Mid Week Defense Briefing

The Marine Corps began preparing its Special Operations component in earnest for life after Afghanistan last year, joining a war game overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command designed to assess how its elite troops could better fit into U.S. maritime operations. A year later, that picture is starting to emerge. – Washington Post

US Senate staffers have the “green light” to start preliminary talks about a compromise version of a Pentagon policy bill that could quickly pass both chambers later this year. – Defense News

In the long run, the F-35’s absence from the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough air show will have minimal impact on the program’s long-term fortunes. In the mid-term, however, the F-35’s export hiatus may hobble the program’s economics. – Aviation Week

While they’re far from falling, the head of Air Force Space Command said, the heavens aren’t the “peaceful sanctuary” they once were, either…American policymakers, commanders, and citizens need to stop relying blithely on 100 percent performance from space systems, he went on, because potential adversaries pack an increasingly sophisticated arsenal that ranges from computer viruses to jamming to lasers to anti-satellite missiles. – Breaking Defense

Suicides in the military dropped by 6 percent last year, a decline that Pentagon officials hope signals a reversal in a tragic trend — but that some advocates say does not reflect the true scope of the issue in the military and veterans’ community. – Military Times

Interview: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., vowed late last year to begin passing annual spending bills, but it has not happened. Most recently, Mikulski and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., pieced together a three-bill “minibus.” Reid pulled the bill, however, when Republicans objected and accused him of preventing votes on their amendments. Democrats screamed anew about GOP obstruction. Congress Watch asked key senators if the chamber can pass a stand-alone 2015 defense appropriations bill. – Defense News

Ultimately, the Pentagon and our industry must let global free-market instincts prevail. That is the best and only way to harness the benefits of change and to increase U.S. technological strength. We have a unique opportunity today to look beyond our borders   ̶  both real and imagined   ̶  and turn the tide of global and technological change to our advantage. – Breaking Defense

The War

The U.S. faces a growing array of threats, from new terrorist havens to cyberattacks, but the American public doesn’t appreciate these dangers and is growing complacent, warns a new report from the former members of the commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Al-Qaida remains intent on attacking airliners and is developing explosive devices capable of eluding airport metal detectors, says a senior US lawmaker. – Defense News

Ten years ago Tuesday, The 9/11 Commission Report was released to the government and the American public. Many of the 41 recommendations have been adopted, leaving our government better equipped to fight terrorism. That is progress, but we must not become complacent. Terrorists are still plotting attacks on our homeland and aviation systems. The trend lines overseas are pointing in the wrong direction. – USA Today

A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of “impeding investigation.” The friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, was charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy and found guilty after 15 hours of jury deliberation. – Global Security Newswire

A raid on an army base in northeast Nigeria and massacres of civilians in nearby villages at the weekend have left Boko Haram free to move unopposed in a strategic garrison town, witnesses and security sources said. – Reuters

Gunmen attacked a major military base in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, on Tuesday but the government said the situation had been quickly brought under control. – Reuters

Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah made a phone call to Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal on Monday and vowed to support “the resistance in Gaza in any way necessary.” Then Nasrallah, whose fame has spread far and wide over the years as the head of the Iranian-backed Lebanese “Party of God,” called Palestinians Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Salah to talk about maintaining close diplomatic ties in the fight against Israel. But here’s the real message from Nasrallah: Hamas, you’re on your own. – The Daily Beast

A twin suicide bombing at a Libyan army base in Benghazi killed at least four solders in an escalation of clashes between Islamist militants and regular forces battling to oust them from the eastern city. – Reuters

European Union foreign ministers agreed to expand sanctions Tuesday against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the bloc said in a news release. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The House on Tuesday passed legislation to impose further sanctions extremist group Hezbollah’s foreign assets. – The Hill’s Floor Action

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an overnight suicide bombing in a Shi’ite district of Baghdad which killed 33 people, one of the deadliest recent attacks in the Iraqi capital. – Reuters

In hiding, targeted by drone strikes and unable to land a blow in the West, al Qaeda’s ageing leaders are losing a power struggle with ultra-radical young militants in Iraq and Syria who see themselves as the true successors to Osama bin Laden. – Reuters

Islamic State militants seized four small oilfields when they swept through north Iraq last month and are now selling crude oil and gasoline from them to finance their newly declared “caliphate”. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

The U.S. intelligence community’s best guess is that Ukrainian separatists supported by Russia, but not actual Russians, were the ones who fired the missile that brought down MH17 and killed 296 people over eastern Ukraine. – The Daily Beast

HMS Illustrious, the second most famous commissioned warship in the Royal Navy, returned to Portsmouth naval base for the last time July 21, marking the end of a 32-year career for the helicopter carrier. – Defense News

Warships from India, Japan and the U.S. will participate in joint exercises in the Pacific Ocean near Japan starting Thursday—a sign of greater maritime cooperation among nations in Asia as they face a more assertive China. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. on Tuesday defended Israel’s military campaign in Gaza against critics who point to the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties. – The Hill

France is forging ahead with plans to supply Russia with at least one powerful warship despite objections from the U.S. and other allies, President François Hollande said, while dangling the possibility he might cancel the delivery of a second vessel. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

France should have cancelled its sale of sophisticated amphibious warships to Russia when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimea in March.  The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by Russian proxies in Ukraine on Thursday now mandates such action by Paris. American political and economic leadership has a role to play in the matter. – The Diplomat

