Ukraine/Abrams. Doug Bush, the Army’s top acquisition official, reiterated this week the Army is working through plans to get Abrams tanks to Ukraine “as quickly as possible.” Following the U.S.’ approval in late January to supply Ukraine with 31 M1A2 Abrams tanks as part of a $400 million weapons aid package to be procured with Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds, Army leaders noted they were working through options on the best path for procuring and then delivering the tanks. “The first thing to remember is that it’s not just sending a tank. A tank by itself is not a military capability. You have to send the whole package, so that includes ammunition, vehicles to maintain it, fuel and you have to do the training on the system so it can be sustained in combat,” Bush said during a Defense News

discussion on March 8. “[Senior leaders are] just not yet ready to announce an exact timeline. And we may not announce an exact timeline because, again, we don’t want to give the Russians certainty about when something’s going to arrive.”

Hybrid eVTOL. Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky said on March 7 it is developing a fully-autonomous hybrid-electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) prototype, called the Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator (HEX), for potential military and commercial applications. “Sikorsky’s HEX aircraft will provide critical insights into the possibilities of electric systems in VTOL aircraft. Ultimately, we want to show the potential of large, advanced air mobility vehicles to perform utility missions for the U.S. military and transport passengers between cities,” Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky’s president, said in a statement. Sikorsky added the uncrewed HEX “will serve as a flying test-bed to evaluate large aircraft design, novel propulsion systems and control architectures for sustained hover, and ranges greater than 500 nautical miles.” The prototype will make use of Sikorsky’s MATRIX autonomy flight control system. GE Aerospace will provide its CT7 turboshaft engine combined with a 1MW-class generator for the HEX project, Sikorsky said.

Australia FMS. The State Department said on March 7 it has approved a potential $60.2 million foreign military sale with Australia for up to 255 Javelin missiles. “The proposed sale will improve the Australian Army’s capability to meet current and future threats by maintaining and increasing its anti-armor capability,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. The prime contractor would be the Javelin Joint Venture of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Missiles and Defense. 

T-AGS-66 Renamed. On March 8 Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced the Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship previously named USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) has been renamed USNS Marie Tharp (T-AGS 66), in response to a congressionally mandated Naming Commission assessing assets with Confederate ties. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed the services to rename assets named by the commission this year. The ship is named after a geologist and oceanographic cartographer who created the first scientific maps of the Atlantic Ocean floor and shaped knowledge about plate tectonics and continental drift. The ship was previously named after Cmdr. Matthew Fontaine Maury, known as the “Father of Modern Oceanography,” but who also resigned from the U.S. Navy to serve in the Confederate States Navy. The U.S. Navy noted the former USNS Maury was the only vessel named after a Confederate military officer.  T-AGS-66 is currently in the Persian Gulf, assigned to Military Sealift Command.

Earthquake Mitigation. The Navy awarded the Kiewit-Alberici joint venture a $71 million modification on March 9 for the installation and construction of risk mitigation measures related to potential seismic events at Dry Docks 4 and 5 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS&IMF) and the Trident Refit Facility dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Bangor. This is in addition to an earlier February $76 million task order for the rapid implementation of recommended action at three dry docks at PSNS&IMF. In January, following a Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) seismic assessment, the Navy closed three dry docks at PSNS&IMF and one at the Trident facility over risks they could be damaged by earthquakes. The task order work under these two awards totals $131 million and is expected to be finished by May. In 2016, New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and a National Magazine Award for a story on the serious risks of a major earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Northwest.

LPD-23 DSRA. The Navy awarded General Dynamics NASSCO a $68 million contract for the maintenance, modernization, and repair of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD-23) during a fiscal year 2023 docking selected restricted availability. The DoD announcement said this award covers all labor, supervision, facilities, equipment, production, testing, and quality assurance needed to prepare for and accomplish the Chief of Naval Operations availability meant to manage critical modernization, maintenance, and repair programs. This contract includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value to over $85 million. Work will occur at the San Diego. NASSCO shipyard and is expected to be finished by July 2024. DoD said the contract was competitively procured with two offers but did not disclose the other offeror.

LCAC-105. The Navy accepted delivery of the next Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC), Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 105 on March 8 at craft builder Textron Systems’ facility in Slidell, La. The SSCs have the same dimensions, clearances and configurations as the legacy LCAC-01 class, but include upgrades for improved engines, higher payloads, smaller crews and fly-by-wire controls. The LCAC-100 is billed as having 30-year service lives, able to transport up to 75 tons of personnel, weapons and equipment at over-the-horizon distances. The Navy plans to procure a total of 72 operational SSCs. LCAC-105 was accepted following acceptance trials conducted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey. Textron is also in serial production on LCACs 107-115.

