The D Brief: Replicator takes off; Xi’s Europe trip; US freezes GPS bombs to Israel; Space Force pushback; And a bit more.

The D Brief: Replicator takes off; Xi’s Europe trip; US freezes GPS bombs to Israel; Space Force pushback; And a bit more.

U.S. officials announce the first purchases for Replicator, the Pentagon’s ambitious drone acquisition program. They include “uncrewed surface vehicles (USV), uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and counter-uncrewed aerial systems (c-UAS) of various sizes and payloads from several traditional and non-traditional vendors,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in a statement Monday. 

There are more details in these latest developments, but many of those “remain classified,” particularly those “in the maritime domain and some in the counter-UAS portfolio,” Hicks said. 

Background: The Pentagon plans to spend about a half billion dollars on Replicator this fiscal year, including about $300 million approved in this year’s defense appropriations act, and the rest from “existing authorities and Defense-wide sources,” according to Hicks. The Defense Department has asked for about $500 million more in the fiscal 2025 budget proposal, Defense One’s Bradley Peniston and Sam Skove report.

Also new: Replicator will “accelerate fielding” of the Switchblade-600 loitering munition, defense officials said Monday. That weapon—which is believed to have been used in Syria, Somalia, and Iraq, in addition to Ukraine—enables its operator to take out armored vehicles more than 24 miles away. 

Update: The Dutch say they’ll send Ukraine F-16 jets sometime in the fall, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said Monday during a trip to Lithuania. That’s just a few weeks behind the Danes, who have promised to send Ukraine some F-16s by the end of the summer. Belgium, too, wants to deliver Ukraine a few F-16s before the end of the summer. 

By the way: Ukraine’s first fully-trained F-16 pilots are expected to begin graduating this month, as Defense One’s Audrey Decker reported in February. 

The U.S. is training 12 Ukrainian pilots in fiscal 2024, and all of them are set to graduate between May and August. But what the pilots do then depends on the broader Ukrainian F-16 effort and when the jets will actually arrive in Ukraine, U.S. officials said. And that helps to partly explain some of the latest details shared by Ollongren of the Netherlands. 

New: Ukrainian intelligence officials say they’ve foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymir Zelenskyy and his top intelligence chief, Kyryll Budanov. The plan allegedly relied on two Ukrainian colonels who have since been arrested on suspicion of treason; they worked in an organization similar to the U.S. Secret Service—the State Security Administration, which provides protection for top officials.  

“The enemy’s plan was as follows,” officials explained Tuesday. “First, the recruited agent had to observe the movement of the person under guard and pass information to the enemy. According to the coordinates of the house where the official was supposed to be, a rocket attack was planned. Then they were going to attack the people who remained at the affected area with a drone. After that, the Russians planned to target with another missile, including to destroy traces of the use of the drone.”

Three Russian spies were allegedly in charge of the operation: Maxim Mishustin, Dmytro Perlin and Oleksiy Kornev, with Perlin acting as “curator” of the group, according to Ukrainian officials. The Associated Press has more.

Developing: Polish officials say they’ve found bugging devices in a room that government officials were going to use Tuesday in Katowice, which is southwest of Warsaw. Reuters has a tiny bit more.  

Related reading: “Ukraine’s artillery pinned down by Russian drones,” Reuters reported separately from Ukraine’s front lines on Tuesday.


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 2000, Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as president of Russia.

China’s Xi Jinping is wrapping up a two-day trip to Europe Tuesday, where he’s been pressured to confront criticism of Beijing’s support for Moscow since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago. 

“Without security for Ukraine there can be no security for Europe,” French President Emmanuel Macron told Xi. The leader of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, had similar sentiments when she requested China “use all its influence on Russia to end its war of aggression against Ukraine.” She also singled out China’s “delivery of dual-use goods to Russia that find their way to the battlefield.” 