 

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

The administration is considering new sanctions against Russia following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner in a rebel-controlled area of eastern Ukraine. – The Hill

Army officials have withdrawn their intelligence network from a major testing exercise this fall because of software glitches, in the latest setback for the troubled system. – Associated Press

The War

The authors of the 9/11 Commission report say that a decade after completing their seminal look at the rise of al-Qaeda, the threat of terrorism has not waned and the country can ill afford to let its guard down again. – Washington Post

A new human rights report offers a blistering assessment of the Justice Department’s role in the fight against terrorism, taking aim at tactics used to identify and prosecute suspects. – Washington Post

Some tribal elders in a city in northwest Pakistan have decreed that families fleeing a military offensive should not allow women to collect food aid, an elder said on Monday after Reuters saw him attacking women. – Reuters

Whether the Afghan forces can sustain themselves in the critical districts the Green Berets will be ceding to them is an urgent question all over the country. The answer will help define America’s legacy in Afghanistan, much as it has in Iraq, where the Iraqi forces have fallen apart in combat. – New York Times

A suicide bomber driving a motorcycle packed with explosives detonated inside a security compound in the Afghan capital Tuesday, killing four foreigners and injuring dozens more, police said. – Washington Post

Islamist militants attacked an army base in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Monday, triggering fierce clashes involving helicopters and jets that killed at least seven people and wounded 40 others after days of escalating violence. – Reuters

Using its own version of “soft” and “hard” power, the Islamic State is crushing resistance across northern Iraq so successfully that its promise to march on Baghdad may no longer be unrealistic bravado. – Reuters

Read today’s Iraq updates – Institute for the Study of War

Foreign Armies East

China is seeking greater access to U.S. aircraft carriers and guidance on how to operate its own first carrier, the Liaoning, testing the limits of a newly cooperative military relationship the two sides have tried to cultivate in the past year. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Beijing has defended its dispatch of a spy ship to international waters off Hawaii, near where Chinese vessels are taking part in a US-led naval exercise for the first time, reports said Monday. – AFP

With dancing robots and smiling soldiers and to the strains of British singer George Michael, China cracked open the door on its secretive armed forces on Tuesday during Beijing’s annual attempt to assuage worries about its growing military might. – Reuters

The Israeli military announced on Tuesday that the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed on Sunday in Gaza had still not been found or identified, two days after Hamas’s military wing said it had kidnapped a soldier. – New York Times

A dispute over two warships France is building for Russia is threatening to overshadow a high-stakes meeting of EU foreign ministers that is expected to discuss toughening sanctions against Moscow following the downing of a Malaysian airline which left 298 dead. – Financial Times
 

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Monday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon says 15 percent of the main Syrian chemical weapons on board the U.S. cargo vessel MV Cape Ray have been destroyed. – Associated Press

The revival of the Pentagon’s storied F-35 alternative engine program is unlikely despite a US Senate panel raising that possibility, experts say. – Defense News

All four Congressional defense committees have aligned to support an increase in Tomahawk missile production in 2015 and beyond. – DOD Buzz

The Air Force will cut thousands of headquarters jobs as it consolidates installations management across the service and aims to streamline base services and amenities for airmen. – Military Times

Air Force officials are expected to decide as soon as next month whether to go forward with an expansion of a bomber training area over the Northern Plains that would encompass an area larger than West Virginia. – Associated Press

Report: This chartbook from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) examines how spending on the all-volunteer force has changed over time. With near-sequestration levels of defense spending likely for the foreseeable future, policymakers face tough budgetary and strategic choices regarding military personnel compensation, force structure, and readiness. We intend for this project to help decision makers and the public better understand the context underpinning this debate. – American Enterprise Institute and Bipartisan Policy Center

Whether because federal budgets over the last several years have failed to maintain and develop U.S. military capabilities and readiness, or because our adversaries have steadily increased their expenditures and improved their own military capabilities and readiness, or both, the U.S. no longer enjoys the benefits of unquestioned global military preeminence. This has dramatic consequences for the U.S. and for the world. – National Review Online

The War

Fifteen militants were killed early Saturday morning when an American drone struck a compound in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, according to local residents and a security official. It was the fourth known drone strike in the region since Pakistan launched a military operation there last month. – New York Times

One of principal suspects in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, who was captured in Libya last year and taken to New York for prosecution, is terminally ill, raising questions about whether he can ever be put on trial, according to federal court documents. – Washington Post

At least 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed on Saturday when heavily armed gunmen attacked a border guard post near a remote desert oasis, according to an army spokesman. – New York Times

When 42 expressed concern in an April 1999 memo that the Central Intelligence Agency might have exaggerated the case for capturing Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. – WSJ’s Washington Wire

The first congressional panel to take action on a White House-proposed counterterrorism program breathed life into the effort — but also raised a slew of questions the Obama administration is struggling to answer. – Defense News

Republicans and Democrats showed a rare display of bipartisanship last week when members of both parties criticized the Pentagon’s $58.6 billion war budget request, but experts say Congress will likely approve the measure. – Defense News

Foreign Armies East

The South Korean military has chosen to equip its future fighter jet with two engines instead of one amid lingering worries over the economic and technical merits of the twin-engine aircraft development. – Defense News

Japanese military contractors are taking their first steps toward selling weapons abroad since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe relaxed an export ban, a politically sensitive shift for a nation that long hesitated to turn its technology prowess into arms-sales profits. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

