SecAF expects war in space; Mattis wants 4K troops for Afghanistan; China, US to meet about North Korea; The experimental future of military IT; and just a bit more…

New Air Force Secretary expects war in space. “In short, we must develop space airmen who have the tools, training, and resources to fight when – not if – war extends into space,” SecAf Heather Wilson writes in an op-ed posted Friday on Defense One. In “Why I’m Directing the Air Force to Focus on Space,” Wilson says she has directed service officials to begin “standing up a new organization at the Pentagon that will be responsible for recruiting, training and equipping airmen involved in the space mission” and establish a deputy chief of staff for space operations as a step toward “ensuring that we maintain space superiority.” Read the full oped, here.
Wilson, who stepped into her job one month ago, may be the first Air Force secretary in recent memory to assert the certainty of war beyond the atmosphere, but her moves are only the latest of several intended to get the service ready for it. For example, the new three-star position was announced in April along with several other reorganizations. Much of this new impetus comes at the behest of lawmakers worried about the U.S. military’s ability to defend its own space assets. Catch up, here.

Q. How much less does the military pay to launch a satellite with Elon Musk’s SpaceX than Boeing-Lockheed’s United Launch Alliance? A lot less, according to Ars Technica: “In March 2017, SpaceX won a contract to launch another GPS 3 satellite for $96.5 million. These represent ‘all-in, fully burdened costs’ to the government, and so they seem to be roughly comparable to the $422 million ‘unit cost’ in the Air Force budget for 2020.” Musk himself jumped onto Twitter to crow about this: “$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free.” ULA’s reaction? “In response to a media query from Ars, a spokeswoman for the Colorado-based United Launch Alliance referred questions to the Air Force.” Read, here.


From Defense One

Why I’m Directing The Air Force to Focus on Space // Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson: In the coming months, the U.S. Air Force will grow the space force in numbers and capabilities.

Mattis’s Afghanistan War Plan: Be Patient, Convince Everyone // Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Roll back the Taliban. Tackle ISIS. Win over Washington. Build Afghan forces. Seek support from the American public. Sound familiar?

After Raqqa, How the US Must Adapt to ISIS // Brian Michael Jenkins: What to do when ISIS goes underground, and other things to worry about after the caliphate falls.

The Future of Military IT: Gait Biometrics, Software Nets, and Photon Communicators // Patrick Tucker: DISA director Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn talks about the tech he’s eyeing, some of which is barely out of the theoretical realm.

Global Business Brief, June 15 edition // Marcus Weisgerber: What to expect at the Paris Air Show; Boeing Defense 2.0; Bomb demand still high; and a lot more.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson, Bradley Peniston, and Caroline Houck. #2012: China launched its first female astronaut, who transfers to the space station Tiangong 1. Got tips? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


SecDef Mattis wants nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops for Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported Thursday citing a Trump administration official. “The decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, the official said. It follows Trump’s move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels and seeks to address assertions by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan that he doesn’t have enough forces to help Afghanistan’s army against a resurgent Taliban insurgency.”

What the new troops will be doing is, of course, the same thing as before: largely training and advising the Afghan security forces while fewere U.S. troops “would be assigned to counterterror operations against the Taliban and IS, the official said.”

The Pentagon’s reaction to the news: “No decisions have been made,” spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told Reuters.

Suicide bombers struck a Shiite mosque, killing four and wounding at least eight others in Kabul on Thursday, AFP reported.

The attack involved two gunmen in addition to that suicide bomber, Reuters reports. “They then took refuge in the mosque’s kitchen, where one detonated a bomb while the other two were killed by security forces.”

The Taliban denied involvement in the attack, claiming it does not target mosques, while “minority Shiite areas in Kabul have been frequently targeted in the past by Islamic State militants,” AFP writes.

Shortly after AFP’s report, the Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency claimed responsibility for the attack, SITE Intelligence Group’s Rita Katz reported Thursday.

Remember those images of Afghan National Army trucks surfacing nearly 1,000 miles away in Iraq about a month ago? The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe got some answers on how they wound up there: “A batch of 94 pickup trucks purchased for Iraqi forces inadvertently were painted with the color scheme and logo for the Afghan Army before delivery,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump told WaPo. “After receiving the vehicles, the Iraqis did not change the color scheme or logo.” The more full story, here.

U.S., China to discuss North Korea next week in Washington. Attending: State Secretary Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and top Chinese diplomats and defense officials, including Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Gen. Fang Fenghui, Chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Staff Department. Reuters has a bit more, here.

Russia’s bold ISIS claim. Hard to get much bigger than claiming you’ve killed the leader of ISIS, but that’s what Moscow’s suggesting this morning. Reuters writes that Russia thinks it may have killed the 46-year-old sometime last month in Raqqa, Syria—a claim no one else is able to confirm presently.

Russia’s defense ministry took to Facebook to make its case: “On May 28, after drones were used to confirm the information on the place and time of the meeting of IS leaders, between 00:35 and 00:45, Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located… According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike.”

Worth noting: If Russia’s claims are true, they carried out not only perhaps the most decisive blow to ISIS in years—but also maybe to their entire group in a single airstrike. Check these numbers: Russia says its military is “believed to have killed several other senior leaders of the group in addition to Baghdadi, as well as around 30 field commanders and up to 300 of their personal guards.”

Iraqi officers are very skeptical of the report, Reuters writes. So is Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has built up a network of contacts inside Syria over the past few years. “The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” he told Reuters. Read the rest, here.

Three months after the Marines United scandal first broke, the first court martial is looking increasingly likely. That nameless individual faces an Article 32 hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a court-martial, Gen. Robert Neller told Senators yesterday. Of the 64 other suspects identified, there’s been “one administrative separation, five NJPs, [and] 20 adverse administrative actions.” More, here.

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