Space Policy Official. The Pentagon officially established its new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy position on Oct. 29. The new ASD(SP) is responsible for supervising DoD policy for space warfighting and overseeing interagency coordination and international engagement on space policy and strategy. “The Department of Defense continues the most significant transformation in the history of the U.S. national security space program. The establishment of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy is a change of the civilian oversight of the space enterprise that aligns with the establishment of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said in a statement. Justin Johnson, a former staffer for Defense Secretary Mark Esper, is currently the official performing the duties of the ASD(SP) until an official nominee is confirmed for the position.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 also provided for an assistant secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration Shawn Barnes has been performing the duties of the office until a nominee is identified and confirmed by the Senate. Last year’s law mandates that the U.S. Space Force have its own Service Acquisition Executive (SAE) by Oct. 1, 2022. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper has overseen space systems modernization in addition to air acquisition.
New Arctic Mission. The Coast Guard’s lone heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, this winter will deploy to the Arctic rather than Antarctica where it typically breaks ice once a year in support of an annual mission to resupply scientists there. The resupply mission to McMurdo Station was canceled due to COVID-19 safety precautions and instead will be done using aircraft for a limited resupply of the scientists. The Polar Star’s mission to the Arctic for maritime sovereignty and security follows the cancellation in August of the Coast Guard cutter Healy’s annual scientific mission to the region. The Healy is the service’s only medium icebreaker.
New L3Harris Radio. L3Harris has launched a new compact team radio that could be used to support Army programs such as the IVAS future augmented reality headset. “The U.S. Army asked for a single-channel wideband MANET radio and L3Harris built a product in less than one year that checks all the boxes and exceeds our customer’s requirements,” Dana Mehnert, the company’s president for communication systems, said in a statement. L3Harris said the new small form factor, single-channel radio shares common accessories with its AN/PRC-163 Leader Radio. The Army released an RFI in early October detailing potential plans to procure 100,000 single-channel radios to support IVAS.
SSBN-827. Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite announced the second Columbia-class nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine will be the future USS Wisconsin (SSBN-827) said during a Navy memorial SITREP series event on Oct. 28. The secretary noted the last ship to bear the name was an Iowa-class battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) commissioned in World War II and serving intermittently through the Gulf War.
More Frigates. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the Navy needs to build two to four new Constellation-class frigates per year, more than the two per year the Navy expects to ramp up to. “We’re going to need two, three, four frigates built a year to get to the numbers where we want to be and this yard has the capability to build two or three them itself,” O’Brien told local media while visiting the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Shipyard in Wisconsin on Oct. 26. Earlier this year, the Navy awarded the initial contract for the first 10 of 20 planned frigates but its FY 2021 budget request has no plans to procure or build more than two per year or use more than one shipyard for the first 10 as O’Brien implied might happen. This comes a week after O’Brien unexpectedly said the government will fit all destroyers with hypersonic missiles during a visit to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.
Greek MH-60Rs. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $194 million contract modification on Oct. 26 to order four MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and three airborne low frequency sonars for Greece. This is divided into an added $180 million not-to-exceed, undefinitized line item for production and delivery of the helicopters and exercising a $14 million option to procure the sonars, the Defense Department announced on Oct. 26. Work will be finished by February 2025. Foreign Military Sales funds of $44 million were obligated at the time of award, with none expiring this fiscal year.
LCS-32. Austal USA hosted a keel laying ceremony for the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32), the planned 16th Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship on Oct. 27 at its shipyard in Mobile, Ala. LCS-32 will be the third U.S. Navy ship named after the California city.
Navy Tug. The Navy said its first Yard Tug (YT)-808 class tug was recently delivered to Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton Annex in Washington on Oct. 29. The service noted 17 days after the tug was delivered it assisted the USNS Richard Byrd (T-AKE-4) as it moved away from the dock at Naval Magazine Indian Island. YT-08 is the lead of six tugs in a contract with Dakota Creek Industries from 2018 and is the first vessel constructed to meet EPA Tier 4 marine diesel engine emission standards. The Navy said these tugs are designed after the existing YT-802 Valiant-class tugs and built to commercial American Bureau of Shipping Standards with a top speed of 12.5 knots and bollard pull of about 43 long tons. This allows them to perform towing and ship handling duties for carriers, surface ships, submarines and barges.
Navy Website. The Navy’s Air Combat Electronics program office (PMA-209) launched a new Hardware Open Systems Technologies (HOST) website on Oct. 20 to provide a hardware framework for designing open architecture-embedded computing systems for DoD systems. The site was developed by an academic, industry and DoD team. The service described it as “an OA standards framework designed to allow coordination between integrators, module vendors, and related standards groups.” It will function as a main open standards resource to support the Modular Open Systems Approach initiative promulgated by the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Patrol Boats. Silver Ships, Inc. said on Oct. 27 it received a $6 million contract from Naval Sea Systems Command for six Riverine Patrol Boats (RPB) as Foreign Military Sales work. The company did not reveal the customer nations but said the RPB “will benefit a Pacific region ally.” The RPB is 40-feet long, designed to be rugged, is powered by twin Yanmar 440 HP engines and waterjets, is armed and armored and is designed to carry up to 20 personnel including a typical six-member crew and 14 troops and cargo. The company said these boats are designed to support military operations in inland waters, rivers, and coastal areas. “Typically, they are used to counter terrorism and lawlessness but can also be used for humanitarian assistance, medical evacuation, command and control, counter-drug, search and rescue, and many other missions,” the company said. Partners involved in supporting the project include Laborde Products, Inc., JDCI/Boatmaster, and SKYDEX.
