Tricky Challenge. Enabling U.S. Navy strike fighter aircraft to carry hypersonic missiles and stow them safely on aircraft carriers may be a knotty technical challenge. Last month, the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies $116 million in contracts for the preliminary design review phase for the Hypersonic Air Launched Offensive Anti-Surface (HALO) weapon The contract performance period lasts through December next year when each vendor’s preliminary design review will lead to prototype flight tests. “One of the challenges for hypersonic vehicles, in particular, are their size,” says Steven Botwinik, vice president of advanced programs execution and transition at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando. “So getting them to be able to be flown on a [F/A-18 E/F] Super Hornet, for example, as well as being able to be stored and maneuvered through an aircraft carrier and compliant with all the aircraft carrier operations is tricky.”

…Longer Envelope.

If fielded, HALO could work in tandem with Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Weapon. The Navy has said that HALO is a successor program to the  Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) fielded on the Navy’s F/A-18s and Air Force B-1Bs. “The envelope [for HALO] we were provided by the Navy is longer than what an AGM-158C is,” Botwinik says. “They did allow us an envelope that was bigger than an LRASM.” Strike aircraft will have to be able to land safely on carrier decks with HALO. “I’d refer you back to the Navy on that one, but you can imagine there’s a lot of dialogue around that, but what you don’t want to do is equip a whole bunch of aircraft with weapons and then have no choice but to get rid of them,” Botwinik says.

JASSM Production. In Troy, Ala., Lockheed Martin has an older 125,000 square foot factory and a new 225,000 square foot one to conduct final assembly of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) family, including the AGM-158B JASSM Extended Range and LRASM. The U.S. Air Force has said that its maximum JASSM production is 550 missiles per year, but there is thought being given to increasing that rate to 800 or more per year. Last year, Lockheed Martin began discussing current and future DoD needs for JASSM with the supplier base, says Brian Hastings, Lockheed Martin’s JASSM strategy and requirements international business development lead. “I think Lockheed is in a very strong position to meet those requirements that are levied on JASSM from our customers,” he says.

Acquisitions Completed. NV5 Global and Parsons last week each completed an acquisition with the former acquiring the Visual Information Solutions commercial geospatial technology and software business of L3Harris Technologies and the latter purchasing IPKeys Power Partners for $43 million. L3Harris previously said the divestiture would result in a $100 million benefit to the company. IPKeys provides smart data management and cybersecurity solutions to critical infrastructure customers, particularly in the electric, gas and water utilities markets. Parsons said the acquisition enhances its Federal Solutions and Critical Infrastructure segments.

Seed Funding. ThayerMahan, a developer of autonomous maritime solutions, has closed a $30 million Series C funding round led by MC2 Security Fund, an affiliate of The Chertoff Group. “ThayerMahan has demonstrated strong capabilities for both naval defense and commercial offshore energy use cases,” Chad Sweet, MC2 partner and a new member of ThayerMahan’s board, said in a statement. “This ‘dual use’ market approach provides strong diversification of revenue streams and helps to mitigate risk. This investment round will accelerate ThayerMahan’s growth and further advance its high performing AI and autonomy-related technology.” Other investors in the funding round include I Squared Capital, Ducenta Squared Asset Management, Compass Partners, AE Industrial Partners, Hegemon Capital, and an affiliate of RiverPark Ventures.

Checkpoint Tech Testing. The Transportation Security Administration earlier this month began testing a next-generation carry-on baggage scanning system at Boston Logan International Airport to collect operational data and improve the system and detection algorithms. The system integrated the Detect 1000 computed tomography checkpoint scanner developed and built by Integrated Defense & Security Solutions with an X-ray Diffraction system developed by Halo X-ray Technologies. The testing is part of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Screening at Speed program. Once IDSS improves the automated threat recognition algorithm, there is an opportunity for additional data collection over the next two years.

ChatGPT Challenges Coming. The artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT is “sophisticated” and “impressive” and is going to present new challenges to cybersecurity defenders, Rob Joyce, the head of the National Security Agency’s cybersecurity branch, said last week. In the near-term it won’t replace hackers, it won’t automate attacks on organizations or find all the zero-day vulnerabilities in software, but it’s going to make it easier for bad actors, he said at an event hosted by CSIS. “It’s going to really improve the ability for malicious actors who use those tools to be better or faster,” Joyce said. “And in the case of the malicious foreign actors, it will craft very believable native language English text that could be part of your phishing campaign or your interaction with a person or your ability to build a backstory. All those things that will allow you to do those activities or even malign influence. That’s going to be a problem.”

Ukraine Aid Meeting. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will host the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on April 21 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the Pentagon said on April 13. The meeting will once again gather defense officials from around 50 countries to discuss and collaborate on security assistance efforts for Ukraine. “As we’ve highlighted before, the [Ukraine Defense] Contact Group has been instrumental in identifying, synchronizing and ensuring delivery of the military capabilities the Ukrainians need to defend their homeland,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said during a briefing. 

