Unmanned Vs. Russia. The commander of Naval Forces Europe-Africa and NATO Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Adm. James Foggo, said unmanned aircraft can help U.S. and allied NATO forces maintain a competitive edge against Russia in the Atlantic and Arctic theaters. Speaking at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, Foggo said, “knowing what’s going on out there is extremely important. So, for unmanned systems, ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] is probably one of our limitations and we could use more of it. Indications and warnings are important. If you could put an unmanned system up, then there’s less of a risk, less of a threat.”

…Mimic A2/AD. Foggo added that he tells partners and allies if they are limited in resources but want to protect their shores from a threat like Russia, “then think about what the Russians do with A2/AD and go after similar systems: smart mines, anti-ship cruise missiles, coastal radars that are connected.” A2/AD strands for anti-access area denial capabilities that generally seek to keep an opponent from getting near its territory. He compared it to how the Navy has worked with Africans with the Yaoundé Code of Conduct in joining coastal radars in the Gulf of Guinea. “They have seamless integration across maritime territorial boundaries. And now, if there’s a bad actor out there…they can pass off that information if he crosses a maritime domain boundary to the next nation, who can go out and intercept him. If they can do that, we can do that, and there ought to be an investment in that sort of thing in the future.”

…Pro MQ-25 Too. Foggo specifically added a plug to support the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned carrier tanker program, which is expected to reach initial operational capability by 2024. “It gives the carrier an extended reach, so you can put the strike fighters…further over the horizon. What does that do for you? It extends the range of strike capability or the reconnaissance capability of that aircraft but it also puts the carrier in a position where it can be more stealthy and it can remain in the fight.”

MDA Summit. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) plans to hold a two-part Industry Innovation Summit at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala., in early 2020. According to a contract notice issued Dec. 17, this will be a classified event. Part 1 will have a “series of presentations to communicate MDA’s strategic vision and the Agency’s science and technology efforts, gaps, and needs” on February 5. Part II will then allow one-on-one sessions from April 14-15 and additional dates as needed. MDA underscored this is only an information exchange with no commitment for awards and no proposals accepted under the event. Responses are due by January 10, 2020.

Trident II Equipment. The U.S. Navy awarded General Dynamics Mission Systems a $300 million contract for Fiscal Years 2020-2023 for U.S. and U.K. Trident II (D-5) support work on Dec. 16. This specifically covers Trident II fleet ballistic missiles submarine fire control system, guided missile submarine attack weapon control system, and support equipment rework facility support. Most of the work will occur in Pittsfield, Mass., and is expected to be finished by December 2024. In all, $10 million will expire at the end of this fiscal year. The contract is awarded on a sole source basis in accordance with U.S. Code provisions.

Helo Parts. The U.S. Navy awarded Bell Textron an $815 million performance-based logistics requirements contract to repair, upgrade, or replace 35 items used on UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters. This Dec. 17 contract also covers inventory management, warehousing and establishing supply response time metrics. Work will be split between Fort Worth, Texas (80 percent) and Cherry Point, N.C. (20 percent) and is expected to be finished by December 2024 with no options. A total of $163 million in annual Navy working capital funds will be obligated for a delivery order that is awarded concurrently with this contract. Only one company was solicited for the non-competitive requirements under U.S. Code and Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions with one offer received.

DDG-108 Work. The Navy awarded Vigor Marine an $89 million firm-fixed-price contract to execute fiscal year 2020 dry-docking selected restricted availability (DSRA) work on the USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108). This Chief of Naval Operations scheduled DSRA aims to cover maintenance, modernization and repair of DDG-108. A contract announcement said Vigor “will provide the resources capable of completing, coordinating and integrating multiple areas of ship maintenance, repair and modernization for the USS Wayne E. Meyer.” The contract includes options that if exercised will raise the total value to $98 million. Work will occur in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and is expected to be finished in November 2020. This contract was competitively solicited but with only one offer received.

T-AO-206. General Dynamics-National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) started construction on the future John Lewis-class USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206)  fleet replenishment oiler on Dec. 13 during a ceremony at the shipyard. The ceremony marks the first shipbuilding milestone with the first 100 tons of steel for the ship being cut. John Lewis-class ships are based on commercial design standards and aim to recapitalize the T-AO-187 class of fleet replenishment oilers that provide underway replenishment of fuel to Navy ships and jet fuel for aircraft carriers. T-AO-206 will be operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and is the first vessel named after the Navy veteran and civil rights leader. “This ship will have significant contributions as part of our Combat Logistics Force, serving as the primary fuel pipeline from resupply ports to ships at sea,” Mike Kosar, Support Ships, Boats and Craft program manager in Program Executive Office-Ships, said in a statement.

