RC-135. The Air Force’s fleet of RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft will be playing a role in the future Advanced Battle Management System, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) during a Thursday SASC hearing as he described what that architecture could look like. “The visual I would offer you is if the F-35 is outside, it’s the quarterback of a penetrating joint team. And that joint team consists of F-35, B-21, RQ-170, and X-37 in space, low Earth orbit satellites, penetrating attack submarines, a small team on the ground. And the key… is to connect every sensor and every shooter,” he said, adding, “The RC-135 is a critical sensor.” He confirmed that the Air Force plans to maintain the RC-135 fleet, based at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, through 2050.

The RC-135 Rivet Joint. (Air Force photo)

HAC-D Member Running in 2020.  Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, announced April 4 that he is running for president in 2020. Ryan also sits on the House Budget Committee. He has represented Ohio’s 13th district since 2013 and he  received over $78,000 in contributions from defense electronics and aerospace companies during his 2018 re-election campaign.

Wilson Approved as Next UTEP President. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is officially confirmed to become the next University of Texas El Paso president, following a unanimous vote by the UT System Board of Regents April 2. Wilson announced March 8 that she was resigning from her position effective May 31. She would begin as UTEP president Sept. 1.

Space. Arianespace launched four O3b Medium Earth Orbit satellites Thursday to scale SES’s MEO constellation, SES said Friday. The additional satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space, mark the transition to SES’s next generation MEO system and provide greater service availability for the company’s non-geostationary satellite orbit broadband constellation. The satellites were launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

A-29 Training Award. The Air Force on Thursday awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. a $42.7 million IDIQ contract for A-29 training for the Afghan Air Force. The contract, which was the result of a sole-source acquisition, provides for A-29 pilot and maintenance training.  Work will be performed at Moody Air Base, Georgia, and in Afghanistan, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2023. Fiscal year 2019 building partner capacity/pseudo-foreign military sales funds in the amount of $5.6 million were obligated at the time of award.

JDAM Award. The Air Force on Monday awarded Boeing a $250 million IDIQ contract for Joint Direct Attack Munition/Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM/LDAM) technical services, aircraft integration, and sustainment.  The contract provides for JDAM/LJDAM-specific activities including, but not limited to, technical services, aircraft integration, and sustainment.  Work will be performed in St. Louis, and is expected to be complete by March 2029.  This contract involves sales to the U.S. government (52 percent); and foreign military sales (48 percent) to various countries.  Fiscal 2019 (Air Force and Navy) procurement and ammunition funds in the amount of $12.8 million were obligated on the first task order at the time of award.

Air Combat Command. Air Combat Command on Thursday said it is merging the 24th and 25th Numbered Air Forces at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, this summer. The merger will better integrate cyber effects, ISR operations, electronic warfare operations and information operations, the command said in a press release. “The integration also better aligns these units with priorities outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and delivers the first ‘Information Warfare’ NAF for the Air Force,” the command said.

Rocket Motor Test. Northrop Grumman on Thursday successfully completed the second ground test of its 63-inch Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM-63) meant to add power to ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The first ground test was conducted in September 2018 and qualified the motor for use as a strap-on booster for the Atlas V. Thursday’s test in Promontory, Utah, satisfies additional requirements for Air Force certification, Northrop Grumman said in a press release Thursday. The first launch using GEM 63 motors is expected to take place in 2020. Northrop Grumman is also developing a GEM-63XL motor for ULA’s Vulcan Rocket.

Raytheon Hire. Raytheon has hired Teresa Shea, a former National Security Agency official and executive at In-Q-Tel, as its vice president of Cyber Warfare and Mission Innovations at its Intelligence, Information and Services business. Shea will report to John DeSimone, vice president of Cybersecurity and Special Missions at IIS, and will run a newly created business area that integrates the company’s Defense Department cyber warfare initiatives with intelligence community cyber mission programs. “Teresa’s three decades of leadership in national security and technology development will set a new foundation for our cyber business and help take it to the next level,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon IIS.

Done Deals. ManTech International Corp. on April 1 said it closed its $115 million acquisition of Kforce Government Solutions, expanding its footprint in the federal health market, including with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tetra Tech, a consulting and engineering services firm, acquired eGlobalTech, a provider of information technology solutions, cyber security and management consulting to federal government customers. And the private equity firm Carlyle Group has completed its acquisition of StandardAero from Veritas Capital. StandardAero provides maintenance and repair services for aircraft.

…Looking to Sell. Triumph Group, Inc. on April 4 came out with surprise announcement that it is exploring strategic alternatives for its Aerospace Structures business unit, which is on track for about $1.5 billion in sales in the fiscal year that ended March 31. Triumph said it is reviewing strategic alternatives, which usually equates to shopping a business around, for the Aerospace Structures business as part of ongoing portfolio reshaping, debt reduction and cash generation. There is no timetable for the process. The company’s aerostructures are used on commercial and military aircraft.

