BE-4 Engine Milestone. Blue Origin says it has conducted the first test firing of its full-scale BE-4 engine. “First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success,” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos tweeted Oct. 19. “Huge kudos to the whole Blue Origin team for this important step.” Blue Origin is developing the engine to power its New Glenn heavy-lift rocket. The BE-4 is also considered the leading contender to power the first stage of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan medium- to heavy-lift rocket.

Space Ops Post. President Donald Trump has nominated Air Force Maj. Gen. David Thompson to be deputy chief of staff for space superiority, which would put him in charge of the Air Force’s new space operations directorate. Thompson, who would become a lieutenant general if confirmed by the Senate, is currently deputy commander of Air Force Space Command. The Air Force announced in June that it was creating the directorate to “integrate, normalize and elevate” space operations.Pentagon_anddowntown_

French Defense. France plans to boost defense spending by more than 1.8 billion euros (U.S. $2.1 billion) in 2018, and while “I know this is probably less than the Pentagon’s laundry bill,” it is a significant increase by French standards, according to Florence Parly, France’s defense minister. “Don’t underestimate those single-digit billions,” she says at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., last Friday/ “When you invest in the French military, you really get a bang for the buck.”

Indian EMALS. The Indian press is reporting that the U.S. releases the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for future Indian aircraft carriers, citing sources in the Trump administration. The decision reportedly comes ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s upcoming visit to India, with specific dates yet to be announced. The Trump administration reportedly sent the notice releasing the technology to India on Oct. 16, after India originally requested the technology when Barack Obama was the U.S. president. EMALS is produced by General Atomics for new U.S. Ford-class aircraft carriers.

UK F-35B Trials. The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin an $11.6 million undefinitized delivery order to support first of class flying trials and the release of the military permit to fly for F-35B aircraft to operate from U.K. Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. This order is against a previously issued basic ordering agreement with most of the work to occur in the U.S. and 26 percent in Samlesbury, U.K. The work is expected to be finished by March 2018.

CSRA Biometrics Award. The U.S. State Department has awarded CSRA, Inc. a contract to provide the government of Mexico with a multimodal biometrics system. CSRA says it can’t comment on the award without customer approval. CSRA’s teammates for the DIGITUS program include NEC Corp., which is providing the core multimodal biometrics matching technology, and Unisys. The department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement is working with Mexico on the program.

New Phantom Works Chief. Boeing has named Mark Cherry, formerly president and chief operating officer of Aurora Flight Sciences, as the new head of its Phantom Works advanced technology group. Boeing is in the process of acquiring Aurora. Cherry succeeds Darryl Davis, who led Phantom Works for 10 years, and is now in a company-wide program management role reporting to Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer. Cherry served in the Air Force. Aurora has named Matthew Hutchison as Cherry’s replacement. Hutchison is currently vice president for Engineering at Aurora.

New Raytheon Facility. Raytheon has opened a 72,000 square foot facility in Albuquerque, N.M., in the Sandia Science and Technology Park that will be for developing and producing range monitoring and telemetry systems for the U.S. and its allies. The new facility is the company’s third in Albuquerque. Raytheon says its expansion within Albuquerque will add 60 new high-technology manufacturing jobs over the next six years.

LCS Trainer. The U.S. Navy awarded CSRA, Inc. a $51 million, 3.5-year order under the Training Systems Contract (TSC) III to develop and deliver an Integrated Tactical Trainer (ITT) for the Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6). The ITTs are set to be installed and operated at the Littoral Combat Training Facility in San Diego, Calif., as part of the company’s VirtualShip training platform. This is an advanced ship and systems simulation software package for bridge teams with high fidelity hydrodynamics, maritime environmental modeling, and an interface for integrating external systems and simulations.

SSN-764 Overhaul. The U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries a $60 million contract for planning and executing the overhaul of the Los Angeles-class USS Boise (SSN-764) attack submarine. The award includes options that if exercised would raise the total value to almost $386 million. Work expected to be finished by Feb. 2021. The contract was competitively procured via the FedBizOpps website, with offers from HII and General Dynamics Electric Boat, the two yards that build and maintain nuclear-powered submarines. SSN-764 has been waiting for maintenance availability at public yards for over a year due to a backlog and priority for ballistic missile submarines and aircraft carriers. The Boise returned from its last deployment in Jan. 2015.

Navy Nominations. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced several presidential naval flag officer nominations, including Vice Adm. Christopher Grady for reappointment to the same rank and assignment as assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Grady currently serves as commander of the Sixth Fleet, Task Force Six, and Striking and Support Forces NATO, and previously served as commander of U.S Pacific Fleet Naval Surface Force Atlantic. Rear Adm. Bruce Lindsey was nominated as vice admiral and assignment as deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Lindsey currently serves as commander of Naval Air Force in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and previously served as deputy director for Operations, J3, Joint Staff.

More Korea Exercises. U.S. Navy and Republic of Korea Navy ships participated in the maritime Counter Special Operations exercise (MCSOFEX) from Oct. 17 to 20 off the east or west coast of the Korean peninsula. The exercises are to promote communications, interoperability, and partnership in the Seventh Fleet area of operations, the Navy says. U.S. ships participating include the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Stethem (DDG-63) and USS Mustin (DDG-89) as well as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). The Navy says the exercise is a visible and coordinated engagement for the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

HII Promotions. Hutington Ingalls Industries announced two promotions at its Newport News Shipbuilding division. Dave Bolcar was promoted from director of the Columbia-class submarine program to vice president of submarine construction. Bill Smith was promoted from program director for aircraft carrier fleet support to vice president, fleet support programs. Smith will be responsible for submarine and carrier fleet support, including the Gerald R. Ford-class fleet support work. Separately, Matt Needy transfered from a post as vice president of the Virginia-class submarine program and fleet services to vice president of operations. Needy will be responsible for all trade, manufacturing, material logistics, and facilities operations and report to Newport News Shipbuilding president Jennifer Boykin. All of these changes are effective immediately.

LCS-9 Commissioning. The Navy announced the latest Lockheed Martin Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Little Rock (LCS-9), will be commissioned during a ceremony on Dec. 16 canalside in Buffalo, N.Y. This will be the tenth LCS and fifth Freedom-variant to enter the fleet. The keel was laid in 2013 and the ship was launched July 2015 at Marinette Marine’s shipyard in Wisconsin. Following commissioning, the ship will travel to its future homeport at Mayport, Fla.

ESB-4 Christening. The U.S. Navy plans to christen the Expeditionary Sea Base future USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4) during a ceremony on Oct. 21 at General Dynamics’ NASSCO facility in San Diego, Calif. ESB-4 is meant to support various maritime missions and designed around four main capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets. ESB-4 is planned to join the fleet in 2018.

MDA Digital. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Torch Technologies Inc. an $86 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide digital representations of adversary missiles and flight tests common across all ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) programs. This work will support BMDS development efforts, testing events, and assessment activities; assistance for test analysis and reporting of the BMDS; quantitative assessment of risk at the functional, program, and integrated system level; and assistance to the Corporate Lethality Program’s mission to assure the effectiveness of the BMDS to negate a ballistic missile threat. Work is expected to be finished by Sept. 2022.