North Korea. A recent message from North Korea to send an unwelcome “Christmas gift” to the U.S. could be a long-range ballistic missile, Gen. Charles Brown, the Pacific Air Forces commander and air component commander for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command told reporters Dec. 17. It’s just a matter of does it come on Christmas Eve, does it come on Christmas Day, does it come after the New Year,” he said, noting that there is “a range of things that could occur.”

Rocket Lab. California-New Zealand small launch company Rocket Lab has broken ground on a new launch pad, its second to be located at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand and third pad for the Electron launch vehicle. Rocket Lab is currently licensed for up to 120 missions per year, and the addition of a third pad “will bring that high-frequency launch cadence closer by eliminating pad recycle time and enabling launches just days apart,” the company said in a Wednesday release.“By operating two pads at Launch Complex 1 we eliminate the stand down period required between launches for a full pad recycle,” said Shaun D’Mello, Rocket Lab Vice President for Launch. “Pad A at Launch Complex 1 has been a workhorse for us with 10 Electron launches so far, and now we’re looking forward to expanding on that launch heritage with a new pad and growing launch team.” Ground works on the Launch Complex 1 Pad B began in December 2019 with construction due for completion in late 2020. Concurrent launches from Launch Complex 1 will be possible from the site within the next 12 months.

AESA Radars. The Air Force on Thursday awarded Northrop Grumman a $1 billion contract modification to develop and produce 372 Active Electronically Scanned Array radars for F-16 aircraft. Work will be performed at Linthicum Heights, Maryland, and is expected to be completed by May 2027.  The total cumulative face value of the contract is $291 million.  Fiscal 2019 research and development funds in the amount of $679,659 are being obligated at the time of award.

New Role for AF Undersecretary. Air Force Undersecretary Matt Donovan was named as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Dec. 15. The news follows the Dec. 13 resignation of Jimmy Stewart, who had previously been performing the duties of the personnel and readiness USD; he was sworn in as assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs in late 2018. Donovan has served as undersecretary of the Air Force since August 2017, and served as acting service secretary from June to October.

C2 Award. The Air Force awarded Raytheon a $611.5 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus, fixed-fee, cost reimbursable no fee, IDIQ contract for Command and Control Switching Systems (CCSS). The sole-source contract will provide electronic digital telecommunications system developed for military command and control, per the award notice. “The CCSS is the key component of the Defense Red Switch Network, enabling secure and non-secure voice and data telecommunications at multiple levels, large scale voice conferencing capabilities and is inter-operable with other secure devices. CCSS switches are accredited by the Defense Intelligence Agency for top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information multi-level security,” the notice said. Work will be performed at multiple government facilities and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2032. Fiscal 2020 operations and maintenance funds in the amount of at least $452,034 are being obligated at the time of award.

Launch. Space X launched a Boeing-built satellite carrying two satellite payloads on a Falcon Heavy rocket Dec. 16 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. “Built on Boeing’s 702 satellite platform, JCSAT-18/Kacific1 has two separate payloads for two customers, SKY Perfect JSAT of Tokyo and Kacific Broadband Satellites Group of Singapore,” Boeing said in a Monday press release. “The satellite will deliver internet services to a potential market comprising hundreds of millions of people in more than 25 countries, including remote islands in the Pacific and the far eastern part of Russia.” JCSAT-18/Kacific1 is the 13th satellite Boeing has built for SKY Perfect JSAT and the first satellite built for Kacific.

Cyprus Arms Embargo Lifted. Congress passed a bipartisan bill authorizing new security assistance for Cyprus and Greece and lifts the U.S. arms embargo on Cyprus as part of the FY ’20 legislative appropriations packages. The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 was co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and committee member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “By including this legislation in the government funding package, the United States Congress has prioritized our significant national security interests in the region,” Menendez said in a Friday statement. “Bolstered by strong and expanding relationships with Greece, Israel, and Cyprus, this commonsense legislation will significantly strengthen our joint efforts to promote peace, prosperity, and security.”

