The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Congress’ Clock. The House and Senate are adjourned until Nov. 15, after the mid-term elections. When lawmakers return to Washington, potentially with Republicans taking control of one or both chambers of Congress, they will have to tackle the Pentagon budget for FY ’11, which started Oct. 1. The federal government is being temporarily funded via a continuing resolution President Barack Obama approved Sept. 30 that keeps spending at FY ’10 levels through Dec. 3 and prevents most new defense programs from starting. The HAC still has to mark up a FY ’11 defense appropriations bill, which the HAC-D approved in July. The SAC has marked up its version of the bill, and House and Senate staffers plan to informally negotiate a compromise version during the current congressional recess.

Trade Treaty Tally. U.S., British, and Australian politicians and defense-industry groups are hailing the Senate’s Sept. 29 ratification of the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia. The treaties, years in the making, remove the requirement for export licenses for defense items tied to joint military operations with the countries. The House and Senate also have approved accompanying implementing legislation. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron talked about the U.S.-U.K. treaty on Sept. 30. “The president noted that implementation of the treaty will generate jobs for both of our economies, and further deepen the close ties and cooperation between our countries,” the White House says in a statement. Ian Godden, chairman of the U.K. defense trade organization A|D|S, says “the long-term significance of this new defence export control regime should not be underestimated.”

EFV Watch. Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) argue the Marine Corps should be allowed to finish current testing of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) before deciding if it should be canceled. In a Sept. 27 letter, the senators argue the tracked amphibious tank is a “key enabler” for the service and that the locations and types of future Marine Corps operations cannot be predicted. (Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrote a similar letter to Mabus.) Gates has questioned if the service will need such a forcible-entry vehicle, and reportedly met with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and outgoing Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway about the EFV last week. “We recognize that the EFV program has had a long and checkered history,” Webb and Warner write. “In the final analysis, it must satisfy affordability and performance requirements. The results of this autumn’s testing should allow us to make a more informed assessment of the program’s ability to satisfy those goals, so we ask that you defer any final decision on the EFV’s future at this time.”

Cobra Coming. The AH-1Z Cobra, the Marine Corps’ newest attack helicopter, has successfully completed its operational evaluation. The choppers are “operationally effective and suitable” and recommended for fleet introduction, according to a Sept. 24 notification from the Navy’s Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force. “The AH-1Z has come a long way through development and it has finally proven itself as a lethal and reliable attack helicopter,” says Col. Harry Hewson, program manager for Marine light and attack helicopters. “The Marines in the fleet are very eager to get their hands on the Zulu and get it into the fight.” The service expects 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Zs to be delivered through 2021. The Marine Corps’ H-1 Upgrade Program is working to replace AH-1Ws with helicopters with greater performance, supportability, and “growth potential,” the Navy says.

Multi-Year Mark. The Navy is “very pleased” with the terms of the four-year contract for 124 F/A-18 and EA-18Gs it entered into with Boeing on Sept. 28, says Capt. Mark Darrah, PMA-265 program manager. “This contract award was possible due to the hard work of our government team with strong support and engagement from our senior acquisition leadership,” he says about the deal Boeing and its congressional supporters sought for years. The multi-year procurement contract will ensure the Navy buys all of the 515 F/A-18 Super Hornets and 114 EA-18G Growlers it plans to purchase. The deal is possible because of enabling legislation approved by President Barack Obama on Sept. 27.

Amos In Charge. Gen. James Amos will be sworn in as the Marine Corps’ next commandant later this month, following the Senate’s Sept. 30 vote to confirm him as Gen. James Conway’s replacement. Senators also approved Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, to replace Amos as deputy commandant. Amos, before his Sept. 21 SASC confirmation hearing, touted the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. “In an era of increasing challenges to access, the capabilities of a vehicle like the EFV afford our amphibious ships the maneuver space and stand-off distance to better counter anti-access weapons,” he tells the panel in writing. He also says the value of amphibious ships, of which the Navy is short, are “absolutely paramount.” Amos will officially take the helm from Conway, who is retiring, at an Oct. 22 ceremony, American Forces Press Service reports.

