SBIRS Deemed Operational. The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (GEO-4) has achieved Air Force Space Command operational acceptance, the service announced Thursday. The satellite provides worldwide infrared coverage and is successfully transmitting data to the Mission Control Station operated by the 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, Colo. SBIRS GEO-4, built by Lockheed Martin, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 booster on January 20, 2017. Upon separation from the booster, satellite operations personnel began a series of planned Liquid Apogee Engine transfer orbit maneuvers to place the spacecraft safely into its final orbit. GEO-4 reached its intended orbit and began spacecraft checkout activities by deploying the satellite’s light shade, solar array wing assemblies, and antenna wing assemblies. With the spacecraft safely on orbit, sensor testing and checkout activities began, leading to a tuned and calibrated payload ready for warfighter use. SBIRS GEO-4, along with other on-orbit GEO satellites and Highly Elliptical Orbit sensors, provides worldwide infrared coverage as the Air Force replaces the legacy Defense Support Program missile warning and missile detection satellites that began operations over 45 years ago.
KC-46 Refueling Certification.
The Air Force and Boeing recently completed certification testing for the KC-46A Pegasus to refuel an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft. It is the second aircraft to be certified for refueling under the KC-46’s Phase III certification testing, after the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was certified in February. Testing is underway to certify the C-5, B-2 and F-22 for refueling. Phase II certification was completed in December 2018. The KC-46 is currently also certified to refuel the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster, A-10 Warthog, KC-46 Pegasus, B-52 Stratofortress, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and F-15E aircraft.
New MDA Chief. On May 31 Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill succeeded Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves as 11th director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) during a ceremony. Hill moves up from being deputy director since November 2016. Greaves served as director since June 2017 while the previous director, Vice Adm. James Syring served for almost four years. Before helping lead MDA, Hill was Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems and Aegis combat systems major program manager.
New CACI Chief. CACI International President and CEO Ken Asbury is retiring effective June 30 and will be succeeded by John Mengucci, currently the company’s chief operating officer (COO), effective July 1. Mengucci has been with CACI since 2012, joining the company after service as president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions-Civil Product Line, a $4 billion business area. As COO, Mengucci, along with Asbury, have propelled CACI to a $4.5 billion company through a string of acquisitions and organic growth. Dr. J.P. London, CACI’s chairman, says the leadership transition will be “seamless” and that Mengucci “brings the leadership, vision, values and mastery of technology to drive performance for all our stakeholders.” Asbury joined CACI as CEO in 2013.
Republican Senate Challenger. Republican Detroit business and Army combat veteran John James will challenge Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) in the 2020 Senate elections, he announced June 6. James, 37, ran against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) as a Republican in the 2018 midterm elections, but was defeated by a margin of over 6 percent. James served multiple tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom as an Army Ranger and as an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot. Peters, a Senate Armed Services Committee member who joined the Senate in 2015 after six years in the House, is the ranking member of the SASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, and sits on the SASC Airland Subcommittee.
HAC Defense Bill. The House Appropriations Committee announced Wednesday that the House will consider H.R. 2740, the first FY ’20 minibus encompassing five spending bills to include defense, on the floor beginning June 12. The minibus includes over $986 billion, about $645 billion of which is defense spending. H.R. 2740 also includes spending bills for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; State and Foreign Operations; Legislative Branch; and Energy and Water Development.
Report on DDG-51 Hybrid Drive. The House Armed Services Committee Readiness subcommittee defense authorization bill mark would direct the Navy Secretary to provide a report to the committee by September on the availability of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to be retrofitted with hybrid electric drive (HED) systems. HEDs combine an electric motor with the DDG’s main reduction gear to be used at speeds under 13 knots. The Navy previously said electric motors consume less fuel, improve efficiencies, and lower costs. The USS Truxton (DDG-103) is the only ship featuring the HED. In 2015 the Navy planned to start retrofitting 34 DDGs with HEDs, but the FY ’19 budget request cut the funding to focus on other priorities while fuel costs also decreased.
MDA Sites. The HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee’s markup of the FY ’20 defense authorization bill would allow the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to build portions of the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii with research, development, test and evaluation funds. It also would direct the Defense Secretary to designate the potential third interceptor site for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system within the contiguous U.S. The Defense Department has decided where the site would be, but has not made it public. It is thought to be on the East Coast or in the northeast part of the Midwest. The report is due by January 2020. However, the subcommittee noted this should not be construed as requiring DoD to start construction or that there is a current military requirement for the site.
…Boost-Phase. The mark also directs the Pentagon’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to conduct a comprehensive analysis of alternatives (AOA) on “current boost-phase technologies being developed or investigated.” The AOA should include maturity of systems, total development and operational deployment costs, policy implications for strategic stability, and schedule. CAPE would then provide a briefing of its findings to the committee by March 2020.
