Friday, September 29, 2023
HomeDefenseToday's D Brief: HIMARS damage continues vs. Russia; Moscow hates Zelenskyy; Milley,...

Today’s D Brief: HIMARS damage continues vs. Russia; Moscow hates Zelenskyy; Milley, on China; Ellen Lord’s next move; And a bit more.


Ukraine says it’s used U.S.-supplied HIMARS to destroy at least 50 ammo depots from invading Russian forces, according to Kyiv’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, speaking on national television Monday, according to Reuters. That’s a notable rise from last week’s alleged tally of 30 ammo depots destroyed by those very same artillery systems. 

And Ukrainian troop losses are down significantly, too, President Volodymir Zelenskyy told the Wall Street Journal, reporting Friday from Kyiv. Kyiv’s military deaths are now estimated around 30 per day, which is a steep decline from the alleged 100 to 200 daily, according to Ukrainian officials, speaking (to the BBC, e.g.) in early to mid-June. 

And thanks to howitzers from other Ukrainian allies (including Poland, Norway, Canada, Germany, France, Slovakia, Estonia, the U.K., the U.S., and the Netherlands), Kyiv’s troops can now launch about 6,000 rounds of artillery toward Russian invaders each day, which is a welcome rise from the previous 1,000-2,000 daily just a few weeks ago. Russia, meanwhile, is estimated to have averaged something around 12,000 artillery launches daily; that’s believed to be diminished a bit presently, according to Zelenskyy, given Russia’s own mounting troop and equipment losses. 

Speaking of equipment losses, the Brits say they’ve spotted “a Russian military vehicle refit and refurbishment facility near Barvinok, in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, 10 km from the Ukrainian border.” The site was observed about a week ago, and there were about “300 damaged vehicles” seen at the time, “including main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and general support trucks.” That would seem to suggest, according to the British military, that, “In addition to its well documented personnel problems, Russia likely continues to struggle to extract and repair the thousands of combat vehicles which have been damaged in action in Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy is keenly aware of these apparent Russian losses, too. And it draws him further and further away from interest in any concessions to the Kremlin, he told the Journal on Friday. “They just murder people, destroy cities, enter them, and then say: ‘Let’s negotiate.’ With whom can they talk? With rocks?…We would prefer to de-occupy in a way that’s not military and to save lives. But we are dealing with who we are dealing with.” 

“Until they get smashed in the face, they won’t understand anything,” Zelenskyy said of Vladimir Putin’s military. Read the rest of that interview, here.

  • By the way: Russia’s top diplomat said Monday that Moscow’s top goal now is to remove Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and all of his cabinet. The Associated Press has more, here.

ICYMI: The U.S. military is giving Ukraine “up to 580” Phoenix Ghost drones, according to the most recent Congressionally-authorized transfer of U.S. equipment headed to Kyiv, which was announced Friday. That new piece of equipment travels easily in a backpack, and can fly for as many as six hours day or night as it acquires a target. (That Phoenix Ghost tranche comes as part of a package that also includes four more HIMARS, which brings Ukraine’s U.S.-supplied total to 16.) 

Infowar watch: Unease in Moscow? An influential pro-Russian Telegram account, Moscow Calling, shared a considerably downbeat assessment of Russia’s war effort to date over the weekend (here and here, e.g.). Analysts for the Institute of the Study of War drew attention to this Telegram account Sunday evening, writing that Moscow Calling has “strongly insinuated that recent Ukrainian strikes on Russian warehouses, communication hubs, and rear bases are having a devastating and potentially irreversible impact on the development of future Russian offensives.”

Russian airstrikes hit a key Ukrainian port city just hours after a deal was reached with the UN and Turkey to ship grain on the Black Sea. Russia says it hit a Ukrainian warship in that port city of Odesa, and another missile allegedly hit a grain silo, according to Turkey’s defense minister. However, the Associated Press reported Sunday that “neither affected loading at Odesa’s docks.” Reuters has the latest on that Friday agreement, reporting Monday, here

Additional reading: 


From Defense One

Russia is ‘About to Run Out of Steam,’ MI6 Chief Says // Kevin Baron: Ukraine is “still a winnable campaign,” and America’s divisions are undermining its global influence, said Britain’s spy chief in a rare and sweeping public interview.

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber and Bradley Peniston: Defense Business Brief: Farnborough recap: Supersonic airlifters?; 6th-gen fighter; Raytheon CEO, one-on-one; and more.

SOCOM Nominee Sees China Fight As More Partner Building, Less Door Kicking // Patrick Tucker: The SOCOM mission in the age of high-end conflict a lot less flashy than Zero Dark Thirty.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 105: Aerospace’s new inflection point // Ben Watson, Marcus Weisgerber, and Bradley Peniston: Here’s what industry execs were worried about at the Farnborough Airshow.

VA Is ‘Closely Watching’ the Fate of Abortion Access as It Weighs Offering the Service // Eric Katz: The leader of the largest hospital network in the country says he has the authority to change the department’s policy.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Marcus Weisgerber. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1946, the U.S. military carried out “Operation Crossroads” in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands, wherein a nuclear weapon was detonated underwater (just 90 feet down) for the very first time. This test created vast amounts of radioactive seaspray, contaminating many of the target ships in what one Atomic Energy Commission chairman later called “the world’s first nuclear disaster.”


CJCS Milley says the Chinese military has gotten a lot more aggressive in the last five years, with the number of ship and aircraft intercepts with the U.S. and partner nations, as well as unsafe interactions, rising sharply in that time. Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley shared that assessment during a weekend trip to the Indo-Pacific, and Lita Baldor of the Associated Press tagged along, reporting Sunday from Jakarta.
Milley’s trip included a stop in Hawaii to observe the Rim of the Pacific exercise—RIMPAC—and a stop in Indonesia. He’ll join other defense chiefs at a meeting in Australia this week, where they’ll discuss the growing threat from China, Baldor writes.
Speaking of China, air raid sirens blared in Taipei on Monday, as the Taiwanese capital staged drills and mobilized its military for defensive exercises, as concerns intensify over the potential Chinese response if U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits the island, the Associated Press reported Monday from Beijing. Pelosi—“viewed as a Biden proxy by China”—has not decided if or when she will visit, but U.S. military officials last week told Biden that such a trip by the second-in-line for the Oval Office is “not a good idea right now.”
Related reading: 

Former U.S. arms chief’s latest move. Defense and intelligence contractor Parsons has named former Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord to its board of directors, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports. The company also named a new chief financial officer, Matt Ofilos, who is a former Amazon Web Services and Raytheon executive. Ofilos replaces George Ball, who had been Parsons’ CFO since 2008 and who will now join the company’s board.

Lastly: This afternoon in Washington, Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will join POTUS in attending a 2:15 p.m. ET “virtual meeting with CEOs and labor leaders” about the CHIPS Act, according to the White House’s public schedule. That act is known more formally as “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors,” and it’s part of pending $280 billion legislation known as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which is the latest update to the 2021 United States Innovation and Competition Act.
The wider package goes up for a Senate vote later this week, possibly as early as Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. It includes about $52 billion to help incentivize U.S. chip manufacturers, since vulnerabilities to the industry were observed during the Covid pandemic and the related global supply chain crunch, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The CHIPS Act directly supports our national defense,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement July 14. “Weapon systems employed on the battlefields of today and emerging technologies of tomorrow depend on our access to a steady, secure supply of microelectronics,” he said, and cited $150 billion in recent Chinese investment to update its own chip industry. Read more at the Wall Street Journal or Reuters.





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