Japan Stands Up First F-35 Operational Unit. The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has officially stood up its first operational F-35A fighter squadron, dubbed the 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, the F-35 Joint Program Office said Friday. The F-35 replaces Japan’s F-4EJ Kai fighter aircraft.  “The F-35As of the 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron will serve as an important addition to the security and stability of the region,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer, said in a press release. “The JPO is proud of the accomplishments of the JASDF as they transit from this stand-up to their normal operating tempo, and we look forward to further supporting the Japan F-35 Program as they continue to operate the F-35 for many years to come.”

The aircraft, designated AX-6, is the second F-35A assembled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ F-35 Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan and is the first to be assigned to the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.

B-1 Grounded. Air Force Global Strike Command Commander Gen. Timothy Ray on Thursday ordered a safety stand-down of the B-1B Lancer fleet, citing issues with the rigging of the drogue chute that were identified during a routine inspection. “As a precautionary measure, the commander directed a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” the command said in a release. “As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight.” The drogue chute’s primary function is to right the ejection seat when it leaves the aircraft. This is the second time the Air Force has grounded its B-1 fleet for ejection seat issues in less than a year, and were initially grounded from June 7-19 2018.

HASC on Space Force. HASC Strategic Forces Chair and pro-Space Force congressman Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) made it clear in a Tuesday hearing that while he supported the move to create a new Space Force under the Air Force, Congress reserved the right to make changes to the Trump administration’s proposed legislation. “I am assuming the president’s budget proposal is not written in stone,” he said to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan during the hearing, adding that the House would identify and remove any “poison pills” they may find in the proposal. HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has previously expressed his intent to rewrite the Space Force proposal due to the amount of Pentagon brass positions that would be created under the current plan.

F-22s to Langley. The Air Force has identified Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia as the preferred location to re-house the F-22 Raptor formal training unit, the 43rd Fighting Squadron, that was displaced from Tyndall AFB following Hurricane Michael in October 2018. The service placed a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement to base the Raptors at Hampton Roads in the Federal Register on Tuesday. Virginia lawmakers have been petitioning the Air Force to choose Langley, which already houses F-22s for the Air National Guard. The 43rd Fighting Squadron has been temporarily reassigned to Eglin AFB, Florida, since it was displaced. The Air Force has expressed plans to rebuild Tyndall as an F-35 base using supplemental funding from Congress.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Deal. Aerojet Rocketdyne has acquired Florida-based 3D Material Technologies, a provider of 3-D printing services to the aerospace, defense, medical and industrial markets, from ARC Group Worldwide. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Aerojet Rocketdyne says the purchase price and 3DMT’s financials are immaterial to the business. “The addition of 3DMT’s capacity and expertise in metal allow additive manufacturing expands our range of products and services in the space and defense markets,” says Eileen Drake, president and CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne. She adds that 3-D printing will help lower costs and production timelines. The company says the deal complements its existing capabilities in 3-D printing using metal alloys in its space and defense business.

India ASAT test. The Indian government on Tuesday launched a missile to successfully destroy one of its own satellites in low-Earth orbit, making the nation the fourth to successfully destroy a satellite in orbit. Testifying before the SASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee Wednesday, Air Force Space Command Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson confirmed that the Pentagon has been tracking the remaining debris from the test, and had identified over 270 objects in the debris field. “Likely that number is going to grow as the debris field spreads out and we collect more sensor information,” he said.

Supplemental for Weather-Hit AF bases. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Wednesday that the service will requires $1.2 billion in FY ‘19 and $3.7 billion in FY ‘20/FY ‘21 worth of supplemental funding to rebuild Tyndall AFB in Florida and recover Offutt AFB in Nebraska after extreme weather events over the past year. So far, the Air Force has deferred 61 facility repairs at 18 service bases pending supplemental funding approved by Congress. “There are other decisions we’ll have to make if we don’t [have supplemental funding] by May or June. These are just the first decisions that we had to make yesterday,” Wilson said during a think tank event. The Senate Appropriations Committee introduced legislation for supplemental disaster relief funding Tuesday that included funds to rebuild Tyndall, which was hit by Hurricane Michael last October, but not Offutt AFB, which suffered massive flooding earlier this month.

LSC Faster. The Navy is looking into possibly moving up procurement of the first Large Surface Combatant (LSC) from FY ’25 to FY ’23 or ’24, Navy officials told senators during a hearing on March 27. “We are going to work with industry this year to see if the art of possible also includes accelerating that ship potentially to FY ‘23 or FY ‘24. We are motivated to get our surface ship mix correct, per our future surface combatant analysis studies,” Vice Adm. William Merz, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations For Warfare Systems, told the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee. Merz also noted the aperture for using existing designs for the LSC “is wider on the larger ship than what was started off with the frigate.” After the hearing, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts told reporters that funding would be for the first design and construction contract for the LSC.

LUSV. The Navy’s top acquisition official said he expects the Navy will move some funding for the large unmanned surface vehicle (LUSV) to transition from research and development (R&D) accounts to procurement later in the Future Years Defense Programs (FYDP) period. The Navy’s budget request covers two LUSVs in FY ’20 at $400 million, then two more per year through FY ’24 for a total cost of 10 for $2.7 billion in R&D funds. Navy acquisition chief James Geurts told the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee Tuesday “my guess is we will probably in a future budget year transition some of that to procurement as we understand exactly when that cutover point is, where it makes the most sense. I think we’re still a couple years away from that.”

