Expansive Targets. The U.S. needs to accelerate its fielding of cyber-secure commercial small satellites for national security missions to sustain its lead over China in space over the next decade, per Small Satellites: The Implications for National Security, a new Atlantic Council report by Nicholas Eftimiades, a senior fellow at the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. “The U.S. government will have national security considerations in the use of commercial small satellites, as they present expansive targets for cyber exploitation,” the study said. “First, small-satellite communications architectures are complex, offering numerous opportunities for malicious attacks. The communications link between a ground station and a satellite consists of a wireless link between the satellite and ground station. The link must be encrypted and command authentication in place to prevent hostile takeover of the satellite.”
Tech Insights. U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall was on the West Coast last week to meet with representatives from leading technology companies, including Microsoft, Intel, and NVIDIA—the builder of graphics processing units for artificial intelligence–to discuss how companies may help the service reach seven operational imperatives, including the fielding of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), a resilient space order of battle architecture, defending logistics systems from cyber and other attacks, and resilient basing. During his West Coast trip, Kendall was also to get a look at an E-7 Wedgetail airborne and early warning aircraft by Boeing at Nellis AFB, Nev. The Wedgetail is to replace at least 15 of the Air Force’s 31 E-3 AWACS planes, also built by Boeing.
Lessons for U.S. Airpower from Ukraine. The Ukrainian military’s use of air defenses has been “very effective,” and Russian “pilots are trying to stay out of the range” of such defenses, including older Soviet-era systems and Stinger missiles, Kendall says. The Ukrainian tactics were “reasonably good to keep those air defenses alive, to keep them survivable,” he says. “So, being able to suppress air defense is gonna be critical to gaining air superiority and having a chance to operate in the air…That’s true going forward [for U.S. forces]. It’s also true that some of the more advanced capabilities that provide protection for aircraft are gonna be improved jamming suites, countermeasures, that sort of thing. There are some really good lessons for us to learn from, but we’ve gotta be careful. We still have a ways to go here, and we’re still gonna have to do a lot of analysis to do to sort it all out. Another thing we’re seeing is the effectiveness of drones’ anti-armor capability…Some of the Russian armor is taking very high losses, due to a combination of APGMs (autonomous precision guided munitions), systems like Javelin as well as systems that are unmanned air vehicle-delivered.”
People News. Todd Harrison, a well-respected defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, departed last Friday for the private sector, joining Meta Aerospace today as senior vice president and head of research. Meta Aerospace is a small Washington, D.C.-based firm providing expertise in ISR, multi-mission electromagnetic technologies, simulation and more. Peraton effective today has appointed Andrew Hallman as vice president for national security strategy and integration, leading the company’s strategy for its intelligence business. Hallman previously was principal executive with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and at the CIA was deputy director for digital information. Oshkosh Corp. has appointed retired Army Gen. David Perkins to its board. Perkins retired from the Army in 2018 following 38 years of service, most recently as commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
New Presidential Advisers. President Biden last week appointed four members to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, including retired Navy Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld as Chair. Winnefeld is a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The other appointees are Janet Napolitano, who served as secretary of homeland security early in the Obama administration and is currently a professor of pubic policy at Univ. of California Berkeley; Gilman Louie, CEO of the public-private technology innovation partnership America’s Frontier Fund and a former CEO of In-Q-Tel; and Richard Verma, general counsel and head of global public policy at Mastercard and a former Ambassador to India. The board gives the president independent advice on how well the intelligence community is performing.
LCS-29. The Navy plans to christen the newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Beloit (LCS-29) on May 7 in Marinette, Wis. “The future USS Beloit will be the first U.S. Navy ship honoring the proud naval contributions of Beloit, Wisconsin,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, said in a statement. The Freedom-variant LCSs are built in Marinette by Fincantieri Marinette Marine for prime contractor Lockheed Martin. LCS-29 is the 15th Freedom-variant and 29th overall LCS.
THAAD. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $305 million modification on April 29, exercising a contract option to produce and delivery additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Interceptors. This option increases the total value of the parent contract from $7.83 billion to $8.14 billion. The Defense Department did not disclose how many THAAD launchers or units this provides for. The modification work is expected to be finished by December 2027.
Carriers. According to HII president and CEO Chris Kastner, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) is about 83 percent complete while the company has started to erect steel on the dry dock for the Enterprise (CVN-80), according to his remarks on May 5 during a quarterly earnings call. In April during the Navy League Sea Air Space expo, Capt. Brian Metcalf, program manager of Ford-class carriers (PMS 378), said CVN-79 was about 85 percent complete and on track for delivery in 2024 and CVN-80 was 15 percent complete, with delivery planned in 2028. On the earnings call, Kastner also said the USS George Washington (CVN-73) is progressing in the testing phase and is about 95 percent complete with its refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) maintenance period. Likewise, he said the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) is about 25 percent complete with its own RCOH.
ESB-6. General Dynamics’ National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) laid the keel for the future USS John L. Canley (ESB-6) Expeditionary Sea Base ship on April 30. ESBs are used for various military operations including prepositioning equipment, aviation mine countermeasures and special forces missions. They feature a flight deck and hangar that can hold two MH-53E helicopters. ESBs are commanded by a Navy officer with a hybrid crew of military and Military Sealift Command civilian mariner personnel. The ship is named after a Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War. NASSCO is also building the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB-7) as well as John Lewis-class replenishment oilers.
MV-22B. The Navy awarded the Bell Boeing Joint Program Office a $302 million modification on April 29 to produce four more MV-22B Osprey aircraft for the Marine Corps. Work will be split between various locations in the continental U.S. and is expected to be finished by November 2025. The award is funded via fiscal year 2022 Navy aircraft procurement funds, which were fully obligated at the time of award. None of the funds will expire at the end of this fiscal year.
LiteWave HUD. BAE Systems on May 4 said it’s offering a new lightweight, compact head-up display (HUD) for use in commercial and military aircraft, called LiteWave. The new system is “laptop-sized,” 70 percent smaller and lighter than a traditional HUD, and 80 percent faster to install, according to the company. “LiteWave can be fitted into virtually any cockpit in the world,” Lee Tomlinson, director of HUD products for BAE Systems’ electronic systems business, said in a statement. “Our engineers have created a digital display that is smaller, lighter and uses less power than any other Head-Up Display. It has the potential to revolutionize the market and make HUD technology far more accessible.” BAE Systems said LiteWave is manufactured at the company’s facility in Rochester, U.K., and is now available for flight trials with potential customers.
National Security Strategy. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said on May 6 the administration’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) is set to be delivered “in the coming months.” The NSS would follow the new National Defense Strategy (NDS), of which a classified version has been delivered to Congress but only a two-page unclassified fact sheet has been released publicly. “I think it’s right and appropriate to take your time on that strategy to get it right. A strategy’s not a document. A strategy is something that you live and execute and it should be constantly reviewed and updated. That’s true of our NDS. It’s true of our National Security Strategy. And I do anticipate you’ll see that in the coming months,” Hicks said during a discussion with the Reagan Institute. “We would like to be above and beyond the rule of law and, in the spirit of how we try to operate in the department, provide that fuller unclassified description. But it’s appropriate to wait to see how the NSS is built out so we make sure it’s best nested there.”