Tight HASC Races. Several key Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee remain in tight races heading into the midterm elections on November 8. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a Navy veteran who has been a strong proponent of growing the size of the Naval fleet, is facing off against Republican State Sen. Jen Kiggans for Virginia’s 2nd District, with RealClearPolitics

having the seat as “leans GOP.” The latest polls show a dead heat ahead of election day. Meanwhile, RealClearPolitics has labeled both Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Jarden Golden’s (D-Maine) races as “toss up,” with polls showing the lawmakers having a slight edge over their Republican opponents with a few days to go. Slotkin, a co-leader of the recent Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, is up against Army veteran and Republican State Senator Tom Barrett for Michigan’s 7th District. Golden, a centrist Democrat who offered up the amendment to boost HASC’s FY ‘23 NDAA topline by $37 billion, is facing former Rep. Bruce Poliquin for Maine’s 2nd District seat.

AH-1Z Milestone. Bell has delivered the Marine Corps’ 189th AH-1Z Viper helicopter, completing the service’s program of record. The milestone follows the completion of the Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom program of record in 2018, after delivering 160 of those aircraft. “The first production lot of US Marine Corps H-1s was ordered in 1962, and they changed the way Marines fight today. Completing the AH-1Z and UH-1Y deliveries to the US Marine Corps adds one more chapter to the legacy of the H-1 platform,” Mike Deslatte, Bell’s H-1 vice president and program director, said in a statement. Col. Vasillios Pappas, the Marine Corps’ Light/Attack Helicopters program manager, said in a statement that the H-1 fleet is “key to the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan.” “With the US program of record now complete, the Marines have the flexibility to manage and deploy the helicopters based on current and future mission requirements as established at the start of the program,” Pappas said. Bell’s H-1 production is still active for foreign military sales, with the company currently producing AH-1Zs for Bahrain and both UH-1Ys and AH-1Zs for the Czech Republic.

Australian F-35 Supplier. Northrop Grumman said on Nov. 2 that it has signed a six-year agreement with Australia’s Quickstep Holding Limited for the build of F-35 components in Sydney and New South Wales. Northrop Grumman, which makes the center fuselage for the Lockheed Martin fighter, said that it delivered the 900th such fuselage in February. Northrop Grumman said that Quickstep became part of the global F-35 supply chain in 2012 and that Quickstep is now Northrop Grumman’s largest supplier in Australia for the F-35. Josh Scanlon, Quickstep’s business leader for aerostructures, said that “these firm orders secure our Northrop Grumman F-35 order book through 2025.” Australia joined the F-35 program in 2002, and more than 70 Australian firms have participated, Northrop Grumman said.

Next-Gen Aircrew Protection. As part of the Air Force Materiel Command’s Next Generation Aircrew Protection (NGAP) program, a test U.S. Air Force F-22 at Nellis AFB, Nev. flew missions last month to evaluate how the aircraft’s environmental control system works to release contaminants from the aircraft quickly. “Researchers are evaluating the time it takes to clear the cockpit of a chemical stimulant during flight,” AFMC said. “They use methyl silicate, known as wintergreen oil, which is used as a flavoring agent in chewing gums and mints. This chemical stimulant is safe for the pilot, yet mimics the effects and properties of known chemical warfare agents.” A system’s rapid elimination of cockpit contaminants may permit pilots to operate in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environments without having to rely on heavy pilot protection equipment.

F/A-18 Engines. The Navy awarded General Electric a five-year $1.1 billion performance-based logistics requirements contract on Oct. 31 covering the repair, replacement and program support of 784 F414 engine components used in F/A-18 aircraft. Work is expected to be finished by Oct. 2027. The initial award is $81 million. Individual delivery orders will later be funded via fiscal year appropriations at the time of their issuance.

Trident Production. The Navy’s Strategic Systems Program awarded Lockheed Martin a $581 million sole-source modification on Nov. 1 to a previously awarded un-priced letter contract for Trident II (D5) missile production and deployed systems support. This covers work for both the U.S. and the United Kingdom, which share the same nuclear-armed ballistic missile based on ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The work is expected to be finished by September 2027. The maximum value of the modification, including the base period and all options, if exercised, could reach as high as $1.2 billion.

USV Inflection Point? HII President and CEO Chris Kastner said last week that he doesn’t know whether an attack by Ukrainian unmanned service vehicles (USVs) against Russian naval vessels in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol on Oct. 29 represents “an inflection point from a revenue standpoint,” adding that there is momentum for unmanned systems for use under the sea and on the surface. The attack by the Ukrainians using the remotely piloted, low profile USVs was sensational and has generated plenty of speculation about it being a watershed moment in naval warfare although it remains unclear what damage the explosive laden vessels inflicted. Kastner, on the company’s Nov. 3 earnings call, said “So, we only think it’s a positive development, and we think it will continue to gain momentum and we really like where we’re positioned.” HII develops and produces unmanned and autonomous underwater vehicles and offers an autonomy solution for any ship or vehicle to be a robotic platform.

