AUSA 2022. The Association of the United States Army’s annual conference is next week in Washington, D.C. The event is set to gather over 33,000 attendees and more than 650 exhibitors. Senior Army leaders and program officials are expected to provide updates on key modernization initiatives as well as detail the service’s new ‘Army of 2030’ doctrine. The new doctrine builds on the Army’s incremental effort over the last few years to develop a new Multi-Domain Operations concept, envisioning how the force must fight in the future. Programmatic updates will range from the service’s efforts to develop new Future Vertical Lift platforms and advanced combat vehicles to the burgeoning interest in vehicle electrification technologies, specifically hybrid-electric capabilities. Defense industry exhibitors at the conference are planning to showcase new capabilities for robotic platforms, combat vehicle upgrades, directed energy systems, counter-drone tools and more. 

Space National Guard. As the U.S. Space Force continues to evaluate whether to create a Space National Guard or form a combined active duty and Reserve component that has members of the Air National Guard, the Air & Space Forces Association is backing the passage of S. 4179, the

Space National Guard Act, introduced this year by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “Maintaining Air National Guard units with space responsibilities instead of forming a Space National Guard integrated with the Space Force as a whole, will only create inefficiencies and bureaucratic friction,” the Air & Space Forces Association wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to Feinstein and Rubio. The Army and Air National Guard have had 17 units dedicated to space missions in Guam and seven states—Florida, Colorado, New York, California, Ohio, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Cube Satellites. The Space System Command’s small launch and targets division’s office at Kirtland AFB, N.M. has awarded Northrop Grumman nearly $30 million under the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) contract for the Space Test Program-29A (STP-29A) mission for delivering up to 400 pounds of STP cube satellites to low Earth orbit in September 2024 aboard Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur IV rocket. The cube satellites are to demonstrate future space technologies for DoD. OSP-4 is to enable launch within 12 to 24 months of a task order.

Hypersonics. Raytheon, which won a more than $985 million U.S. Air Force contract last month for the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), says that its expertise in heat management, propulsion, missile development and surface- and space-based sensing, will aid DoD in developing and fielding hypersonic weapons and systems to defeat them. One major challenge for HACM and other hypersonic platforms is developing lightweight advanced materials that can withstand the 3,000 degree temperatures and up generated by flights at a minimum 3,800 mph. Raytheon says that its missiles and defense division has been working with the company’s Collins Aerospace business to look into the use of advanced materials, like those that shield engine coverings, brake assemblies and other parts of an aircraft from high temperatures, “to help solve the heat-management problems that come with hypersonic flight.”

NDSA Experimental Testbed. The Space Development Agency said it has awarded Colorado’s Ball Aerospace a contract worth up to $176 million for the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) Experimental Testbed (NExT). The prototype agreement calls for Ball Aerospace to build 10 satellites and ground systems. The satellites are to launch in 2024. Ball is to integrate government furnished payloads “and will operate the NExT satellites from their facilities in Colorado,” SDA said. The agency envisions three space layers—the Transport Layer to target ground and maritime targets rapidly; the Tracking Layer to target advanced missiles; and the Custody Layer to fuse intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tracking data. NExT is to demonstrate “warfighter utility of emerging mission partner payloads prior to potential incorporation in future tranches,” SDA said. “NExT is not part of the NDSA Tranche architecture, but will demonstrate low-latency data transport and beyond line-of-sight command and control.  NExT will experiment with the infrastructure established by the Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL) to field and connect additional space vehicles with different mission payload configurations.”

Ford Departs. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., for its first deployment on Oct. 4. The Ford Carrier Strike Group will conduct operations and training exercises with NATO allies and partners in the Atlantic Ocean. During this deployment, CVN-78 will participate in training for long-range maritime strike. Air defense, anti-subsurface warfare and distributed maritime operations with the rest of the Ford Carrier Strike Group and partner participant countries. The ship’s departure came a day later than previously planned due to nor’easter that formed from the remnants of Hurricane Ian.

T-ATS-8. Bollinger Shipyards held a ceremony with the U.S. Navy, ceremonially laying the keel for the future Navajo-class towing. Salvage and rescue ship, USNS Saginaw Ojibwe Anishinabek (T-ATS 8), on Oct. 3 at its shipyard in Houma, La. As a ship in the Navajo-class, the vessel will provide ocean-going tug, salvage and rescue capabilities to support fleet operations, replacing the previous Fleet Ocean Tug (T-ATF 166) and Rescue and Salvage Ships (T-ARS 50) class ships. Bollinger is also building the future USNS Navajo (T-ATS 6) and Cherokee Nation (T-ATS 7) and is under contract for Lenni Lenape (T-ATS 9) and Muscogee Creek Nation (T-ATS 10).

