Small UAS Help. Customs and Border Protection said its use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have been used to assist in more than 1,500 apprehensions by Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector along the U.S. border with Mexico. The agency said that over the weekend of Aug. 22-23 small UAS were used to help agents in the arrest of 67 illegal aliens in the sector, including 30 one day with the Lockheed Martin Indago 3 vertical take-off-and-landing drone.
Da BeagleBoyz are Back.
A North Korean intelligence cyber hacking team dubbed the BeagleBoyz by the U.S. government has been robbing banks globally since February through fraudulent international money transfers and an automated teller machine cash-out scheme, four U.S. agencies warned last week. The resumption by the BeagleBoyz of their illicit activities, which the government is calling “FASTCash 2.0: North Korea’s BeagleBoyz Robbing Banks,” follows a brief lull in their cyber banditry that began in late 2019, said the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Treasury, FBI and U.S. Cyber Command in a Joint Technical Alert. And it’s more than chump change that the ‘Boyz are pilfering. They have attempted to steal at least $2 billion since 2015, the alert said, and “North Korea can use these funds for its UN-prohibited nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs; this activity poses significant operational risk to Financial Services sector, and erodes the integrity of the financial system.”
Healy to Dry Dock. The same day the Coast Guard disclosed that its sole medium polar icebreaker had suffered a casualty forcing it to scrub its annual scientific mission to the Arctic, the service issued a notice seeking contractors on the West Coast for an unplanned dry dock for the 420-foot cutter Healy. The competition for the ship repair work will be full and open, the Coast Guard said in the Aug. 25 notice on the federal government’s procurement site. A fire on Aug. 18 off the coast of Alaska put the Healy’s starboard propulsion motor out of service, forcing the ship to cancel its Arctic mission and head toward its homeport in Seattle.
Hammering Away. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who earlier this month said Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf should step down after the Government Accountability Office found his appointment was outside of legal authorities, wants Wolf investigated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for an alleged violation of the Hatch Act, which restricts executive branch employees participating in political campaigns. Thompson, in an Aug. 26 letter to Special Counsel Henry Kerner, said Wolf’s Aug. 25 performance of a naturalization ceremony on government property, which was aired at the Republican National Convention the same day, was “an unprecedented politicization of the naturalization ceremony” and his “participation appears to constitute engaging in political activity while acting in an official capacity.” Then, on Aug. 27, Thompson and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote the DHS Inspector General to “swiftly” investigate the “legality of actions” taken by Wolf and Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli after their “invalid appointments” to their current posts. President Trump on Aug. 27 announced he intends to nominate Wolf to be DHS secretary, which will require Senate confirmation.
TH-73A. The Navy awarded FlightSafety Services Corp. a $221 million contract on Aug. 25 for TH-37A Advanced Helicopter Training System aircrew training services. The services include flight training devices (FTDs) and classroom instruction to train student naval aviators (SNAs) to the standards necessary to meet an annual pilot production rate of over 600 advanced rotary wing and intermediate tilt-rotor SNAs. It also provides for the operation and maintenance of FTDs. Work will occur in Milton, Fla., and is expected to be finished by June 2026. Funds will only be obligated on individual task orders as they are issued. The contract received two offers, but the Navy did not disclose the other competitor.
MUSV. Gibbs & Cox said on Aug. 19 it will be the ship design agent and engineering plant automation team lead on the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV) program. L3Harris Technologies won a $35 million contract in July for the detail design and fabrication of a prototype MUSV. L3Harris’ award includes options for up to eight additional MUSVs. “The experience in the autonomous maritime space offered by the combined capabilities of L3Harris and Gibbs & Cox gives the U.S. Navy a capable, low-risk solution for MUSV. We are very glad to be a part of this strong team,” Chris Deegan, Gibbs & Cox president and CEO, said in a statement.
Bath Iron Works. Navy acquisition chief James Geurts told reporters during a press call Aug. 27 he was glad to see the two-month long General Dynamics Bath Iron Works strike end earlier this month. “They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, but it was positive to see them get through this labor dispute and get in a position where both management and labor are aligned toward getting that work done at Bath. They’re an important industrial partner and it’s great to have them back operating in supporting the fleet.”
