|Friday, June 18, 2021 • 64th Year • Volume 290 • No. 56|
Sustainment Costs. While the U.S. Air Force fiscal 2022 unfunded priority list includes nearly $1.4 billion for 12 Boeing F-15EX fighters and $360 million for 20 power modules to repair F135 Pratt & Whitney engines for the F-35 Lightning II fighter by Lockheed Martin, the list does not include funding for more F-35s, as in years past. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown why at a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on the service’s fiscal 2022 budget. “One of the things we’ve talked about is the sustainment on the F-35,” Brown replied. “The other aspect of this is the F-35 we have today is not the F-35 we want to have that will have Tech Refresh-3 and Block 4, particularly against the advancing Chinese threat.” Norcross chairs the HASC tactical air and land forces panel.
…Longer Range, More Weapons, and Multi-Role. As the Air Force looks to neck down its seven fighter types to the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) family of systems, the F-35, the F-15EX, the A-10, and a possible F-16 replacement, the service wants the stealthy NGAD to have longer range, more weapons, and possibly to be multi-role. The Air Force has said it wants to move away from single role fighters, per Norcross, who asked Brown whether NGAD would be single role or multi-role. "Ideally, I'd like to have it be multi-role, but the primary aspect for NGAD is air superiority," Brown said. "With air superiority, it's increased weapons load, increased range–particularly when you look at operating in the Indo-Pacific. For the future, what I look at for all of our fighters is to have multi-role capability to be able to go from a high-end conflict all the way down to homeland defense, but NGAD is really focused more so on a hotly contested environment to have the weapons load–both air-to-air, primarily, but some air-to-ground capability to ensure it can survive, but also provide options for our air component commanders and the joint force."
Railguns. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) told the House Armed Services Committee on June 15 why the Navy has shelved work on railgun technology in the budget request. In response to questions on the program from Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), CNO Adm Mike Gilday said “we’ve been chasing rail gun for almost 30 years now and we just have not been able to develop a system that can easily get aboard a ship that would provide the kind of probability to kill that you speak to.” However, Gilday said he has more confidence in the high velocity projectile that the Navy used in tests with the railgun “that we think we can use in other guns that we have, to provide us a layered defense along with some of the other kinetic systems we have now plus laser technology in the future.” Gilday added that advancements in standoff range weapons and hypersonic missile technology that both the U.S. and its potential adversaries are developing “begin to make the railgun a less attractive option just with respect to range.”
…Marine Corps Funds. At the same hearing, Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger reiterated his service has done as much as he can internally on refocusing the service towards modernization without asking Congress for additional funds. “In my assessment, we have wrung just about everything we can in the Marine Corps internally.” Ranking member of the seapower and projection forces subcommittee Rep. Rob Wittman said he is concerned Congress is getting lulled into thinking the Marine Corps can modernize by itself but worried about it taking on unacceptable risks. “We’re at the limits of the risk you address. We’ve reduced end strength. We’ve divested of legacy systems. We’ve taken every measure we can to include a 15 percent cut in our headquarters. We’ve wrung it dry,” Berger continued. He said the service is driven by a pacing threat in China and does not want to transfer risk on a future combatant commander. “Because as others have pointed out, we have a perfect record of guessing where the next conflict’s going to happen: we get it wrong every time."
Hypersonic Testing. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), told Air Force officials at a fiscal 2022 budget hearing that last year's service assessment of the Air Force Test Center (AFTC) found that the current testing capability and capacity available is "wholly inadequate to accomplish National Defense Strategy-required hypersonic weapon testing to meet rapid acquisition timelines." Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth replied that the Air Force works with DoD to modernize testing and evaluation infrastructure but that "to be honest, it's been my experience we always lag by some amount of money." Roth said that the Air Force needs to solve the problem "to be able to test" hypersonic systems to the "maximum extent possible." DesJarlais, whose district includes AFTC's Arnold Engineering Development Complex, said that he has seen "the poor condition of these facilities first hand" and that "if some of these facilities, like [Tunnel] 16S [supersonic], 16T [transonic], or [Wind] Tunnel 9 were to go offline due to mechanical failure, we would see many of our most important, emerging weapons systems delayed, including the B-21, the NGI [Next Generation Interceptor], GBSD [Ground Based Strategic Deterrent], and our hypersonic systems."
