DPA Funds. The Pentagon has announced three new Defense Production Act Title III actions, totaling $77.3 million, aimed at supporting the aviation, rare earth materials, and electronics industries. eMagin Corp. received $33.6 million to sustain and expand its production capacity for organic light-emitting diode microdisplays. “eMagin Corporation intends to replace and update single-point-of-failure and aging equipment to reduce production downtime and increase yield and throughput,” the department wrote in a statement. Meggitt-Rockmart received $14.9 million to increase production of military-grade fuel bladders used across a range of aircraft platforms. The Pentagon also provided $28.8 million to the Urban Mining Company to assist in developing a domestic source for Neodymium Iron Boron (NdFeB) rare earth permanent magnets. “NdFeB magnets are essential components for many DoD programs that enable miniaturization and high performance of guidance, propulsion, and power systems,” the Pentagon said.
On July 28, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to consider the nomination of Army Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, the deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, to serve as its new commander. Air Force Gen. John Raymond serves as the commander of U.S. Space Command and as chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force–a simultaneous service that the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 116-92, allows for one year “without further appointment.” Raymond has served as the commander of U.S. Space Command since Aug. 29 last year and as the chief of operations for the new Space Force since Dec. 20 last year.
The China Group. The Department of Homeland Security has established a China Working Group, which is coordinating the department’s response to the various threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “The Chinese threat is intensifying at an alarming rate through CCP’s malign activity in the trade, cybersecurity, immigration, and intellectual property domains,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement last Friday. He said the new group “will prioritize, coordinate, and articulate decisive near and long-term action commensurate with the threat we face.” DHS said it is also working with public and private sector partners to fight China’s disinformation campaigns, deny entry into the U.S. of graduate students deemed high-risk for stealing intellectual property, screening for deadly opioids entering the U.S. illegally from China, and protecting information and communications technology from data breaches and theft.
MQ-25. Boeing recently installed a Navy aerial refueling store on its MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling test asset, T1, in preparation for future flight tests, the company said July 23. This is the same store used by F/A-18s to perform aerial refueling off aircraft carriers. The store was integrated onto a pylon under the T1 wing during a planned modification. The MQ-25 is planned to replace F/A-18s used for carrier-based aerial refueling. “When we resume flight testing later this year, we’ll have the opportunity to gather test points about the aerodynamics of that pod and the software commands that control it – all happening well before we deliver the Navy’s first MQ-25 jet with the same pod,” Dave Bujold, MQ-25 program director, said in a statement.
LCS-29. Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine started construction on the future USS Beloit (LCS-29) with a ceremony at the shipyard in Marinette, Wis., on July 22.LCS-29 will be the 15th Freedom-variant LCS for the Navy. Lockheed Martin noted LCS-29 will be the first Navy ship named after the city of Beloit, Wis. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor while Marinette Marine builds the ships. The companies noted there are currently five other LCSs in different stages of construction at the Marinette shipyard.
LCS-19. The newest Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the Freedom-variant future USS St. Louis (LCS-19), arrived at its homeport of Mayport, Fla., on July 17. The ship is set to officially joint the fleet when it is commissioned in Mayport in August. LCS-19 was also built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine under prime contractor Lockheed Martin. The St. Louis is the 10th Freedom-variant and 22nd overall LCS. LCS-19 will be an LCS Mine Countermeasure Mission Package ship featuring both aviation and unmanned surface, semi-submersible, and submersible vehicles with sensors to detect and neutralize mines.
Prototype Sonobuoy. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded Undersea Signal Systems Inc. a contract worth up to $28 million on July 20 to develop the Extended Range Directional Frequency Analysis and Recording (ER-DIFAR) prototype sonobuoy. The announcement noted the sonobuoy aims to address new and quiet threat submarine targets. This is a three-year base contract for $24 million and has one option year that would add the remaining $4 million. Work will occur in Columbia City, Ind., and is expected to be completed by July 2024. DoD said the contract was competitively procured and since proposals are received throughout the year under the initial long-range Broad Agency Announcement the total number of proposals received in unknown.
