Fleet Number. At a Friday press conference, the CNO said the Navy may reach a new goal of how many ships the service should have, possibly replacing the previous 355-ship fleet target. The Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment called for the Navy to increase its number to 355 ships, split between ship types. The Navy is currently reviewing a new FSA and “we’ll get a new number. We may hold to it, we may not. I don’t know what – the analysis is in progress.” The new FSA is due later in 2019. Previously, Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said the service’s leadership was getting a draft of the next FSA in November and a new report will be released in 2019.

T-X Suppliers. Two subcontractors for the Air Force’s T-X trainer program this week announced their roles in developing the new end-to-end jet trainer aircraft. Collins Aerospace announced it would supply its ACES ejection seat and fully integrated landing gear system, while Triumph Group, Inc. will provide air-mounted accessory drives and hydraulic systems. Boeing is the prime contractor for the T-X program, along with Saab, which is responsible for the aft fuselage and associated subsystems. General Electric is providing its F404 engine for the aircraft.

Space-X Layoffs. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told Defense Daily Friday that last month’s layoffs at Space-X – which cut about 10 percent of the launch company’s staff – is not expected to affect related service programs, such as the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. “We trust our launch providers will effectively manage their workforce to meet contractual obligations with the U.S. Government, enabling us to maintain assured access to space,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Space X CEO Elon Musk attributed the layoffs to “absolutely insane” projects during a Wednesday investor call for his automotive and energy company Tesla, per multiple reports.

Border Wall. President Trump said on Friday that he continues to consider the possibility of calling a national emergency to use military funds to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border because “I don’t think anything is going to happen” with current congressional negotiations. “I think there’s a good chance we’ll have to do that,” Trump said during an event at the White House.

HASC Chairman. HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Thursday released a Jan. 29 letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan demanding better transparency with Congress following a Wednesday HASC hearing with two senior DOD officials regarding active duty troops deployed to the U.S. Southern border. “The Members of the Committee would have been extremely interested in discussing what the 3,500 troops going to the border in response to DHS’s latest request will be doing there. This is a violation of the executive branch’s obligation to be transparent with Congress, which oversees, authorizes, and funds its operations,” Smith said in a statement. “I am deeply troubled that the witnesses did not disclose the upcoming increase in guard, reserve, and active duty personnel…This was at best an error in judgment, and at worst flat-out dishonesty.”

CNO-China. The Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week even though there are plenty of disagreements between the U.S. and China, “I have a good working relationship with my counterpart,” Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, commander of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy). Richardson spoke at the Brooking Institution on Monday following a visit to China. Referencing Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea he said “as we navigate these areas of disagreement, try to resolve them, we have to do so in ways that minimize risks.” Codes for unplanned encounters at sea that govern a commanders’ action are some of the “rules that mitigate risks,” Richardson said. He noted as China’s navy grows and becomes ore operational both countries have to make it easier for their ships to pass each other without incident.

…Carrier Defense. Richardson was unwilling to specifically explain how to defend U.S. aircraft carriers against Chinese weapons aimed at them, but noted “there’s a great virtue to being able to move an airfield 720 miles in a day.” He said we should think of carriers as the most survivable airfield in the region, because it is so mobile. Richardson argued U.S. carriers may be in their least vulnerable position since World War II, as the Cold War featured “great numbers” of Soviet submarine threats.

Sub Defense. The Navy awarded Leidos a $14 million contract to design and develop the Acoustic Device Countermeasure (ADC) MK5 developmental devices last September. The ADC MK5 will be a three-inch diameter device launched form submarines to defend against torpedoes. In January, Leidos told Defense Daily that it is entering the underwater countermeasures business area with this contract, marking the company working on all areas of underwater acoustic sensor application. A Leidos spokesperson said while this device is designed to be used by U.S. submarines, “relatively minor modifications would allow them to be used from surface vessels as well.” Leidos also noted the MK5 is upgradable to new technologies in the future. “The upgradable nature of our offering combined with its adaptability mean that Leidos will be able to compete in the countermeasures business market for many years to come,” the spokesperson said.

…Business Expansion. Leidos also said it is looking forward to compete on a future new large diameter countermeasures program that will be based on the same technological improvements that ADC MK5 is using on small diameter countermeasures. The spokesperson underscored it sees other programs in the definition phase that could make direct use of their ADC MK5 technologies. The company was reluctant to talk specifics but said “there are at least three core technologies in ADC MK5 that offer great opportunity to expand into new markets,” the company said.

MQ-1B Crash Report. The Air Force’s Air Combat Command has determined an internal electrical failure caused the August 2017 accident of an MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted aircraft in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The internal failure caused the aircraft to perform an un-commanded flight maneuver, resulting in an inability to continue flight, according to ACC’s Accident Investigation Board Report, released Wednesday. The majority of the MQ-1B was destroyed from a fire at the impact site. Loss of government property and environmental clean-up is valued at about $5.3 million. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Syria Withdrawal. Senators this week invoked cloture on a measure that emphasizes the importance of a conditions-based withdrawal Syria and Afghanistan, voting 68-23 to advance the amendment. The measure is expected to be included in the Senate’s vote on the S.1. bill, or the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 that advocates support for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the amendment following President Trump’s December 2018 order to begin removing troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Senators Letter. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), both freshman senators and SASC members, on Wednesday wrote to President Trump urging him to craft a plan to protect Kurdish allies serving in Syria, and to prevent armed conflict between the Kurdish forces and Turkish troops as the U.S. government slowly begins to remove troops from the country. “Abandoning friends and doing nothing to prevent their slaughter would undermine the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and jeopardize our nation’s honor,” they wrote.

