Today's D Brief: Small gains by Ukraine, Russia; Hamas incursions slow; Army’s anti-drone gear; Biggest DDoS attack ever?; And a bit more.

The Pentagon announced a new $200 million weapons package for Ukraine on Wednesday. This pledge is Washington’s 48th such tranche of arms, which the Defense Department used to encourage Congress “to meet its commitment to the people of Ukraine by passing additional funding to ensure Ukraine continues to have what it needs to defend itself against Russia’s brutal war of choice.” 

The announcement pushes total U.S. military aid to nearly $44 billion since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022. And the U.S., of course, is not alone. “The three biggest European donors to Ukraine, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland, have all committed more than the United States as a percentage of GDP, and so have many other European countries, including Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and all three of the Baltic states,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday at a meeting of NATO defense chiefs in Brussels. Excluding U.S. aid to Kyiv, those other Ukraine allies have combined to pledge more than $33 billion in arms to date, said Austin. 

“Security assistance for Ukraine is a smart investment in our national security,” the Pentagon argued in its latest arms pledge Wednesday. Ongoing aid to Ukraine “helps to prevent a larger conflict in the region and deter potential aggression elsewhere, while strengthening our defense industrial base and creating highly skilled jobs for the American people,” the military said. 

This latest U.S. package will include unspecified counter-drone gear and “precision aerial munitions,” more artillery in several different ranges (HIMARS, 155mm and 105mm, e.g.), AIM-9M missiles for air defense, AT-4 anti-tank weapons, explosives for clearing obstacles and mine fields, lots of small arms ammunition, and more. 

The Germans also announced a new €20 million “winter package” of military aid for Ukraine this week that includes 10 more Leopard tanks and other medical vehicles as well as additional air defense assets, including PATRIOT, IRIS-T and Gepard units, that Berlin had promised “in the past few months.” 

Russian invasion troops are advancing in southeastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, southwest of Avdiivka near Sieverne and northwest of Avdiivka near Stepove and Krasnohorivka, according to the Ukrainian military. In an apparent change of tactics, the Russians are allegedly relying more directly on armored vehicles followed by columns of infantry, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, writing Wednesday evening. But Russia is also losing armored vehicles to the fight near Avdiivka as well—nearly three dozen so far, according to Forbes

“These tactical-level adaptations and successes, however, are unlikely to translate into wider operational and strategic gains for Russian forces,” ISW predicted. That’s partly because Avdiivka is seen as “a notoriously well-fortified and defended Ukrainian stronghold, which will likely complicate Russian forces’ ability to closely approach or fully capture the settlement,” according to ISW. President Volodymir Zelenskyy shared images of his troops around Avdiivka on Thursday; you can see those on social media, here

Zelenskyy also drew a link between the Russian military and Hamas militants at NATO headquarters Wednesday. Referencing Russia’s deliberate campaign to target Ukraine’s energy grid beginning last September, Zelenskyy said, “Obviously, this winter Russia will try to repeat those tactics, but with certain conclusions and greater terrorist efforts. Please note,” he added in Brussels, “that even during the attack on Israel, terrorists targeted one of the largest power plants in the region. Until last winter, when Russia relied on these tactics, other terrorists had not done so in such attacks.”

Ukrainian troops, meanwhile, advanced incrementally along two approaches Wednesday. Those occurred near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, writing Thursday morning on Facebook. 

Ukraine’s military also says it shot down 28 of 33 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia at various locations across Ukraine on Wednesday. 

Developing: Russia has allegedly almost doubled the range of its loitering drones during the course of the Ukraine war, which has been taking place for almost 600 consecutive days. Russia-watcher Rob Lee has a bit more on that reported advance, here

Speaking of drones, the U.S. Army has chosen AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600 for the first step in a new program designed to put tank-killing loitering munitions in the hands of average soldiers, following the example seen in Ukraine, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Wednesday.

The gist: It’s known as the Army’s Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordnance, or LASSO, program. And the three-month-old effort aims to give infantry brigade combat teams one or more weapons that can be launched by soldiers to destroy or disable an enemy tank.

