Shoot, move and (indirectly) communicate. The U.S. military tested an ICBM off the California coast this morning, while some of its elements in South Korea moved components of a THAAD anti-missile system to the country’s southeastern region under the cover of darkness.
Of course, in the YouTube social media age, it wasn’t entirely under the cover of darkness—here’s alleged footage of the THAAD movement captured by a local South Korean media outlet last night. “The overnight, unannounced operation came just six days after U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) secured the land in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, from the South Korean government,” South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reported late last night. “Six trailers reportedly carrying the high-profile radar of the THAAD system and other elements were seen entering the site.” (Photos here.)
But don’t get too excited, Yonhap writes: “The two sides [U.S. and South Korea] plan to put the THAAD unit in full operation by the end of this year,” according to Seoul’s defense ministry.
Worth noting: “Strongly protesting the move of the THAAD equipment to the site, a group of residents in the town clashed with police,” Yonhap reports. And Russian RT news hit that point hard and up front in their coverage of the movements last night, showing no fewer than 3 videos of unrest in South Korea purportedly stemming from the THAAD deployment.
About that ICBM: It was an unarmed Minuteman III and it “lifted off at 12:03 a.m. Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles,” the Associated Press reports this morning. “In a Minuteman test, a so-called re-entry vehicle travels more than 4,000 miles downrange to a target at Kwajalein Atoll near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.”
Wanna watch the launch? The Air Force displayed some rapid turn-around releasing the footage to its media site, DVIDS. Find that roughly one-minute clip, here.
In that “armada” of U.S. ships: destroyers, cruisers and “a full complement of weaponry, including scores of Tomahawk cruise and anti-ship missiles, radar-jamming aircraft and non-stealthy ‘Super Hornet’ jets,” writes Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio.
Not in that armada: the ability to shoot down ballistic missiles. Of all the U.S. ships in the strike group, none are “equipped with the version of the Aegis surveillance system made by Lockheed Martin Corp. that can track long-range ballistic missiles or Raytheon Co.’s SM-3 interceptors that are capable of bringing down medium and longer-range ballistic missiles,” Bloomberg reports. “Nor are the modern Japanese Navy destroyers JS Samidare and JS Ashigara that joined the Vinson group for exercises equipped for missile defense detection or intercepts, a Japanese Navy spokesman confirmed. And the three South Korean ‘Sejong the Great’-class destroyers currently in operation don’t have ballistic missile defense capability, Tom Callender, a naval forces analyst with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said in an interview.” And that may help explain some of the THAAD movements reported last evening. Read more on the options and limitations at play near the bottom half of Capaccio’s report—it’s worth your time—here.
Now to the “communicate” side of all this—the more literal part, anyway: “If I were North Korea, I would not underestimate President Trump’s resolve to stop them from getting a missile to hit our homeland,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters Tuesday, according to Military Times. “Graham said it’s uncertain whether North Korea may actually launch a weapon of mass destruction at the U.S. But, he said, Trump ‘is not going to allow this problem to get any worse than it is today.’ The key, Graham added, is to make North Korea realize there’s a ‘new sheriff in town.’” More here.
Also: the entire Senate is heading to the White House for a top-level briefing on the North Korean situation today. (Loren DeJonge Schulman, prior holder of DoD and White House jobs, calls this a stunt — but says that “stunts that get the Hill and WH to talk foreign policy are all for the better, frankly.”)
In other regional news: China just launched its second aircraft carrier—and the first carrier that it’s built domestically, BBC reports. It took China 3 years and five months to build its first domestic aircraft carrier, CV001A. BBC: “The as-yet unnamed ship was transferred into the water in the north-eastern port of Dalian, state media said. It will reportedly be operational by 2020.” Look over photos of the celebration, here.
From Defense One
DHS Chief: Without Cities’ Help, ‘We Have to Go Into Neighborhoods’ to Find the Undocumented // Patrick Tucker: Local law enforcement officials “want to cooperate with us,” says John Kelly.
Defense Intelligence Agency’s ‘Shark Tank’ Helps Startups Pitch Spy Apps // Patrick Tucker: DIA analysts who like a product can launch a partnership on the spot.