Boeing AH-64 Support. The Pentagon on Dec. 19 awarded Boeing a $1.5 billion deal to continue providing support services for a host of international customers’ AH-64D/E Apache helicopters. The foreign military sales include support for Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates. Work on the deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. 

U.S./India. U.S. and India defense acquisition officials signed an agreement this week to further dialogue on defense technology cooperation for several capability areas, including lightweight small arms technologies and air-launched small UAS. Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, and Subhash Chandra, India’s secretary for defense production, signed the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative statement of intent at the latest U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. ”I am very proud of our strategic partnership with India and Mr. Chandra, and these pivotal documents demonstrate that DTTI is making substantial progress at a critical time for our National Defense Strategy,” Lord said in a statement. The Pentagon noted that the bilateral defense trade with India has gone from zero dollars in 2008 to around $18 billion by the end of the year. 

KC-46. The Air Force has lifted a three-month ban on cargo and passenger operations for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, and closed a critical deficiency relation to a cargo lock issue discovered earlier this fall. The first aircraft with new hardware is assigned to McConnell AFB, Kansas, and has already resumed missions with cargo and personnel, the service said Friday. “While the program has not been without challenges, resolving this deficiency is a step in the right direction,” said Will Roper, Air Force Assistant Secretary for AT&L in a statement. Prime contractor Boeing expects to have delivered 28 KC-46 aircraft to the Air Force by the end of the year. The first two were delivered Jan. 25, the 27th is scheduled to be delivered Friday and the 28th has been accepted for delivery by the service, a spokesman said. Boeing has retrofitted four jets with the new cargo lock solution.

Icebreaker Life Extension. The Coast Guard is planning a service life extension project (SLEP) for its one operational heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star. The service released a Request for Information seeking industry feedback on a draft solicitation for the SLEP, which will fix a number of major systems and extend the service life of the ship by four years, until 2027. The work under the project will occur from 2021 and 2025. The aging Polar Star conducts an annual resupply mission every winter to Antarctica to ensure the resupply of scientific operations there. The Coast Guard is building a fleet of at least three new heavy polar icebreakers, called the Polar Security Cutters, which are slated to begin deliveries in early 2024 and be completed by the time service life of the 399-foot Polar Star ends.

Blurred Lines. Aerospace and defense analyst Byron Callan says Leidos’ pending $1.7 billion acquisition of Dynetics “continues a trend of blurring lines by services-focused defense contractors” adding products to their portfolio. Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, notes that Leidos does have some product work, pointing to its work on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Sea Hunter autonomous sea surface vehicle, not to mention a range of cargo and vehicle inspection products used at ports and borders worldwide. Dynetics has rapid prototyping capabilities and more than 350,000 square-feet of manufacturing space with capabilities in offensive hypersonic weapons, small glide munitions, directed energy, space solutions, unmanned and counter unmanned aircraft systems. Callan highlights product work by Science Applications International Corp. and CACI International as examples of service contractors doing manufacturing. In the products space, the Dynetics deal adds Leidos “as a competitor to Lockheed Martin, L3Harris, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon Technologies,” he says.

Face Recognition Concerns. Following the release by a federal agency of a report showing challenges with facial recognition technology when it comes to age, gender, race and country of origin, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Thursday evening issued a statement saying the Department of Homeland Security is increasingly using this technology “on Americans and visitors alike, despite serious privacy and civil liberties concerns. This report not only confirms these concerns, but shows facial recognition systems are even more unreliable and racially based than we feared. It is clear these systems have systemic design flaws that have not been fixed and may well negate their effectiveness.” The National Institute of Standards and Technology report found most facial recognition algorithms do have accuracy issues with “demographic differentials” but noted that better algorithms have fewer error rates and that photo quality, at least with images captured cooperatively, also impacts accuracy.

Cyber Bill Passes. Congress last week passed a bipartisan bill that makes permanent cyber hunt and incident response teams in the Department of Homeland Security for use in helping other government agencies, including states and localities, and the private sector improve their cyber security posture. The DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act directs DHS to help agencies and other entities when they ask for assistance from the teams. The bill also requires DHS to include private sector experts on the teams to bring a broader array of cyber security expertise to bear. The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and approved as part of the FY ’20 National Security Minibus appropriations bill that includes funding for DHS.