Harvey response inching close to Katrina; Navy ship intercepts test missile; DHS issued warning before Charlottesville protest; 99 days of war vs. ISIS in the Philippines; and a bit more…

The U.S. military’s Hurricane Harvey response is about to equal that of Hurricane Katrina more than 10 years ago, Stars and Stripes reports. “Already some 3,000 Texas National Guardsmen and about 500 active-duty soldiers and airmen are participating in rescue operations, primarily by boat but also by helicopter,” Stripes reports off remarks by Air Force Gen. James Witham, the domestic operations director for the National Guard Bureau. “The bureau on Tuesday was in the process of alerting between 20,000 and 30,000 additional National Guard troops, primarily from states around Texas, to prepare to deploy should Texas Gov. Greg Abbott request them.”

Already some 12,000 Texas Guardsmen have “helped rescue about 3,500 people stranded by massive flooding throughout the region, the general said. Among those people, about 300 were rescued by National Guard helicopter hoist operations.”

What’s more, “The National Guard will soon double the number of high-profile trucks to 400…It is also using about 30 National Guard helicopters and 21 Coast Guard helicopters. Witham said he expects more than 100 helicopters will be supporting rescue and medical evacuation operations within the next few days.”

The Guardsmen that have joined the recovery efforts come from as far away as Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah. More here.

The U.S. military successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile off Hawaii early this morning, the Missile Defense Agency announced today. Involved: USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), its AN/SPY-1 Radar, and an SM-6 guided missile. Photo of the test, via MDA, here.

ICYMI: Here’s footage of South Korea’s recent test of a Hyunmoo-2C ballistic missile. More from the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula below the fold.


From Defense One

Why Didn’t the US Shoot Down That North Korean Missile? // Patrick Tucker: The military’s record of hitting intermediate-range missiles is less than perfect. That makes the decision to attempt an intercept much harder.

Lower-Yield Weapons Will Raise, Not Lower, the Threshold for Nuclear Use // Derek Williams and Adam B. Lowther: Giving the U.S. president more flexible options will improve deterrence.

As Independence Vote Nears, Iraqi Kurds Play a Risky Game of Chicken // Jon Alterman and Mara E. Karlin: Kurdistan’s president called the referendum to extract concessions from Baghdad. What if it doesn’t work?

The North Korean Threat Beyond ICBMs // Graham Allison: Even without them, the Kim regime can menace its immediate neighborhood—or sell nuclear material to rogue states.

What Does It Mean for North Korea to Fly a Missile Over Japan? // Kathy Gilsinan and Yasmeen Serhan: This latest strike may be Pyongyang’s most provocative test this year.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1963: The Washington-Moscow “hot line” goes into operation. Have something you want to share? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


North Korea released footage of its missile launch Monday — review the collection herealong with some more testy rhetoric, The Wall Street Journal reports. “In a statement carried by state-run Korean Central News Agency, [Kim Jong Un] called it a ‘meaningful prelude to containing Guam,’ the U.S. Pacific territory that North Korea had threatened earlier this month to surround with ‘enveloping fire.’”
Japan, for its part, is looking is now a bit more eagerly “seeking funds for the introduction of Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of a U.S.-made antimissile system used by some Japanese warships. Tokyo said it tracked the missile for its entire flight but didn’t try to shoot it down because it wasn’t on track to hit Japanese soil.”
In case you’re curious, “The Aegis system, produced by Lockheed Martin Corp., can shoot down missiles at higher altitudes. Japan has four naval destroyers equipped with Aegis,” the Journal reports. “One Aegis Ashore unit would cost around 80 billion yen ($730 million) and would need U.S. government approval for the sale.”
About that Aegis system for Japan: The United States “has so far declined to arm it with a powerful new radar…known as SPY-6,” which means “Japan will have to field the system with existing radar technology that has less range than a new generation of BMD interceptor missiles,” Reuters reports.
Perhaps most concerning in this context: “The United States’ first SPY-6-equipped Aegis warship is not slated to begin operations before 2022, one of the sources said.” More on those acquisition dynamics, here.
Japan also has “seven Patriot PAC-3 missile defense batteries on land-based mobile launchers, which can be used to shoot down ballistic missiles shortly before they land, or below about 10 kilometers in altitude,” the Journal adds. “Four batteries were recently deployed to western Japan when North Korea threatened to fire a missile over the region on the way to Guam. The launchers are typically deployed in sensitive locations, such as central Tokyo. The Patriot system wouldn’t have been able to shoot down North Korea’s latest missile because it traveled at a high altitude over Japan and landed far out to sea.” Read the rest, here.

