The Albanese Government has allocated an additional $399 million for the ongoing development of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat drone, in a move aimed at bolstering Australia’s defence capabilities.
Developed in collaboration with Boeing Defence Australia, the MQ-28A Ghost Bat, also known as a Collaborative Combat Aircraft, represents a significant leap in technology.
It marks the first military combat aircraft to be entirely designed, engineered, and manufactured in Australia in over half a century.
Designed to serve as a loyal wingman, the MQ-28A Ghost Bat will play a crucial role in protecting and supporting military assets and pilots, undertaking various tasks over long distances, including combat operations.
The latest funding injection will propel the program into its next phase, which includes the delivery of three Block 2 aircraft featuring enhanced design and improved capabilities.
This financial boost will facilitate the development of sensor and mission payloads, an integrated combat system, and autonomous functionalities.
Notably, this investment secures over 350 jobs across Australia and guarantees ongoing work for more than 200 suppliers, reinforcing the government’s commitment to supporting the local defence industry and fostering high-quality employment opportunities for Australians.
The decision to further develop the MQ-28A Ghost Bat follows a recommendation from the Defence Strategic Review, emphasising collaboration and technology sharing with the United States.
In line with this, Defence signed a CCA development project arrangement with the US on March 30, 2023.
Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Pat Conroy MP, highlighted the significance of the project, stating, “This is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered, and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years and underscores the depth of innovation and expertise in our defence industry.”
Conroy also emphasised the substantial contribution of Australian companies to the program, with over 200 local firms, including more than 50 small and medium enterprises, involved in the supply chain.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to ensuring the prosperity and security of the nation by providing critical capabilities to the Air Force.
IKEA launches AI-powered home design creative
IKEA Australia has introduced IKEA Kreativ, a groundbreaking AI-powered mixed-reality experience aimed at revolutionizing home furnishing design for its customers.
The free application offers a seamless and intuitive platform for individuals to envision and recreate their living spaces like never before.
IKEA Kreativ empowers users to scan their living spaces and effortlessly experiment with different furniture arrangements and décor options.
With the ability to erase existing items and seamlessly integrate IKEA products, customers can explore various styling ideas or start fresh using interactive pre-loaded showrooms, numbering over 50.
Inspiration to design
The immersive design experience provided by IKEA Kreativ enables customers to confidently transition from inspiration to design to purchase, offering a realistic preview of how IKEA furniture and accessories will look, fit, and function within their homes.
Accessed via the IKEA app or online at ikea.com.au, IKEA Kreativ utilizes state-of-the-art visual AI technology, akin to that employed in self-driving cars, to generate lifelike 3D models of real home spaces.
This innovation represents a significant investment by IKEA in digital technologies, further exemplified by its recent acquisition of Geomagical Labs, a Silicon Valley AI company specializing in photorealistic virtual and mixed reality.
Giovanni Rutigliano, IKEA Australia Digital Manager, emphasized the company’s commitment to providing a seamless omnichannel experience for customers. He stated, “With the addition of Kreativ to the IKEA app, we’re offering our customers the opportunity to confidently design and shop the products straight from their mobile device.”
Christine Gough, IKEA Australia Interior Design Leader, highlighted the democratizing potential of IKEA Kreativ in home design. She expressed, “IKEA Kreativ can really break down barriers to having new ideas, designing, decorating and shopping for home furnishings, where people can feel the magic of the IKEA physical stores, through a virtual space.”
Key features of IKEA Kreativ include the ability to quickly explore design ideas from existing showrooms, scan and replicate one’s own space using the IKEA Kreativ Scene Scanner™, and seamlessly save, share, and purchase design concepts.
Lockbit cybercrime gang faces global takedown and arrests
In a major operation led by Britain’s National Crime Agency and the FBI, members of the notorious Lockbit ransomware gang have been arrested and indicted.
The United States has charged two Russian nationals for deploying Lockbit ransomware against numerous companies and groups worldwide, while police in Poland and Ukraine have made two additional arrests.
The joint efforts of the NCA, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, and Europol culminated in the disruption of the Lockbit gang, which has targeted over 2,000 victims globally, amassing over $120 million in ransom payments and demanding hundreds of millions more, according to the DOJ.
The NCA Cyber Division, in collaboration with U.S. authorities, seized control of Lockbit’s websites and infrastructure, even utilizing the gang’s own website to release internal data about the group.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the NCA, declared, “We have hacked the hackers… Lockbit is effectively redundant. Lockbit has been locked out.”
The unsealed indictment, obtained in New Jersey, charges Artur Sungatov and Ivan Kondratyev with deploying Lockbit ransomware against victims across various industries globally.
Operation Cronos, as the takedown was named, involved an international coalition of 10 countries.
It resulted in arrests, indictments, and sanctions against perpetrators, as well as unprecedented access to Lockbit’s systems, the NCA revealed.
Ransomware, like that employed by Lockbit, encrypts data and extorts payment from victims for decryption.
Lockbit’s affiliates, recruited by the gang, conduct attacks and share ransom proceeds, usually in cryptocurrency.
SpaceX strengthens ties with U.S. spy agencies
Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, has deepened its involvement with U.S. spy and military agencies, transitioning from a commercial rocket launcher to a significant player in national security operations.
The company’s recent $1.8 billion classified contract with the U.S. government underscores this shift, according to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, though the identity of the government client remains undisclosed.
The expanding collaboration between SpaceX and national security entities reflects the increasing reliance of the latter on SpaceX’s capabilities.
SpaceX has a history of launching classified and military satellites, with recent contracts including providing broadband services to the Pentagon, notably during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
One aspect of SpaceX’s operations that has received less public attention is its Starshield unit, tailored for government clients and led by former Air Force personnel.
Starshield secured a $70 million military contract last August for providing communication services to numerous Pentagon partners, operating largely under the radar.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, emphasised the close collaboration between the company and the intelligence community, albeit without disclosing specific details, during an event last May.
While specific details of Starshield’s activities remain guarded, SpaceX has described its offerings as encompassing secure communications satellites, Earth observation capabilities, and sensor deployment for government use while in orbit.
Job postings for Starshield have sought individuals with top-secret clearances and experience within the Defense Department and intelligence community.
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