Today's D Brief: US, UK boost weapons production; Marines have no 'woke' problems, Berger says; 6th-gen jet for UK, Italy, Japan; And a bit more.

United States lawmakers are preparing to spend another nearly $3 billion to accelerate munitions production for artillery, missiles, and rockets. That’s according to the $858 billion defense policy bill that passed the House of Representatives on Thursday evening in a 350-80 vote. That bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve the text sometime next week.

Also: The U.S. Army this week announced two new contracts to improve 155mm artillery production at the Ohio-based IMT Defense Corporation, and at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, based in Garland, Texas. Those deals were reached in late November, but weren’t publicized by the service until Thursday. 

Bigger picture: The U.S. is sitting on “an estimated $10 billion in current and planned munitions orders,” the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. “You have to have almost a political environment like we have now, where people see the urgency for it,” Bill LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told the Journal. “Because in times of peace and times of prosperity, it’s one of the first things that falls off the budget.” 

The Brits say they’re boosting their anti-tank weapon stockpiles thanks to a £229 million deal with Saab to produce more Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons, or NLAWs for short. Defense Minister Ben Wallace announced the deal Wednesday, which calls for the delivery of “several thousand” NLAWs between 2024 and 2026, “in addition to around 500 being delivered in 2023 through a separate procurement.”

According to Wallace, “the NLAW has been an important capability in Ukraine’s fight back against Russia’s illegal invasion, making up part of the 10,000 anti-tank weapons the UK has supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Ukraine donor update: The Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Poland still lead the way when it comes to allied military support to Ukraine as a percentage of GDP. The UK ranks 10th, and the U.S. isn’t far behind in the No. 14 spot, according to the latest numbers from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which just updated its dataset Wednesday. 

Developing: Russia has created “the biggest landmine threat since World War II,” endangering an area the size of Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut combined, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Isabel Coles, reporting Friday from Ukraine. 

New: The U.S. military is sending an infantry company and another HIMARS long-range artillery system to Estonia as part of plans drawn up this past June during a NATO meeting in Madrid, defense officials in Tallinn said Thursday. The Associated Press has a bit more. 

Related reading: 

From Defense One

US Warships Need Faster Ways to Rearm, Repair, Navy Secretary Says // Caitlin M. Kenney: Carlos Del Toro has also ordered up several steps intended to improve his service’s tech innovation.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 113: What we know about the Air Force’s new B-21 bomber  // Ben Watson, Marcus Weisgerber, and Lauren C. Williams: Defense One staff help unpack the hype and lingering mysteries surrounding America's newly-unveiled bomber plane, and we check in on the annual Reagan National Defense Forum.

The Defense Department’s New Data King Is Skeptical of AI ‘Pixie Dust’ // Patrick Tucker: A more unified approach to data collection will enable bottom-up tools and capabilities

The Ukraine Fight Is Just Part of Russia’s War // Robin Shepherd and Robert Vass: Western leaders must remind their populaces what is under pressure and at stake.

Woke-ism ‘Not a Factor’ in the Marine Corps, Commandant Says // Jennifer Hlad: “I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. They’re not talking about it,” Gen. David Berger said at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

Welcome to this Friday 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. On this day in 1979, and well before internet paranoia helped spread rumors of nanobots, smallpox was officially eradicated thanks to a worldwide vaccination campaign that lasted almost two decades. 

“Sixth-generation” fighter jet effort finally takes off (sort of). Seven years after initially launching the effort, the U.K. and Italy announced this week that Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. will help them build a new AI-enhanced fighter jet, which our colleague Marcus Weisgerber previewed in July. The new plane, dubbed “Tempest,” was already being developed between the Brits and Italians.  British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is visiting a Royal Air Force base Friday “to launch the first major phase of the programme,” Sunak’s office said Thursday.
The idea is to eventually replace the Typhoon jet; but it could be a while because the new aircraft aren’t expected to begin arriving until at least 2035, the BBC reported Friday. Read more, here; or from 10 Downing Street, here

And lastly: On the Hill, Sinema goes her own way. Just days after Democrat Raphael Warnock won reelection to the Senate in a runoff in Georgia, Arizona’s Krysten Sinema has announced she’s leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent. The move means that Democrats will still have control over the Senate in 2023, but only by a very slim margin, potentially giving West Virginia’s Joe Manchin “more sway,” the Washington Post reported.
Sinema voted with Biden “more than 90 percent of the time,” the Post reports, though she did vote against the Democratic Party on some key issues.
In her own words: Read Sinema’s oped in the Arizona Republic about her decision, here

That’s it for us this week. Have a safe weekend. And we’ll see you again on Monday!