AI Investment. The Pentagon is planning to invest nearly $1.5 billion dollars over the next five years in its Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on July 13. Speaking during an event hosted by the National Security Commission on AI, Austin noted the increased investment arrives as the department looks to proliferate AI efforts across the department and each of the services while implementing ethical use of the new technology. “The commission speaks of establishing ‘justified confidence’ in AI systems. And we want that confidence to go beyond just ensuring that AI systems function, but also ensuring that AI systems support our founding principles,” Austin said. “We’re going to immediately adjust, improve, or even disable AI systems that aren’t behaving the way that we intend.”
Drogue, Not Boom. The U.S. Air Force said that Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the head of Air Mobility Command, approved the KC-46A centerline drogue system as the first Interim Capability Release (ICR) to meet joint force air refueling requirements on July 9. The Boeing KC-46A tanker is still operating under restrictions because of Category I deficiencies in its Remote Vision System for the boom and the boom telescope actuator. Van Ovost said that “the last six months of operational use and programmatic evaluation indicate conditions have been met for ICR declaration” of the centerline drogue system. While the Air Force moves forward on its KC-46A initial operational test and evaluation plan for the KC-46A, full operational capability is unlikely to occur until 2024.
New Hypersonics Center. Northrop Grumman last week broke ground on a 60,000 square-foot Hypersonics Center of Excellence in Elkton, Md., which will include investments in digital engineering and smart infrastructure to provide full life-cycle support for hypersonic weapons, from design and development to production and integration. “Our new hypersonics production facility will optimize our development efficiency, drive affordability, and ultimately deliver weapons to our warfighter faster,” said Rebecca Torzone, vice president of missile products for Northrop Grumman. Construction of the facility is expected to be done by 2023.
India P-8I. Boeing has delivered India’s 10th P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, the second delivered under an option for four additional aircraft to the country. The P-8I was first inducted into the Indian Navy in 2013. The latest aircraft was awarded as part of a contract option in 2016, the company said July 13. Boeing noted the Indian navy was the first international customer for the P-8 Poseidon. The overall P-8 line is also operated by the U.S. Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, and United Kingdom Royal Air Force. Under this contract, Boeing also provides training for flight crews, spare parts, ground support equipment and field service representative support.
C-130 Cuts. As the U.S. Air Force prepares to mothball its oldest Lockheed Martin C-130s and move to a fleet of 255 Hercules airlifters from 300, the service is “working very closely” with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, which own the older planes, “seeing if we can find, mutually agreeable replacement missions,” as the cut of 45 planes represents “about five units,” says Air Force Lt. Gen. David Nahom, the service’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs. For example, the Air Force Reserve’s 357th Airlift Squadron, which has operated C-130Hs at Maxwell-Gunter, AFB, Ala., will become the formal training unit for the Air Force’s MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter by Boeing and Leonardo. The remaining inventory of 255 C-130s “covers what we need for our tactical lift fleet and includes support to the homeland,” Nahom said. “The tactical lift fleet carries probably the least risk of any of our fleets in the Air Force. We’ve got some high risk in some of our fleets, and it’s not in the tactical lift so we’ve got to balance that risk across our portfolios.” In addition, future tactical lift in areas in which logistics is threatened will likely require new technologies, he said.
Project Lighthouse. The U.S. Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) and Google Cloud have agreed to use the latter’s technology to integrate emerging technologies for aircraft maintenance under the new Project Lighthouse, which is to harness Google Cloud’s Application Programming Interface management platform, Apigee, and managed application platform, Anthos. Google Cloud said that the agreement will “optimize maintenance readiness, increase staff productivity and reduce overall costs” for the Air Force. Nathan Parker, RSO’s deputy program executive officer, said in a statement that the Air Force partnership with RSO “is a significant milestone for RSO on our journey to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies, when everything is connected, and deliver on our mandate to solve the Air Force’s toughest sustainment challenges.” Parker said that Project Lighthouse “is a hardware-flexible, software-driven approach that provides optionality at scale.” Google Cloud said that the new aircraft maintenance ecosystem will integrate aircraft sustainment solutions across companies—solutions ranging from predictive maintenance software to manufacturing robotics to augmented reality headset and other hardware.
People News. John Rood, who served as the under secretary of defense for policy for just over two years during the Trump administration, has been named CEO of the commercial space company Momentus, Inc. Rood was forced out of his Pentagon role in February 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, in part due to his support for providing security assistance to Ukraine. Before assuming the top policy job at the Defense Department, Rood led international business growth at Lockheed Martin and also had been an executive at Raytheon. Larry Prior, an operating executive for the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, has joined the board of directors of Shift5, which provides data and cybersecurity to the transportation industry and military platforms. Prior was president and CEO of CSRA, Inc., which he helped spin out from the former CSC in 2015 until it was acquired by General Dynamics in 2018. He has also held leadership positions at BAE Systems, ManTech International, Science Applications International Corp., and other companies.
Operational Acceptance. The U.S. Space Force said that its fifth Lockheed Martin GPS III satellite is now operational with Schriever AFB, Colo.’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron, which performs command and control of the GPS constellation for military and civil users. The squadron said that the satellite, which launched on June 18, became operational on June 29. Nicknamed “Neil Armstrong” after the famed astronaut, the satellite is the 24th Military Code GPS satellite. Lockheed Martin said that it has completed the sixth, seventh, and eighth GPS III satellites and is awaiting launch dates.
