Falcon Heavy Launch. The U.S. Space Force is to launch its USSF-44 classified mission by Nov. 1 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The last Falcon Heavy launch for the Department of the Air Force was in 2019. Next week’s launch is to feature Boeing Millenium Space Systems TETRA-1 microsatellite and the Northrop Grumman Long Duration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter-2 (LDPE-2). Based on the Northrop Grumman ESPAStar satellite bus, the LDPE-2 satellite is to carry six payloads for USSF-44. Overall, LDPE is to transition to Northrop Grumman’s Rapid On-orbit Space Technology Evaluation Ring (ROOSTER) “freight train to space” after LDPE-3. ROOSTER is to provide low-cost and frequent deployment of small satellites to geostationary orbit for national security missions. Space Force said that next week’s “Shepherd Demonstration” and LDPE-2 “will carry a variety of payloads that will promote and accelerate the advancement of space technology for the benefit of future Programs of Record.”

Bolstering the Triad.

While the U.S. Air Force is to field the first Northrop Grumman LGM-35A Sentinel ICBMs by 2029 to replace the Boeing Minuteman III fleet for strategic deterrence, the Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is looking to other systems, including the Lockheed Martin F-35A and the Raytheon Technologies AGM-181 Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) cruise missile for the U.S. Air Force, to provide regional deterrence. “To deter theater attacks and nuclear coercion of allies and partners, we will bolster the Triad with capabilities that further strengthen regional deterrence, such as F-35A dual-capable fighter aircraft (DCA) equipped with the B61-12 bomb; the W76-2 warhead; and the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon,” the NPR says. “These flexible, tailorable capabilities are key to ensuring that Russia’s leadership does not miscalculate regarding the consequences of nuclear use on any scale, thereby reducing their confidence in both initiating conventional war against NATO and considering the employment of non-strategic nuclear weapons in such a conflict.”

 …Waiting on the F-35A and LRSO. While the Biden administration’s NPR cancels the nuclear-armed Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM-N), the administration said that it is retaining the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead for ballistic missile submarines, at least until the F-35A and/or LRSO options are in the field. “The 2018 NPR introduced SLCM-N and the W76-2 to supplement the existing nuclear program of record in order to strengthen deterrence of limited nuclear use in a regional conflict,” the Biden administration’s NPR says. “We reassessed the rationale for these capabilities and concluded that the W76-2 currently provides an important means to deter limited nuclear use. Its deterrence value will be re-evaluated as the F-35A and LRSO are fielded, and in light of the security environment and plausible deterrence scenarios we could face in the future. We concluded SLCM-N was no longer necessary given the deterrence contribution of the W76-2, uncertainty regarding whether SLCM-N on its own would provide leverage to negotiate arms control limits on Russia’s NSNW [non-strategic nuclear weapons], and the estimated cost of SLCM-N in light of other nuclear modernization programs and defense priorities.”

ESB-7. The keel for the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB-7) was laid at General Dynamics’ National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) on Oct. 21 in San Diego, the Navy said on Oct. 24. These types of Lewis B. Puller-class Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ships support aviation mine countermeasure and special operations force missions. ESBs have a flight deck, hangar with two aviation operating spots, and support embarked force mission planning and execution. ESBs also have a reconfigurable mission deck area to store various equipment like mine sleds and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs). ESBs have a hybrid crew of Navy and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners.  GD-NASSCO is also building the future USS John L. Canley (ESB-6) and John Lewis-class Fleet Replenishment Oilers (T-AO).

Coyote Targets. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $79 million modification on Oct. 21 exercising an option to procure another 28 GQM-163A Coyote supersonic sea-skimming targets and associated data as part of full rate production Lot 16 deliveries for the Navy. Work will largely be split between Camden, Ark. (43 percent) and Chandler, Ariz. (35 percent) and is expected to be finished by March 2026. 

Last AQM-37s. The Navy launched its final two remaining AQM-37 targets after 60 years of use at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., on Sept. 22 to support an Army Integrated Fires Mission Command operation. “The final launch of the AQM-37 represents the closing of a chapter for the Aerial Targets Program Office (PMA-208) and our industry partners, but also intensifies our focus and provides us the opportunity to start and sustain new chapters with more advanced technology and capabilities that closer resemble the threats we face,” Don Blottenberger, PMA-208 program manager, said in a statement Oct. 26. The Navy noted since 1962, 5,000 AQM-37 targets have been delivered and launched in operations around the world. The system acted as air-to-air and air-to-surface targets and could fly in simulated ballistic missile profiles of up to 300,0000 feet. The AQM-37 was used for testing and deployment of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, Sea Sparrow Missile (RIM-7) and for ships with the Aegis system

…No Replacement. Blottenberger told Defense Daily there is no direct replacement for AQM-37, with all its variants having also been expended. “While the remaining U.S. Navy supersonic targets, GQM-163A Supersonic Sea Skimming Target and AQM-88A Supersonic Air-Launched Target (SALT), do not replicate the same performance as the AQM-37, they are capable of fulfilling a separate limited subset of its capability.” He added there is no anticipated gap in fleet training with the GQM-163 and SALT.

