Today's D Brief: F-35 in the Med; EU force by 2025?; Blinken in Kenya; Austin to MidEast; And a bit more.

Developing: There may be a $90 million jet at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea today after a British pilot ejected from his F-35 “during routine flying operations” this morning. The British Defense (er, Defence) Ministry tweeted out the news shortly before The D Brief went to press today.

For the record: “The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” the Brits say. 

FWIW: The U.S. has crashed at least two F-35s since 2018 (over South Carolina and another near Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base in 2020). 


From Defense One

Biden Launches Arms-Control Talks with China, Warns Xi on Taiwan  // Patrick Tucker: Beijing’s aggression toward the island, nuclear ambitions are big points of worry for the administration.

China Locks Down Its History, to Its Peril and the World’s // Peter W. Singer and Matt Brazil: Xi Jinping’s effort to cement lifelong power brings rigidity and fragility.

Army Recruiters on TikTok Dance Around Ban To Reach Gen Z // Elizabeth Howe: As threat worries subside, one sergeant has nearly half a million followers on the China-based app—and the Army wants her advice.

Rising Inflation Is Beginning to Worry Pentagon Leaders // Marcus Weisgerber: Higher salaries and more expensive weapons looming large as the Defense Department assembles next budget proposal.

DHS Launches Portal to Recruit—and Retain—Cybersecurity Talent // Mariam Baksh: The moment of truth is here for a new hiring system that promises to address gaping cybersecurity shortages by redefining "merit."

US Manufacturing Decline is Hurting National Security, Report Warns // Marcus Weisgerber: A Ronald Reagan Institute task force says the government needs to spend more on job training and manufacturing infrastructure.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here


The EU wants its own (non-U.S.) “rapid response force” by 2025, Reuters reported Tuesday from Brussels after glimpsing an alleged draft of the plan, which isn’t expected to be finalized until at least March.
These developments follow the ambitions of French President Emmanuel Macron, who received U.S. President Joe Biden’s blessing for such a force after the two leaders rekindled relations following the nuclear submarine row with Australia in September.
In case you’re wondering, “Not all 27 EU states would need to take part, although approval of any deployment would require consensus,” Reuters writes. Continue reading, here.
BTW: Former Pentagon official James Miller has been tapped to lead AUKUS, which is shorthand for that U.S., British, and Australian nuclear sub effort initiated under some controversy two months ago. Miller was the undersecretary of defense for policy under POTUS44; and now he’ll report to POTUS46’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
At its core, “Miller’s mission is to implement, and if possible, accelerate the effort, which by all accounts will be a formidable and lengthy undertaking involving sharing sensitive technology, settling on a submarine design and training shipyard workers and crews,” U.S. officials told the Journal. Read on, here

The U.S. military’s #2 officer says China’s late July hypersonic test “probably should create a sense of urgency” similar to the so-called “Sputnik moment” among the U.S. science and defense establishment, he told CBS News this week—which happens to be about a week before he retires. Find that interview with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten here.

Get smart on China’s steadily growing nuclear arsenal thanks to the latest update (it’s a 5.1MB PDF) from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda.
One key consideration: “Despite the hubbub around China's new missile silos,” Korda warns, “it’s important to remember a crucial bit a of context: Even if the Chinese stockpile quadrupled in size, it would still be less than half that of either the U.S. or Russian stockpiles.”

After Chinese investors took over a military drone manufacturer, Italian officials say they’ll file a formal complaint to block the deal, Reuters reported Tuesday from Rome.
Involved: Alpi Aviation, based in northern Italy. “The case became public in September, when the Italian tax police disclosed a probe into the deal over an alleged breach of rules regarding the sale of military materials, saying six people were under investigation,” Reuters reminds us.
For the record: Italy retains the right to cancel these sort of deals under what’s referred to as “golden powers.” And officials in Rome have used these just four times since 2012. “Three of these headed off Chinese bids,” Reuters reports, “and two have been since [Prime Minister Mario] Drgahi's government took office nine months ago.” More here.

On the other side of the Med, a rogue general and the son of a dictator are running for president in Libya’s December elections, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday. In the case of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose Russian-backed forces have been at war with Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli for the past several years, he insisted in a Tuesday address that he’s running for president “not because I am chasing power but because I want to lead our people towards glory, progress, and prosperity.”
Also joining the presidential fray: Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who happens to be “wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes,” AFP writes.
Bigger picture: It’s now been 10 years since the start of a NATO-backed uprising in Libya that toppled dictator Muammar Gadhafi. “But the path to the ballot box has been lined with disputes over the constitutional basis for the polls and the powers to be given to whoever wins,” AFP reports. Continue, here.

And lastly: U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken is in Kenya today where a planned 10-minute conversation with President Uhuru Kenyatta ran to 90 minutes, the Associated Press reports traveling with the secretary.
Panning out: Ethiopia’s civil war is dominating regional considerations, as is the military coup that toppled Sudan’s prime minister in late October, a month before civilian leaders were due to take charge after decades of dictatorial rule.
Read more: 

FWIW: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be traveling to the Middle East later this week—to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (but not to Saudi Arabia, as the Wall Street Journal’s Nancy Youssef pointed out on Twitter).
From the region: Iran Resumes Production of Advanced Nuclear-Program Parts, Diplomats Say,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday.

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