F-35 Controlling UAVs? The F-35’s upcoming Technology Refresh upgrade, known as Tech Refresh 3, could include new software that would allow the Joint Strike Fighter to control unmanned systems, the Air Force’s acquisition leader Will Roper told the HASC Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee May 2. The open mission systems architecture that the service is using to upgrade its F-35s would allow the potential control “if we choose,” he noted. The Air Force has been conducting tests with the XQ-57A Valkyrie test aircraft in an effort dubbed Skyborg to test the viability of teaming an unmanned attritable aircraft with manned aircraft.

DoD China Report.

The Pentagon released May 2 its annual China Military Power report, laying out Beijing’s rising interest and influence in the Arctic region and updates on the nation’s weapons development programs. The report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republican of China 2019,” noted that China published its first Arctic strategy in 2019 and launched its second icebreaker. Beijing now possesses six Jin-class ballistic missile submarines, the country’s “first viable sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the report said. It also highlighted China’s emphasis on the cyberspace domain as a means of influencing operations, and its determination to invest in advanced technologies including AI to work to surpass the U.S. as the “preeminent” power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Legal Upgrade. Boeing has elevated J. Michael Luttig, its general counsel, to a special executive position focusing on the fallout of two tragic crashes of its 737 MAX passenger aircraft in the past six months. Luttig, 64, will manage legal matters related to the two incidents and serve as counselor and senior adviser to Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg and the company’s board. Brett Gerry, who was president of Boeing Japan since 2016, is the new general counsel. Gerry previously was general counsel for Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes segment and chief counsel for the company’s network and space systems business.

Coast Guard News. The Coast Guard has brought on several new assets in the past week as part of the ongoing recapitalization of its air and surface assets, including taking delivery of its eighth National Security Cutter, Midgett, from Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries. The 418-foot cutter will be commissioned this summer at its homeport in Honolulu. The service also commissioned its 32nd Fast Response Cutter, the Benjamin Bottoms, at its station in San Pedro, Calif. The 154-foot Sentinel-class cutter was built by Bollinger Shipyards. The Coast Guard also accepted its 13th of 16 planned C-130J Super Hercules from Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will be outfitted by L3 Technologies with the Minotaur mission system, including software, radar, sensors and communications systems. Once the missionization is complete, the aircraft will be redesignated as an HC-130J.

Federal Data Security. Federal agencies investing in digital transformation of their organizations are “indulging in a false sense of security” with their data, with 79 percent believing their systems are secure despite only 30 percent or less using encryption within their deployments, Thales says in its annual data threat report. It said 60 percent of agencies have been breached and that 35 percent were breached in the last year and yet only 60 percent of agencies responded that they are increasing their spending on information technology security versus 93 percent a year ago. Thales also said more than 90 percent of agency respondents plan to use multi-cloud environments for services, which increases security complexity. The report said as sensitive data moves into the cloud, encryption technologies need to be applied, yet encryption usage rates at agencies are low.

Senate Approves New COCOM Leaders. The Senate confirmed by voice vote April 29 the nominations of two new combatant command commanders. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters now officially leads U.S. European Command, succeeding retiring Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, while Army Gen. Stephen Townsend has replaced Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser to lead U.S. Africa Command.

Space Day on the Hill. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the HAC-D subcommittee May 1 that the Pentagon is tentatively planning a “Space Day” on the Hill, where subject matter experts and officials will brief members of Congress and their staff on the department’s plan to form a new Space Force under the Air Force. Shanahan promised “less DoD vernacular” in such a setting.

2020 Presidential Race. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) on May 2 became the latest individual to announce his intent to run for president in 2020. He is the seventh member of the upper chamber as well as the 21st Democratic nominee. Bennet has served as the senior senator from Colorado since 2009 and sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

AFRL Laser Test. AFRL successfully demonstrated April 23 that its Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) could shoot down multiple air-launched missiles in flight, marking a major program milestone for the technology demonstration, the laboratory announced May 3. The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that could help future fighter jets and other aircraft protect against surface-to-air (SAM) and air-to-air (AAM) missiles. “This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters,” said Kelly Hammett, director of AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate in Friday’s statement.

Directed Energy Testing. The Air Force successfully demonstrated that Raytheon’s advanced high power microwave and mobile energy laser systems could engage and defeated multiple unmanned UAS targets during a recent test, the company said April 30. The high energy laser (HEL) system was paired with Raytheon’s multi-spectral targeting system mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle to detect, identify, track and engage drones. “After decades of research and investment, we believe these advanced directed energy applications will soon be ready for the battlefield to help protect people, assets and infrastructure,” said Thomas Bussing, vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems in a Tuesday statement. The Air Force demonstration took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Shipyard Grant Funding. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) on May 2 introduced the “Strengthening Buy America for Small Shipyard Grants Act” that intends to boost “Buy America” requirements for federal Small Shipyard Grant funding to help support American businesses and industry. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would close a current loophole that allows federal grants to be used to procure commercial off-the-shelf products made outside of the United States.

