The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Tanker Lobby Blockade. Two outspoken congressional critics of the Air Force’s bungled tanker contract award to a Northrop Grumman-European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS) team are chiding the White House to reject “outside pressure” from European leaders who want the contract that is being recompeted to remain with the original awardees. “Given the faltering economy here in the United States, the U.S. Government awarding a contract to EADS as an economic stimulus package for Europe is unconscionable,” Boeing backers Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) write in a July 18 letter to President Bush. “The Request for Proposal must not be changed to benefit Europe. Although our current acquisition system already favors foreign competitors, our American workers are counting on you and your team to maintain what fairness is left in our system,” they say.

Cyber Warrior. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) says the nation must “strengthen our cyber defenses in the 21st century”–something the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon, and burgeoning Air Force Cyberspace Command are tackling. In a speech in Indiana last Wednesday, Obama says: “I’ll declare our cyber-infrastructure a strategic asset, and appoint a National Cyber Advisor who will report directly to me. We’ll coordinate efforts across the federal government, implement a truly national cyber-security policy, and tighten standards to secure information–from the networks that power the federal government, to the networks that you use in your personal lives.” Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called, in past speeches, for investing more in the “federal task of cybersecurity” and says he would “support and encourage development of technology designed to strengthen our national defense against cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism.”

ASP Certification Will Wait. While Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Congress earlier this year that he hoped to make a decision by the end of this month on whether to certify the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP) program to enter production, he says that will now wait until the fall. Chertoff tells the House Homeland Security Committee that he needs to make sure that the test plans and related protocols are “sound and satisfactory.” The secretary is working with the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and an “outside” party to validate the testing process. Three firms–Canberra, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Raytheon–are developing competing versions of ASP, which is a next generation radiation portal monitor.

…Continued SBInet Issues? At the same hearing last week, Rep. Christopher Carney (D-Pa.) says that the next phases of the electronic fence component of the Secure Border Initiative are proceeding in much the same way that the original deployment did, which is without integration testing and a lack of clearly defined requirements. Carney is concerned that politics and the desire to show progress on the effort, also referred to as SBInet, is driving a rush to deploy and creating additional problems for the program. Chertoff says politics are not driving the deployment and that sensor integration testing is planned for the upcoming deployments, which are called Tucson-1 and Ajo-1. That integration testing wasn’t done for the original deployment, called Project 28, until after the sensors were deployed on towers and found not to work correctly. Carney also says there are continued problems in developing the Common Operating Picture software that Border Patrol agents will use to bring all the sensor data together. Boeing is the prime contractor for SBInet.

Unconventional Wisdom. The Pentagon last week launched the “Minerva” initiative, an effort to partner with universities, research institutions and individual scholars for social science research. The military is hoping to improve its “social science intellectual capital” and, thereby, its “ability to understand and address security challenges,” according to a DoD press statement on the matter. The department plans to solicit a variety of proposals from the social science research community. A broad agency announcement (BAA) was released last week, and initial funding for the project is estimated at $10 million-$20 million annually.

Australia’s Tanker. EADS has begun the second of four conversions of Airbus A330s to KC-30B air refueling tanker/transport aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force, the company announced last week. Outfitting started early last month at the Qantas Australian Conversion Centre at Brisbane Airport. The KC-30B’s outfitting procedure– installation of EADS’ Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS), underwing refueling pods and military mission systems–is similar to the process planned for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-45, according to an EADS press statement. The U.S. tanker outfitting would take place in Mobile, Ala., if the contract, now up for rebid, is again awarded to Northrop Grumman and its partner EADS.

Moving On. Army Training and Doctrine Command leader Gen. William “Scott” Wallace submits retirement papers. If approved, Wallace leaves the service after 39 years. The Army’s chief “architect,” Wallace orchestrates major changes in training and doctrine and building the future force, moving the service in line with the needs of the 21st century. As a three-star general, Wallace led the V Corps dash to Baghdad. Acting U.S. Central Command leader Lt. Gen. Marty Dempsey is the nominee for a fourth star and TRADOC command.