China has sent an uninvited surveillance ship to international waters off Hawaii to monitor U.S.-led naval exercises, even though the Chinese navy is participating in the biennial drills, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Saturday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

India’s new Hindu nationalist government cleared Saturday proposals worth nearly $3.5 billion to modernize the nation’s aging Soviet-era military hardware and boost its domestic defense industry, a report said. – Defense News

The fate of a $2.5 billion contract for U.S. military helicopters will provide an early signal of the new Indian government’s commitment to opening markets to foreign companies, according to Boeing Co. officials. – Wall Street Journal (subscription

 

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Friday Defense Briefing

American officials, who said a surface-to-air missile was responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on Thursday, said they suspected that the missile was either an SA-11 or SA-20, both Russian made. – New York Times

The X-47B is seen by many as a precursor to an even larger fleet of drone aircraft that will be unlike anything the U.S. military has. Known as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS), it calls for “persistent, aircraft carrier-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, and strike capability to support carrier air wing operations,” according to the Navy. But its future is anything but certain – Washington Post

Military leaders would have preferred that 44 not give a firm timetable for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, the top U.S. commander in the country said in Thursday. – The Hill

The U.S. military’s outgoing top commander in Afghanistan highlighted improvements in the coalition-trained Afghan military on Thursday, but said the administration’s plan to withdraw nearly all U.S. troops by the end of 2016 will weaken the United States’ ability to perform counterterrorism missions there. – Washington Post

The White House has picked the first female general to head the Air Force in the Pacific, which will make her the first non-pilot to command air power in such a large theater of operation. – Washington Times

A US Senate panel on Thursday approved nearly $550 billion in military spending, while also proposing to keep alive weapon systems the Pentagon wanted to retire. But senior members made clear it may never see the Senate floor. – Defense News

The outgoing Marine commandant says he’ll be handing Gen. Joseph Dunford a Marine Corps facing a budget crisis that could force more deployments with fewer troops. The demand for Marines will only grow as conflicts emerge worldwide, Gen. James Amos said. – Military.com

F-35 flights have resumed since the U.S. Air Force and Navy issued a limited flight clearance July 15. – Aviation Week

With the F-35 taking far longer to field than planned, its F-22 numbers stemmed at 183 and little money on the horizon for new programs, the U.S. Air Force now faces decades before it can achieve its long-held goal of an all fifth-generation fighter fleet. In the meantime, the service has two stealthy fighters—each costing more than $100 million per aircraft—that cannot effectively share data with the fleet (or each other) without compromising the very stealthiness that drove up their cost. – Aviation Week

US senators want to slash the Pentagon’s information technology (IT) spending plan by tens of millions, calling on the military to trim duplicative programs. – Defense News

The U.S. Army has altered its government-owned Scorpion camouflage pattern to look almost identical to MultiCam, the trademarked pattern the service has been using in Afghanistan since 2010. – Military.com

The War

Pentagon officials defended their request for $60 billion in war funds before the House Budget Committee on Thursday as lawmakers accused them of trying to avoid budget caps and congressional scrutiny. – The Hill

Afghanistan’s future was the most popular discussion point during Thursday’s confirmation hearing on Gen. Joseph Dunford’s nomination to become the next Marine Corps commandant. – Military Times

The Pentagon could use a new $5 billion counterterrorism fund, strongly opposed by the US Congress, to purchase new intelligence gear and aircraft for American and partner militaries, a Defense Department official said. – Defense News

There’s an old trope in intelligence circles that defenders have to be right all the time, while the terrorists only need to get lucky once to execute a successful attack. The knowledge that no one is right all the time makes most counterterrorism experts cautiously pessimistic about the likelihood of another successful terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland. – Breaking Defense

The Pakistani army isn’t targeting Afghanistan’s deadly Haqqani network, which is based in a Pakistani tribal area, despite Islamabad’s assertion that it is going after all insurgents during its current offensive, local tribesmen and U.S. officials say. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Militants killed eight members of a government paramilitary force in a midnight attack on a security checkpoint in Pakistan’s restive northwest, security officials said Friday. – Reuters

Hamas is clearly guilty of war crimes in its current round of fighting with Israel, according to a prestigious Jerusalem think tank, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). – Washington Free Beacon

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday struck down an amendment by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) that would have blocked an administration effort to train and equip opposition forces in Syria. – The Hill

Syria’s army clashed with Islamic State fighters outside a government-controlled military airport on Friday, a monitoring group said, as the al Qaeda splinter group seeks to strengthen its grip on the east of the country. – Reuters

Militant group the Islamic state seized a Syrian gas field and killed at least 23 people on Thursday in one of the bloodiest clashes between the al Qaeda offshoot and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, a monitoring group said. – Reuters

Hezbollah and the Syrian branch of al Qaeda have fought a deadly five-day battle in Syria near the border with Lebanon, a Hezbollah source and a fighter for the Nusra Front said on Thursday. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

A powerful Iranian general has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. – Associated Press

Japan said Thursday it would join forces with Britain to jointly develop missile technology for fighter jets, while also moving to export Japanese-made parts for US surface-to-air missiles. – AFP

