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Ok, enough admin—on to business!
The Ukraine Game
If you haven't heard, Russia is massing forces near the eastern border of Ukraine. If the various narratives on Russian intentions have you scratching your nugget, you’re not alone. So, what’s really going on?

Some say the Russians are
on the brink of rolling tanks through Ukraine. Others, such as the Pentagon, have noted the buildup of Russian forces on the border does not seem to indicate an imminent invasion. The Pentagon’s reasoning appeared to be based on the Russian’s logistics footprint and assessment of sustainability.

Official narratives and assessments are difficult to sort through because they usually contain elements of their
own messaging. Simply put, they’re unreliable for truth. For example, there weren’t many people in the West that predicted the Russian invasion into Crimea in 2014. 

However, if you worked with NATO from 2015 to 2018, it was certain that Russian tanks were going to roll through the Baltics via the Suwalki Gap to create the infamous “land bridge” to Crimea. Remember Operation Atlantic Resolve, which was launched by the US immediately after the Crimea invasion? In hindsight, it was less about deterring Russia and more about tempering NATO’s apprehension.

So What
Is trying to predict war a
Sisyphean task ? Maybe, but a wise man once said, “nations don’t have interests, people do.” Autocracies, democracies...it doesn’t really matter. Domestic politics, organizational interests, and other external factors can be an insight into why and where leaders decide to go to war. What leaders DON’T do is sit up at night debating whether an F-35 is better than a SU-57.

Putin had significant
domestic support for Crimea. However, Russia’s gains in Crimea didn’t require a lot of bloodshed or sustained operations. It’s possible that reasoning off an intervention based on a logistics footprint is irrelevant if the goal is either coercion or a quick operation to gain focused interests – externally and domestically.

What Now
The U.S. Army maintains a presence in Ukraine via EUCOM’s
Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, which imposes a key factor to Russia’s decision calculus. If Russia takes action in Ukraine and a Russian soldier kills a U.S. soldier, it is not prepared to deal with the global repercussions. Russia isn’t dumb, so this recent action is more about saber-rattling and eliciting a response from the West.

The best thing the US could do is tweet “meh” and do nothing. Instead, there is a 100 percent chance the US will fall into the same trap and deploy a small force to “deter and assure.” This force may go to Ukraine…or do something more strategic like go to Poland and Lithuania to surround Russia’s Kalinnigrad Oblast.

Bottom line: Keep an ear to the ground for all of the non-military stuff to gain an understanding of future military actions.
In That Number
715 Billion

The number of dollars in the FY22 Presidential budget request. This is 1.5% more than last year’s budget request, drawing fire from the left (too much!) and right (not enough!)

Expect details in the coming weeks, but the biggest thing in the budget request is what it does NOT have: The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. For those unfamiliar, this is the slush fund that permitted the defense department to circumvent sequestration caps and support endless operations in the Middle East. Last year it was $68 billion (with a “b”), which is, um, A LOT of benjamins, but less than its 2008 peak of $187 billion. In recent years, OCO devolved into a budget gimmick to fund service programs.

The quickest way to end a war is to stop funding it, so it’s probably not a coincidence that the release of the FY22 defense budget (sans OCO) was timed with another notable announcement this week: the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. For all you people who live by normal calendars, that deadline is two weeks before FY22 starts (and OCO ends). One point to public affairs.
Trivia: Which of the following air-to-air missiles have been adapted for surface-to-air use?

On the Radar
The new GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II has barely gotten into the hands of warfighters, but it’s already overdue for upgrades. Under a $79.4 million Air Force contract, Raytheon will update the SDB II with an M-code compliant GPS receiver, a new NSA crypto modernization compliant radio, and correct some parts obsolescence issues. If you’re wondering why such a new weapon suddenly needs these upgrades, it’s because the SDB II isn’t actually new—it’s been in development for literally a generation. The program began in 2005, two years before Apple released the first iPhone.

The Biden administration is proceeding with Trump administration’s $23 billion weapon sales deal to UAE. The real news is that the package includes F-35s. ICYMI, the US has a law mandating it preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge in the Middle East (Title 22 U.S. Code § 2776). This basically means the US can’t sell the same equipment to Israel’s Arab neighbors as it does to Israel. After years of normalization relations between Israel and the UAE, the US brokered a peace deal last August between the two nations. As part of the peace deal, Israel agreed to allow the UAE to purchase F-35s. OBTW, this would base F-35s 100 miles from Iran.

