B-21 Exports? The Air Force has not yet addressed any plans to export the B-21 Raider as the next-generation bomber moves through development, Will Roper, the service’s acquisition chief, told reporters Nov. 12. “I’m going to keep my head focused on getting to Initial Operational Capability on time and then I’ll let the debate go where it goes,” he said. Roper acknowledged that the aircraft may be an appealing export. “I’ve heard from our warfighters many times that when we go into an allied fight only the U.S. is bringing bombers. So I can understand why diversifying is something that an operator would want,” he said. “But it’s a nuclear bomber that’s going to have a lot of our best military technology in it, so exportability and being able to secure those technologies is a difficult challenge, as it is for anything that we export.”
Peter King Retiring. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Monday that he plans to retire from Congress in 2020, after a 28-year career in the House. King serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security as ranking member of the emergency preparedness subcommittee, and served as committee chairman from 2005-2006 and again from 2011-2012. He also currently serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.
2020 POTUS Race Changes. Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that he was suspending his campaign to be the Republican challenger to President Trump in 2020. Meanwhile, the Democratic primary has two new ex-politician entrants as of this week: Former New York mayor, businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick both announced their candidacy for the presidential race, bringing the primary pool up to 19 hopefuls.
Counter-UAS, USAF. The Air Force on Wednesday released a pre-solicitation notice related to new counter-UAS research, development and prototyping. According to the notice posted via the new Beta SAM contracting website, the government anticipates a single award IDIQ R&D contract with Cost-Plus-Fixed-Fee Completion Task Orders, an ordering period of 72 months, and a maximum ordering amount of approximately $490 million. A draft RFP for this effort is anticipated to be released during the first quarter of calendar year 2020.
F-35 Availability. The Pentagon’s three F-35 variants are all operating “below service expectations” for aircraft availability, OT&E Director Robert Behler told a joint HASC readiness and TAL panel Wednesday. “The aircraft are breaking more often and taking longer to fix,” he said during a panel related to F-35 sustainability. JSF availability has improved in the year since then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis mandated that all fighter aircraft reach an 80 percent mission-capable rate, he acknowledged, but it still remains below 65 percent. F-35 PEO Air Force Lt. Gen Eric Fick told lawmakers that a deteriorated stealth coating on the F-35 canopies was the greatest contributor to the low mission capable rate.
Army Robot Award. The Army has selected FLIR’s Endeavor Robotics as the winner of its Common Robotic System-Heavy competition to find an unmanned ground vehicle capable of handling heavy-duty tasks such as explosive ordnance disposal. The company received a five-year production contract potentially worth $109 million to deliver up to 350 FLIR Kobra robots, which are capable of lifting up to 300 pounds and reaching out over 11 feet and around obstacles. Two bids were received for the work, with FLIR beating out QinetiQ. In March, the Army selected QinetiQ over FLIR to deliver the CRS-Individual, which is a small robot weighing less than 25 pounds and capable of being carried in a manpack. In 2017, the Army tapped Endeavor Robotics’ Centaur UGV to deliver a medium-sized unmanned ground vehicle for the Man Transportable Robotic Systems Increment II contract with deliveries still ongoing.
Gray Eagle Payload. The Army is soliciting insight on industry’s ability to deliver electro-optic/infrared/laser designation payloads for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone. In a Nov. 15 notice, officials wrote the Request for Information will be used to determine industry’s progress in the EO/IR/LD payload space, including new technologies and manufacturing capabilities available now or within the next two years. “The primary purpose of the EO/IR/LD payload is to support the MQ-1C mission to detect, identify and engage the enemy across all environmental conditions and terrain types,” officials wrote. New EO/IR/LD payload must also manage precision targeting and have multi-band sensor capabilities. The Army is also requiring potential solutions to have an independently steerable situational awareness camera and have capacity for automated image exploitation. Responses to the Army’s RFI are due by Dec. 13.
Sub Commander. Vice Adm. Darly Caudle relieved Vice Adm. Charles Richard as commander of Submarine Forces, Submarine Force Atlantic, and Allied Submarine Command during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk on Nov. 12. Richard is being promoted from three to four stars upon becoming commander of U.S. Strategic Command, where he will be responsible for the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise. Caudle previously served as Vice Director for Strategy, Plans and Policy on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and before that served as Commander of Submarine Force Pacific Fleet. Caudle said he aims to “prepare, employ, develop, and design undersea warriors and forces that are agile, persistent, flexible, interoperable, and resilient in order to provide competitive options and expand decision space for our senior leaders, impose costs on our adversaries, deter conventional and strategic attacks, and respond to threats at the speed of relevance.”
…Lines Of Effort. Caudle said he seeks to implement that strategy by operating three lines of effort: “generate and deploy combat ready and relentlessly lethal undersea forces that leverage our asymmetric overmatch during competition and conflict,” develop bold and innovative concepts to enhance and integrate with the broader DoD objectives of assured joint power projection while enabling all-domain maneuver warfare for the joint force, and design the next evolution of undersea forces “that supports, enables, and multiplies our future fleet with capacity and capabilities created to maintain an enduring warfighting advantage.”
La Jolla. The Navy finished converting the submarine USS La Jolla (SSN-701) into a Moore Training Ship (MTS) on Nov. 7, the service said Nov. 12. The La Jolla is the first of two next-generation training ships being converted at Norfolk Naval Shipyard into platforms to train nuclear sailors at the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, S.C. The other MTS, the USS San Francisco (SSN-711), has been in Norfolk since January 2017. The Navy noted SSN-701 was the first MTS conversion performed n Norfolk and the first one is almost 30 years. The process had the ship undergo two complete hull cuts, separating it into three pieces, recycling the center section, then adding three new sections to add 76 feet over the original ship length.
NSC Steel Cutting. Fabrication has begun on the Coast Guard’s 10th National Security Cutter, the Calhoun (WMSL 759), according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries. The start of fabrication means the first 100 tons of steel have been cut. Currently, the Coast Guard has contracted with HII to build 11 NSCs and Congress is considering whether to fund one more ship. The company has delivered eight NSCs.
New Truck CEO. Military tactical wheeled vehicle manufacturer Navistar Defense appointed Ted Wright as its CEO. Wright, who most recently was CEO of The O’Gara Group and is a board member of Navistar Defense, is taking on the newly created position following the sale in late 2018 of Navistar Defense by former parent Navistar, Inc., to Cerberus Capital Management. Navistar, which builds buses, trucks and engines, still owns 30 percent of its former defense business. Navistar Defense was being led by President Kevin Thomas, who is still in that role. Wright, a former Air Force active duty and reserve officer, has held leadership positions with a number of companies, including Vectrus, BAE Systems, KBR, United Defense, and ITT.
New Cyber Guide. The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the State Department have developed and released “A Guide to Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience” that outlines the U.S. all-hazards approach to critical infrastructure security and resilience. The “intent” of the 23-page guide “is to share basic information and U.S. lessons learned over the last 15 years, rather than to promote specific approaches,” it says. The guide is intended for U.S. and international partners.