The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Tanker Sparks. Expect some rhetoric on the Air Force’s much-scrutinized tanker competition this Wednesday when the House Appropriations defense subcommittee marks up its FY ’09 defense spending bill. HAC-D Vice Chairman Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), a supporter of Boeing’s tanker bid, says he is not happy about alleged modifications (not yet unveiled) to the tanker solicitation regarding giving credit for carrying more fuel. HAC-D Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) said last Wednesday he “will recommend to the subcommittee that we provide the funding necessary to support an expedited decision.” Dicks, after saying he learned more about the forthcoming RFP, hinted last Thursday that plan could change. “We’re in close contact with Mr. Murtha, and we’re continuing to provide him information,” Dicks said.

… Tiahrt’s Part. Fellow HAC-D member and Boeing backer Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) says he has several amendments in the works to the defense approps bill. They address issues including regulations waived for the Northrop Grumman-European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS) proposal, U.S. jobs that would be “lost” under that plan, and criteria used in the new competition, he says, adding he wants to ensure “they don’t predetermine a winner.” And Tiahrt predicts members will discuss just how the coming revised tanker RFP will address credit given to a larger aircraft for carrying extra fuel.

Changing of the (Air) Guards. SASC is set to weigh on July 22 the nominations of Michael Donley to be Air Force secretary and Gen. Norton Schwartz as service chief of staff. Donley became acting secretary June 21, and the White House officially nominated him June 25. But the SASC confirmation hearing had been on hold awaiting President Bush’s official nomination of Schwartz, now head of U.S. Transportation Command. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended Donley and Schwartz June 9 to the posts, four days after the forced resignations of former Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley, purportedly over nuclear stewardship shortcomings. SASC next week will also consider the nomination of Air Force Gen. Duncan McNabb as the new TRANSCOM leader.

Greatest Show on Earth? Gates open today at the Farnborough International Air Show in England. This week, more than 140,000 trade visitors will interact with 1,500 companies from 35 countries at the world’s largest temporary exhibition and media circus. Organizers say Farnborough 2008 promises to eclipse the 2006 trade week accumulation of $442 billion in orders, including $550 million in business aviation.

Debutante Ball. Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Conformal Airborne Early Warning & Control (CAEW) Aircraft will be having its first public appearance at Farnborough this week. The aircraft is the 3rd generation AEW developed by ELTA since the mid-80s and is installed onboard a modified Gulfstream G550 business jet. “Special Mission Aircraft programs are one of the key business lines of IAI,” Itzhak Nissan, IAI’s president and CEO says. “The CAEW Program is an outstanding achievement that positions IAI as a world leader in the Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft market.”

Droning On. EADS says it has achieved a milestone with production of its 500th target drone used in the training of air defense units and flight crews as well as for the testing and trials of guided missiles. The “anniversary drone” that left the production facility recently bears the designation Do-DT25-55, EADS says. It is a member of the successful family of all-weather direct target (DT) drone systems and is specifically designed to simulate threats from anti-radar guided missiles.

Chopper on Chopping Block. The Army hopes to complete the Nunn-McCurdy review process for its troubled ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program as quickly as possible, service Secretary Pete Geren said July 10. Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell Helicopter holds the ARH development contract. The cost and schedule breach was filed with Congress July 9, triggering a mandated 60-day review process by the Pentagon’s acquisition, technology and logistics office. Geren said alternatives, including the possibility of rebidding the program, will be examined. He represented the Fort Worth area in Congress between 1989 and 1997 and prevented the program from being terminated when cost overruns became apparent last year.

Anticipating More Turbulence. The House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee asked Pentagon officials last week to explain how they will ensure fairness in their effort to rebid the Air Force’s controversial tanker program. John Young, the DoD acquisition chief, said he hopes to award a new contract by the end of the year but warned that he “can’t anticipate all the roadblocks that will come up.” He also noted during the July 10 hearing that another protest from the losing company could once again derail efforts to expedite the source selection process.

The Real Land Warrior. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) spearheaded the charge to revive the terminated Land Warrior program, according to sources. Based on positive feedback he received from soldiers, Dicks played a big role in getting Congress to set aside $94 million for Land Warrior in the recently passed FY ’08 GWOT supplemental. With the infusion of money in the pipeline, he made numerous calls to the Army leadership to restart the program. As a result, a full set of program kits will deploy with a Stryker brigade later this year.

Energy To Train. The rising cost of oil has led the services to examine how they train and find ways to conserve fuel. The Navy, for example, has turned to fleet synthetic training, not only as a way to bring together personnel spread across the globe to train in a digital environment, but to cut the cost of fuel. Clearly, synthetic training is an important element of fuel conservation, Capt. Chip Cotton, branch head for fleet training and readiness reporting, tells Defense Daily. The Navy has used synthetic training for some of its joint training exercises, Cotton adds. “We are doing that now with our NATO allies, Australia, Canada, the U.K., Germany and France have been regular partners. We are looking to bring in South Korea and Japan,” Cotton says.

Dinner Cruise. Navy Secretary Donald Winter played host to industry officials last week on the Secretary’s barge. Among those in attendance for the dinner cruise were Walt Halvenstein, BAE Systems; Chris Kubasik, Lockheed Martin; Steven Loranger, ITT; Michael Moody, Force Protection, Inc.; Ronald Sugar, Northrop Grumman; William Swanson, Raytheon; and Daniel Ustian, Navistar. In addition, John Thackrah, ASN RDA; Vice Adm. David Architzel, PDASN; and Roger Smith, DASN Ground, were also onboard. Recall it was last September that shipyard executives were stranded in the Potomac after the boat experienced a clogged fuel line. The D.C. Metro Police’s Harbor Patrol ferried the passengers back to the Navy Yard and the barge returned to port under its own power. Seems the land and radar reps fared better than their shipbuilding counterparts.

New At The Helm. Lt. Col. Paul M. Riegert assumed command of the H-46 Program Office (PMA226) last week, says NAVAIR. Riegert will manage the numerous H-46 upgrade programs underway that provide increased survivability, safety, reliability, and a range of other capabilities.

Up And Running. The propulsion plant of the USS Freedom (LCS-1) has completed testing in preparation for dock trials. The ship is now ready to begin dock trials–the final stage of testing before underway trials.