The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

HASC Rockets. The FY ’12 defense authorization bill the HASC plans to mark up this week calls for the Pentagon to craft a “national rocket propulsion strategy” that describes how the Pentagon and intelligence community are impacted by the coming retirement of NASA’s space shuttle and cancellation of its Constellation human-spaceflight program. The document would include recommendations “for synchronizing plans, programs and budgets across the government to strengthen the solid rocket motor and liquid rocket engine industrial base,” according to a summary. HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) emphasizes concerns–at his panel’s May 4 markup of its portion of the bill–about rising costs with the Pentagon’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle and Trident II D-5 rocket motors. The HASC bill also would provide funds for common propulsion technology development, which was recommended in March 2011 Pentagon report on sustaining the solid rocket motor industrial base.

…Stryker Selection. The working version of the HASC’s authorization bill also limits the Army to buying no more than 100 Stryker vehicles unless the service secretary submits a waiver to the congressional defense committees. That waiver would include written certification by the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, technology, and logistics that: the Army has “validated needs” for more Strykers; cost estimates are complete for the long-term sustainment of those additional vehicles; all Stryker combat vehicles required to equip nine Stryker brigades and meet other validated requirements have been ordered; and “the size of the Stryker combat vehicle fleet not assigned directly to Stryker brigade combat teams is essential to maintaining the readiness of Stryker brigade combat teams.”

Incentivize. Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Frank Kendall says the Pentagon sees value in providing contractors’ incentives that “link successful performance on contracts more tightly to financial rewards.” He tells the SASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee on May 3 that such “linkage of profit to performance is one of the central tenets” of the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power initiative. “The (Defense) Department has no desire to replace industry’s profit motive,” he says. “In fact, we need to use that motive as a strong incentive for superior performance. We are in this for the long haul, and we need our suppliers to be in it for the long haul also with us.”

…New Blood. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy Brett Lambert adds that in “addition to guarding against constraints on competition within the existing base,” the Pentagon needs to do a better job encouraging “new sources of competition and new entrants to our market.” He says new contractors “renew and refresh technology and ensure that defense is benefiting from the main currents of emerging technologies.” He tells the SASC subcommittee that Pentagon officials “must redouble our efforts to lower the barriers to such entry. We’re addressing many of these barriers, such as needless and time-consuming paperwork, not just because they impose unnecessary costs, which are ultimately passed on to the taxpayer, but also because we simply must make it easier for innovative companies, particularly advanced- technology companies, to do business with the Department of Defense.”

Donation Debate. A draft White House executive order calling on companies to disclose their political campaign contributions before being considered for government contracts has the defense industry and some lawmakers concerned, but is supported by government-watchdog groups including Democracy 21. Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer rejects the argument that such a mandate would have a “chilling and stifling effect on free speech rights.” The “chilling effect argument ignores the reality that government contractors already make a number of campaign finance disclosures,” he says May 4. “What is missing today, however, and what the executive order would require is disclosure of the funds given by government contractors to third party groups that are then spent by the third party groups to influence federal elections.” The draft calls for companies bidding on contracts unveil political contributions over the previous two years by the firms, their Political Action Committees, and senior executives.

Phantom Flight. Boeing’s Phantom Ray unmanned aircraft successfully completes its first flight April 27 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. The 17- minute flight took place following a series of high-speed taxi tests in March that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures. Phantom Ray flew to 7,500 feet and reached a speed of 178 knots. “This day has been two-and-a-half years in the making,” says Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works division. “It’s the beginning of providing our customers with a test bed to develop future unmanned systems technology, and a testament to the capabilities resident within Boeing. Just as follow-on tests will expand Phantom Ray’s flight envelope, they also will help Boeing expand its presence in the unmanned systems market.” Last month’s flight demonstrated Phantom Ray’s basic airworthiness, setting the stage for additional flights in the next few weeks, according to Boeing. These company-funded flights will prepare Phantom Ray to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling.

F135 LRIP 3 Delivery Begins. Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies, delivers the first F135 engine for low rate initial production (LRIP) 3 to the Pentagon for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. “Delivery of our 21st production engine is a significant milestone for the F-35 program, as we continue to deliver a more mature and capable F135 engine to meet the evolving needs of the war fighter,” says Bennett Croswell, vice president of F135 and F119 engine programs for the company. As part of LRIP 3, Pratt & Whitney begins delivery of F135 engines to all three U.S. armed services, as well as the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. Pratt & Whitney has completed delivery of all 20 of the F135 engines in LRIP 1 and 2.

USAF Security Forces Training Center. The Air Force announces criteria for basing of a consolidated security forces regional training center. The Air Force is making plans to consolidate its regional training locations in the United States. Currently, the Air Force conducts security forces training at six U.S. bases: Creech AFB, Nev.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Wolters, Texas; Camp Guernsey, Wyo.; Fort Dix, N.J.; and Eglin AFB, Fla. The release of the candidate bases for the security forces regional training center is expected this summer, at which time an environmental impact analysis process will begin.

