Lichtenstein’s Counter. Warren Lichtenstein, executive chairman of Aerojet Rocketdyne, who is locked in a proxy battle against Eileen Drake, the company’s CEO, last Thursday officially offered his slate of eight director candidates for election to the board at a June 30 special meeting of shareholders. He wants to replace Drake with Mark Tucker, who was chief operating officer of Aerojet from 2015 until 2020, and would also be a member of the board along with Lichtenstein and six other nominees, none of which are aligned with Drake. Lichtenstein has complained that Drake has no vision for the company and failed to plan for the possibility that federal regulators would block Lockheed Martin’s proposed acquisition of the company, which it did earlier this year. In a June 2 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he says a vote for his slate will “break this deadlock” between current board, which is split evenly between Drake and Lichtenstein directors, adding that Drake is attempting to “entrench” herself as CEO and “hijack leadership of the company at the Special Meeting.” Drake last week set the June 30 date and asked shareholders to vote for her slate of directors, none of which are aligned with Lichtenstein.

ISR Needs Memo.

Since the beginning of the year, U.S. Space Force has been working with the military services, the Joint Staff, combatant commands, and the intelligence community to define Pentagon requirements for space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). “What we’ve got drafted right now is an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance needs memo that we’re working through the Joint Staff coordination mechanism,” said Lt. Gen. William Liquori, the deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, requirements and analysis. That ISR needs memo, approved by Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson, is to head to the Joint Capability Board and the Joint Requirements Oversight Council for validation this year.

Affordability Problem. While the U.S. Air Force will likely have significant numbers of high-end, expensive systems in the years ahead, such as the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber, the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) manned fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Boeing F-15EX, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall wants the service to move to less costly Collaborative Combat Aircraft and other systems. “We have an affordability problem, for sure,” he said. “The way to get that is to start to buy some things that cost less. The $80-plus million for an F-35, the $80-plus million for an F-15EX, quite a bit more than that for an NGAD, and multiple hundreds of millions for a B-21, if that’s what we’re going to try and equip the fleet with to get the kinds of [sufficient] numbers…it’s not going to happen in any foreseeable budget, and I’m not sure that’s the right approach, in any event.”

PEO Attack Subs. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations said on June 2 that Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker was selected for assignment as the new Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Attack Submarines. Rucker currently serves as major program manager at PEO Columbia. In February Rucker received a promotion from captain to rear admiral. 

SEWIP Block 3. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $254 million modification on May 27 to exercise an option to produce an undisclosed number of Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 3 Hemisphere systems. The SEWIP Block 3 aims to give surface ships a scalable electronic warfare enterprise suite with improved electronic attack capabilities. This includes jamming the targeting systems of anti-ship missiles. SEWIP is an upgrade to the current AN/SLW-32(V) electronic warfare system. This awarded work will be split between Baltimore (55 percent) and various locations in the continental U.S. and is expected to be finished by September 2025. At the time of award, the Navy obligated $153 million in FY 2022 other procurement funds and $102 million in FY 2022 shipbuilding funds.

Airbus Cyber. Airbus is combining its company-wide cybersecurity capabilities into a single organization that will provide cybersecurity protections across the company, governments, commercial customers and critical infrastructures although the primary focus will be the industrial sector. The new organization goes into effect July 1 and will consist of more than 1,000 personnel based in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.

More UAS for the U.S. The Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit has added four small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) that can be purchased by any U.S. government customer without further approvals, bringing to 10 the number of small drones that are on the DIU’s Blue sUAS. The four new Blue sUAS and their companies are WingtraOne, by Wingtra, Spirit, by Ascent AeroSystems, eBee Tac, by AgEagle’s senseFly, and the AltaX, by Freefly Systems. DoD began the Blue UAS program to seek alternatives to potentially unsecure foreign-made small drones, in particular, those made by China’s DJI, which make up the vast majority of the commercial market. “The Blue UAS Cleared List will provide a common approval standard that can save the services time and money, inform acquisition policy updates, and make it easier for troops to gain access to previously inaccessible commercial tech,” says Capt. Shelby Ochs, Blue UAS program manager.

