LMT LUSV. Lockheed Martin said Sept. 17 it is partnering with Vigor on its bid for the Navy’s Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV) competition. Lockheed Martin, along with five other companies, won a $7 million contract on Sept. 4 for studies on the LUSV ahead of a future detailed design and construction contract decision. If they win, Lockheed Martin said it would act as prime contractor to manage the program as well as deliver platform integration, systems engineering, combat management, automation and cyber solutions. Vigor would build the LUSVs themselves.

…Details. The company elaborated on its bid, saying its design uses a “proven commercial ship that will be augmented with automation, autonomy and cybersecurity elements to house a payload.” Lockheed Martin’s design also includes the Sikorsky MATRIX technology that has been used to fly a helicopter via a tablet as well as its AXIS control technology used on over half the Navy’s surface ships to manage engineering and machinery controls.

Air Force Budget. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel, has sponsored the Air Force Budget Transparency Act, H.R. 6229, to require the White House’s annual budget “to include any funds for an Air Force pass-through item in the defense-wide budget of the Department of Defense (DoD) rather than in the Air Force budget.” The fiscal 2021 budget requests has the Department of the Air Force responsible for 88 percent–$38 billion–of the $43 billion “pass-through” in military service budgets for intelligence agencies, an allocation that means the Air Force sees $153.6 billion and the nascent U.S. Space Force $15.4 billion in the request. By contrast, the fiscal 2021 budget request funds the Department of the Navy at more than $202 billion and the Army at more than $173 billion. “I could make a great case that the Air Force can hit any target anywhere at any time and bring more lethality within short order than any other service,” Bacon said. Overall, about $88 billion of the DoD budget goes to the “Fourth Estate”–two dozen agencies and offices outside of the military services, such as DARPA, the Missile Defense Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. While there has been a five percent cut to the estate due to DoD oversight, the “pass-through” funds have not been subject to such examination and should be, Bacon said.

NRO Launch. The launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office is planned for Sept. 26–a month later than scheduled due to weather and atmospheric conditions and a hot-fire, automated abort at the Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad on Aug. 29. “The team has reviewed all data and ground support equipment and determined that a ground system regulator internal component failure was the cause of the on-pad abort,” ULA said. “Out of an abundance of caution the regulators associated with each of the three common booster cores are being replaced and retested.” ULA is a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Last month, ULA and SpaceX received $653 million for three classified launches–two for ULA and one for SpaceX under Phase 2 of the U.S. Air Force’s launch service procurement procurement (LSP) for National Security Space Launch (NSSL). Under the Phase 2 terms, ULA may receive 20 future launches and SpaceX 14. ULA is under pressure to ensure its Vulcan rocket performs well and reusably in Phase 2 to reduce costs significantly below the $400 million per launch for Delta IV Heavy. ULA’s Delta IV Heavy is the sole remaining Delta rocket after the retirement of the Delta IV Medium last year and the Delta II in 2018.

Austal Expansion. Austal USA completed the purchase of additional waterfront land, buildings and a drydock near its Mobile, Ala., facility in Sept. 11. The company specifically bought property previously owned by World Marine of Alabama, a subsidiary of Modern American Recycling and Repair Services of Alabama (MARRS) This includes the purchase of a 20,000-ton Panamax-class floating dry dock dubbed Pete B, 100,000 square feet of covered repair facilities, and 15 acres of waterfront property along the Mobile River and Gulf of Mexico. Austal argued this will enable better collaboration with MARRS on its recycling efforts. Austal also noted this increases the company’s steel and aluminum business portfolio.

SSN-794. The Navy christened the pre-commissioning unit future USS Montana (SSN-794), the newest Virginia-class fast-attack submarine, on Sept. 12 during a virtual ceremony at shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Newport News, Va. The ceremony was virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions and precautions. SSN-794 construction began in 2015 and is about 85 percent complete. It is schedule for delivery to the Navy in late 2021.

MDA Tech. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. a noncompetitive $69 million contract to support extending missile defense system capabilities via evaluation, identification and maturation of new technologies and future concepts. The DoD announcement defined future concepts as hypersonics, cruise missiles, cyber offense and defense, artificial intelligence/machine learning, quantum science, left-through-right-of-launch integration, fully networked command and control, and directed energy. These efforts aim to support the MDA’s Advance Technology initiative’s Concepts and Performance Lab. (CAPL). The announcement said CAPL will support these initiatives by maturing advanced interceptor and sensor concepts models and simulations, algorithm development/implementations, laboratory experiments and/or ground and flight-testing required for technical and operational assessment of capabilities. Work will occur in Huntsville, Ala., and is expected to last through September 2023 with two one-year options.

