Why Defiant X. Defiant X, the joint Sikorsky and Boeing entry for the Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRRA), possesses the key advantage over its competitor for the upcoming contract because it is more maneuverable when it comes to getting into and out of a tight landing zone, James Taiclet, Lockheed Martin’s chairman, president and CEO, said during the company’s first quarter earnings call last week. Ron Epstein, an aerospace and defense analyst with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, on the call said, “in the investment community it seems like there’s an assumption” that Textron’s Bell will win both of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift competitions, which includes FLRAA and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, and asked why Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky could win. Taiclet answered that versus a tiltrotor aircraft, which is what Bell has offered for FLRAA, the dual-rotor design of the Defiant X “is head and shoulders above anything you could ever do with a tiltrotor.” Getting to the target area “two minutes faster, is irrelevant,” he said, “versus when you get to the target are you going to survive and live through that mission? And that’s the differential.”

Executive News.

Jeff Babione, who stepped down in March from leading Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works operations, is now chief operating officer at commercial space company Sierra Space. Babione, who spent nearly 30 years at Lockheed Martin, at different times led the company’s F-35, F-22 and F-16 fighter programs. Aerojet Rocketdyne said Amy Gowder, its chief operating officer, is resigning effective April 29 to take another business opportunity. And HII, formerly known as Huntington Ingalls Industries, said Henry Choi has joined its Mission Technologies division as vice president of business development for cyber, electronic warfare and space. Choi previously was vice president of business development at CACI International.

New TACAN? The U.S. Air Force may award a contract this August for a man-portable tactical air navigation (MP TACAN) system to replace the Utah-based Moog, Inc.’s AN/TRN-41, which includes a AS-4502/T antenna by Utah-based dB Systems Inc. to give military aircraft a signal to guide them to landing zones. The MP TACAN replacement contract may be a five-year one with a possible two-year extension. In December 2020, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan developed a work around for the TRN-41’s old generator to allow the system to be used to enable Air Force planes to land in remote locations around the Pacific in keeping with the service’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept. In 2019, the TRN-41—about $4.5 million worth of equipment across the Air Force—awaited decommissioning before the 374th Airlift Wing devised the power generator retrofit. The AN/TRN-41 units “are approaching 50 years of service and have exceeded their life expectancy,” per the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “Maintaining these legacy systems is manpower-intensive and logistically unsustainable. Failure to replace the legacy systems will directly impact operational availability to the warfighter and hinder the ability to provide navigation.”

Space Lab. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s space vehicles directorate opened the 3,500 square foot, $3.5 million Skywave Technology Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, N.M. While relatively small inside, the lab sits on 72 acres in a remote part of Kirtland and thus is able to conduct large antenna sensor tests without radio frequency interference before sending such sensors to the field, AFRL said. Todd Parris, the head of AFRL’s geospace environment impacts and applications branch, said in a statement that the lab’s work “will help us understand radio wave, also called skywave, disturbances as we study their propagation in the atmosphere.” Air Force Col. Col. Eric Felt, the head of AFRL’s space vehicles directorate, said that Skywave will help in the understanding of the ionosphere and that future conflicts will require the ability to discriminate between natural occurrences in space and those undertaken by opponents.

NROL-85. U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) said that the Apr. 17 launch carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) NROL-85 payload was the second National Security Space Launch (NSSL) from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., to use a Falcon 9 rocket by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Overall, the NROL-85 mission was the sixth NSSL to use Falcon 9, SSC said. Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SSC’s launch enterprise, said that the Apr. 17 launch exemplifies the work of SSC, industry, and the NRO to put systems in orbit “efficiently.”

DDG Extensions. This week a Navy official said the service is not looking to extend the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers purely to retain higher numbers of ships in the long term shipbuilding plan, but it is still possible. “I would say that artificially extending a DDG because we need higher numbers is something we’re not going to do,” Vice Adm. Scott Conn, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, N9, told reporters on April 20 during a media roundtable. He noted that not all ships are equal but some are in better shape than others that could potentially allow extensions of service life in the future. “So I’m not going to make a comment that could be applied from a monolithic [point] across the force, but if there are exceptions, if there are ships – perhaps the class maintenance plan has been followed better than others and they actually are in better shape and it makes sense from a warfighting perspective and a fiscal view, it’s on the table,” he continued. Conn said the decision to ultimately extend the lives of destroyers that are in that better condition lies with the Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations and fleet commanders.

