The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

QDR Overseers. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has named a dozen defense experts to the congressionally mandated panel that will conduct an independent review of the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) report, which will be unveiled today. He chose former Defense Secretary William Perry and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to chair the panel, the Pentagon says in a Jan. 29 release. Gates also tapped: Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state; Jack Dyer Crouch, former deputy national security adviser; Rudy deLeon, former deputy defense secretary; Joan Dempsey, former executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; Sherri Goodman, deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security; retired Navy Adm. David Jeremiah, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; retired Army Gen. George Joulwan, former supreme allied commander, Europe; Alice Maroni, former deputy defense comptroller; retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, former commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command; and retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, former service chief of staff.

…The Full Team. Lawmakers increased the size of the panel via the fiscal year 2010 defense appropriations act, which added the eight congressionally-appointed seats to the committee. SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) selected two members on Jan. 25: Charles Curtis, the president emeritus of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and John Nagl, the president of the Center for a New American Security. SASC Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) chose Army Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff, and John Lehman, former Navy secretary. HASC Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) in December tapped retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, and Richard Kohn, a military historian, Former Missouri Republican senator Jim Talent and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman were appointed by HASC Ranking Member Howard “Buck” McKeon (R- Calif.).

UK First Flight. A Royal Air Force officer last week became the first active-duty service pilot from the United Kingdom to fly the Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 has thus far been flown by a U.S. Air Force and a U.S. Marine Corps pilot. The U.K. pilot flew the BF-2, the second short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., logging the aircraft’s 18th mission. Both the RAF and the Royal Navy plan to operate the F-35B. The U.K. has invested $2 billion in the F-35’s development–the largest contribution among the program’s eight-partner nations. The Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) program announced in December that the United Kingdom received financial approval to purchase its third F-35B operational test aircraft.

Cyber Space. The 24th Air Force, a cyber security unit, was last week certified for Initial Operational Capability. “We’ve reached all the milestones established by the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force and after a very rigorous Inspector General inspection, the 24th Air Force team has proven their capability to meet their initial operational responsibilities,” said Gen. Robert Kehler, chief of Air Force Space Command. The 24th Air Force mission is to extend, operate and defend the Air Force portion of the Pentagon’s network and to provide full spectrum capabilities for the joint warfighter. “The challenge of maintaining our freedom of action in cyberspace is of substantial importance to military operations around the world,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, 24th Air Force Commander. “Cyber mission assurance is a top priority of the Air Force.” Twenty-fourth Air Force is a component numbered Air Force subordinate to Air Force Space Command. It is comprised of the 67th Network Warfare and 688th Information Operations Wings, both located at Lackland AFB, Texas, and the 689th Combat Communications Wing, Robins AFB, Ga. It is also supported by a substantial Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve presence across the country.

Space Lab. Lockheed Martin announced last week that its new Space Vehicle Integration Laboratory (SVIL) has achieved initial operational capability and is supporting the company’s satellite development program activity. The SVIL is a new Lockheed Martin enterprise-wide asset established to apply innovative processes, procedures, products, and services to enable more efficient and lower risk space vehicle component and flight software integration, according to the company. The laboratory leverages state-of-the-art computer hardware and software technologies to allow a more thorough understanding of how space vehicles, at various stages of their development life cycles, will eventually operate on-orbit. Configured in a commercial-based plug-and-play architectural framework, the laboratory’s ability to quickly develop, execute, and test integrated modular space vehicle component simulations allows users to rapidly simulate and test space vehicle architectures and component designs and interfaces in “flight-like” conditions long before flight qualified parts are available.

Showing Potential. The Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) system being developed by Northrop Grumman has passed two milestone reviews by ONR, which point to the real potential of the MLD weapon system design, the company says. Representatives from the Navy, Army and the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office conducted a critical design review and critical safety review of the MLD at the Dahlgren NSWC in Dahlgren, Va. Northrop Grumman will conduct an at-sea demonstration of this capability, says Dan Wildt, vice president, Directed Energy Systems. “We will prove that the pinpoint accuracy and response capability of our MLD system can protect Navy ships and personnel by keeping threats at a safe distance. We will accomplish this while leveraging technologies with proven scalability that may ultimately enable addressing additional threats of interest to the Navy.”

