Today's D Brief: Another US mass shooting; Russia sponsors terrorism, EU says; Global defense budget forecast; Erdogan again teases Syrian ground op; And a bit more.
Seven people were killed in another American mass shooting on Tuesday, this time at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., near several U.S. Navy bases around the Norfolk community. Four people remain hospitalized, and one of the deceased includes the shooter, who was an employee of that very Walmart, Chesapeake police said Wednesday morning, according to local WAVY news.
The gunman used a pistol in the apparent rampage, which began just after 10 p.m. ET, and started at the back of the store around the time that evening workers had just begun their shift. One employee told WAVY the gunman—whose identity has not yet been revealed—was a store manager.
Trending badly: There have been more than 600 mass shootings in America so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which lists each incident in a spreadsheet here. By comparison, the U.S. experienced 690 mass shootings in 2021; 610 the year before that; and 417 in 2019.
Additional reading: The New York Times updated its “Partial List of Mass Shootings in the United States in 2022” after the Tuesday shooting in Chesapeake, which follows close on the heels of another apparent mass shooting Sunday evening at a nightclub in Colorado Springs that left five people dead; more almost certainly would have died had it not been for the alleged heroic acts of a former Army officer named Richard Fierro.
From Defense One
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Space Force Is Setting Up Inside Combatant Commands // Lauren C. Williams: INDOPACOM is the first warfighting command to stand up a USSF component, but it won’t be the last.
Will Tech Layoffs Finally Help Defense Firms Get the Engineers They Seek? // Marcus Weisgerber: Some observers say industry and government are moving too slowly to capitalize on a unique opportunity.
Start Moving to Quantum-Safe Cryptography, White House Tells Feds // Alexandra Kelley: The Office of Management and Budget released new guidance to begin the governmentwide effort to protect digital infrastructure from quantum attacks.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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 day in 1992, the world’s first ever smartphone was introduced by IBM, whose officials called their ahead-of-its-time device “Simon.”
The European Union just designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. The parliamentary resolution passed overwhelmingly in a 494-58 vote, with 44 abstentions; and shortly afterward, the parliament’s website found itself under crippling denial-of-service cyber attacks Wednesday.
Why: The Russian military’s apparently deliberate targeting of civilians across Ukraine, including in hospitals, schools, and shelters is what drew the designation. Ukraine’s President Volodymir Zelenskyy welcomed the news, writing on Twitter, “Russia must be isolated at all levels and held accountable in order to end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe.”
To be clear, “The move is largely symbolic, as the European Union does not have a legal framework in place to back it up,” Reuters notes, reporting Wednesday from Brussels. And that means the declaration is more of a recommendation to individual nations across the EU to impose their own bans on Moscow. At least four nations have already done so, including the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland.
The European Union just disbursed another €2.5 billion to Ukraine for “urgent repairs” and reconstruction, EU Commision President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday. EU officials are already planning for an estimated €18 billion in Ukraine aid for the calendar year ahead, she added, and signed off noting, “We will keep on supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
On the “dwindling stockpiles” beat, Ukraine’s military chief said Tuesday that Russia has only 119 Iskander ballistic missiles left, which represents just 13 percent of its alleged stocks going back to the start of the invasion in February.
On the battered infrastructure front, Ukraine’s energy provider said Tuesday that Russian strikes have hit almost all thermal power plants, large hydropower plants, and hub substations across the country. That means regular power outages are now expected to last until at least the end of March, the Institute for the Study of War writes in its latest assessment.
What lies ahead for ordinary Ukrainians appears to be quite dismal in the near-term. That’s because it appears that “Russian forces will likely be able to continue to reduce the overall capacity of Ukrainian critical infrastructure in the near term given the current state of the Ukrainian power grid,” ISW warns. However, the think tank predicts optimistically, “the Russian military will fail to achieve its goal of degrading the Ukrainian will to fight.”
- “Russia Strikes Maternity Ward in Southern Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday;
- “Oil-Shipping Costs Soar as Ukraine War Reshapes Global Trade,” the Journal reported separately Wednesday, citing industry operators and analysts;
- “Missiles for Poland Raise Questions on NATO Stance in Ukraine War,” the New York Times reported Wednesday from Warsaw.
For at least the third time this year, Turkey’s president says he’s about to order a new military ground operation inside the neighboring country of Syria. President Recep Erdogan repeated the broad plan again Tuesday, promising to use Ankara’s “tanks, artillery, and soldiers” to kill Kurdish militants along Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
Rewind: Erdogan said back in May he wanted to kill all Kurds who live along a 30-km “safe zone” he has gradually carved out of Syrian territory over the past several years since ISIS rose and then shrank from power in the region. Erdogan again vowed the ground operation would be coming soon in remarks the following month, in late June, when he vowed to begin “as soon as our preparations are completed.”
Related reading: “Kurds brace for renewed Turkish assault as commander urges U.S. help,” the Washington Post reported Friday from Baghdad.
This week in slightly terrifying emerging technologies, check out a seemingly versatile new, boot-sized lethal drone that could bring us all several steps closer to the futuristic world portrayed in video games like the gadget-packed “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” series. Ulrike Franke of the European Council on Foreign Relations flagged this apparently new weapon of war Tuesday on Twitter, excerpting a minute-long promotional clip via manufacturers of the device, known as the “LANIUS” drone from Israeli-based Elbit Systems.
Elbit says the LANIUS uses artificial intelligence to “autonomously scout and map buildings and points of interest for possible threats, detecting, classifying, and syncing” with related systems in the Elbit family. It can also purportedly act as a flying bomb that can detonate at the push of a button, or be set to act as a bomb triggered when its motion-sensors detect nearby movement.
One big apparent catch: The battery life currently only lasts about seven minutes or so, drone researcher Faine Greenwood pointed out Tuesday on Twitter as well. She also noted that you can currently expect the drone to be quite loud, which is likely to reduce its “stealthy” appeal for some potential buyers.
Worth noting: “Target engagement is still [performed] by [a] human, but target detection and classification is AI-enabled,” Franke said. But she also noted, “control links aren’t necessarily great inside in urban warfare,” which could potentially compromise the drone’s efficiency in its current configuration. See Elbit’s full two-minute promo video, here.
By the way: “Every squad in the U.S. military should be equipped with a cheap, disposable drone (30 minute flight time min[imum]) for reconnaissance, targeting ([forward observing]), and attack,” said U.S. Army veteran and urban warfare advisor John Spencer Tuesday on Twitter. “If they don’t, we are risking tactical losses,” he predicted.
Also new in the world of drones: Northrop Grumman says U.S. Army officials just successfully tested the contractor’s “most complex” counter-UAV system to date. Writing from Huntsville, Ala., the defense firm said Tuesday that its latest promising counter-drone “assessment included several complex tests with live fire scenarios” involving “coordinated rocket, artillery and mortar and unmanned aircraft systems attacks.”
Northrop says the new system is already “deployed in several theaters of operation simultaneously conducting short range air defense, C-UAS and counter-rocket, artillery and mortar missions.” More, here.
- “Northrop Grumman to develop affordable high-energy laser sources for future counter-unmanned laser weapons,” MilitaryAerospace.com reported Wednesday off a new project from DARPA;
- “Serbia may become biggest operator of military drones in Balkans,” C4ISRNet reported Monday;
- See also “Counter UAV Market is Projected to Reach US$ 6.56 Billion in 2028,” according to a new industry analysis (PDF here) from Stratview Research.
And that’s a wrap for us this week. Have a safe and yummy Thanksgiving holiday, wherever you are or will be traveling to. We’ll catch you again on Monday!