DDG-1000. The Navy awarded Raytheon Technologies a $483 million contract for Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) combat system activation, sustainment and modernization support. The work specifically covers support for Mission Systems and Total Ship Computing Environment infrastructure (TSCEi) hardware/equipment as well as non-recurring engineering services supporting combat system installation, integration, development, testing, correction, maintenance, and modernization of Zumwalt-class Mission Systems and Mission System equipment. The contract includes options that, if exercised, raise the total value to $1.676 billion. Base period work is expected to last through April 2023, but if contracts are exercised it will last through April 2027. The DDG-1000 class uses a two-phase delivery method, first having the hull delivered from builder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine, then it undergoes a combat systems installation and activation in San Diego, overseen by Raytheon.

Berthing Barge. The newest Navy berthing barge, Auxiliary Personnel Lighter (APL) 69, recently finished Builder’s and Acceptance Trials in Pascagoula, Miss., the Navy said April 22. The barge was built by VT Halter Marine. The Builder’s Trials allow the shipbuilder and Navy to assess the craft’s systems to ensure installations according to manufacturer guidelines and configurations meet contract requirements while Acceptance Trials include integrated testing to demonstrate the craft’s capabilities and installed systems can meet requirements. The latter are observed by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). The APLs are 82 meter long barges that can berth up to 609 people with mess seating that allows for food service for over 1,000 people. They are used to house duty crews while ships are in maintenance availabilities and can be towed to new bases or shipyards as required and potentially can be used for humanitarian missions or other temporary assignments. VT Halter Marine is currently in production of two more APLs.

Ukraine Defense Meeting. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is hosting a number of his international counterparts for a Ukraine Defense Consultative Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on April 26. “The goal is to bring together stakeholders from all around the world for a series of meetings on the latest Ukraine defense needs and, and this is critically important, ensuring that Ukraine’s enduring security and sovereignty over the long-term is respected and developed,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during an April 21 briefing. Kirby said the agenda will include discussing the latest battlefield assessments in Ukraine, Russia’s renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine, defense industrial base matters related to the flow of military equipment into Ukraine and items related to the focus on Kyiv’s long-term security. On April 22, Kirby said around 40 nations have been invited to the meeting, with more than 20 so far having agreed to attend.

Inhofe on Supplemental. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has urged Congress to “immediately” take up work on a new supplemental funding bill to maintain assistance for Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russia’s invasion. In a series of tweets on April 22, Inhofe noted President Biden has said the administration is working on finalizing another supplemental request after nearly working through all the currently allocated funding for drawing down military equipment to send to Ukraine. “When Congress returns next week, we must immediately turn to writing an aggressive supplemental for Ukraine that responds to the military and humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people. Congress must look at all tools available to speed this process,” Inhofe wrote. “The war is changing in the east, and the Ukrainians need much more to win and roll back Russian aggression. We’ll need to get creative. Further, we must ensure the Pentagon is able to get contracts out to industry to increase production ASAP. Let’s get to work.”

SIOP Caissons. The Navy awarded Bollinger Shipyards a $34 million contract on April 11 for construction of multi-mission dry dock caissons at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) in Kittery, Maine. The work provides for two graving dock caissons at PNSY for Dry Dock #1N and #1W and includes steel fabrication, installation of mechanical and electrical systems, and a full testing program of the caissons and its interface with the newly constructed dry dock seats. Work is expected to be finished by September 2025. Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) said this work represents the completion of new Virginia-class attack submarine docking positions at PNSY and is the first large-scale capital equipment project within the Navy’s Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP). “These dry docks will be the first added dry docking capacity for the Navy in the last quarter century or more. The Navy’s planned use of these new dry docks is anticipated to mitigate deferred or delayed Virginia-class submarine maintenance availabilities through 2040,” NAVFAC said in a statement.

Hack DHS Results. The Department of Homeland Security last Friday said the first phase of its first bug bounty program was concluded “successfully,” with the results showing that more than 450 vetted cybersecurity researchers identified 122 vulnerabilities in select external department systems, 27 of which were determined to be critical. DHS doled out $125,600 to participants for identifying the verified vulnerabilities. The Hack DHS program was launched last December as a way to bolster cyber resilience using ethical hackers. In phase two of the program, vetted cybersecurity researchers and ethical hackers will participate in a live, in-person hacking event. In the third phase, DHS will identify lessons learned, which will also help inform future bug bounty programs.