Defense Industry Bulls Are Turning Bearish // Marcus Weisgerber: Trump’s first hundred days in office have dampened execs’ hopes that he might bust through spending caps.
White House Wants to Bake Security Into New IT Projects // Joseph Marks: Trump’s top cybersecurity advisor has been tapped to help son-in-law Kushner ensure security is built into any new government tools from the beginning.
Meet the Woman in Charge of Customer Service for Millions of Vets // Frank Konkel: Lynda Davis, VA’s chief veteran experience officer, will continue working on Vets.gov and getting real-time feedback for veterans.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. #OTD1937: The Luftwaffe bombs Guernica, Spain. Got tips? Email us at email@example.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Those pesky Iranian swarm boats were at it again on Monday. “Two U.S. officials tell Fox News that the Iranian ship came within 1,000 yards of the guided missile destroyer USS Mahan with its weapons manned,” the outlet reported Tuesday. U.S.“officials said the Mahan altered course to avoid the Iranian warship, sounded the danger signal, fired flares and manned its own weapons. The Iranian ship did not come closer than 1,000 yards and no warning shots were fired.” More—including a recent history of alleged Iranian-U.S. naval provocations—here.
There is such a thing as a “Trump doctrine,” said White House chief of staff Reince Priebus in an interview Tuesday. So what is it? “Setting some certain lines of where we’re not going to allow people like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to go, but at the same time making it clear that we’re not interested in long-term, you know, ground wars in the Middle East,” he told Yahoo News. “Another example Priebus gave of the emerging doctrine is Trump’s enlisting China to try to rein in North Korea, a ‘very real’ challenge ‘that takes cooperation within the region to handle appropriately,’ Priebus said.” Read the rest here.
France points a big finger at Assad over that April 4 chemical weapons attack in Syria. Reuters: “French intelligence has concluded that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a sarin nerve gas attack on April 4 in northern Syria and that Assad or members of his inner circle ordered the strike, a declassified report showed…The six-page French document—drawn up by France’s military and foreign intelligence services and seen by said it reached its conclusion based on samples they had obtained from the impact strike on the ground and a blood sample from a victim.”
The findings included alleged use of “hexamine, a hallmark of sarin produced by the Syrian government, according to the report. It said the findings matched the results of samples obtained by French intelligence, including an unexploded grenade, from an attack in Saraqib on April 29, 2013, which Western powers have accused the Assad government of carrying out.”
Under the radar: “Thousands of [U.S.] contractors reportedly operate in Syria as the total number of contractors in Middle East wars decrease,” U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman reported Tuesday. “More than 42,000 private contractors, including translators, administrators as well as security personnel, are currently operating in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, down from 45,500 in the waning days of the Obama administration, according to the latest quarterly report released this week. The bulk – almost 25,000 – are in Afghanistan compared to more than 26,000 in January, amid roughly 8,500 American troops there.”
Elsewhere: “About 3,800 contractors are in Iraq contributing to the ongoing war against the Islamic State group, 200 more than in the last report, working with the roughly 5,000 uniformed personnel there. The remaining 13,500, down from 16,000, are in other undisclosed locations in the Middle East, likely on major facilities the U.S. uses such as al-Udeid air base in Qatar from which it launches some of its heavier aircraft for operations in the region.” More here.
New Chinese anti-terror measures include banning the Muslim names like Jihad and Mohammad “in the western region of Xinjiang, home to more than 10 million Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority group,” The New York Times reported in a story that, to one of us, immediately recalled a Cincinnati Bearcat basketball player from a decade ago. We won’t tell you his name (we already did, really), but you can check it out for yourself here.
Nothing to see here. Intelligence officials from the “Five Eyes” met in New Zealand on Tuesday, Reuters reported. But put away your tin-foil hats; “six U.S. and allied government sources told Reuters it was a routine annual get-together that was not being held to respond to any particular crisis.” However, “The confirmation of the meetings indicates that ‘Five Eyes’ countries hold regular intelligence conferences, a fact not widely known outside intelligence circles until now, according to analysts.” Story, here.
And finally, we leave you with a quote from the commander-in-chief: “There’s a lot of words. I won’t bother reading everything,” President Trump said as he showed off the heft of the new Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America Executive Order before signing it on Tuesday. Video here.