Today's D Brief: Russia pounds Ukraine's power grid; NATO, Russia nuclear overlap; Army's new data platform; And a bit more.

Russian missiles are grinding away at Ukraine’s electricity networks, causing frequent outages of up to four hours at a time across the entire country, grid operator Ukrenergo said Thursday—one day after an official said that nearly half of the country’s networks have already been destroyed.

“According to new data, about 40 percent of the total infrastructure is seriously damaged,” Oleksandr Kharchenko, advisor to Kyiv’s energy minister, told Ukrainian television. “Repair and connection work is ongoing, but outages are expected today and tomorrow,” he said. 

Panning out: Ukraine has suffered “more attacks in the past 10 days than in the whole preceding period since Russia's invasion on 24 February,” according to the BBC, citing Ukrenergo officials. 

“War crime,” or “strategic bombing” campaign? The European Union’s top official said Wednesday that Russia’s strikes on Ukraine’s energy system is a “war crime…and acts of pure terror, and we have to call it as such.” But U.S.-based history blogger Trent Telenko on Twitter disagrees, instead viewing it as part of a Russian strategy of suppressing Ukrainian air defense systems, which would seem to grant a “military necessity” that could exempt it from international humanitarian law.

By the way: “Thursday marks the start of the heating season for Kyiv,” the Associated Press reports from the capital, “which like most urban centers in Ukraine and even Russia uses a Soviet-era central system controlled by the city that provides heat for apartment buildings and businesses.”

From Kyiv’s POV, “We will do everything possible to restore the normal energy capabilities of our country, but it takes time,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy told his countrymen in his nightly address Wednesday.

Zelenskyy’s advice? Ration electricity consumption from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. “Please do not turn on unnecessary electrical appliances. Please limit your electricity consumption and use those appliances that consume a lot of energy. Tomorrow, it is very important that the consumption is as conscious as possible, and thus the schedules of stabilization blackouts will be shorter.”

Meanwhile in Berlin: “Scorched earth tactics will not help Russia win the war,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers on Thursday, ahead of an EU meeting to find a unified approach to reducing the continent’s reliance on Russian energy. “They will only strengthen the unity and resolve of Ukraine and its partners,” he said. “All the lies and propaganda, the talk of 'special operations' and swift victories—all that was just a facade, like a Potemkin village,” Scholz said. Reuters has more.

Both NATO and Russia will soon be carrying out nuclear-themed exercises at the same time, though both were planned well in advance. For Moscow, it’s Grom (or “thunder”) 2022 drills are expected to begin in the next few days. For NATO, its drills—called “Steadfast Noon”—began on Monday, and featured B-52 bomber planes flying out of Minot, N.D., to the main alliance base for the exercise, Kleine Brogel airbase in Belgium. Some 14 alliance partners are converging there this week with more than 50 aircraft, Hans Kristensen previewed last week.  

FWIW: “Steadfast Noon involves only airplanes, while Russia’s exercise generally includes air, land, and naval forces that form parts of what is known as the nuclear triad,” the Wall Street Journal notes. 

Without any apparent sense of irony, Russia’s foreign ministry accused NATO of “destabilizing” European security with the exercises, Moscow’s state-run TASS reported Thursday. 

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Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this night in 1572, and during the Netherlands’ 80-year war for independence, 3,000 Spanish soldiers took advantage of low tide to wade across 15 miles of mudflats and occasional chest-deep water as they crossed the Scheldt River to relieve a Dutch siege on the city of Goes. Only nine men perished in the crossing, which required nearly each soldier in the Spanish contingent to hoist gunpowder above his head, fixed on pikes. The Spaniards remained in Goes for another five years, after which they were driven out by a Dutch force led by Prince Maurice of Nassau. It would be another seven decades before the Dutch fully won their independence from the declining Spanish empire at the conclusion of Europe’s devastating Thirty Years War, in 1648. 

A U.S. Air Force F-35A crashed Wednesday evening at the end of the runway at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, around 6:15 p.m., the 388th Fighter Wing tweeted shortly after the mishap. The pilot ejected from the plane and was taken to a local hospital “for observation,” the wing said. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash, but authorities will investigate, the Air Force said.
The 388th commander, Col. Craig Andrle, said the pilot was on his way back to the base from a routine training mission when the crash happened, CNN reported

And lastly: Today in Oklahoma, former Pentagon weapons buyer Ellen Lord and the former chief of America’s Pacific Air Forces, retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, are among a slate of keynote speakers participating in a symposium hosted by the University of Oklahoma’s Aerospace and Defense Innovation Institute—located about half an hour south of Tinker Air Force Base. (The event is closed to the public, but media wishing to watch can RSVP for a livestream link.)
Other guests include former Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Dr. Mark Lewis; Moe Khaleel from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Boeing Defense, Space & Security CEO Leanne Caret; the Pentagon’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Steven Morani; Air Force Materiel Command's deputy chief Lt. Gen. Carl Schaefer; and more.
Thanks to Tinker AFB, “The aerospace and defense industry is the second-largest sector of Oklahoma’s economy, with nearly $400 million in Department of Defense contracts awarded to our state in 2021 alone,” said Tomás Díaz de la Rubia of OU. That’s partly why he says OU is working to become a national leader in “radar innovations, sustainment and modernization, advanced technologies, and international security policy” in the years ahead. Read more, here