LCS To South America? Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday raised the idea of selling nine Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) the Navy wants to retire to South American countries. “In terms of what are the options going forward with these ships – I would offer to the subcommittee that we should consider offering these ships to other countries that would be able to use them effectively. There are countries in South America, as an example, as you pointed out, that would be able to use these ships that have small crews and so instead of just considering scrapping as the single option. I think there are others to look at,” Gilday told Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) while testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee on May 26. Navy officials have argued it should be allowed to retire these relatively new ships primarily because an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission modules developed for them is not effective in a fight against China. Also the class has a defect with its combining gear that limits the ship’s top speed without repairs. The Navy intends to use the money it would use to maintain and fix the ships to instead buy more missiles and use the future Constellation-class frigates to cover ASW capabilities.
…Sub Industry Issues. During the same hearing Gilday also said the service has “had very pointed discussions” with the submarine builders it is using to conduct some submarine maintenance work. “We are not satisfied with either cost or schedule, very dissatisfied to be honest with you. We have reduced our delay days out of private shipyards from almost 8,000 in late 2019 to just over 3,000 today. Not satisfied with where we are, but that’s where we’re trying to go.” The CNO acknowledged it has been years since either HII or General Dynamics Electric Boat has conducted maintenance work and they are slowly restarting that capability. He noted the Navy has several levers to use against industry when it does not perform as promised and misses the schedule. “One most effective one is withholding payments when they don’t meet schedule. Another, if I could go back to the Littoral Combat Ship, when we had problems with the combining gear on that ship, we refused to accept delivery of any additional ships until it was fixed. So we are trying to do a better job up front in working in our contracts, levers to pull so that we can hold industry accountable.” Gilday said he would like to work with the committee on coming up with other ways to push industry.
BALTOPS ‘22. From June 5-17, 6th Fleet is leading the annual NATO Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2022 multinational maritime exercise. BALTOPS will occur primarily in and around Sweden to exercise and demonstrate amphibious, anti-submarine, air defense, mine clearance explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations. About 45 maritime units with 75 aircraft and 7,000 personnel from 14 NATO allies will participate. Participants include the U.S., Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the U.K. as well as partner nations Finland and Sweden. The latter two recently applied to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
HII VP. HII said on May 26 that Brandi Smith was named the new vice president for the Columbia-class program at the Newport News Shipbuilding division. Smith will succeed Charles Southall, who will retire in July following a career of 35 years. Southall established the Columbia-class submarine office as director of advanced submarine programs and served as the division’s chief engineer and engineering vice president. Smith will assume her new role on June 1 where she will lead company-wide management, leadership, cost, schedule and technical performance of the Columbia program. She will report to Matt Needy, HII vice president of Navy programs. Smith started at HII in 2002 as an engineering in the carrier overhaul program at Newport News, moving up to positions of increasing responsibility. She most recently served as the Columbia-class construction program director.
6th Fleet. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on May 20 President Biden nominated Rear Adm. Thomas Ishee to be appointed as vice admiral and assigned commander of 6th Fleet, commander of Task Force Six, and commander of Striking and Support Forces NATO. In this role, Ishee will also serve as deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe. He currently serves as the director of global operations at Strategic Command. Ishee previously served as commander of the USS Key West (SSN-722) Los Angeles-class submarine, led Submarine Squadron 11, commander of Submarine Group 8, and director of the Undersea Warfare Division within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
LCS-34. Austal USA said it launched the future USS Augusta (LCS-34) Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) on May 23. The company moved it from a floating dry dock to be pier side. Sea trials for LCS-34 are expected later in 2022. The ship is the 17th of 19 total planned Independence-variant LCSs built at the company’s facility in Mobile, Ala. Austal is currently building five LCSs, four Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport ships, and is set to start construction on Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ships this summer.
DARPA Seaplane. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a new Liberty Lifter seaplane project to design, build and fly a long-range, low-cost x-plane capable of performing seaborne strategic and tactical lift. “The new vehicle concept seeks to expand upon existing cargo aircraft by proving revolutionary heavy air lift abilities from the sea,” DARPA said in its announcement from May 18. The agency expects the plane to combine fast and flexible strategic lift of very large and heavy loads with the ability to take off and land in water. “Its structure will enable both highly controlled flight close to turbulent water surfaces and sustained flight at mid-altitudes. In addition, the plane will be built with a low-cost design and construction philosophy,” DARPA said. The agency noted traditional airlift is faster than current sealift, but is vulnerable to threats but also has payload limitations and require long runways. The Liberty Lifter concept seeks to mitigate those issues.