Cyber Ambassador. President Biden last Friday nominated Nate Fick to be the State Department’s first Ambassador at Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy. Fick, if confirmed by the Senate, will lead the department’s new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, which stood up in April, and leads and coordinates State’s work in this area to encourage responsible state behavior in cyberspace and protect the integrity and security of the internet. Fick is currently general manager of security solutions at Elastic, which provides a platform for search-powered solution. A former Marine who served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Fick was also CEO for the Center for a New American Security think tank, has worked in venture capital, and also led the cybersecurity software company Endgame until it was acquired by Elastic.

Open RAN. The National Spectrum Consortium has released a call for white papers to solicit ideas from industry and academia on ideas that could help accelerate the Pentagon’s development, manufacturing, and testing of 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies. The Pentagon said the information gathered will help in identifying current obstacles to accelerating the commercialization of Open RAN technology in the U.S. “RANs are traditionally vendor-locked, vertically integrated telecommunications architectures composed of base stations, radios, and antennas that enable wireless communications, such as 4G, 5G, and subsequent generations of communications technologies. By disaggregating RAN architectures – thus making them ‘Open’ – more companies can pursue innovation on advanced 5G network architectures and related security,” the Pentagon wrote. The office of the under secretary of defense for research and engineering and the National Security Council are planning for an industry day in July to discuss information gathered from the white papers.

Canada/Bell. The Canadian government said on May 30 it has awarded Bell Textron Canada Ltd. a deal worth nearly $636 million to extend the service life of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fleet of 85 CH-146 Griffon helicopters until at least the mid-2030s. Under the new sustainment deal, Bell’s Canadian business will provide modifications on a first group of nine CH-146s and will then “manage a competitive process to sub-contract suppliers to install modifications on the remaining 76 helicopters,” according to the Canadian government announcement. “We are proudly celebrating the award and implementation of the Griffon Limited Life Extension project for the Royal Canadian Air Force by the Government of Canada. Our teams, located from the East to the West Coast, in collaboration with industry partners, ensure that the skills required to sustain the Griffon remain resident in Canada,” Steeve Lavoie, president of Bell Textron Canada Ltd., said in a statement. Canada has been operating the CH-146 multi-role utility helicopter since 1995.

New NGA Director. Navy Vice Adm. Frank Whitworth last Friday assumed command of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), taking over for Navy Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, who is retiring. Sharp became director in 2019. Whitworth, the eighth director of NGA, previously was director of intelligence, J-2, on the Joint Staff.

International Comms. The Navy awarded EUROMIDS, based in Paris, France, a $339 million contract to provide Multifunctional Information Distribution System Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVTs) along with spares, engineering support and logistics to France, Germany, Italy, and Spain’s military platforms. EUROMIDS is a consortium formed by France’s Thales, Germany’s Hensoldt, Italy’s Leonardo, and Spain’s Indra Sistemas. MIDS members include those four countries plus the U.S. The contract also includes software support for the five MIDS country’ systems engineering and integration on MIDS-LVTs. These terminals are meant to provide secure, high-capacity, jam-resistance, digital data and voice communications capability for the U.S. and partners’ militaries with Link-16 capability. The MID-LT is able to be used on air platforms like the Rafale, Eurofighter 2000 Typhoon and Tornado. Work will be split among France (40 percent), Germany (20 percent), Italy (20 percent) and Spain (20 percent) and is expected to be finished by June 2027. No funds are obligated at award time, but Euros will be obligated on individual task orders as they are issued upon awards on contract modifications. This was a sole source contract in accordance with acquisition regulations related to international agreements.

San Diego Ship Maintenance. The Navy awarded Southcoast Welding & Manufacturing, Inc., a multiple award contract on June 1 with a combined ceiling of up to $1.19 billion over five years for the complex repair, maintenance and modernization requirements of non-nuclear Navy surface combatant ships based in or visiting San Diego. This covers Ticonderoga-class cruisers, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and the various amphibious ship types. These efforts consist of Chief of Naval Operations-scheduled docking and non-docking; continuous maintenance; and emergent maintenance availabilities of Surface Combatant class ships to be performed in the San Diego port. The announcement said delivery orders will be competitively awarded. Since each contract has an ordering period of five years, the work is expected to be finished by November 2026. Lot I and II contracts were already competitively procured with seven unspecified offers received, the announcement said.