AFWERX High-Speed VTOL. The U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX innovation arm, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) have announced the full list of 11 awardees out of an initial field of 218 entrants in the High Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) Concept Challenge, which began last year. HSVTOL would permit time critical insertion and extraction of special operations forces and equipment; personnel recovery; aeromedical evacuation; and tactical mobility. Last month, AFWERX, AFRL, and USSOCOM did not release the full list of awardees, but online company statements and reports indicated that the awardees include Dallas-based Jaunt Air Mobility, Bell, Reno-based Valkyrie Systems Aerospace, Washington-based Jetoptera, Inc., Florida-based VerdeGoAero, and Massachusetts-based Transcend Air. USSOCOM released the other five awardees on March 9: Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft; Virginia-based American Aerospace Technologies, Inc.; Dallas-based Astro Aerospace Ltd.; New Jersey-based Continuum Dynamics, Inc.; and Tennessee-based Whisper Aero.

…Future Evaluations

. Collaboration.Ai, a Minneapolis-based software and services company, is managing the joint crowdsourcing effort. “The solutions [for the concept challenge] identified by Collaboration.Ai meet or exceed rigorous evaluation criteria focused on technical merit, reliability, scalability, and other factors,” per a March 9 statement from AFWERX, AFRL, SOCOM, and Collaboration.Ai. “In the coming months, Collaboration.Ai will work closely with its subcontractors, USSOCOM, and USAF on the development of HSVTOL solutions that maximize the trade space of speed, range, survivability, payload, size, and flexibility to carry out the full range of applicable mission scenarios.” Reid Melville, the chief innovation officer for AFRL’s transformational capabilities office, said in the statement that the HSVTOL Concept Challenge is helping AFRL “understand how to build a new class of air vehicles.”

SpeedDealer Production Contract. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center digital directorate’s Theater Battle Control Division at Hanscom AFB, Mass., has picked the Lockheed Martin AN/TPY-4(V) long-range radar to move into production to replace the Air Force’s TPS-75 radar under the Air Force’s Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) rapid prototyping program–termed SpeedDealer. The TPS-75 has served to provide “real-time” radar airspace picture and data to support military commanders. Early last year, Lockheed Martin beat out Northrop Grumman and Australia-based CEA Technologies to receive an $8.4 million integration contract under SpeedDealer–a contract that included options for 35 state-of-the art, long-range radars.

…Sustainment Vote. Last September, Hanscom’s Theater Battle Control Division awarded a second SpeedDealer integration contract, worth $4 million, to Northrop Grumman. Air Force Col. Erik Rhylander, the division’s senior materiel leader, said in a March 9 statement that the SpeedDealer acquisition strategy “allows us to exercise the production option for one or both of the SpeedDealer follow-on contracts” and that both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman “have impressive systems.” Rhylander said that “after assessing radar capabilities, costs for production and sustainment, and residual technical risks to meeting the Air Force’s requirements, the AN/TPY-4(V)1 system provides the best overall value for the Air Force.” Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command, said on March 9 that U.S. adversaries “have invested a lot to out-sense and out-connect us in a robust EMS [electromagnetic spectrum] environment” and that, while legacy U.S. sensors, including the TPS-75, have performed well, “they have voted with their sustainment that their time is limited.”

CISA’s Good Day. The Senate last Thursday night passed the bipartisan fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations package that includes $2.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and also contains a provision requiring owners and operators to report to the agency within 72 hours once they’ve determined they’ve been the victim of a cyber-attack. The FY ’22 budget for CISA is nearly 25 percent more than the Biden administration requested for the agency and a clear signal by Congress of CISA’s leading role in helping federal civilian agencies and the private sector bolster their cybersecurity. The incident reporting provision also requires critical infrastructure entities to report to CISA within 24 hours if they have made a payment to a ransomware attacker. The spending bill now heads to President Biden, who is expected to sign it.

…SEC on Incident Reporting. The Securities and Exchange Commission last week proposed amendments to its disclosure rules that would require publicly traded companies to report material cybersecurity incidents as well as periodic reports about policies and procedures to identify and manage cybersecurity risks and on the board of directors’ oversight of these risks. “Investors want to know more about how issuers are managing those growing risks,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “I think companies and investors alike would benefit if this information were required in a consistent, comparable, and decision-useful manner.”

People News. Former Raytheon Co. executive Dave Wajsgras has been named CEO of satellite telecommunications operator Intelsat, effective April 4.  Wajsgras served as chief financial officer and then as chief of its $7.5 billion Intelligence, Information and Services segment. Bob Kolasky, who most recently was an assistant director at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in charge of the National Risk Management Center, has been named senior vice president for critical infrastructure at Exiger, which provides supply chain and third-party risk management solutions to its customers. Huntington Ingalls Industries has named Paul Harris, a former House Delegate in Virginia, as executive vice president and chief sustainability and compliance officer, reporting directly to Chris Castner, the company’s president and CEO. Harris has held compliance-related positions at Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Sodexo. HII also named Danny Dorsey as vice president of operations for its Ingalls Shipbuilding Division. He previously was ship program manager for all Navy DDG destroyer waterfront efforts at Ingalls.

