Today's D Brief: Artillery for Ukraine; Navy’s next big wargame; Army’s new sims; Why immigrants enlist; And a bit more.

The Pentagon is sending another $400 million in weapons to Ukraine, U.S. officials told the Associated Press on Monday. Much-needed howitzer artillery rounds are included in that package. Stinger air defense missiles, anti-tank Javelin rounds, High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (or HIMARS) munitions, and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (or NASAMS) rounds are included, too. Hand-held Hornet drones will be coming as well. 

What does Ukraine need the most? Its military officials often list five things when asked, Dmitri Alperovitch said in his latest podcast, which was recorded in Ukraine. And those five things are artillery shells, artillery shells, artillery shells, artillery shells, and more artillery shells. U.S. President Joe Biden said much the same when asked a similar question about two weeks ago at the conclusion of this year’s NATO summit in Lithuania.

Here are a few lesser-known top needs for Ukraine’s military, according to Andrey Liscovich, former CEO of Uber Works, who now directs nonlethal aid to Ukraine via the Ukraine Defense Fund: 

  • Mobility, or trucks just to transport troops to the front, like cargo vans, buses, larger trucks, etc.;
  • Portable energy—think generators of all kinds and power stations with big batteries; 
  • Communications equipment, including Starlink satellites that allow troops to communicate with their chain of command, as well as portable radios—Motorola commercial radios, e.g.—and portable cellular towers for remote data links;
  • Intelligence, counterintelligence, and counter-warfare assets, including drones (the most prominent example), rovers, aerostats, sensors, jammers, and software that ties them together.  

Liscovich spoke with Alperovitch during his recent trip to Ukraine with other U.S. analysts, including Michael Kofman, Franz-Stefan Gady, and Rob Lee. You can hear Alperovitch and Liscovich’s full conversation at the former’s podcast, Geopolitics Decanted

Russia is attacking Ukrainian ports using missiles designed to sink aircraft carriers, the British military said Tuesday. Those munitions are known as AS-4 “Kitchen” missiles, which are Cold War-era weapons also known as Kh-22Ms. 

Russia will also soon begin teaching its teenaged school children to use combat drones, the Brits said Monday. “Lessons will include how to conduct terrain reconnaissance and ways to counter enemy uncrewed aerial vehicles,” the UK Ministry of Defense said. Starting September 1, “The UAV lessons join assault rifle training, hand grenade skills and combat first aid in the revised ‘Basics of Life Safety’ syllabus for year 10 and 11 students,” which typically includes 15-17 year olds.

Bigger picture: The new mandate to teach its children to fly drones “highlight[s] how Russia has identified the use of tactical UAVs in Ukraine as an enduring component of contemporary war,” the Brits said. 

Ukraine’s military chief told CNN that Kyiv’s counteroffensive is behind schedule, but he also insisted it’s “going to plan.” 

“We have to do it thinking about the lives of our soldiers instead of Russians,” said Oleksii Reznikov on Monday, referencing the slow and careful advances Ukrainian troops are achieving despite oftentimes dozens of miles of Russian minefields and tank traps in occupied territory along the south and the east. 

Some in Washington see notable progress. “Ukraine has liberated about two-thirds of the same amount of territory in five weeks that Russian forces captured in over six months,” analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War wrote Monday. 

However, “Ukraine is attempting combined arms operations without air superiority and with limited enablers for maneuvering, such as air defenses—an extraordinarily challenging undertaking. Ukraine’s counteroffensive forces additionally had limited time to prepare for a major offensive,” ISW said. 

Their advice: Kyiv’s allies and partners need to plan for “resourc[ing] successive phases of the Ukrainian counteroffensive,” and to do so promptly using aircraft like F-16s and long-range firepower like ATACMS missiles. Indeed, ISW argues, the “Kremlin’s limited ability to rapidly pivot after consecutive setbacks is a known vulnerability—one that the West must help Ukraine exploit to secure the most advantageous position possible.” Read more from ISW, here

New: Russian forces have laid landmines around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Monday evening. “[D]etonation of these mines should not affect the site’s nuclear safety and security systems,” Grossi said in a statement. “But having such explosives on the site is inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance and creates additional psychological pressure on plant staff,” he stressed. 

Related reading: 

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, you can do that quickly here. On this day in 1750, Henry Knox was born in Boston. He would later become George Washington's chief of artillery during the Revolutionary War, and, after that, America's first Secretary of War. Kentucky's Fort Knox Army base bears his name.

What’s on tap for the second edition of the Navy’s Large Scale Exercise? Multiple global crises, new gear from Project Overmatch, and a wargaming staff of more than a thousand people, including a dozen retired admirals, writes D1’s Caitlin M. Kenney, who talked with the upcoming event’s organizer.

The first LSE took place in 2021; the next one, to run Aug. 9-18, will involve more than 25,000 sailors and Marines across 22 time zones and six geographical combatant commands, nine maritime operations centers, six carrier strike groups, three amphibious readiness groups, and 25 live ships and submarines—plus more than 50 “virtual ships,” officials said. 

The wargame aims to continue rehearsing and developing various relatively new naval operating concepts: distributed maritime operations, or DMO; littoral operations in a contested environment, or LOCE; and expeditionary advanced base operations, or EABO. Read on, here.

We tried out the Army’s new helicopter sim. Here’s D1’s Sam Skove: "In a Defense One test of a Black Hawk simulator, virtual reality goggles calibrated quickly to show the dusty scrubland around Fort Cavazos, Texas. Looking down—where a pilot might expect to see their kneeboard—prompted the goggles to show a view of the real world...”

The ersatz Black Hawk is just part of a much larger package of simulators slated to arrive next year. Read on, here.

China just fired its top diplomat after less than a year on the job. The New York Times reported the “abrupt removal” of Foreign Minister Qin Gang Tuesday, and noted Qin’s bio page was removed from the Foreign Ministry on Thursday evening. He also hadn’t been seen publicly for at least a month. 

Qin’s predecessor, Wang Yi, returns to the posting. “But Mr. Wang has a recent history of fractious meetings with Biden administration officials that may complicate his task of trying to ease tensions,” the Times writes. 

From the region: 

Lastly today: Why do immigrants join the U.S. military? It’s not mainly about citizenship, writes Sofya Aptekar, an associate professor at City University of New York. She laid out her findings from dozens of interviews in a new book, “Green Card Soldier: Between Model Immigrant and Security Threat,” and wrote up a shorter version for The Conversation. Read that, here.