ASP Lessons. New Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) Chief Warren Stern says there are several lessons to be learned from the agency’s troubled effort to develop a next-generation radiation portal monitor. One is that DNDO moved “too aggressively” to develop the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP) because it was eager for a “quick fix” for a better means to detect potentially illicit radiological materials in cargo and vehicles, he tells a House panel. He also says that coordination with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is the end user of the technology, was poor. Finally, Stern says, DNDO had wanted to retain intellectual property that the vendors were proposing, which led to some companies opting out of the program and thinning the competition prematurely.

…GA Screening. Stern also says that CBP is now scanning 100 percent of all international general aviation (GA) flights for radiological and nuclear materials upon arrival in the United States. He adds that DNDO and CBP have also developed a pilot project aimed at detecting illicit radiological and nuclear materials entering the U.S. via commercial aviation.

Up and Running. Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, last week declared full operational capability for 24th Air Force, headquartered at Lackland AFB, Texas. The unit is now able to perform all its responsibilities for the Air Force’s cyberspace mission. “Declaration of FOC means 24th Air Force is now a full operational partner on the joint cyber team,” says Gen. Kehler. “Cyberspace is critical to today’s joint military operations and 24th Air Force is proud to be the Air Force’s component to U.S. Cyber Command.” Twenty-fourth Air Force accomplished several major milestones before being declared FOC, including: redesignation of the Air Force Information Operations Center as the 688th Information Operations Wing and the realignment of both it and the 67th Network Warfare Wing under the 24th Air Force on Aug. 18, 2009; activation of the 689th Combat Communications Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., on Oct. 5, 2009; and relocation of the 624th Operations Center, formerly known as 608th Air Force Network Operations Center, from Barksdale AFB, La., to Lackland AFB.

First C-5M. Lockheed Martin completed delivery of the first production C-5M Super Galaxy at a ceremony last week with officials from Air Mobility Command, Air Force Material Command and Dover AFB, Del. This is also the first C-5M to sport the new Super Galaxy tail flash and nose art, the company says in a press statement. The C-5M program calls for Lockheed Martin to modernize a total of 52 C-5s: 49 B-, two C- and one A-model aircraft through the Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program (RERP). The program incorporates more than 70 changes and upgrades, including newer, quieter General Electric engines making the C-5M more reliable and 10 percent more fuel efficient than legacy C- 5s. The Super Galaxy is the only U.S. strategic airlifter capable of flying unrefueled directly from the U.S. to any area of operations.

Afghan Airlifters. Alenia North America has been awarded a $30 million contract by the U.S. Air Force to supply two additional modernized and refurbished C-27/G.222 tactical transport aircraft for the Afghanistan Air Force (AAF). This follows the initial contract, awarded in October 2008, to provide 18 aircraft, spare parts, ground support equipment and contract logistics support in Afghanistan for $287 million. “Alenia North America is proud of its ongoing role in supporting the development of a robust airlift capability in Afghanistan which allows them to conduct humanitarian and security assistance missions for the Afghan people,” says John Young, CEO of the company. The aircraft are to be delivered by the end of 2011. The C-27/G.222 AAF program includes 20 aircraft in a standardized operational configuration, with two aircraft in a VIP configuration for presidential and VIP airlift. Alenia North America is also on contract to provide U.S. Air Force Air Adviser training at their facility in Naples. Since September 2009, the AAF has taken delivery of seven C-27/G.222 aircraft including one VIP aircraft. The refurbished aircraft are in use by the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan and are eventually to be transferred by the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan in Kabul to the reconstituted AAF.

Aircraft Efficiency. Boeing moves the majority of the work on the C-130AMP and B-1 program from Long Beach, Calif., to Oklahoma City, says Mike Emmelhainz, director of Contract Support and Site Lead at Oklahoma City. It’s all part of the company’s effort to drive efficiency into all its work, as DoD has been talking about. “We’ve taken a hard look at that and we’re doing some of the things, such as moving B-1 and C-130AMP to Oklahoma City primarily because of the affordable nature…to do business here,” he says in an interview.

