The five-domains update

Sea state

The commander of the coronavirus-hit aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Brett Crozier, has been relieved of his post. Crozier wrote a letter to naval command asking for stronger measures to counter the outbreak on board his ship, details of which were leaked to the public. Crozier himself has since tested positive for coronavirus and acting navy secretary Thomas Modly has apologised after calling the captain ‘naïve’ and ‘stupid’.

A Venezuelan patrol boat sank near the Caribbean island of La Tortuga after it rammed a cruise ship. The collision left the Portuguese-flagged cruise ship, which has a reinforced hull for sailing in Antarctic waters, with only minor damage, while the Venezuelan vessel took on water and sank. See video of the incident here. Venezuela’s navy later said a rescue mission had successfully retrieved the patrol boat’s crew.

Flight path

The Japanese Ministry of Defence is pursuing the local development of a next-generation fighter aircraft to replace its Mitsubishi F-2 fleet after it rejected proposals by multiple foreign manufacturers. The ministry said the proposals ‘were judged not to have met our needs’ and there is ‘enough technology to make a fighter development project possible domestically’. Japan is, however, leaving open the option of collaboration with other countries on the project.

A NATO C-17 transport jet has been used to airlift 45 tons of medical equipment from South Korea to Romania in response to Covid-19. As part of the Strategic Airlift Capability arrangement that was established in 2008, 10 NATO allies and partner countries Finland and Sweden jointly own and share flight hours and costs for three C-17 Globemasters. A NATO-supported Antonov AN-124 transported another 48 tons of equipment from China to Slovakia.

Rapid fire

The Australian government has halted the deployment of the 2020 Marine Rotational Force in Darwin, the annual rotation of US Marines in the Northern Territory. It began in 2012 and aims to strengthen collaboration between the Marines and the Australian Defence Force. Despite calling off this year’s planned rotation, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia and the US would work to come up with options for a later deployment.

Turkey says its troops in Syria will reduce their movements due to concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The measures follow a stark increase in the number of cases of the virus in Turkey. Turkey has been backing rebels in Syria’s civil war for years but in March it launched a major offensive, declaring war on the Russia-backed government of Bashar al-Assad, though Ankara later agreed to a ceasefire.

Final frontier

Russia continues to maintain the world’s third-largest military satellite constellation. In its Space threat assessment 2020, the Center for Strategic and International Studies reports Russia has also invested in a range of counterspace weapons including ground- and air-launched missiles capable of targeting satellites in low earth orbit. Russia has 51 communication satellites and 16 earth-observation satellites of its own and it’s thought the country spends at least US$4 billion annually on military space capabilities.

A camera designed by Western Sydney University in partnership with the US Air Force Academy will be sent to the International Space Station. The Falcon Neuro system uses Intel ‘neuromorphics’ chips designed to mimic biological processes and capture images more efficiently. The cameras will study Transient Luminous Events, which occur when lightning travels upwards from the clouds into the atmosphere. These events disrupt critical global communication systems and high-altitude aircraft.

Wired watchtower

Citizen Lab has found significant weaknesses in video-conferencing system Zoom’s encryption scheme that could allow for the decryption and monitoring of calls. The investigation also found that encryption and decryption keys were distributed through servers in China. Limitations in cryptography, security issues and offshore servers may make the app a target for hostile foreign actors. In response to these concerns, the Defence Department has banned the use of Zoom.

Australian governments, medical experts and the media have used mobile phone location data to track Australians’ movements during the coronavirus pandemic. Vodafone provided the location data of several million Australians to the NSW and federal governments to monitor whether people were obeying social distancing measures, Google published a report on how Australians’ movements have changed, and location data from the Citymapper app has also been accessed. While some argue that using this data poses privacy risks, others have pointed to the value of utilising technology to combat the virus as has been done in Taiwan and Singapore.