NorK fires missile from truck; Former ISIS recruit speaks; An insider’s painfully honest look at the space industry; The week’s biz roundup; and a bit more.

North Korea chucked another missile into the water, drawing the world’s attention yet again—as well as concerns about whether Pyongyang will ever one day kill that fish. “The missile was launched from an area northwest of Pyongyang at 5:55 a.m. local time and flew about 800 kilometers (500 miles) before crashing off the Korean Peninsula’s eastern coast,” The Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. officials said it “appeared to be a medium-range missile fired from a road-mobile launcher,” Reuters adds, noting that “would mark North Korea’s first test of a medium-range missile, capable of reaching Japan, since 2014.”

South Korea did not confirm the type of the missiles, Reuters writes, “but 800 km was likely beyond the range of most short-range missiles in North Korea’s arsenal. The North’s Rodong missile has an estimated maximum range of 1,300 km, according to the South’s defense ministry.”

About 20 minutes after the first launch, the North “fired another projectile from the same area around 20 minutes later but it disappeared from radar screens shortly after launch,” the Journal reports. South Korea said it disappeared at an elevation of 17 kilometers.

The preliminary takeaway: “The North appeared to be trying to give as little warning of the launch as possible,” Stars and Stripes reports, adding South Korea’s Yonhap News “cited military sources as saying it did not declare a no-sail zone as is required under international conventions for the safety of ships in the area.” Further, they write, “The use of mobile launch platforms is also worrying, since they are more difficult to track before use, as is recent work the North has carried out at its traditional rocket site that appears aimed at camouflaging preparations for a launch. New satellite photos also have shown a flurry of activity at its submarine bay that could be part of efforts to develop the capability to launch ballistic missiles from submarines.” Read the rest, here.

The American from Virginia who went to fight with the Islamic State says Mosul is rotten with foreign fighters from Central and South Asia. He also said he regretted the decision to join ISIS as soon as he linked up with a woman who drove him into the group’s territory. That, according to what the Associated Press calls “a heavily edited interview” with an Iraq’s Kurdistan 24 TV station that aired Thursday night.

Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, from Alexandria, Virginia, “detailed his weeks-long journey from the United States to London, Amsterdam, Turkey, through Syria and finally to the IS-controlled Iraqi city of Mosul, where he was moved into a house with dozens of other foreign fighters,” the AP reports. “Khweis said he met an Iraqi woman with ties to IS in Turkey who arranged his travel into Syria and then across to Mosul. There Khweis said he began more than a month of intensive Islamic studies and it was then he decided to try and flee.”

His route: Khweis said he “left for Europe in December and wound up in Turkey where he met an Iraqi girl who said she was from Mosul — which was seized by ISIS militants in June 2014,” NBC News reports. “They took a bus to the Turkish border and then a taxi to Syria that was arranged by the woman’s sister, who had been married to an ISIS member, Khweis said. What followed was a series of stays in houses with other foreigners — including Asians and Russians — who surrendered their passports and identification and were given nicknames. Khweis eventually was transferred to Mosul with 10 other men who took a 10-hour bus ride to get to the ISIS-held Iraqi city, he said.”

Khweis told his interviewer, “I wasn’t thinking straight,” and added this “message to the American people…life in Mosul is really, really bad.”

But the Washington Post noted one particularly glaring omission from the interview—“why Khweis decided to travel to the Islamic State in the first place.”

Catch the interview from Kurdistan 24, here.

And speaking of Mosul, the city runs on U.$. bucks. Why? “There are no official banks anymore. So the Islamic State makes the rules: No high interest rates and exchange rates that work in their favour. The latter means that, ironically, the U.S. dollar is king.” Details, here.

In Syria, the U.S. doubled the number of Arab fighters in its predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, bringing the total to 5,000 from 2,500 a month ago, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. The update came as part of Dunford and Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s appeal to lawmakers to free up “nearly $50 million in additional support to the indigenous forces,” AP reported.

That comes on the heels of “a limited new plan” to train and arm Syrians, “relaunching a Pentagon program that was suspended last fall after a series of embarrassing setbacks,” the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. “This is part of our adjustments to the train and equip program built on prior lessons learned,” said Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Baghdad.

“The renewed effort,” the LATs writes, “appears far less ambitious than the original program, which aimed to train and arm 5,400 fighters a year but never achieved that goal.” Good luck, gentlemen. More here.