Missile FMS. Raytheon on April 30 was awarded a contract modification worth over $19 million to a previously awarded contract for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) production program. The contract involves FMS sales to Australia, Japan, Norway, Romania and Turkey. The modification provides for “redesign of AMRAAM Rectifier Filter Assembly for reliability corrections as well as redesign of AMRAAM telemetry encoder due to obsolescence issues.” Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be complete by April 15, 2021. Fiscal year 2018 (Air Force) and fiscal year 2017 (Navy) procurement funds in the amount of $6.8 million; and Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $4.4 million are being obligated at the time of award.

Space Systems. The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a May 2 contract worth over $82 million for the Enhanced Polar System Recapitalization (EPS-R) Control and Planning Segment (CAPS). The contract “provides for the development of software to address international host accommodations for new out of band link functions, cyber architecture, orbit planning, and the capability for controlling four EPS Payloads simultaneously on a single software baseline.” Work will be performed in Redondo Beach, California, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2023. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2019 research and development funds in the amount of $14.7 million are being obligated at the time of award.

Two T-ATSs. Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Gulf Island Shipyards a $129 million modification on April 30 to exercise options to build two towing, salvage and rescue ships, T-ATSs. Work will mostly occur in Houma, La., and is expected to be finished by November 2021. The funding comes from FY 2016 ($63.6 million) as well as 2018 and 2019 ($65 million) Navy shipbuilding and conversion accounts, with none of it to expire at the end of this fiscal year. The company noted the Navy still has options for five more ships. “

F-35 Sustainment. The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.148 billion contract on Monday for sustainment services for the F-35 for the Air Force, Navy, non-Defense Department participants, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. Services covered include ground maintenance activities, action request resolution, depot activation activities, Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS) operation and maintenance, supply chain management, and activities to provide and support pilot and maintainer initial training. Most of the work will occur in Fort Worth, Texas, and Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be finished by December 2022. In all, $1.135 billion was obligated at award time, with $811 million of it expiring at the end of this fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured. This award is divided between 41.6 percent for the Air Force, 30.2 percent for the Navy, 20.1 percent for non-DoD participants, and 8.1 percent for FMS customers.

Forward Deployed. Late last week the Navy said it is forward deploying the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) and landing platform dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) as part of the 7th Fleet forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) in Sasebo, Japan. These ships will move to Japan while the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG-63) will move its homeport to San Diego for a midlife modernization and the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) will move its homeport to Norfolk, Va., to undergo scheduled maintenance.

AIM-9X Block II. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Raytheon a $419 million modification on April 30 to exercise an option for Lot 19 AIM-9X Block II and II+ missiles and support. This covers all up round tactical up round tactical missiles, captive air training missiles, captive test missiles, special air training missiles, advanced optical target detectors, Block I and II propulsion steering sections, and spares. NAVAIR said the modification also provides materials in support of repairs, depot maintenance, and refurbishment. Buyers in this award include the U.S. Navy and Air Force as well as Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Work is expected to be finished by October 2022. This award combines purchases for the Navy (29.46 percent), Air Force (28.4 percent), Qatar (9.2 percent), Australia (8.8 percent), South Korea (6.9 percent), Norway (5.9 percent), Slovakia (3.2 percent), Japan (2.55 percent), Denmark (2.25 percent), and Morocco (1.8 percent). Belgium, the UAE, the Netherlands, Singapore, Oman , Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Turkey, Romania, Taiwan, Finland, Indonesia, Kuwait, Israel, and Malaysia are each buying under one percent each of the total award amount.

The Unmanned Game. Huntington Ingalls Industries is in the unmanned ship business, according to Mike Petters, the company’s president and CEO. Asked by an analyst on the company’s first quarter earnings call May 2 for his thoughts on the Navy’s plans to fund more unmanned work such as Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle, Petters replied, “if we’re not moving toward a more unmanned future, we’re going to miss an opportunity here.” Huntington Ingalls is on Boeing’s team for the Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV) and will manufacture the craft for Boeing, he said. “That has given us pretty good insight into where the UUV space is going,” Petters said.

F-16 Weapons. This week the State Department approved a possible $750 million Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Bahrain for various F-16 Block 70/F-16V aircraft weapons. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the sale on May 3. The Bahrain weapons request included 32 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, 32 AIM-9X missiles, 20 AGM-84 Block II Harpoon missiles, two ATM-84L-1 Block II Harpoon missiles, 40 AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) All-Up-Rounds, 50 AGM-88B High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM), 100 GBU-39 250 lb Small Diameter Bomb (SDB-1) All-Up-Rounds, 400 MAU-209 C/B Computer Control Groups (GBU-10, -12), 80 MAU-210 Enhanced Computer Control Groups (GBU-49, -50), 340 MXU-650 Air Foil Group (GBU-12, -49), and 140 MXU-651 Air Foil Groups (GBU-10, -50). It also requested hundreds of tail kits, proximity sensors, bomb bodies, fuses, and assorted related program support. DSCA said Bahrain will use these weapons to deter regional threats and strengthen its defense while supporting its new procurement of the F-16 Block 70 and upgrades to the existing F-16V aircraft. Primary contractors include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing.