Breaking: All F-35s grounded: “The Pentagon has grounded all of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters due to faulty engine fuel tubes. All planes will be inspected over next 24 to 48 hours. If the tubes are in ‘good’ condition, the jets will be retuned to flight. This is all connected to an F-35 crash last month,” D1’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.
Update: Allied F-35s are also grounded. Read the full statement from the F-35 program office, here.
Mattis: Bring aircraft availability up, now. Services: Gulp. Washington Examiner’s Jamie McIntyre has a good rundown on the Navy and Air Force reactions to SecDef Mattis’ order to get F-35, F-22, F-16, and F-18 readiness rates to 80 percent in a one year. “While no one is complaining publicly, several of the players in the tactical aviation units I talked to yesterday indicated that Mattis’ tall order may be a tad unrealistic,” McIntyre writes.
How the U.S. arsenal is changing to face great-power conflict. After a generation of mostly counter-insurgency, the Pentagon is racing to rearm for what used to be called full-spectrum warfare. Among the changes:
1) It’s adjusting to Russian and Chinese advances. Most prominent: their progress in “establishing standoff capabilities” — that is, the ability to strike from greater distances than the U.S. Army, said Gen. John Murray, who leads the service’s new Futures Command. Speaking at this week’s AUSA convention, Murray said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “wake-up call” that forced the U.S. Army to rethink its needs, from better cyber security to longer-ranged artillery cannons. Marcus Weisgerber has more, here.
Keep an eye on: Picatinny Arsenal, which has modified an M777A2 howitzer to roughly double its range. Last week, it fired a round “62-ish kilometers” at Yuma Proving Ground, Murray said.
2) It’s becoming a bit less made-in-USA. The Air Force’s recent orders of foreign-made aircraft is likely just the start, Weisgerber reports. Leaders seem at least a little more willing to consider weapons designed offshore if they bring new capabilities — and quickly.
Keep an eye on: Raytheon’s pitch of Rheinmetall’s Lynx to be the Army’s upcoming next-generation armored fighting vehicle.
From Defense One
Russia’s Ukrainian Invasion Forced the US Army to Rethink its Needs // Marcus Weisgerber: From increasing cybersecurity measures to extending the range of its guns, the Army is changing the way it buys weapons.
Foreign Weapons Get a Closer Look as the Pentagon Races to Rearm // Marcus Weisgerber: That’s why Raytheon and others are eagerly courting non-U.S. partners with state-of-the-art gear.
Curtailing Korean Exercises Comes at a Price, Says USMC Commandant // Katie Bo Williams: Gen. Neller says training on the Korean peninsula is an integral — if not quite irreplaceable — part of Marine readiness.
Scientists: Pentagon’s Plant-Virus Research Could Endanger World’s Food Supply // Patrick Tucker: But DARPA responds that new ways are needed to harden crops against coming natural and manmade threats.
Will America Shape Its Grand Strategy Around China or Russia? // Reihan Salam, The Atlantic: The debate doesn’t just have consequences for U.S. foreign policy—it will define the next decades of domestic affairs as well.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston. If you find this useful, please consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague.
Hurricane Michael got a lot stronger, a lot faster than expected. “In little more than a day, a Category 1 storm became a “worst-case scenario” Category 4,” writes The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer. Two are dead at press time, after the storm tore up the Florida panhandle, ripped across Georgia as a hurricane, and headed for the Carolinas.
Record-breaking storm: “Michael is the strongest hurricane ever recorded making landfall on Florida’s Panhandle. It is also the strongest October hurricane ever known to come ashore in the continental United States,” Meyer writes.
It’s also a harbinger of the future. MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel has written that this kind of “climate-addled rapid intensification will make hurricanes increasingly difficult to predict.”
So what? Just like planting a tree, the best time to reduce dangerous emissions is a hundred years ago. The second-best time is now. But the U.S., at least at the federal level, is moving in the opposite direction.
Khashoggi update: The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, led U.S. senators to activated the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act on Wednesday. President Trump now has “120 days to decide whether to impose sanctions on any foreign person he determines sponsored or was involved in the disappearance of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” (Washington Post)
A plot? “American intelligence agencies have collected communications intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Mr. Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him, according to a former senior American official.
Personal diplomacy: The episode has underscored the unusual nature of the Trump Administration’s diplomatic approach to Saudi Arabia. The job of U.S. ambassador to the Gulf power has remained unfilled since early 2017. Instead, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has apparently been largely in charge of the official relationship, sometimes doing official business without other members of the U.S. government present.
Kushner backed MBS, the New York Times reports, who, it turns out “may be less the risk-taking reformer the Trump family eagerly embraced than a reckless, untested ruler, who critics say has been emboldened by his ties to the Trumps to take heavy-handed actions at home and abroad.”
Pressure is growing, Politico reports, citing the Magnitsky move and other threads. “But former officials and analysts, including some friendly with Khashoggi, are dismayed by what they say is a milquetoast response so far by the Trump team.”
And lastly today: Transparent face armor? The Army’s Soldier Center thinks a super-tough material now slated to help protect HIMARS rocket artillery crews might be light enough to be adapted to make face shields for other troops. Read on, here.