Carrier Training. Aircraft carriers have been using the command, control, communication, computers and intelligence (C4I) capabilities in upgrades for the ready relevant learning modernization effort to allow ashore engineers to train deployed sailors. While the C4I tools are meant for operational purposes, “we’ve been able to use the very significant communication pipes on our carriers to allow our shore engineers……to train forward and other sailors right from their home locations,” Rear Adm. James Downey, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers, said during a virtual American Society of Naval Engineers panel event on Sept. 17. He cited the example of engineers at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, N.J., communicating with sailors working on new Ford-class carrier systems like the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System or Advanced Arresting Gear.

Sequestration Effects. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told RAND during a Sept. 16 speech that over the last decade “DoD was crippled by the devastating effects of [Obama era] sequestration” and that “for nearly two decades the U.S. concentrated on violent extremist organizations in low intensity conflicts that left us less focused and prepared for a fight against near peer adversaries,” such as China and Russia. But Paul Scharre, the director of technology at the national security program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), dismissed Esper’s comments as bluster. “This is a convenient lie the Pentagon has told itself to excuse two decades of investing in legacy, wasting assets,” Scharre said. “It’s embarrassing to see the secretary of defense repeat it.” Force structure numbers, such as a 355-ship Navy or a 386-squadron Air Force, “are precisely the wrong metrics,” per Scharre. During the Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. was investing significant funds to fight nation-states. But Scharre said that those funds were directed at procurement, not leap ahead research and development, to help systems share data and that DoD has not scrapped old weapons systems fast enough to help pay for modernization.

S-97 Raider. Army test pilots flew Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider coaxial helicopter for the first time in August, the company said on Sept. 15. The S-97 Raider is the basis for Sikorsky’s Raider X offering for the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft competition. Sikorsky has been flying the S-97 to demonstrate its X2 technology and prove out the rigid rotor system and streamlined design for the future Raider X. This summer, Sikorsky also flew S-97 Raider in formation with the SB-1 Defiant, the aircraft it’s offering along with Boeing for the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft. “The transformational capability X2 Technology opens up tactical freedoms to the Army and will change how the Army flies in support of the ground commander. Witnessing the first ever formation flight with a FARA and FLRAA prototype followed closely by an Army pilot at the controls of Raider demonstrates new capabilities for the Army to achieve Aviation overmatch,” Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s Future Vertical Lift business development director, said in a statement. 

CMMC. Kratos Defense & Security Solutions said on Sept. 16 it is offering pre-certification advisory services for companies seeking to comply with the Pentagon’s new CMMC cyber security contracting standards. The company said its advisory services cover strategic and operational consulting, gap assessment, remediation assistance and documentation services. “Unlike most organizations offering CMMC advisory services, Kratos is one of the first and largest FedRAMP third party assessment organizations, is a member of the Defense Industrial Base and sells to the DoD.  As a result, we have a unique understanding and insight into how CMMC requirements impact DIB organizations and what can/should be done to satisfy these requirements,” Mark Williams, vice president of Kratos Cybersecurity Services, said in a statement.

Software Factory. Army Futures Command has selected Austin Community College in Texas as the headquarters for its new Software Factory to train soldiers on advanced software development. “This is not happening at any other community college or university around the country. This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility and collaboration that doesn’t exist anywhere else. That’s the experience we want our students to have. They’ll work side-by-side with the AFC to share ideas and develop solutions,” Richard Rhodes, ACC chancellor, said in a statement. The Software Factory is set to open in January with an initial group of 30 soldiers and civilians. A second cohort will begin in summer 2021. 

AI Strategy. Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) introduced concurrent resolutions this week calling for a national artificial intelligence strategy. The resolutions are the product of a year of collaboration with the Bipartisan Policy Center and AI experts, and they include 78 specific actions to further AI innovation. “American ongoing and future leadership in AI will be based on today’s policies and investments. We need a real and actionable comprehensive plan, as this resolution calls for, to engage all levers of national power to create and preserve American AI superiority,” Kelly said in a statement. The recommendations for the strategy cover national security considerations, research and development priorities, ethics issues and workforce development. “This is a step forward our country must take to help us retain America’s edge in AI and secure the next 70 years of American-led international prosperity and security. Given there is potential for Mandarin and the yuan—not English and the dollar—to dominate the global economy, it makes passing this resolution and striving for American AI leadership all the more important,” Hurd said.