Contract Extension. Customs and Border Protection plans to award a potential six-month, $72 million contract extension to PAE to continue providing maintenance and logistics support for most of the agency’s fleet of manned aircraft. PAE, the incumbent contractor for the work, is protesting in federal court CBP’s decision to award a new support contract to Amentum. The current contract expires on Sept. 30 and CBP said a potential contract extension is necessary in case the U.S. Court of Federal Claims upholds PAE’s protest, which was rejected by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in June, prompting PAE to pursue its complaints about CBP’s award decision in court.

…Decision Imminent.

Oral arguments by the parties involved in the protest were heard by the judge in the claims court last Wednesday and a decision is expected in the next two to three weeks. At stake is a 10-year contract worth about $1.3 billion to support more than 200 CBP fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, excluding its fleet of P-3 patrol aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems. The GAO last week publicly released its ruling upholding CBP’s award to Amentum. PAE has been the contractor for the National Aircraft Maintenance and Logistics Services Contract since 2009.

Head Lobbyist. Peraton has hired its first government relations chief, naming Mara Motherway as senior vice president of Government and Customer Relations. Motherway joins Peraton from Booz Allen Hamilton, where she was the company’s vice president of Government Relations and Military Affairs. Stu Shea, chairman, president and CEO of Peraton, highlighted his company’s emergence as a major integrator and services company as the key reason for adding the lobbying position. “Having a strong government relations function under a proven leader will ensure Peraton continues to align its mission to the national security objectives of or policymakers,” he said. Motherway will report to Mike King, Peraton’s executive vice president and Chief Growth Officer.

AI Advice (Help Wanted). The Department of Commerce has established a new committee to advise the president and federal agencies on issues related to artificial intelligence (AI). The department last week issued a call for nominations to serve on the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee (NAIAC) and its Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence and Law Enforcement. “We have seen major advances in the design, development, and use of AI, especially in the past several years,” said Eric Lander, White House Science Advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “We must be sure that these advances are matched by similar progress in ensuring that AI is trustworthy, and that it ensures fairness and protections for civil rights.” Creation of the NAIAC was directed by Congress in the National AI Initiative Act of 2020.

Defiant X. Sikorsky and Boeing said on Sept. 7 the two companies have submitted their proposal offering the Defiant X platform for the Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program of record to find a UH-60 Black Hawk replacement. “Defiant X delivers speed where it matters, survivability, unsurpassed power, maneuverability, superior handling in any environment and lower lifecycle costs – while operating in the same footprint as the Black Hawk. We are confident that Defiant X, supported by our longstanding Army industrial base suppliers, is the best choice for delivering overmatch on the Multi-Domain Operational battlefield in INDOPACOM and across the globe,” Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky’s president, and Mark Cherry, Boeing Defense, Space and Security’s vice president for vertical, said in a joint statement. The Sikorsky-Boeing team and Bell, offering its V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft, were the two competitors to receive RFPs for FLRAA production after each platform participated in the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program to inform requirements and the subsequent FLRAA CD&RR prototype maturation phase. A production contract for FLRAA is set to be awarded in late fiscal year 2022.

Project Convergence. The Army’s upcoming Project Convergence (PC) demonstration this fall, the service’s second iteration to understand how future weapon systems and capabilities across the joint force could form a new “sensor-to-shooter” network, will run through seven different uses cases and experiment with more than 100 different technologies, senior officials said on Sept. 8. “I think we’re going to learn a lot. I think our sister services are going to learn a lot. And I think it’s a very exciting venue for a lot of the experimentation that we’ve been doing,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said during a Defense News conference discussion, noting PC ‘21 will include increased participation from joint partners and include new capabilities such as the IVAS augmented reality headset, Precision Strike Missile and DE M-SHORAD, a 50 kilowatt Stryker-mounted laser system. 

