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The five-domains update

Posted By , , and on March 3, 2021 @ 12:59

Sea state

Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered two senior naval officers to research alternatives to Australia’s $90 billion submarine contract with France’s Naval Group. Naval Group is yet to finalise its commitment to spend 60% of the contract value on Australian suppliers, something that’s put the deal for 12 submarines under strain and in part spurred a visit by the company’s chief executive, Pierre-Eric Pommellet. Meetings with ministers and officials reportedly resulted in Pommellet’s verbal commitment to the project and an in-principle agreement to the 60% figure. Given the sunk costs, time and credibility bound up in this project, it’s unlikely it will go under.

Japan has authorised its coastguard to fire at foreign vessels aiming to land on the Senkaku Islands. Japanese officials have reframed foreign landing attempts as ‘violent crimes,’ so that direct aggression wouldn’t contradict the nation’s self-defence-oriented stance. The announcement follows China’s enactment of an aggressive new coastguard law, which has been associated with an increase in Chinese intrusions into Japanese maritime territory. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reaffirmed his preference for a free and open rules-based order over ‘force or coercion.’

Flight path

Yesterday, Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force completed the first test flight of a pilotless jet dubbed the ‘loyal wingman’. The unmanned aircraft took off independently and flew a predetermined route supervised by a Boeing test pilot on the ground. The loyal wingman is the first military aircraft designed and manufactured in Australia since World War II. The project aims to be a landmark step in integrating autonomous systems with crewed aircraft in human–machine teams.

Last week, US President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed militia operating in the Syrian town of al-Bukamal on the Iraqi–Syrian border. US combat aircraft, reportedly F-15E fighter jets, dropped seven 500-pound (227-kilogram) precision bombs on seven targets, including warehouses and command-and-control centres, focusing on destroying facilities rather than causing casualties. The campaign was in retaliation for a rocket attack on a US airbase at Erbil in Iraq’s north in February, which killed one civilian contractor and injured nine others.

Rapid fire

US officials recently visited two Australian munitions production factories, at Mulwala in New South Wales and Benalla in Victoria. The visit followed a commitment made at the last year’s AUSMIN dialogue to enhance bilateral defence trade. The US representatives inspected the manufacturing process for 155-millimetre artillery projectiles that are expected to be supplied to US Indo-Pacific Command. The visit is considered as a starting point for both countries to explore further collaborations on other munitions.

A new type of high-mobility vehicle for US infantry soldiers was recently tested in the desert in Arizona and the first unit is scheduled to be in service by April. The vehicle is based largely on the Chevrolet Colorado ute and will enable infantry combat teams to transport up to nine soldiers with their equipment rather than having them travel on foot. The Pentagon has signed a contract worth US$214.3 million with GM Defense for 649 vehicles, though the army hopes to eventually have 2,065.

Final frontier

On 26 February, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars inside the Jerezo Crater. The US$2.7 billion mission will examine rocks and soil in the crater, which was a lake billions of years ago, to try to find evidence of previous microbial life, forming part of NASA’s larger plan to ‘explore the past habitability of Mars.’ The rover will spend at least two years on Mars collecting samples and assessing the planet’s climate to better understand the possibilities for further human exploration. Exploration of Mars is gaining momentum, with spacecraft from China and the United Arab Emirates currently orbiting the red planet.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has released a report advising that better defence mechanisms are needed to adequately protect satellites from grey-zone warfare. China and Russia are among those building weapons that disrupt and destroy satellites in orbit. Although little can be done to stem the creation of anti-satellite weapon systems, the threat they pose can be countered by technological and tactical strategies, such as using decoys to confuse the weapons’ sensors.

Wired watchtower

India has introduced new rules for big tech, adding to the challenges that companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are facing from governments around the globe. Social media firms will need to identify unlawful, violent or misleading content within 24 hours and will be required to break into encrypted messages. The government claims that the law is intended to make social media companies ‘more responsible and more accountable’. However, some worry that it’s a direct response to the government’s notorious disagreement with Twitter over its refusal to remove tweets during the recent widespread protests against proposed agricultural laws.

