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Emerging Threats and Opportunities

Major Power Competition

Jason Begley of the Air Power Development Centre offers a nuanced appreciation of Competitive Strategies in the Indo-Pacific, published through the Harvard Belfer Centre. This report is an extended read (approx. 2 hours) that anchors appreciation off an approach that ‘views strategic competition structurally – poised atop a hierarchy made up of smaller competitions, which are themselves comprised of discrete, single-issue contexts.’ This analysis leverages the approach taken in the classic Essence of Decision as a lens for understanding strategic decision-making during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Regional View

Defense News reports on the strong performance of South Korean defense companies (with four appearing in Defense news Top 100 list). This has been backed by South Korea’s defense budget growing 20% from 2009 to 2017. In 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s announced his Defense Reform 2.0 program that planned to create a slimmer and more efficient military that is less reliant on foreign defense technology. While achieving success in self-reliance, South Korea’s defense industry growth has also been underpinned by two of their highest-profile exports: the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle family of trainer and light combat aircraft, and the Hanwha K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer.

Information Warfare and Cyber

IISS provides analysis on why Russian President Putin’s call for a “reset” on US-Russia cyber relations will fall on deaf ears. Putin is seeking a commitment to a “no first use” of cyber weapons and to establish cyber diplomacy. However, IISS say this will be seen as a direct insult to the US just six weeks before the presidential election. ‘This comes at a time when there is credible reporting of Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election and almost four years after US intelligence agencies concluded decisively that Russia had, on Putin’s orders, interfered in the 2016 election.’

A recent UN Report has stated a North Korean hacker group known as ‘Kimsuky’ tried to hack 11 officials of the UN Security Council including at least 28 UN Officials. The report states this took place between March and April this year and consisted a series of spear-phishing campaigns at the gmail accounts of UN officials.


The US House Armed Services Committee has claimed ‘the Pentagon is clinging to aging weapons systems meant for a past era’. In their recent bipartisan report ‘Future of Defence Task Force’, the panel stated AI, quantum computing, space and biotechnology were making traditional battlefields and boundaries increasingly irrelevant and that the Pentagon, ‘for all the talk of embracing new technologies, the politics of killing off old weapons systems is so forbidding – often because it involves closing factories or bases, and endangers military jobs in congressional districts – that the efforts falter’.

By the end of 2021 the US Navy plans to have its first squadron of its future MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based unmanned tankers. Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, Commander of Naval Air Forces stated 'the MQ-25 will give us the ability to extend the air wing out probably 300 or 400 miles beyond where we typically go. That will extend the reach of the air wing, and when we combine that with additional weapons we are buying, we will get an impressive reach.” The Stingrays, or future variants could eventually take on other missions including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The US Navy continues to say that it believes its ‘carrier air wings will continue to evolve to contain a mix of manned and unmanned platforms.’

NATO has provided analysis on the opportunities and challenges of 5G communications within its membership. NATO stated Allies have taken differing positions regarding security concerns with using Chinese companies, but noted ‘Chinese companies in recent years have repeatedly been accused of stealing intellectual property and using cyber-espionage to access proprietary information. Tests on Chinese electronic devices have often also revealed security vulnerabilities, including backdoors that can lead to the direct transfer of data to China.’  NATO advises discussions will continue and the issue will likely accelerate as military communications start to transition to 5G.

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

IISS reports on how the continued success of the Islamist Insurgency in Mozambique is creating its own negative momentum and making it harder for the country to counter this growing threat. The country’s armed forces recently underwent efforts to improve their capabilities, however growing concerns over internal insecurity from the insurgency has resulted in Foreign Investment retreating from Mozambique at a time of crises. This has raised questions of the effectiveness of their armed forces and a new approach the government appears to have taken is seeking assistance from foreign security contractors.

The Washington Post reports that the US government is set to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, based on an agreement that Khartoum pays USD$335 million (AUD$471 million) to American victims of terrorist attacks. Under the 30-year rule of Islamist leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan committed genocide against its own people and hosted Osama bin Laden for five years after his 1991 expulsion from Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the Sudanese people managed to remove Bashir and the country’s new leadership made sweeping changes to outlaw acts that took place under his leadership.


  • 19-21 October: Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) will be holding their ‘Directed Energy Systems’ digital summit virtually this year. Details are available here.
  • 20 October: Undersea Defence Technology holds their final webinar for 2020: ‘Uncrewed and Autonomous’ Details are available here.
  • 23 October: Defence Innovation Network’s: Virtual Industry Forum: High-speed Sensors, Effectors and Directed Energy. This is an online event. Details are available here.
  • 27-29 October: Defence iQ will be holding ‘Future Artillery Online’. An online event focusing on future long-range precision firepower modernisation efforts. Details are available here.
  • 1 November: DSTG is hosting their Emerging Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium Agile Command and Control (AC2). Details are available here.
  • 4 November: Special Online Event: General Sir Peter Cosgrove ‘in conversation’. This is a Zoom event. Details are available here.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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