The five-week course outside this southern port city is a requirement for the 600-man Western Army Infantry Regiment, a unit at the center of Japan’s project to build an amphibious fighting force modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps. The army showed off its soldiers’ new tactics to journalists this week to demonstrate how the nation is bolstering its defense of remote islands at a time of flaring maritime rivalry with China. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Maj. Gen. Liu Xiaojun, the high-flying commanding officer of the People’s Liberation Army contingent in freewheeling Hong Kong, was abruptly relieved of command recently and reassigned to the Guangzhou Military Region in a new position believed to be mostly ceremonial. – Washington Times’ Inside China

China’s military will take part in an infantry exercise for the first time with Australian and US forces in October, the Pentagon said on Thursday. – AFP

 

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

Scientists working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, are working on experimental .50-caliber ammunition that can adjust flight paths after being fired from a weapon. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint

Pentagon officials are increasingly confident that a fire that heavily damaged an F-35A joint strike fighter on June 23 was the result of an isolated issue and not a fleet-wide design flaw that will require redesign or replacement of parts. – Defense News

The Pentagon’s No. 2 official will meet with Navy officials to discuss requirements for the service’s carrier drone development program as the release date for the formal request for proposal slides to the right, Navy officials said – DOD Buzz

The Air Force will soon begin offering incentives to reduce its workforce by nearly 3,500 employees, the service announced Monday. – Defense One

Thomas Donnelly, Kori Schake, Todd Harrison, and others discuss “What would the U.S. military look like if we could start from scratch?” – NYT’s Room for Debate
The Pentagon needs to continue elaborating upon the specific consequences of reduced resources and offer a better path forward for policymakers to support. Washington’s leaders must understand that it is cheaper to maintain American military strength than to rebuild it. – inFocus Quarterly

Amid pressure on Turkey to abandon its selection of a Chinese missile defense system, Raytheon has been asked by the governments of Turkey and the US to keep its Patriot offer open until August 30, officials said. – Defense News

The War

American counterterrorism practices that attack suspects from unmanned drones and expose the private communications of millions are opposed worldwide but haven’t inflicted serious damage on the United States’ image abroad, the Pew Research Center found in a global survey released Monday. – Los Angeles Times

A federal appeals court has rejected a former Al Qaeda media chief’s challenge to his military commission conviction for conspiracy, while tossing out his convictions for material support for terrorism and soliciting. – Politico

Al Qaeda’s North African wing has rejected the mediaeval-style caliphate declared by a militant Islamist group in Iraq and Syria, and confirmed its allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, according a statement posted on social media. – Reuters

A militia shelled Tripoli airport, destroying 90 percent of planes parked there, a Libyan government spokesman said, as heavy fighting between armed groups prompted the United Nations to pull its staff out of the North African country. – Reuters

Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, said on Monday that it had built and flown three types of unmanned aircraft against Israel, all variants of the Ababil-1, an Iranian-made drone. It said two of the drones were armed for attacks and one was intended for reconnaissance. – New York Times

Following the declaration of a caliphate by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a cascade of surrenders by rebel and tribal brigades in Syria’s Deir ez-Zour province conferred large swaths of territorial control to ISIS. Beginning on July 2, these advances dramatically changed the balance of power within the province and provided ISIS the opportunity to achieve territorial continuity along the Euphrates River into Iraq’s al-Anbar. However, local resistance has since emerged to challenge full ISIS control within Syria’s Deir ez-Zour. – Institute for the Study of War

Iraq’s army and Shi’ite militia forces launched an assault on Tuesday to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamist militants as parliamentarians in Baghdad prepared to vote for a new speaker, a possible step towards breaking months of political deadlock. – Reuters

The Lebanese movement Hezbollah, facing a heavy strain on its resources, is recruiting more fighters in Syria and bringing in fresh but inexperienced forces from Lebanon to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s regime. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Foreign Armies East

Experts see indications of possible North Korean activity at a mysterious military site in Myanmar that, by some accounts, may be linked to chemical arms. – Global Security Newswire

U.S-Japan naval cooperation is deepening, top U.S. and Japanese admirals said Monday as they met on the sidelines of the world’s largest maritime exercises. – Associated Press

UK Defence secretary Philip Hammond has replaced William Hague as foreign secretary…Mr Hammond’s promotion means the UK now has a foreign secretary who has said he favours leaving the EU unless it agrees to renegotiate Britain’s membership. He will be replaced by business minister Michael Fallon. – Financial Times

A military transport plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Monday, Ukrainian officials said, while new reports emerged that Russia was building up forces along its border with Ukraine. – New York Times

Qatar will buy US Patriot missiles for the first time in a major arms deal worth $11 billion, officials said Monday, as Washington awaits a decision by the Gulf state on a lucrative fighter jet contract. – AFP

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Monday Defense Briefing

[The Army is] pushing through a variety of new acquisition projects, even as budgets get cut and Congress scrutinizes the numbers. And while it’s mostly multi-billion dollar contract competitions like the search for a new Armored Multi-purpose Vehicle that gets attention in Washington, the service is pursuing a number of cheaper efforts to upgrade the weapons soldiers carry with them on the battlefield. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint

The US Army’s plan to shift National Guard AH-64 Apaches into the active duty in exchange for UH-60 Black Hawks will allow governors to better respond to state disasters, the general in charge of training the service’s helicopter pilots said. – Defense News

Lieutenant General David Barno, USA (Ret.) writes: The Army is emerging from 13 years of war, battle-tested but weary. It is under pressure from budget cuts, the return of nearly the entire force to domestic bases, and a nation wary of deploying land power after two long conflicts. Yet perhaps the most important challenge facing the Army is not about finances, logistics or public opinion, but about culture — its own. – Washington Post

