T-X Market. Boeing officials see a potential for 2,600 new aircraft based off the company’s forthcoming T-X trainer jet worldwide, they told reporters in St. Louis this week. The Air Force is planning to request up to 475 T-X aircraft to replace its aging T-38s, but variants created for light strike or light attack purposes based on the clean-sheet designed platform could fill in, said Ted Torgerson, Boeing’s senior director of T-X program integration. “No one can compete with our price” internationally, he said. Boeing is currently planning to build up to 48 T-X aircraft a year at its St. Louis facility for the Air Force, but could ramp up to 60 aircraft should the service request additional planes or for future FMS orders, he said.

P-8 to Europe?

Boeing is pitching its P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to European allies that can fill a capability gap and combat threats from near-peer adversaries until a new regional platform comes online in the 2030s. Matt Carreon, company director of international sales for commercial derivative aircraft, told reporters Wednesday in St. Louis that Boeing held a capability conference with multiple NATO members last month to discuss the capability gap in maritime patrol assets that would eventually be filled by the Multinational Maritime Multi-Mission Aircraft Capabilities Program, established in 2017. “We looked at potential courses of action, modernizing legacy fleets. … That’s costly and really does not address that capability gap with an updated aircraft,” he said. Boeing is now in discussion with NATO members to provide a P-8 solution for member nations through a consortium, he added.

Boeing and Saab’s T-X trainer aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Photo: Boeing

Two More 2020 Democrats. Two more Democrats threw their hats in the 2020 presidential ring this week. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, 53, declared his intent to run for president on Tuesday, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his candidacy on Thursday. The new additions bring the current total of Democratic hopefuls up to 23.

Lockheed Breaks Ground. Lockheed Martin broke ground May 15 on its new JASSM-ER production facility in Troy, Alabama. The planned 225,000-square-foot facility, combined with the current cruise missile production factory, will provide the necessary space to meet the U.S. Air Force’s needs for JASSM-ER. Building construction is slated for completion in 2021 with missile production ramping up in the second half of 2022.

F-16 Crash. An F-16 Fighting Falcon carrying live ordnance on May 16 crashed into a manufacturing facility after taking off from March AFB, California, local media first reported Thursday. The pilot ejected safely before impact, and several facility workers reported minor injuries. Base authorities have attributed the crash to hydraulics issues, and said the pilot was heading back toward March shortly after takeoff when the aircraft crashed.

GPS-Related Contract Mod. Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $65.8 million definitization modification for the Embedded Global Positioning System (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System (EGI) engineering, manufacturing and development contract. The modification provides for the engineering design, development, and test capability to incorporate a modernized GPS receiver card into existing fielded systems, to help reduce the number of configurations of future production EGIs. Work will be performed in Woodland Hills, California, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 27, 2020, with two one-year options. The contract modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $125 million. Fiscal 2019 research and development funds in the amount of $13 million is being obligated at the time of the award.

GAO Depot Report. Air Force Secretary Wilson told reporters Thursday that while she is largely pleased with the progress the service is making in improving operations at its three maintenance depots, she acknowledged the “poor” rating a recent GAO report made is based accurately on the age of equipment used to fix aircraft at the depots. “We’re using old tooling, and we’re fixing old airplanes,” she said. During her two years as secretary, she has visited the depots at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, Hill AFB, Utah, and Robins AFB, Georgia to examine how they are changing their operations and compressing the time taken to rebuild an aircraft.

Air Force Contract. The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $46 million delivery order for eight Joint Threat Emitter (JTE) units as part of the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract award the service announced in December 2018. The mobile air defense electronic warfare threat simulator provides high-fidelity replication of surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery threats for aircrew training. The new order includes eight wide-band variants of the threat emitter unit, as well as retrofit kits for some existing systems, according to the company. Deliveries are expected for U.S. training ranges across the country and to select international locations. Work under this contract will be performed in Buffalo, New York.

T-AO-205. General Dynamics-NASSCO laid the keel for the future USNS John Lewis (T-AO-205) fleet replenishment oiler on May 13 during a ceremony marking the start of ship construction. This new class of oilers will recapitalize the current T-AO-187 class on oilers to replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea and are based on commercial design standards. They fall under the service’s Combat Logistics Force. T-AO-205 will eventually be operated by the Navy’s maritime Sealift Command, with ship delivery expected in late 2020.

MQ-25. Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems Vice Adm. William Merz said on May 15 that the MQ-25A Stingray carrier-based unmanned tanker is not likely to be accelerated any further. “Can we go fast with the MQ-25? Not likely. I mean, it’s already designated as one of our maritime accelerated acquisition programs, which means we kind of move everything out of the way to make sure it’s got the funding it needs,” Merz said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He noted this will be the first time the Navy integrates an unmanned aircraft into the air wing. “It’s billed as a tanker, but it’s probably the stepping stone to other capabilities and we’ll just see how it evolves,” he added.

…Unmanned Count. Merz also reiterated the Navy is not planning to count unmanned vessels in total ship numbers soon. “There’s a lot of value in how you account for the ships, both funding-wise, legal reasons why and just to speak in the same language when we’re talking about the shipbuilding accounts and procurement.” However, he said from his warfare systems perspective, “I don’t really care where we count them. To me it’s all about naval capability and effective naval power. The only point where I get very concerned is if you talk about replacing battle force ships with unmanned systems that are not proven.” Merz said once the unmanned ships are proven, he can see how they would affect accounting “but right now we’re just very committed to making sure these things complement and contribute to the battle force.” However, when the Navy and Congress are ready to count unmanned ships in the total battle force, “as long as it’s viewed through the lens of total naval power, we’ll count them for whatever the community is comfortable with.,” Merz added.

