Today's D Brief: Marines to Haiti; T-7 delayed again; Pentagon’s battlefield bottlenecks; Exploring the future with fiction; And a bit more.

Marines send anti-terror team to guard U.S. embassy in Haiti. As armed gangs wreak havoc across the country, U.S. Southern Command has responded to a State Department request to dispatch the Marine Fleet-Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) to protect the skeleton crew that is still running the embassy in Port-au-Prince. Read SOUTHCOM’s Wednesday statement. The Hill has a bit more.

How the gangs took over: an explainer from the New York Times.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1961, a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress with two nuclear weapons onboard crashed in north-central California after a cooling malfunction at 33,000 feet. The crew lowered the plane to 12,000 feet in the hopes of continuing their mission, but eventually decided they would have to bail out, which they did safely beginning at altitude of about 7,000 feet. Thanks to the safety devices on each weapon, the bombs fortunately did not detonate when the plane crashed about 16 miles from Yuba City, California.

Air Force’s T-7 trainer delayed another year. The replacement for the half-century-old T-38 is now slated to enter initial service in 2028, according to Air Force budget documents. The service did not give a reason for the new delay, which follows earlier ones caused by ejection-seat problems. Defense One’s Audrey Decker has a bit more, here.

Today’s battles happen at the speed of software and the Pentagon’s not changing fast enough to keep up, a panel of experts told lawmakers Wednesday. Defense One’s Lauren C. Williams lays out the bottlenecks, here.

The big AI efforts that DARPA aims to fund this year focus on human-machine teams, AI reasoning, and highly autonomous AIs, reports Defense One’s Patrick Tucker. 

Today on Capitol Hill, the commanders of NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM are testifying on their areas of responsibility before the Senate Armed Services Committee. That began at 9:30 a.m. ET. Details and livestream, here

And the Pentagon’s top official for the Indo-Pacific, Ely Ratner, is discussing “U.S. Strategy in the Pacific Islands Region” with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That one just began at 10:30 a.m. ET. Livestream, here

Nearby, Latvian Defense Minister Andris Spruds dropped by the Pentagon for talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his team Thursday morning. 

The visit by Spruds comes after Polish leaders visited Washington for talks with administration officials on the future of European security, which is in a kind of limbo presently as Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson persists in his refusal to consider additional military aid to Ukraine—though he seemed to suggest some kind of progress on the issue may be possible on Wednesday, according to The Hill.  

Related reading: 

After two failures, Elon Musk’s SpaceX got the largest and most powerful rocket ever made into orbit on Thursday. Rising from SpaceX's Boca Chica launchpad in southern Texas, its Starship spacecraft, which along with its Super Heavy boosters stretched taller than the Statue of Liberty, made it to orbit around 9:30 a.m. ET. 

Why it matters: Starship is expected to carry NASA astronauts to the moon. 

Two snags: (1) Communications with the rocket were lost about 50 minutes after takeoff, before an attempted splashdown in the Indian Ocean. And (2), Starship’s Super Heavy boosters did not relight as planned during their return trip above the Gulf of Mexico. “In the future, two ‘chopstick’ arms on Starship's launch tower will catch the Super Heavy booster as it returns for landing,” reports.

“Unlike the first two test flights last year, aimed mainly at demonstrating that the spacecraft's two stages can separate after launch, plans for Thursday's test called for an attempt to open Starship's payload door and reignite one of its engines in space,” Reuters reports. 

Catch video of the entire test, live-streamed on social media, here.

In other space news this week, a Japanese rocket blew up in its own test. Reuters: “Kairos, a small, solid-fuel rocket made by Japan's Space One, exploded just seconds into its inaugural launch on Wednesday as the firm tried to become the first Japanese company to put a satellite in orbit.” 

And lastly: Take a glimpse at what conflict in the future could look like thanks to a new work of speculative fiction from author and Marine veteran Elliot Ackerman and former NATO commander U.S. Navy Adm. Jim Stavridis. The two teamed up again for a new book entitled, “2054: A Novel,” which was published this week by Penguin Random House. 

Ackerman joined Defense One Radio this week to discuss the future of technology, the promise of AI, the perils of toxic politics, and other themes packed into his latest work. Listen to Ep. 146, here.