The D Brief: UK eyes Chinese drone parts; Russia’s arms plan; Air Force cost breach; Austin to the Pacific; And a bit more.

The D Brief: UK eyes Chinese drone parts; Russia’s arms plan; Air Force cost breach; Austin to the Pacific; And a bit more.

UK eyes Chinese drone parts for Ukraine. Britain is open to the idea of supplying made-in-China drone components to Ukraine, a UK official said Tuesday. It’s a notion that reflects Ukrainian pragmatism but runs counter to U.S. policy. “We are less concerned by…Chinese componentry” within drones, the UK official told reporters in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. donates only Western, primarily U.S.-made drones off the Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue UAS list, which aims to ensure that U.S. forces use drones that support U.S. industry, spur American innovation, and won’t send data back to China.

Big buy: In February, Britain and Latvia announced they would spend $252 million to buy first-person-view, or FPV, drones for Ukraine, which—like their Russian foes—use them extensively as improvised guided munitions. Read on, here.

Russia urges arms makers to step things up. “To maintain the required pace of the offensive…, it is necessary to increase the volume and quality of weapons and military equipment supplied to the troops, primarily weapons,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in footage released by the defense ministry this week. Reuters has a bit more, here.

And unsurprisingly, Russia is also “trying to exploit America’s divisions over the war in Gaza” using artificial intelligence, fake social media accounts and a spike in state-sponsored Russian propaganda, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 1960, an American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down deep inside the Soviet Union.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin is headed to Hawaii for a change-of-leadership ceremony Friday for troops at Indo-Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith, just outside of Honolulu. 

Austin has also planned quadrilateral meetings with his counterparts from the Philippines, Japan, and Australia, Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a preview on social media Wednesday. 

Reducing red tape: U.S. and Australian officials Tuesday announced a plan to reduce licensing requirements for sharing sensitive military technology between the three-way AUKUS alliance of the U.S., Australia and Britain. 

What’s new: The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls “will no longer be required to license or approve defense articles,” Reuters reported Wednesday. 

Exemptions include “items governed by an international arms control agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime and inputs for nuclear devices and some landmines,” Reuters writes. Read more, including more details about exemptions, here. 

From the region: 

SecDef: I haven’t seen a full Israeli plan to protect civilians in Rafah. Hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli troops would push into the Rafah territory despite peace talks with Hamas and pressure from the Biden administration, Austin said he has “not seen a number of things that we believe that will have to happen” for the operation to proceed.”

“We certainly would want to see things done in a much different way” than elsewhere in Gaza, Austin told a House Armed Services Committee hearing. D1’s Patrick Tucker reports.

Air Force declares major cost breach for new helicopter program. The service wants to halve the number of MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters it is buying this year, which has sent the unit cost soaring far above predictions. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

Today on Capitol Hill, Navy and Marine leaders are testifying about their annual budget request before the House Armed Services Committee. That began at 10 a.m. ET. Details here; livestream here. 

Vice chiefs are speaking to a senate panel looking into “readiness of the Joint Force” at 2 p.m. ET. Details here. 

And national security space programs are the focus of a House panel hearing slated for 3:30 p.m. ET. Details here; livestream via YouTube, here. 

Also in Washington: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Navy Adm. Chris Grady will visit the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a discussion on the Pentagon’s Joint Warfighting Concept 3.0, which CSIS describes as “a renewed framework for addressing emerging threats and protecting America’s interests abroad.” That’s slated for 1 p.m. ET. Details here. 

Two retired general officers just joined the advisory staff at Booz Allen Hamilton: Roy Kitchener, a retired vice admiral, and David Gaedecke, a retired Air Force two-star, joined as senior executive advisors under BAH’s defense business, the firm announced Wednesday. 

Kitchener last commanded Naval Surface Forces and Naval Surface Forces Pacific during a four-year term that ended in 2023. He’ll be consulting on BAH’s artificial intelligence, readiness, cybersecurity, and logistics specializations. 

Gaedecke last served as vice commander of the service’s Sixteenth Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, with an emphasis on electronic warfare and U.S. surveillance assets worldwide. He’ll soon be working with BAH’s Digital Battlespace Platform and global defense business leadership teams, the firm said Wednesday. More, here. 

Lastly today: Defense One’s parent company is launching a new space-focused site. To explain a bit about it, here’s a note from GovExec360 editor-in-chief Frank Konkel: “Space exploration is more than a series of scientific discoveries and technological advancements. It’s an interest that brings humanity together as we all gaze upward to ask: what else is out there, and what does it mean for our future? We aim to answer those questions with our newest brand, The GovExec Space Project. Here, you’ll be able to find groundbreaking data, insights, and editorial coverage, along with exclusive events, conversations with space leaders, collaboration opportunities, and more. At its heart, space exploration is a shared human pursuit. The question is, do you want to be a part of it?” To learn more, poke around the site here.

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