Today's D Brief: Bases brace for hurricane; Massive drone effort; Ukraine training challenges; West Point’s dud time capsule; And a bit more.
Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base began to evacuate personnel on Monday ahead of the anticipated Wednesday morning landfall of Hurricane Idalia. The Monday order from base officials concerns “non-mission essential individuals and dependents” living anywhere within Zone A, which covers the entirety of MacDill, as you can see in this map from state officials.
MacDill is home to more than 6,500 troops and civilians. It’s also the headquarters for the U.S. military’s Middle East-focused Central Command, as well as Special Operations Command.
Tyndall Air Force Base, further up the panhandle, is also in the potential path of the hurricane. But current storm models don’t place it in as much potential danger as folks living on or near MacDill. You may recall Tyndall was hit by Hurricane Michael back in October 2018. That storm caused more than a billion dollars in damage, including minor damage to nearly a tenth of America’s F-22 stealth fighter fleet.
MacDill officials are bracing for nearly 60-mph winds, and they’ve authorized evacuees to travel as much as 350 miles from the base to stay safe. Read more at the base’s Facebook page, here.
Stay up to date: Get the latest on Idalia from the National Hurricane Center, here.
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 here. On this day in 1949, the Soviets tested their first atomic bomb. In case you missed it, you can hear our podcast on America’s first atomic bomb test, and what the film “Oppenheimer” left out in its retelling of the story, here.
DOD launches massive drone program to counter China. Taking a page from Ukraine’s defense against massed Russian forces, DepSecDef Kathleen Hicks announced a Pentagon effort to create “multiple thousands” of relatively cheap air, sea, and land drones in the next two years.
Dubbed Replicator, the effort is an attempt to counter Chinese “mass,” Hicks said Monday. “They can be used consistent with our principles of mission command, where we empower the lowest-possible echelons to innovate and succeed in battle. And they can serve as resilient, distributed systems, even if bandwidth is limited, intermittent, degraded, or denied.” Hicks said in remarks at the NDIA conference in Washington, D.C.
The drones are also intended to address a main challenge of war in the Pacific: too many targets across a massive geographic space. How many targets? “Here's a metric for me: 1,000 targets for 24 hours,” said Adm. John Aquilino. His U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has been working with DARPA on how to collect and integrate targeting data across the entire theater far faster than is typically done today, via a program called Assault Breaker II, Aquilino told the audience. D1’s Patrick Tucker has more, here.
- “A.I. Brings the Robot Wingman to Aerial Combat,” the New York Times reported Sunday from Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base;
- And don’t miss “Unalone and Unafraid: A Plan for Integrating Uncrewed and Other Emerging Technologies into US Military Forces,” which is a new report published last week by the Hudson Institute.
German, Dutch, and Danish troops have run into a few speed bumps while training Ukrainian military recruits, the Financial Times reported Monday from Klietz, west of Berlin. “Interpreters are challenge number one,” one Dutch general said. But the ages and capabilities vary considerably as well, trainers said. That included one volunteer who is more than 70 years old.
Elsewhere in Germany, a man was arrested recently on charges he sent drone parts to a Russian company that makes Moscow’s Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone. He did so on more than two dozen occasions, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing prosecutors in Berlin. The most recent activity cited occurred this past March.
Another German man was arrested in France more than two weeks ago for sending specialized tools to a different Russian company manufacturing sniper rifles for Moscow’s military. Reuters has more on that case, here.
Developing: Many of Ukraine’s Western allies are trying to lock in pledges of military support to Kyiv as a sort of precaution should future governments backtrack, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The moves come “amid fears in European capitals that Donald Trump, if he recaptures the White House, would seek to scale back aid.”
French officials are reportedly seeking “a four-year period of military-aid commitments,” in part “to persuade the Kremlin that Russia can’t wait for European and U.S. support for Ukraine to drain away,” the Journal reports. However, “European officials have warned it will take many months to prepare the plans, with some of the bilateral arrangements expected to come together only next year.” Read more, here.
Get a bit smarter on the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions as a policy tool thanks to a new report from analysts at the International Crisis Group. One big concern driving this report: “The more Washington uses sanctions, the more far-reaching the downsides are and the more pressing it is to address them,” the authors warn.
Why bring this up? “Sanctions have become less likely to sway conflict parties, who have no faith that the penalties will be lifted—or the effects alleviated—if they make concessions,” according to the report.
To its credit, “The Biden administration has taken landmark steps to address some of these problems,” the authors say. But much more can be done, they argue. Read on, here.
- “'Dying by the dozens every day' - Ukraine losses climb,” the BBC reported Tuesday, piggybacking on recent casualty estimates from U.S. officials published by the New York Times;
- “The Smartphone Game That Ukrainian Soldiers Play on the Front Line,” the New York Times reported last week;
- See also “The mobile game funding a revolution in Myanmar,” via the BBC, reporting Monday.
Lastly today: West Point opens time capsule, finds nothing. “Dozens of people at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., were surprised Monday when officials opened what was thought to be a nearly 200-year-old time capsule and found nothing inside except a layer of dirt,” Stripes wrote.
The lead-lined box, roughly a cubic foot in volume, had been placed in the base of a Thaddeus Kosciuszko monument erected in 1828. It was found during recent renovations and opened with some pomp on Monday.
What’s next? “We don’t want to think that they went to all the trouble to put a box in the monument and not put anything in it,” Hudson said. “We will screen [all the silt] through a fine mesh screen to see if we can find any remains in it and determine what, if anything, was in here.” A bit more, here.
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