NAVWAR Prize. Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) launched the Networks Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (NetANTX) Challenge on June 8 as a prize competition for technologies in support of Project Overmatch. The first place entry will win $75,000 while second place will win $25,000. Project Overmatch is the Navy’s effort to modernize warfighting networks to seamlessly connect manned and unmanned platforms. NetANTX focuses on new networking technologies to advance the capacity, resilience and reach of the maritime tactical network of networks in support of the project. Entries must be submitted by July 27 while winners will be announced in November 2021.
...Second. NAVWAR then launched a second prize challenge to support Project Overmatch on June 16, specifically seeking artificial intelligence solutions. “To deliver this modernized network, the AINetANTX challenge aims to identify and leverage the latest in AI-enabled technologies to allow warfighters to make critical decisions quickly in operationally relevant maritime environments,” the Navy said in a statement. Like the first challenge, first place will win $75,000 and second place $25,000. Selected participants will be invited to demonstrate technologies in the Overmatch Software Armory, a cloud-enabled digital environment using industry-standard development, security and operation principles aimed at bringing rapid delivery of software capability to the fleet. Like the first challenge, entries are due by July 27 and winners will be announced in November 2021.
Iron Dome Request. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 17 that Congress can expect a request soon for supplemental funding related to President Joe Biden’s pledge to replenish capabilities for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. “I’ve had this conversation with [Israeli] Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. We were together about two weeks ago and he walked through the details of what his requirements were [for Iron Dome]. We’re working to flesh out those details and you will see a request in the future,” Austin said during a budget hearing.
Drone Swarming. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) released a Request for Information on June 14 seeking industry’s input on solutions and approaches for delivering an offensive drone swarming capability. RCCTO describes its interest in exploring the ability to control “a group of three or more UAS robots that perform tasks cooperatively, in a decentralized manner, while receiving limited or no control from human operators.” The drone swarms would be required to be deployable from platforms such as JLTVs or Humvees, with an ability to provide kinetic effects and travel ranges of 10 to 30 kilometers.
NCD Confirmed. The Senate last Thursday approved by unanimous consent Chris Inglis to be the country's first National Cyber Director (NCD), a new role seen as essential to sharpening the coordination of cybersecurity efforts across the federal government and further enhancing partnerships with the private sector. Inglis, a former deputy director of the National Security Agency, said earlier this month that he and future NCDs will have to add value and coherence to existing cooperative and collaborative cybersecurity efforts. The NCD will also lead the development of a national cybersecurity strategy.
…Deputy Tien. The Senate also on June 17 voted 60 to 34 to confirm John Tien as the deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Tien, a retired Army officer and head of Citigroup’s retail banking services, faced some Republican opposition during consideration by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which last week advanced his nomination to the Senate on a 10 to three vote. Several Republicans expressed concern about Tien’s reluctance in an earlier confirmation hearing to acknowledge the seriousness of the migrant surge at the southern border. Once sworn in, Tien will succeed acting Deputy Secretary David Pekoske, who leads the Transportation Security Administration.
Austal Bids on OPC. Austal USA told Defense Daily last week it submitted a bid for the second stage of the Coast Guard’s multi-billion Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program, joining current prime contractor Eastern Shipbuilding Group, as well as Huntington Ingalls Industries and Bollinger Shipyards in saying they have bid to design and build ships five through 15. Eastern Shipbuilding won the original OPC contract in 2016 but a severe storm in the fall of 2018 that pounded the company’s operations in Florida setback work and forced the company to seek contract relief. The Coast Guard granted the relieve but also decided to reopen the program to competition beginning with the fifth medium-endurance cutter.
2002 AUMF Repeal. The House on June 17 voted 268 to 161 to repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) originally used to provide authorization for the use of force leading up to the Iraq War. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who voted against the measure in 2002, sponsored the legislation which looks to rein in the broad use of war powers. Only one Democrat voted ‘no,’ Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), while 49 Republicans joined the rest of Democrats in supporting the measure. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now preparing to mark-up a bill next week that would include a repeal of the 2002 AUMF.
LPD-22. The Navy awarded BAE Systems a $90 million contract on June 11 to execute fiscal year 2021 docking selected restricted availability (DSRA) of the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD-22). This work will combine maintenance, modernization and repair of the ship. The contract includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value of the award to $105 million. The company said this DSRA will have it dry-dock the ship to perform work on the underwater hull, repair its ballast tanks system, preserve its amphibious well deck area, and refurbish the living spaces for up to 800 sailors and Marines that can be carried onboard the ship. Work will occur at BAE’s San Diego Ship Repair facility, is expected to start in September 2021 and be finished by November 2022.
