DDG-56 Leaves Dry Dock. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) left its dry dock in Yokosuka, Japan following nine months of repairs after it collided with a merchant vessel in August 2017. DDG-56 has since been under repairs at Yokosuka and entered the dry dock in February. The Navy said DDG-56 going pierside is an important milestone in the repair effort. The Navy used personnel from General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, the original builder, to help conduct a material assessment of the ships’ damage. Now it has a fully restored hull, new port thruster shaft, and newly built berthing spaces.

…Remaining Work. The current repair availability still has to complete maintenance previously deferred, test the ship’s repaired systems in preparation for operational tasking. DDG-56 is forward-deployed to Yokosuka and is expected to have repairs finished by late 2019.

Navy Force Structure. Vice Adm. William Merz, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee on Nov. 27 that the next Force Structure Assessment in 2019 is unlikely to alter the 355-ship fleet goal in any major ways. “We have seen nothing from the combatant commands to date, or from Secretary (Of Defense) Mattis’ National Defense Strategy, that will give us any indication we’ll be coming off that 355-ship [fleet goal] in composition or in total numbers.” Merz confirmed the Navy is in the “first steps” of the next FSA, which is usually a year-long process: it is created, the service commissions external assessors to examine it, the Navy red teams it, then puts it out after final review. He said it usually impacts two to three budget cycles and “it’s a pace that is very well aligned with how quickly we can adjust the shipbuilding plan.”

…655-Ship Navy? Subcommittee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) revealed the Defense Department’s original ideal Navy size was 655 ships, rather than the current goal of 355. Wicker said he understands the 355 number is where the world is still dangerous for the U.S. Navy, but less dangerous than now. Merz confirmed the Navy views 355 ships as a minimum needed to address the threats from Russia, China, and other potential adversaries.

Qatar Blockade. The U.S. Air Force personnel stationed at Al Udeid Air Base outside Doha told reporters last week that operations have not been affected by the blockade imposed on the Gulf country by multiple neighbors in the region over one year ago. Members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing said Nov. 26 that there has been “no real impact” to any requirements, nor has the blockade affected the Air Force’s relationship with its Qatari counterparts.

Qatari Missile Sale. The State Department on Nov. 27 approved a possible foreign military sale to Qatar for 40 AIM 120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, along with related training and control equipment, classified software for the AN/MPQ-64F1 sentinel radar and spare/repair parts and equipment. The potential sale would be worth $215 million and support Qatar’s request for a direct commercial sale of the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS), which could help the Gulf state boost its defenses against hostile cruise missiles, along with unmanned aerial vehicle, rotary-wing and fixed-wing threats, according to the announcement. Raytheon would serve as prime contract and integrator. 

Missile Defense Tech. Missile defense officials said on Nov. 26 that advancements in technology are reshaping missile defense and should be incorporated into the Defense Department’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Vision 2020 policy. “Five years ago, we weren’t having a conversation about artificial intelligence. We weren’t talking about unmanned and manned teaming of capability out there. We weren’t having the conversations of the concerns we’re having with unmanned aerosystems that we now tie into these smart phones,” Brig. Gen Clement Coward, commander of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, said at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Air Force Acquisition. Air Force Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson has been appointed as the next military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. Richardson will succeed Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, who has held the position for three years. In his new role, Richardson will oversee research and development, testing and modernization efforts for Air Force programs. Richardson currently serves as program executive officer for Presidential Airlift Recapitalization at Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center.

White House Biometrics. The U.S. Secret Service has begun a pilot project using facial recognition technology at the White House Complex to confirm the identities of volunteer Secret Service personnel in two public spaces, with the goal being to identify if the technology can help the agency to identify “known subjects of interests prior to initial contact with law enforcement” at the complex. The agency in a Nov. 26 Privacy Impact Assessment says the Facial Recognition Pilot will be conducted in two locations using video streams from selected cameras of its Crown Closed Circuit Television System. One location will be in open setting where approaches are uncontrolled and the environmental factors can vary widely and the other location will be where the flow of individuals is controlled and the area is lighted. Images will be searched against a database maintained for the pilot project.

…Facial Recognition Gains. Speaking of facial recognition technology, The National Institute of Standards and Technology in November released a report of a study it did on face recognition algorithms in tests against large population sets, concluding that over the past five years the algorithms have demonstrated “massive gains in accuracy.” NIST tested 127 algorithms from 45 developers against a database of 26.6 million live portrait photos of 12.3 million individuals. The study, which also involved testing of three smaller datasets against more unconstrained photos, found that the accuracy gains between 2013 and 2018 “far exceed improvements in the prior period,” which was between 2010 and 2013.

Army Counter Drone Award. The Army on November 29 announced it has awarded Lockheed Martin a $12.5 million sole-source contract to deliver a high-powered microwave weapon capable of taking out drones. The contract was officially awarded in September. The original solicitation was released in August, where the Army stated it intended to only look for a solution based on Lockheed’s proprietary microwave technology. The new microwave system is intended to be mounted on an aircraft and used to go after fixed-wing and quadcopter drones.