Ukraine/NATO. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on April 13 he sees an opportunity for Ukraine to join NATO, adding the alliance’s upcoming summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this July would be “the best place” to start the process.  “I think a very clear path to NATO, including security guarantees, should be provided, should be offered to Kyiv,” Morawiecki said during an Atlantic Council discussion. “I’m still hopeful that this will happen, but it’s not going to be easy.” NATO recently welcomed Finland as its 31st member nation, and Sweden is also currently in the ascension process to join the alliance.

Assured PNT. The Army has awarded TRX Systems a deal worth up to $402 million for the Dismounted Assured Positioning Navigation Timing Systems (DAPS) Generation II program. The contract, which is a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III production deal, begins with an initial $14.6 million delivery order covering more than 700 DAPS Gen II units. DAPS Gen II looks to field a new assured precision, navigation and timing (PNT) capability for dismounted soldiers that utilizes enhanced anti-jamming and anti-spoofing protections. “DAPS ensures access to modernized military GPS and fuses additional sources of PNT to include timing and alternate navigation technologies,” Mike Trzeciak, the Army’s project manager for PNT, said in a statement. Assured PNT is a critical enabling capability to Multi Domain Operations and is essential for the Brigade Combat Team and their direct support units.”

Solid Rocket Motors. The Pentagon said on April 14 its Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization has signed a $215.6 million agreement with Aerojet Rocketdyne to expand and modernize the company’s facilities for manufacturing solid rocket motors in Camden, Ark., Huntsville, Ala., and Orange County, Va. DoD said Aerojet Rocketdyne will use the funds to modernize manufacturing processes at the facilities, consolidate production lines, purchase equipment and build systems to process data. The aim is to “increase production and delivery speed” for solid rocket motors used in Javelin and Stinger missiles as well as GMLRS rockets. “The Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization is moving forward with appropriate urgency to support strategic industrial sectors crucial to protecting national security. This critical investment will modernize rocket propellant and motor production in the United States, in addition to creating technical and skilled labor jobs at multiple domestic facilities,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in a statement.

…Progress Already. The company says it has already been increasing production on many of its programs using internal funds with one example being a 40 percent increase in production of Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) attitude control motors (ACM). Aerojet Rocketdyne in February announced it has been making investments in the many programs to increase production, including the ACMs, going from two to three production lines. Between internal investments and the new DoD funding, Aerojet Rocketdyne said it is “moving out immediately…to increase the quantity and speed of delivery of our critical propulsion.”

LCS-31. The Navy plans to christen and launch the latest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Cleveland (LCS-31), during an April 15 ceremony in Marinette, Wis. The odd- numbered Freedom-variant LCSs are built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine. The Defense Department said this will be the last planned side-launch of a ship at this shipyard while follow-on vessels will be launched using a shipset system. LCS-31 is the 16th and last Freedom-variant LCS while also being the fourth ship named after the city of Cleveland, Ohio.

UISS. The Navy awarded Textron Systems a $19 million modification for retrofit of the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). Last year, the Navy said Bollinger Shipyards beat Textron for the full mine countermeasure (MCM) Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) production contract. The MCM USV is being used for the UISS program. Textron first won the initial contracts for four of its Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV) vehicles used in Navy UISS testing. Work under this contract will be split between Hunt Valley, Md. (70 percent); and San Diego (30 percent), and is expected to be completed by June 2024.

BAE Repair Upgrades. BAE Systems officially started construction of a new modern Pearlson Shiplift and land-level repair complex at the company’s Jacksonville, Florida shipyard during a ceremony on April 11. BAE first announced the plans to build this complex at a cost of $200 million in December 2022. BAE’s shipyard modernization project also includes cooperation with Pearlson Shiplift Corporation, Foth Engineering, and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. Foth and Pearlson are responsible for overall facility design, construction management and engineering, and key equipment supply while Kiewit serves as general contractor. BAE boasted that once the facility is complete in 2025 it will expand its shipyard docking capability by 300 percent and generate about 1,000 new jobs. The facility’s shiplift system will include a 492 by 110-foot articulated platform that can accommodate an Arleigh Burke-class Flight III guided-missile destroyer or a commercial vessel displacing about 25,000 tons. “The new Pearlson Shiplift System and land level facility for BAE Systems Jacksonville Ship Repair, when commissioned, will be the largest in both North and South America and the most modern shiplift facility in the world,” Pearlson’s President and Chief Operating Officer Kelly Pearlson Fraind said in a statement.

Harpoons. The Navy awarded Boeing a $1.17 billion undefinitized modification on April 7 to a previous basic ordering agreement procuring 400 RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Update (HIIU) Grade B canister tactical missiles, four RTM-84L-4 Block II HIIU Grade B canister exercise missiles, 411 containers, four blast test vehicles, two Harpoon Weapon System (HWS) Joint Common Test Sets (JCTS) and various spares, support equipment and training. Work will be finished by March 2029. $630 million in Foreign Military Sales funds was obligated at the time of award, with none of it expiring at the end of this fiscal year.