Poland Patriots. Poland Minister of Defense Mariusz Błaszczak said on May 24 that Poland signed a letter of request to acquire six more Patriot system batteries, including omnidirectional radars, launchers and a set of missiles. This is meant to start the second phase of Poland’s Wisła air defense program. The government did not disclose how much this procurement will cost. In 2018, Poland agreed to buy the Patriot system for $4.75 billion, which includes two Configuration 3+ batteries delivered in 2022.
SPY-6. The Navy awarded Raytheon Technologies a $423 million modification on May 23 as the first option from a March contract for AN/SPY-6(V) family of radars hardware, production and sustainment contract that is worth upward of $3.16 billion over five years. This modification specifically covers hardware production of SPY-6 radars with work to be conducted in various locations in the U.S. Work is expected to be finished by September 2025.
Russian Missiles. An Army official recently told a congressional panel that Russia’s hypersonic missiles used in its war with Ukraine have had accuracy issues. “Originally, we thought they weren’t working at a rate that was as good as ours. But what I would say is they’re on par with our capabilities – not all of them, specifically their cruise missiles. They’ve had challenges with some of their hypersonic missiles as far as accuracy,” Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, said May 18 before the Senate Armed Service subcommittee on Strategic Forces. “But I would not take away, from a strategic perspective, that Russia’s cruise missile, their hypersonic missile, their strategic capabilities have severely underperformed,” he said.
…Uncoordinated. Speaking to former Auburn football coach Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) during the hearing, Karbler compared Russia’s missile performance to “the offensive line is not coordinated with the quarterback who’s not handing the ball off to the running back. And the wide receivers are jumping offsides.” He translated that to mean Russia’s use of missile systems and artillery is disconnected from any kind of ground maneuver. “Anybody that understands combined arms maneuver, knows that you need to employ both in concert to each other to accomplish whatever your campaign objectives are. And we see we see him not doing that, which is, you know, whether it’s the missile efficacy, whether it’s incompetence of the ground forces, inability to move, logistic challenges, etc.” Karbler said essentially none of the Russian players are coordinating together to accomplish their goals, like players in football not coming together to move the ball down the field.
Comparison Testing. The Pentagon’s office of the director for operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) says that “on or about” March 1 it delivered to the congressional defense committees a classified report on F-35A/A-10C comparison testing for the close air support, airborne forward air control and combat search and rescue missions. Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, says that some who participated in the comparison testing have reported that the A-10C performed well and survived the simulated “high threat environment” that Air Force leaders have said that the A-10C could not endure. Those involved in the tests have reported that not one A-10C was “shot down” during the tests, per Grazier. DOT&E says that the comparative testing report “is classified because it discusses detailed capabilities and limitations of the comparative platforms versus specific threats and target types.”
…IOT&E Delay. The fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) had ordered such comparison testing, which began in April 2018. Participants finished two-thirds of planned testing that year before pausing as A-10Cs deployed to support combat operations. The remaining one-third of testing finished in March 2019. The fiscal 2017 NDAA required the F-35A/A-10C comparison testing report to be delivered with the Pentagon’s report on F-35 initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). Yet, the latter has had delays and is not to finish the final 64 Joint Simulation Environment runs until next summer. The fiscal 2022 NDAA, enacted last December, allowed delivery of the F-35/A-10C comparison testing report before the Pentagon’s delivery of the F-35 IOT&E report.
OPC Mod. The Coast Guard modified its contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group so that installation of the Athena combat weapons system and multi-mode radar system will be completed during the production phase of the offshore patrol cutter (OPC). The value of the modification is $47.1 million and covers the first four OPCs. The Athena system is part of the Navy’s Aegis combat system. Lockheed Martin is the contractor. Installation of Athena and the radar systems had been planned after the cutters were delivered and were in their homeports but Navy completion of development, integration and testing of the systems allowed the Coast Guard to shift plans, reducing risks related to post-delivery installation. Athena integrates with other Navy-type, Navy-owned equipment to provide a common operating picture.