CH-53K Lead Items. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky a $281 million modification on Oct. 31, exercising an option to procure long-lead items supporting full-rate production Lot 8 CH-53K helicopters. Work will occur in Stratford, Conn. and is expected to be finished by Dec. 2023. The government obligated $230 million in fiscal year 2023 Navy aircraft procurement funds and $51 million in Foreign Military Sales funds.

FOC for Navy Range. The Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges program office’s (PMA-205) Ocean Systems Fixed Ranges team recently reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) on the Undersea Warfare Training Ranges Increment I (USWTR INC I) program 13 months ahead of schedule, the Navy announced on Nov. 1. The range will support realistic training and tactical development of submarine, surface ship and aircraft undersea warfare capabilities. The fleet has already conducted four exercises at this Increment I range after installation. The USWTR program includes three increments. This first was installation of the ocean sensor and shore electronics subsystems off the coast of Florida. Increments II and II will upgrade previously installed systems at other range locations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The ranges “include a vast array of technology providing a realistic training environment that enables ships and aircraft to track targets for anti-submarine warfare training,” Capt. Kevin McGee, PMA-205 program manager, said in a statement.

Bahrain Unmanned. Bahrain led a one-day multinational training drill featuring unmanned systems in the Persian Gulf on Oct. 26. The Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 included forces from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Participating U.S. vessels included three Navy Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels, the USS Hurricane (PC-3) and USS Chinook (PC-9). Other participants were the U.K. Royal Navy ships RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009) and HMS Bangor (M109), Royal Bahrain Naval Force ships RBNS Al-Manama and RBNS Al-Fateh, and the HMS Khalid from the Royal Saudi Navy. The U.S. Navy said this drill “enhanced interoperability in integrating new unmanned technologies to monitor regional waters.” This follows a similar multinational unmanned vessel exercise in the region between the U.S. and U.K. on Oct. 7. In both exercises, sensors from the unmanned vessels located and identified training aides in the water, then relayed visual depictions to command centers.

Collision Avoidance. Honeywell said that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indonesian government for the possible sale of the company’s Military Airborne Collision Avoidance System (MILACAS) for the Indonesian Air Force’s C-130 avionics upgrade program. MILACAS is to replace the Honeywell TPA-81A traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS). “Based on TPA-100, Honeywell’s new generation TCAS line, the MILACAS uses the identical hardware platform and maintains all the civil ACAS II performance requirements as well as the additional military-unique features. The MILACAS utilises improved interrogation methods and Hybrid Surveillance (Automatic Dependant Surveillance Broadcast – ADS-B).”

GPS Center of Excellence. BAE Systems last week opened its new 278,000 square foot center of excellence in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home of the company’s Navigation and Sensor Systems business unit that develops and manufactures advanced GPS technology for airborne, ground and weapon systems platforms. The new center, which BAE invested more than $100 million in, joins design and production employees with modern manufacturing, engineering and office space. BAE has more than 800 employees at its Cedar Rapids site.

New Rocket Motor. X-Bow Systems has added a new solid rocket moor to its solid rocket motor series, the Ballesta 34.5-inch diameter, which builds on the 32-inch Ballesta that was successfully launched in July. The Ballesta 34.5-inch is designed to work as both a first state and upper stage booster for medium-range ballistic missiles and launch systems. “The introduction of our new Ballesta 34.5-inch motor on the heels of the successful launch of our 32-inch rocket just a few weeks ago demonstrates how quickly our development efforts are accelerating,” says Mark Kaufman, X-Bow co-founder and senior vice president of propulsion.

Satellite Startup Funding. Wyvern, a small Canada-based company developing high-resolution hyperspectral imaging satellites, has raised another $7 million with investors, providing the funding to launch and operate its first three satellites. The latest investment is on top of $8 million the company previously raised. Wyvern’s small satellites feature deployable optics that unfold in space after launch. The company expects its data services to be available to customers in early 2023.

A Space Bureau? Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel last week proposed the creation of a Space Bureau to better support the rapidly developing commercial satellite industry. The proposed changes would split the International Bureau, which currently handles international telecommunications and satellite programs and policies, including licensing. It would create a new Space Bureau and standalone Office of International Affairs. Under the plan, the FCC said in a statement a standalone Space Bureau will elevate the significance of satellite programs and policy, including the role of satellites in domestic communications and U.S. broadband goals.

Homeland Security Innovation. The Department of Homeland Security last Friday published tasking for an advisory committee to focus on how the department can foster a stronger technology and innovation network. The tasking, which was published in the Federal Register, follows an October meeting of the Homeland Security Advisory Committee where DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed the establishment of the committee’s new subcommittee. Mayorkas wants the panel to assess how the private sector engages with research, development and acquisition program and how these efforts can be improved. He also wants an assessment of how DHS can increase technology partnerships with the private sector, how existing innovation efforts across the department can be harmonized, and for the subcommittee to identify “barriers to a more robust technology and innovation network.”