Retirement. Air Combat Commander Commander Gen. James “Mike” Holmes expects to retire at the end of August, the commander said June 22 during a Mitchell Institute webinar. Earlier in June, the Trump administration announced that Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly was nominated to replace Holmes as ACC commander. Kelly currently serves as the deputy chief of staff for operations (A-3) at the Pentagon.

SASC Nominations.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the nominations of Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson to receive a fourth star and become the next chief of the National Guard Bureau. If confirmed by the full Senate, Hokanson would replace current chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel. The committee also approved the nomination of Army Gen. Gustave Perna, currently the commanding general of Army Materiel Command, to become the chief operating officer of the DoD’s Project Warp Speed and lead the department’s part in a nationwide effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

Boeing Defense PR Chief Exits. Jenna McMullin, the VP of communications for Boeing’s defense unit, abruptly resigned on June 24 to accept “another professional opportunity” in Colorado. She had held the top defense PR job at Boeing since August 2018. Walt Rice is now acting as the communications chief for Boeing defense. Given the abrupt nature of her departure, some sources speculated that she might resurface at a direct competitor. Lockheed Martin’s Space unit in Denver has been searching for a VP of communications since Adam Sohn left in March. As of our press time on Friday, the position has still not been filled.

Primary Election Results. The results of the June 23 primary elections have already shaken up Capitol Hill. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) has lost his seat to first-time candidate Jamaal Bowman, who ran his primary campaign to the left of the moderate Engel, who has served in Congress since 1989. In North Carolina, 24-year-old Madison Cawthorne was the underdog to take the Republican nomination to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Mark Meadows, now Trump’s chief of staff. Cawthorne beat opponent Lynda Bennett with nearly 66% of the vote to Bennett’s 34%, even though Bennett was endorsed by Trump, Meadows and other lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) Cawthorne will face Moe Higgins, a retired Air Force colonel running as a Democrat, in the November election.

Relativity Space. The Los Angeles-based space company 3-D printing an entire launcher sees itself as uniquely positioned to meet the Space Development Agency’s needs to set up a space-based sensor layer in LEO as it continues to build its Terran 1 launch vehicle. “On the government side, what you’re seeing is a very large increase in the investment in mid-size spacecraft through the Space Development Agency, through the Air Force and through DARPA,” said Josh Brost, company’s vice president of business development and government affairs “For those spacecrafts, what’s really critical to each of those branches of government is to have a responsive way to get those to space quickly when they need them. … We see ourselves being very uniquely positioned because of how fast we can manufacture the launch vehicle through additive manufacturing, to be the most responsive launcher to take those critical assets into space for the DoD.”

FCAS. The European’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS), or next-generation fighter program, is moving forward, and the three countries involved are committed to seeing it through, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday. Germany, France and Spain are partners on the FCAS program, which will eventually replace Germany’s Typhoon fighters, France’s Rafales and Spain’s F-18 aircraft and is being led by Dassault and Airbus. “We are developing the combat aircraft of the future,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said during a webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council. “So we’ve committed to that and we’re working on that very hard, and we will stick to our commitments.” The European countries involved need to have an “appropriate aircraft” that will provide air combat and electronic warfare capabilities to address future threats from peer adversaries, she noted. “What concerns all of us is how we respond to the challenges, the threats to the future – new weapons, hypersonic, autonomous systems – how are we going to address this new threat from the air?”

Bye-bye, CMO? The SASC version of the FY ’21 NDAA wants to eliminate the Pentagon’s chief management officer role, which was established four years ago. According to the bill language released Wednesday, the majority of the CMO’s roles would be absorbed into the deputy secretary of defense position, with the goal of eliminating the position by the end of fiscal year 2022.

New F-35 Gun? SASC wants the Air Force to begin the procurement process for a new 25mm gun “that provides a true full-spectrum target engagement capability” for the F-35A, according the committee’s mark of the FY ’21 NDAA. The Pentagon’s test office critiqued the aircraft’s current gun as having “unacceptable” accuracy while hitting ground targets in its annual DOT&E review released in January 2020. Moreover, the F-35A’s gun is mounted inside the aircraft, as opposed to the B and C models having external mounts, and the A’s housing is cracking within the aircraft, the review said.

Frigates. While speaking at Fincantieri Marinette Marine on June 25, President Trump said the shipyard was chosen for the FFG(X) future frigate program because of maneuverability and being located in Wisconsin, an electoral swing state. “I hear the maneuverability is one of the big factors that you were chosen for the contract. The other is your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth.” In April, Fincantieri beat out competitors Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls Industries, and General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works for the contract worth potentially $5.6 billion for 10 ships. The Navy intends to eventually procure a total of 20 frigates but will hold another competition for the second set of 10.

… Over 20? Trump also said the Navy is looking at extending the total frigate numbers past the stated goal of 20 ships. The service plans to hold another competition for the second set of 10 ships. “It’s going to go on for a long time, because it’s up to 20 ships, it might be extended. And they’re working on an extension right now. And we’ll see,” Trump said at the event. Similarly, during a Fox News town hall event in Green Bay, Wisc. later on June 25, he said “we’ll probably end up with 20 or 25.”