…Schedule. Northrop Grumman received a contract from ONR in July 2009 to demonstrate an innovative laser weapon system by the end of 2010 suitable for operating in a marine environment and able to defeat small boat threats, and ultimately could be applicable to other self-defense missions, the company says. The IDIQ MLD contract has a ceiling value of up to $98 million and an expected overall completion date of June 2014, the company adds.

The Shakedown. USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) completed her PSA/SRA and has been returned to the Navy, says Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. Work performed during the PSA/SRA included compartment reconfigurations, combat system and radar equipment upgrades, and minor repairs.

JHSV. Austal USA was given the green light to move forward on the construction contract for the second and third Joint High Speed Vessels. Austal received funding from the Navy to acquire long lead-time material, to include diesel engines, water jets and reduction gears, for these two vessels in June 2009, the company says. The additional work is valued at approximately $204 million. Austal was awarded the construction contract for the first 103-meter JHSV in November 2008, with options for nine additional vessels expected to be exercised between FY ’09 and FY ’13, the company adds. Austal received authorization from the Navy to start construction on JHSV 1, in December 2009 after completing the rigorous design in a 12-month period. Austal is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, which will design, integrate, and test the ship’s electronic systems, including an Open Architecture Computing Infrastructure, internal and external communications, electronic navigation, aviation, and armament systems.

Saving Time With Robotics. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) integrates a new Robotic Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welder into the Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) Battery cabinet fabrication process in December, reducing production welding time up to 83 percent, NAVSEA says. PNSY is the sole provider of VRLA Battery cabinets for all Los Angeles– class submarines requiring the VRLA ship alteration. The cabinet fabrication process is extensive with stringent interior dimension tolerances. To meet these high standards, a complex welding sequence was required to distribute heat across the cabinet and minimize distortion during the manual welding operation, a process that could take upward of eight hours. The robotic welder automates the process completing the sequence in approximately one-and-a-half hours–an 83 percent reduction, NAVSEA adds.

Up And Away. NSWC Port Hueneme White Sands Detachment conducts a successful flight test of Raytheon’s SM-6 for system development and demonstration from the Desert Ship testing facility Jan. 11 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., says NAVSEA. “This flight test was performed to demonstrate the SM-6 capability against a representative cruise missile target,” says Cmdr. Bill Harrell, White Sands Officer-in-Charge. “The GTV-3 flight test was the latest in a series of land-based tests, sponsored by Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems 3A and supporting the SM-6 Test and Evaluation.” The GTV-3 mission follows the October 2009 formal certification for the Desert Ship’s upgrade, which included enhancements to engineering capabilities and computer programs supporting the mission. Certification was granted after a stringent data review before a Navy certification panel, which verified that system performance met the over-arching requirements for the Desert Ship upgrade and the new configuration for supporting flight testing of the Standard Missile-2 and the Standard Missile-6 variants, NAVSEA adds.

Awards For R&D Vessels. Dakota Creek Industries and Marinette Marine are each awarded firm fixed-price contracts of $1.5 million for preliminary design of two Ocean– class auxiliary general oceanographic research (AGOR) vessels, the Navy reports. The awards represent the first phase of a two-phase procurement strategy being managed by the PEO Ships. At the completion of preliminary design, the Navy intends to downselect to one design, and award a single detail design and construction contract in 2011. The first ship is expected to deliver in early 2014, the Navy says. Ocean-class AGOR ships will be monohull research vessels capable of integrated, interdisciplinary, general purpose oceanographic research in coastal and deep ocean areas. The ships will support a wide variety of research, including oceanography, marine geology, ocean engineering, marine acoustics, and bathymetry.

