Today's D Brief: Poland spends big; Army heeds Ukraine’s tank lessons; Biden heads to India; Ancient swords found; and a bit more.
With a brutal Ukraine war simmering next door, the Polish military is undergoing a quiet but dramatic transformation, Defense One’s Sam Skove reports from Warsaw. “We never had such an opportunity to gather intelligence and data and really quickly translate that” into military lessons, said Lt. Gen. Wieslaw Kukuła of Poland’s Armed Forces General Command.
Over the last several months, Poland has also been on a buying spree, purchasing 980 K2 tanks and 648 self-propelled howitzers K2, and 48 FA-50 fighter jets from Korea last year. It also intends to buy 366 U.S.-made Abrams tanks, as well as 96 Apache helicopters.
Context: Shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Warsaw said it would seek to double the Polish Army’s size to 300,000 soldiers over five years. And this year, the Polish government has said it will raise its defense budget to 4 percent of gross domestic product, more than double NATO’s 2-percent target.
“We are forced to spend this 4 percent of GDP on defense because we are facing the biggest threat in Europe since the Second World War,” said Minister Jacek Siewierą, who heads the National Security Bureau.
One of Warsaw’s big takeaways from the ongoing Ukraine invasion: the importance of loitering munitions, otherwise known as suicide drones. “Every day we analyze how they’re being used,” Kukuła said. “Most of the damages we’re recording to howitzers are from drone attacks.” And that’s partly why Poland is planning new investments in both drone and counter-drone technologies.
One big problem: It seems that defense firms would often rather sell Poland weapons that have been in production for the last 30 years, but those weapons “won’t be okay for the next 30 years,” Kukula said. Read the rest of Skove’s report from Warsaw, here.
The U.S. formally announced $175 million in future arms to Ukraine on Wednesday. As reported initially during State Secretary Antony Blinken’s trip to Kyiv, this new pledge includes 120mm depleted uranium tank ammunition for Abrams tanks, as well as anti-tank munitions, a variety of artillery rounds (e.g., HIMARS, 155mm, 105mm, and 81mm), more mine-clearing equipment, unspecified air defense system gear, and more.
New: The war in Ukraine has changed the way the U.S. defense industry builds Abrams tanks. That’s according to Army Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, who is the service’s Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, and that includes the Abrams tank program. “The Abrams Tank can no longer grow its capabilities without adding weight, and we need to reduce its logistical footprint,” Dean said in a statement Wednesday, and noted, “The war in Ukraine has highlighted a critical need for integrated protections for Soldiers, built from within instead of adding on.”
Background: For the last several years, the Army has been working on updating its Abrams for future wars, moving from what it calls the M1A2 System Enhancement Package version 4 and to a M1E3 Abrams tank. On Thursday, the Army announced it has finally charted out its next phase in that transition to the “E” version.
“The ‘E’ designation represents an engineering change to an existing platform that is more significant than a minor modification and serves to designate the prototype and development configuration until the vehicle is formally type classified and receives an ‘A’ designation,” Dean said.
The Army’s Wednesday statement, somewhat understandably, did not elaborate on what precisely is new. But to that end, the service did say the new M1E3 models “will include the best features of the M1A2 SEPv4 and will comply with the latest modular open systems architecture standards, allowing quicker technology upgrades and requiring fewer resources,” which is expected to result in “a more survivable, lighter tank that will be more effective on the battlefield at initial fielding, and more easy to upgrade in the future.” Read more, here.
- “In Crimea, Pro-Ukraine Feelings Prompt a Russian Crackdown,” the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov reported Thursday;
- “The critics of Russia's war in Ukraine caught in jail 'carousel',” Reuters reported Thursday;
- “In occupied areas of Ukraine, Russia is holding local elections that have been widely denounced,” the New York Times reported Thursday;
- “Germany in talks with Netherlands, Denmark on ammunition purchases, source says,” Reuters reported Wednesday from Berlin;
- “In northeast Ukraine, the Russians are coming — or maybe setting a diversion,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday;
- “Ukraine drone attack causes explosion near Russian military HQ,” CNN reported Thursday;
- And “NATO member Romania says it has found drone pieces from Russian attacks in Ukraine on its territory,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday from Bucharest.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 70 CE, the Roman army finished its nearly five-month long siege of Jerusalem, which was supposed to crush the Jewish resistance to Roman rule.
New: U.S. defense startup Anduril just acquired autonomous drone maker Blue Force Technologies, a move that positions the company as a contender amid a Pentagon push to buy large quantities of jet-powered drones that will fly in concert with human-piloted warplanes.
Why it matters: The acquisition marks the California-based startup’s expansion from software to military weapons, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.
Blue Force Technologies makes Fury, an in-development jet-powered drone that Anduril’s Chief Strategy Officer Chris Brose described as “a mature aircraft.” Anduril says it will link its Lattice for Mission Autonomy program with Fury as the U.S. military moves ahead with plans to expand drone and AI-supported operations across the Pacific region in years ahead.
“The potential market for capabilities like Fury, I think, is considerable, if there is imagination and will and the associated funding on the part of the government to really build that market,” Brose said in an interview with Defense One. Read more, here.
President Joe Biden begins his long flight to New Delhi this afternoon for a meeting of G20 leaders at the Indian capital over the weekend. He’ll be stopping at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base about halfway through his trip. After the G20 meeting, he’s scheduled to travel to Hanoi, Vietnam, for a meeting with his counterpart, General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng, on Sunday, before flying back to the states via Alaska in time for 9/11 remembrance events Monday, according to the White House.
For the fourth time in a decade, the U.S. Coast Guard interrupted one man’s ramshackle attempt to cross the Atlantic ocean in a homemade vessel that resembles a hamster wheel.
The latest Coast Guard interception occurred in late August when 51-year-old Reza Baluchi eventually relented to the Coasties’ demands, but not until he threatened to kill himself as well as detonate a bomb he claimed was on the vessel (there was no bomb on his watercraft), the BBC reports.
The Coast Guard called Baluchi’s vessel “manifestly unsafe,” and decided to initiate an intervention on August 26. He eventually surrendered on Sept. 1. His prior failed attempts occurred in 2021, 2016, and in 2014. Read more at the New York Times or Sky News.
Making moves: Sue Gordon, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, has joined the consultancy world as President of the Board at the Pallas Foundation, The D Brief has learned. Gordon was a career CIA official with nearly four decades of experience; she also served as Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from 2015 to 2017. After two years at ODNI, she resigned from her deputy director post in August 2019. NPR has more on that somewhat tumultuous departure, reporting in August 2020, here.
“Sue is a respected and accomplished leader who has been instrumental in protecting the nation for decades,” said Pallas Foundation Director Sally Donnelly in a statement. Gordon has also “developed an impressive network across government, the commercial sector, and academia of like-minded, results-oriented supporters and followers,” Donnelly said.
And lastly: Five weapons that are believed to be nearly 2,000 years old were recently unearthed by Israeli archaeologists near the Dead Sea, the Associated Press reported Thursday from Jerusalem.
The items, which included four swords and a javelin, were found in a surprisingly good state; one researcher said the javelin, known as a pilum head, is still in “mint condition.” All of the weapons are believed to have been “stashed in the remote cavern by Jewish rebels during an uprising against the Roman Empire in the 130s,” AP writes. Read more, here.