“Given the existential nature of the threats stemming from this war for both Ukraine and Europe, this does affect E.U.-China relations,” von der Leyen told the Chinese leader. 

But Xi tried to reject the negative associations with Russia, saying for example, “we oppose the crisis being used to cast responsibility on a third country, sully its image and incite a new cold war,” according to the New York Times. China, he said, was “not at the origin of this crisis, nor a party to it, nor a participant.” 

Related reading: America’s China strategy has a credibility problem, argues Emily Kilcrease of the Center for a New American Security in Foreign Affairs: It relies on the threat of economic sanctions, which “Beijing currently has good reason to doubt…because the United States’s response has been muted in the face of recent Chinese provocations, including Beijing’s efforts to erode democracy in Hong Kong, the dispatching of a spy balloon over the United States, and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.” Read, here.

Also: Russia and China are winning the propaganda war, writes Anne Applebaum at The Atlantic—and making common cause with MAGA Republicans to discredit liberalism and freedom around the world. Read that, here.

And “Let’s all take a deep breath about China,” suggests Rory Truex, a Princeton professor whose research focuses on Chinese authoritarianism. “Nearly anything with the word ‘Chinese’ in front of it now triggers a fear response in our political system,” she writes, which “has led the U.S. government and American politicians to pursue policies grounded in repression and exclusion, mirroring the authoritarian system that they seek to combat.” More, here.

Today’s exhibit A: “A new Florida law prohibits many Chinese citizens from buying homes because of national security concerns. Critics say it has fueled discrimination and chilled the local property market,” reports the New York Times.

Additional reading: “Xi Jinping: China will ‘never forget’ NATO bombing its embassy in Serbia,” Politico reported Tuesday.

Update: The U.S. has frozen the transfer to more than 6,000 GPS-guided bomb kits to Israel worth $260 million, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday after Axios broke the development over the weekend. 

There is also reportedly a billion in other weapons sales to Israel that have been on hold since March, including “tank ammunition, military vehicles and mortar rounds,” according to the Journal, which noted, “The sales would take months or years to be delivered.”

From the region: After months of shooting down Houthi naval drones off the coast of Yemen, Reuters reported Monday “Sea drone warfare has arrived” and “The U.S. is floundering.”

Air Guardsmen, governors pile on criticism of plan to move Guard units to Space Force. In the latest backlash against the Pentagon’s proposal to bypass governors and move space-focused units from the Air National Guard into the Space Force, guardsmen are speaking up—and saying they don’t want to join the young service. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

Marine logistics battalions will get resupply drones by 2028. Each unit will get three to six small cargo drones, part of the Corps’ effort to get lighter and more agile. D1’s Sam Skove reports, here.

The Navy is embedding info-warfare chiefs in recruiting commands as part of an effort to recover from low retention of sailors in crucial specialties. The service is also reworking training and mentoring in the ratings, and already seeing better results, Naval Information Forces’ Adm. Kelly Aeschbach tells D1’s Lauren C. Williams. Read, here.

A militarized immigrant roundup won’t work the way Trump says. The GOP frontrunner has vowed to use National Guardsmen to forcibly eject undocumented workers. A Tufts University historian looks at how the Eisenhower administration did it, and what’s different now. Read that, here.

And lastly: We’re less than a week away from NATO’s Youth Summit, which is happening Monday, May 13, in both Miami, Florida, and Stockholm, Sweden. Alliance leaders, military officials, diplomats, academics, and more are scheduled to speak at the event, which is focused on “the next generation of NATO leaders,” according to the summit planners. 

The Miami portion will be held at the Superblue art gallery in the city’s Allapattah neighborhood. The events in both cities will be livestreamed. If you’d like to attend in-person, registration is open through Wednesday, May 8, while online registration is available up to and throughout the activities. Details, here. 

Remember: NATO just turned 75 years old, and its celebratory summit this year will be held in Washington, D.C., from Tuesday, July 9, to Thursday, July 11. Read more, here.



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