The Future of Work. In a post-COVID world, Northrop Grumman Chief Kathy Warden said to expect some changes in how the company operates, which will include cost reductions. During the ongoing pandemic, the company has “certainly found opportunity,” which “we are going to continue to mine” and “a few are in the cost reduction category,” she said May 27 during a virtual investor chat with Bernstein aerospace and defense analyst Douglas Harned. “And we look at thinks like facilities on a long-term basis that we now envision not needing as much facility capacity given the changes that we are making in the way we are operating,” she said. “We look at areas like travel and don’t expect to be traveling at the pace that we were anytime soon.” Like most companies, many Northrop Grumman employees that can are currently teleworking.
Lawsuit Payment. Leidos received an $84.6 million payment from the cyber security firm VirnetX resulting from a lawsuit VirnetX filed against Apple Inc. related to patent infringement. VirnetX acquired four patents from Science Applications International Corp. in 2006 that were retained by Leidos after the spinoff from SAIC and under agreements with VirnetX had claims to the value the patents generate. Leidos said it expects to use some of the proceeds to recover its litigation costs and pay a royalty to a customer that paid for the development of the technology and then use the remaining monies to pay for debt reduction. VirnetX in March said it had received a $454 million payment from Apple related to a judgment in its favor. Leidos said that the final judgment is subject to more wrangling and appeals and that Apple has said it will seek restitution of the payment to VirnetX if it is granted relief.
Domestic Rare Earths. USA Rare Earth, a U.S.-based company developing a rare earth mineral site in Texas, said it has successfully completed the first phase of bench scale testing at a lab in Alabama, demonstrating the ability to load and concentrate rare earths in the presence of a high concentration of non-rare earths. “This is an important step toward USA Rare Earth’s objective to build the first rare earth and critical minerals processing facility outside China and bring the Round Top (Texas) project into full commercial production,” said Pini Althaus, the company’s CEO. The company said that China controls more than 60 percent of the global market for rare earth magnets, which are important in high-technology weapons systems as well as a wide range of commercial products. “Aside from Round Top’s potential to supply a significant amount of material for U.S. defense as well as commercial applications, we believe our initiative will reinvigorate advanced technology manufacturing in the U.S. for companies currently dependent on foreign sources for supply,” Althaus said.
A Personal Blimp. The Border Patrol is conducting market research on aerostats equipped with surveillance sensors that can be deployed by two or three agents and operated by one individual for use along the U.S. border between ports of entry. The Agent Deployable Aerostat Platform Technology (ADAPT) would be a mobile system deployed on a standard Border Patrol 4×4 vehicle and provide photo and video data to enable detection, identification, classification and tracking of items of interest in rugged, remote, rural, urban, riverine and coastal environments, according to a May 28 Request for Information issued by the Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. The ground control system for the ADAPT system would be mounted inside the vehicle’s cab. Responses are due by July 13.
Summer on the Hill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-N.Y.) on Friday released the House’s summer schedule, which shows the majority of June will be used for committee days for members to focus on major legislation to be passed before the end of the fiscal year. In a Dear Colleague note, Hoyer highlighted the FY ’21 NDAA and yearly appropriations bills among several critical efforts. Every weekday in June is scheduled for committee work except for the last, June 30, which is scheduled for votes. In July, two weeks are scheduled for committee hearings from July 6-17, with the remainder of work days set aside for votes. In August, members are scheduled to return home for the annual district work period, before returning to D.C. after Labor Day for votes scheduled throughout September. “I anticipate longer days in late June and in July in order to accommodate votes,” Hoyer said. “Votes may occur as early as 10:00 a.m. on the first day of the week, and votes may last into the evening on the last day of the week.” Hoyer noted that if the House is able to complete its committee work and votes by the end of July and barring any additional efforts that may need to be taken due to COVID-19, no changes will be made to the August district work period.
Rocket Lab Launch. Rocket Lab has scheduled the launch window for its next mission, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” set to launch three payloads from the NRO, as well as payloads for NASA and the University of New South Wales Canberra Space. The launch, scheduled for no earlier than June 11, will be the 11th mission for the company’s Electron launch vehicle and will occur at Rocket Lab’s complex in New Zealand. The launch was originally scheduled for March, but was postponed as New Zealand issued new guidance for its local companies in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
House on Open Skies. The House Foreign Affairs Democrats sent a letter Friday to the Trump administration demanding answers with regard to the decision to officially withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. In the letter, they criticize the intent to withdraw from the treaty without notifying Congress as running counter to requirements laid out in the FY ’20 NDAA and express concern that the decision was made without consulting other allies and partners. “By withdrawing, the United States will lose one of the last remaining arms control agreements that holds Russia accountable and a tool that provides critical transparency to prevent miscalculations and uncertainty that could lead to a major war. We will lose access to shareable intelligence that, for example, has been critical to monitoring Russian military aggression against Ukraine and allowed the United States and Ukraine to monitor the 2018 Kerch Strait hostage crisis,” the letter said.