T-AGS 67. The Navy and shipbuilder Halter Marine ceremonially laid the keel for the future Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship, T-AGS 67, on Oct. 4. The event took place at Halter Marine’s facility in Pascagoula, Miss., with Rear Adm. Tom Anderson, Program Executive Officer for Ships, as keel authenticator. “This is an awesome Navy day as we gather to celebrate the start of construction of the eighth ship in the Pathfinder class. We look forward to delivering another ship that provides significant capability in undersea warfare and charting the world’s coastlines,” Anderson said in a statement. The ship will be equipped with a moon pool for unmanned vehicle deployment and retrieval and is planned to perform acoustic, biological, physical and geophysical surveys to provide much of the U.S. military’s information on the ocean environment. T-AGS-67 will be 350 feet long with an overall beam of 58 feet.

Virginia-Class. The Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Corp. a $533 million modification on Oct. 3 for further lead yard support and development studies and design efforts for the Virginia-class attack submarines. This award includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value to $814 million. The work is expected to be finished by October 2023. This modification adds to the original contract awarded in October 2019 that aims to have the company maintain, update and support the attack submarines and related drawings and data for each Virginia-class vessel, including technology insertion, through its construction and post-shakedown availability period. The company is also providing engineering and related lead yard support for maintenance of the submarines. 

Skytower II. The Navy recently awarded Global Air Logistics and Training (GALT), Northrop Grumman and L-3 Harris Technologies an $8.4 million contract to develop the first phase of the Airborne Network Extension (ANE) Skytower II (STII) network pod to add capability to the Marine Corps’ General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. This contract was awarded as an Other Transaction Agreement/Authority (OTA) to streamline research and development/prototype development. When the first phase of work is finished, the Navy and Marine Corps plan to demonstrate this capability on surrogate aircraft before prototyping the system on an MQ-9A. STII is needed to enact an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) concept of operations “by providing tactically relevant operational communications and data sharing capabilities at the tactical edge,” the Navy said. The pod will be interoperable with existing STI capabilities, with multiple waveforms. The Navy said the ANE will complement a collection on onboard sensors and off-board systems, facilitate the retransmission, cross-banding and translation of data across gateway-connected networks. It also seeks to increase battlespace awareness and information sharing across the Navy and Joint Force. MQ-9s are expected to start deploying with the ANE STII in 2026.

VLS Reload. For the first time, the Navy tested reloading a vertical launch system from an offshore support vessel platform, the Military Sealift Command (MSC) fleet experimentation ship MV Ocean Valor, Oct. 4-7 at Naval Air Station North Island and in the San Diego Harbor. This demonstration, using the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), was conducted to provide proof of concept that such a support vessel can reload weapons systems pier side and while at sea. The Navy said this is being tested to expand the capability of VLS reloading in expeditionary environments. The VLS re-load was previously tested in 2016 and 2019 using other MSC platforms. This demonstration did not use live ordnance. MV Ocean Valor is an MSC-contracted vessel that supports logistics experimentation for fuel, stores, passengers and ordnance delivery. 

Phantom Scope. U.S. and United Kingdom naval forces conducted a one-day bilateral exercise with unmanned systems and artificial intelligence (AI) in the Persian Gulf on Oct. 7 called Phantom Scope. The exercise occurred off the coast of Bahrain to enhance maritime monitoring by crewed ships and operators ashore. Participating vessels included three Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels (USVs), the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) and Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels HMS Chiddingfold (M37) and HMS Bangor (M109). During the exercise, the Navy said the unmanned and AI systems operated with crewed ships and command centers ashore, with unmanned vessel sensors “able to locate and identify training aides in the water and relay visual depictions to the command centers.” This was part of the work being done by Task Force 59 based in 5th Fleet, to integrate unmanned and AI technologies into the Navy. The service underscored over the past year Task Force 59 has accrued over 25,000 hours of experience integrating new unmanned systems and artificial intelligence. 

DDG-123 Trials. The future USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG- 123) Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer completed acceptance trials on Oct. 6. During trials, the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) inspected the ship performing a series of demonstrations both pier side and while underway to validate performance. The service said the onboard systems like navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications, and propulsion applications met or exceeded Navy specifications. DDG-123 is a Flight IIA destroyer equipped with the Aegis Combat System Baseline 9C2. The Navy said it expects the ship to be delivered by shipbuilder HII Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., later this year. That yard is also in production on the future destroyers Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), Ted Stevens (DDG-128), Jeremiah Denton (DDG-129) and George M. McNeal (DDG-131).