The Air Force just quietly launched its multi-billion dollar contract competition to field a new long-range strike bomber, which will eventually replace the legendary B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. How quiet was the move? There isn’t even notice about it on the front page of the Air Force’s website. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint

Inspectors now believe they know the cause of the fire that damaged an F-35A the morning of June 23, but remain unclear on why the incident occurred. – Defense News

If you are going to miss a much-heralded debut with your most important international customer and industrial partner, you had better have something good to offer up instead. The Joint Strike Fighter program office and F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin think they do: an initiative to drive down the cost of the expensive, stealthy fighter. – Aviation Week

There’s the beloved Warthog. The stealthy Raptor. And now: the Pegasus. These names for the A-10, F-22 and new KC-46 tanker — just like all other U.S. military aircraft names — were put through the wringer at an Air Force office established to make sure new planes get names that reflect their missions. – Military Times

The latest update of the US Navy’s annual 30-year shipbuilding plan shows a jump of 10 ships now in service compared with a year ago, but the updated number is a reflection of new ship-counting rules, not more ship production. – Defense News

The Navy’s $23 billion Littoral Combat Ship is less able to survive an attack than other U.S. warships, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester. – Bloomberg

After five years in the shipyard, the first of a new class of Navy amphibious warship set sail from its Pascagoula, Miss. birthsite for San Francisco, headed for the fleet. LHA-6 will be commissioned as the USS America this October. – Breaking Defense

They’re the biggest supply ships operated for the US Navy, and the fastest. Rarely does a deployed carrier strike group travel without one. But they’re also the most expensive logistics ships to run, and that’s made them the target of planners eager to reduce operating costs. The result is a classic cost-versus-capability debate that continues to be played out behind the scenes in Washington and at fleet headquarters in Norfolk and Pearl Harbor. – Defense News

The War

Attorney General Eric Holder said if Islamist fighters succeed in Iraq and Syria, it is “just a matter of time” before they try to launch attacks against the U.S. – WSJ’s Washington Wire

A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials. – New York Times

Over the past three weeks, nearly one-tenth of Iraq’s 700,000 active soldiers have shed their uniforms, according to Michael Knights of the Washington Institute, who has extensive contacts in the Iraqi military. Iraqi officials have estimated that the number might be as high as 90,000. – Washington Post

A Syrian rebel commander has been shot dead in the Jordanian capital in the first such incident on the kingdom’s territory since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, a police source said on Saturday. – Reuters

Insurgent attacks across Afghanistan have killed 11 Afghan security force members, authorities said Sunday, as a suicide car bomb attack wounded three NATO troops. – Associated Press

Militants based in Afghanistan attacked Pakistani paramilitary troops in the northwestern Bajaur tribal region Saturday, Pakistani officials said, killing three soldiers and prompting Islamabad to issue a “strong protest” to Kabul. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Foreign Armies East

Over the past five years, China has built a formidable unmanned aircraft sector that has reached beyond traditional defense companies and displayed unique capabilities while also replicating advanced Western products, experts say. – Defense News

North Korea early Sunday launched two missiles into the sea from near its border with South Korea, a move seen by Seoul as an escalation of provocations after a series of similar launches further away from the border. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea fired 100 rockets and artillery shells off its east coast on Monday, firing those projectiles within hundreds of yards of the border with South Korea, military officials here said. – New York Times

Taiwan has started using unmanned surveillance aircraft to spy on China to reduce the risk to its pilots from an increased deployment of Chinese missiles, media reported Sunday. – AFP

Iran is continuing work on a long-range ballistic missile that could be flight-tested by next year despite the latest Pentagon report to Congress on Tehran’s military that omitted earlier references to the looming ICBM threat. – Washington Free Beacon

France will in the coming days launch a new military offensive in North Africa to fight terrorism in the wider Sahel region, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

A roadside bomb killed seven members of Algeria’s security forces as they were patrolling in the west of the country, the second major attack on the military in three months. – Reuters

Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has sacked the military chiefs of two regions following sweeping advances by Shiite rebels and a surge in al-Qaida attacks, state media reported Sunday. – AFP

Israeli commandos made a first ground incursion into the Gaza Strip early Sunday and knocked out Hamas rocket-launching sites. In a brief fire fight with Hamas militants, four Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded in the dawn raid but returned safely to Israel. – Washington Post

Ukrainian forces battered the outer suburbs of the rebel stronghold of Luhansk on Sunday, pushing deeper than ever but falling short of retaking the city. – New York Times

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is shaping Moscow’s military priorities, but also sparking a response by some East European NATO members. In Russia, the Defense Ministry is planning to boost the country’s air defense capability in Crimea while some East European neighbors are raising military spending to overhaul their air defense and air combat capacities. – Defense News
 

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Thursday Defense Briefing

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that deep defense budget cuts keep him up at night. – The Hill

Army Gen. John F. Campbell will face a nomination hearing Thursday to take over command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan as the U.S. threatens to cut off aid and security assistance to the fracturing Kabul government. – Military.com

The Pentagon is finishing up a major review of its nuclear forces and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will soon issue his recommendations. – Defense News

The US is developing new military tactics to deter China’s slow but steady territorial advances in the South China Sea, including more aggressive use of surveillance aircraft and naval operations near contested areas. – Financial Times

