Today's D Brief: Ukraine hit with hypersonic missiles; Russian ground forces stall; State of the Navy; North Korea launches another missiles; And a bit more.

Russia launched half a dozen hypersonic missiles at Ukraine, killing at least 11 civilians across the country, including five in the far western city of Lviv on Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials. Kyiv’s military says it was able to shoot down 34 out of 81 various missiles launched Thursday, which targeted the electricity grid and knocked out power for more than 150,000 people across the northwest and the southern Odesa region, the Associated Press reports. 

The barrage was Moscow’s first large-scale attack in nearly a month, and allegedly included 28 Kh-101/Kh-555 air-based cruise missiles; 20 Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles; six X-22 air-based cruise missiles; another six Kh-47 “Kinzhal” air-based cruise missiles (those are the hypersonic ones); eight guided air missiles: two Kh-31Ps; six X-59s; 13 S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles; and eight additional Iranian-madde Shahed-136 and -131 “kamikaze” or one-way attack drones. Four of those drones were shot down before hitting their target; and another eight missiles appear to have missed their targets, according to Ukraine’s ground forces. Russia had launched just two missiles at Ukraine the day prior.

Ukraine also says Russia is running out of artillery shells, claiming key warehouses in central Russia are now almost entirely bare, and warehouse stocks elsewhere are being emptied and routed to the front lines. They also allege “improper storage and violation of service rules and regulations” have led to “visible signs of rust damage” on about half of Russia’s existing artillery stockpiles. As a result, Ukrainian officials say they’re expecting a noticeable “shortage in the artillery units of the Russian army within the next 2-3 months.”

One big picture takeaway: “Russia’s use of missiles in its war on Ukraine has been less effective and decisive in helping achieve its war aims than leaders in Moscow likely expected,” William Alberque of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote in a new analysis on Monday. “It has also become clear that Moscow’s apparent reliance on foreign components for some of its modern missile capabilities, in the context of comprehensive sanctions, may hamper its ability to reconstitute its missile force and possibly to fulfill future military sales to external customers,” said Alberque. Read more, here. Coverage continues below the fold…

Watch now: Defense One’s State of Defense series continues with State of the Navy, which began at 11 a.m. ET. Register here to watch the keynote interview with Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn. Afterward, we’ve planned a discussion on the future of naval strategy with the Hudson Institute’s Bryan Clark and Eric Labs of the Congressional Budget Office at 11:30. Then we’ll end by speaking with Naval Information Forces’ Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, which begins at about 12:10 p.m. 

Next week: Join us for the State of the Marine Corps on Thursday March 16, featuring Commandant Gen. David Berger. Details and registration, here

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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 this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1977, 12 Black Muslim gunmen seized three buildings in Washington, D.C., led by discharged former Army soldier Ernest Timothy McGhee, who had a history of mental illness and had changed his name to Hamaas Abdul Khaalis. The gunmen killed two people—a radio reporter and a policeman—and kidnapped nearly 150 others before ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran eventually helped de-escalate the three-day crisis. Khaalis would later die in a North Carolina prison in late 2003. 

After nearly a year of reluctance, South Korea has authorized the transfer of some of its Krab howitzer parts to Ukraine, Reuters reported Wednesday. “Produced by Poland’s Huta Stalowa Wola, the Krab is a self-propelled howitzer made by combining a South Korean K9 Thunder chassis, British BAE Systems turret, French Nexter Systems 155mm gun, and a Polish fire control system,” Josh Smith of Reuters writes. Poland has sent 18 of those Krabs to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began last February. South Korea has already sent about $100 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine; and in late February, officials said another $130 million in non-lethal aid would be coming soon.
For the record, “The export licenses specifically covered the howitzer's South Korea-made chassis, and the government's stance of not providing weapons system has not changed,” Smith reports. Read a bit more in his Twitter thread on the development, here.
You may recall NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Seoul in January in part to encourage leaders there to take a more active role in helping Ukraine defend against the invading Russian military.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart in a phone call on Wednesday. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was also on the call, along with his counterpart Andriy Yermak, who joined Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhny. The men discussed the embattled city of Bakhmut, and possible future aid to Ukraine, according to officials in Kyiv.
Should Russia fully capture the ruined city of Bakhmut, it’s difficult to see where they might pivot to next, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote Wednesday evening. That’s because Moscow seems to lack an equipped and prepared reserve force to advance much beyond the eastern city. “Most observed Russian units in Donbas are already engaged in offensive operations, including Russian airborne elements that joined the Russian offensive in Bakhmut in January,” ISW said.
America’s spy chief articulated many of the same sentiments in remarks to lawmakers Wednesday. “The Russians are making incremental progress in Bakhmut, which is not a particularly strategic objective, but are otherwise facing considerable constraints, including personnel and ammunition shortages,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday.
“In short, we do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains,” Haines said. However, she added, Russian leader Vladimir “Putin most likely calculates the time works in his favor, and prolonging the war, including with potential pauses in the fighting, may be his best remaining pathway to eventually securing Russian strategic interests in Ukraine, even if it takes years.”
Germany and Poland say they’ll send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine next month. That includes 18 from Berlin, and 10 from Warsaw. “These tanks, though below the quantities that the Ukrainian military needs, will augment Ukraine’s capabilities to conduct counteroffensive operations, particularly due to the degraded state of Russian armored units,” ISW noted Wednesday. 

Lastly: North Korea launched another missile westward into the Yellow Sea at about 6 p.m. local time on Thursday, according to South Korea’s military. It’s not clear yet exactly what they fired, but “North Korea does not normally fire ballistic missiles West into the Yellow Sea,” weapons analyst Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute of Strategic Studies noted on Twitter. “I suspect a long-range [multiple rocket launcher] projectile such as KN-25” was involved, he said.
U.S., South Korean joint exercises are set to begin again on Monday and extend through March 23.
And the U.S. is expected to send an aircraft carrier to the peninsula later this month, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an “informed source” on Thursday.
Wider context: The U.S. and South Korean militaries “had canceled or scaled back some of their regular drills since 2018 to support now-dormant diplomacy with North Korea and guard against the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Associated Press reminds us. “But they have been restoring their exercises after North Korea test-fired dozens of missiles last year and threatened to use its nuclear weapons in potential conflicts with its rivals.”
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