New HQ. Unmanned aircraft and ground system developer and manufacturer AeroVironment has relocated its corporate headquarters from Simi Valley, Calif., to Arlington, Va., putting its executive leaders in closer proximity to key government personnel and local talent. “The greater Washington D.C. area is where many of our key customers are located, and expanding our presence in the region will further our access to decision makers, influencers and talent,” Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment’s president and CEO, said in a statement. He highlighted a recent acquisition and establishment of a new Artificial Intelligence Innovation Center in the Washington area that previously expanded its work in the region. The company will maintain its existing operations in Simi Valley and other sites in the U.S. and Germany.
Collective Defense. A cybersecurity information center for the North American electric sector and Dragos Inc., which specializes in cybersecurity of industrial control systems (ICS), are undertaking a joint effort to strengthen the industrial cybersecurity of the North American electricity industry. A joint announcement by Dragos and the North Electric Reliability Corp.’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) said the initiative “enables E-ISAC analysts to gain greater visibility into ICS cyber threats facing the electric sector through Dragos’s Neighborhood Keeper technology.” The announcement also highlighted that these insights and trends will be shared with all E-ISAC members for improved collective cyber defense.
A pair of Senate appropriators on Thursday pressed the defense secretary on the Pentagon’s decision to push back procurement of a second new Navy destroyer in the fiscal year 2022 budget request, citing concerns on impacts to the industrial base.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the decision to push the destroyer buy to fiscal year 2023 would likely cost the Pentagon a $300 million penalty, while citing the decision as a measure that could save the Navy more than two billion dollars to put toward modernization efforts.
“One of the biggest mistakes in the budget, from my perspective, is the decision to cut a [a second Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 Flight III destroyer] from the current multi-year procurement contract. This reflects a broader trend of not making the investments necessary to build anywhere close to a 355-ship Navy that multiple studies have confirmed is needed. China, on the other hand, now has the world’s largest Navy, has about 60 more ships than our own fleet and has surpassed our own 355-ship goal,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) said to Austin during an Appropriations Committee hearing on the department’s $715 billion budget request.
When pressed to commit to working with Congress on reinstating the funding, Austin provided a similar response to what he told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week and said he would update the panel on adjustments to procurement plans while stating his priority is providing for the right mix of capabilities (Defense Daily, June 10).
“Senator, you have my commitment that I will continue to work with the committee to do everything we can to resource our Navy. We have the most dominant Naval force on the face of the planet. It has been so in the past, it is so right now and it will remain so going forward,” Austin said.
The budget request’s proposal to delay funding a second new destroyer would break from an ongoing multi-year procurement contract that splits work between General Dynamics’ [GD] Bath Iron Works and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ [HII] Ingalls Shipbuilding.
“I’m also very concerned about the impact on our industrial base. We only have two yards that build large surface combatants. Bath Iron Works in Maine has hired 3,000 additional shipbuilders since 2018, it’s working quickly to improve its productivity to reach two ships-per-year build rate and it has a hot production line that’s getting more efficient by the day. But if this budget passes, BIW is rushing toward a workload cliff that will lead to loss of jobs, reverse these productivity gains and weaken the industrial base,” Collins said.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, pressed Austin on the potential penalties if the Pentagon forgoes commitments in multi-year contracts, with the defense secretary citing the potential savings that come from such decisions.
“If we have the ability to honor a multi-year contract then I think that’s exactly what we should do. If we have to make a difficult choice and invest in something else, then I think that we need to be prepared to make that difficult choice and certainly we’ll pay a tax for not abiding by that multi-year contract. But what I think is most important is that we provide the right capabilities for the services,” Austin said in response to Tester. “But when you compare that to a couple billion dollars that you would have had to spend on the DDG…so [it’s about] when you have to make choices. In this case, we invested in a DDG, two submarines and a frigate.”
The Navy’s $5.6 billion unfunded priorities list, submitted to Congress earlier this month, included $1.7 billion for a second Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 Flight III destroyer (Defense Daily, June 2).
