Hypersonic Testing. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wants to amend the Senate’s draft fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill to create a testing area for military and civil supersonic and hypersonic aircraft. Lee has submitted for Senate consideration an amendment to the bill that provides that the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration “in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall designate an overland supersonic and hypersonic testing corridor in the United States that runs from Edwards Air Force Base, California to the Utah Test and Training Range and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.”
A proposed amendment by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to the Senate’s draft fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill would prohibit the Air Force from retiring any of its 13 Boeing C-40 aircraft used for the transport of senior military commanders, cabinet officers, and members of Congress. The Air Force is upgrading the planes with L3Harris wideband satellite communications. The C-40s are based on the Boeing 737-700 commercial airliner. The Durbin/Duckworth amendment would prohibit the use of any fiscal 2023 funding “to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage or on backup aircraft inventory status any C–40 aircraft” unless the secretary of the Air Force certifies that an aircraft is not mission capable because of a Class A mishap. Boeing delivered the C-40s to the Air Force between 2002 and 2007.
SBIR Reauthorization. Congress has passed a bill to extend the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for another three years, as both initiatives were set to expire at the end of September. After the Senate unanimously passed the measure on Sept. 21, the House voted 415 to 9 in favor of the legislation on Sept. 29, sending the bill to the president’s desk for final signature. “Stakeholders from individual entrepreneurs to the Department of Defense have warned for months that even a temporary program shutdown would be disastrous. This legislation will extend the SBIR and STTR programs and six related pilot programs for three years, avoiding a devastating lapse and saving thousands of jobs,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Small Business Committee, said in a statement. The bill includes several provisions aimed at reducing the risk of partnering with firms that have ties to foreign governments and additional benchmarks for ensuring the viability of both programs.
Handsome NGA Contract. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency last week awarded Lockheed Martin a potential $475 million contract for the Kayenne program, which is classified. All links to program information are classified as well. Whatever it is, Kayenne looks like a nice win for the company.
CG-73 Exits. The Navy commissioned the USS Port Royal (CG-73) Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser on Sept. 29 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The ship served in the Navy for over 28 years after being built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in 1994 in Pascagoula, Miss. CG-73 returned from its final deployment in July. The Navy argued decommissioning this ship supports the Navy’s reform initiatives to free up time, resources and manpower to focus on increased lethality. With the Port Royal decommissioning, 21 other cruisers are still in service. CG-73 follows USS Monterey (CG-61), USS Anzio (CG-68), and Hué City (CG-66) decommissioned in September and the USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) decommissioned in August.
Sonobuoys. Naval Air Systems Command awarded ERAPSCO, a joint venture of Sparton and USSI, a $182 million modification to increase the total contract value for production of another 100,000 AN/SSQ-53, 16,000 AN/SSQ-101, and 10,000 AN/SSQ-62 production sonobuoys. The contract announcement said the Navy will use these sonobuoys for “annual training, peacetime operations and testing expenditures, and maintaining sufficient inventory to support the execution of major combat operations determined by the Naval Munitions Requirements Process for the Navy and Foreign Military Sales customers.” Work will occur in De Leon Spring, Fla. (54 percent); and Columbia City, Ind. (46 percent) and is expected to be finished by September 2025. No funds were obligated at award time, but they will be provided for individual task orders as they are issued under this contract.
DDG-53 DSRA. The Navy’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility awarded Vigor Marine LLC a $131 million contract to conduct USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) 2C1 dry-docking selected restricted availability (DSRA). The contract includes options that could raise the value to almost $132 million if exercised. Work will be split between Seattle (77 percent) and Everett, Wash. (23 percent), and is expected to be finished by February 2024. The contract was not competitively procured.
Frigate Test Site. The Navy awarded Fincantieri Marinette Marine a $77 million modification on Sept. 22 to procure long-lead time material for the land-based engineering test site for the Constellation-class frigate. Work will occur in Marinette, Wis., and is expected to be finished by October 2025. The contracting agency is the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, Maine. This is in accordance with a fiscal year 2021 defense authorization act provision requiring the Navy to start a land-based test program for the frigate’s engineering plan before the first vessel is delivered. The test program is directed to be completed no later than when the first new frigate is available for tasking by operational commanders.
LCS-23. The Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) Littoral Combat Ship on Sept. 20 at shipbuilding Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s shipyard in Marinette, Wis. LCS-23 is the 12th Freedom-variant LCS, designed by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and built by Fincantieri. The ship is next set to sail to a commissioning ceremony in New York, N.Y., before it later travels to its homeport in Mayport, Fla. LCS-23 is the fourth LCS delivered this fiscal year. The Navy noted LCS-23 is the second vessel with the combining gear fix that allows it to travel at full speed. This was a class-wide flaw in all the Freedom-variant vessels. LCS-23 is the first naval ship to honor the Village of Cooperstown in New York, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Fincantieri Marinette Marine is also building the future USS Marinette (LCS-25), set for delivery in early 2023. Other ships under construction include the future USS Nantucket (LCS-27), Beloit (LCS-29) and Cleveland (LCS-31). LCS 31 will be the last Freedom-variant LCS.
