Sustainment Costs. While the U.S. Air Force fiscal 2022 unfunded priority list includes nearly $1.4 billion for 12 Boeing F-15EX fighters and $360 million for 20 power modules to repair F135 Pratt & Whitney engines for the F-35 Lightning II fighter by Lockheed Martin, the list does not include funding for more F-35s, as in years past. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown why at a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on the service’s fiscal 2022 budget. “One of the things we’ve talked about is the sustainment on the F-35,” Brown replied. “The other aspect of this is the F-35 we have today is not the F-35 we want to have that will have Tech Refresh-3 and Block 4, particularly against the advancing Chinese threat.” Norcross chairs the HASC tactical air and land forces panel.

…Longer Range, More Weapons, and Multi-Role.

As the Air Force looks to neck down its seven fighter types to the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) family of systems, the F-35, the F-15EX, the A-10, and a possible F-16 replacement, the service wants the stealthy NGAD to have longer range, more weapons, and possibly to be multi-role. The Air Force has said it wants to move away from single role fighters, per Norcross, who asked Brown whether NGAD would be single role or multi-role. “Ideally, I’d like to have it be multi-role, but the primary aspect for NGAD is air superiority,” Brown said. “With air superiority, it’s increased weapons load, increased range–particularly when you look at operating in the Indo-Pacific. For the future, what I look at for all of our fighters is to have multi-role capability to be able to go from a high-end conflict all the way down to homeland defense, but NGAD is really focused more so on a hotly contested environment to have the weapons load–both air-to-air, primarily, but some air-to-ground capability to ensure it can survive, but also provide options for our air component commanders and the joint force.”

Railguns. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) told the House Armed Services Committee on June 15 why the Navy has shelved work on railgun technology in the budget request. In response to questions on the program from Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), CNO Adm Mike Gilday said “we’ve been chasing rail gun for almost 30 years now and we just have not been able to develop a system that can easily get aboard a ship that would provide the kind of probability to kill that you speak to.” However, Gilday said he has more confidence in the high velocity projectile that the Navy used in tests with the railgun “that we think we can use in other guns that we have, to provide us a layered defense along with some of the other kinetic systems we have now plus laser technology in the future.” Gilday added that advancements in standoff range weapons and hypersonic missile technology that both the U.S. and its potential adversaries are developing “begin to make the railgun a less attractive option just with respect to range.”

…Marine Corps Funds. At the same hearing, Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger reiterated his service has done as much as he can internally on refocusing the service towards modernization without asking Congress for additional funds. “In my assessment, we have wrung just about everything we can in the Marine Corps internally.” Ranking member of the seapower and projection forces subcommittee Rep. Rob Wittman said he is concerned Congress is getting lulled into thinking the Marine Corps can modernize by itself but worried about it taking on unacceptable risks. “We’re at the limits of the risk you address. We’ve reduced end strength. We’ve divested of legacy systems. We’ve taken every measure we can to include a 15 percent cut in our headquarters. We’ve wrung it dry,” Berger continued. He said the service is driven by a pacing threat in China and does not want to transfer risk on a future combatant commander.  “Because as others have pointed out, we have a perfect record of guessing where the next conflict’s going to happen: we get it wrong every time.”

Hypersonic Testing. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), told Air Force officials at a fiscal 2022 budget hearing that last year’s service assessment of the Air Force Test Center (AFTC) found that the current testing capability and capacity available is “wholly inadequate to accomplish National Defense Strategy-required hypersonic weapon testing to meet rapid acquisition timelines.” Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth replied that the Air Force works with DoD to modernize testing and evaluation infrastructure but that “to be honest, it’s been my experience we always lag by some amount of money.” Roth said that the Air Force needs to solve the problem “to be able to test” hypersonic systems to the “maximum extent possible.” DesJarlais, whose district includes AFTC’s Arnold Engineering Development Complex, said that he has seen “the poor condition of these facilities first hand” and that “if some of these facilities, like [Tunnel] 16S [supersonic], 16T [transonic], or [Wind] Tunnel 9 were to go offline due to mechanical failure, we would see many of our most important, emerging weapons systems delayed, including the B-21, the NGI [Next Generation Interceptor], GBSD [Ground Based Strategic Deterrent], and our hypersonic systems.”

NAVWAR Prize. Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) launched the Networks Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (NetANTX) Challenge on June 8 as a prize competition for technologies in support of Project Overmatch. The first place entry will win $75,000 while second place will win $25,000. Project Overmatch is the Navy’s effort to modernize warfighting networks to seamlessly connect manned and unmanned platforms. NetANTX focuses on new networking technologies to advance the capacity, resilience and reach of the maritime tactical network of networks in support of the project. Entries must be submitted by July 27 while winners will be announced in November 2021.

