Deadly midair collision; Yemen peace talks; DPRK expands ICBM base; FONOPs near Russia; And a bit more.
Developing this morning: A Marine Corps KC-130 and an F/A-18 fighter jet collided in midair this morning about 55 nautical miles off southern Japan’s Kochi Prefecture, Marine Corps Times reports.
Seven service members were involved between the two aircraft — five in the KC-130 and two from the F/A-18.
So far, two Marines have been recovered — but one of them has passed away, Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson reports. Five are still missing. The surviving service member was most recently listed in “fair” condition.
Helping in the search: “Three Japanese ships...U.S. Marine Corps special operations MC-130s, several Japanese UH-60 equivalents and other Japanese search and rescue aircraft and a Rivet Joint,” MCTs writes. More, here.
For the record, via Tomlinson again: “The midair collision off Japan is the 21st non-combat aviation crash for U.S. military this year. In 2017, there were 20 non-combat crashes.”
Lessons from a past crash: We now know a bit more about the “horrifying” KC-130T plane crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi on July 10, 2017. Defense News’ Valerie Insinna got her hands on a Marine Corps investigation into that July 10 crash.
The quick takeaway: A corroded propeller was sent through a maintenance depot but wasn’t repaired. "On July 10, 2017, that worn-down blade finally failed and came loose from the propeller 20,000 feet above Mississippi farmland." It then "shot into the side of the aging aircraft... set[ting] off a cataclysm that killed everyone on board and left the aircraft in three pieces."
One lingering Q: Could that depot problem be more widespread than anyone previously understood? Read the rest of Insinna’s report, here.
From Defense One
Would a $700 Billion Budget Really Sink the Pentagon? // William D. Hartung and Ben Freeman: Resistance is already forming to a proposed decrease in 2020 spending. It’s important to understand just what that decrease means.
New Poll Data Should Be a Clarion Call to Those Who Believe in Global Engagement // Tara Sonenshine: The partisan gap is widening on several key foreign-policy priorities — as is the generation gap.
Global Carbon Emissions Rose in 2018 — A Lot // Akshat Rathi, Quartz: Three studies show the world is losing the fight to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! And if you find this stuff useful, consider sharing it with somebody you think might find it useful, too. On this day in 2001, the U.S. refused amnesty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and other top Taliban officials in Afghanistan. Omar had announced his surrender, but U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would have none of it.
The latest from the Yemen peace talk process suggests that the negotiations kicking off today in Sweden will last about a week.
The venue? “a renovated castle 30 miles from Stockholm,” The Wall Street Journal reports from the Swedish town of Rimbo.
The kind-of-remarkable thing: The two sides — the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi — aren’t slated to even see each other. Instead, the UN’s Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, will shuttle back and forth inside the castle between the two parties.
One possible area of agreement: “a prisoner swap of up to 1,500 rebel fighters for as many as 2,000 pro-government forces.”
Other more delicate options involve reopening the airport in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, currently held by the Houthis; and a de-escalation of fighting in and around the western port city of Hodeida. Read the rest, here.
North Korea expands ICBM base. Jeffrey Lewis and his Middlebury Institute band of open-source sleuths scrutinized satellite imagery to discover a new facility opening near an existing base in the mountainous region of Yeongjeo-dong.
CNN: The discovery offers “yet another reminder that diplomatic talks with the US have done little to prevent Kim Jong Un from pursuing his promise to mass produce and deploy the existing types of nuclear warheads in his arsenal.” Read, here.
For the first time since 1987, the U.S. Navy has sent a warship through the Sea of Japan to challenge Russian territorial claims, CNN reported Wednesday.
The gist: Guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell “sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia's excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other Nations," US Navy Lt. Rachel McMarr, a spokesperson for the US Pacific Fleet, told CNN in a statement. A bit more, here.
Next for the U.S. Navy? The Black Sea, apparently. CNN’s Ryan Browne reports the Pentagon wants to send a warship there, but needs the State Department to trigger certain parameters set forth in the Montreux Convention.