New concerns have been raised over users’ data privacy on Silicon Valley’s social media platform Clubhouse. The audio-based app, which lets people listen to discussions in live chat rooms, is reportedly recording users’ audio, deleting information and sharing identification data. Clubhouse has been criticised for encouraging users to share their contact lists and then monitoring email addresses and phone numbers without express permission from non-users. Clubhouse’s data-handling practices are also not clear.

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[1] senior naval officers: https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/pm-intervenes-in-submarine-debacle-20210223-p574yb

[2] finalise: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/french-submarines-all-but-locked-in-after-negotiation-breakthrough-20210302-p5771h.html

[3] visit: https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/90b-french-subs-project-could-sink-20210224-p575e5

[4] in-principle agreement: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/defence/naval-group-agreement-for-local-quotas-on-attack-submarines/news-story/e8b3df6489c47f17f01f1dc35703a27b

[5] unlikely it will go under: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/what-would-it-take-for-australia-to-walk-away-from-the-french-submarine-deal/

[6] fire at foreign vessels: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Japan-can-use-direct-fire-to-stop-Senkaku-invasion-lawmakers-say#:~:text=TOKYO%20--%20The%20Japan%20Coast%20Guard%20could%20directly,they%20have%20confirmed%20their%20interpretation%20of%20existing%20laws.

[7] aggressive new coastguard law: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/new-law-expands-chinese-coastguards-jurisdiction-to-at-least-the-first-island-chain/

[8] completed: https://www.reuters.com/article/boeing-defense-unmanned/boeing-australian-air-force-say-pilotless-fighter-like-jet-completed-first-test-flight-idUSL2N2L003Q

[9] first test flight: https://boeing.mediaroom.com/news-releases-statements?item=130834&utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

[10] ‘loyal wingman’: https://boeing.mediaroom.com/2020-05-05-Boeing-rolls-out-first-Loyal-Wingman-unmanned-aircraft

[11] ordered airstrikes: https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2516518/us-conducts-defensive-precision-strike/

[12] reportedly: https://www.airforcemag.com/f-15es-conducted-strike-on-iranian-backed-militias-in-syria/

[13] seven targets: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/25/us-airstrike-syria-471685

[14] rocket attack: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/39266/contractor-for-u-s-led-coalition-dead-u-s-serviceperson-injured-after-rocket-attack-in-iraq

[15] which killed: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/16/rocket-attack-us-airbase-iraq-kills-civilian-contractor

[16] visited: https://asiapacificdefencereporter.com/us-officials-visit-australian-ordnance-makers/

[17] infantry combat teams: https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2021/02/28/armys-infantry-squad-vehicle-undergoes-tests-at-arizonas-yuma-proving-ground/

[18] US$214.3 million: https://www.defensenews.com/land/2020/06/29/gm-defense-wins-infantry-squad-vehicle-production-contract/

[19] explore the past habitability of Mars: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/

[20] China: https://www.planetary.org/space-missions/tianwen-1

[21] United Arab Emirates: https://www.planetary.org/space-missions/uae-hope

[22] report: https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/210225_Harrison_Defense_Space.pdf?N2KWelzCz3hE3AaUUptSGMprDtBlBSQG

[23] new rules: https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/25/india-announces-sweeping-guidelines-for-social-media-on-demand-streaming-firms-and-digital-news-outlets/

[24] direct response: https://www.ft.com/content/ca1e9f79-bbe8-4872-a3e6-96174419d1c3

[25] Clubhouse: https://mashable.com/article/what-is-clubhouse-app/

[26] reportedly: https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/clubhouse-is-recording-your-conversations-thats-not-even-its-worst-privacy-problem.html

[27] criticised: https://www.wired.com/story/clubhouse-privacy-security-growth/