Fighting back at repeated budget cuts to its nuclear power budget requests, two of the US Navy’s top leaders warned Congress on Monday that the cuts can’t go on. – Defense News

The top general at Forces Command has been nominated to be the next Army Vice Chief of Staff, according to information on the Senate Armed Services Committee website. If confirmed, Gen. Daniel Allyn will succeed Gen. John Campbell as the Army’s No. 2 officer. – Military Times

The Defense Department could save $19 billion over the next 10 years by replacing 70,000 military personnel with civilian employees, according to the Congressional Budget Office. – Military Times

The US Air Force has certified engine maker Rolls-Royce and its Series 3.5 engine upgrade for use on the service’s C-130H fleet, the company announced Wednesday. – Defense News

The 70 Marines and sailors who left Camp Pendleton on Monday night were headed to Mississippi, where they will join nearly 200 more members of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-South to board the Navy’s newest ship for a two-month trip around South America. The ship, to be christened the USS America, will be the first America-Class amphibious assault ship for the Navy. – Stars and Stripes

The War

The al Qaeda-inspired terrorist army in Iraq ultimately wants to capture Baghdad International Airport and begin a campaign to destabilize neighboring Jordan, an important U.S. ally, analysts say. – Washington Times

The Pentagon is considering under what circumstances it will recommend President Barack Obama authorize the use of a missile-equipped drone to kill the leader of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, CNN has learned. – CNN

Missiles from a U.S. drone slammed into a mud house and killed six suspected militants in Pakistan’s rugged northwest on Thursday, officials said, as the Pakistani military said it had seized control of 80 percent of a key city from the Taliban. – Reuters

A panel of national security experts, led by former commander of U.S. Central Command General John P. Abizaid and Georgetown Professor Rosa Brooks, former counselor to the undersecretary of defense for policy, condemned the president’s drone policy in a new report released in June. – Washington Times

Amid international concern over the threat posed by Western jihadis returning from training or combat in Syria, the French government will soon propose legislation authorizing it to block suspected proponents of Islamic terrorism from leaving France, top officials announced Wednesday. – New York Times

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday the Sunni fundamentalist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses a threat not just to the government in Baghdad, but to the United States as well. – The Hill

Foreign Armies East

Dutch troops have joined a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali to meet a growing security threat from the region to the Netherlands, and Europe as a whole that “softer” approaches can no longer contain, the Dutch foreign minister said. – Reuters

Lockheed Martin officials say they remain hopeful that they can get the F-35 to display at air shows in the U.K. despite the ongoing grounding of the combat aircraft. – Aviation Week

Britain’s Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is close to writing off the chances of the F-35B making an appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in the UK, but said he is “optimistic” the aircraft would make it to the Farnborough International Air Show next week. – Defense News

Japan said Wednesday that its military scrambled fighter jets a record 340 times in the three months to June in response to feared intrusions on its airspace, as tensions grow with China. – AFP

China and the United States agreed on Thursday to boost military ties and counter-terrorism cooperation during high-level annual talks in Beijing, but there was little immediate sign of progress on thorny cyber-security or maritime issues. – Reuters

Israeli air strikes killed eight members of a family including five children in a pre-dawn raid on Gaza on Thursday, Palestinian officials said, while Hamas-led fighters launched rockets at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. – Reuters

More than 700,000 people are reported to have fled a Pakistani military operation against terrorists in North Waziristan, straining nearby towns and heightening concern about a long-term refugee crisis. – Washington Post

Syrian armed forces have taken strategic ground around Aleppo this week, residents and state media said on Wednesday, squeezing the main rebel supply line into the city after months of battlefield gains by Damascus. – Reuters

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Mid Week Defense Briefing

Soldiers in the heat of the summer want to roll their sleeves but cannot due to current regulations the Army Times reports. – Washington Post

The F-35 joint strike fighter fleet remains grounded, even as the deadline to make two major British air shows quickly approaches. – Defense News

US Senate Armed Services Committee members on Tuesday reacted to the latest F-35 setback with more resignation than anger. – Defense News

“Unsustainable.” That’s the Navy’s own official assessment of the spending rates required to keep the fleet large and modern enough to do its missions. For the service to state this in writing ratchets up not just the rhetoric but the likelihood of future budget battles in the Pentagon and on the Hill — especially over the immensely expensive program to replace aging Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs), which the Navy desperately wants someone else to pay for. – Breaking Defense

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday will visit Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, scene of an F-35 fire last week that has put the Joint Strike Fighter’s first international flight at the Farnborough Air Show in doubt. – DOD Buzz

Tracker: Three things to watch when the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee (SAC-D) unveils its 2015 Pentagon spending bill on July 17. – Defense News

The world is not sitting still as Washington’s work slows to a trickle. As international challenges grow, the United States and its friends and allies around the world should listen to senior military commanders and revisit plans to disinvest in defense. – US News and World Report

The War

Iraq’s government has lost control of a former chemical weapons facility to “armed terrorist groups” and is unable to fulfill its international obligations to destroy toxins kept there, the country’s U.N. envoy told the United Nations. – Reuters

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday implored more European countries to adopt American-style counterterrorism laws and tactics, including undercover stings to prevent potential terrorists from traveling to Syria. – New York Times

