The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Subcom Sultans. Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announces Jan. 25 he will lead the SAC-D, following the death last month of its former chairman, Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye. “As we wind down the war in Afghanistan, face upcoming budget cuts, and work to prepare our military for future threats, this subcommittee will focus on ensuring our military remains the most powerful, ready and capable force in the world,” Durbin says in a statement. “We will also work tirelessly to ensure we’re spending wisely, protecting taxpayers and planning well for the future needs. And as has always been the case, the needs of all our servicemembers–active duty and reserve; in theater or here at home–will be our first concern.” Observers predict Durbin will scrutinize Pentagon spending requests with a greater eye towards savings than Inouye did. The Illinois senator is among the lawmakers who have predicted so-called sequestration to planned defense and non-defense spending will start in March.

…House Honchos.. The HAC officially announces its new subcommittee ranking members on Jan. 23, with Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) securing the Defense gavel previously held by Norm Dicks, the now-retired congressman from Washington. Visclosky has actively engaged in debates over weapons programs in recent years, including Northrop Grumman’s successful battle to prevent the Air Force from killing the Global Hawk Block 30 drone aircraft program. The HASC, meanwhile, says Jan. 22 that Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) will be the new chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, thus filling out the committee’s roster of sub-chairs. Though HASC Democrats have not made their official subcommittee ranking member announcements, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is said to be the new top Democrat on the Tactical Air and Land Forces panel. Helping to steer the subcommittee with oversight of many aircraft and vehicle programs will be a switch for Sanchez, who was more focused on missile-defense and nuclear-weapons debates in recent years as the top Democrat on the Strategic Forces subcommittee.

Chambliss Cut. SASC member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), an outspoken Lockheed Martin supporter, announces Jan. 25 he will not run for reelection next year. The two-term senator, who is reportedly facing a potentially tough GOP primary challenge next year, says he is leaving because of the political climate in Washington. “(T)his is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health,” he says in a statement. “The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.” Chambliss reportedly angered Georgia conservatives by working as part of the bipartisan Gang of Six senators, who examined ways to reduce the federal deficit that included raising taxes. Chambliss has been an outspoken defender of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and of overall defense spending, and has pushed for business-friendly cybersecurity legislation. 

Pease Retires. Long-time General Dynamics and former Navy spokesman Kendell Pease is retiring, effective Jan. 31, the company says. From 2006 until now, Pease was working as vice president for government relations and communications for the company. Before joining General Dynamics as vice president of communications in 1998, Pease served 30 years in the Navy as a public affairs officer and was the Navy’s Chief of Information from August 1992 to April 1998.

AMDR. The Navy is expected to decide this year which defense firm will win the contract to build the new radar planned for the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyers. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon all submitted bids last year for the Air Missile Defense Radar (AMDR). Northrop Grumman brought a group of reporters to its Electronic Systems division outside of Baltimore for a tour of the facility last week. Pat Antkowiak, the company’s sector vice president and general manager for advanced concepts and technologies, expressed confidence in its AMDR bid based on Northrop Grumman’s long history of developing advanced radars. He noted that Northrop Grumman radar work is all based in one facility, making the manufacturing process more affordable. AMDR is to replace the Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY 1 on the envisioned Flight III version of the DDG-51s, which will be partly re-engineered to accommodate AMDR’s space, power and cooling requirements. The Navy is seeking congressional approval to buy up to 10 Flight IIA DDG-51s under a multi-year contract, but plans to shift to the Flight III version around the seventh vessel in 2016 if AMDR is ready.

Drones and climate. NASA has begun deploying a Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle to study the effects of atmospheric change on the Earth’s climate. The two-month mission under the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment began Jan. 16 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. In this role, Global Hawk is collecting data to help scientists learn more about the humidity and chemical composition of air entering the tropical tropopause layer of the atmosphere. Global Hawk is a long endurance UAV that can fly as high as 65,000 feet for more than a day.

ECSS Questions. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) awaits answers from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) on the Air Force’s cancellation of its Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), for which the service spent $1 billion developing, but apparently failed to produce any significant military capability. SASC spokeswoman Tara Andringa says the committee has not received the answers it requested in a Dec. 5 letter, in which committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and former Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked why no military capability was produced, who will be held accountable and what steps the Pentagon is taking to ensure this won’t happen again. The Air Force says it canceled the program because it was no longer a viable option for meeting the fiscal year 2017 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) statutory requirement. CSC was the prime contractor for ECSS.

…ECSS Investigation. Levin instructs SASC staff to begin an investigation into the ECSS program. “I have directed the Committee’s investigative staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the program in the next Congress to determine the causes for the failure, and assess steps, that can be taken to avoid similar failures in the future,” Levin says in a statement. “I remain deeply troubled by the failure of the Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System program.” The investigation was first reported by Bloomberg.