Lawmakers on a congressional panel continued pushing back against Navy plans to retire seven Ticonderoga-class cruisers due to cost, including two vessels added to the plan this year, while officials explained the cost balancing and maintenance issues.
House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Chairman Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) asked what the Navy’s thinking was on decommissioning these ships and how to make up for the loss of Vertical Launching System (VLS) missile tubes on the ships during a June 17 hearing.
“Short answer: we’re not creating a gap for the function of the air missile defense commander. We have looked at that and mapped it out and will continue to pace arrival of [Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyers], which will assume that responsibility for our strike groups because of the capabilities it brings,” Vice Admiral James Kilby, deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities (OPNAV N9), replied.
He added that, “to me, it’s more than just VLS cells, it’s what is the sensor that a ship brings, what are the capabilities of that combat system, and what’s the confidence in reliability we have in that hull to get underway.”
Kilby illustrated the service’s perspective on cruisers by noting his experience in 2017, as a strike group commander for the Carl Vinson carrier strike group. At the time, his air and missile defense command ship was the USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) but it missed about one-third of its deployment due to maintenance issues.
“Not because her radar was down, not because her combat system wasn't capable, not because she didn’t have a full magazine. But she had tank top cracking that required her to get that fixed and be safely underway,” Kilby said.
He also noted the USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) missed a month of its previous deployment and has already missed two and a half months of its current deployment.
“So all of that, in my mind, has to go into the mix when we factor the availability and reliability of those ships. Those missile tubes will only count if they’re underway alongside the carrier.”
The Navy’s FY ‘22 budget request plans to decommission the USS Hue City (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-68), noting cruiser modernization costs have grown 200 percent more than initial programming efforts. These two cruiser retirements aim to save $369 million through divestment (Defense Daily, May 28).
Kilby added while he does not want to dismiss the value of an Aegis cruiser that features 122 missile cells, “but our average age of our cruisers is 32 years. They were built for 30 years. Four of our ships are over 34 years. So I’m really trying to look at the most valuable ship that we can fund, the most valuable program within our budget to make our force equal across all functions – air, surface and subsurface, to align to threats as we see them.”
Courtney asked what the cost would be if Congress decided to retain the cruisers and stop the decommissioning.
“If we were to retain the seven cruisers that are in the budget to be decommissioned in ‘22, that’s five from the previous budget and Hue City and Anzio in this budget – it would be roughly $5 billion across the [five-year Future Years Defense Programs plan]. If we were to retain those ships for two years, all seven ships, that’s roughly $2.78 billion. The cost to modernize Hue City and Anzio alone is $1.5 billion, approximately.”
Separately, subcommittee ranking member Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) also pressed on cruisers and their 122 VLS cells each. He and Kilby agreed if all seven cruisers and their VLS cells are decommissioned, that would account for about 910 VLS cells total.
In his opening statement, Wittman underscored the seven cruisers slated for retirement have more VLS capacity than the entire British Royal Navy.
Kilby admitted the cruisers account for a “large percentage” of the entire U.S. Navy surface fires force.
In contrast, Wittman asked how many Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSVs), which the Navy plans to eventually feature VLS cells, would it take to replace that strike capability.
“I would say at a rough estimate, double the number of Large Unmanned Surface Vessels in our current instantiation because they are going to have 64 cells, so it would be double that seven.”
However, Kilby admitted the timeline to add those vessels and missile cells to the fleet is not determined yet because the Navy has to go through confidence building measures with LUSVs to field the capability, including land-based testing.
“So it won’t be in the timeline that these cruisers could serve,” Kilby said,
Wittman said he believes in the best case scenario that could take up to 15 years to get all the LUSVs deployed.
Kilby also elaborated that “a significant amount of money” has been invested in the cruisers over the past five years and it continues to cost more than the service originally thought it would.
“So initially it was $2.4 billion, but again we’re adding a lot of money to do that, sir.”
Last month, Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. William Galinis outlined major challenges in the current round of cruiser modernization work. While the service has gotten better at modernization from one ship to the next, “we’re having our challenges with the first three ships that went in,” (Defense Daily, May 13).
Galinis said with the cruisers over 30 years old, the biggest problems are infrastructure, meaning hull and mechanical systems which has led to fuel leaks due to hulls flexing over a ship’s service life. ”So they are hands down probably our toughest class of ship to maintain,” he said.
