Skyborg Program of Record? While former U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper had a goal for the Air Force’s Skyborg Vanguard research effort to transition to a program of record for low-cost attritable aircraft in fiscal 2023, that timeline is uncertain. “I’m not going to say that’s not achievable, but it has to be balanced with all the other requirements we have across the portfolio to able to do that, and I think there is some amount of work we want to do with respect to the platform and the autonomy piece before we make that transition,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Dale White, the program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft. The Air Force plans to continue Skyborg experimentation to determine its possible fit in the service’s force mix. The service has used the design of the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie as an example of what Skyborg drones may look like.
Internet of Space Things. A hybrid architecture connecting commercial and U.S./allied military satellites may lie ahead. Interoperability between such satellites will likely happen “in the same way that we see terrestrially that it’s rare now that you find a new, technological device that doesn’t connect to the internet,” says Gen. John Shaw, the deputy commander of U.S. Space Command. “There will be an internet of space things that will all somehow connect with one another. Some of that will be for safety reasons so that there could be autonomous communication between satellites or constellations to know where other satellites are, and that may drive autonomous collision avoidance or at least awareness of issues so that humans on the ground can take action.”
LSE 2021. Newly installed Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and ranking member of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) traveled to Hampton Roads, Va., on Aug. 10 to view Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021 and meet Sailors and Marines. This was Del Toro’s first meeting with Navy Department servicemembers since being sworn in on Aug. 9. “This exercise is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my 26-year naval career. That is why it was important for me to come to Norfolk on my first day as Secretary to see the work our Sailors and Marines are doing,” Del Toro said. “LSE 2021 is the biggest exercise we’ve done in a generation, and it will no doubt inform our efforts going forward as we deter our adversaries worldwide,” he continued. While in Norfolk, the officials embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) to meet participants in the exercise.
SEACAT. Maritime forces from 21 countries began the 20th Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise in Singapore on Aug. 10. SEACAT is a multilateral exercise aimed to enhance cooperation among Southeast Asian countries and “provide mutual support and a common goal to address crises, contingencies, and illegal activities in the maritime domain using standardized tactics, techniques, and procedures,” the Navy said in a statement. The 2021 iteration is the largest one to date with participants including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Vietnam. “The scenarios are designed to encourage countries to work together through maritime domain awareness assets to better understand operations and adherence to international norms,” Capt. Tom Ogden, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, said in a statement. This SEACAT includes 10 ships and 300 personnel including the USS Tulsa (LCS-16), staff of DESRON 7, P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Task Force 72, and personnel from Task Forces 73, 76, U.S. 7th Fleet, and U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Norway P-8A. The first of five Norway P-8A Poseidon aircraft underwent its initial flight on Aug. 9, aircraft producer Boeing said Aug. 10. It flew for nearly two and a half hours and reached a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet, flying from Renton Municipal Airport to Boeing Field in Seattle. Boeing said this marks a new phase in the production cycle as it moves to the Installation and Checkout facility for installation of mission systems and additional testing before final delivery to the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA) later in 2021. These P-8As will replace Norway’s current fleet of six P-3 Orions and three DA-20 Jet Falcons.
TH-73A. The first operational TH-73A Thrasher training helicopter arrived at Naval Air Station Whiting Field on Aug. 6. There it will be assigned to Training Air Wing (TW) 5 and will replace TH-57B/C Sea Ranger as the undergraduate training helicopter for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The aircraft traveled from Leonardo Helicopters’ facility in Philadelphia, where it was built, over two days. Vertex Aerospace is set to provide maintenance support for the TH-73A. Leonardo is contracted to deliver 31 more helicopters in 2021 and 130 total by 2024 before the TH-57s are set to sundown in 2025. Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff, Chief of Naval Air Training, said the new TH-73A Advanced Helicopter Training System “will meet our advanced rotary wing and intermediate tilt-rotor training requirements through 2050.”