People News. The Department of Homeland Security is appointing Nicholas Rasmussen as its new counterterrorism coordinator, making him the department’s top counterterrorism adviser and lead on counterterrorism activities. From December 2014 to December 2017, he was director of the National Counterterrorism Center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. CACI International says Tom Mutryn, its chief financial officer and treasurer, is retiring and will be succeeded by Jeff MacLauchlan effective Nov. 1. MacLauchlan joined CACI in May as a senior vice president on the finance team and before that was a co-founder of the special purpose acquisition company First Light Acquisition Group. He also has worked at Rockwell Collins and Lockheed Martin. Oshkosh Corp. says that Tim Bleck, vice president of the company’s Defense segment, will become president of the segment once John Bryant, the current president, retires on Nov. 1. Bleck has been with the company since 2006. Finally, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has selected Mona Harrington as assistant director of its National Risk Management Center. She has served as the acting assistant director since March and joined CISA from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission where she was executive director and chief information and security officer.

Dividend Increase. Lockheed Martin on Sept. 30 said it is hiking its quarterly dividend by 20 cents, or 7 percent, to $3 per share. The new dividend is payable on Dec. 30.

Election Security PSA. The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency last week published a joint public service announcement saying any “malicious cyber activity aiming to compromise election infrastructure is unlikely to result in large-scale disruptions or prevent voting.” The PSA also says there isn’t any evidence that” cyber activity has ever prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, compromised the integrity of any ballots cast, or affected the accuracy of voter registration information.”

New BAE Awards.  BAE Systems said on Oct. 5 it has received a five-year, $383 million deal from the Army covering sustainment work for its Bradley fighting vehicles and M993 Multiple Launch Rocket System carriers. “Equipping our men and women on the front lines with proven combat capabilities positions them to be unmatched in battle. “We are proud to continue our partnership with the U.S. Army to ensure the Bradley and M993 MLRS are prepared to support mission readiness,” Scott Davis, vice president of BAE Systems’ ground vehicles product line, said in a statement. BAE Systems also announced on Oct. 4 it has received a potential five-year deal worth up to $110 million from the Army for support services for M88 recovery vehicles. The company received an initial $34 million order under the deal, with work covering the Army’s fleet of M88A1, M88A2 and the new M88A3.

New BAE Facility. BAE Systems has also officially opened a new $150 million engineering and production facility in Austin, Texas, the company said on Oct. 4. Half of the 390,000-square foot facility at the Parmer Austin Business Park will be focused on manufacturing, while the site also has space for engineering design work and laboratories. “At the new site, the company has expanded its state-of-the-art manufacturing capability with a streamlined design that is easily reconfigurable to match evolving technologies,” the company wrote in a statement. “Work at the site will also focus on new and existing programs including the design, development, and manufacturing of radio frequency and electro-optical/infrared countermeasure systems as well as aircraft electrification technology.” The new facility is part of BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems sector.

Hypersonic Test Bed. The Pentagon said on Oct. 6 it has selected a Dynetics-led team for a new contract to help increase the department’s capacity for conducting hypersonic flight tests more regularly. Dynetic and a team of over 20 industry partners will operate a new hypersonics test bed that will also “leverage multiple commercially-available launch vehicles for ride-along hypersonic payloads,” according to the department. “In order to meet our objectives in hypersonics, we need to be able to launch flight tests much more regularly,” Mike White, DoD’s principal director for hypersonics, said in a statement. “That’s how we accelerate learning throughout our portfolio of development and demonstration programs.” The Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Test Resources Management Center (TRMC) will manage the test bed, which will be utilized “by a broad range of U.S. military hypersonics programs, DoD research programs, industry partners, and academia stakeholders,” according to the department.

M299 Launchers. The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $25.9 million deal for M299 launchers, the company said on Oct. 5. The M299 launchers are capable of firing Hellfire missiles and Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles, with the new award covering deliveries for the Army and international customers. “The M299 Launcher is the go-to solution for multiple aircraft and ground platforms when it comes to defending, deterring, and defeating current and future threats,” Joey Drake, Lockheed Martin’s air-to-ground missile systems program director, said in a statement. Lockheed Martin noted the deal will extend M299 production activities at its facilities in Ocala, Fla., and Archbald, Pa., and with Marvin Engineering, which performs final assembly and test, until 2025.