Unmanned Ship Count. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro recently said he is “very excited about the future of unmanned technology” and that “soon enough, we’ll start adding them to the ship counts as well.” He reiterated the current four prototype medium unmanned surface vessels participated in the RIMPAC exercises earlier this year on mining technologies and electronic warfare concepts of operations with “both very successful. So there’s a lot of hope and expectation about that.”  Del Toro was speaking during an AFCEA Naval Information Technology conference on Oct. 25. He also said he is excited about the future of the Navy’s Orca Extra Large Unmanned undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) program. “I’m hopeful that once that technology also proves to be effective, we’ll be able to employ that in some really strategic ways in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere.” He underscored the Navy is now developing concepts of operations” that are necessary for manned unmanned technology to work together, that’s incredibly important before we make some really firm commitments to certain technologies, and…buying them in much greater numbers.”

Palantir Award. The Army said on Oct. 17 it recently awarded Palantir Technologies a five-year deal worth up to $59 million to support integration, testing and deployment of the new All Source (AS) II application. Under the deal, which begins with an initial $2.2 million delivery order, Palantir will work on the AS II tool, which the Army says “allows analysts to visualize data and gain rapid situation understanding of the enemy in order to support Multi Domain Operations.” The Army noted AS II is targeted for deployment with its new Command Post Computing Environment. “It will provide a robust set of tools to enable the analyst to quickly convert and process raw information into a synthesized view of the threat on the battlefield and alert functions in support of pre-mission planning and continuing into MDO mission sets,” Col. Christopher Anderson, the Army’s project manager for intelligence systems and analytics, said in a statement. 

Lithuania JLTVs. Lithuana’s Ministry of Defence announced plans on Oct. 18 to acquire 300 more Oshkosh Defense-built Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. Lithuania is now set to receive 500 total JLTVs, after previously signing a deal in 2019 to order 200 of the vehicles. “The additional procurement of 300 items of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle from the U.S. is one of the most important steps in the process of modernization of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Our military cooperation with the United States is expanding and we are capable of contributing to the security of the eastern flank of NATO together. This sends a strong signal to our allies that Lithuania not only assists Ukraine in its struggle with everything we have but also takes care to invest in its own defense and the defense of the whole alliance,” Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas said in a statement. Lithuania received its first 50 JLTVs in August 2021, with the Ministry of Defence stating the next group of 50 vehicles will be delivered in the next month or two followed by another 100 in 2023. 

Essex Acquires PAI. Essex Industries last week acquired Precision Aerospace, Inc. (PAI), expanding its aerospace and defense product portfolio with pressure sensors, pressure transducers and oil debris monitoring technology. PAI has 400 employees and is based in Connecticut. PAI’s products are on every major fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft program. Essex, which is based in St. Louis, provides platform controls, aircraft components, emergency breathing and liquid oxygen equipment. PAI will operate as Essex Industries.

New Cyber Performance Goals. The Department of Homeland Security last week released voluntary high-priority baseline measures for businesses and critical infrastructure owners to use to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats. The Cybersecurity Performance Goals were developed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency with the help of public and private sector partners during the past year. “To reduce risk to the infrastructure and supply chains that Americans rely on every day, we must have a set of baseline cybersecurity goals that are consistent across all critical infrastructure sectors,” says CISA Director Jen Easterly. “CISA has created such a set of cybersecurity performance goals to address medium-to-high priority cybersecurity risks to our critical infrastructure.”

DoD, DIB Cyber Exchange. The Defense Department’s Cyber Crime Center (DC3) last week said its DoD-Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Collaborative Information Sharing Environment (DCISE) held its first in-person technical exchange since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more then two years ago. The two-day event included the DCISE Threat Brief, and an in-depth update to recent, current and potential future malicious cyber threat activity. The exchange is an opportunity for industry, DC3 and other experts to present on use cases, adversary tactics, techniques and procedures, and emerging cybersecurity topics.