Engine War. Supporters of a second engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter have pointed to the “Great Engine War” between Pratt & Whitney and General Electric for the F-16 in the 1980s, which they said helped reduce engine costs and improve reliability through Pentagon competitive awards. In the fiscal 2024 budget request early next year, DoD may decide on a path forward for the F-35 engine, now Pratt &Whitney’s F135, to accommodate F-35 Block 4 upgrades. While Pratt & Whitney is proposing an Engine Core Upgrade (ECU) for the F135, General Electric is proposing a new, XA100 engine. Public relations’ jockeying by the companies has intensified. GE has said that the XA100 has finished testing under the Advanced Engine Transition Program (AETP), and the company noted that the House-Senate agreement on a fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill has called for a Government Accountability Office audit on engine requirements to ensure full Block 4 capabilities. Pratt & Whitney, for its part, has said that the ECU will save $40 billion in life cycle costs and pointed to the Pentagon’s $619 million award to the company on Dec. 15 for long lead items for Lot 17 engines and four F135 engines for foreign nations in Lots 15 and 16.

NDAA as a Whole.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby last Friday gave no indication whether President Biden will sign the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) even though it includes a provision repealing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for U.S. troops. “Every single year, the NDAA has things in it that we support and it has things in it that we don’t support,” Kirby said in response to a reporter’s question whether Biden is weighing a veto of the bill given the vaccine repeal. “And the president will judge this NDAA as a whole, just like he has in the past and I’m not going to get ahead of his of his judgment of it.”

…Next Ukraine Package. There will be another security assistance package for Ukraine and “you could expect to see additional air defense capabilities in this one,” Kirby said during the virtual media briefing. Asked by a reporter about Russia warning the U.S. not to send the Patriot air and missile defense system to Ukraine, Kirby highlighted Russia’s ongoing cruise missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and said the U.S. won’t waver in its support for Ukraine. “So, we’re fixated on making sure we can help them with those air defense capabilities and we’re working with them in lockstep about what kinds of capabilities are the most appropriate,” he said. “And that will continue for as long as they remain under assault from the air as they have been in recent weeks.

Cyber Assessment Overdue. Several House Republicans last Friday wrote Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about their concern of review and force structure assessment of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that was due in Jan. 2022. The review was called for in the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and directed in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. “These review efforts reflect back on the ability of the Department to effectively manage its components and are crucial to understanding CISA’s current ability to conduct its mission effectively, as well as its current and future resource needs,” write Reps. John Katko (N.Y.), Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.) and Mike Gallagher (Wis.).

Corporate News. Raytheon Technologies last week said its board authorized a new $6 billion share repurchase program, replacing a $6 billion stock buyback authorization announced in December 2021. Stephen Fogarty, a retired Lt. Gen. who served as commanding general of U.S. Army Cyber Command, has joined Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior executive adviser, leading development of threat-informed defensive and offensive cyber strategies and solutions. Leidos has named Darby LaJoye as its vice president and strategic account executive for the Department of Homeland Security. LaJoye is a former executive assistant administrator for Security Operations at the Transportation Security Administration and also was the acting head of the agency.

Ground Test-08. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Boeing a $109 million modification to extend the performance period of a previous multi-billion dollar contract by 12 months. The announcement said this modification will allow Boeing to help complete the Ground Test (GT)-08 test campaign; fielding of the Launch Management System software version 8D and Increment 6B.2 of the Missile Defense System; and installation of new Launch System Components and Launch Support Systems. This modification increases the total contract from $5.059 billion to $5.168 billion. Work will occur in Huntsville, Ala.; Fort Greely, Alaska; and Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. This award extends the period of performance from December 2023 to December 2024. Funding will come from the fiscal years 2023 – 2025 research and development accounts, but no funds were obligated at the time of award.

LCS-34. The future USS Augusta (LCS-34) Littoral Combat Ship is set to be christened during a brief ceremony on Dec. 17 at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Ala. Augusta is the 17th Independence-variant LCS and is named after the capital of Maine. The ship sponsor is former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Leigh Saufley, who served from 2001 to 2020 and currently serves as the president and dean of the University of Maine School of law. 

LHA-98 Named. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced on Dec. 13 a future America-class amphibious assault ship will be named USS Fallujah (LHA 9). The name will commemorate the First and Second Battles of Fallujah during the Iraq War. The Navy said the name selection is in line with a tradition of naming amphibious assault ships after Marine Corps battles, early U.S. sailing ships and legacy names of earlier World War II aircraft carriers. “This namesake deserves to be in the pantheon of iconic Marine Corps battles and the LHA’s unique capabilities will serve as a stark reminder to everyone around the world of the bravery, courage, and commitment to freedom displayed by those who fought in the battle,” Del Toro said in a statement. The First Battle of Fallujah was in April 2004 and the Second Battle lasted from November to December 2004.

