Big merger in works; Trump’s remarkable interview; Ukraine’s big drone plans; One F-16 destroys two others; and just a bit more…

L3, Harris plan merger. D1’s Marcus Weisgerber: “What started as a social relationship between L3 Technologies CEO Chris Kubasik and Harris CEO Bill Brown led to Sunday’s announcement that the two firms intend to merge, creating a new $16 billion aerospace company that would be one of the largest defense contractors in America.”

Weisgerber talked to both CEOs on Sunday, a day after the Wall Street Journal broke news of the deal. Among other things, Kubasik said, the big deal will likely bring L3’s recent acqusition spree to a halt: “Job one is going to be the integration for the first couple years, so there will be very, very few, if any, acquisitions.”

Based on 2017 revenue, the new “L3 Harris” would be the world’s seventh-largest defense firm, and the sixth-largest U.S. defense firm. The merger still requires antitrust approval.

From Defense One

L3, Harris CEOs: Merger Will Help Compete Against Top Contractors // Marcus Weisgerber: L3 expects to depart its Manhattan headquarters and join Harris in Florida.

Ukrainian Armed-Drone Makers Sprint Ahead as Russian Effort Hits Snag // Patrick Tucker: The Ukrainians are eagerly off showing a proposed long-range UAV while uncertainty surrounds Russia’s Altius program.

The Pentagon’s Push to Program Soldiers’ Brains // Michael Joseph Gross, The Atlantic: DARPA’s developing capabilities still hover at or near a proof-of-concept stage. But that’s close enough to have drawn investment from some of the world’s richest corporations.

Is North Korea Denuclearizing? Here’s How We’ll Tell // Jung H. Pak and Eric M. Brewer, The Atlantic: Kim Jong Un may not be giving up his arsenal now. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get there eventually.

Can the Chinese Be Trusted to Lead International Institutions? // Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The abduction of Interpol’s president shows that Beijing’s officials will be subordinate to the orders of the Communist Party.

Defense One Radio: Ep. 24 // Defense One Staff: Unmasking the GRU; The future of al-Shabaab; F-35 and the UK; and Bell Helicopter CEO Mitch Snyder.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston. Ben Watson is away. 

How long will James Mattis stay on as SecDef? “60 Minutes” put that question to President Trump, who replied, “General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves.”

Trump also called Mattis “sort of a Democrat,” a curious thing to say about a career Marine fired by Barack Obama for declining to support his approach to Iran.

Next question: Asked to confirm Bob Woodward’s report that Mattis had to explain to the president why the U.S. has allies, Trump responded: “I think I know more about it than he does.”

Perhaps he does think that. But Trump said other things that were more demonstrably false:

  • “The day before I came in [as president], we were going to war with North Korea.”
  • “China meddled, too” in the 2016 election.
  • Climate change “could very well go back.”
  • The United States is “paying almost the entire cost of NATO to protect Europe.”

The week ending on Thursday had already been the second-most falsehood-filled of Trump’s presidency, according to the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale, who wrote, “He made 129 false claims in all, just shy of his one-week record of 133, which he set in August.”

Back to the 60 Minutes interview:

Read CBS News’ transcript of the interview, here.

Was your credit card number stolen from DoD’s travel system? On Friday, Pentagon officials said online thieves had gained access to “personal information and credit card data” of 30,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel, a number that “may grow as the investigation continues,” AP reported. “The breach could have happened some months ago but was only recently discovered.”

Mechanic accidentally fires F-16 cannon, damaging two jets. A technician working on a Belgian Air Force fighter jet at Florennes Air Base activated its six-barrel 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 cannon, which blew up another F-16 parked in front. The resulting fire damaged a third jet. The incident happened on on Oct. 12; the news broke Saturday. Read on, here.

And finally today: Several really, really expensive F-22 fighter jets were damaged when Hurricane Michael levelled Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida last week. After veteran defense journo Tyler Rogoway posted pics of the damage, he began hearing from many people incensed that the Air Force had apparently not bothered to fly them out of harm’s way — or truck them, or carry them in pieces, or something. Rogoway apparently got exasperated enough to spell it out: “A modern fighter is not a Honda Accord,” he wrote. “The F-22, in particular, is more analogous to an exotic supercar or even a high-end race car than anything else. It requires dozens of hours of maintenance for every single flight hour and deep maintenance can take days or even many weeks to accomplish, depending on what is needed to be done and availability of spare parts, which can be scarce.”

A better debate, Rogoway points out, is: should the U.S. military base its jets in locales where weather is only going to get more dangerous? Enjoy your Monday!

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