Today's D Brief: US strikes Syrian sites; Chinese carrier deploys; Defense giants see revenue boost; 3D-printed sub parts; And a bit more.
The United States military carried out airstrikes on militants at two locations in eastern Syria on Thursday. The Pentagon claims the sites were “used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated groups,” the latter of which have been accused of attacking U.S. forces at multiple outposts and bases across Iraq and Syria over the last several weeks.
“Between October 17 and 26th, U.S. and coalition forces have been attacked at least 12 separate times in Iraq, [and] four separate times in Syria by a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday. He continued, “I'm not going to have more specific information to provide to you from here in terms of specific groups that have claimed responsibility, other than to say we know that these groups are affiliated with Iran.”
SecDef Austin: “The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a statement Thursday evening.
“Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them,” Austin said, and warned, “If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.”
By the way: U.S. President Joe Biden recently sent a “direct message” warning Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against targeting U.S. troops in the Middle East, according to John Kirby of the White House’s National Security Council, speaking to reporters Thursday. Biden on Wednesday alluded to this message in remarks to reporters when he said, “My warning to the ayatollah was that if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond, and he should be prepared. It has nothing to do with Israel.” Reuters has more.
Also from the region: Russian state-run media TASS has been calling out alleged U.S. violations of Syria’s airspace since July.
- “U.S. Tries New Tack on Russian Disinformation: Pre-Empting It,” the New York Times reported Thursday from some new work out of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center;
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad, Patrick Tucker, and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. These days, U.S. aircraft carriers are almost all named for presidents. That trend got started on this day in 1944, when Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB 42) was commissioned at New York Naval Shipyard, breaking the previous pattern of naming fleet carriers for battles or famous ships.
The U.S. will give Ukraine another $150 million in weapons to help defend against the Russian invasion, which has been ongoing for 611 days now.
It’s the 49th batch of U.S. arms pledged for Kyiv since 2021, and it includes National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and AIM-9M missiles for air defense; more Stinger anti-aircraft missiles; High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, ammo; 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds; more Javelin anti-tank rounds; and more.
New: “Import records confirm that Ukraine acquired Turkish-made cluster munitions in July, confirming earlier visual evidence and reporting that the war-torn country has a second source for the controversial weapons,” Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Thursday.
Eighteen shipments of M483A1 cluster munitions shells labeled as Turkish in origin arrived in Ukraine on July 31, according to Ukrainian documents gathered by Import Genius, an aggregator of trade data. Each 155mm shell contains 88 submunitions designed to inflict casualties across a wider area than standard artillery ammunition, Skove reports.
Why it matters: “That’s just a few weeks after Ukraine began receiving similar weapons from the United States, whose Biden administration had recently dropped its resistance to Kyiv’s requests for them. Such weapons had already been used by both sides since the Russian invasion. They are widely banned, although not in the United States.” Continue reading, here.
Developing: U.S. defense contractors are beginning to see a spike in revenues due to the Ukraine war, Mike Stone of Reuters reported Thursday. That includes Lockheed Martin (LMT.N), General Dynamics (GD.N), and and (RTX.N) all of whom “reported better than expected results over the past several days, and executives expect both the conflict in Ukraine and Israel's war with Palestinian militant group Hamas to drive up near-term demand,” Stone writes.
Said GD’s top financial officer on Wednesday: “We've gone from 14,000 (artillery) rounds per month to 20,000 very quickly. We're working ahead of schedule to accelerate that production capacity up to 85,000, even as high as 100,000 rounds per month.”
But the U.S. isn’t alone. “Sweden's Saab (SAABb.ST) raised its full-year sales outlook on Thursday on the back of strong defense demand and Germany's Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) said third-quarter profit jumped on strong demand for weapons and ammunition,” Stone reports. Read on, here.
A Chinese jet pilot recently flew “below, in front of, and within 10 feet” of a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber over the South China Sea on Tuesday, officials from the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Command said Thursday. The intercept occurred “at night, with limited visibility, in a manner contrary to international air safety rules and norms,” the U.S. officials said.
- View a 38-second video of the encounter, which was also released Thursday, here.
China’s military released its own video of what it says was a “close-in harassment” of one of its ships by the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson in the South China Sea in mid-August. China says the American destroyer made a sharp turn and a sudden change of speed (Beijing doesn’t seem to know if the U.S. ship sped up or slowed down) as it crossed about 670 meters from the bow of a Chinese navy ship.
More from China’s not terribly clear messaging on this encounter: “It was the US side that came to China's doorstep to provoke and stir up troubles,” the defense ministry said in a statement accompanying the video. “How is the Chinese military supposed to intercept the US aircraft and warships if they don't come? That is an impossible task for the US to endanger China's national security while making unfettered provocations.” Read and see more, here.
Monitoring: China is sending one of its three aircraft carriers to the Bashi Channel, between the Philippines and Taiwan, Taipei’s military said Thursday.
You may recall China’s Coast Guard and navy vessels have spent the last several months harassing a Philippine ship grounded on the contested Second Thomas Shoal (far closer to the Philippines than China) in the South China Sea. Beijing’s military on Thursday warned the Philippines against interfering with its alleged sovereignty near the shoal, and to “stop any deliberate and provocative actions to prevent further escalation of the situation.”