…Efficient Business Practice. Such an internet of space things “will also be just more an efficient business practice to have satellites that can communicate beyond their designed architecture,” Shaw said. “Here’s one thing that did not happen with the development of the internet. It didn’t compartment itself into completely separate enclaves. There have been some governments that have tried to do that, and we can talk about what level of success they’ve had, but we don’t have separate internets with separate protocols. I think that’s probably where we’re headed with future architectures in space, no matter what size the satellites. I think small sats, by their very nature, are leading the charge in that because if you even have two or three in your constellation, you need those to talk with each other.”
Corporate News. Northrop Grumman has elected Graham Robinson, the senior vice president and president of Stanley Black & Decker’s Industrial segment, to its board of directors. Robinson previously was an executive at Honeywell working in areas of industrial safety and sensing. CACI International has hired recently retired Army. Maj. Gen. Pete Gallagher as senior vice president to be the principal adviser to Todd Probert, the president of CACI’s National Security and Innovative Solutions sector. Gallagher, who most recently served as director of the Army Futures Command Network Cross-Functional Team, will also lead the integration strategy of technology solutions for national security customers. The space launch company Astra Space has appointed Michele Flournoy to its board of directors. She served as under secretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration. And Parsons Corp. has authorized the repurchase of up to $100 million of the company’s common stock.
Skunk Works News. Lockheed Martin says construction is complete on a new 215,000 square foot advanced manufacturing facility at its Palmdale, Calif., campus, home to its Skunk Works. The new facility includes an intelligent factory framework, a technology-enabled advance manufacturing environment, and flexible factory construct to quickly adapt to customers’ needs. Most of Lockheed Martin’s work, 85 percent, at the Skunk Works is classified. “The technology in our new Palmdale facility lets us go beyond manufacturing optimization to the next digital revolution, driving innovation and preserving California’s leadership in the aerospace industry,” said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of Skunk Works.
FRC Commissioned. The Coast Guard on Aug. 6 commissioned its 44th fast response cutter (FRC), Glen Harris, which is the third of six FRCs that will be stationed in Manama, Bahrain in support of Patrol Force Southwest Asia, which supports U.S. Central Command. The Coast Guard is acquiring 64 154-foot FRCs from shipbuilder Bollinger Shipyards.
DoD Policy Official Nom. The White House announced on August 10 that President Biden has nominated Sasha Baker to serve as the Pentagon’s next deputy under secretary of defense for policy. Baker is currently the National Security Council’s senior director for strategic planning. Previously, Baker served as national security adviser to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and as deputy chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ash Carter during the Obama administration.
Soldier Lethality CFT. The Army has announced Brig. Gen. Larry Burris Jr. has assumed command as the new director of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team. In his new role, Burris will oversee development of modernization programs such as the service’s forthcoming Next-Generation Squad Weapons and the Integrated Visual Augmentation System headset. Burris’ new dual-hatted role also includes assuming command of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning in Georgia. He succeeds Maj. Gen. David Hodne, who is set to take command of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson in Colorado this month.
L3Harris’ DVLS. The Marine Corps has selected L3Harris to provide its Degraded Visibility Landing System (DVLS) for its MV-22B Osprey tiltrotors to help improve pilots’ ability to land safely in degraded conditions. L3Harris said the DVLS’ open architecture design allows for potential use on additional Marine Corps platforms, including CH-53, H-1 and H-60 helicopters and C-130 tankers. “Our innovative system will increase pilots’ situational awareness and confidence when landing in brownout conditions. We are pleased to help enhance Marines’ mission effectiveness and safety in the world’s most challenging environments,” Luke Savoie, the company’s president for aviation services, said in a statement. L3Harris said the DVLS “fuses navigational and sensor data sources to produce a real-time, augmented-reality displayed on a helmet-mounted, flip-down display for an accurate representation of the surrounding terrain and potential flight obstructions.” A company spokesperson told Defense Daily, the company officially received an $18.9 million development contract in May, with a follow-on production option that could increase the total contract value to $45.9 million. Deliveries are slated to begin in 2023.