Kratos Deal. Kratos Defense and Security Solutions earlier this year acquired Cosmic Advanced Engineered Solutions, which provides radio frequency, terrestrial, and space-based communications solutions, as well as applications for persistent infrared for missile defense systems. Capstone Partners, which advised Cosmic on the transaction, said buyers in the aerospace and defense industry seek companies with expertise in digital signals processing and strong government relationships. Cosmic’s customers include the U.S. Space Force, Space Command, Special Operations, Air Force and intelligence agencies.

Russian Subs. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said despite the limitations and failures in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nobody should assume their naval capacities are not a threat. “One should never underestimate one’s adversary and perhaps the shortcomings that we’ve seen with regards to the Russian army as it invades Ukraine, that same disadvantage doesn’t necessarily translate over to the Navy and their submarine force, for example,” Del Toro said during a McAleese and Associates conference on March 9. He said Russia has invested strategically and wisely in their submarine forces “and their technology approaches ours and so one should never underestimate that capability and the threat that that capability presents to us.” Del Toro said the Navy has been watching Russia’s military closely in its operations and “we’ll certainly apply those lessons as we continue to advance our submarine and undersea capability in general. Never underestimate their capability to cause damage,” he added.

DDG-128. The keel of the future USS Ted Stevens (DDG-128) was ceremonially laid at Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Ingalls Shipbuilding on March 9. The ship is named after former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the longest-serving Republican senator and president pro tempore in the 108th and 109th Congresses by the time he left office. DDG-128 will be the 78th Arleigh Burke-class guided -missile destroyer. A keel laying consists of the joining together of a ship’s modular components at the land level. The Ted Stevens will be a Flight III destroyer, featuring the  AN/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar and upgraded Aegis Combat System along with upgraded power, cooling and space to hold the large radar.

ICEX 2022. The Navy launched Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2022 in the Arctic Ocean on March 4 after the service finished building Ice Camp Queenfish. ICEX is a three-week exercise that aims to research, test and evaluate operational capabilities in the Arctic region. The Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), based in San Diego, serves as the lead organization for coordinating, planning and executing ICEX. It includes representatives from four countries and more than 200 participants over the five weeks of total operations including personnel from the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy and U.K. Royal Navy as well as the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Camp Queenfish is a temporary ice camp established on a sheet of ice called an ice floe to support testing submarine systems and other research work. The exercise includes two U.S. attack submarines. This is the 98th ice exercise conducted by the U.S. Submarine Force with the last ICEX was in 2020.

LHD-2. The Navy awarded BAE Systems’ San Diego Ship Repair a $126 million contract to conduct the fiscal year 2022 docking selected restricted availability on the Wasp-class landing helicopter deck ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on March 4. This availability covers the maintenance, modernization and repair of the LHD-2 and includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value to $148 million. Work will occur in San Diego and is expected to be finished by October 2023. The contract announcement said it was awarded via full and open competition with an undisclosed number of competitive proposals received. 

DDG-1000 Tomahawks. The Navy announced in a March 2 notice it intends to issue a delivery order to start integrating Raytheon Technologies Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles with the Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) destroyers by this June. The missiles will be launched form the Mk 57 Vertical Launching System (VLS). The delivery order under the preexisting contract is expected to last for five months, with one option for 12 additional months for a potential total performance period of 17 months.

Futures Command. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said on March 9 the delay in naming a new leader of the modernization-focused Futures Command should not signal the service is looking to change directions with the organization. “I think there’s been a little bit of a view that the fact that we have not named the new commanding general (CG) that somehow we might be thinking different thoughts about Army Futures Command. Army Futures Command is not going anywhere,” Wormuth said at the McAleese Conference. “They are a key part of that modernization team, as I said. And we are looking forward to getting a nomination for a new CG.” Gen. Mike Murray, Futures Command’s first leader, retired in December. “I talk a lot about the Army 2030. We need to be thinking about the Army 2040. When you think about that Army of the future that has all new capabilities, Futures Command is going to help us figure out what are the capabilities that we need, what are the requirements that we need. I think Futures Command will continue to have a role,” Wormuth said.

SASC Advances Noms. The Senate Armed Services Committee on March 8 advanced several nominations for senior DoD civilian positions by voice vote. The list includes Robert Storch to be DoD’s Inspector General, Lester Martinez-Lopez to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Christopher Lowman to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, Peter Beshar to be the Air Force’s general counsel, Franklin Parker to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Agnes Schaefer to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Frank Calvelli to be Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition. The nominations were immediately reported to the Senate floor for full consideration.

MH-47G Block II. Boeing said on March 3 it has received a $195 million deal for Lot 5 production of the MH-47G Block II, the  SOCOM-specific variant of the heavy-lift helicopter. The latest deal brings U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command’s number of MH-47G Block IIs to 36 aircraft, according to Boeing. Five MH-47G Block IIs have been delivered to date, with deliveries under the new order set to begin in 2024. “We’re answering the USASOAC’s call to modernize its fleet of heavy-lift helicopters,” Andy Bulita, Boeing’s H-47 program manager, said in a statement. “With this upgrade, new advances in technology enable the proven Chinook to meet evolving threats and ever-changing mission requirements.” The MH-47G Block II is designed with new rotor blades, improved drivetrain and an upgraded fuel cell system.