...Second. NAVWAR then launched a second prize challenge to support Project Overmatch on June 16, specifically seeking artificial intelligence solutions. “To deliver this modernized network, the AINetANTX challenge aims to identify and leverage the latest in AI-enabled technologies to allow warfighters to make critical decisions quickly in operationally relevant maritime environments,” the Navy said in a statement. Like the first challenge, first place will win $75,000 and second place $25,000. Selected participants will be invited to demonstrate technologies in the Overmatch Software Armory, a cloud-enabled digital environment using industry-standard development, security and operation principles aimed at bringing rapid delivery of software capability to the fleet. Like the first challenge, entries are due by July 27 and winners will be announced in November 2021.

Iron Dome Request. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 17 that Congress can expect a request soon for supplemental funding related to President Joe Biden’s pledge to replenish capabilities for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. “I’ve had this conversation with [Israeli] Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. We were together about two weeks ago and he walked through the details of what his requirements were [for Iron Dome]. We’re working to flesh out those details and you will see a request in the future,” Austin said during a budget hearing.

Drone Swarming. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) released a Request for Information on June 14 seeking industry’s input on solutions and approaches for delivering an offensive drone swarming capability. RCCTO describes its interest in exploring the ability to control “a group of three or more UAS robots that perform tasks cooperatively, in a decentralized manner, while receiving limited or no control from human operators.” The drone swarms would be required to be deployable from platforms such as JLTVs or Humvees, with an ability to provide kinetic effects and travel ranges of 10 to 30 kilometers.

NCD Confirmed. The Senate last Thursday approved by unanimous consent Chris Inglis to be the country’s first National Cyber Director (NCD), a new role seen as essential to sharpening the coordination of cybersecurity efforts across the federal government and further enhancing partnerships with the private sector. Inglis, a former deputy director of the National Security Agency, said earlier this month that he and future NCDs will have to add value and coherence to existing cooperative and collaborative cybersecurity efforts. The NCD will also lead the development of a national cybersecurity strategy.

…Deputy Tien. The Senate also on June 17 voted 60 to 34 to confirm John Tien as the deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Tien, a retired Army officer and head of Citigroup’s retail banking services, faced some Republican opposition during consideration by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which last week advanced his nomination to the Senate on a 10 to three vote. Several Republicans expressed concern about Tien’s reluctance in an earlier confirmation hearing to acknowledge the seriousness of the migrant surge at the southern border. Once sworn in, Tien will succeed acting Deputy Secretary David Pekoske, who leads the Transportation Security Administration.

Austal Bids on OPC. Austal USA told Defense Daily last week it submitted a bid for the second stage of the Coast Guard’s multi-billion Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program, joining current prime contractor Eastern Shipbuilding Group, as well as Huntington Ingalls Industries and Bollinger Shipyards in saying they have bid to design and build ships five through 15. Eastern Shipbuilding won the original OPC contract in 2016 but a severe storm in the fall of 2018 that pounded the company’s operations in Florida setback work and forced the company to seek contract relief. The Coast Guard granted the relieve but also decided to reopen the program to competition beginning with the fifth medium-endurance cutter.

2002 AUMF Repeal. The House on June 17 voted 268 to 161 to repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) originally used to provide authorization for the use of force leading up to the Iraq War. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who voted against the measure in 2002, sponsored the legislation which looks to rein in the broad use of war powers. Only one Democrat voted ‘no,’ Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), while 49 Republicans joined the rest of Democrats in supporting the measure. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now preparing to mark-up a bill next week that would include a repeal of the 2002 AUMF. 

LPD-22. The Navy awarded BAE Systems a $90 million contract on June 11 to execute fiscal year 2021 docking selected restricted availability (DSRA) of the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD-22). This work will combine maintenance, modernization and repair of the ship. The contract includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value of the award to $105 million. The company said this DSRA will have it dry-dock the ship to perform work on the underwater hull, repair its ballast tanks system, preserve its amphibious well deck area, and refurbish the living spaces for up to 800 sailors and Marines that can be carried onboard the ship. Work will occur at BAE’s San Diego Ship Repair facility, is expected to start in September 2021 and be finished by November 2022.

New HQ. Unmanned aircraft and ground system developer and manufacturer AeroVironment has relocated its corporate headquarters from Simi Valley, Calif., to Arlington, Va., putting its executive leaders in closer proximity to key government personnel and local talent. “The greater Washington D.C. area is where many of our key customers are located, and expanding our presence in the region will further our access to decision makers, influencers and talent,” Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment’s president and CEO, said in a statement. He highlighted a recent acquisition and establishment of a new Artificial Intelligence Innovation Center in the Washington area that previously expanded its work in the region. The company will maintain its existing operations in Simi Valley and other sites in the U.S. and Germany.

Collective Defense. A cybersecurity information center for the North American electric sector and Dragos Inc., which specializes in cybersecurity of industrial control systems (ICS), are undertaking a joint effort to strengthen the industrial cybersecurity of the North American electricity industry. A joint announcement by Dragos and the North Electric Reliability Corp.’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) said the initiative “enables E-ISAC analysts to gain greater visibility into ICS cyber threats facing the electric sector through Dragos’s Neighborhood Keeper technology.” The announcement also highlighted that these insights and trends will be shared with all E-ISAC members for improved collective cyber defense.