DDG Named for Coastie. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer named the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer DDG-132 in honor of Quentin Walsh, a World War II Coast Guard Captain who was awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Normandy. Spencer announced this alongside commandant of the Coast Guard Adm, Karl Schultz, during a ceremony aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle while in Cherbourg, France during the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings. DDG-132 will be built at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Maine.
New USMC Helmet. The Marine Corps is looking for a new lighter helmet system that cuts down on the current bulkiness from cables, headsets and battery packs. A Request for Information released June 4 for the Integrated Helmet System details plans to find a prototype helmet that meets compatibility requirements with night vision devices and communication equipment while retaining power capacity in a lighter configuration. The helmets are expected to range from a small size weighing 2.9 pounds up to a 3.8 lb. extra-large version. “The IHS shall provide a universal, modular mounting system for all components that allows for compatibility with legacy and future capabilities,” the RFI says.
A-EHF Developments. The Air Force’s fifth advanced-EHF military communications satellite (AEHF-5) was encapsulated June 5 into the United Launch Alliance Atlas V payload fairing at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Florida, the service announced June 6. The payload will soon head to SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to be integrated with the Atlas V launch vehicle ahead of a currently scheduled June 27 launch window opening. The service also announced Thursday that AFSMC transferred control of AEHF-4 to the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., on May 3, one month ahead of schedule. Lockheed Martin builds the AEHF satellites.
HASC Limiting B-52 Engine Funds. The HASC Seapower subcommittee’s mark of the FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act limits funds for the Air Force’s B-52 commercial engine replacement program until the service secretary submits a capability development document and a signed test and evaluation master plan. Subcommittee staff members told reporters Tuesday that the funding fencing is concerned about the Air Force’s use of Section 804 authorities for rapid prototyping and development on the massive re-engine program, and want to ensure the service is performing its “due diligence” with regard to requirements before full funding for the program is authorized.
Software Reform Bill. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) introduced a bill last week to speed up the Pentagon’s software acquisition process and open contract opportunities to more small and medium-sized business. The CODER Act would delineate DoD software procurement from the way traditional hardware assets are purchased, and create a more iterative approach that allows new software technology to be purchased faster. “Due to the lengthy nature of the current acquisition process for defense software, service members are exposed to unnecessary risk, as they wait for software updates to critical weapons and operating systems,” Slotkin said in a statement. The bill encourages the department to seek out new technologies from non-traditional partners and expedites the acquisition process by making certain software programs exempt from the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System Manual and DoD 5000 regulations.
Secure Army WiFi. PacStar announced June 5 the Army is beginning to field its Secure Wireless Command Post (SWCP) tool designed to improve soldiers’ ability to transmit data in the battlefield and shrink the system size for easier set-up. Initial fielding of SWCP began in summer 2018 to expeditionary signal brigades, but the system has now received all Defense Department certifications to deploy throughout the Army. SWCP is built to produce secure classified and unclassified WiFi at command posts in a smaller SWaP, ruggedized capability. “By going wireless, command post set up and tear down times are reduced by hours, and communications teams save the time and expense of transporting and installing thousands of feet of wire for every move. Soldiers can operate untethered from their workstations for improved collaboration,” company officials said in a statement.
BAE Systems/UiPath. BAE Systems has partnered with technology firm UiPath to develop “software robots” built to help customers automate high-volume business processes. The robotic process automation tools are available to BAE Systems’ customers to increase automation capabilities, reduce operating costs and build machine learning capacity. “We are transitioning RPA technology from traditional business processes to automate intelligence analysis workflows, aligning to major intelligence community augmented analytics initiatives,” Manish Parikh, chief technology officer of BAE Systems’ Intelligence & Security sector, said in a statement. “Working with UiPath, our analysts are laying the foundation on which future augmented analytics capabilities will be designed and integrated into government systems.” BAE Systems is also leveraging UiPath’s tools to develop new automation capabilities for its own Advanced Analytics Lab.
Shine a Light on Domestic Terror. House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) last week introduced a bill to improve transparency on data about domestic terrorism and research on the issue. “Domestic terrorism, fueled largely by a surge in white supremacist extremism, presents a growing threat to the security of our homeland,” says Thompson in introducing the Domestic Terrorism Documentation and Analysis of Threats in America Act (H.R. 3106). He says “few American know much about what exactly the federal government is doing to prevent domestic terrorism. The bill would require the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to produce an annual, unclassified report on domestic terrorist incidents, investigations and prosecutions, and establish a DHS funded university research center to study the issued and publish a database on domestic terrorist incidents.
Biodefense Bill Passes. The House last week passed by voice vote a biodefense bill that reauthorizes the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act and provides updated authorities. Some provisions in the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act, which passed the Senate by voice vote in May, include directing the Government Accountability Office to review spending by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on capacity and biosurveillance capability in response to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies, improve research, development and acquisition of medical countermeasures for the Strategic National Stockpile, and authorized the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop strategic initiatives for threats that pose a significant risk to national security. President Trump must still sign the bill to become law.