Proposed Support Plan. Boeing offers its in-service support (ISS) plan to Canada for the fleet of 15 CH-147 Chinook helicopters operated by Canadian Forces. Boeing’s performance-based ISS program for the CH-147 fleet could provide industry benefits of approximately $2 billion over 20 years, the company says. The program provides work packages in areas including engineering support; logistics support analysis; supply chain support; aircraft maintenance training systems and services; technical publications; ground support equipment; and maintenance site operations. Boeing on Jan. 29 reviewed the initial ISS structure and the company’s transition plan for the 20-year ISS phase, including the schedule and process to competitively bid work packages.

Fix Up For HEMTT. Oshkosh Defense receives a delivery order valued at more than $21 million from the Army to produce more than 60 recapitalized next-generation Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) A4. The order, which also includes the delivery of components and engines, is for the M984 HEMTT A4 wrecker variant. Production will begin in January 2011 and be completed in April 2011.

Train Here. Boeing delivers a record five Apache Longbow Crew Trainers (LCTs) in 2009–more than in any previous year–and all five have been declared “ready for training,” the company says. The Army accepted two LCT deliveries at Fort Hood, Texas; one in Illesheim, Germany; and one at Fort Drum, N.Y. The Egyptian Air Force accepted the delivery of its first LCT in November, allowing aircrews to train from their home base. Boeing has delivered a total of 29 LCTs to date. Boeing is on contract to deliver three additional LCTs to the Army throughout the next two years. One will include a new Department of Defense-directed threat server and another is part of a National Guard modernization program. The third may be used as a development platform for future LCTs.

Austalian Program Recognized. Australia’s Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet says the Rapid Prototyping Development and Evaluation (RPDE) Program has been recognized by the U.S.-based Institute for Defense and Government Advancement in its annual Network Centric Warfare Awards. RPDE is the winner in the awards’ ‘Outstanding Network Centric Program from a Coalition Partner’ category. RPDE is a collaborative venture with a pool of 183 companies, academia and government agencies from which it can draw the intellectual horsepower necessary to address some of the most diverse and complex problems faced by Defence in the development of solutions to challenging capability issues.

Lakota’s In Haiti. The Army’s UH-72A Lakota helicopter is demonstrating its capabilities in humanitarian efforts as the multi-mission helicopter supports disaster response operations following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. The EADS-built light utility helicopter has been deployed by the Puerto Rico National Guard to neighboring Dominican Republic–here it is being utilized to transport people, cargo and supplies as part of a multi-national relief effort. The Puerto Rico National Guard received two Lakotas in May 2009, equipped for general aviation and support missions. Operated by this unit’s Detachment B/1-114AV, these helicopters represent the first UH-72As to be based outside the continental United States.

Highest Rating. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Defense Systems division receives the Software Engineering Institute’s (SEI) capability Maturity Model Integration for Development (CMMI-DEV(R)) Level 5, the highest rating possible. The CMMI for Development model is used to appraise and recognize best practices in software engineering and systems engineering. Within the last three years, Northrop Grumman has achieved 10 CMMI Level 5 appraisals, more than any other any U.S. defense or commercial company, and more than one- fifth of the 48 CMMI Level 5 appraisals reported by all North American companies, the company says. Northrop Grumman is also the only company, worldwide, with appraisals in the three CMMI models–development, acquisition and service.

JIEDDO Contracting Advice. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, the former director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), offers some parting advice during his Dec. 30 farewell ceremony. “I strongly feel that we must be prudent with our citizen’s money, and JIEDDO has embraced a transparent set of analytically driven processes to make sure we properly manage the funds allocated to us,” he says, according to a transcript. “But, if we add more and more layers of bureaucracy, and thus time, to get things done we relinquish the initiative to the enemy–a smart, innovative, agile, cunning, and as ruthless an enemy as mankind has ever experienced. Our enemies do not respect our contracting rules or, for that matter, our budget cycle. The Department can significantly help JIEDDO with its mission by bringing a contracting capability inside the organization, thus streamlining the processes while being prudent with our citizens’ money.” Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates is the new JIEDDO director.