Stennis. The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) arrived in Norfolk, Va., this week, ending a seven-month deployment. The ship left Bremerton, Wash., last October. The Stennis has now finished a homeport change to Naval Station Norfolk and will start preparing for its mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding. CVN-74 led Carrier Strike Group 3, consisting of CVN-74; the cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53); and the destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG-106), USS Spruance (DDG-111), and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93).

JDAMs. The Navy awarded Boeing a $140 million modification on May 13 to procure 12,000 more Precision Laser Guidance Sets for the Last Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM). Boeing previously won a contract to manufacture these laser guidance sets in 2015 for the Navy, Air Force, and Foreign Military Sales customers. This award increases the contract ceiling and work will mostly occur in Fort Worth, Texas. The work is expected to be finished by April 2020. Funds under this mod will be obligated on individual delivery orders as they are issued.

CACI/Army Cyber. CACI said May 15 the Army has selected the company to compete for individual task orders under a $982 million contract to deliver cyber and electromagnetic (CEMA) capabilities. The contract vehicle, known as R4, includes support for cyber and electronic warfare research and technology development, as well as integration and testing support. Northrop Grumman and Perspecta previously said they have also been selected for R4. “Our experience integrating electronic warfare and cyber solutions can be a game-changer for the U.S. Army’s missions. We look forward to engineering both innovative hardware and software to help the Army out-pace the ever-evolving cyber domain,” CACI CEO Ken Asbury said in a statement. CACI also cited its recent acquisition of LGS Innovations as a key component for developing hardware and software for the Army.

Cyber Trident. The Army has rebranded its program to provide consolidated integration and development for its Persistent Cyber Training Environment program, opening up potential opportunities to a wider range of future plans, and will an host an industry on June 11 in Orlando. The program is now called CYBER TRIDENT and will include support for cyber training procurement beyond PCTE. “CYBER TRIDENT is not intended to be a ground up rebuild of the PCTE platform, but rather will leverage the current prototype capabilities already procured as well as integrate future capability contributions from external contracts and/or Government organizations,” officials wrote in the industry day notice. However, the upcoming industry will cover specific CYBER TRIDENT opportunities for PCTE, to include third party technology insertion, agile development and hardware and software infrastructure development.  

Dividend Boost. Northrop Grumman is hiking its quarterly dividend 10 percent to $1.32 per share effective from the current $1.20 on June 19. A year ago, the company boosted its quarterly dividend by 9 percent.

Lockheed Martin Communicator. Lockheed Martin has named Dean Acosta has its new communications chief, succeeding Jennifer Whitlow who left the company in March to become the chief communications officer for UnitedHealth Group. Most recently, Acosta led communications for Resideo, a smart home technology company that was spun out from Honeywell. At Honeywell, he was vice president of Global Communications for the Home and Building Technologies business. He has also held communications positions at Phillips 66, Lockheed Martin’s Corporate Engineering and Technology organization, Boeing’s Space Exploration business and as NASA’s press secretary.

Senate Passes Biodefense Bill. The Senate last Thursday unanimously passed a biodefense bill that reauthorizes the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) that strengthened America’s ability to respond to various biological threats such as pandemics and biological attacks. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (S. 1379) also updates PAHPA through improvements to the Center for Disease Control’s biosurveillance capabilities, enables the acceleration of advanced research, development and procurement for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures, and requires the development of a national strategy for public health preparedness and response to address cyber-attacks that present a threat to national security.

Canadian Torpedoes. The State Department approved a possible $387 million Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Canada for 425 MK 45 lightweight torpedo conversion kits and associated technical, logistics, and support services. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential sale on May 16. Canada wants to buy the torpedoes so it can upgrade its current inventory of MK 46 torpedoes. The MK 45s are designed to be easily upgraded from the current MK 46. Canada will use these weapons on its Halifax-class ships, CP-140 Aurora aircraft, and CH-148 maritime helicopters. The prime contractor is Raytheon and Canada expects to negotiate an offset agreement. Additional U.S. government or contractor personnel will not have to be assigned for implementation, but the notice anticipates government engineering and technical support services may be required on an interim basis.

Japanese AMRAAMs. The State Department also approved the possible $317 million FMS of 160 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) to Japan, DSCA notified Congress on May 16. The sale would also includes one AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM guidance section, containers, and various logistical and program support services. Japan intends to use the AMRAAMs as part of its air defense capability to defend the country and U.S. personnel stationed there. Raytheon is the prime contractor.

Korean SM-2s. On May 16, DSCA notified Congress the State Department approved a possible $314 million sale of 94 Standard Missile (SM)-2 Block IIIB rounds to South Korea. The sale also requested 12 MK 97 MOD 0 Guidance Sections for the missile rounds and associated technical assistance, training equipment, and other logistics and program support. South Korea’s Navy intends to use the SM-3 IIIBs to supplement its current inventory to maintain a defensive capability. DSCA noted this will enhance interoperability with U.S. and allied forces. The primary contractor is Raytheon. DSCA noted implementation of the sale will not require the assignment of U.S. government or contractor personnel to the country, but it will require in-country visits by them on a temporary basis along with program technical oversight and support requirements.