DOD Audit. SASC members Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Angus King (I-Maine) last week sent a letter to Shanahan requesting his commitment to completing the Pentagon’s next financial audit for FY  ’19 in a timely manner. The first-ever audit completed in 2018 was “a critical first step to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Pentagon,” they wrote, adding, “Ultimately, because only 5 of the 24 individual audits conducted received a passing grade, it is imperative that subsequent, annual audits continue as planned to properly measure progress.”

JASSM-ER. The Air Force on Thursday awarded Lockheed Martin a $100.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification for design, development, integration and testing of subsystem design changes for the wings/chines to the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) baseline missile. Work will be performed in Orlando, Florida, and is expected to be completed by March 31, 2023. Fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds will provide funding for the contract.

Munitions Restock. The Air Force is continuously replenishing its precision munitions stockpile and has reached record levels of production for various weapons, the service’s chief acquisition officer Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch said Friday, noting at an AFA breakfast event on Capitol Hill that U.S. allies also use these munitions. “What we’re trying to make sure is we have the capacity to buy for us, but also allow them to have the ability to buy as well,” he said. The service has ramped up production of Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munition to over 45,000 units per year, and is working with the Army to “max out” Lockheed Martin-made AMG-114 Hellfire production. The Air Force is buying about 8,000 Boeing-built GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs per year, “way more than we ever thought we would buy,” Bunch said. Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems procurement has also “dramatically gone up,” and the Air Force is working with the Navy to max out production of the BAE Systems-built weapons, he added.

Saudi Biz. Raytheon did 5 percent of its sales in 2018 with Saudi Arabia and expects the same in 2019, Anthony “Toby” O’Brien, the company’s chief financial officer, said Jan. 31 on an earnings call. Half of those sales are offensive weapons and the other have defensive, he said in response to an analyst’s question about the impact from potential sanctions against Saudi Arabia. O’Brien said Raytheon continues to receive “support for defensive sales to Saudi Arabia.” Raytheon had $27.1 billion in sales last year and expects around $29 billion in sales this year.

Private Equity Purchase. The private equity firm Arlington Capital Partners has agreed to acquire the $150 million Fabrications business of Triumph Group, an aerospace and defense company that has divested 10 non-core businesses since 2016 and shed “legacy build-to-print, contract manufacturing businesses.” The Fabrications business has one million square feet of factor space at five locations in the U.S. and produces complex metal sheet components and assemblies for fixed wing and rotorcraft aircraft. “Differentiated aerospace forming has long been a key investment theme at Arlington Capital, and the acquisition of Triumph’s forming and fabrication facilities represents an immediate opportunity to create one of the largest pure play forming platforms with the broadest capabilities,” said Peter Manos, a managing partner at Arlington Capital. Deal terms were not disclosed.

New Hire. Science Applications International Corp. has hired former Army acquisition official Doug Wiltsie as its vice president of Operations for the Defense Systems Customer Group, leading efforts in intelligence and sensor integration, enterprise services and information technology modernization, and C4ISR services and solutions. Wiltsie will also support business development and manage key customer relationships. Wiltsie created and directed the Army Rapid Capabilities Office, was program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems, and also served as the executive director of the System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate within the Army’s acquisition office. Wiltsie reports to Jim Scanlon, SAIC’s executive vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems Customer Group.

GD Stryker Support. The Army has awarded General Dynamics Land Systems a five-year, $402 million dollar contract to continue providing technical support services for its Stryker armored fighting vehicles, the Pentagon said Jan. 31. GD was the only company to submit a bid for the work, which is expected to be completed in January 2024. The Army also announced last month it will be testing Active Protection System offerings from Leonardo DRS and Germany’s Rheinmetall for its Strykers at a February demonstration.

LCS-34. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer announced the future Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship LCS-34 will be named the USS Augusta after the capital of Maine. LCS-34 will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. LCSs are split into even-numbered Independence-variant ships built by Austal and odd-numbered Freedom-variant ships built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine under prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

SSN-790. The U.S. Navy will commission the latest attack submarine, the future USS South Dakota (SSN-790), during a ceremony at Submarine Base New London on Feb. 2. SSN-790 is the seventh Block III Virginia-class submarine and 17th Virginia overall. As a Block III boat it features two large-diameter Virginia Payload module tubes that can each carry six Tomahawk cruise missiles, replacing previous models’ 12 individual Vertical Launch Systems tubes.

EPF-12. The U.S. Navy held a keel laying and authentication ceremony for the 12th Expeditionary Fast Transport, the future USNS Newport (EPF-12), at Austal USA’s shipyard on Jan. 29. EPFs transport up to 600 short tons of personnel and/or material up to 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. They can operate in shallow-draft waterways and can interface with roll-on/roll-off facilities. Previously the USNS Burlington (EPF-10) was delivered in November 2018 and Austal is building the future USNS Puerto Rico (EPF-11). The Navy expects EPF-11 to be delivered in the third quarter of FY 2019 while EPF-12 will be delivered in the second quarter of FY 2020.