Long-Term Space Transportation Surge. As U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) pursues cooperative research and development agreements with SpaceX and Texas-based Exploration Architecture Corporation (XArc) on rapid deliveries of 80 short tons of materiel and possibly personnel through space, TRANSCOM is assessing the business case and return on investment requirements for government and commercial parties to enter into long-term space transportation surge capability agreements. The latter would be similar to the existing Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) emergency preparedness programs under which U.S. civil air carriers have contracts with TRANSCOM to volunteer their aircraft to augment the capacity of DoD planes during national defense-related crises.
While DoD officials have recently sounded the alarm on Russian and Chinese development of space weapons, including ASATs, the United States should not take precipitous action, according to A Roadmap for Space Weapons, a new report from Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy. “To avoid Russia and China imposing unnecessary costs on the United States, U.S. decisions on space weapons should not be made simply in reaction to China and Russia’s space weaponization,” per the study by Michael Gleason, the national security senior project engineer at the center, and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Peter L. Hays, who has worked as a consultant for the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration. “U.S. decisions on space weapons require an exhaustive comparative analysis of the value to U.S. national security to develop, build, and deploy any type of space weapon and the downsides to such a decision. Is the United States better off with or without space weapons of any type? Indeed, the answer may not be binary. The analysis might lead to a conclusion that certain types of weapons or certain functions of such weapons are advantageous while others are not.”
…Whole of Government. The new paper says a whole of government approach to include DoD, the intelligence community, the Department of State and Department of Commerce should put the spotlight “on countering China’s capabilities first, since China is developing and deploying space weapons the most aggressively.” The Department of Commerce “will play a key part in bolstering stability and deterrence in space by working with commercial and international partners to shine light on non-standard or nefarious gray zone activities there,” per the study.
Name Change. Meggitt Training Systems, which develops and makes integrated live-fire and virtual weapons trainings solutions for military and law enforcement customers, last week changed its name immediately to InVeris Training Solutions. InVeris, the company said, means trust and integrity, and also “connotes insight and truth.” InVeris remains headquartered in Suwanee, Ga.
Another Fastener Deal. Avantus Aerospace last week acquired California Screw Products, the third deal for the company in the aerospace fastener business dating back to last December. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. CalScrew manufactures high-strength fasteners for commercial and military aerospace applications and its products are on more than 45 aircraft platforms. Long-time customers include Boeing, Incora, Honeywell, Collins, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Airbus and Lockheed Martin. CalScrews’ existing management team will continue to run the business. Avantus acquired Fastener Innovation Technology in September and last December acquired Fastener Technology Corp.
Incentivize Training. Huntington Ingalls Industries President and CEO Mike Petters said that it if accounting standards were changed to treat investments in companies’ workforces the same as capital investments in equipment it would incentivize companies to put more money into training their employees. The idea comes from Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D), Petters said during a supply chain security panel hosted by George Mason Univ. If HII buys a crane, it’s a cash expense in the year it’s purchased but the cost can be written off over several years, Petters said. When HII trains someone, it’s an expense only and a hit to earnings. “Why can’t we figure out a way to amortize that cost as well,” he said. “That would certainly change profitability of companies from an accounting standpoint but it would also create an incentive for companies to invest more in training.” HII spends more than $100 million annually to train its workers, he said.
SSBN-742. The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN-742) returned to the fleet on October 9 following the completion of its Engineering Refueling Overhaul (ERO) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY). An ERO is a major availability when a submarine is refueled and upgraded before returning to sea. This was the last in a line of eight East Coast Trident submarine ERO’s at NNSY, which started with the USS Florida (SSGN-728) in 2003. SSBN-742 is homeported in Kings Bay, Ga.
EMALS And AAG. General Atomics announced the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) reached 4,492 catapult launches and landing arrestments aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the company said Oct. 7. “We are well underway toward achieving the cats and traps milestones by the end of this rigorous testing phase Scott Forney, president of GA-Electromagnetic Systems, said in a statement.
COBRA. The Navy awarded Aerete Associates an $18 million modification to exercise option three of a previously awarded contract to provide Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis Block I airborne mine detection systems. COBRA Block I consists of two airborne payloads, the post mission analysis station and tactical control system segment for the MQ-8B Fire Scout mission control system. This option entails additional COMBRA Block I production systems and work is expected to be finished by September 2021. Funding will only be awarded when delivery orders are issued.
Esper Reaction. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) reacted skeptically to Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new future Navy plan. “This plan represents a significant historic strategic advance for our Navy, but Secretary Esper’s words are meaningless without actual action. The Trump administration has consistently failed to commit appropriate resources even to achieve a smaller submarine fleet.” He noted the FY 2021 budget request cut a planned second Virginia-class attack submarine, “a move that directly contradicts this new plan to significantly increase submarine funding to meet ongoing and future threats.”
BQM-177A. The Navy awarded Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc. a $29 million contract to produce and deliver 35 full rate production Lot I BQM-177A subsonic aerial targets, including associated technical and administrative data in support of the Aerial Targets Program Office. These recoverable targets are used to replicate cruise missile threats to the Navy and replace the legacy BQM-74E target. Work will largely occur in Sacramento, Calif. (56 percent) and Dallas, Texas (17.6 percent) and is expected to be finished by February 2022. The contract was not competitively procured pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulations. Steve Fendley, president of Kratos’ Unmanned Systems Division, said they expect the full operational capability for this aerial target will be achieved “within the coming fiscal year.” The company also noted if options for Lots 2 and 3 are executed, the total maximum contract value will increase to $130 million.
HII. Huntington Ingalls Industries announced Todd West was named vice president of In-Service Aircraft Carrier Programs at the HII Newport News Shipbuilding division, succeeding Chris Miner, who is retiring. West will assume the new role on November 1 where he will lead the planning and execution of aircraft carrier refueling and complex overhauls and aircraft carrier fleet support. He currently serves as the USS George Washington (CVN-73) program director.
Air Boss. Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell relieved Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III to become commander of Naval Air Forces and Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet during a ceremony held on Oct. 2 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) at Naval Air Station North Island. The event also served as a retirement ceremony for Miller, who served for over 39 years. The head of Naval Air Forces is commonly called the “Air Boss” and Whitesell said he will ensure the naval aviation force continues to focus on “superiority in aerial combat execution and coordination across multiple domains.” Whitesell previously served as deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Drone Recharging. The Army Research Laboratory has awarded University of Illinois at Chicago a four-year $8 million cooperative research agreement to work on developing autonomous recharging technologies for drone swarms. The program is aimed at working on algorithms to enable route planning for small unmanned air and ground vehicles to autonomously return to recharging ports. “Imagine in the future, the Army deploying a swarm of hundreds or thousands of unmanned aerial systems. Each of these systems has only roughly 26 minutes with the current battery technologies to conduct a flight mission and return to their home before they lose battery power, which means all of them could conceivably return at the same time to have their batteries replaced,” Mike Kweon, program manager with the Army Research Lab, said in a statement.
Assistant Commandant/COVID-19. Gen. Gary L. Thomas, the Marine Corps assistant commandant, has tested positive for COVID-19, the service announced on the evening of Oct. 7. Thomas had been in self-quarantine since Oct. 6 after he was in close contact with someone who later tested positive. “In accordance with established Marine Corps COVID policies, General Thomas will continue to quarantine at home. He is experiencing mild symptoms, but otherwise is feeling well,” the Marine Corps wrote in a statement. Thomas tested. Earlier this week, several members of Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley, went into self-quarantine after being in contact with a top Coast Guard official, Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray, who later tested positive for COVID-19.