Sea state

Australia will build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines as part of its new “AUKUS” defense pact with the UK and US. The new submarines will be able to operate for months without surfacing and will have a speed, range and weapon payload greater than the Navy’s current Collins-class submarines.

The nuclear-powered boats will replace the 12 diesel-electric submarines provided for in the now canceled contract with the French naval group. The troubled $ 90 billion deal, reached in 2016, had seen cost explosions and delays. The AUKUS deal includes unprecedented sharing of submarine technology with Australia and provided Plan B to exit the French deal. In response, France recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.

Australia is now years behind in securing a new submarine fleet, and the lack of a clear construction schedule remains a concern. The government is already considering leasing submarines in the UK or US to fill the capacity gap when the Collins fleet is retired.

Flight path

At a joint ministerial press conference following the historic AUKUS announcement, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton announced that the United States will expand its military presence in Australia, in particular by increasing rotational deployments of personnel and aircraft. Welcoming the enhanced Force Posture initiative, Dutton said the two countries would establish combined logistics, sustainment and maintenance capabilities to support the increased activity, possibly exploring base and ammunition storage options. . Austin echoed support for a larger “US logistics footprint in Australia.”

On Monday, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall revealed that five test planes from the highly classified B-21 Raider stealth bomber program were being assembled at the Northrup Grumman manufacturing plant in California. Kendall said they were “making good progress towards real capacity on the ground.” Announced in 2015, the next-generation B-21s will replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers, and possibly the decades-old B-52s, and will be able to perform both conventional and nuclear strike missions. The US Air Force plans to purchase 100 B-21s and wants them to be in service in the mid-2020s.

Rapid fire

North Korean state media last week published footage of what they described as the very first ballistic missile launch by its Railway Mobile Missile Regiment, which reportedly launched two KN-23 missiles into the Sea of ​​Japan. from a modified box car. South Korea responded by testing four new missiles: two air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a “high power” ballistic missile, possibly the unseen Hyunmoo-4 supersonic, carrying a payload of two tons.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has reportedly stepped up nighttime drills and high-altitude training in the Himalayas, moving next-generation equipment to the contested border between India and China. According to state media, PLA Daily, the equipment included the new 122-millimeter PHL-11 truck-mounted self-propelled rocket launcher system, which was reportedly used for live-fire marksmanship exercises. It is the latest initiative in a pattern of Chinese PLA deployments to disputed border sites this year despite ongoing talks between the two countries.

Final boundary

Three Chinese astronauts have returned to Earth following China’s first crewed mission to the Tiangong space station, which is under construction. During the 90-day mission, the astronauts carried out two spacewalks, installed a 10-meter mechanical arm, and had a video chat with President Xi Jinping. Three other missions are planned for 2021-2022 to complete construction. The Chinese space agency quickly ramped up its activities, launching the Tianwen-1 space probe to Mars and provisionally approving more than 1,000 science experiments for Tiangong. Once completed, the Chinese Space Station will be the only alternative to the aging International Space Station.

Director of the United States Space Defense Center and Joint Space Defense Task Force Col. Scott Brodeur said the sustainability of activities in space would be taken into account if the United States were to engage in conflict. the low. Military experts argue that the deployment and testing of anti-satellite technology by China and Russia could prompt a US military response. However, a space conflict would leave large amounts of debris that already threatens the daily use of space technology. Brodeur said that the generation of space debris during a conflict could provoke negative reactions from adversaries and allies.

Wired watchtower

New South Wales and Victoria are testing AI-based facial recognition software that allows police to check if people are at home during mandatory quarantine, even though neither state has disclosed that he was using this technology. The “silent deployment” comes days after the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet warned that such technology posed a “catastrophic” danger to human rights and declared that the Covid-related surveillance could erode civil liberties. Reports of police misuse of Covid-19 registration data have raised concerns that measures introduced to tackle the pandemic will normalize increased surveillance.

The leaders of the Quad nations will focus on creating secure supply chains for microchips when they meet in Washington on Friday, signaling that the alliance is expanding. India has a thriving computer industry, but relies on Chinese chips and technology, and has urged Quad to cooperate to strengthen supply networks. The new AUKUS alliance could also be leveraged against “hybrid threats” posed by cyber operations, with Fergus Hanson and Danielle Cave of ASPI saying Australia is “well placed to boost its strategic technological capability”.

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