Exelis GPS NAVSAT. The Air Force awards ITT Exelis a $2.15 million contract to research the development of a small satellite navigation payload to augment the current Global Positioning System (GPS) program, according to a company statement. The GPS Navigation Satellite (NAVSAT) program seeks to provide affordable capabilities to aid end-users located in tough-to-reach environments like urban canyons and mountainous terrain. The goal of the 18-month study is to identify innovative ways to increase affordability and sustainment of the GPS program through payload weight reduction, size and power. Exelis’ work on GPS NAVSAT will begin this month. “The goal here is to provide a payload configuration that will be able to interface with various bus providers that will allow for an extremely affordable mission that delivers the GPS III nominal signals,” ITT Exelis Director of Precision Navigation and Timing (PNT) Strategic Growth Ted Skopak tells Defense Daily.

TDRS-K Launch. NASA schedules its newest Tracking and Data Relay satellite (TDRS-K) for launch Wednesday at approximately 8:48 pm EST, according to an agency statement. The launch readiness review scheduled for today will cover any action items from the flight readiness review and will also give permission for the rollout of the Atlas V launch vehicle to the launch pad Tuesday. TDRS provides follow-on and replacement spacecraft necessary to maintain and expand the NASA Space Network. Each of the new satellites has a higher performance solar panel design to provide more power. This upgrade will return signal processing for the S-band multiple access service to the ground, the same as the first-generation TDRS spacecraft. Boeing , the developer of TDRS-K, was awarded contract in 2007. Boeing will also develop the next two TDRS spacecraft: L and M.

MQ-1B Accident. Electrical malfunction causes an Aug. 22 crash of an MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in a non-residential area of Afghanistan, according to an Air Combat Command (ACC) Abbreviated Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report released Jan. 10. According to the Air Force, the electrical malfunction was caused by a dual alternator failure, which began a chain of events that caused the aircraft to function solely on battery power. The aircraft’s recovery system was unable to bring the electrical system back online. The UAV, one air-to-ground Hellfire missile (AGM-114) and one missile rail were destroyed with a loss valued at $4.6 million.

Helo Pilots Rejoice. For the first time in 95 years, the U.K. Royal Air Force will be led by a helicopter pilot. The Queen approves Air Marshall Sir Andrew Pulford to be promoted to Air Chief Marshal and appointed Chief of the Air Staff. Pulford qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1977, flying Chinook and Wessex aircraft, according to the MoD. All previous leaders have been fighter pilots. Pulford moves into the job in July, replacing Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton. Pulford is currently Deputy Commander Capability at Air Command and Air Member for Personnel and Capability.

…Other Appointments. Two changes at the top will occur in April. Adm. Sir George Zambellas will become First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, succeeding Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope. Another helicopter pilot, Zambellas is currently Commander Allied Maritime Command Northwood. Also, Lt. Gen. Richard Barrons will be promoted to general and appointed Commander Joint Forces Command, succeeding Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach. In May, Peach will be appointed vice chief of the Defense Staff, succeeding Gen. Sir Nicholas Houghton.

…March Announcement. The MoD says it will make an announcement about the appointment of a successor to the Chief of the Defense Staff, and later in the year the successor will be announced.

Blimp In A Box. Global Telesat Corp. says its World Surveillance Group, will provide DoD a set of Blimp in a Box ™ (BiB) aerostat systems, under a $605 million contract. The BiB is designed to provide real time day and night high definition ISR footage, detect IEDs, border security and other government and civilian uses. The contract calls for the BiB to be delivered to an unnamed Army base where they will provide semi-persistent mobile ISR at the platoon level. The award also includes on location support. Delivery, installation and on-site training of the initial BiB systems, spares and payloads are scheduled to be completed by the end of March.

New Leader. Colt’s Manufacturing Co. LLC’s Governing Board appoints Dennis Veilleux as president and CEO. Veilleux succeeds William Keys, a retired Marine Lt. Gen. who will continue as president and CEO Emeritus and member of the board. Veilleux joined Colt in 2006 as executive director of engineering. His career includes positions at GE Armament, Ruger and FN Group.

Hard To Catch Up. Potential cost-cutting measures and tough financial choices could cause “significant training and maintenance” shortfalls for the Army not involved in Afghanistan over the next six months, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno says. Cost cutting may be draconian, but the problem goes beyond the immediate. Even if cuts are reversed, problems aren’t immediately solved. “It will take you longer and longer to catch up,” he tells an interested AUSA audience last week.

Patriots In Turkey. Over the weekend NATO expected Patriot Missile Systems from the United States, Netherlands and Germany to reach their initial operating capability in Turkey. NATO determined in December to augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities to defend its population and territory and contribute to de-escalating the crisis along NATO’s border. U.K. Brig. Gen. Gary Deakin, director of SHAPE Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Center, said at a press briefing last week the ,IOC means the units arrive on station, plug into the  NATO Command and Control network and “they will be then ready to defend the population.” Full capability is expected at the end of the month,” he says.