Building T-ATS-10. Bollinger Shipyards officially started construction on the future Navajo-class Towing, Salvage and Rescue Ship USNS Muscogee Creek Nation (T-ATS-10) at its Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard. This will be the 10th Navajo-class and fifth Bollinger-built T-ATS since the company won a contract for the program in April 2021. “The T-ATS program is an important part of our expanding portfolio and relationship with the Navy as we work to support critical fleet modernization efforts. Maximizing Bollinger Shipyards resources across the Gulf Coast is something we’re incredibly proud of. This program sustains jobs in both our facilities between Houma and Pascagoula,” Ben Bordelon, president and CEO of Bollinger Shipyards, said in a statement. The T-ATS ships provide ocean-going tug, salvage and rescue capabilities to support fleet operations, replacing the previous Powhatan-class Fleet Ocean Tug (T-ATF 166) and Safeguard-class Rescue and Salvage Ships (T-ARS 50) class ships. Bollinger also is building the USNS Navajo (T-ATS -6), USNS Cherokee Nation (T-ATS-7), USNS Saginaw Ojibwe Anishinabek (T-ATS-8) and the USNS Lenni Lenape (T-ATS-9).

GD News. General Dynamics last week said that Alfonso Ramonet, president of the company’s European Land Systems (ELS) business, plans to retire at the end of March. Ramonet will be succeeded by Antonio Bueno, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and information technology at ELS. Ramonet has been with GD for 33 years. GD last week also said its board had increased the quarterly dividend by nearly 5 percent to $1.32 per share, marking the 26th consecutive annual dividend increase.

…NGA Award. GD’s Information Technology business unit received an $88.2 million contract from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to support the Geospatial Intelligence Search and Retrieval program. GD will provide software development life-cycle services, including agile program management, system deployment support, security engineering and compliance, software development, IT architecture and system engineering. The GSR program allows NGA and its partners to quickly search, discover and disseminate large volumes of data acquired through different geospatial intelligence sources.

Setting up in the U.S. Germany-based TESAT, an independent subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space, is establishing a manufacturing facility in Florida to support the U.S. security-restricted market. TESAT Government will produce optical communication terminals in support of U.S. government programs and the U.S. space industry. The expansion into the U.S. is a sign of the country’s burgeoning space market. TESAT, which has more than 1,100 employees, is a member of the U.S. Space Development Agency’s interoperability working group.

Funding for CHAOS.  CHAOS Industries, a defense technology startup, has raised $70 million in a Series A funding round led by 8VC with participation from Alpha Wave Global, Lerner Enterprises, Liquid 2 Ventures, Tamarack Global, and Valar Ventures. With the announcement last week, Los Angeles-based CHAOS has emerged from stealth mode. The company is developing the Coherence sensing platform. Bo Marr, chief technology officer and co-founder of CHAOS, previously co-founded the defense electronics company Epirus where is still a board member.

Counter IADS. The big focus area for U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE) is countering integrated air defenses (IADS), according to Air Force Gen. James “Scorch” Hecker, the USAFE commander. The effectiveness of Russian and Ukrainian IADS—both of which have taken down opposing aircraft—has meant that the war has become one of attrition, imposed by artillery, cruise missiles and kamikaze drones, including Russians “indiscriminately” targeting schools, shopping malls and residences, Hecker said.  Estimates of deaths since the war began in February last year are more than 100,000 Russians and 30,000 to 40,000 Ukrainians. ““To put it in perspective, after 20 years in Afghanistan, we [the U.S.] had slightly less than 2,400,” Hecker said. “Now one is too many, but 140,000 is ridiculous. We can’t afford that so how do we fix that? We need to make sure that we’re able to get air superiority.” The latter will rely on the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35, and the Collaborative Combat Aircraft to be used with NGAD and the F-35, the Air Force says. By 2034, Europe is to have more than 600 F-35s, only 54 of which will be U.S.-operated.

…Large Scale. Countering IADS, cruise missiles and kamikaze drones “is what we’re really concentrating on in USAFE,” Hecker said. “We can do it pretty good [in the European theater], but that’s at a small scale. We need to be able to do it at a large scale and in order to do it at a large scale, we need our allies and partners to have the capabilities, the policies and the information so that they can help us do it at a large scale.”