GA Opens New Delhi Office. General Atomics last Tuesday announced the opening of a new office in New Delhi as the company works to provide India with new defense systems, including its MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAV and the electromagnetic aircraft launch and recovery systems for the country’s aircraft carriers. GA has hired Pratesh Gandhi, a former maritime aviator in the Indian Navy, to serve as director of India Strategic Development, according to a press release. “Establishing an office in New Delhi positions us to better collaborate with our Indian customers to deliver capabilities that address emerging security challenges in the region,” said GA-ASI CEO Linden P. Blue.

…Ground Control Station Test a Success. GA reported that its Certifiable Ground Control Station (C-GCS) was recently used for the first time to fly a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), involving its MQ-9B in a flight from Yuma, Arizona. The C-GCS is STANAG 4671-compliant, according to the company. Aircraft flight critical functions were tested successfully, including hold modes, landing gear, flap operation, and “hand flying” of the aircraft. “We continue on a path towards integrating RPA into non-segregated national and international airspace, where they can fly safely alongside commercial aircraft,” Blue said in a statement. The C-GCS includes the same flight management system, cockpit displays, and navigation guidance as those found on modern corporate and commercial aircraft, and enables weapons and payload control for SkyGuardian. The ground station’s hardware and software architecture provides separation of flight and mission critical functions, and allows mission software to be modified without affecting flight-critical software, according to a company release. 

Logos Test in Europe. Logos Technologies announced Nov. 28 that it successfully demonstrated its Redkite wide-area motion imagery (WAMI) sensor to agencies in the Netherlands in partnership with AEC Air Support BV. The flight was the first time European government officials witnessed the system in operation, according to a press release. Redkite is housed in a platform-agnostic pod and was integrated onto a Stemme S-15 power glider combined with a Wescam MX-15 full motion video turret camera for the European tests. Weighing less than 35-pounds, Redkite continually images 12 square kilometers in medium resolution all at one time, then processes the images into a video-like series that allows operators to detect and track any significant movement. It was designed to support defense, border security, public safety and humanitarian assistance missions. The company’s Redkite-I was specifically designed for the Boeing-Insitu Integrator Group 3 unmanned aircraft system and completed final testing earlier this year.

Cyber Threat Predictions. McAfee last week released its Threat Predictions Report for 2019, saying to expect more consolidation from underground markets that service cyber criminals, with the result being “fewer but stronger malware-as-a-service families that will actively work together.” McAfee also predicts that cyber attackers will also make more use of applications with artificial intelligence to evade detection, and that as more companies and organizations store their data in the cloud, attackers will follow. “Everything is connected, and you are only as strong as your weakest link,” Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee, says in an introduction to the threat research. “In the future, we face the question of which of our weakest links will be compromised.”

DDG-116 Commissioning. The U.S. Navy will commission the next Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) during a ceremony in Boston, Mass., on Dec. 1. DDG-116 will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer commissioned for the Navy and homeported in Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

100th Turbine. Leonardo DRS announced the delivery of its 100th LM2500 Gas Turbine Package to General Electric in August, set to be installed on the future Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG-126). Leonardo DRS’ Naval Power segment has been building the GE-designed engines since 2011. Leonardo said the turbine was installed into the package and full-load production acceptance tests were performed by GE in Evandale, Ohio. The full unit was subsequently delivered to shipbuilder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. DDG-126 will be the second Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

Federal CIO Bill. The House on November 30 unanimously passed a bill to elevate the role of the federal CIO and assist with streamlining information technology initiatives across agencies. The Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2018 was co-sponsored by the House IT subcommittee leadership, Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.). “This bill helps keep the vast information stored by the federal government secure from hackers by making clear that the Federal CIO is in charge of the security of our data across the government,” Hurd said in a statement. The bill elevates the role of federal CIO and chief information security officers as presidential appointees, directs the CIO to submit a report to Congress on a plan for consolidating and streaming IT across the federal agencies and renames the Office of E-Government as the Office of the Federal CIO.

ARCIC/Futures Command. The Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) will officially transition from Training and Doctrine Command to the new Futures Command at a December 7 ceremony. With the move, ARCIC will be redesignated as the Futures and Concepts Directorate. It will remain based at Ft. Eustis in Virginia. Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley will continue to oversee the center’s mission to define future Army requirements and oversee integration of new capabilities across the force.

DoD/Cloud Internet. The Defense Information Systems Agency released a solicitation notice on November 28 calling for industry white papers to inform its search for a cloud-based internet isolation capability. “The Enterprise Cloud Based Internet Isolation capability would eliminate the threat of a variety of attacks that plague Department of Defense networks and compromise its data,” DISA wrote in the notice. The agency intends to eventually award two prototype Other Transaction Agreements for Enterprise Cloud Based Internet Isolation. The new capability is intended to redirect internet browsing from an end user’s desktop to a new remote cloud-based server to reduce DoD bandwidth usage and provide enhanced cyber security. The deadline to submit white papers is December 7.