Driven by increased ground combat between insurgents and government forces, civilian casualties in Afghanistan surged 24 percent through the first half of the year to their highest levels since 2009, according to the United Nations, in a grim signal of the way the war here is changing from the same period a year ago. – New York Times

The long summer break will test the ability of the militant “Islamic State” group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to draw radical Islamist students in Europe to fight in Iraq and Syria, an EU official said in Milan on Tuesday. – Reuters
Al Qaeda-linked militants attacked the Somali presidential compound in Mogadishu on Tuesday, forcing their way inside, but President Hassan Sheik Mohamud was not there at the time. – Los Angeles Times

Islamist militant group Boko Haram is blamed for at least 18 attacks on civilians in northern Nigeria in the past two weeks and the escalating violence of the insurgency threatens the security of West Africa, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Fighters from a Yemeni Shiite rebel group took control Tuesday of a northwestern city where they have been fighting for weeks with conservative Sunnis from one of the country’s largest tribes, government and military officials said. – Associated Press

Foreign Armies East

Russia has carried out a successful test-firing of a new interceptor designed to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles, ITAR-Tass reported on Monday. – Global Security Newswire

Russia has been busy upgrading its Cold War-era missile systems, and now it expects to have radar-evading ballistic missiles by 2021. – Washington Times

The White House voiced support for an Israeli military offensive targeting Hamas, saying Israel had “a right to defend itself” against “vicious” rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. – The Hill

North Korea test-fired two Scud-type missiles on Wednesday, demonstrating its ballistic missile abilities even as it was taking modest steps to reach out to Japan and South Korea. – New York Times

China’s military is working on a jet-powered hypersonic cruise missile in addition to an advanced high-speed glide warhead that was tested earlier this year. – Washington Free Beacon

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Defense Briefing Tuesday

A plan to start delivering F-16s to Iraq in September is on hold until the security situation improves, a U.S. official said. – Air Force Times

Congress returns from its July Fourth vacation to a long list of high-profile, unfinished defense business and a short legislative calendar before the November elections. – Military Times

A problem with Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine caused the F-35 fire on June 23 that triggered a fleet-wide grounding of the fighter jet, according to a report by USNI News. – DOD Buzz

The top US commander in Europe said he will probably need more troops to counter the renewed military threat from Russia that is roiling the far eastern region of Europe. But first he has to persuade the Pentagon to officially halt the US military drawdown that has been underway in his command since the Cold War ended. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy can’t meet its funding needs for surface warships and a new class of nuclear attack submarines from 2025 to 2034, according to the service’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan. – Bloomberg

The US Defense Department is set to roll out a new strategy this week that is designed to make sure researchers know about ongoing technological developments around the world, and can take advantage of spending by close allies to fill gaps in capabilities and cut costs. – Defense News

It’s the tale of the two maritime exercises: In the Black Sea, the U.S. and its allies are starting up multinational training while Russian warships separately maneuver in a large-scale war game – Military Times

The War

The administration is seeking to neuter the Leahy amendment by giving the defense secretary the authority to disregard it by asserting that “it is in the national security interest to do so.” In fact, allowing aid to flow to foreign military units that commit major human rights crimes cannot be in the U.S. interest in any circumstances. Congress should reject the ­exemption. – Washington Post

Government at all levels must continue to invest in detecting and thwarting aspiring jihadists through robust and legally sanctioned humint capabilities at home. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed 12,000 people and shattered the northern economy. Schools have been shut down because of attacks that have seen hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped and schoolboys burned alive in their dormitories. – Los Angeles Times

AQAP remains in what appears to be a shaping phase in Yemen and it will continue to target the Yemeni security forces before going on the offensive. We must watch Yemen closely so as to avoid being surprised by the predictable attack of another al Qaeda franchise. – AEI’s Critical Threats

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack Tuesday in central Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 10 civilians, four coalition service members and two Afghan police officers, local and military officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The U.S. failure to secure a lasting presence in Iraq or to intervene effectively in Syria’s civil war has contributed to one of the worst imaginable outcomes for the region and for U.S. security: al Qaeda copycats blighting the Middle East and beyond for decades to come. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government

Foreign Armies East

A senior Iraqi general was killed in fighting with insurgents close to Baghdad on Monday, as the army fights to hold militant Sunni Islamists back from the capital. – Reuters

Uganda’s army said on Monday it had killed more than 60 gunmen who attacked police and army posts in the west on Saturday, while extra troops had been deployed to restore security in an area near the country’s new oil fields. – Reuters

North Korea’s capacity to produce nuclear warheads could get a big boost when a new reactor becomes operational, the Yonhap News Agency reports. – Global Security Newswire

China’s military rise, and its increasingly assertive claims to sovereignty of these largely uninhabited lumps of rock, coral and sand, have set it on a possible collision course with its neighbors, which also make various claims on the archipelagos, and with the United States, which has important alliances with three of the rival claimants and would be obliged to defend them in the event of an attack. – Washington Post

Russia on Friday said it plans to finish modernizing its nuclear-capable missile forces within several years, ITAR-Tass reports. – Global Security Newswire

President Petro Poroshenko has named a new chief of military operations against separatists in eastern Ukraine, continuing a shake-up of the military and security leadership to combat the insurgency. – Reuters

The Israeli army, air force and navy launched a major operation against the Islamic militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, striking 50 sites in the coastal enclave and mobilizing infantry troops along border for a possible ground incursion designed to stop a barrage of rockets from being fired at Israel. – Washington Post