…Strong Market. Emmelhainz says there’s a strong requirement for aircraft contract support worldwide, because of the heavy use and extended life of aircraft. “We do a tremendous amount of this type of work, worldwide, it’s a very strong market,” he says.

FMS Launchers. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products receives a $24.9 million Army contract to produce MK47 advanced lightweight grenade launcher (ALGL) systems. The contract supports a foreign military sale and is a firm fixed price award for 130 MK47 systems that each include the lightweight video sight systems, spare parts and technical support. The deliveries are scheduled to begin in January 2012 and be completed by August 2012. The MK47, also known as the STRIKER40, is able to fire air bursting munitions. GD partners with Raytheon to build the lightweight video system fire control, which assists in the detection, recognition and first-round engagement of target threats.

New Boats. Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) says that DMS Maritime Pty Ltd. is the preferred bidder to provide Pacific Patrol Boat Support and Third Refit services. The proposed five-year contract will be valued at about $48 million and will begin in early 2011. The contract has options for another 12 years. The proposed contract will support 19 Pacific Patrol Boats that were built and gifted to 12 Pacific Island countries by Defence from 1987 to 1995, and are sponsored and funded by the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP). The vessels are used by the Pacific Island countries to patrol their Exclusive Economic Zones, conduct search and rescue operations and disaster relief. DMS Maritime will provide through life technical support, advice, assistance, and Third Refit services to countries operating Pacific Patrol Boats, as part of the DCP.

Another Trainer. L-3 Link Simulation & Training says it has been awarded contract modifications from Computer Sciences Corp. to provide a third OH-58D Operational Flight Trainer (OFT) and convert three existing UH-60A/L Instrument Flight Trainers (IFT) to full-motion OFTs in support of training services for the Army’s Flight School XXI program. The new OH-58D OFT will be delivered to Flight School XXI in the fourth quarter of 2012, while the three UH-60A/L IFTs will be converted to OFT configurations during the first, second and third quarters of the year. The UH-60A/L OFTs will provide the motion cueing capability needed to support training on critical flight tasks.

Heading To Sea. Tests of the Navy’s Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) system conducted recently at the Potomac River Test Range confirmed the laser weapon system’s readiness to proceed with at-sea testing later this year, says prime contractor Northrop Grumman in a statement. Operating from a fixed site on land, the MLD weapon system fired a laser beam at a number of stationary targets, including representative small boat sections, across the Potomac River, company executives say. The laser burned through small boat sections in these tests. Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts, Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector, says: “This successful test series, coupled with the successful shore tracking tests earlier this year, give us confidence that we will be successful at the at sea demonstrator scheduled later this year.” Hixon says the laser is based on several mature DoD technology programs, including the precision tracking system from the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), and the solid-state laser technology from the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program. Northrop Grumman was the prime contractor for THEL and JHPSSL.

Final Tank. After 37 years and 136 tanks delivered, Lockheed Martin production of the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET) has come to an end at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the company says. The final tank arrived at Kennedy Space Center Sept. 27, ending a production program that began with contract award on Sept. 5, 1973. Two shuttle launches remain in the program–on Nov. 1 this year and Feb. 26 next year. With the end of ET production, workforce reductions have been taking place as discrete elements of work have concluded. On Jan. 1, 2010, Lockheed Martin employed 1,438 employees at the Michoud Assembly Facility. The current workforce stands at approximately 600.

Allen to RAND. Thad Allen, former Coast Guard Commandant and most recently the national incident commander for the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has joined the RAND Corp. as a senior fellow. Allen will be based at RAND’s office in Arlington, Va., and will focus on homeland security, ocean policy and defense polity issues. Allen had been slated to join RAND in May shortly after retiring from the Coast Guard but was asked by President Obama to manage the oil spill emergency response. RAND is a non- profit institution focused on policy and analysis.