KC-46. Boeing delivered the seventh KC-46A tanker to Altus AFB, Oklahoma on Monday, the company and the Air Force confirmed Thursday. The service and Boeing continue to work through a series of foreign object debris issues that halted deliveries of the new aerial refueler in late February, and are working on a schedule for future deliveries, a Boeing spokesperson said.

C-130s. The Air Force recently removed 60 C-130H military transport aircraft from service to examine and replace aging engine propeller blades that had been deemed risky, Lt. Gen. Timothy Fay, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements. said at a Thursday HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing. Fifty-five aircraft have had their propellers replaced to date, and the final five should be complete “this week,” he said.

ABMS. The Air Force’s FY ’20 budget proposal includes $36 million in RDT&E funds to continue the Advanced Battle Management System effort, a follow-on to the service’s JSTARS mission once the recapitalization effort was canceled in the FY ’19 budget. Funds for ABMS will be spread out among the service’s portfolio, several spokespeople said, including under MQ-9 efforts, and in space R&D programs.

Shanahan. A watchdog group released a letter Wednesday asking the DOD IG to investigate whether Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has violated ethics rules and mishandled issues related to his former employer of 30 years, Boeing. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s letter critiques Shanahan’s alleged disparaging of other contractors and notes several major contracts being awarded to Boeing in 2018. A spokesman for Shanahan has stated that the secretary continues to comply with the ethics agreement he signed as deputy defense secretary in 2017.

Cyber vs. Nuke. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he doesn’t believe that cyber capabilities can be a substitute for the nation’s nuclear deterrence forces, saying “we need to be very careful to maintain a safe, effective and credible nuclear deterrent on its own.” In response to a question from Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who said “those who favor reducing the size of our nuclear forces often argue” that cyber capabilities and be used to deter an adversary’s use of nuclear weapons. Dunford said the makeup of U.S. nuclear forces has been reviewed for the past three or four presidential administrations and the conclusion is the “current construct of the nuclear triad with a robust nuclear command and control capability is the most effective way to deter nuclear war.” The triad refers to land, air and sea-based nuclear weapons.

New Kessel Run Offices. The Air Force is drawing upon the success of its Kessel Run office in Boston and has opened two new outposts dedicated to coding issues in the service, Will Roper, the service’s acquisition chief, said Friday at a think tank event in Washington, D.C. Kobayashi Maru is operational at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, while Bespin just opened under PEO Business and Enterprise Systems at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. “We’ve really shifted from one problem, which is we can’t code in the Air Force – and now we can – to we code too quickly to get code approved to operate,” Roper told reporters. These offices will hopefully enable a “culture shift” within the service to move and approve code more quickly, he added.

Appointments and Hires. President Trump has nominated Troy Edgar to be chief financial officer of the Department of Homeland Security. Edgar is the CEO of the business strategy consulting firm Global Conductor, Inc., and previously was mayor of Los Alamitos, Calif. He has also worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Boeing. Meanwhile, Erin Joe has begun her service as the second director of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTTIC) within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Joe joined came to CTTIC from the FBI where she led efforts against various nation-state cyber and cyber-terrorism threats worldwide. And Lockheed Martin has named Roderick McLean as vice president and general manager for its Air Mobility & Maritime Missions organization and Bridget Lauderdale as vice president and general manager for the Integrated Fighter Group organization within the Aeronautics segment.

TransDigm Deal. TransDigm Group completed its $4 billion acquisition of Esterline Technologies that expands its mix of proprietary products for the aerospace and defense markets, and further boosts its aftermarket exposure. The deal value includes the assumption of debt. About 40 percent of Esterline’s $2 billion in sales are with commercial aerospace customers and the rest are evenly split between defense and industrial markets.

New Nuclear Cruise Missile Work. Boeing got a $250 million sole-source Air Force contract to prepare the planned nuclear-tipped Long-Range Standoff [LRSO] cruise missile to fly aboard the B-52H bomber, the Air Force said Wednesday. The work, to be completed by Dec. 31, 2024, will mostly happen in Oklahoma City. About 1,000 LRSO missiles will replace the current nuclear-tipped cruise missile, the 1980s-vintage Air Launched Cruise Missile, starting in the late 2020s.