The latest: Army units tasked with testing will receive more than 100 Switchblades for initial testing and fielding, Doug Bush, assistant Army secretary for acquisition, told Skove at the annual AUSA conference this week in Washington. Continue reading, here

Another thing: The U.S. Army will soon send drone-killing trucks to Ukraine. They’re part of the Army’s Mobile-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Defeat System, or M-LIDS. And the trucks are designed to defeat heavier, class three drones, Skove reported separately on Wednesday. 

Leonardo DRS Land Systems is the developer and integrator of the air defense systems on the M-LIDS. Some of those vehicles will carry a 30mm gun and an electronic-warfare weapon to counter drones, Army Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey of the service's Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office said at AUSA. Read more, here

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1933, the San Francisco-area military outpost and prison Alcatraz Citadel was formally renamed the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

How did Israeli intelligence miss Hamas’ preparations to attack? Javed Ali, a counterterrorism and intelligence scholar who spent years working in U.S. intelligence, shares his thoughts on the question in an interview published this week by The Conversation, and reposted at Defense One.

U.S. President Joe Biden phoned UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed on Wednesday. The two discussed the conflict in Israel and “the importance of ensuring humanitarian assistance reaches those in need,” according to the White House’s readout. Biden also “stressed his condemnation of Hamas’s terror and his warning against anyone who might seek to exploit the current situation,” the White House said. 

Update: At least 22 Americans have been killed in the Hamas-Israel war that erupted when Hamas attacked on Saturday; 17 others remain unaccounted for in the country, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. 

“We know that a number of those Americans are being held hostage right now by Hamas,” John Kirby of the National Security Council said after joining Jean-Pierre in the briefing room. “I think we all need to steel ourselves for the very distinct possibility that these numbers will — will keep increasing and that we may, in fact, find out that more Americans are part of the hostage pool,” he advised. 

The U.S. sent Israel additional Iron Dome interceptor missiles, Kirby said. “These were missiles that we already had in stock in Israel. We simply just transferred ownership over to the Israeli Defense Forces,” he told reporters Wednesday. 

Overall, “Incursions by Hamas into southern Israel have slowed since October 9,” analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War wrote Wednesday evening. 

That could change soon, however, since “Hamas is calling on its supporters in the West Bank to storm Jerusalem on October 13,” ISW warned. And fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah launched missiles, including anti-tank munitions, at Israeli security forces in northern Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Other militants launched rockets into Israeli territory from Syria on Tuesday as well; but it’s unclear who they represent, ISW writes. Read more from ISW, here

Amid the violence, “We support safe passage for civilians” out of the conflict zones, Kirby said Wednesday. “The civilians are not to blame for what Hamas has done,” he added. “They didn’t do anything wrong, and we continue to support safe passage.”

Similarly, “The last few days in Israel and Gaza have been marked by devastating violence and civilian harm, including likely violations of the rules of war by all parties,” said the Washington-based nonprofit the Center for Civilians in Conflict on Wednesday. The group asked Israel “to refrain from collective punishment and cease all indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.” And they called for the establishment of “a humanitarian corridor for safe and unimpeded movement of aid and health workers as well as the delivery of emergency assistance to all people in need.”

Platoons to get counter-drone gear in two U.S. Army divisions. The service’s Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office are sending enough handheld and electronic-warfare anti-drone systems to equip platoons in the 82nd Airborne and 1st Cavalry Divisions. Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey, who leads the JCO, said it will be up to the divisions to decide how to assign soldiers to operate the weapons. But he said they are not meant to be restricted to specific Army specialties, such as indirect fire specialists or infantry. Read on, from D1’s Sam Skove, here.

The Army’s medical command is experimenting with blood storage and distribution, as it looks to overcome the logistical challenges of the Indo-Pacific. D1’s Lauren C. Williams reports from AUSA.

Lastly today: Big tech firms report biggest-ever denial-of-service attack. Google, Amazon, and Cloudflare are sounding the alarm about the attack, which exploits a weakness in HTTP/2, a new version of the protocol that underpins the World Wide Web. “Google said in a blog post published Tuesday that its cloud services had parried an avalanche of rogue traffic more than seven times the size of the previous record-breaking attack thwarted last year,” Reuters reported. “All three said the attack began in late August; Google said it was ongoing.”