…R&D in the Guts. Geurts added that the unmanned vessels are different from a traditional ship because much of the R&D “is in a lot of the guts – the autonomy, the decisonmaking, how are we going to command and control it, how are we going to do those things? And less about what does the hull form look like.” Geurts said he thinks the Navy can build LUSVs at a lower cost “because it opens up a lot more shipyards on to a lot more designs we’re comfortable with right now.”

CVN-69 Cruise. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) completed a five-day fast cruise on March 25, the last step before moving to sea trials. The cruise included training to help assess the ship’s mission readiness in a series of drills and emergency scenarios for the crew, simulating a transit across the Atlantic Ocean. Once sea trials are finished, the crew and CVN-69 will return to the homeport of Naval Station Norfolk and prepare to deploy in Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10. The Eisenhower started a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) in August 2017 in Norfolk, Va., but that work was extended almost a year beyond the original period through early 2019.

…Then Sea Trials. Subsequently, CVN-69 returned to sea on March 28 for sea trials off the coast of Virginia. The Navy said during the trials the ship is working with workers from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to test evolutions like small-boat operations, testing countermeasure washdown systems, executing high-speed turns, and testing catapults.

SSN-796. Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding and the U.S. Navy authenticated the keel of the future USS New Jersey (SSN-796) Virginia-class attack submarine in a ceremony on March 25. SSN-796 will be the 23rd Virginia-class submarine. Construction started in March 2016 and it is now about 42 percent complete, SSN-796 is expected to be delivered in 2021.

LCS-25. Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine laid the keel on the latest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Marinette (LCS-25), on March 27. The keel laying marks the start of construction for the ship. LCS-25 will be the 13th Freedom-variant LCS.

Abrams Replacement. The Army has set 2023 as its target date to determine a path for replacing its Abrams tanks. Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, said this week the Army has two concurrent studies right now to evaluate Abrams replacement options, adding the eventual option may not even be a tank. “In the future a decision will be made for an Abrams replacement. This is about decisive lethality that has to fight in really, really bad places. Is it a tank? I don’t know. But it will be decisive and lethal,” Coffman said at the AUSA Global Force Symposium. The Army Science Board and the Ground Vehicle Systems Center, formerly TARDEC, are each running one of the studies.

Textron/NGSW. Textron Systems announced this week it has delivered its first Next-Generation Squad Weapon-Technology (NGSW-T) prototype to the Army. NGSW is the Army’s program to replace its M4A1 rifle with the NGSW-Rifle and its M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with the NGSW-Automatic Rifle. Textron received a contract to to deliver the NGSW-T, a weapon technology demonstrator, 15 months ago. NGSW-T is intended to inform the Army’s final requirements for the overall program. Textron is also readying to deliver a separate prototype in June for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle – Prototype Opportunity Notice program.

Army Robot Rodeo. The Army is planning told a “robot rodeo” this summer with industry to assess the marketspace for its Robotic Combat Vehicle program ahead of first experiments in 2020. Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, said the “rodeo” is part of a series of efforts to inform requirements for RCV Phase 1, which also includes virtual experiments with a robotic test platform and ongoing meetings with industry partners. “We’re asking industry to bring their robots that they currently have, so we can identify what’s in the realm of the possible,” Coffman said. The Phase 1 RCV experiment begins in the second quarter of FY ’20 and consist of four robotic vehicles controlled by two control vehicles. Phase 2 will happen in FY ’21 to test robots in company-level operations, while Phase 3 starts in FY ’23 with purpose-built prototype robots.   

Corporate News. Raytheon has appointed Wesley Kremer as president of its Missile Systems segment, succeeding Taylor Lawrence who is retiring on July 14. Kremer, who previously led Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems segment, is succeeded by Ralph Acaba to lead IDS. Acaba has been vice president of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense portfolio within IDS since 2013. General Dynamics has appointed Robert Smith as executive vice president in charge of its Marine Systems segment effective July 1. Smith will take over for John Casey, who plans to retire on June 30. GD Chief Phebe Novakovic said Smith’s “expertise in Navy submarine and surface ship programs will serve us well as we continue to grow our shipbuilding business.” Finally, Lockheed Martin said that retired Maj. Gen. Stephen Denker, former deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office, is joining the company to lead satellite ground programs within the Mission Solutions business at the company’s Space segment.

…SAIC’s 4Q Results. Science Applications International Corp. on March 28 reported its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2019 results, with quarterly sales up 6 percent to $1.2 billion and annual sales up 5 percent to $4.7 billion. The company swung to a $9 million, 20 cents per share, loss in the quarter from a $51 million ($1.16 EPS) profit a year ago. For the year, earnings fell 23 percent to $137 million ($3.11 EPS). The increase in sales in the quarter was due to the acquisition of Engility as organic revenue fell 2 percent.

IFT Approval. Customs and Border Protection reached an agreement on March 22 with the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona to install the final set of Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) surveillance systems for the baseline deployment of the program. The IFT system that will be deployed on the Nation’s land will consist of a relocatable version of the towers. The agency doesn’t have a timeline for when the system will be deployed. Elbit Systems of America is the IFT contractor. The company’s current contract still has two options for additional deployments. The IFT systems include electro-optic and infrared cameras, radars, and related communications equipment to provide wide area surveillance for the Border Patrol along certain stretches of the southwest border.