The D Brief: Russia’s GPS interference; Disappointing US drones; New spy satellites; And a bit more.

Posture hearing season is in full swing: Today on Capitol Hill, Navy and Army leaders will testify before House appropriators on their services’ latest annual budget requests. The first of those includes Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith in an exchange with lawmakers that began at 10 a.m. ET. Livestream it here

The Pentagon’s top European commander, Army Gen. Chris Cavoli, is appearing before the House Armed Services Committee in a posture hearing focused on U.S. forces under European Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany. He’s joined by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander. That one also began at 10 a.m. ET. Livestream, here

Special Operations Command’s Army Gen. Bryan Fenton joins Cyber Command and National Security Agency chief Air Force Gen. Timothy Haugh and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Chris Maier for a morning hearing on their department’s budget requests. That one began at 9:30 a.m. ET before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Video here

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and chief Gen. Randy George will sit before House appropriators in the afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. ET. Details and livestream, here

And NSA/CYBERCOM’s Haugh returns in the afternoon for a separate hearing before HASC’s Cyber, Information Technologies, and Innovation subcommittee. That’s slated for 3:30 p.m. ET. Details/livestream, here

And don’t miss our newly released State of Defense report, hot off the heels of our related interview series with service leaders like Adm. Franchetti, Gen. George and more. The reports include deep dives into the future of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Space Force.  

What would you like to know more about when it comes to the state of the U.S. military? Let us know via email. And thanks for reading!

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 1963, the U.S. Navy lost the nuclear submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) during deep-diving tests roughly 200 miles off the Massachusetts coast. All 129 crew members perished in the accident. The wreckage took more than a year to recover.

Sweden wants NATO to do something to stop Russia’s GPS meddling in the Baltic Sea, Stockholm’s top naval officer Rear Adm. Ewa Skoog Haslum said Monday in Washington. 

What’s going on: “Estonian researchers have suggested Russia is behind the GPS interference via electromagnetic warfare capabilities at the Tobol complex at the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad,” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports. 

“For military purposes, we actually are not as affected because we are not that dependent on GPS,” Haslum said at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference on Monday. However, with GPS signals proving unreliable, ships turn off their automatic identification system, making it harder to tell their origin or what exactly they are doing in the Baltic Sea. As a result, “insurance rates increase” she said. 

“I think that security is only made by presence right now,” said Haslum. That could mean using NATO assets to accompany merchant vessels to help with navigation or other issues. Read on, here

Developing: The U.S. wants to sell Ukraine air defense upgrades worth about $138 million. That’s part of a package supplying more parts for the HAWK Phase III Missile System, with RTX Corporation and PROJECTXYZ as the principal contractors, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Details here

ICYMI: Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy warned Saturday that the current pace of Russian missile attacks may soon exhaust Ukraine’s air defense systems and available missiles. In particular, he said Ukraine needs at least two dozen Patriot air defense systems, according to his estimates. 

Zelenskyy also said he’s willing to accept U.S. aid in the form of a loan, as some Republicans have advocated in recent weeks back in Washington. “We will agree to any options,” Zelenskyy said in an interview that aired over the weekend. Reuters has a bit more. 

Today in worthwhile reads: Ukraine is having to turn to China for small drones because the available U.S. models have proven to be too “expensive, glitchy and hard to repair,” according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting Wednesday. 

And it’s not for lack of investments. After all, “Nearly 300 U.S.-based drone-technology companies raised a total of around $2.5 billion in venture-capital funding in the past two years, according to the data firm PitchBook.”

One big problem: The Russian military is jamming the heck out of everything possible, experts told the Journal. Read the rest here (gift link)

Speaking of drones, Iranian variants are showing up in Sudan, and appear to have “helped the army turn the tide of the conflict” just over a year after fighting erupted, Reuters reported Wednesday. 

For what it’s worth, at least one “senior Sudanese army source denied that the Iranian-made drones came directly from Iran, and declined to say how they were procured or how many the army had received,” Reuters writes. However, “A regional source close to Iran's clerical rulers said Iranian Mohajer and Ababil drones had been transported to Sudan several times since late last year by Iran's Qeshm Fars Air.” Such apparent flights seem to have taken place in December 2023 and January 2024. Read on, here.

ICYMI: The U.S. sent about a brigade’s worth of seized Iranian small arms to Ukraine last week, Central Command officials announced Tuesday on social media. That included over 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7s and over 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, according to CENTCOM. 

The weapons were “originally seized by U.S. Central Command and partner naval forces from four separate transiting stateless vessels between 22 May 2021 to 15 Feb 2023” after they were intercepted during an attempted transfer to the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, CENTCOM said. View an image of those weapons, here.  

Also: Gain a better understanding of how Elon Musk’s Starlink gets to U.S. foes. Following a story first reported by D1’s Sam Skove, the Wall Street Journal “tracked Starlink sales on numerous Russian online retail platforms, including some that link to U.S. sellers on eBay. It also interviewed Russian and Sudanese middlemen and resellers, and followed Russian volunteer groups that deliver SpaceX hardware to the front line.”

The so-what: “That has eroded a battlefield advantage once enjoyed by Ukrainian forces, which also rely on the cutting-edge devices,” the WSJ writes.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb said at a Friday briefing that “We’re working with Ukraine and we’re working with Starlink,” to try to end the Russians’ use of the terminals on the front.

For his part, Musk “has said on X that to the best of his knowledge, no terminals had been sold directly or indirectly to Russia, and that the terminals wouldn’t work inside Russia,” the WSJ says, noting that neither the company nor its CEO responded to requests for comment. Read on, here.

New spy-satellite constellation begins launching next month. After a few years of testing prototypes for its next-gen sensor network, the National Reconnaissance Office is set to start putting operational satellites into orbit. Seven launches of satellites big and small are slated by year’s end, with more planned through 2028.

So, what will these new sensors do? NRO won’t say, exactly. The new constellation will increase the agency’s ability to collect data by “an order of magnitude” and “will increase timeliness of access, diversity of communication pathways, and enhance our resilience,” Troy Meink, the principal deputy director of the NRO, said Tuesday at the 2024 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. He would not say whether the new satellites will be connected to a proposed new system for tracking moving vehicles. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

Army: commercial tech is key to lighter, smaller, more survivable command posts. Units are already experimenting with tapping into commercial communications networks rather than setting up military communications links that would be immediately recognizable to an adversary, says Mark Kitz, chief of the Army’s program executive office for command, control and communications-tactical. D1’s Sam Skove has more, here.

And lastly: A new bill could expand Pentagon quantum efforts. As drawn up by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the Defense Quantum Acceleration Act would direct the Defense Department to establish a new quantum advisor role and stand up a center of excellence to “explore and identify [quantum information science] technologies that have demonstrated value in advancing the priorities and missions of the Department.” D1’s Patrick Tucker explains, here.