftwaffe. Around 80% of this budget will be used to update the Luftwaffe’s ageing Tornado aircraft, which are used for NATO nuclear burden-sharing and the suppression of enemy air defences. Another €27 million (A$47 million) will be used to equip Germany’s six new C-130J Hercules transport aircraft with missile warning systems.

Rapid fire

Australia has expressed its support for the peace deal signed between the US and the Taliban on Afghanistan. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, meanwhile, has indicated Australian troops will withdraw from the country under the 14-month timeframe outlined in the agreement. More than 26,000 Australian troops served in Afghanistan and 41 were killed, while 400 remain in the country. Negotiations between the Afghan government, which was not a party to the agreement, and the Taliban are scheduled to begin today, but they might be jeopardised by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s refusal to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

An Indian Supreme Court ruling that women should have equal roles to men in the army doesn’t represent a feminist victory, according to gender activist and lawyer Shreshtha Das. She argues that the ruling fails to address deeper issues with the army’s entrenched ‘hyper-masculinity’ and other concerns about military practices that disproportionately hurt women.

Final frontier

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has selected Northrop Grumman’s SpaceLogistics for the its program to service geosynchronous satellites using robots. SpaceLogistics will provide the first commercial spacecraft with a robotic arm that can perform repairs, inspection or relocation of other commercial or military satellites. The US Defense Department is also seeking logistics vehicles that can ferry payloads between satellites, act as fuel depots or transfer space vehicles to new orbits.

Just Security has published a three-part forum analysing space-based military legal issues under the ‘Woomera manual’ tagline. The manual is an international project, led by the University of Adelaide, the University of Exeter, the University of Nebraska and UNSW Canberra, to clarify existing international law applicable to military space operations. Most space-faring nations are party to the Outer Space Treaty; however, the document is becoming increasingly outdated and lacks general rules of interpretation.

The launch of the United Arab Emirates’ Falcon Eye 2 has been delayed due to issues with the upper stage of the Soyuz rocket it’s set to use. The Russian space industry have been criticised by Parabolic Arc, which calculated that there have been an average of two failures annually by Russian launch vehicles over the past 30 years. Currently, only Russian Soyuz spacecraft can launch astronauts into space as US commercial crew vehicles aren’t yet ready.

Wired watchtower

The electronic records system of the Australian Defence Force’s recruitment arm was taken offline and quarantined from other military networks for 10 days last month, while specialists worked to contain an apparent security breach. An investigation by Defence has found no evidence of data being stolen from the company contracted to manage it. However, given previous hacks of Australian institutions, politicians have expressed concern about the apparently sophisticated nature of the attempt.

Cybersecurity executives from Huawei have admitted they don’t know whether Huawei technology has aided government surveillance activities overseas. Despite assurances that Huawei is working to improve exploitable vulnerabilities, there have reportedly been several instances in which Huawei technicians and subsidiaries have been used in domestic surveillance in Iran, Uganda and Zambia.

While Taiwan was expected to be hard hit by coronavirus given its links and proximity to mainland China, unique steps taken by the Taiwanese government have helped prevent a major breakout. One such step has involved integrating the national health-insurance database with immigration and customs data, which has allowed for quick identification of cases and their degree of infectious risk.