STRIKEWERX. Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, on Friday launched STRIKEWERX, a new innovation hub to better connect the command with nontraditional industry, small businesses and academia. Based off of similar efforts across the U.S. military such as USSOCOM’s SOFWERX and the wider Air Force’s AFWERX, the new hub at the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Louisiana, will allow for increased collaboration and interaction between AFGSC and those interested in working with the command with a more accessible location. “We are a very small command with a huge mission set, and we know we have to think about things differently. We have to move faster,” said AFGSC Commander Gen. Tim Ray during his keynote speech, per an Air Force Release. “We want to transmit to the outside world where we need help and create a forum where we can have smart people come in and help us solve problems quickly, [and] we believe this is a great way to bring in better ideas and faster funding.”
FARA Supplier. Bell has selected Triumph Group to supply the hydraulic pump and reservoir assemblies for its offering for the Army’s Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft competition. Triumph Group will provide parts that were originally developed for the Bell 525 medium-lift helicopter. “Our ability to apply previously developed designs and technology will minimize technical and schedule risks for the program and supports Bell’s efforts to meet the U.S. Army’s mandatory execution and funding profile requirements for the FARA award,” William Kircher, executive vice president of Triumph Systems & Support, said in a statement. Bell’s 360 Invictus is competing with Sikorsky’s Raider X aircraft.
NGSW Fire Control. L3Harris has selected Kopin to provide the high-brightness LCD module for the Next-Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control prototype it is delivering to the Army. “This selection and contract award is just the latest example of Kopin being awarded a program to supply high brightness LCDs for military augmented reality applications,” Bill Maffucci, Kopin’s vice president of government programs, said in a statement. The Army previously selected L3Harris and Vortex Optics for the NGSW-FC program, which looks to replace its traditional direct view riflescopes.
Puma to the Rescue. An AeroVironment Puma fixed-wing small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was successfully used by Border Patrol agents last Tuesday to help rescue three suspected illegal aliens lost in the desert 60 miles northwest of the Calexico West, Calif., port of entry. The Border Patrol last Thursday evening said that 45 minutes after being alerted by someone that had received a distress call from the three women that were lost, agents operating the sUAS located the individuals and guided other agents to their location. An excessive heat warning was in effect for the day and temperatures were projected to rise above 104-degrees and there was no shade or water in the area of the desert where the women were found, the Border Patrol said. Last fall, the Border Patrol awarded AeroVironment $5.3 million to test and acquire the company’s hand-launched Puma 3 AE UAS.
F-35 Equipment. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a $394 million modification on May 27 to increase the ceiling to produce and deliver Ancillary Mission Equipment (AME)/Pilot Flight Equipment (PFE) and associated AME/PFE initial spares for F-35s. This specifically covers support for Lot 14 F-35 deliveries for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense participants and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will occur in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be finished by September 2023. No funds were obligated at award time, but will be obligated for individual task orders.
NORTHCOM. U.S. Northern Command is heading a homeland defense exercise on May 29 with the Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) Carrier Strike Group, NORAD, Transportation Command, Strategic Command, and Space Command. Northern Command underscored this is the first exercise of its kind where four combatant commands and NORAD conduct homeland defense operations, exercise joint integration, conduct multi-national operations, and strengthen command and control interoperability. Participants are using the Link 16 tactical data system to share real-time situational awareness and command and control data. In the exercise, NORAD CF-18s and F-15s were to conduct an air intercept exercise with an F/A-18 fighter from the Truman group. Transportation Command is providing Operation NOBLE EAGLE alert tankers on the East Coast, Strategic Command is providing a B-1B Lancer long-range bomber to simulate an adversary role attempting to penetrate U.S. airspace for realistic training, and Space Command through Navy Space Command is providing space operations to support the 2nd Fleet commander via satellite communications and GPS.
MQ-8. Naval Air Systems Command said May 21 it intends to negotiate and award a five-year contract with Raytheon Technologies to procure follow-on software system architecture and design, software analysis, coding, integration and testing, and associated software and systems engineering in support of the MQ-8 Tactical Control System (TCS). Enhancements to the current TCS will include migration to an Unmanned Air Systems Control Segment (UCS)/Common Control System (CCS) architecture, command and control modernization, automated software testing, future payload integration, engineering trade studies to support future software development, and fleet response activities and capability deficiency packages to augment baseline software development efforts. The Navy underscored Raytheon is the only qualified source with the unique knowledge of the TCS design and system architecture with expertise required to integrate existing software with upgrades.