Australian MQ-4C. Northrop Grumman started building the first Australian MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft, the company said Oct. 27. The aircraft will be used for maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. “It is ideally suited for Australian operating conditions, given its high altitude, long endurance, and impressive sensor suite. The Royal Australian Air Force looks forward to operating the MQ-4C alongside its other ISR and response aircraft such as the P-8A Poseidon,” Air Commodore Terry van Haren, the RAAF’s air attaché to the Australian embassy, said in a statement. This aircraft is expected to be delivered to Australia in 2023. The country first announced it was ordering six Tritons in 2018 to complement its new P-8As and is paying up to $1 billion for the aircraft, new facilities, and ground control systems. The MQ-4C is operating as a cooperative development program between the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.
NATO Cyber Spending. A new report from the Atlantic Council recommends that NATO members commit to spend .2 percent of their respective gross domestic product on cyber security and modernizing their digital defenses, an amount equal to two to three times what these countries are currently spending in these areas. “While some NATO members are awash in cybersecurity capabilities, others are not, preventing the Alliance as a whole from most effectively addressing adversaries increasingly focused on digital and information-centered threats,” according to the report, Supersize Cyber.
Keep Us in the Loop. A House Democrat last week introduced a bill requiring the Director of National Intelligence to submit annual reports to state election officials and Congress on pre-election threats for general elections to federal office. “The Election Security Assessments Act will require that information sharing take place and ensure that Congress and state election officials are not left in the dark about the threats facing our elections,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee. Her office notes that the bill follows Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s move to reduce election security briefings to Congress.
Cyber Workforce Hubs. Two Department of Homeland Security agencies, Science and Technology and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, are seeking to establish a national network of cyber security institutes to build up the nation’s cyber workforce. The S&T directorate awarded $2 million to the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute, a DHS Center of Excellence led by the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which will work with Auburn Univ., Purdue Univ., and the Univ. of Tulsa to research and develop a plan that uses an academic spoke-and-hub model to create a network of cyber security institutes.
MANET Solution. Persistent System has partnered with General Dynamics Mission Systems to develop the new dual-band GVR5 mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) solution designed for use on combat vehicles. “Like dismounted users, infantry fighting vehicles and similar platforms have a need for a robust, highly scalable MANET, but that MANET must also fit a special, vehicular environment, which is why we developed the GVR5,” Shane Flint, Persistent Systems’ vice president of business development, said in a statement. “It automatically routes communications over the best available band depending on geography and RF congestion, and by leveraging the vehicle’s intercom system it routes to tactical voice networks, such as SINCGARS, TACSAT, and HF.” GVR5 allows users to simultaneously operate on two frequency bands and lets dismounted users wirelessly connect to the vehicle’s intercom system. Flint said GVR5 is already garnering interest from major platform integrators.
Small Cockpit, Many Hours. The 20 Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth bombers in the Air Force have logged combat hours since the air war over Kosovo in 1999—flight hours that have ramped up since 9/11. “If you ever run into a B-2 pilot, you can always start the conversation by asking them what was your longest flight, and you’re going to get a conversation about something along the lines of 33, 38, 43 hours kind of stuff ,” said Air Force Col. Cory Brown, the B-2 program manager. “It’s really a unique demand to put onto the human body to get into this small cockpit, basically go into a time machine where nothing changes around them for almost two days.” The demands of long-range strategic deterrence on the B-2 fleet have “put a lot of hours in a relatively short period of time on the aircraft,” Brown said. The B-2 program office recently won the 2019 Dr. James G. Roche Sustainment Excellence Award, named after the 20th Air Force secretary who served from 2001 to 2005.
Australia/Javelin FMS. The State Department has approved a potential $46 million deal with Australia for 200 Javelin missiles. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the foreign military sale on Oct. 30. “The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is seeking to fill a short-term shortfall in its Javelin missile inventory in order to maintain the appropriate level of readiness,” the DSCA wrote in a statement. The missiles will be provided from Army stocks.
Guyana FMS/Helicopters. The State Department has approved a potential $256 million deal with Guyana for the sale of Bell 412 EPi and 429 light utility helicopters. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the foreign military sale on Oct. 30. The deal includes two 412EPi helicopters and two 429 helicopters, as well as two WESCAM MX-10 cameras. “The proposed sale of the Bell 412EPi and 429 helicopters will improve Guyana’s capability to meet current and future threats. Guyana will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defense; conduct maritime surveillance, patrol, and interdiction; counter narcotic trafficking and transnational criminal organizations; deter regional threats; and support coalition partners.