Aegis Work. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $19 million modification on Aug. 21 under the Aegis Combat Weapon System development contract, particularly including Japan Aegis Ashore work. The overall Aegis contract value is increasing from $3.274 billion to $3.293 billion. Of that amount, the Aegis Ashore Japan obligation increases from $65 million to $84 million. Under this modification, Lockheed Martin “will continue performing engineering design support and analysis of alternative services necessary for continuation of planning efforts and risk reduction efforts required to support the Aegis Ashore Japan analysis of alternatives and Foreign Military Sales.” This award comes despite the Japanese government’s decision to scrap its planned two Aegis Ashore systems due to technical and cost concerns. This new modification work will occur in Moorsetown, N.J., and is expected to be finished by December. The funds come from Japan and are being obligated at time of award.
Industrial Espionage. The Pentagon has released a new list of 11 Chinese companies operating “directly or indirectly” in the United States, among them the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), China Spacesat, and China Electronics Corp. (CEC), that the department believes may be trying to steal U.S. military and commercial technologies. The notifications come under section 1237 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1999, P.L. 105-261. “The department is determined to highlight and counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military-civil fusion development strategy, which supports the modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by ensuring its access to advanced technologies and expertise acquired and developed by even those PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities,” DoD said. In June, the Pentagon released a similar list of 20 Chinese firms, including Huawei, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), China Electronics Technology Group Corp. (CETGC), China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. (CSIC), and China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC).
Nuke Agency Catches More COVID-19 Cases. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) picked up four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 this week, lifting the nuclear-weapon agency’s total to 529 since the confirmed beginning of the U.S. outbreak, a spokesperson said Friday. So far, 416 people among the agency’s federal employees and contractors have recovered from their bouts with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan, China, last year. After a brief slowdown early in the pandemic, the agency’s nuclear weapons production sites are back to more or less normal operations, according to the NNSA. Employees who can telework are still allowed to do so.
sUAS Controller. The Army has awarded Altavian a $12.2 million deal to deliver the TOGA hand controller designed to pair with any of the service’s small unmanned aerial systems. The order was placed under a $250 million contract vehicle awarded to Altavian and a group of other vendors in 2018. “The TOGA brings universal unmanned control to a single operator for an entire range of multi-domain unmanned systems on the battlefield while providing a unified set of controllers for the largest drone fleet in the world,” the company wrote in a statement.
AirMap Defense. The UAS service provider launched AirMap Defense Group (ADG) to increase its focus on providing UAS services to DoD, focusing on air traffic management services — the company’s main focus on the commercial side — as well as autonomous mission planning and execution. AirMap received $3.3 million from the Pentagon earlier this summer, as part of COVID industry support efforts, to aid product development in these areas as well as post-mission analysis.
Cyber Quest. The Army will hold a virtual industry days Sept. 1-2 for its next Cyber Quest experimentation event. Cyber Quest 2021 is the sixth edition of the annual event to bring in industry and academia to showcase new cyber, electronic warfare, intelligence and networking technologies that could address capability gaps or inform future requirements. “The experiment will drive requirements definition, inform rapid acquisition initiatives and support acquisition risk reduction activities,” the Army wrote in a notice. The event next year will be the first iteration where technologies will be tested at echelons above the brigade level, according to the Army.
Delayed Launch. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Boeing and Lockheed Martin is preparing a Delta IV Heavy rocket with a classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload, NROL-44, for launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., early on Aug. 29. Weather conditions forced a scrubbing of the initial launch on Aug. 26. “Meteorologists from the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral forecast an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions for tonight’s Delta IV Heavy liftoff on the NROL-44 mission,” ULA said on Aug. 28. “There is only a slight concern for the thick cloud rule delaying the 2:04 a.m. EDT launch time.” This month, ULA received a $337 million contract for two classified launches using its future Vulcan rocket, and a 60 percent share of future Space Force launches under Phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Launch Services Procurement (LSP) program. Space analysts believe that ULA will be under significant pressure to prove Vulcan’s reusability and to reduce costs significantly from the $400 million per launch estimate for Delta IV Heavy launches.
Coast Guard UAS Test. The Coast Guard and U.S. Southern Command earlier this month conducted a pilot test of a medium-range vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft system aboard the 270-foot medium endurance cutter Harriet Lane, the first VTOL medium-range UAS evaluated during a Coast Guard operational patrol. The Martin UAV V-BAT didn’t require additional launch and recovery equipment on the flight deck to support operations because it is a VTOL system, the Coast Guard said last Friday. The Coast Guard currently operates Boeing’s Insitu ScanEagle fixed-wing UAS from some of its high-endurance National Security Cutters. The Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center said the testing provided data for launch and landing operations and for refining operating concepts and requirements for the use of VTOL UAS systems across current and future cutter classes.