Hardware Fund. Pentagon technology chief Michael Griffin says he backs a congressional proposal to provide $150 million to encourage private-sector investment in hardware technologies that might be useful to the Defense Department. The proposal is included in the Senate-passed version of the fiscal year 2019 defense authorization bill. “I worked with some of the folks that are promulgating that initiative, and I support it,” Griffin testified before the House Armed Services Committee recently in response to a question from Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). Gallagher wanted to include a similar provision in the House bill, but the House Rules Committee did not clear his amendment for floor consideration. Gallagher said he sees the funds being used in such areas as robotics, semiconductors and artificial intelligence-related equipment. “We spend so much time talking about software but not hardware,” Gallagher said.

Bahrain F-16s. Lockheed Martin has received a $1.1-billion contract to build 16 F-16 Block 70 fighters for the Royal Bahraini Air Force, marking the first sale of the newest version of the Fighting Falcon. The Block 70 offers improved radar systems, advanced weapons capabilities and enhanced battlespace awareness, the company said. The award also represents the first F-16 production program that will be carried out in Greenville, S.C., as Lockheed Martin is moving its longtime F-16 production line from Fort Worth, Texas, to make room for expanding F-35 production there. The U.S. State Department announced in September that it had approved Bahrain’s purchase of up to 19 F-16 Block 70s and upgrades to 20 F-16 Block 40s. Contract talks continue on the upgrades.

Autonomous Vehicles. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Lyons, who has been nominated to lead U.S. Transportation Command, said he sees “enormous opportunities” for autonomous vehicles. “The technology’s here today,” Lyons testified June 26 before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Frankly, many of the barriers are going to be cultural more so than technology.”

Hypersonic Plane Concept. Boeing last week unveiled a hypersonic passenger aircraft concept that it says could have military or commercial applications. Kevin Bowcraft, senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics at Boeing, said in a statement that a hypersonic passenger plane could be flying in 20 to 30 years.

Iris Lock. The Army is using an Iris recognition-enabled access control system at a new chemical lab at its Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center in Maryland to help control access into and throughout the facility, according to Brian Hunt of the Defense Department’s Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency. In addition to the iris readers, which are provided by Princeton Identity, employees at the lab also use their Common Access Cards to gain access to sensitive areas of the lab. Hunt said this this access control system works for personnel wearing protective equipment, colored contact lenses, and even polarized sunglasses. Johnson Controls was the integrator for the access control system.

Business Appointments. Raytheon’s board has elected Marta Stewart, 60, as a director. She retired last year from the rail transportation company Norfolk Southern Corp., following a 33-year career with the company, most recently as chief financial officer. Vicki Hollub, 58, president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corp., has been elected to Lockheed Martin’s board of directors. Lockheed Martin Chief Marillyn Hewson said Hollub’s “experience doing business in the Middle East” and globally will help the company with its international growth. Separately, Lockheed Martin appointed Bob Harward as chief for its Middle East business. Previously, Harward led the company’s efforts in the United Arab Emirates. CACI International Inc. has appointed Mike Hale as executive vice president in charge of its National and Cyber Solutions Group, and Science Applications International Corp. has named Christopher Donaghey as senior vice president of Corporate Development and Tom Eldridge as senior vice president of Strategic Development and Communications.

AFCYBER. The Air Force on July 17 will officially realign its cyber unit from its space branch to Air Force Combat Command (ACC). Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) will now serve as the lead command for organizing and training Air Forces Cyber (AFCYBER) units for full-spectrum cyber missions and operations. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson directed to move on June 7. During the realignment ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner will assume command of AFCYBER. Skinner currently serves as deputy commander of AFSPC.

Greaves On Tests. Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) says if he has to choose between a point demonstration intercept test and a control test vehicle (CTV), where the interceptor is demonstrated without interception “I’d pick the latter because the demonstrating capability across the performance box allows us to anchor our ground models, which then allows us to end up very confidently providing reliability numbers, say 95% probability, with a 90% confidence for you who follow that sort of stuff, the warfighter – this is what the warfighter needs, to basically understand and accept the system will work.” He noted MDA is using the CTV model for the upcoming GM CTV-03+, the first test of the redesigned kill vehicle (RKV). Greaves said the interceptor will fly close enough to a target missile to convince themselves the RKV could intercept if that was the plan.

…And Salvo Test. Greaves also explained the importance of FTG-11, an upcoming salvo test firing of two Ground-Based Interceptors against an ICBM target. “We’ve never done a test where we have multiple GBIs in flight. The first one mitigates interceptor target. We want to know what that second sensor sees as it approaches the threat complex.” Finding what the second interceptor sees will help anchor the modeling and simulations MDA is doing for this kind of scenario, he said.

…And Industry Feedback. Greaves also noted since the agency is concerned if it is moving fast enough, he recently hosted representatives from MDA’s seven biggest contractors with the most amount of business with the agency. The meeting was “basically open kimono, very direct conversation. What was going well, what was not going well, were we responsive, were we transparent, were we actionable, were decisions being made, and it was a very positive response form industry.” He said that on the contracting process “there were very good inputs on things we could do to shorten that process a bit.”

UAV Swarm. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded Raytheon a $30 million contract for Low Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) Innovative Naval Prototype (INP). LOCUST can launch swarming UAVs to autonomously overwhelm enemies. It includes a tube-based launcher that sends UAVs quickly into the air, which then share information to perform offensive or defensive missions. Work will occur in Tuscon, Ariz., and is expected to be finished by January 2020. 

RIMAPC Starts. Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. John Aquilino and commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet Vice Adm. John Alexander announced the start of the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, set to run through Aug. 2 near Hawaii and Southern California. This year’s exercise includes 25 countries, over 45 ships and submarines, 17 land forces, over 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel. The exercise aims to offer a unique training opportunity to sustain and foster cooperative relationships needed to ensure sea lane security. Israel, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam are participating in RIMPAC for the first time and New Zealand is serving as Sea Combat Commander and Chile serving as Combined Force Maritime Component Commander, both for the first time. RIMPAC will feature a live firing of a long range anti-ship missile (LRASM) for a U.S. Air Force aircraft, surface-to-ship missiles fired by Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) fired from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Load System (PLS) by the U.S. Army.