The D Brief: The US military’s EWs are not OK, SOF say; Houthis threaten Med shipping; US-Taiwan naval drills; And a bit more.

The D Brief: The US military’s EWs are not OK, SOF say; Houthis threaten Med shipping; US-Taiwan naval drills; And a bit more.

The U.S. is still falling behind on electronic warfare, special operators warn. “The gap between where the United States should be and where we are, in my judgment, continues to expand—not everywhere, but in far too many places,” said Mike Nagata, a retired Army lieutenant general who led special operations in the Middle East and is now a senior vice president for CACI International. 

Nagata is hardly the first to sound the alarm. In 2022, the National Defense Strategy Commission said that the United States is “losing its advantages in electronic warfare, hindering the nation’s ability to conduct military operations against capable adversaries.”

The problem has been vividly demonstrated in Ukraine, where U.S.-supplied precision weapons have been reduced nearly to dumb bombs by Russian EW. If the Pentagon is to regain its advantage, Nagata said, it needs to get more creative in its use of radio technologies, particularly space-based communications.

At the recent SOF Week convention in Tampa, D1’s Patrick Tucker spoke with special operators as they walked the floor, looking for answers. Read that, here.

Enemies may disrupt US satellites by hacking ground stations, Pentagon says. China, Russia, and other potential U.S. adversaries are showing increased interest in disrupting American space operations through cyberattacks—and ground stations that transmit data to satellites and space stations are easiest to target. That’s from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Mieke Eoyang, who spoke last week at RSA Conference in San Francisco. Read on, here.

That’s hardly slowing DOD interest in satellite communications, particularly the new generation of relatively tiny terminals that have helped Ukraine fight off Russian invaders—and now are being used by Russia itself.

“If we were curious about [proliferated low-Earth orbit] before, we are super interested now,” Army Col. Jeff Strauss, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s deputy for acquisitions, said during a recent Washington Technology event. “And what that reinforces for us is the ability for a resilient network and to be able to do that multipath…to have [multiple] paths of communication simultaneously all the time.” D1’s Lauren C. Williams reports, here.

The B-2 to be retired early was damaged in December 2022 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, an Air Force spokesperson said Monday, confirming educated guesses about which of the stealthy bombers was slated for early retirement in the Pentagon’s annual force structure report.

“It takes a while for aircraft to make it through the process and fall off of our inventory. As the report says, it is uneconomical to repair,” an Air Force spokesperson said Monday. Neither the report nor the service said how much it would have cost to fix.

The B-2 malfunctioned while flying, was forced to make an emergency landing, and caught fire on the runway. In response, the service grounded the entire B-2 fleet for five months after the mishap. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

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 1948, Israel declared itself an independent state inside Palestine territory that had been controlled by the British. The next morning, Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt invaded Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

The Iran-backed Houthis are still attacking naval ships off the coast of Yemen with another anti-ship ballistic missile apparently targeting the USS Mason (DDG 87) late Monday afternoon in the Red Sea. U.S. forces in the region also destroyed two probable Houthi aerial drones Monday, one inside Yemen and another over the Red Sea, according to U.S. officials at the Tampa-based Central Command. 

U.S. forces also destroyed an aerial drone over the Gulf of Aden early Sunday, three more over the Red Sea early Saturday, and another over the Gulf of Aden late Friday. 

Also: The Houthis say they’ve got a newly-functioning cruise missile that can hit ships in the Mediterranean Sea, and not just the waters immediately surrounding Yemen. As with many Houthi missiles, this one appears to be a derivative of Iran’s Project 351 Paveh, as one analyst pointed out on social media Monday. 

Reminder: The U.S. Navy’s Surface Warfare Division Director Rear Adm. Fred Pyle will discuss “Lessons for Surface Warfare” from the Red Sea this afternoon in an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. That begins at 2 p.m. ET. Details and livestream, here.

With Israeli troops seemingly on the verge of invading the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a U.S. Army major said Monday that he resigned his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency this past November because of Washington’s support for Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza. 

According to Reuters, Maj. Harrison Mann released a letter Monday explaining his decision five months ago, saying, “At some point — whatever the justification — you’re either advancing a policy that enables the mass starvation of children, or you’re not.” 

Washington’s top officer in the Middle East spent the weekend in Israel meeting with officials “to discuss the situation in Gaza, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gazan citizens, and regional security,” CENTCOM announced at the conclusion of Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla’s trip Monday. 

Kurilla also dropped by Saudi Arabia two days before that Israeli visit. The war in Gaza dominated discussions there, too. But they also discussed the Houthis’ attacks on commercial shipping in the region as well as “further opportunities to partner on innovation of defensive technologies,” according to CENTCOM.  

Former CIA Director David Petraeus has some words of caution for Israel, according to Max Boot, writing Monday in the Washington Post. One big problem, Petraeus explained, is revealed when one considers the classic clear-hold-build counterterrorism strategy U.S. troops implemented in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Baqubah and Mosul. Israel is clearing the heck out of Gaza—but it’s abandoned the hold and build parts of that approach, the former four-star general explained. 

“They are just clearing and leaving to fight in other areas,” said Petraeus. “And that inevitably means that they will have to go back and reclear endlessly.”

A second opinion: “The Israelis in Gaza are committing the same primary mistake as the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq: Seeking a military solution to what is fundamentally a political issue,” said retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who is now a professor of military history at Ohio State University. “By pursuing the destruction of Hamas and ignoring the root causes of the conflict, the Israelis by their actions are creating more future combatants than they are eliminating in the near term,” Mansoor continued. Read the rest at WaPo (gift link), here. 

Related reading: 

The U.S. and Taiwan navies conducted secretive and rare joint naval drills together in the Pacific last month, Reuters reported Tuesday from Taipei. “About half a dozen navy ships from both sides, including frigates and supply and support vessels, participated in the days-long exercises, which were designed to practice ‘basic’ operations such as communications, refuelling [sic] and resupply,” the wire service writes. 

Due to Washington’s “one China” policy initiated back in 1979, the joint drills in April officially never took place. Another source described the activity as “unplanned sea encounters.” Read more, here. 

And lastly: In Wyoming, a China-linked company now has 119 days to sell property it recently bought near the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, in west Cheyanne. The company is known as MineOne Partners Limited, and they bought the property back in June 2022 ostensibly “for specialized cryptocurrency mining operation,” the White House said Monday. 

“The proximity of the foreign-owned Real Estate to a strategic missile base and key element of America’s nuclear triad, and the presence of specialized and foreign-sourced equipment potentially capable of facilitating surveillance and espionage activities, presents a national security risk to the United States,” the White House said in a statement. 

Moving forward, the U.S. will continue to scrutinize “transactions that present risk to sensitive U.S. military installations as well as those involving specialized equipment and technologies,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in her own statement.

Read the full article here