…FRC Delivery. Last week, the Coast Guard accepted delivery of its 49th fast response cutter (FRC), the Douglas Denman, which will be homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska. Bollinger Shipyards is the contractor for the FRCs. The Coast Guard has ordered 64 of the 154-foot cutters, which operate for up to five days at sea, typically in the littorals.
People News. Cubic Corp. has appointed Trave Chester as its chief financial officer, reporting to Stevan Slijepcevic, the company’s president and CEO. Most recently, Chester was senior managing director at Premium Partners and previously had CFO, investor relations and financial planning and analysis roles at General Electric, Life Technologies, Honeywell, and Vixxo Corp. The quantum technology company ColdQuanta has named Dawn Meyerriecks to its board of directors. She most recently was deputy director of the CIA for science and technology. And Navistar Defense has named Ryan Garner as its new CFO. Most recently, he was CFO for one of CACI International’s operating sectors.
Bipartisan Support. A hearing of the House Homeland Security Transportation & Maritime Subcommittee last week showed there is bipartisan support for more funding for the Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoint computed tomography (CT) program for carry-on baggage screening. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), the subcommittee chair, said she and many committee Democrats and Republicans support the program and a much higher funding level than the roughly $105 million proposed for fiscal year 2023. Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) has proposed authorizing $336 million for the checkpoint CT program. TSA Administrator David Pekoske says there is no room in his budget for more CT funds, even though the program is a priority. At current funding levels, it will take until FY ’36 to finish buying the systems. It will be up to congressional appropriators this year whether to add to the budget request. For FY ’22, they did not.
Nano Drones. Teledyne FLIR said on May 24 the company has received a $14 million order from the Army to deliver more of its Black Hornet 3 nano drones in support of the Soldier Borne Sensor program. The company has provided its Black Hornet 3s to the Army since late 2018, which it said are “used to augment squad and small unit-level surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.” The Army has placed $115 million in orders for the nano drones to date, according to Teledyne FLIR. “The Black Hornet is one tough small package with tremendous capabilities that gives warfighters much needed situational understanding and standoff before undertaking dangerous operations,” JihFen Lei, executive vice president and general manager of Teledyne FLIR Defense, said in a statement. “We are proud to support the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor program for more than three years and will continue to invest in nano-UAS technologies that are changing today’s battlefield.”
Excella/JAIC. Software firm Excella said on May 24 the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has selected the company to help accelerate AI adoption across the department under the Data Readiness for Artificial Intelligence Development (DRAID) Services basic ordering agreement. Excella’s deal with JAIC is part of a five-year, multi-award contract worth potentially up to $241 million. “Leveraging AI to support the key missions of the DoD is critical to national security, both at home and abroad,” Sarath Ravella, Excella’s vice president of strategic initiatives, said in a statement. “We’ve seen first-hand the progress the DoD has made in modernizing its systems with AI and data engineering, and our expertise will help increase the impact of AI on mission-critical applications in support of the warfighter.” Excella said work under this award could include “data engineering, data architecture, data acquisition and curation, data quality and analysis, and synthetic data generation and data anonymization.”
Australia/HIMARS FMS. The State Department on May 26 said it has approved a potential $385 million deal with Australia for the sale of 20 Lockheed Martin-built M142 HIMARS rocket launchers. The deal would also include delivery of munitions produced by Lockheed Martin, including 30 GMLRS rockets, 10 ATACMS missiles, 30 alternative warhead pods with insensitive munitions propulsion systems, 30 unitary warhead version of the GMLRS, 30 extended range GMLRS and 30 extended range GMLRS with unitary pods. “Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.
Netherlands/AIM-9X FMS. The State Department has also approved a potential $117 million deal with the Netherlands for the sale of 95 AIM-9X Block II Tactical Missiles, 43 AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Missiles, and one AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Unit. The new foreign military sale is an update to an earlier case that initially covered the sale of 23 of the Raytheon produced AIM-9X Block IIs. “The proposed sale will enable the Royal Netherlands Air Force to provide stronger support for the Netherlands’ air defense needs. This proposed sale of AIM-9X missiles will improve the RNAF’s capability to conduct self-defense and regional security missions, enhancing interoperability with the U.S. and other NATO members,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.