F-35 bombs the Taliban; Another clue to US Syria policy; Boeing’s great month; How should we count cyber attacks? And a bit more.

America’s F-35 gets its war stripes. A stationary Taliban target in Afghanistan was the target of the first airstrike by America’s fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It happened Thursday and seems to have popped up first on CNN.
Watch a two-minute video of the F-35B’s takeoff and landing from the USS Essex before and after the strike, via the USMC’s Twitter feed, here.
Making history: The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 — and, of course, the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, Essex.
Worth noting: Israel’s military in May said it already used its F-35s in airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East (likely Syria, maybe the Golan Heights) earlier this year. Defense News has that flash from the past, here.

One more thing: Be sure to subscribe to Defense One Radio. Our newest episode posts later today.
On the podcast this week: Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson of the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade. He spoke to us from his current location in Gardez, Afghanistan. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Boeing will build the Air Force’s new trainer jet. Teamed with Italy’s Leonardo, the Chicago-based firm beat out three rivals to win the T-X competition. The job is potentially worth $9.2 billion if the Air Force sticks to its plans to buy 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and all the associated ground equipment. The new jet, a so-called clean-sheet design of the sort that is getting rarer in the world of U.S. military aviation, will replace the service’s half-century-old T-38C Talons.
Boeing’s trifecta. Earlier this week, the company won the up-to-$2.4 billion contract to build new Air Force security helicopters, and that was just a few weeks after it got an $805 million contract to build four MQ-25 aerial refueling drones for the U.S. Navy. Marcus Weisgerber has more context, here.


From Defense One

In Cyberspace, Governments Don’t Know How to Count // Stefan Soesanto: NATO’s governments can’t agree on what constitutes a cyber attack, and that’s a big problem.

The World According to Trump // Uri Friedman: At the end of a contentious visit to the United Nations, the American president delivered a globe-spanning seminar on his worldview.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: A good month for Boeing; One-on-one with Sean Stackley; M&A aplenty, and more.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1787, Congress voted to send the just-completed U.S. Constitution to state legislatures for their approval.


The U.S. and six other nations want the UN to draft a new constitution for Syria, and they want it done “as quickly as possible.” That’s just one element of what State Department officials unveiled Thursday in a series of briefings that took place while most media outlets were focused on the next U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
The goal: Draft “a new Syrian constitution and laying the groundwork for free and fair UN-supervised elections in a safe and neutral environment in which all eligible Syrians — including those in the diaspora — have a right to participate.”
The seven nations pushing for this: Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and the U.S.
Deadline: Halloween 2018 — so 33 days from now.

Update on America’s policy of keeping troops inside Syria, Semper Gumby edition. The Trump administration’s Special Representative for Syria Engagement, Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, elaborated a bit on a topic that has not been terribly clear this week — judging by remarks from National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later that afternoon. To review…
Bolton said: “We’re not going to leave [Syria] as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias.”
Said Mattis: U.S. troops remain inside Syria “for one purpose, and that’s under the U.N. authorization about defeating ISIS… As part of this overarching problem, we have to address Iran. Everywhere you go in the Middle East where there’s instability you will find Iran.”
Said Amb. Jeffrey at the top of his remarks Thursday: “First of all, the U.S. will remain in Syria until the enduring defeat of ISIS. Now, that’s the military mission. It’s not broader than that, but for the moment, that has, by their mere presence and denial, certain implications for the rest of the situation.”
But the first question to Jeffrey was about that Iranian contingency,  — long as Tehran’s troops are in Syria, U.S. ones will be, too. Jeffrey’s reply (emphasis added): “The President wants us in Syria until that and the other conditions are met. But I want to be clear here: Us. ‘Us’ is not necessarily American boots on the ground. Boots on the ground have the current mission of the enduring defeat of ISIS. There are many ways that we can be on the ground. We’re certainly on the ground diplomatically. We in the State Department have teams operating in various parts of Syria or across the border. We have local forces that we have trained in various parts of Syria. Our allies have local forces.”
So what next? “We want to see a de-escalation of the military conflict, a political solution that honors the Syrian people, and thus want to see the UN peace process be reinvigorated,” Jeffrey said. But with, as he put it, “five states’ military forces — U.S., Russian, Turkish, Iranian, and Israeli, at least in the air — over and around Syria, bumping into each other” in Syria, de-escalation and that UN-drafted constitution seem a long way off. Read the ambassador’s full remarks Thursday, here.

ULA chooses Blue Origin engine for massive rocket. United Launch Alliance — the Boeing-Lockheed partnership that has launched the vast majority of Pentagon satellites in the past decade — has picked the BE-4 engine developed by Jeff Bezos’ rocket company to power its Vulcan heavy-lift launch vehicle. The first flight of the Vulcan, intended to deliver up to 35 tons to low Earth orbit, is expected in 2020 or so. Reuters, here.
Vulcan vs. Falcon Heavy. The Vulcan will compete with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which took its maiden (and so far only) flight in February. Quick comparison: Falcon Heavy is designed to develop 5 million pounds of thrust, against Vulcan’s 3.8 million — but the latter’s design is intended to accommodate external boosters to increase its lifting capacity. CNN, here.

Said a Kremlin spox this morning: “On Red Square there are still 10 Stalins and 15 Lenins running around, and they look remarkably like the originals.” (Reuters)
What he was responding to: This Bellingcat investigative work unmasking one of the Skripal poisoning suspects as a GRU colonel. (Groucho Marx, anyone?)

A new army chief has taken charge in Thailand. His task: “oversee a return to barracks to make way for a civilian government after nearly five years of military rule,” Reuters reports.
The man: General Apirat Kongsompong, and he “belongs to the King’s Guard faction in the First Infantry Division of the First Army Region - a group at the very heart of the royalist military establishment.” He also just so happens to be “the son of General Sunthorn Kongsompong, who led a 1991 coup… which resulted in the military’s return to barracks in 1992 for 22 years, until the last coup in 2014.”
If all goes well, there could be a general election in May under a new constitution, Reuters writes. But that’s not exactly a sure thing. More here.

And finally this morning: A plane crash-landed in the water today while trying to arrive at an airport in the Micronesia archipelago — and somehow all 47 passengers and crew survived, the Associated Press reports from New Zealand.
Evidently the plane overshot the runway by quite a lot. Said one passenger afterwards: “I thought we landed hard. Until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in. And I thought, well, this is not the way it’s supposed to happen.”
Saving the day: “the locals who immediately started coming out in boats.” And U.S. Navy sailors working nearby. Read on, here.

Have a safe one this weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!

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