Navy Cyber Attacks. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters Wednesday the Navy has stopped releasing flag officer assignments publicly since October because it is concerned the leaders are targeted in cyber attacks. “I say there’s always a tension between transparency and security. And I don’t know if you’ve been personally attacked in the cyber world but our new flags are. And so if we can do anything to kind of make sure they’re keeping their information secure.” The CNO added that “this may not work out in the end. You know I don’t know, but that’s kind of our mindset there.” When asked how the Navy differs from the other service branches, which continue to release flag officer assignments, he said “we’ll let them know what we find out.”

…And China Cyber. That justification comes after a recent Wall Street Journal article detailing an internal Navy report that described the service and its industry partners “under cyber siege” by Chinese and other hackers. Richardson commended Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer for “having the courage to just commission a report that looks into this.” He acknowledged this is not the first report about cyber challenges for the Navy and its contractors “so we shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that that’s a target.” The CNO said they just got the report and the Navy leadership is organizing its thinking and response “and we’ll be moving out with urgency.” Richardson said he does not know if the Navy will takes the lead or be part of a fast-moving team to address the issues. What is important is “as long as we all kind of move this forward with a sense of urgency that’s responsive to the timeframe of the challenge,” Roichardson said.

Zumwalt In Canada. The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) arrived in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada on March 11. DDG-1000 left its home port of San Diego for its first operational underway event, which includes sailing to a Canadian naval base. During the port visit, the Zumwalt is scheduled to host Canadian Forces, Maritime Forces Pacific Commander, Rear Adm. Bob Auchterlonie, and U.S. Consul General in Vancouver Katherine Dhanani. The ship is under operational control of the U.S. 3rd Fleet.

MV-22 Upgrades. Naval Air Systems Command awarded the Bell-Boeing Joint Program Office (JPO) an $86 million modification to upgrade four MV-22 Ospreys from the Block B to Block C configuration to support the Common Configuration Readiness and Modernization Program (CC-RAM). This March 8 modification also provides for the planned maintenance interval effort for one of the CC-RAM aircraft. Work will mostly occur in Ridley Park, Pa., and is expected to be finished by March 2021.

Poland IBCS. Northrop Grumman has received a $713 million deal from the Army to produce Poland’s future air and missile defense command and control system. Poland will now become the first international partner to acquire Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS) after selecting the capability for the first phase of its WISŁA air and missile defense program. The U.S. Army has previously selected IBCS to be developed as its next-generation air and missile defense command and control capability. “Through the acquisition of IBCS, Poland will be in line with the U.S. Army’s future direction. Poland will have the flexibility to consider any radar and any interceptor, optimize sensor and effector integration and keep pace with an evolving threat,” Dan Verwiel, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for missile defense and protective systems, said in a statement. Poland initially signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance in March 2018 that it planned to purchase IBCS. For the program, Northrop Grumman will build IBCS engagement operations centers and integrated fire control network relays designed to deliver IBCS net-enabled command and control for four firing units.

Senate AI Caucus. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) on March 13 said they’ve formed a new bipartisan Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus. The new group will help bring in outside experts and academia to ensure new AI-related policy decision account for the appropriate ethical and economical considerations. Portman and Heinrich’s announcement follows the recent release of the White House’s AI initiative that directs federal agencies to prioritize research funds for AI projects. “AI is a mix of promise and pitfall, which means, as policymakers, we need to clear-eyed about its potential. I’m pleased to launch the AI Caucus with Senator Heinrich to ensure that Congress is home to the substantive conversations necessary to make responsible policy about emerging technology and ensure AI works for, and not against, American citizens and U.S. competitiveness,” Portman said. The new caucus will also include Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

Northrop/Marines Training. Northrop Grumman said on March 12 its Distributed Training Center recently hosted two virtual training events with the Marine Corps. The simulated training brought together an F-15E aircrew based at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho with a group of Marines out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. “The Marines were impressed with the high fidelity training and said the customized scenarios felt like real life,” Martin Amen, Northrop Grumman’s director of secure network operations, said in a statement. Northrop Grumman was tasked with designing and supporting the mission scenarios the Marines would have to execute, which included training as Joint Tactical Air Controller/Joint Forward Observers and having to call in air strikes and artillery fire to support their formation.