China’s defense ministry also “urge[d] the U.S. to stop interfering in the South China Sea issue, stop fanning the flame and stirring up troubles to undermine regional peace and stability,” according to its Thursday messaging.
Warning from Capitol Hill: The U.S. Navy needs to move faster on producing and delivering missiles and launch systems to Taiwan. That’s the message from Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on China, and the chair of the subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific, Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., writing in a letter (PDF) Wednesday to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.
“Time is running out to deter the Chinese Communist Party from invading Taiwan,” they advise, since critical weapons already sold to Taiwan have been held up by “bureaucratic delays within the Navy.” For example, while the Pentagon announced the sale of 135 SLAM-ER air-launched missiles to Taiwan in 2020, the Navy has yet to request bids for production, according to the letter.
Gallagher and Kim say they want answers by Nov. 8 in order “to better understand and fix the alarming delays.” The letter is the first in a planned series of defense-related oversight efforts from the committee, Defense One has learned.
ICYMI: The Pentagon is looking to restart talks with Chinese officials, and it could happen as soon as this weekend during the start of the Xiangshan Forum, which is a three-day event hosted in Beijing beginning Sunday. Chinese state-run media announced the U.S. Defense Department’s planned attendance on Tuesday, according to Reuters. U.S. officials confirmed their intentions Thursday in a statement to the Associated Press.
Attending: Cynthia Carras, principal director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia.
Rewind: “China froze military exchanges after then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi last August visited self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory,” AP reminds readers.
China’s military doesn’t appear to have a leader at the moment following the announced departure of Defense Minister Li Shangfu on Tuesday. For what it’s worth, a Chinese military spokesman told reporters Thursday, “China attaches great importance to the development of military-to-military relations between China and the United States.”
Extra reading: “Can the U.S. Arm Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan at the Same Time?” Ryan Brobst and Bradley Bowman investigated this week for the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Drone watch: Have a look at the U.S. Navy’s MARTAC T-38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vessel as it transited the Arabian Gulf on Thursday. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Vernier photographed the drone during operations with the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59, which was first launched two years ago with the goal of “rapidly integrat[ing] unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with maritime operations,” as the Navy described it at the time.
Only 3D printing can get the Navy’s submarine plan back on track, admiral says. Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker, the Navy’s lead buyer for attack submarines, said additive manufacturing has become essential for meeting construction schedules—and then keeping those new subs operating. Rucker said one 3D-printed part has already been installed on a ballistic-missile sub, and another, a valve, is planned in coming months. D1’s Lauren C. Williams has more, here.
The U.S. submarine industrial base never really recovered from the 1992 decision to cancel the Seawolf attack sub program, argues Emma Salisbury, who offers some ideas for healing at War on the Rocks.
Heads up: The U.S. military is reportedly planning to launch an unarmed ICBM from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base overnight right after Halloween, a day that’s also known as the Day of the Dead.
Also: The Navy and Missile Defense Agency said this week that a missile defense test Wednesday near Hawaii went well after “successfully intercept[ing] multiple targets” in one of the largest tests of its kind “ever conducted in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Area of Responsibility.” (Watch a three-minute video of the test, here.)
Involved: A ballistic missile defense-configured Aegis ship that detected and intercepted “two short-range ballistic missile targets” using Standard Missile 3 Block IA interceptors, “while concurrently demonstrating an Anti-Air Warfare engagement of two subsonic anti-ship cruise missile drone targets” using four SM-2 Blk IIIA interceptors.
Maine mass shooting latest: Authorities are still hunting for the person responsible for the shooting deaths of 18 people this week at two locations in southern Maine. A note was reportedly found at his home, and his car was located at a boat launch in a neighboring town; inside the car was a weapon, but authorities don’t yet know if it was the weapon used in the shootings, according to NBC News.
The suspect, who is an Army reservist, was reportedly “sent to psychiatric hospital after threatening [his] own unit” over the summer, according to the Washington Post, reporting Thursday.
And lastly: The U.S. military’s annual report about suicide is out, and the trends are a bit hard to discern. Witness a sampling of headlines about the report:
- “Military suicide rates mostly steady over past decade” (Military Times)
- “Pentagon Report: Marines See Highest Suicide Rate Since 2011, Navy Since 2019” (USNI News)
- “The number of military suicides dipped in 2022 as the Pentagon works on new prevention programs” (AP)
Pentagon spox Pat Ryder, on Thursday: “Although the department is cautiously encouraged by some of the information in this year’s annual report, we remain deeply concerned about suicide in the military community. The health, safety and well being of our military community is essential to the readiness of our total force. Every death by suicide is a tragedy.” Ryder highlighted SecDef Austin’s year-old Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Commission, and said that “the department is implementing a campaign with five lines of effort enabling tasks to augment our suicide prevention and response capabilities.” Read a bit more about that, here.
Reminder: Service members and veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a service member or veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans/Military Crisis Line for confidential support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 and Press 1, text 838225 or chat online at MilitaryCrisisLine.net.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And you can catch us again on Monday!