Knifefish. The Navy awarded General Dynamics a $13.5 million modification on July 20 to exercise an option to support the development of the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (SMCM UUV) program. The announcement noted Knifefish will provide “persistent volume and bottom mine hunting capability in a contested environment.” The contract announcement specified the option is for “engineering support hours to support a number of efforts, including test and evaluation, engineering change proposal development and upgrade initiatives.” Work will be largely split between Quincy, Mass. and McLeansville, N.C. and is expected to be finished by September 2021.
Additive Manufacturing. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division’s (NSWC PHD) recently concluded its first Office of Technology and In-Service Engineering Agent of the Future Additive Manufacturing Grand Challenge. The winners were an electronics engineer and senior In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) with the design of two SPQ-9B wrenches. The event took place on May 15 as a virtual Hack-a-thon-style challenge. It aimed to introduce Additive Manufacturing to the wider Port Hueneme Division’s ISEA workforce and increase the command’s use of the technology to meet program and fleet requirements. ISEAs are responsible for modernizing technology within Navy systems to improve ship reliability, maintainability and readiness. The challenge required participants to find parts of components that can be 3D printed to minimize inventory, provide the Navy with a new source of low-cost items and eventually be 3D printed on ships in the near future to help eliminate the current replacement part timeline.
Cyber Temps. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has hired two cyber security experts—Josh Corman and Rob Arnold—to help it with its COVID-19 response efforts on a temporary basis. Both were hired using authorities under the CARES Act, which allows CISA to make temporary hires to support the pandemic response. Corman previously served as chief security officer for the technology company PTC, director of Security Intelligence for Akamai, and co-founded RuggedSoftware and IamTheCavalry to help with security approaches as the world increasingly relies on digital infrastructure. Arnold previously was founder and CEO of the cyber risk management firm Threat Sketch and co-founded the North Carolina Center for Cybersecurity. Arnold will focus on helping CISA better understand how cyber risks are shifting due to COVID-19 and how critical infrastructures can improve their defenses. Corman supports the agency’s industry outreach to the coronavirus response and provides expertise on healthcare infrastructure, and supports the agency’s control system and life safety initiatives.
The COVID Trap. Cyber security firm McAfee last week issued its first quarter threat report and based on other reports and intelligence warnings it’s no surprise the cyber criminals are taking advantage of COVID-19 to gain access to computers and networks. “What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on COVID-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe,” according to Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist.
…Steal First, Then Take Hostage. The report, McAfee COVID-19 Threat Report: July 2020, also said that data breaches are the new ransomware attack. First, cyber attackers are breaching networks and stealing data, and then encrypting it so they can threaten the victim with leakage of the data if they don’t pay for the decryption. “Using either weakly protected Remote Desktop Protocol or stolen credentials from the underground, we have observed actors moving at lightspeed to learn the network of their victims and effectively steal and then encrypt their data,” said Christiaan Beck, senior principal engineer and lead scientist at McAfee.
AI Ethics. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week issued guidance for its personnel on whether and how to develop and use artificial intelligence in the mission of the intelligence community. Key tenets of the Principles of Professional Ethics include integrity and respect for the law, transparency and accountability, being objective and equitable, employing human judgment, secure and resilient design and use, and informed by science and technology. A separate ethics framework says “we must understand how to use this rapidly evolving technology in a way that aligns with our principles to prevent unethical outcomes.”
AFRICOM ISR. The Army is soliciting industry’s input on potential offerings for ISR drones and sensors to be used by AFRICOM. A new RFI released July 20 details requirements for “persistent [ISR] platform to support special mission efforts across multiple disciplines to include multi-mode full motion video, synthetic aperture radar, and the ability to support varied Special Intelligence payloads.” Potential drone offerings are expected to support 24-hour operations, have a maximum takeoff weight up to 4,700 pounds, a mission altitude of 20,000 to 35,000 feet and a payload capacity of 3,000 pounds.
LHD-6. Naval Sea Systems Command awarded General Dynamics’ National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) a $10 million modification for emergency firefighting support, dewatering, safety and initial clean-up efforts for the USS Bonhomme Rochard (LHD-6). Work is expected to be finished by November 2020. This modification adds to a previous NASSCO contract to modernize and overhaul the ship so it could deploy the F-35B, with work nearly finished before the fire started.