IoT Security Bill. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced bipartisan legislation on March 12 that would require all government-owned Internet of Things devices to meet new cyber security standards. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), would call on NIST to develop new security standards for Internet-connected devices for the federal government. Congress has paid particular attention to the growing cyber threat posed by IoT devices, which is expected to reach 20 billion devices by 2020. Malicious cyber actors have exploited IoT supply chain vulnerabilities and used the devices to carry out  Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Next EUCOM Commander Nominated. President Trump on Friday named Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters to be the next Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and leader of U.S. European Command, subject to Senate confirmation. Wolters is currently serving as commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe; commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa; commander, Allied Air Command; and director, Joint Air Power Competence Centre. NATO has approved his nomination. Wolters, a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours, previously served as the director for operations on the Joint Staff. He would replace outgoing EUCOM Commander Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

2020. Former Texas Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Thursday that he is running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, joining an already crowded field of candidates. O’Rourke became a household name when he launched a Senate bid against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2018, but he ultimately lost to the incumbent. O’Rourke joined the House in 2013, representing El Paso and its surrounding areas, and was a member of the House Armed Services and the House Veterans Affairs Committees.

Navajo. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer announced the new class of towing, salvage, and rescue ships will be named the Navajo-class, in honor of contributions Navajo have made to the armed forces. These ships will be based on existing commercial towing offshore vessel designs and replace the T-ATF-166 and T-ARS-50-class vessels. The first ship in this new class will be the USNS Navajo (T-ATS-6). Gulf Island Shipyards previously won a $63.5 million contract for detail design and construction of the vessels. The first ship is expected to be finished by March 2021.

LHA-8. Huntington Ingalls Industries performed a keel laying and authentication ceremony at its Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard on March 14 for the future USS Bougainville (LHA-8). LHA-8 is the third ship in the America-class (LHA-6) of amphibious assault ships. LHA-8 is the first Flight I ship of the America-class, which includes a reincorporated well deck for surface assault capability. LHA-8 also has a larger flight deck that can accommodate F-35Bs and Osprey V-22. HII’s Pascagoula facility is currently producing the future Tripoli (LHA-7).

DDG-117. The future guided missile destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) will be commissioned at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on July 27, following site approval by Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer. DDG-117 is the 67th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and will include the Baseline 9 Aegis combat system. The Navy accepted delivery of the Ignatius from Huntington Ingalls Industries on Feb. 22.

USCYBERCOM Investments. Commander Of U.S. Cyber Command Gen. Paul Nakasone says funding and flexible acquisition authorities provided by Congress for his command in fiscal year 2019 so far has been invested in operational tools for Cyber Mission Forces, big data analysis, and “an opportunity for our developers to operate off site at a facility to look at new networks, new capabilities, new infrastructures” that was done rapidly and legally. He told a House Armed Services Committee panel that of the $75 million USCYBERCOM was appropriated for acquisitions, it has spent about $44 million and only expects to spend between $60 million to $65 million by the end of the fiscal year. Eventually, the command will get better at spending its acquisition funds in a timely manner but the flexible authorities are still needed in order to keep up with rapidly changing threats, he said.

…Positions Open. The flexible acquisition account is the first time the command has been given the opportunity to “operate at their speed,” Nakasone said of America’s cyber adversaries in response to a question from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). USCYBERCOM has 10 positions to leverage its flexible acquisition authorities and has filled six to date, he said. The remaining positions will be filled this year, which “will be extremely helpful for us to be able to execute the monies.”

DOD IG Report. A report released Wednesday by the DOD Inspector General chastised the F-35 Joint Program Office for improperly following regulation requirements related to managing government-furnished property. Officials “relied solely on the prime contractor [Lockheed Martin] to account for all of the” government property, and as a result the Pentagon does not have an independent means of tracking how the contractor managed the property or what it is worth, the report said. The DOD IG laid out several recommendations for actions to be taken before a decision is made to begin full-rate production for the F-35, including appointing a new officer to verify the existence and completeness of all F-35 property and account for it via financial statements, and establish and implement procedures for officials to continuously input data in accordance with regulations.