LCS-22. The Navy commissioned the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Kansas City (LCS-22) on June 20 in San Diego. The service commissioned the ship administratively via a Navy message to restrict large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship has now been transitioned to normal operations. The service said it is looking at a future opportunity to commemorate the event with ship sponsor, crew, and commissioning committee. LCS-22 is the 11th Independence-variant vessel, with all of that variant built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.

CMV-22B. The Navy’s first Bell-Boeing CMV-2B Osprey arrived at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego on June 22 for operational use, the service said June 23. The aircraft is assigned to Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30, the first Navy CMV-22B squadron. VRM-30 was established in 2018 to start the transition from the C-2A Greyhound to the Osprey tiltrotor and previously was training with Marine Corps aircraft. The Greyhound has been used for aircraft carrier logistic support for decades, but the Navy is moving to shift those operations to the Osprey. It will specifically be responsible for conducting high priority cargo and passenger transport services  for carrier strike groups and task forces. Previously, the Bell-Boeing team delivered the first two Navy CMV-22B aircraft to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for developmental testing earlier this year. The Navy’s Osprey variant is modified for extended range, adding two 60-gallon tanks and redesigned forward sponson tanks  to allow the aircraft to travel over 1,150 nautical miles.

King Stallion. The Navy’s CH-53K King Stallion helicopter finished a two-week period of sea trials in the Atlantic earlier in June, the first time it was working in a modern naval environment, the service said June 24. Tests occurred on the USS Wasp (LSD-1) amphibious assault ship. The sea trials cover a series of tests to evaluate the aircraft’s performance at sea over two weeks. It included launch and recovery; rotor start and shutdown; blade fold; and shipboard compatibility testing. The Navy conducted these with increasing wind speed and varying wind directions relative to the aircraft. “The bulk of the testing was in launch and recovery, and we nailed it every time, no matter what the wind/sea conditions were. The 53K is now a “warrior from the sea,” Col. Jack Perrin, H-53 helicopters program manager, said in a statement. The CH-53K is operating under a reprogrammed timeline and is moving toward completion of developmental testing before it moves to initial operational test and evaluation in 2021 with an expected fleet deployment in 2023-2024.

MQ-9A. Naval Air Systems Command awarded General Atomics a $27 million firm-fixed-price contract on June 19 to procure two MQ-9A Reaper unmanned air systems. The award also covers one dual control mobile ground control station; one modular data center; and one mobile ground control station for Group 5 UAS intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services/persistent strike efforts. Work will be split among Yuma, Ariz. (40 percent) and other locations throughout the continental U.S. (60 percent) and is expected to be finished by December 2020. The full award is obligated at time of award with none set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. The Navy noted the contract was not competitively procured.

Naval Research. ThayerMahan, Inc. said June 22 it signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport to collaborate on research in persistent maritime surveillance and seabed surveying. ThayerMahan noted this is the company’s first CRADA with NUWC and is excited to work on design and operation of long-endurance undersea warfare systems. Under a CRADA, the government, through its laboratories, provides personnel, facilities, equipment or other resources with or without reimbursement while non-federal parties provide personnel, funds, services, facilities, equipment or other resources for specific research or development efforts. NUWC Newport particularly focuses on research, development, test and evaluation, engineering, and fleet support center for submarine warfare systems and other parts of the undersea battlespace.

AARGM-ER. Northrop Grumman said June 18 it recently completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER) program after completing successful design verification tests of key components. The company said design verification tests of the missile’s rocket motor and warhead along with CDR verified system-level and subsystem performance. Design verification tests of the rocket motor used extreme hot and cold temperature conditions and successfully demonstrated propulsion performance while warhead demonstrated lethality performance. The AARGM-ER is being integrated on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler and will be compatible with the F-35 A/B/C Joint Strike Fighter.

LPD-31 Engines. Fairbanks Morse said it won an order from Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) to build and deliver four main propulsion 16-cylinder FM | Colt-Pielstick PC 2.5 diesel engines to power the future new Landing Platform/Dock, LPD-31. LPD-31 will be the second San Antonio-class Flight II LPD. “Because of the common rail fuel injection technology that goes into each engine, we are able to reduce lifetime operation and maintenance costs by increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing emissions,” Fairbanks Morse CEO George Whittier said in a statement June 23. The company said the engines will deliver over 31 megawatts of propulsion power, allowing the ship to cruise at speeds over 22 knots. The company will deliver the engines to HII in Pascagoula, Miss., where Fairbanks Morse will support their installation, testing, and sea trial usage.

PSC Progress. The Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program completed a successfully preliminary design review (PDR) in April and continues to progress toward the start of production in fiscal year 2021, a Navy spokeswoman tells Defense Daily. The PDR was done by the Coast Guard and the Navy Integrated Project Office for the PSC program with shipbuilder VT Halter Marine.