Canadian Minehunting. Canada’s Kraken Robotics Inc. said on Dec. 7 it won up to $50 million for a Remote Minehunting and Disposal Systems (RMDS) for the Canadian Department of National Defense. This includes a 24-month acquisition program then an initial five-year Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) program with options for additional equipment, spare parts, training, and technical support. The formal contract signature and acquisition program start is slated for January 2023. Kraken said if all options are chosen, the total value will consist of $40 million in acquisition and $10 million in ILS. For this program, Kraken will deliver remote minehunting and disposal systems to the Royal Canadian Navy on both the East and West Coasts. The RMDS consists of Light Weight Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Operator Portable AUVs, which will both be equipped with the Kraken AquaPix synthetic aperture sonar. RMDS also includes several Combat-variant and Training-variant mine disposal systems (MDS), transportable command center (TCC) and Computer-Based Trainer (CBT).

…Partners. Kraken’s partners in the program include the Kongsberg’s Maritime Canada subsidiary, providing the HII Mission Technologies Division’s REMUS AUV;  Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems Canada Ltd (tkMS) subsidiary, providing their SEAFOX mine disposal vehicles; and SH Defense providing “The Cube” containerized multi mission module system acting as transportable command center and effector/ launch and recovery center.

NGI Propellant. Northrop Grumman on Dec. 7 said it completed the first full-scale mix of the solid rocket motor propellant for its bid of the Next Generation Interceptor. The company said this successful full mix ensures the solid rocket motors supporting the Northrop Grumman-Raytheon Technologies NGI proposal “are on track to complete qualification via static test.” The company did not disclose when the static test is due to occur. Northrop Grumman used its remote automated solid rocket motor manufacturing facilities in Bacchus, Utah for the propellant mix.

Hypersonics Manufacturing. Northrop Grumman said on Dec. 13 it has received an $8.8 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to work on enhancements for its hypersonics manufacturing technology. The company said the deal “supports improvements that will help to shorten production times and drive affordability for hypersonic weapons in production.” “Increased manufacturing capacity is key to enabling our nation’s need for cost-effective hypersonic production at scale,” Dan Olson, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager of weapon systems, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with AFRL and our internal investments in propulsion infrastructure and innovation, we are making hypersonics a cost-effective reality.” The company noted it’s also constructing a hypersonics capability center in Elkton, Maryland, “designed to provide full lifecycle production, from design and development to production and integration for hypersonic weapons.” Northrop Grumman is currently teamed with Raytheon Missiles & Defense to develop the Air Force’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, and also recently completed “the first and second flight test of a scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon concept.”

Tactical Dronut. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has awarded Cleo Robotics a $2.5 million deal to deliver a lightweight, rugged small drone prototype, called the Tactical Dronut. The system, to be used for ISR capabilities, is based on Cleo Robotics’ current Dronut technology and was selected from an Army Innovation Day competition evaluation. “The TacDronut sUAS project was selected as part of the Army RCCTO Advanced Concepts and Experimentation office’s Army mission to rapidly develop, test, and transition advanced technologies to address high priority items for the warfighter. This project’s goal is to improve air platform kinematics in support of indoor and outdoor short-range operations in complex environments to help mitigate operational gaps involving the clearing of buildings, potential tunnels, and other enclosed spaces that are incredibly challenging for our warfighters,” Nathan Rozea, project lead on the TacDronut effort for the Army RCCTO’s Advanced Concepts and Experimentation office, said in a statement. 

9th Nation. Germany became the ninth foreign military sales nation to join the F-35 program when the country’s ministry of defense said on Dec. 14 that it is buying 35 Lockheed Martin F-35As. The agreement includes engines, mission equipment, spare and replacement parts, technical and logistic support, training and armament, Lockheed Martin said. “By the 2030s, it is expected that over 550 F-35s will work together from more than 10 European countries, including two full U.S. F-35 squadrons at RAF Lakenheath,” the company said, adding that 875 F-35s are in service at 26 bases globally.

Arctic Ops. Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom are to buy 436 BAE Systems’ BvS10 all-terrain vehicles for $760 million for Arctic operations under the Collaborative All-Terrain Vehicle (CATV) program, BAE Systems said. Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, managing director of BAE Systems Hägglunds, which builds the BvS10s in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, said in a statemeent that the company is seeing “increased interest from numerous countries for the extreme mobility capabilities offered by the BvS10 and its unarmored sister vehicle, Beowulf.” Of the 436 BvS10s, 236 will go to Sweden starting in 2024, 140 to Germany, and 60 to the U.K. “The vehicles are based on the latest version of the BvS10 currently operated by Sweden, and will include variants for troop transport, logistics, medical evacuation, recovery, and command and control,” BAE Systems said.