Today's D Brief: Ukraine’s new ‘drone army’; Austin, Milley on the Hill; Army’s ad campaign FRAGO; Navy, Marines reviewing stockpiles; And a bit more.
Ukraine’s military just launched its first “drone army,” featuring three “strike companies” of soldiers armed with pickup trucks, small unmanned aircraft, and Starlink terminals for more reliable communication links. Washington-based researcher Sam Bendett flagged the announcement Tuesday on Twitter after Kyiv technologist Mykhailo Fedorov shared a few selectively-blurred photos on Telegram marking the occasion.
“Pickups will be needed for raids behind enemy lines, delivery of goods, and evacuation of the wounded,” Fedorov said. And the drones, of course, will be used for “reconnaissance and strike missions, will [assist] artillery, [and] help soldiers to be as effective as possible during urban battles,” according to Fedorov.
And in case you missed it, Ukrainians developed a video game (or, “arcade-style drone simulator”) where users pilot remote quadcopters and drop munitions on invading Russian soldiers. It’s called “Death from Above,” and you can watch a one-minute trailer over on YouTube, here.
Russian officials appear to have noticed “Death from Above,” and now want to develop their own similar program, Bendett tweeted Tuesday as well. Details, here.
Battlefield latest: Ukrainian forces destroyed portions of a railway in the occupied southeastern city of Melitopol. It’s unclear just yet how Ukraine was able to attack; but “The city is at the far edge of the range of Ukraine's HIMARS rockets and within reach of newer weapons it is said to be deploying, including air-launched JDAM bombs and ground-launched GLSDB munitions promised by the United States,” Reuters reported Wednesday from Kyiv.
For what it’s worth: “Russia said it shot down a GLSDB on Tuesday, the first time it has reported doing so,” according to Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy sat down for a long interview with Julie Pace of the Associated Press while traveling by train to Sumy on Tuesday. He defended his military’s defiant stand in the city of Bakhmut, said he would like to speak with China’s autocratic leader Xi Jinping (they have not spoken since Russia invaded), and more.
- “Putin prepares Russia for ‘forever war’ with west as Ukraine invasion stalls,” the Guardian reported Tuesday from Moscow;
- “War and Secretive Spending Is Eating Away at Russia’s Budget,” Bloomberg reported Tuesday;
- “How Ukraine’s Battered Steel Industry Galvanized Its War Effort,” the New York Times reported Monday from Zaporizhzhia;
- “Supply shortages threaten U.S. infrastructure and war efforts,” Reuters reported Wednesday from Los Angeles;
- “Russia stops sharing missile test info with US, opens drills,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday from Moscow;
- “US would share nuclear force data if Russia came into compliance with New START,” Reuters reported Tuesday;
- “He came to D.C. as a Brazilian student. The U.S. says he was a Russian spy,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday on the case of alleged GRU operative Sergey Cherkasov;
- U.S. “Army’s new Poland garrison went from Warsaw’s wish list to high US priority,” Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday in an explainer from Poland;
- And “U.S. Should Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine,” John Hardie and Ryan Brobst argue for the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
From Defense One
US to Sextuple 155mm Production, Improve Arms Factories // Sam Skove: Some $1.45 billion will be spent to better produce artillery rounds, over a million of which have been sent to Ukraine.
Navy, Marines Reevaluating Munition Stockpiles Due To Ukraine War // Caitlin M. Kenney: “Ukraine's war has taught us that we must transition from just-in-time stockpiles of weapons and munitions to just-in-case stockpiles,” Sen. Collins said.
Failed Hypersonic Test Dims Air Force View of Lockheed Missile // Audrey Decker: The service had previously disclosed that an ARRW test happened in March, but markedly avoided saying whether it was a success.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Sam Skove. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1973, America’s last combat units officially exited Vietnam, 12 years after the U.S. military advisors first arrived in 1961.
In Washington this morning, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley are testifying at a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing that began at 10 a.m. ET. Watch that on YouTube, here.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Navy chief Adm. Michael Gilday, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger are speaking to House appropriators’ defense subcommittee about the Navy’s budget. That, too, began at 10 a.m. ET. Catch the livestream, here.
And beginning shortly: Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman keynotes the Defense One “State of the Space Force” digital event, which kicks off at 11 a.m. ET. Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber and Nuclear Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt is also scheduled to speak shortly before noon. Details, registration, and livestream, here.
This afternoon, the future of Air Force “fixed-wing tactical and training aircraft programs” will be the focus of a HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Details and livestream, here.
And shortly before that, officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Space Force will testify about “recruiting difficulties and other quality of life issues impacting servicemembers and their families” before lawmakers with HASC’s Military Personnel Subcommittee. Catch that live at 3 p.m., here.
Developing: The U.S. Army has swapped out two television ads featuring actor Jonathan Majors with previously existing content after his arrest for assault this past weekend, Defense One’s Sam Skove reports. According to Laura DeFrancisco, the spokesperson for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, the service has negotiated with media partners to retain the value of other ad slots already purchased for use at a later date. The total cost for the ad campaign, which relaunched the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” slogan, is $117 million.
“The campaign is full steam ahead,” the Army’s marketing chief, Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, told Lita Baldor of the Associated Press on Tuesday. “We have a ton of content to go back to, to create basically new commercials [and] new ads, if we need to,” he added.
- “Basic training without yelling: Army recruits get 2nd chance,” AP’s Baldor reported separately on Wednesday from the service’s new preparatory classes for potential recruits.
And lastly: Taiwan’s president is en route to the Americas, after saying “external pressure” will not stop her “determination to go to the world.” Tsai Ing-Wen plans to visit Belize, Guatemala, and the United States on her trip. She’s also expected to meet House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., during a stopover in his home state. China is not happy about the visit, and has threatened to retaliate if Tsai does in fact meet with McCarthy, Reuters reported Wednesday.
According to Beijing: Tsai meeting McCarthy would be “another provocation that seriously violates the one-China principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” a Chinese spokesperson told Reuters. The official also said China “firmly” opposes the visit “and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back.”
For her part, Tsai said Taiwan is “calm and confident” and “will neither yield nor provoke.”