Today's D Brief: Boom times for global arms industry; SecDef Austin urges Congress; Protests sweep China, Iran; And a bit more.

U.S. and European arms makers seem to be busier than they’ve been all century now that we’re 10 months into the Russian military’s faltering invasion of its democratic neighbor Ukraine. There were at least four reports from major Western news outlets over the last several days about this new phase of weapons production. 

Warehouses across eastern European cities like Warsaw and Prague are newly bustling with activity related to artillery and gun manufacturing, as well as bullet-proof vests and air defense systems, Reuters reported Thursday. 

Rocket launchers, tanks, and bullets are dominating orders at firms like Germany’s Rheinmetall and Sweden’s Saab, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thanksgiving Day. American firms are seeing renewed interest in older weapons, too; that includes Raytheon’s Stinger missiles, and Lockheed Martin’s Javelin and HIMARS rocket stocks. Even L3Harris Technologies Inc. is cannibalizing old radios for chips to be used in new communications gear, according to the Journal.  

In terms of artillery use, “A day in Ukraine is a month or more in Afghanistan,” one expert told the New York Times, reporting on the same trends Saturday. Consider this: “Last summer in the Donbas region, the Ukrainians were firing 6,000 to 7,000 artillery rounds each day,” whereas  “Russians were firing 40,000 to 50,000 rounds per day…By comparison, the United States produces only 15,000 rounds each month.”

Western nations have donated some 350 howitzer artillery systems to Ukraine (142 of those are from the U.S.); and at least a third are out of commission at any given time due to the laborious process of changing out warped barrels due to heat and overuse, the New York Times reported separately on Friday. French officials say they’d like to do more for Ukraine, but they’ve already donated a fifth of their howitzer systems to Kyiv since February. 

But there have also been notable instances of resilience and adaptability with the donated weapon systems: “To shell Russian positions at Snake Island,” the Times’ Steven Erlanger and Lara Jakes reported, “the Ukrainians put Caesars, with a 40-kilometer range, on barges and towed them out 10 kilometers to hit the island, which was 50 kilometers away, astonishing the French.” 

One idea floated here stateside: Put Boeing’s Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs onto current rockets in Ukraine’s inventory. That’s one concept reported out by Mike Stone of Reuters on Monday as Ukraine’s allies consider ways to get more bang for their existing buck. 

But replacing 155mm shells here in the states? Even if you begin now, “it’s going to be probably four to five years before you start seeing them come out the other end,” Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Times.

Big picture take: Rheinmetall’s CEO told the Journal he’s seen “a very, very clear signal that there must be investment programs over the next 10-15 years for the security of all of Europe.” Continue reading, here

Developing: “Russian forces have been digging trench lines and concentration areas in eastern Kherson since early October,” which seems to suggest they are “preparing either to defend in depth or to conduct operational or strategic delay operations,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote in their latest assessment Sunday evening. 

  • In photos: See some of the moved dirt via satellite imagery collected almost two weeks ago over Ukraine, via Maxar

“Russian forces clearly do not expect to be able to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting across the [Dnipro] river, nor are the Russians prioritizing defensive positions to stop such a crossing,” ISW says, and predicts, “The Russian military is setting conditions for a protracted defense in eastern Kherson Oblast that could allow the establishment of a solid Ukrainian lodgment on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.”

New: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has begun a three-day visit to Romania where he plans to meet with President Klaus Iohannis, Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, and Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu. Stoltenberg will be chairing a NATO diplomat meeting in Bucharest this week, as well as a conference where he’ll deliver a keynote address on Tuesday. 

ICYMI: NATO tested one of its air defense systems in Romania last Wednesdaysimulating an attack and the response via a French SAMP/T air defense system that’s been in Romania since May. On top of those French systems, “Germany has deployed Patriot missiles to Slovakia; the U.S. has deployed Patriot missiles to Poland; and the Spanish have deployed NASAMS systems to Latvia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” NATO said in a statement following the Wednesday drills. 

Meanwhile from Capitol Hill, the U.S. could soon finally get ambassadors to Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic after a Tuesday afternoon hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Details, here

Additional reading: 

From Defense One

Revealed: The Public Finally Gets to See the B-21 Stealth Bomber this Week // Marcus Weisgerber: Some of the Northrop Grumman employees building the secret plane also worked on the B-2 bomber.

I’m Thankful for American Troops – All of Them // Kevin Baron: The right-wing war on American LGBTQ+ troops and diversity in the military is getting worse. Maybe it’s time Pentagon leaders defend their own.

After Army Vet's Heroic Actions in a Gay Bar, GOP Lawmakers Release Anti-Woke Manifesto  // Bradley Peniston and Elizabeth Howe: As violence and threats rise against LGBTQ+ people, 10 senators join bill to roll back a Pentagon diversity-and-inclusion effort.

US Sending Ukraine 200 Generators, Anti-Drone Machine Guns // Patrick Tucker: After Russian attacks cause rolling blackouts, the West rushes backup energy, ammunition, and counter-drone tech.

It’s Finally Here: Pentagon Releases Plan To Keep Hackers Out Of Its Networks // Lauren C. Williams: Defense agencies are to implement zero-trust standards by 2027.

Welcome to this “Cyber Monday” 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 1958, the U.S. successfully tested the world’s first operational intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-65 Atlas. Its secretive development also gave us the corrosion-inhibiting lubricant, WD-40, initially designed for use with the Atlas rockets, and later expanded to ordinary stuff like door hinges and stuck piano keys. 

Citing both China and Russia, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has sent Congress a letter urging House and Senate leaders to quickly pass a year-long funding bill—and to do so before Republicans take control of the House in early January, and hopefully before current government funding expires on Dec. 16. “We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our back three, four, five, or six months of every fiscal year,” Austin said in his message, which Politico obtained a copy of on Monday. Read that (PDF) here.  

Unprecedented” protests have swept across China and thousands called for Xi Jinping to step down this weekend amid Beijing’s stifling “zero-Covid” public health policies nearly three years after the coronavirus pandemic started. Public concern quickly flared last week after protesters say lockdown procedures slowed the rescue of 10 people who perished in a fire in the western city of Urumqi.
Shanghai police pepper sprayed protesters and detained dozens more in vans and buses, the Associated Press reported Monday. “When will the end come? We don't have any communication around an exit strategy, and that is what people are calling for,” a British official told the BBC.
Few seem to expect the protests to last much longer, or to topple Xi’s hold on power as leader of the Communist Party. Meantime, “Government censors scrubbed the internet of videos and messages supporting them,” AP reports. “And analysts say unless divisions emerge, the Communist Party should be able to contain the dissent.”
Unrelated: Gain a deeper understanding of how Chinese leaders may use cyber coercion and cyber warfare to achieve “reunification” with Taiwan—according to a new study from analysts at the Recorded Future. Get a quick overview of the findings via one of the authors, writing on Twitter, here.
From the region: 

And lastly today: Protests sweeping across Iran have drawn the attention of Tehran’s top paramilitary commander, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, visited the eastern province of ​​Zahedan on Sunday, “where the military has attempted to violently suppress a two-month-old protest movement,” the Journal reports.
“We will definitely turn this huge sedition scene, and this world war into a burial ground for the policies of America, Israel, and its allies,” Salami promised. “The deceived people will return to the lap of the nation and become part of their people,” he said. The Jerusalem Post has a bit more, here
From the region: Two rockets landed near coalition forces on a U.S. patrol base in Syria late Friday night. Fortunately, no one was injured and nothing was damaged, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. “Attacks of this kind place coalition forces and the civilian populace at risk and undermine the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman.