CH-53K Test. The U.S. Marine Corps’ new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter completed its two-week initial operational test Oct. 19, keeping the program on track to achieve an initial operational capability in 2019, according to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). The testing, which occurred at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., involved various scenarios, including the external lifting of tons of cargo and the entry and exit of combat troops. “All test objectives were met, and the aircraft performed very well,” says Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght, H-53 program manager. “This further increases our confidence in the design, and is another key step to successfully fielding the CH-53K.”
EW Legislation. House and Senate negotiators for the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill have several electronic warfare-related matters to resolve, including whether to keep a House provision that would set up a pilot program to allow sustainment funds to be used to modernize legacy EW systems, according to Ken Miller, a consultant whose clients include the Association of Old Crows. The negotiators will try to resolve the differences when Congress returns to Washington after the November election. A conference report will likely be wrapped up before Christmas, Miller says.
EW Advocates. The composition of the congressional Electronic Warfare Working Group is expected to change significantly next year, as several active members of the working group will not return to Washington, explains Ken Miller, a consultant and former legislative aide. Those departing lawmakers include retiring Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who started the group in 1999. But some stability will provided by the group’s current co-chairs, Reps. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who are expected to be re-elected, Miller says.
MQ-25 Contract. Northrop Grumman has been awarded a one-year, $35.8 million contract to conduct concept refinement for the U.S. Navy’s future MQ-25 unmanned aircraft, the Pentagon announced Oct. 19. The company becomes the fourth and final recipient of such contracts, which could pave the way for a new carrier-based unmanned tanker. Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Lockheed Martin received similar contracts a few weeks ago.
Automated Flight. Aurora Flight Sciences says it is installing its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) on a Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter. ALIAS, which Aurora is developing for DARPA, uses a robotic system that functions as a second pilot in a two-crew aircraft. Aurora has already flown ALIAS on a Diamond DA-42 plane and a Cessna Caravan. A date for flight testing on the Huey has not been announced yet.
LDUUV Interest. While many defense contractors are declining to say whether they want a role in the Navy’s Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) program, at least four — Boeing, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering – have confirmed that they hope to participate. The Navy plans to award a series of contracts to industry this fiscal year to support prototype design work for the unmanned sub.
Space Surveillance Telescope. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) formally transfers its Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) from an agency-lead design and construction program to ownership and operation by Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), according to a DARPA statement. AFSPC plans to operate the telescope in Australia jointly with the Australian government. SST was built by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a federally-funded research and development center (FFRDC). SST will advance space situational awareness (SSA) from seeing only a few objects at a time through the equivalent of a drinking straw to a “windshield” view with 10,000 objects at a time, each as small as softball. SST also uses the most steeply curved primary telescope mirror ever made. DARPA spokesman Michael Arnone says the Air Force plans to disassemble SST in late 2017 and ship it by boat to Australia by 2017. Initial operational capability (IOC), he says, is expected by 2020.
B-2 Zonal Radar RFI. The Air Force issues a request for information (RFI) for a B-2 next-generation zonal radar, according to a notice posted on Federal Business Opportunities (FBO). The B-2 program currently uses the SCI-2k near-field portable radar cross section (RCS) imaging system designed and built by Sensor Concepts Incorporated (SCI). SCI recently announced it was discontinuing production and support of the radar unit by February 2022. The Air Force is open to, and aggressively pursuing, new ideas and solutions to replace and improve upon its current RCS diagnostic capability for wing-level maintenance operations. The Air Force is also prepared to investigate and potentially fund program-specific system modifications to solutions that show high payoff potential, which may lead to the future procurement of systems to meet mission needs before 2022. The B-2 program currently operates nine SCI-2k systems. Responses are due Jan. 16.
Commercializing LEO. NASA is evaluating opportunities to possibly use the International Space Station (ISS) to help commercialize low earth orbit (LEO), according to agency spokeswoman Cheryl Warner. NASA this summer issued a RFI to determine interest in unique space station capabilities to boost commercial activity and foster a self-sustaining marketplace. The RFI closed Aug. 12 and NASA received 12 responses from a range of respondents, including individuals, small companies and large companies, Warner says. NASA reviewed the submissions, she says, and among the broad responses is interest from private companies to attach to ISS. She declined to say who responded to the RFI.