DHS warned Charlottesville and Virginia state police. Politico: Three days before the Aug. 12 protest rally, the Department of Homeland Security sent them a confidential, “law enforcement sensitive” report that said “an escalating series of clashes had created a powder keg that would likely make the event ‘among the most violent to date’ between white supremacists and anarchists.” Prepared by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis coordination with local, state and federal authorities at the state police’s Virginia Fusion Center, the report “raises questions about whether Charlottesville city and Virginia state authorities dropped the ball before, and during, a public event that was widely expected to draw huge crowds of armed, emotional and antagonistic participants from around the country.” Read on, here.

After 99 days of fighting, the Philippine military is trying to take its conflict against ISIS more seriously in the southern city of Marawi, The Wall Street Journal reports. “Military Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano told reporters Monday that the army is preparing ‘one big battle’ to retake Marawi after clearing the city’s Grand Mosque and municipal police station last week. He didn’t give details.”
Background: “A coalition of extremist Islamist groups, who for years existed as rival religious or criminal gangs, joined forces to occupy Marawi on May 23, riding on trucks and waving the black Islamic State flag… The assault began after a failed attempt by authorities to arrest an allied militant leader… Reclaiming the city of 200,000 has been an uphill battle for the ill-equipped Philippine military, which is unused to urban warfare. Its failure to end the conflict swiftly and the use of destructive airstrikes have alienated the population, many of whom as Muslims feel marginalized in the Roman Catholic-majority country.”
What’s left: “The military estimates about 40 remain in Marawi and that 600 have been killed. About 130 soldiers and 45 civilians, some of whom were beheaded, have also died… The remaining fighters occupy an area about 500 square meters (5,382 square feet) in size, the military says.” More here.
Snapshot from Marawi: See bullet-riddled houses in Marawi on Monday in this photo, via Agence France-Presse.
Video from Marawi allegedly shows the region’s Maute insurgents “planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before abandoning [the city’s] Grand Mosque.” That, via CNN-Philippines, here.

“Worse than Mosul.” That’s the Iraqi security forces’ characterization of the current fight to clear ISIS from “the small town of al-’Ayadiya where militants fleeing Tal Afar have entrenched themselves,” Reuters reports this morning. “Sniper shots, mortars, heavy machine guns and anti-armored projectiles were fired from every single house,” said Iraqi Colonel Kareem al-Lami. “We thought the battle for Mosul’s Old City was tough, but this one proved to be multiple times worst. We are facing tough fighters who have nothing to lose and are ready to die.” More here.

In broader positive developments in Iraq, “Jordan will open its main border crossing with Iraq on Wednesday for the first time since 2015, now that Iraqi forces have gained control of the main highway to Baghdad from Islamic State militants,” Reuters reports separately this morning. “Jordan hopes the reopening of the route will revive exports to Iraq, once the kingdom’s main export market, accounting that accounted for almost a fifth of domestic exports or about $1.2 billion a year, according to the International Monetary Fund. They have fallen by more than 50 percent from pre-crisis levels.” Story, here.

Mattis puts transgender ban on hold for more study. Washington Post: “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced Tuesday that he is freezing the implementation of President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying that he will first establish a panel of experts to provide advice and recommendations on how to carry out Trump’s directive…‘Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,’ Mattis said. ‘To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.’” The SecDef has until Feb. 1 to produce a plan. Read on, here.

Report: White House pushing for evidence of Iranian nuclear noncompliance. Trump has long proclaimed his opposition to the West’s 2015 deal that, by general consensus among government officials and outside experts, has successfully paused Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons. Now reports are drifting out of the intelligence community that they are being pushed to conclude that Iran is out of compliance with the agreement — that is, to give the president the justification he wants to scuttle the deal. “If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal on 25 July. But, reports The Guardian: “Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phoney evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.” Read on, here.

And finally: the Oscar for Worst Cinematic Military Vehicle goes to…a new version of the Galactic Empire’s armored AT-AT walkers, slated to make its  appearance in the upcoming Star Wars sequel The Last Jedi. Esquire takes it down like a snowspeeder, here.

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