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Monday Defense Briefing

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) has begun carrying out a game-changing plan for sustainment on a global scale, one that relies heavily on competition to help drive down costs. – Defense News

Investigators have narrowed their focus to the third stage turbine of the F135 engine as the likely source of a fire that erupted as an F-35A fighter was preparing for takeoff at Eglin AFB, Florida, last month. – Aviation Week

The US Navy and Congress are in a sort of faceoff over the fleet’s cruiser force. To extend their service lives, the Navy is asking to take half its cruisers — CGs in Navy-speak — out of service now and gradually bring them back starting in 2019. Congress, fearful that Pentagon budget-cutters will instead decide to cut costs and reduce the force, is insisting the ships be modernized now and kept running. – Defense News

The Navy is upgrading the sensors, radar, computer networks and electronics on-board its LPD 24 amphibious transport dock, the Arlington, in anticipation of its scheduled deployment next year, service officials said. – DOD Buzz

According to a new study, United States defense leaders should focus more on a “great power conflict” reflective of a newly aggressive Russia and rapidly modernizing China. Doing so would force the Defense Department to modernize its existing force and invest significantly in maintaining technological advantages at the expense of unlikely-to-be used ships, aircraft and soldiers. – Defense One

At an expansive industrial shipyard on the banks of the James River, the nation’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines are being produced ahead of schedule and on budget. That performance by Newport News Shipbuilding and its Groton, Connecticut-based partner General Dynamics Electric Boat helped the companies land the largest single contract in Navy history this spring. – Associated Press

The United States revealed it has maintained a secret military presence in Somalia over the past several years. According to U.S. officials, the troops have been active there since the middle of 43′s second term. – Global Security Newswire

The War

U.S. officials are worried that al-Qaida has developed a new kind of bomb that can go undetected by airport security, the Los Angeles Times reports. – Global Security Newswire

Wearing a black turban and black robes, the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic state that stretches across eastern Syria and much of northern and western Iraq made a startling public appearance, his first in many years, at a well-known mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to a video released on Saturday whose contents were confirmed by experts and witnesses. – New York Times

Warplanes carried out multiple bombing raids in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, a day after the leader of a powerful al-Qaeda-inspired militant group appeared online in a video from the city’s main mosque. – Washington Post

The al Qaeda offshoot terrorist group conquering parts of Iraq is gaining strength thanks to prisoner releases and its social media magnetism for foreign fighter recruits. – Washington Times

State media reported Saturday that an Iranian military pilot was killed in Iraq, the first confirmation that Iranian forces are involved in the Iraqi government’s battle to repel an offensive by al-Qaeda-inspired extremists. – Washington Post

The military chief of Syria’s main Western-backed rebel group warned Saturday that the country risked a “humanitarian disaster” if allies do not send more aid to help his moderate forces halt the advance of Islamic militants. – Associated Press

Clashes between Shiite rebels and tribesmen allied with the government have killed at least 35 people and wounded 40 others in some of the fiercest fighting to hit the country in months, a Yemeni security official said Sunday. – Associated Press

Clashes in the north Yemen town of Omran continued on Sunday between the army and fighters from the Houthi movement after at least 104 people were killed on Saturday, while in the south six soldiers were shot dead by al Qaeda militants. – Reuters

Portuguese police have arrested a man trained in a jihadist camp as he was trying to illegally board an Angola-bound plane via its landing gear at Lisbon international airport, local media said on Sunday. – Reuters

Government forces are stepping up a counterattack against the Taliban after stumbling in their efforts to retake territory seen as critical to preserving Kabul’s hold in the country’s south. – Wall Street Journal

Taliban insurgents set fire on Saturday to about 200 oil tanker trucks supplying fuel for NATO forces in an attack just outside the Afghan capital Kabul, police said. – Reuters

Somali militants claimed responsibility for attacks in eastern Kenya that aid organizations said killed at least 22 people—the second such strike in the region in less than three weeks. – Wall Street Journal

Foreign Armies East

Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle of whisky against Britain’s biggest warship on Friday as she gave her name to the new aircraft carrier at a ceremony in Scotland. – Defense News

With a fierce onslaught of gunfire and mortar shelling, Ukrainian government forces on Saturday expelled pro-Russian insurgents from Slovyansk, a long-blockaded rebel stronghold, government officials and separatist leaders said. – New York Times

India has made major changes in its defense production policy that will enable foreign manufacturers to set up production in India without going through the cumbersome process of seeking licensing. – Defense News

India and Israel may reach a new level of defense cooperation under the new government in Delhi, with both sides discussing a list of defense items that could be supplied to India on a government-to-government basis. – Defense News

China’s military is investing heavily in advanced submarines, including both ballistic and cruise missile firing vessels and attack subs. – Washington Times

Japan’s Ministry of Defense has hinted it may try to re-establish a centralized procurement agency to streamline purchasing and concentrate talent and resources so Japan can participate in the global arms trade. – Defense News

Admiral Dennis Blair, USN (Ret.) writes: The changes in Japan’s security policy are long overdue, and they will strengthen a steadfast ally—one that America badly needs.and, in turn, support our common interest in ensuring a more peaceful world. – Politico

Thailand’s military government said on Monday peace in the Muslim-dominated south was an “urgent national priority” for the Buddhist-majority country following a decade of unrest blamed on separatists. – Reuters

 

 

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