‘Hard Kill’ Challenge. The Joint Improvised Threat-Defeat Organization (JIDO) is hosting a “hard kill” challenge in early spring 2017 to determine the effectiveness of commercially-available small unmanned aerial system (UAS) defeat technologies, according to JIDO spokeswoman Melissa Tune. Tune says this challenge will be similar to the Desert Chance challenge held in June that was used to help downselect the initial detect and defeat systems sent to theater. Desert Chance enabled the assessment of several mature detect and defeat technologies for counter UAS and informed the initial procurement of the systems currently being deployed. Tune says a request will be sent out to industry in the next month and that the challenge’s requirements are in the final refinement stages.
CST-100 Propulsion. Aerojet Rocketdyne completed delivery of the first set of hardware for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner service module propulsion system, according to an Aerojet Rocketdyne statement. The first delivered hardware includes the low-pressure port and starboard manifold assemblies, which will distribute helium necessary to push propellants out to the service module’s engines and thrusters. The spacecraft’s service module propulsion system provides integrated launch-abort capability on the pad and during ascent, along with all propulsion needs during a nominal flight. Boeing is targeting taking humans to ISS in the Starliner starting in 2018.
NASIC IT Contract. The U.S. Air Force awarded Intrepid Solutions and Services Inc. a $45 million firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract for National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) information technology support services. The company will provide a full spectrum of technical support to NASIC to maintain, enhance, and operate the current infrastructure encompassing user accounts, workstations, independent networks, circuits, storage, and servers to incorporate new capabilities necessary to meet future requirements. The award comes from a competitive acquisition with seven offers. Fiscal 2017 operations and maintenance (O&M) funds of $5 million were obligated at award time. Work will be performed at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio with an expected completion date of Oct. 31, 2022. The contracting activity is the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
root9B Contracts. root9B, a Colorado-based cybersecurity company, won over $750,000 in Defense Department and commercial critical infrastructure contracts, the company says. The U.S. Navy awarded the company a $480,000 contract to use root9B to help provide Navy operators with skills and capabilities to defend critical operational networks. Separately, an unnamed leading commercial critical infrastructure provider awarded root9B a $250,000 contract to provide advanced cybersecurity services. The company will use its Attack Surface Baseline approach to integrate client-specific tailored threat intelligence and adversary mindset to identify and remediate network vulnerabilities. These awards raise the company’s total contracts awarded in 2016 to over $12 million.
FireEye Cyber Defense Summit. FireEye, Inc. plans its seventh Cyber Defense Summit to take place Nov. 28-30 at the Washington Hilton, in Washington, D.C. The summit was known as MIRcon until 2014 when FiureEye expanded the focus of the conference. Keynote speakers this year include FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia, FireEye Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Grady Summers, and Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin. The summit also features four tracks: incident response; what a C-level executive needs to know; tales from the trenches; and the newest one, solutions for industries.
Law Firm Hire. John Drennan, former Assistant General Counsel for Litigation at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is joining the Baker Donelson law firm as a member of the firm’s corporate finance and security group and the privacy and information security team. At DHS, Drennan led the office in providing advice to DHS general counsel on legal issues facing DHS program areas. Previously, he served as counsel for the Office of Law and Policy of the National Security Division of the Justice Department, a prosecutor in the appellate section of the Criminal Division, a trail attorney with the Civil Division, and a member of the Office of Intelligence.
ScanEagle on NSC. The Coast Guard this month began installation of the Boeing’s ScanEagle small unmanned aircraft system aboard the National Security Cutter (NSC) Stratton. Boeing in June received an initial $4.5 million task order that includes operation, integration, maintenance and sparing of a contractor-owned small UAS on one NSC for one year. The Coast Guard plans to deploy the system in 2017. The contract includes options for deployment of and data from the UAS for up to three additional years.
…UAS Challenges. The ScanEagle is being contracted under a non-major acquisition program for the Coast Guard’s NSC fleet. The service says that its other UAS major acquisition programs “remain in the pre-acquisition phase due to ongoing developmental technology challenges, domestic policy limitations, and budgetary constraints.”
Evolving Cyber Posture. The integration of new cyber security technologies such as those being acquired through the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program for deployment across the federal civilian government is enabling the Department of Homeland Security to move from a compliance approach to cyber security to one that is operationally focused and “sensitive to a very dynamic threat environment,” Dan Toler, deputy assistant secretary in the DHS Office of Cybersecurity & Communications, says at a DHS Industry Day event. Moving forward with CDM, for example, he says, “gives us the opportunity to significantly evolve the way we look at the operational security posture of any agency in any given moment in time versus the once every three year authority to operate approach currently used. So we’re kind of on a threshold of a leap in that area over the next 12 to-18 months.”