The Air Force announced it recorded the longest air-to-air kill during a test. While they won’t tell you the range, our detective work shows that the U.S. Navy officially recorded a 110 nautical mile AIM-54 test shot in 1973. So there’s that. FYI, Iran claimed a 132 mile shot in 1979 during training, but we have our doubts, because, you know, it’s Iran. The point is, this is a kind of rivalry we can get behind. Your move, Navy.
Word of the Week
Zero Trust: a security concept developed in 2010 that believes organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its network perimeters and instead must verify anything and everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access.

Why it Matters: As it turns out, without zero trust, funny things happen. For example, a casino gets hacked through a fish-tank thermometer, or if you plug a thumb drive with Chinese malware into your classified computer bad things happen (see Operation Buckshot Yankee).

So, the DoD has been on a bender to move its entire IT to zero trust the past few years in order to improve security and reduce the amount of data breaches. OBTW, this is a MESL item for secure cloud computing access.

We know what you’re thinking, and yes, next week’s word is going to be MESL.
They Said It
“We wouldn't even play the current version of the F-35. It wouldn't be worth it.”

— Lt. Gen.
Clint Hinote, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, when discussing a recent China 2030 wargame.
No matter if you’re an F-35 lover or hater, this is a very misleading quote. The reality is that continual upgrades are par for the course in combat aircraft. So, we should all hope that an upgrade program (F-35 Block 4/C2D2) designed in 2018 and complete by 2024 is still not in service in 2030. By then, we should expect to see a Block 5 (or 6) F-35 in service.
A Closer Look
China has had held a monopoly on rare earth metals for decades, which has serious implications for defense technology. You probably knew that or heard it before. However, China has been rapidly losing its strong-hold, especially over the past three years. You can check it out here
Saved Rounds
  • Raytheon is awarded $15.5 million by the Air Force to upgrade its dune buggy-mounted high-energy laser weapon system ( HELWS).
  • DARPA contracts General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion system in low Earth orbit by 2025.
  • Nikon (yes, the Japanese camera company) acquired a controlling stake in Morf3D, a Boeing-backed U.S. startup that 3D-prints titanium and aluminum parts for aircraft and satellites. 
  • The Air Force snuck the first artist depiction of its six gen fighter (NGAD) into a report, and its look can be summed as this.
  • Oshkosh Defense and BAE were chosen by the Army to develop prototypes for the next Cold Weather All-Terrain Vehicle.
  • Slingshot Aerospace secured a $1.2 million contract to develop a missile warning visualization tool for the US Space Force.
  • Sikorsky demos its S-97 Raider recon helicopter in the race to win the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program contract.
  • Taiwan launched a new class of landing platform dock (LPD) amphibious ships that carry troops, equipment…and anti-ship missiles.
  • Northrop Grumman’s MEV-2 satellite servicer successfully docked with Intelsat’s in-orbit 10-02 spacecraft and will stay locked together for five years to extend the Intelsat’s 10-02 life.
  • The Air Force and Army just completed their first Low Collateral Effects Interceptors ( LCEI) demo with counter-drone companies Aurora Flight Sciences, ELTA North America, and XTEND.
  • HawkEye 360 raised $55 million to complete its satellite constellation that track ships and vehicles by their radio-frequency emissions.
  • Russia begins production of the world’s first sequential hybrid UAV, which can loiter for over 16 hours to (silently) conduct surveillance.
  • Air Force testers showed they can output F-35 data in real-time to a tablet in the cockpit and use apps with it.
  • The Ukrainian military starts using the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation will spin off its space division into a new company called Sierra Space.
  • South Korea unveils its homegrown fifth-gen KF-21 fighter jet, which may look familiar.
  • The Space Force taps Northrop Grumman to launch a tech demo satellite from NG’s L-1011 airliner-mounted Pegasus rocket.
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Trivia Answer: All of the above. The AIM-7 was adapted to the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow and the AIM-9X was modified to become the RIM-116 SeaRAM. The AIM-120 is different in that it’s been adapted for surface-to-air use with virtually no modifications — it’s currently used to protect Washington D.C.
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