Separately, when asked by Wittman, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Jay Stefany reiterated the Navy received a direction from DoD to not provide the full five-year FYDP this year and it would provide it in the FY ‘23 budget request, planned to be released around February 2022.
As for the annual 30-year shipbuilding plan, Stefany said the service plans to still provide that within days.
“My understanding is the final chops on it were yesterday and my hope would be tomorrow, maybe Monday at the latest you will get that plan, sir.”
The U.S. Air Force is weighing the timelines for the retirement of Block 40 RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drones by Northrop Grumman [NOC] and the fielding of a classified replacement system.
The Air Force Global Hawk fleet has consisted of four Block 20 RQ-4s, 20 Block 30s and 10 Block 40 aircraft. The service received congressional approval in fiscal 2021 to retire the Block 20s and is asking Congress to allow the service to divest the Block 30s in fiscal 2022, as part of the Air Force effort to shed 201 legacy aircraft to help fund a $2.2 billion requested increase in research and development (Defense Daily, May 28).
At a June 17 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Air Force and U.S. Space Force proposed fiscal 2022 budgets, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said that the service plans to retire the Block 40 RQ-4s starting in 2025 and asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles whether he considers the Block 40 RQ-4 a "sunset" system.
"Not at the moment, senator," Brown replied. "Part of our process is I want to make sure we have a good transition. As we build a plan and look at the classified system we’re bringing on, what I don’t want to do is leave a gap, and so it’s the balance between our planning factors for the Block 40 and the classified system we’re going to bring on to make sure that we have a smooth transition going forward.”
Section 142 of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) called on the Air Force to deliver an airborne ISR plan to Congress by March 30, but Air Force leaders have declined to release or discuss that plan despite congressional direction to prepare an unclassified version (Defense Daily, March 17).
Brown has said that a top service need is for ISR assets able to penetrate high-threat environments. Last month, he said that he wants to get approval to discuss the Air Force's ISR 2030 Plan in order to build support for it (Defense Daily, May 12).
“Some of the capabilities we have today we’ll still have for a while, but we won’t have as many of them, as I transition to something that has that survivable aspect and can see some denied areas," Brown said. "That’s the challenge we have right now…If I’m off the coast line, I can only see so deep.”
The Air Force did not respond to a request for comment on the envisioned Block 40 RQ-4 replacement, but the latter may be the classified Lockheed Martin [LMT] RQ-170 or the Northrop Grumman [NOC] RQ-180–both of which feature stealthy flying wings.
"Both RQ-170 and RQ-180 have been identified although there are hardly any details of either," Steven Zaloga, a drone analyst with the Teal Group, wrote in a June 17 email. "RQ-170 seems too small as a RQ-4 surrogate, and no one really knows the size/capabilities of RQ-180. I would not be the least surprised if the USAF is developing and fielding a stealth alternative/supplement to RQ-4. Whether it is the RQ-180 or some other platform, I have no way of knowing due to the level of secrecy attached to these programs."
U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. expects the qualification of a new software baseline for the future command and control (C2) system for GPS satellites to come this fall.
That C2 system is the $6.7 billion Raytheon Technologies [RTX] Global Positioning System Next Generation Operational Control System (GPS OCX).
SMC said that OCX will not be operational until the third quarter of fiscal 2023 (Defense Daily, June 14).
On June 17, SMC launched the fifth Lockheed Martin [LMT] GPS III Space Vehicle (SV05) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. The satellite is the 24th M-Code GPS satellite since the first such bird, a GPS IIR-M, went into orbit in September, 2005. Such satellites are to provide improved positioning, navigation and timing and to have better protection against jamming and spoofing.
"Following the operational acceptance of the M-Code Early Use (MCEU) Control System hardware and software upgrade to the current Operational Control Segment (OCS) Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) in November 2020, M-Code signals are currently available on all 23 GPS Block IIR-M, IIF and III space vehicles," SMC wrote in a June 17 email before the SV05 launch. "The U.S. Space Force is on track to add GPS III SV05 to the M-Code capable constellation pending successful launch and checkout this summer, bringing the total up to 24 M-Code capable space vehicles for 24/7 coverage of this important military enhancement. The MCEU upgrade to the current OCS ground system will also enable U.S. Space Force to make an M-Code Early Use Declaration later this year."