Turning Tide. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The tide is turning against” untrusted Chinese telecommunications supplier Huawei, which the U.S. intelligence community warns is compromised by the Chinese government. “Huawei’s deals with telecommunications operators around the world are evaporating, because countries are only allowing trusted vendors in their 5G networks,” he said in a statement on June 24 statement. Pompeo provided more than a dozen examples of countries and telecommunications providers that have turned away from Huawei in favor of suppliers like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. “The momentum in favor of secure 5G is building,” he said. “The more countries, companies, and citizens ask whom they should trust with their most sensitive data, the more obvious the answer becomes: not the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state.”

Rapid DNA Redo. The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is soliciting again for a small company to provide Rapid DNA testing systems and kits to help DHS identify fraudulently-claimed familial relationships made by aliens entering the U.S. along the southwest border. In March, ICE awarded Bode Cellmark Forensics a potential 5-year, $17.3 million contract to provide Rapid DNA Systems for use at 11 border locations. That award was protested by ANDE Corp., another supplier of the technology. ICE decided to redo the solicitation, with the new request for bids released on June 25. Bids are due by July 10. DHS previously conducted two successful evaluations of the technology, which generates results in less than two hours to help agents determine whether two people are related. Since 2018, DHS has seen an increase in fraud at the border involving adult aliens using unrelated minors to pose as a family to be released into the U.S.

Chief Data Officer. The Pentagon has named Dave Spirk as its new Chief Data Officer. Spirk, who mostly recently served as U.S. Special Operations Command’s CDO, will be the first to hold the role since it was transitioned under the Chief Information Officer’s purview. Previously, the Pentagon’s Chief Management Officer had oversight over the CDO. “Effective data management is the central component of the department’s Digital Modernization Strategy. Dave brings extensive experience and a thorough understanding of how data empowers joint, all-domain operations. I look forward to working with Dave as we create a strong data culture across the department,” DoD CIO Dana Deasy said in a statement. 

Army/MFoCS. Leonardo DRS has received a $206 million deal from the Army to deliver installation kits for its newest Mounted Family of Computer Systems II. The three-year deal includes seven option years, and covers cables, brackets and other associated hardware required to install MFoCSII on ground vehicle platforms. Leonardo DRS is currently delivering new MFoCS II rugged tablets to the Army, with plans to fully modernize the service’s mounted computer fleet by 2024. “These are mission-critical components of the Army’s Mission Command capability.  We are proud to have been selected for high-volume production and delivery of quality, reliable systems for use in almost every type of tactical platform,” Bill Guyan, senior vice president of the company’s land electronics business unit, said in a statement. 

JAIC/NDAA. The House Armed Services Committee’s full defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2021 calls for the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to have its own acquisition authorities, including adding an acquisition executive to its senior leadership. The new acquisition official would have authorities to negotiate agreement memos with the different services to carry out AI acquisition efforts, as well as supervising the procurement of new services and capabilities. The official would also represent JAIC in all discussions with DoD departments on AI-related acquisition programs. “The JAIC acquisition executive shall be responsible to the Director for rapidly delivering acquisition solutions to meet validated AI requirements. They’ll also be subordinate to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment in matters of acquisition,” lawmakers wrote in the bill. 

Six More FRCs. The Coast Guard last Friday released its justification for increasing the contract ceiling for its Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) by six additional vessels, bringing its planned buy to 32 FRCs under its second contract with shipbuilder Bollinger Shipyards. Under the first FRC contract, Bollinger built and delivered 32 of the 154-foot craft, which typically patrol for three to five days in the littorals. The second contract originally called for 28 FRCs, but U.S. military requirements in Southwest Asia that make use of the Coast Guard’s 110-foot Island-class cutters drove demand for the six additional vessels. The FRCs are replacing the Island-class cutters. A production award for the additional vessels is forthcoming. So far, Bollinger has delivered 38 FRCs to the Coast Guard.

GPS M-Code. Lockheed Martin has installed its M-Code Early Use upgrade on the GPS operational control system (OCS) ground stations, said Tonya Ladwig, acting vice president of Lockheed Martin Space’s Navigation Systems Division, in a Friday media teleconference. The upgrade, which occurred earlier this month, will enable the current GPS ground systems to utilize the new, highly secure military signal while the next-generation systems continue through development.

Saudi Missile Defense Award. The Missile Defense Agency last Friday awarded Raytheon a $2.3 billion foreign military sales (FMS) program contract for seven Army/Navy Transportable Surveillance and Control Model 2 (AN/TPY-2) radars, spares and related services and support destined for Saudi Arabia as part of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system. The performance period under the contract expires on Aug. 31, 2027. The AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar detects, tracks and discriminates against all classes of ballistic missiles. So far, 14 AN/TPY-2 radars have been produced by Raytheon, seven of which are part of U.S.-operated THAAD systems, five in forward-based mode for the U.S., and two for FMS, Raytheon says.