Today’s D Brief: Ukraine sinks warship; EU seeks ‘war economy’; Warships collide off Philippines; Hypersonic missile on Guam; And a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

New: Ukrainian Magura V5 drones attacked the Russian navy’s Sergei Kotov patrol ship near the Kerch Bridge Monday evening and into Tuesday morning, allegedly sinking the 300-foot vessel off the coast of occupied Ukrainian Crimea, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, which released a two-minute video of the purported incident on social media Tuesday. 

The ship’s stern, starboard and port sides were struck by the exploding drone boats, Ukrainian officials said. “Right now this ship is on the seabed as a result of fire damage by unmanned boats,” a Ukrainian navy official said in televised remarks afterward, according to Reuters. 

Ships like the Sergei Kotov “use radar and a helicopter to detect and destroy drones using grenade launchers and heavy machine guns,” the Associated Press reports. Ukrainian officials claim the 1,300-ton ship represents a $65 million loss for Russia. 

Approximately two dozen Russian naval vessels have been damaged or destroyed by Ukraine since Moscow’s full-scale invasion began two years ago. Ukraine’s military claimed at least two dozen one month ago; but it is impossible to verify this number with certainty, especially considering Russia frequently does not confirm its battlefield losses.


Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1946, Winston Churchill introduced the phrase “Iron Curtain” to describe the Soviet Union’s European sphere of influence in a speech at Missouri’s Westminster College.

The European Union wants to shift into a “war economy mode” with greater cooperation to purchase and produce weapons. As currently drawn up, the plans involve some $1.6 billion in funding and include “a European version of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales scheme, under which the United States helps other governments to buy from U.S. arms companies,” Reuters reported Monday from Brussels.

“In the current geopolitical context, Europe must take greater responsibility for its own security, regardless of the outcome of our allies’ elections every four years,” the plan’s chief architect, industry commissioner Thierry Breton, said Monday in an indirect reference to upcoming U.S. elections.

The plans are a direct “response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” and involve “incentivising joint procurement, establishing security of supply measures, and enhancing access to finance,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrel said Tuesday. 

Developing: Albania is reopening a Soviet-era air base for NATO aircraft, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced Monday. It’s known as the Kucova Air Base, and it’s located in south-central Albania. (Up north a short drive to Croatia lies one of our favorite old air bases, Željava, which was built into a mountain and was intended to survive a 20-kiloton nuclear attack. Similar secretive mountain bases we like include Olavsvern in Norway, and Pennsylvania’s Raven Rock Mountain Complex.)

Albania has no jets of its own, but two Eurofighter Typhoons from Italy landed at Kucova Monday to illustrate its utility as a staging area for alliance aircraft in the future. View a photo collection of more than a dozen images from Florion Goga of Reuters on Monday, here. 

Back stateside, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas is visiting the Pentagon Tuesday morning, with a scheduled arrival at 11 a.m. ET for talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his team. 

Related reading:

A Chinese coast guard ship bumped a Philippines coast guard ship Tuesday, part of a series of harassments meted out by Chinese vessels as Philippine forces attempted to resupply troops the Second Thomas Shoal, an outpost in the South China Sea, Philippine officials said. 

Video posted to Twitter purports to show the collision, which injured four Philippines crew.

AP: “Over an hour later, another Chinese coast guard ship first blocked then collided with a supply boat the Philippine coast guard was escorting, the Philippine officials said.” 

Manila summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest and to demand that Chinese vessels immediately withdraw from the area around the Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila calls Ayungin. (AP, Reuters)

What is this hypersonic missile doing on Guam? A U.S. Air Force photo of a live AGM-183 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missile under the wing of a B-52H bomber on Guam “comes despite the Air Force announcing its intention to axe the program last year” and “prompts new questions about the increasingly ambiguous future of this weapon,” The War Zone reported Friday.

Is the United States overestimating China’s power? “As someone who has followed China for over a quarter century, I believe that many observers have overestimated the country’s apparent power,” writes Dan Murphy, executive director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School. “Recent challenges to China’s economy have led some people to reevaluate just how powerful China is. But hurdles to the growth of Chinese power extend far beyond the economic sector – and failing to acknowledge this reality may distort how policymakers and the public view the shift of geopolitical gravity in what was once called “the Chinese century’.” Read that, here.

And lastly: AFWERX’s private-sector collab program abruptly closes up shop. “The Defense Ventures Fellowship program embedded officers, enlisted personnel, and DOD civilians with startups and venture capital firms to bring innovation to the Pentagon and make the department a better customer,” Defense One’s Audrey Decker writes. Officials said the program has been shuttered because of tighter-than-expected budgets brought on by Congressional action and inaction. More, here.



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