Picture Perfect. Apache master pilot Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dick Cody took the new Apache Block III aircraft through its paces at Boeing’s Mesa, Ariz., plant July 9, but he didn’t push the test envelope on the experimental test aircraft. He was one of only four people who have flown the Block III. Boeing commissioned aviation artist Rick Herter to capture in a painting what Cody might look like flying a Block III past Red Mountain near Mesa. The painting was unveiled at ceremonies marking the Block III’s first flight. Boeing has donated the painting to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Ft. Rucker, Ala. For more on Rick Herter:

Achievements Honored. Two Boeing officials were inducted into the Order of St. Michael that recognizes individuals “who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Army Aviation in ways that stand out in the eyes of the recipient’s seniors, subordinates, and peers,” Army Aviation Association of America Arizona Chapter President Mike Burke says. Bob Speir, manager of the Apache Manned/unmanned Common Architecture Program, and Apache Chief Engineer John Schibler received medallions and certificates for their efforts the night before the newest Apache, the Block III prototype, had its official first flight.

Radio Team. ITT Corp., and General Dynamics team to develop a software compliant architecture conforming small form fit-SideHat, SFF-S, the companies say. The agreement provides the potential for more than 250,000-fielded single channel ground and airborne radio systems to communicate with the new joint tactical radio systems. SideHat adds a second channel to SINCGARS than can run the soldier radio waveform, software that connects tactical radios, including JTRS. “The combined skills and capabilities of our team will provide our customer with outstanding performance coupled with the ability to meet all cost and delivery schedule requirements,” says Ken Peterman, ITT Communications Systems president and general manager.

Joint Production. Boeing and Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland sign an agreement for joint manufacture of new CH-47F Chinook helicopters for the Italian Army. At the July 16 ceremony at the Farnborough Air Show, Guiseppe Orsi, AgustaWestland CEO, said: This industrial agreement further expands our network of partnerships, allowing us to strengthen our long-lasting role as CH-47 Chinook supplier to the Italian Army and other operators in Europe and elsewhere.” AgustaWestland will be prime contractor for the Italian CH-47F, responsible for design, systems integration, and aircraft delivery. Boeing will build the fuselage in Ridley Park, Pa. The agreement also includes a licensing arrangement enabling AgustaWestland to market, sell and produce the Boeing CH-47F Chinook to the United Kingdom, other European countries and nations in the Mediterranean region.

Lakota Training. The UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters are at the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., home of the only Army aviation training site that’s designed specifically to train Lakota aviators and crew. The UH-72A is to conduct light general support operations in non-combat environments, like civil search and rescue, personnel recovery, evacuation, counter-drug and limited civil command and control operations for homeland security. “The two Lakotas are the first in Pennsylvania and at the training site,” Col. Timothy Hilty, commander of the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, says. “Two more are due to arrive by the end of the year and the schoolhouse is expected to receive a total of eight by 2012.” Instructors from Fort Rucker and Fort Indiantown Gap are already leading the first training course.

Bloody Good. Now that soldiers in the British Army have got a taste of what Lockheed Martin’s Desert Hawk III mini-unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has to offer, they say they need it on the menu every day. “It’s difficult to compare it to something we’ve never had before, but now that we’ve got it, it’s bloody good,” Maj. Tim Edwards from 4-7 Regiment tells Defense Daily at Farnborough. Desert Hawk was developed to fill urgent operational requirements and the army has been using it for recon support of company- level missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s quick to set up and deploy…from the [forward operating base] or in the field,” Sgt. Dan Gardner adds. “Guys are coming back from ops and shaking the hands [of the UAS operators] and saying ‘thanks on that one, mate.'”

After Chinook. Right now, the Chinook helicopter can do everything, Chuck Allen, Boeing’s vice president and general manager for rotorcraft systems, says. But once the 25- to 30-ton vehicles start arriving under the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, a brand new development program will be required to ferry them around. In the interim, he says, Chinook could still be tweaked enabling it to lift something between eight and 30 tons. “Say around 13 tons is possible, that’s the tandem-helo advantage where all the power goes to lift [as opposed to some] for the tail,” he adds.

ASTORoperablity. British soldiers and airmen are continuing to work additional interoperability options for their new airborne standoff radar. “ASTOR performs well with J-STARS…[and] we’re working toward interoperability with UAVs,” Wing Commander Jerry Cowell of U.K. MoD Defence Equipment & Support says. Additionally, while there was no maritime requirement for Britain’s ASTOR, Cowell says that with some adjustments it could provide a “very, very good” maritime capability and has already been able to detect and track ships. “We’re always looking to add new requirements and capabilities,” he adds. Other possibilities down the pike–the U.K. and the U.S. are very interested in change detection (to counter IEDs) and have aspirations for real-time capabilities, Cowell says.