Air Force Acquisition. As of Friday, all of the Air Force’s major acquisition programs were expected to proceed on schedule even as the U.S. military has had to adapt to new teleworking environments due to COVID-19, Will Roper, the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a media briefing. He emphasized that two major service priorities – the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program and the Launch Services Procurement program for new national security space launches – are still expected to be awarded on time.

COVID-19 Bill.

The House on Friday approved the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which included funds to support healthcare efforts and prop up the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress is now scheduled to be in recess until April 20.

Space Fence. Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond told reporters Friday that the Space Fence radar system in development by Lockheed Martin would be approved for initial operating capability that day. The solid-state S-band radar system can track small space objects smaller in LEO and to a lesser degree, satellites and debris up to GEO. It is located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

COVID-19 in the Nuclear Weapons Complex. The COVID-19 pandemic penetrated the civilian nuclear weapons complex run by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) this week, with the sites and Washington headquarters confirming a total of nine cases. The agency’s nuclear weapons production sites in Kansas City, Mo., Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Amarillo, Texas, were still running all shifts, despite the virus’ spread. Sites with confirmed cases as of Friday were: NNSA Albuquerque Complex, Albuquerque, N.M. – 1; DOE Headquarters (Forrestal Building), Washington, D.C. – 1; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif. – 2; Sandia National Laboratories Albuquerque – 1; Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, Calif. – 2; Savannah River Site, Aiken, S.C. – 1; Y-12 National Security Campus, Oak Ridge, Tenn. – 1.

F-35 Testing. F-35 flight test organizations have ceased flight operations in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Joint Program Office said in a Thursday statement. “Organizations that can continue verification activities via telework are continuing to do so,” JPO spokeswoman Brandi Schiff said in the statement. “Additionally, select lab and ground test activities are ongoing, and aircraft limited maintenance activities are ongoing to maintain fleet readiness.”

Hydroid. Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) said Thursday it closed on its acquisition of Hydroid Inc., a provider of advanced marine robotics in the defense and maritime markers. In combination with the transaction, HII and Norway’s Kongsberg Maritime established a strategic alliance to jointly market naval and maritime products and services to the U.S. government and potentially international markets. HII is buying Hydroid from Kongsberg. HII said last month it agreed to acquire Hydroid for $350 million in cash. The company will become part of HII’s Technical Solution Unmanned Systems business unit.

…Staffing. Duane Fotheringham, who served as Hydroid’s president and chairman of the board, will serve as president of Unmanned Systems, reporting to Andy Green, HII executive vice president and president of Technical Solutions. Mary White, who served as Technical Solution’s senior director of unmanned maritime systems, will now serve as vice president of operations and strategy for the new Unmanned Systems business and report to Fotheringham.

Small UUV. Mitcham Industries, Inc. said March 25 it recently delivered the first micro MA-X, called a µMA-X System, for the Navy’s Next Generation Small-Class Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (“UUV”) evaluation sponsored by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The company said its reduced size and power requirements “make it an ideal payload for the rapidly growing UUV market.” It argued traditional side scan sonar imaging creates a nadir gap directly under the path of the vehicle, which it fills when paired with conventional side scan. This eliminates the need for additional time for overlapping survey lines to reach 100 percent coverage. When applied to UUVs, this could then lead to extended duration missions or using less time to cover the same area. The company noted the system was an internally-funded fast-tracked development.

CVN-79. Earlier in March, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts said the Navy was switching the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) from a dual- to single-phase delivery strategy. The Navy changed after being informed by lessons learned from the CVN-78 delivery and after consulting with the Chief of Naval Operations and industry. “Going to single phase will deliver a more capable and lethal ship to the fleet, mitigate schedule risk while providing an opportunity to reduce post-delivery costs,” Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for Geurts, told Defense Daily in an email. Hernandez noted this change will not impact the delivery schedule, with CVN-79 set to be delivered in 2024. The two-phase delivery was originally directed to get the ship delivered faster to replace the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) by the time it retires in the mid-2020s.