BTW: Open Skies alert in the vicinity of Ukraine. CNN’s Browne also reports this morning that, "Today, the United States and Allies conducted an extraordinary flight under the Open Skies Treaty,” according to the Pentagon. “The timing of this flight is intended to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Ukraine and other partner nations."
Russia has warned Cyprus, the Mediterranean isle of spooks, against allowing the U.S. military to deploy there, Reuters reported Wednesday. “We’re getting information from various sources that the United States is actively studying options to build up its military presence on Cyprus,” Maria Zakharova, a spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday in Moscow.
The rest of the threat: “It being drawn into U.S. and NATO plans in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East will inevitably lead to dangerous and destabilizing consequences for Cyprus itself...In Moscow we can’t ignore the anti-Russian element in these (U.S.) plans and in the event that they are implemented we will be forced to take countermeasures.”
Cyprus’ response: “It has never been our aim, nor do we seek the militarization of Cyprus,” replied Prodromos Prodromou, a spokesman for the Cypriot government. More, including a terse history of the divided island, here.
This week in military robotics: The Russian military is considering issuing a demining ground robot to Moscow’s ground forces, according to this report (in Russian) flagged by the Center for Naval Analyses’ Samuel Bendett.
The Army’s special operations commander tells his Green Berets and Rangers to get their sh*t together. “In a Nov. 29 memo to the force, Army Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette called on his troops to take a hard look at themselves,” Military Times’ Meghann Myers reported Wednesday.
Wrote Beaudette: “Recent incidents in our formation have called our ethics and professionalism into question, and threaten to undermine the trust bestowed on us by the American people and our senior leadership.”
A few possible incidents he may have been referring to include “attempting to smuggle cocaine back from Colombia, the murder of an estranged wife, the sexual assault of a family friend, and the rape of two young girls.” As Myers notes, “Three of those four cases came out of 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.” Read on, here.
Reporting from Afghanistan: “U.S. Troops, Raiding Afghan Villages, Fight With Little Hope for Military Victory” is the headline atop a report from the western Balkh province by WSJ’s Michael M. Phillips.
The tease: “American commanders see each battlefield win as a means of strengthening the allied position in peace negotiations.”
Writes WaPo’s Dan Lamothe of this feature: “Great piece...looking at the U.S. military's strategy for raids in Afghanistan, with still-rare access to a Special Forces unit. Americans are well-served when the coalition allows journalists to explain how these soldiers do their work.” Dive into Phillips’ (paywalled) report from Chimtal, Afghanistan, here.
Emoluments watch: President Trump’s refusal to divest his businesses has left open conduits for foreign entities to attempt to buy influence. Two lawsuits seeking to determine whether this has happened are moving forward in federal courts.
Under the microscope: “Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday, adding detail to a story that broke last year.
“These transactions have become ammunition for plaintiffs in two lawsuits alleging that Trump violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause by taking payments from foreign governments. On Tuesday, the attorneys general in Maryland and the District subpoenaed 13 Trump business entities and 18 competing businesses, largely in search of records of foreign spending at the hotel.”
For reference: Since 2016, Defense One has compiled a list of Trump business endeavors that present potential conflicts of interest in the national-security sphere: “Foreign governments have taken notice. A number of them have found ways to do favors for Trump’s projects in their countries. At least 11 foreign governments paid Trump-owned entities during his first year in office.” Read, here.
And finally today: America’s new ambassador to Canada says she appreciates “both sides of the science” on climate change. “I think that both sides have their own results, from their studies,” Kelly Craft, who presented her credentials to the Canadian government on Monday, told the CBC. Craft’s husband is billionaire coal-mining magnate and climate denier Joe Craft.
To actual scientists, there’s no “both sides” anymore. The overwhelming majority of research shows, as NASA puts it, “Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
Recent months have seen a flurry of reports and research findings that strengthen the consensus and illustrate the danger. Just this week, as policymakers meet at a UN climate-change summit in Katowice, Poland, three new studies show that greenhouse gases increased in 2018 after two years of remaining relatively flat. Read, here.
NEXT STORY: Global Carbon Emissions Rose in 2018 — A Lot