T-EPF-15 Naming. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker on July 16 announced the future Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport ship (EFP) will be named USNS Point Loma (T-EPF-15) after the San Diego seaside community. Point Lomo will be the last of 15 EPFs awarded by the Navy after the first was delivered in 2012. The Navy awarded Austal USA $235 million to build T-EPF-15 in February. The catamaran-type ship will feature an enhanced expeditionary medical capability beyond the regular features as a high-speed, shallow draft capability to support intra-theater maneuver of personnel and supplies. It features a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp.
Bollinger Barge. Bollinger Shipyards christened a new ocean transport barge on July 10 for General Dynamics’ (GD) Electric Boat. GD will use the 400 by 100 foot barge, named the Holland, to support construction and maintenance of the Columbia-class ballistic missile and Virginia-class attack submarines. “The Holland will play an integral role in our mission to design and deliver the Columbia-class, the nation’s top strategic defense priority. It embodies the spirit of submarine designer John Holland, whose innovation, determination and commitment to excellence laid the foundation for modern submarine construction,” Kevin Graney, president of Electric Boat, said. GD originally chose Bollinger to build the Holland in November 2019. Bollinger built the barge at its Marine Fabrication facility in Amelia, La.
T-AO 205. The Navy plans to christen the future USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205), the first in a new class of U.S. Navy fleet oiler ships, on July 17. The ship was built by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) in San Diego. This type of ship transfers fuel, lubricants, fresh water and small amounts of dry cargo as part of the Navy’s combat logistics force. The new ships are named after civil rights activist and former Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and are based on commercial design standards and will recapitalize the current T-AO 187-class replenishment oilers.
HDR-H Funding. The House Appropriations Committee FY ‘22 defense spending bill added $75 million to the Defense Department’s budget request to fund work on a Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii (HDR-H). The committee report designated this as “funding restoration” but the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has not requested the funds for two years in a row. MDA last sought funding, $275 million, in the FY ‘20 budget request. At the time, the agency expected HDR-H to finish development and initial fielding in FY ‘23. The FY ‘17 defense authorization bill required MDA to develop a plan to procure a discriminating radar or sensor to improve missile defense of Hawaii. In June, MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said the current architecture can defend Hawaii today from a simple North Korean-style attack, but future sensors will help defend against more complex threats like multiple countermeasures, multiple reentry vehicles, and multiple maneuvering reentry vehicles. “In general the warfighters will want launch-to-demise coverage of that threat…again, we can handle it today but as we get more complex, that becomes very hard and without a sensor on the island it’s difficult,” Hill said last month.
Submarine Readiness. Naval Submarine Support Centers in Groton, Conn., Kings Bay, Ga., Bangor, Wash., and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, changed their names to Submarine Readiness Squadrons (SRSs) on July 15. The Navy said this change is meant to align with the submarine community’s mission to generate combat ready submarines to meet mission tasking. The change in name does not change the SRS’s mission and they will still provide centralized operational, logistic and administrative support to submarine squadrons. “The name change more accurately reflects our mission to ensure submarine readiness is maintained at the highest level,” Cmdr. Shawn William, commanding officer of SRS-32, said in a statement. The centers are now assigned as SRS 31 for Bangor, 32 for Groton, 33 for Pearl Harbor, and 36 for Kings Bay.
Army Tablets. Leonardo DRS has received a $105 million order from the Army to continue delivering Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS) II, new rugged tablets to run the service’s next-generation battle command platform. “MFOCS is a vital component of the Mission Command suite of integrated capabilities used across the U.S. Army and Marine Corps ground fleets, and our team members have designed and manufactured a powerful, reliable and affordable edge capability that soldiers have come to rely upon,” Bill Guyan, senior vice president of Leonardo DRS’ land electronics business, said in a statement.
DHS Unmanned Efforts. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate is working with a team of federal, academic and industry partners to evaluate unmanned maritime technology that can operate on and below the surface. The team is conducting acceptance testing of six of Ocean Aero’s Triton autonomous vessels, which can be powered by wind and solar, and can sail and submerge. The testing is taking place at the Port of Gulfport, Miss., and will last until early fall. The vessels will be equipped with different sensors, will be evaluated for navigation; surface, diving, and subsurface operations; sustained operations using only wind and solar power; and how well they can serve as a platform for cameras and sensors to detect anomalies and threats. Partners on the evaluation include the Coast Guard, Naval Research Lab, Univ. of Southern Mississippi, Penn State’s Applied Research Lab, Cherokee Federal, Ocean Aero, and the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute.
Face Recognition Testing. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has completed another round of face recognition testing, this time against one-to-many datasets in an airport transit environment, and the results show that the top matching algorithms are very accurate. NIST says that seven of the algorithms it tested successfully matched a passenger’s face using a single scan with 99.5 percent accuracy or better, highlighting that the results benefited if the database contained several images of the passenger. The test simulations included identifying passengers at the gate and recording their exit for immigration. “If airlines use the more accurate [algorithms], passengers can board many flights with no errors,” says Patrick Grother, a NIST computer scientist and one of the leads on the study.