Missile Warning. The Air Force, which recently decided to pursue a more defendable successor to its missile-warning Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites, continues to explore what the new spacecraft will look like, according to Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command. But how the Air Force will make the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) satellites better protected against growing threats remains a secret, at least for now. Next-Gen OPIR “will continue to provide the best missile-warning capabilities in the world, but at the same time, it will be defendable, and I’m not going to get into the specifics” of how that will be achieved, Raymond said May 24 at an Air Force Association event. The Air Force plans to award sole-source contracts to Lockheed Martin for the first three Next-Gen OPIR geosynchronous Earth orbit satellites and to Northrop Grumman for the first two Next-Gen OPIR polar-orbit satellites.
Research Review. Pentagon technology chief Michael Griffin and DARPA head Steven Walker are slated to testify on defense innovation and research funding at a closed-door hearing June 6 before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel.
ISS Scrutiny. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s space panel on June 6 plans to hold the second in a series of hearings on the future of the International Space Station (ISS). Jim Chilton, senior vice president for space and launch at Boeing, the ISS prime contractor, is among the witnesses scheduled to testify. The Trump administration has proposed ending federal funding for the orbiting laboratory by 2025, but that idea has met resistance from space advocates in Congress.
Cyber Threat Landscape. Kevin Mandia, the straight-talking CEO of the pure-play cyber security firm FireEye, said the rules of engagement in the cyber domain are eroding and over the years there has been a “gradual escalation” in the types of cyber-attacks and intrusions that have gone on. He said Iran continues to escalate its cyber intrusions worldwide and that North Korea’s intentions are “unpredictable.” Charles Carmakal, vice president of FireEye’s Mandiant Consulting arm, said that North Korea continues to target financial institutions to steal money. There is now a group in Vietnam that is involved in cyber hacking, Mandia said, adding that “Every modern nation is going to have a cyber capability.”
…China. Mandia, at a media briefing on May 31 at the company’s annual cyber conference in Washington, D.C., said that since 2015, China has significantly curtailed its cyber espionage against U.S. firms. In September 2015, then U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed the two countries would not steal each other’s intellectual property and trade secrets. Mandia said that China “is predictable” and believes the government maintains “centralized control of their espionage groups,” adding that they maintain “iron discipline in how they hack.” Cristiana Kittner, a principal analyst with FireEye, said though that in the past few months hacking groups in China that had appeared to have “gone dormant” have “re-emerged” and are targeting European entities and maritime interests, saying there may be a “weakening” in the 2015 treaty with the U.S.
...Russia. Mandia said that following Russia’s interference in U.S. presidential elections in 2016, there are probably some in Russia that thought the results were “great” and others who feel the outcome was “terrible” and that the country is likely “still sorting out what their cyber campaigns goals are.” So far, there is no evidence that Russia has attempted to interfere with U.S. election systems this year via cyber means although there continues to be trolling on social media by Russian agents to sow dissension in the U.S., according to Lee Foster, manager of Information Operations Analysis at FireEye.
Presidential Sendoff. President Donald Trump on Friday spoke at the changing of the command for the Coast Guard, praising former Commandant Paul Zukunft for his 41 years in the service, saying “he brought remarkable vision to the task of ensuring the Coast Guard’s rightful place at the forefront of American Security and prosperity.” Trump said that no “brand has gained more momentum or has gained more of anything than the brand of the United States Coast Guard,” adding that, “You are the elite force that defends our borders, patrols our waters, protects our cities, and keeps our enemies at bay.”
…And Welcome. The president also welcomed new Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, saying “I have complete confidence that Karl will carry out his new mission with the same talent, strength, and devotion that have characterized his entire career.” Schultz is the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard.
MQ-4C. The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman held a ceremony for the start of flight operations of the MQ-4C Triton at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC), Point Mugu, Calif. NBVC houses the maintenance detachment of the first Navy unmanned patrol squadron, Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)-19 DET Point Mugu. Maintainers are conducting training and tests on the Triton before it deploys to Guam later in 2018. The first two Tritons are at Point Mugu in a newly refurbished hangar that can accommodate up to four of the aircraft.
NAVAIR. Vice Adm. G. Dean Peters relieved Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags as head of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at a ceremony May 31. Peters previously served as program executive officer for anti-submarine warfare, assault, and special mission programs (PEO(A)). Peters is succeeded at PEO(A) by Brig. Gen. Gregory Masiello on May 7.
RIMPAC Details. The U.S. Navy announced details of the biannual 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise set from June 27 to Aug. 2 around Hawaii and southern California. It includes over 25,000 personnel with 47 ships, five submarines, over 200 aircraft, and 26 participant nations. This year’s theme focuses on the flexibility of maritime forces with a training program including amphibious, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, air defense. counter-piracy, mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations.
…Featured Missiles. RIMPAC 2018 will also feature the live firing of a U.S. Air Force-launched Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), surface-to-ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and a Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Laod System (PLS) by the U.S. Army. This will mark the first time a land-based unit will participate in a RIMPAC live fire event.
BALTOPS. The Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 begins in the Baltic Sea region, expected to last from June 1-15. This is the 46th iteration of a live training exercise involves air, maritime, and ground assets for 16 participating NATO members and partner nations. The 2018 exercise starts in Klaipeda, Lithuania and ends in Kiel, Germany with a focus on air defense, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction, mine countermeasures, and amphibious operations.
Marine Corps Helmets. The Marine Corps has amended a contract with Gentex Corporation for Enhanced Combat Helmets and night vision devices to meet increasing demand. The deal, awarded May 9 and announced May 31, adds 65,800 helmets and 84,700 night vision devices to the deal. The contract amount has also increased by $45 million, with the total now coming to $99.7 million. A justification notice posted from Marine Corp System Command described avoiding an unnecessary burden by awarding a sole source modification to Gentex rather than finding another company to meet the complex requirements for the Enhanced Combat Helmet.
Army/FLIR Systems. The Army awarded FLIR Systems a $2.6 million deal to deliver its Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance Systems. The first order of the Black Hornet PRS will be utilized by the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor program, with an eventual plan to roll out the surveillance & reconnaissance system for full operational deployment. “This contract demonstrates the strong demand for nano-drone technology offered by FLIR and opens the way for broad deployment across all branches of the military,” said James Cannon, CEO of FLIR Systems.