More JDAMs. Boeing receives contracts totaling $100 million for two types of Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on March 17 awarded the company an $8 million contract that represents the first major production order for Laser JDAM kits. The contract is for low-rate initial production of 700 laser sensor kits for the Navy’s direct-attack moving target capability weapons requirement. The Air Force announced a $92 million contract for more than 4,000 Lot 15 JDAM kits on March 14. This follows an $88 million contract awarded Jan. 14 for the first 3,500 tail kits in the same lot. “JDAM has been the warfighter’s weapon of choice for more than a decade,” says Debbie Rub, vice president and general manager for Boeing’s Missiles and Unmanned Airborne Systems division.

Terminated. The Navy cut ties with Virginia-based Earl Industries this week, terminating the company’s deal to do maintenance work on the service’s new amphibious ship, Naval Sea Systems Command chief Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy says. The decision was based on the company’s poor performance on work done to the USS San Antonio (LPD-17) McCoy says in a service statement. “The company’s performance on this contract was not in keeping with the type of quality work the Navy expects from our industry partners,” according to McCoy. “These failures are unacceptable, and we have lost confidence in Earl’s ability to continue successfully performing this same type of work on the rest of the LPD-class ships.”

Right Tools. While this week’s spectacular raid on Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani compound has led many to suggest the entire mission in Afghanistan would be better served as a SOF-led campaign, one battlefield commander says that approach may not be the best fit. Praising the Navy SEALs teams that stormed Bin Laden’s complex and killed the infamous leader of Al Qaeda, Marine Expeditionary Force I (Forward) commander Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, says saddling SOF with day-to-day operations in Afghanistan “would be a waste of those kinds of talents.” While SOF elements do operate regularly in Afghanistan, Mills was quick to point out that other “white” or conventional forces continues to play a key role in the field. “You don’t play golf with [just] one club,” the two-star general says.

The Best Kind of Battle. A battle of the bands, not armies, is the best kind of battle, says Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey with a smile at the AUSA Institute for Land Warfare breakfast last week. bands play. The United States Army Band (TUSAB) and People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) Band Exchange Concert at the Kennedy Center bands play May 16. The U.S. Army hosts the event and Dempsey will be front and center at the Kennedy Center Joint Concert–the first Army event in the United States illustrating mutual understanding between the U.S. Army and PLA, his office says. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his Chinese counterpart will be there, too.

…Job #1=The Job. Dempsey says he finds it troublesome when young lieutenants and captains ask him about “resources,” or money. He wants them “focused on the job” as military leaders, he says. Service members have to “stop wringing our hands about the money,” he says.

Spring Visit. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in the United States this week. He’ll meet government leaders, U.S. servicemen and students as he visits Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., Austin, Texas and Chicago.

New Capability Projects. Australia has approved about $1 billion in initiating two new projects, Joint Project 2072 Phase 2B, which is aimed at providing the Australian Defence Force with a next generation telecommunications network capability. This capability will provide a modern, deployable communications system that enables the transmission of information over a range of wired and wireless networking services, such as radios, satellite and computer servers and terminals. The government is expected to make a final decision on approval for the project in the period 2012-13 to 2014-15. The second project, Joint Project 2080 Phase 2B.1, is a project definition study for Defence Personnel Systems Modernization. It will investigate the costs and risks associated with streamlining and improving human resources and payroll systems for military and civilian personnel. Both projects are cost-capped between $100 million and $500 million.

New Ambulances. Navistar Defense LLC says it received a $183 million delivery order for 250 Internationalr MaxxPror Dash ambulances with DXM(tm) independent suspension. The order from the Marine Corps Systems Command for MRAP vehicles falls under the company’s existing indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity contract and is Navistar’s ninth major MRAP variant. The MaxxPro Dash ambulance is the company’s latest MRAP variant and follows Navistar’s November and December orders for MaxxPro Dash and Recovery vehicles. The vehicle includes an easy-to-use litter assist system as well as a protected work space benefitting medics and patients. Navistar now supports a fleet of more than 8,000 MaxxPro vehicles. Production will occur at the company’s West Point, Miss., facility. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in June and be completed by the end of September 2011.

Successful Test Shot. Raytheon says its Patriot Air and Missile Defense System successfully test fired Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile recently at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. “This demonstration of Lockheed Martin’s MSE missile with the Patriot system builds on the family of combat-proven GEM and PAC-3 interceptors already available with Patriot and continues a rich history of integrating new technologies and capabilities,” says Sanjay Kapoor, vice president for Patriot Programs at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). Raytheon IDS is the prime contractor for both domestic and international Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems and system integrator for Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles.

Small Caliber Ammo. ATK says it received orders totaling more than $488 million for small caliber ammunition pursuant to an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract with the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island (ACC-RI). This order includes a mix of 5.56mm, 7.62mm and .50 caliber military ammunition to be produced at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo. ATK is the world’s leading producer of small-caliber military and commercial ammunition. The company successfully partnered with the Army to design and produce the new 5.56mm cartridge known to the U.S. warfighter as the Enhanced Performance Round (EPR). ATK Small Caliber Systems Vice President and General Manager Mark Hissong, says: “We’ve produced more than 100 million rounds of the M855A1 EPR since transitioning it into full-rate production last year. We will increase EPR production rates this year as we complete the modernization of high-speed, high-volume 5.56mm production equipment used to manufacture this new high performance round.”