From Defense One

Special report: the U.S. military’s new retirement system. Last year, Congress overhauled the system, moving away from the 20-year, all-or-nothing pension toward a more flexible — but complicated — arrangement. In a downloadable special report, Defense One explains what changed and how it will affect everything from wallets to service budgets. Get it (registration required), here.

This painfully honest look at the space industry just got an executive fired. The engineering chief of the nation’s largest rocket-launch firm got a little too candid during a recent talk at his alma mater. Via Quartz, here.

Welcome to the Friday edition of the D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1241, the Mongols outsmarted and destroyed a Polish army, then sacked Kraków. Subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


The Army is training without GPS, preparing to fight enemies who can deprive soldiers of their electronic tools. “For example, when brigades go to the National Training Center, they naturally bring all their usual GPS navigation systems — but now ‘we routinely take that capability away from them,’ said Gen. David Perkins, head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). ‘We’re having to teach people at the Basic Course on up on how you operate if that is taken away, in other words introducing people to maps.’” Read the whole thing from Breaking Defense, here.

The Army has come a long way in just four years; here’s a 2012 commentary piece in the (late, lamented) Armed Forces Journal calling for these steps and more. Read, here.

Biz Roundup: Patriot shoots down IRBM. Pentagon testers shot down a tactical ballistic missile Thursday using Raytheon GEM-T and Lockheed Martin PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement interceptors. The two interceptors were fired in rapid succession at the target over the White Sands Missile Range the New Mexico, according to a Raytheon statement. A PAC-3 interceptor collides with a target while a GEM-T flies close to a target and then explodes.

Thales buys cybersecurity firm. The French company announced Thursday it has closed a $424 million deal for Vormetric, a Silicon Valley data security company. “Vormetric will be progressively integrated into Thales’s cybersecurity business in order to create a global leader in data protection,” the company said in a statement.

Drone-maker gets cash. Enlightenment Capital, an aerospace and defense-focused investment firm has made an undisclosed “strategic investment” in drone-maker Aurora Flight Sciences. The money “will support Aurora’s strategy for expanding the company’s development and manufacturing scale as demand continues to increase.” Earlier this month, Aurora won a DARPA contract to build a new military experimental plane.

Boeing, Russia, USO, hockey, 4th-gen fighter jet. Boeing is auctioning off a Washington Capitals-themed F/A-18 Super Hornet model autographed by Alexander Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Niklas Bäckström, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, four of the NHL’s top players. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the USO. There’s some irony here since Ovechkin and Kuznetsov are from Russia, which Pentagon officials say is the top threat to the U.S.

Target practice, with missiles. Four destroyers and two cruisers from the Eisenhower Strike Group fired SM-2 missiles that destroyed “an advanced high-speed target” during testing in the Atlantic, the Navy said. The tests were part of the final certification before the ships deploy. Here’s a video.

The U.S. Air Force’s assistant vice chief of staff packed off to an early retirement. “Lieutenant General John Hesterman was removed from his post on Thursday,” ABC News reports, “after an investigation revealed that emails he had exchanged with a female Lieutenant Colonel indicated an ‘unprofessional relationship’… The three star general had assumed that post last summer after having been in charge of Air Forces Central Command where he conducted the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.” More here.

Also in this edition of GO’s Behaving Badly: “The Navy has denied promotion to the admiral in charge of its elite SEAL teams, effectively ending his military career, after multiple investigations found that he had retaliated against whistleblowers,” WaPo’s Craig Whitlock reports after Secretary Ray Mabus’s decision “to reject Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey’s pending promotion to become a two-star admiral.” Whitlock’s been on the case for a few months now, and you can catch up on the issue here, or read his October report on Losey, here.

AEI wants BRAC. Every year, the Pentagon points out that closing unneeded bases would save money. And every year, lawmakers shoot down the request. Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute has laid out “all the misleading reasons not to do BRAC,” here.

Lastly today—the British military is putting some of its surplus Sea King helicopters up for sale, with initial asking prices of $14,000 (for “hulks”) all the way up to $200,000 (for “working” helos). “The choppers are being sold off by Witham Specialist Vehicles Limited, which hocks surplus equipment for the British Ministry Of Defense (MoD) just like GovPlanet does for the American military over here,” writes FoxTrotAlpha, which adds, “So far it looks like they’ve only listed this three-pack of Sea King HC4 Commando MK 4 variants that were designed to run in the mountains of Afghanistan. You can buy them directly from military storage for £150,000 ($211,723.52) with all necessary paperwork, but you’ll have to provide your own engines to get them off the ground.” That, here. Have a great weekend, folks!

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