Afghanistan Hearings. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has announced a series of upcoming hearings to examine the U.S.’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and lessons learned from the past 20 years of conflict in the country. “Although we have completed the withdrawal of American military personnel and over 100,000 civilians from Afghanistan, I remain deeply concerned about the events that accompanied our withdrawal and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.  It is the duty of Congress—and the Senate Armed Services Committee in particular—to hold hearings to learn lessons from the situation in Afghanistan and ensure accountability at the highest levels,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the SASC chairman, said in a statement. On Sept. 15, SASC will hear from Army Gen. Austin Miller, head of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, in a closed briefing on recent developments in Afghanistan. Then, on Sept. 28 the panel will hold both open and closed briefings with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, on the withdrawal operation. Finally, SASC will bring in a group of outside experts for a Sept. 30 hearing to discuss a review of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. 

Army CRADA. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) said on Sept. 9 it has signed a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Aviation & Missile Center to partner on development of advanced weapon sensors aimed at combating adversaries’ Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) environments. The company said it will work on “target acquisition and tracking sensors and algorithms that will help advance critical technologies needed for missile and weapon systems to operate and deploy in contested environments at extended ranges.” “In collaboration with the U.S. Army, GA-EMS will leverage our decades of experience in the development, testing, and fielding of a variety of weapon, electro-optical infrared sensors, and Laser Detection and Ranging systems to create the next generation long range precision fires capabilities for the multi-domain battlespace,” Scott Forney, GA-EMS’ president, said in a statement. 

SCRAM Technology. While Northrop Grumman expects to turn out its 900th center fuselage for the Lockheed Martin F-35 by the end of the year, future aircraft production efforts are to benefit even more from digital engineering and additive manufacturing to grow parts, rather than relying on expensive tooling. While 3-D robotic arms can grow subcomponent and subassembly parts, “the technology is not there yet” to build a whole airplane through Scalable Composite Robotic Additive Manufacturing (SCRAM) technology, according to Chris Daughers, the vice president of research, technology, and engineering for Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. Aircraft may range from 82 percent composite to all metallic, and SCRAM is going to have to integrate multiple materials for different certifications across aircraft and space systems, Daughers said.

39 Times. The Northrop Grumman-owned, Burt Rutan-founded Scaled Composites has featured one first flight each of the 39 years Scaled Composites has been around, according to Scaled Composites President Cory Bird, who said he’s worked there 36 years, 26 of them with Rutan. On Sept. 8 at U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., Scaled Composites unveiled its Model 401 aircraft, which is to serve as the basis for a stealthy, Model 437 unmanned plane for possible use alongside the F-35 in highly contested environments.

Dry Dock. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard held a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 8 for a new multi-mission dry dock project, with Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro serving as keynote speaker. Last month, the Navy awarded 381 Constructors a seven-year $1.7 billion contract to build a partitioned addition of two new bays to Dry Dock #1. The new facilities aim to increase the capacity of the shipyard to repair, maintain and modernize up to three Los Angeles-class or Virginia-class attack submarines at once. This work is part of the 20-year Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) to modernize and recapitalize infrastructure at the four public shipyards.

NAVAIR. Vice Adm. Carl Chebi relieved Vice Adm. Dean Peters as commander of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) during a ceremony on Sept. 9 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Peters assumed command of NAVAIR in May 2018 and is now retiring after a 36-year Navy career. Chebi previously served as deputy program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office since September 2019. Earlier he served as a program manager for the Precision Strike Weapons Program Office, program manager for the Naval Integrated Fires Program Office, and NAVAIR vice commander and Program Executive Officers for Command Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I)/Program Executive Officer Space Systems.

GA-EMS. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) said on Sept. 9 it has been approved as an Alteration Installation Team (AIT) for the Navy. This qualification allows the service to contract with GA-EMS subject-matter experts capable of independently performing alterations and system installations onboard Navy ships during maintenance availability periods. “AIT qualification is recognition of the outstanding work our teams have performed over the years installing and maintaining first-of-kind electromagnetic aircraft catapult launch and recovery systems on land-based sites and onboard Ford-class carriers,” Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS, said in a statement. The company said it will manage the AIT efforts from its Hampton, Va., facility. It noted the location is near the Newport News shipyard, where the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is undergoing a Planned Incremental Availability maintenance period.