Unfunded TSA Priorities. If resources were available, Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard he would restore funding in the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement program, and exit lane staffing by TSA officers at U.S. airports in that order. The VIPR teams provide random security patrols at U.S. surface transportation nodes and in airports, and Pekoske said they also give assignments to Federal Air Marshals, providing them relief from their routine aircraft-based assignments, which is good for their “well-being” and their families. He put exit lane staffing third because of the potential to bring technology solutions to guard against the problem of someone entering the secure area of an airport through a lane with no screening personnel or equipment.

Triton Deploying. The Navy’s air warfare director told a House panel the Navy expects the MQ-4C Tritons to be deployed this summer. “We have Triton going to be going forward this year, probably later this summer,” Rear Adm. Scott Conn, Director of Air Warfare at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical and land forces. “And then we’re going to continue to build capability and capacity with that system in accordance and to comply with the NDAA 2011,” Conn said. He added that the Triton capability needs to increase before the service can start retiring the EP-3E electronic reconnaissance aircraft in 2021 “and we are on track to do that.”

6th Gen Navy. The Navy’s director of air warfare told a House panel Thursday the analysis of alternatives (AoA) for a sixth or next-generation air dominance (NGAD) fighter will be finished later this year. This includes any aircraft beyond the Block III Super Hornet. The AoA “will be complete this spring. The final report will come out this summer and that will inform future choices reflected future budget cycles in terms of what do we need to do to get after the lethality that we need at a cost that we can afford,” Rear Adm. Scott Conn, Director of Air Warfare, told the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee. The larger NGAD study started as the AoA in January 2016.

AAG Test. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) on March 29 said the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) successfully conducted the first exploratory aircraft barricade arrestment at the ground test site in Lakehurst, N.J. This test is a “critical testing milestone” to qualify the AAG for barricade use on the Ford-class aircraft carriers. The company highlighted this was the first test of its kind conducted by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in over 20 years. In the test, an E-2C+ Hawkeye was accelerated to a representative arresting speed into the barricade, where a net attached to the AAG caught it and brought it to a safe stop. “We are extremely pleased that AAG performed as planned in the first attempt,” Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS, said in a statement. The company said no similar at-sea testing is planned but ship personnel practice the emergency situation.

F-35 Items. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Lockheed Martin a $151 million modification on April 1 to procure long-lead items to build and deliver 21 Lot 14 low-rate initial production (LRIP) F-35s for Australia and Norway. Fifteen aircraft cover Australia while six are for Norway. The work is expected to be finished by December 2022. The contract is split into 71 percent, or $108 million, for Australia and 29 percent, or $43 million, under a cooperative agreement.

U.S./Lithuania Partnership. U.S. and Lithuanian officials signed a document on April 2 outlining new security cooperation priorities between the countries, including establishing a cyber partnership to assist one another with defending against intrusions and attacks. The new “roadmap” was approved during a meeting between Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger and Lithuanian Policy Director Robertas Šapronas, and established defense cooperation goals through 2024. The agreement includes cooperating on deterrence and maritime domain awareness in the Baltic Sea region and improving intelligence sharing and early warning capabilities. Officials noted since 2014 the U.S. has invested $80 million for defense security cooperation in Lithuania, and Lithuania has committed to more than $200 million in defense sales with the U.S.

ACV Training. The Marine Corps’ New Equipment Training Team has started preparing for initial training efforts to assist users with transitioning to the new Amphibious Combat Vehicle from the current Amphibious Assault Vehicle. The NETT is currently assisting the ACV program office set up a four-month logistics demonstration that will begin this fall, and look to evaluate the maintainability and sustainability of the new vehicle. In January 2020, Marines from Delta Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division will be the first group of users to start vehicle training with the NETT. Marine Corps officials also said the program office expects to receive the first set of low-rate production vehicles this summer.

NATO Cyber Exercise. NATO’s largest annual live-fire cyber exercise, Locked Shield, begins next week and will bring together partner nations to test cooperation on protection individual national IT systems and critical infrastructure during a simulated cyber attack. The event will be held April 8-12 in Tallinn, Estonia, while the exercise’s Blue Teams will participate from their home nations. “[Locked Shields] will highlight the increased need for a better functional understanding between various experts and decision-making levels,” NATO officials wrote. The event is organized by NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in cooperation with the U.S. European Command, the Estonian Defence Forces, the Finnish Defence Forces, National Security Research Institute of the Republic of Korea and TalTech.