XLUUV Changes. A GAO report released Sept. 28 flagged four key differences between Boeing’s Echo Voyager prototype and the Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle the Navy is buying, accounting for major cost and time overruns. This includes different endurance and operational profile qualities, which required Boeing to find a different subcontractor and a new battery design for XLUUV. The vehicle’s pressure vessels also had to be made of a different material to meet Navy requirements, with the materials taking longer to obtain and posing more technical challenges, adding complexity to the effort. Boeing also had to redesign the vehicle’s payload module to meet the Navy’s mine-handling safety requirements, requiring “significant changes to the hull portion of the vehicle’s payload module.” The fourth change is while Boeing used an elevator to raise and lower the Echo Voyager, the Navy required XLUUV to use a crane, which entailed redesigning the payload module and other parts for lift requirements. “This change increased the complexity of constructing the vehicle,” GAO said.
…Other Factors. The report also noted the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues affected Boeing’s ability to receive purchases in time to support its schedule. “Contractor officials told us that it has been difficult to maintain their schedule through the series of economic disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, contractor officials told us that they spent a significant amount of resources to find the parts called for in the design or suitable alternative parts.” GAO said shipbuilders can request a deviation from the plan in ship specifications if they cannot build according to the plan. The Navy told GAO the contractor “submitted over 1,500 deviation requests since the critical design review in October 2018. This includes 13 major deviations to the hull, pressure vessels, batteries, and the payload, among others. As of May 2022, the Navy approved two of these 13 major deviations and has yet to make a decision regarding the remaining 11 major deviations.”
…Schedule Issues. GAO argued urgent capability acquisition best practices for an effort like XLUUV aim for an 80 percent solution delivered in a timely manner rather than a 95 percent solution too late. However, GAO said the Navy is not meeting that directive since it did not have information about schedule risks to make an informed trade-off decision “that balances the needs and resources available for an emergent need within urgent time frames.” Navy officials told GAO they did not assess the schedule because the contractor provided for delivery of the five XLUUVs within two years at a ceiling price. GAO argued this means the Navy is prioritizing cost over schedule. “In other words, Navy officials clearly stated that they do not plan to make trade-offs to improve schedule at this point in the effort. As a result, the Navy does not have the information necessary to ensure that the contractor can meet the schedule, which heightens the risk of additional delays.”
All options. While the U.S. Air Force hopes to replace its venerable Boeing E-3 AWACS air-moving target indication (AMTI) planes with more modern Boeing E-7 Wedgetails, the service is also examining ground-moving target indication (GMTI) from space and air. The Department of the Air Force (DAF) says that it is working “within the DoD to review all possible options to deliver the best value AMTI/GMTI solution to the joint force.” The DAF says that, “moving forward, it is clear we need a resilient solution that can survive in contested environments and provide the information advantage needed to support our warfighters.”
CISA Event Postponed. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency postponed its annual National Cybersecurity Summit that was scheduled to take place in Atlanta this Tuesday due to the potential impact of Hurricane Ian in the southeastern U.S. The agency says it will reschedule for a later date.
Cyber Risk Exposure. Credit rating agency Moody’s says in a new report that critical infrastructure such as electric, gas and water utilities and hospitals face “very high cyber risk exposure” while banks, telecommunications, technology, chemicals, energy and transportation services face “high cyber risk exposure.” Sectors with moderate risk include “advanced and emerging economy sovereigns and regional and local governments, manufacturing and insurance.” Finance, mining and public sector housing are low risk. Moody’s says more than $80 trillion of its rated debt falls into the high or very high-risk exposure. On the positive side, the investor’s services firm says “we are witnessing correlated growth in robust security program investments, as industries prioritize the need to assess and quantify the risk to inform key strategy decisions, mitigate supply chain risk, and ensure investor confidence.”
People News. Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus—and former CIA director—has joined the cybersecurity firm Semperis as a strategic adviser, and will help strengthen the company’s business in the public sector. Semperis, which is based in New Jersey, recently raised more than $200 million in a series C funding round led by the investment firm KKR, where Petraeus is a partner. Zapata Computing, an enterprise quantum software company, has appointed Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael Groen as an adviser. Groen is a former director of the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and will help Zapata with its product and go-to-market strategy for the public sector.
EHETS Award. The Army has awarded Oshkosh Defense a five-year deal worth potentially $263.2 million to produce Enhanced Heavy Equipment Transporter System (EHETS) trailers, the company said on Sept. 26. This is the first production contract for EHETS and may cover deliveries of up to 466 trailers. The Army has placed an initial $37.6 million delivery order with Oshkosh for five test trailers, to be used for production verification testing, operational testing, logistics development and engineering development, as well as 68 production trailers. “Oshkosh Defense designed the EHETS trailer to be pulled by the Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) A1 currently in service with the U.S. Army,” the company wrote in a statement. “The combined HET A1 and EHETS trailer system is designed to self-load and unload and can haul a payload of up to 90 tons, allowing it to transport the heaviest Army tracked vehicles, including current and future versions of Main Battle Tanks, while also obtaining European road permissions at required payloads.”
Palantir. Palantir Technologies announced on Sept. 29 it has received a one-year contract extension worth up to $229 million to expand its work with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to include supporting all branches of the Armed Services, Joint Staff, and Special Forces “as they test, utilize, and scale artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.” Palantir said the contract extension will help scale the company’s work helping to implement AI and ML capabilities, and builds upon a two-year deal worth nearly $100 million it received in late July to continue its ongoing work with ARL. “By bringing leading AI/ML capabilities to all members of the Armed Services, the Department of Defense continues to maintain a leading edge through technology and by delivering best-in-class software to those on the frontlines,” Akash Jain, President of Palantir USG, said in a statement. “We are proud to partner with the Army Research Lab to deliver on their critical mission to support our nation’s armed forces.”