Today's D Brief: Drone strikes on Ukraine; Trump indicted on election charges; 300 senior jobs unfilled; Retrofitting missiles; And a bit more.

Russia attacked Kyiv overnight with Iranian-made exploding drones, at least 23 of which were allegedly shot down. “Launches were carried out from three directions—Kursk, and Primorsko-Akhtarsk (Russian Federation), and Chauda (temporarily occupied Ukrainian Crimea),” the Ukrainian military said. See video of the early morning attacks in Kyiv, shared on social media, here.

Russian drones attacked the southern region of Odesa in the dark of night, too, and destroyed more of the region’s port infrastructure. Eleven Iranian-made drones were shot down in the attack; but a few penetrated Ukraine’s air defenses and struck a grain elevator and a grain storage site near the Danube river, close to Romania, Ukraine’s southern military command said on Facebook, with supporting video. 

Reverberations on global markets were felt across the Atlantic, where “Chicago wheat prices rose by nearly 5% following the attack and were still up 1.8% at over $6.63 a bushel as of 1325 GMT,” Reuters reported Wednesday morning. 

It’s been 525 days since Russia’s military launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. And Ukraine’s counteroffensive has now been running for two months, former Australian army two-star Mick Ryan noted Wednesday on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Over the course of July, Ukraine appears to have clawed back 85 square kilometers of occupied territory, which leaves Russia still occupying a little over 17% of Ukraine’s land. 

“At the operational level, I believe the Ukrainians still retain the initiative, with some forces in reserve,” Ryan wrote. “However, with some of their reserves committed to the south, and some potentially being held back against Russian ops in Luhansk, this will be a careful balancing act.”

To that end, “In the Kupyansk, Lymansk, Swativsk directions,” which is in the northeast, near Kharkiv, “the enemy has concentrated people and equipment and is storming in order to pull our forces away from the eastern direction of the offensive,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote Tuesday on Telegram. 

Russian forces have adapted notably in the south, “including the construction of fake trenches which are booby trapped, designed to lure in and kill Ukrainian soldiers,” said Ryan. “The Russians have also been using their attack helicopters with more effectiveness,” he added. (More on Russian helicopters in just a moment.)

Ryan’s big wish: “[W]e need a Minefields Manhattan Project to transform the technology and tactics of minefield detection, mapping and clearing,” he said. The bottom line is “More adaptation will be needed to more rapidly get through these” elaborate Russian minefields, he advised. Continue reading, here

One Ukrainian soldier is calling for more Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs. It’s a GPS-guided munition launched from HIMARS and with a range of about 90 miles. The U.S. announced it would send GLSDBs to Ukraine in early February, but a Pentagon official said in June the weapons wouldn’t make it to Ukraine until the fall. 

The Ukrainian soldier says GLSDBs have the potential to knock out Russian helicopters staged at Russian-occupied air bases like the one in Berdyans'k. “One major challenge is the significant spacing between helicopters, making it difficult to effectively target them with a single missile,” he wrote Wednesday. “Other options, like a massive missile launch combined with drones to overwhelm defenses, may seem viable, but cost-efficiency becomes a significant concern in such scenarios,” he explained. The GLSDB’s “operational range, relatively low cost (compared to ATACMS or Stormshadow [cruise missiles]), and capability to evade specific countermeasures make it a potential game-changer in situations like this,” he said. Continue reading, here

At least 20,000 Ukrainians have lost one or more limbs since the start of the war, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday citing doctors’ estimates. (That number could be as high as 50,000 Ukrainians.) “By comparison, some 67,000 Germans and 41,000 Britons had to have amputations during the course of World War I,” which lasted considerably longer and featured less advanced healthcare practices than are common more than a century later. 

“Such numbers reflect how Russia wages the war, with heavy use of mines and artillery, missile and drone attacks targeting soldiers and civilians alike,” the Journal writes in a special report that partially prods Ukraine’s over-burdened prosthetics supply chain. Still, said one soldier, “This war is horrendous and now I, too, am crippled…But I don’t regret it.”

“Each of us already has such a big lump of internal pain that we can no longer cry,” Deputy Defense Minister Maliar wrote Monday on social media. “And every missile strike is a reason for healthy rage to return all our territories and become a strong, in the military sense, state,” she added. 

From the region: The U.S. may soon upgrade one of Finland’s M270A2 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems for about $395 million. The upgrade package will add “intercom systems; radio communication mounts; machine gun mounts; [a new] battle management system vehicle integration kit,” as well as maintenance and logistics support, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Tuesday. 

The sale helps the U.S. by “improving the security of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally that is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” DSCA said. The concerned defense contractors include Lockheed Martin Inc., out of Texas; Virginia's Leonardo DRS; and Michigan's Loc Performance Products, Inc.; and the UK's Chelton Inc.

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 here. On this day in 1939, physicists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote a two-page letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to begin the sensitive work required to develop a nuclear weapon, and to do so before the Nazis. Roosevelt wouldn’t read the letter for more than two months; and he didn’t authorize a full-scale program until January 1942. Einstein later said he would not have written the letter if he’d known the Nazis would eventually stumble (trying to perfect a reactor) and ultimately never succeed in their own atomic research. Learn much more about America’s nuclear history in our latest Defense One Radio podcast: “Oppenheimer,” explored

Former commander-in-chief indicted on charges of attempting to illegally retain power. A federal grand jury handed down four felony charges related to Donald Trump’s efforts to retain the presidency after losing the 2020 election. 

The charges stem from an “unprecedented effort to block the peaceful transfer of presidential power and threaten American democracy,wrote the Associated Press. The indictment “chronicles a months-long campaign of lies about the election results and says that, even when those falsehoods resulted in a chaotic insurrection at the Capitol, Trump sought to exploit the violence by pointing to it as a reason to further delay the counting of votes that sealed his defeat.”

Special counsel Jack Smith, who announced the charges on Tuesday, called the events of Jan. 6, 2021, an "unprecedented assault" on democracy that was "fueled by lies: Lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government — the nation's process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election."

Read the new indictment and the charges, here; they bring the number of criminal charges against the former president to 78, by Bloomberg’s count

Note: 147 members of Congress followed Trump’s lead in attempting to overturn results in the 2020 election. Many still hold office, including Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Find the full list, here.

Update: Some 300 senior jobs are now vacant, thanks to Tuberville’s hold. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday that the vacancies create a decision-making vacuum that overburdens senior leaders and ultimately stresses individual units, because only certain positions, individuals, or ranks can exercise certain authorities. D1’s Lauren Williams has more, here.

Tuberville on Monday: “All of these jobs are being done. My holds are NOT affecting national security.” Also on Monday: “I didn't start this. The Biden admin injected politics in the military and imposed an unlawful abortion policy on American taxpayers. I am trying to get politics out of the military.” The policy in question provides transportation for the nearly half of active-duty military women stationed in states that have recently increased limits on reproductive health care.

Worth noting: No other senators are blocking this process. It’s only Tuberville. 

And lastly: The Pentagon is working to retrofit old missiles to extend their ranges by as much as 20 percent, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a $13 million earmark in the Senate’s annual defense policy bill. 

“Unfortunately, the Pentagon has grown complacent using 1940s-era energetics and neglected advanced energetics like CL-20 that are necessary to increasing the range and lethality of our force,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., told Reuters. CL-20 is one of the main elements of this plan, such as it’s known so far. Read on for details, here.