CH-53K. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky a $125 million advanced acquisition contract to procure long lead items for low-rate initial production of seven Lot 5 CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters. Work will occur in Stratford, Conn., and is expected to be finished by August 2021. The contract was not competitively procured.

NATO-France. NATO said on March 23 the French carrier strike group with the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle trained with the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) from March 19-22. The exercises included warships from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom and occurred on the east coast of Denmark. “The interaction with the French carrier strike group provides valuable opportunities for both the carrier strike group and us. The ability to train and develop our procedures, communication and interaction is ultimately what tie us together as allied forces,” Commodore Yngve Skoglund, Royal Norwegian Navy, Commander of SNMG1, said in a statement. The SNMG1 is one of four standing forces in the maritime part of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in the NATO Response Force. SNMG1 currently consists of the flagship Norwegian frigate Otto Sverdrup, the U.K. frigate Sutherland, the Danish warship Absalon and the German oiler Rhoen.

USMC COVID-19 Support. The Marine Corps has teamed with the University of California San Diego Medical Center to 3D print parts that would allow for multiple coronavirus patients to receive simultaneous ventilation from a single system. On March 18, Dr. Sidney Merritt, an anesthesiologist with UCSD, provided design files for the ventilator splitter so the Marine Corps could assist with printing parts in higher resolution and with diverse materials. The Marine Corps’ and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific RESTORE lab then utilized an industrial 3D printer to produce initial prototypes. “[The Marine Corps’] response to this situation demonstrates how additive manufacturing can respond quickly to supply chain disruptions and rapidly prototype, evaluate and test new solutions to meet emerging urgent requirements,” Scott Adams, lead official for the Marine Corps’ Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell, said in a statement.

F-35 Ammunition. Germany’s Rheinmetall and Australian munitions manufacturer NIOA’s joint venture has been tapped to produce medium-calibre ammunition for the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The group said its production line in Australia is expected to be up and running in the first half of 2021 and at full production capacity by September 2021. The two companies will be working together to produce 25mm Frangible Armored Piercing projectiles. 

Navistar/DLA. Navistar said March 25 it has received a five-year, $82 million deal from the Defense Logistics Agency to deliver commercial trucks and trailers for the Heavy Equipment Procurement Program. The deal covers MV medium-duty trucks, HV and HX severe-duty trucks and RH and LT heavy-duty trucks. 

New ASN. On March 26 the Senate confirmed via voice vote the appointment of retired Rear Adm. Charles Williams to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. Williams served in the Navy and Navy Reserve  for over 32 years before retiring in 2005. His Defense Department biography notes he has four decades of experience in real estate with property management, investment, development and brokerage. President Trump first nominated Williams last November.

APT-41 at it Again. FireEye said that through portions of the first quarter this year prolific Chinese espionage actor APT-41 conducted one of the “broadest” cyber intrusion campaigns the company has seen in recent years, targeting a bevy of industries including defense, high technology, government, transportation and others. “APT41 continues to be one of the most prolific threats that FireEye currently tracks in 2020,” the company said on March 25. “This new activity from this group shows how resourceful and how quickly this group can leverage newly disclosed vulnerabilities to their advantage.” FireEye doesn’t say if APT-41 successfully exfiltrated data from its victims’ networks.

DHS Data Center News. Following an industry day earlier this month to review plans for the Department of Homeland Security Data Center and Cloud Optimization (DCCO) Support Services effort, DHS said it will schedule one-on-one sessions with interested vendors in April. Soraya Correa, the department’s chief procurement officer, said in a letter to industry partners last week that a draft solicitation for DCCO is planned for May, followed by an industry day webinar in June and release of the final solicitation in July. Proposals will be due in August with an award in October.

5G Security Law. President Trump last week signed into law a bill requiring the White House to develop a strategy to secure 5G and future wireless communication systems and infrastructure. The bipartisan Secure 5G and Beyond Act (S. 893) was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and directs that the strategy ensures the security of 5G and future wireless communications systems, helps allies and strategic partners maximize the security of their 5G systems, and protects the competitiveness of U.S. companies and the privacy of U.S. consumers.