Last month, a Government Accountability Office report, Space Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges and Opportunities with Acquiring Space Systems in a Changing Environment, noted some progress by DoD in solving multi-billion dollar cost overruns and significant delays in the fielding of space systems, but also pointed out continuing challenges, such as those with GPS OCX (Defense Daily, May 24). Costs on GPS OCX increased by 73 percent, and its schedule is delayed nearly 5 years, GAO said.
"Delays in the delivery of the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System and GPS user terminals means that jam-resistant signal capabilities of GPS satellites launched over 15 years ago still cannot be fully used for military operations," per the GAO report.
But SMC noted some progress made, including the completion of development and formal Program Executive Officer certification for military GPS user equipment (MGUE) Increment 1 for two lead platforms–the U.S. Marine Corps/U.S. Army Joint Light Tactical Vehicle by Oshkosh Defense [OSK] and the U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle by General Dynamics [GD]–to move forward with service field user evaluations this year.
"In addition, the Defense Logistics Agency has contracted with Global Foundries to produce almost a million Digital Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (Digital ASICs) for MGUE Increment 1, enabling the services to begin volume Increment 1 purchases," SMC said on June 17.
On March 26 last year, SMC said that it told Raytheon to replace GPS OCX's IBM [IBM] computer hardware before the delivery of OCX due to the sale of IBM's computer product line to Lenovo, owned by China. SMC said that it had successfully tested alternative computer hardware made by Hewlett Packard Enterprise [HPE], a U.S. company, in a pilot project after HPE's selection in 2017.
That pilot project replaced IBM hardware with HPE's in 17 external monitoring stations for GPS and four GPS ground antenna sites, SMC said.
On March 26 last year, SMC said that "in less than a year" Raytheon was to deliver a "qualified software baseline capable of operating the GPS constellation."
COVID-19 has apparently delayed that delivery.
"Although there have been a few impacts to the OCX schedule due to mandatory quarantines, international border closures and factory inefficiencies, OCX is executing within all APB [acquisition program baseline] parameters and on track for delivery prior to the APB Schedule Threshold date of April 2023," SMC wrote in an email on June 17.
"The 'new software baseline for the GPS constellation' is being qualified in parallel with the Hewlett-Packard (HP) refresh," per SMC. "Today, OCX Block 1 and 2 software is able to generate sound navigation uploads for all four GPS vehicle classes. However, given the software baseline qualification event is taking longer due to COVID-19 impacts and other delays, resources were prioritized to work on HP activities which is the critical path. Raytheon is projected to deliver the software baseline in the fall."
"COVID-19 impacts consist of inefficiencies stemming from site closures and mandatory Restrictions of Movement related to equipment installation for the 17 worldwide Monitor Stations (MS); and factory/classified laboratory impacts related to social distancing and staff disruptions due to COVID-19 cases." SMC said.
On March 26 last year, Lt. Col. Thomas Gabriele, SMC’s OCX materiel leader, said in a statement that the OCX pilot project "gave us confidence that we had a viable OCX technical solution providing a long term sustainable hardware baseline that meets our stringent cyber security requirements" and "addressing the unsupportable IBM cyber security risk is prudent to do pre-system delivery to the government."
"Although this government-directed change will impact the Raytheon schedule, the government is holding Raytheon accountable to deliver qualified software prior to integrating on the HPE platform and deploying to operational sites," per Gabriele.
The GPS constellation, "to include GPS III SV05 (post launch and checkout), are operated by the current Operational Control Segment (OCS) Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP)," SMC said on June 17. "In the future when OCX is delivered, the constellation will be on the HPE hardware baseline. The operational constellation will never fly on IBM."
SpaceX’s latest GPS III launch was its fourth time launching this type of satellite for the U.S. military, but last Thursday’s mission marked a brand-new milestone: It was the first time a National Security Space Launch (NSSL) mission was conducted on a reused booster.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on June 17 at 12:09 EST, carrying the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built fifth GPS III (SV05). The booster successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean nine minutes later, and the payload separated just under 1 hour and 30 minutes after liftoff.
The booster used in this mission previously supported the prior GPS III launch in November 2020. The U.S. Space Force previously announced its deal to reuse flight-proven SpaceX boosters in September 2020. At the time, the Space Force agreed to refly a booster for SV06 as well. The SV05 launch that took place on Thursday was originally set for January 2021, but pushed to the summer to allow time to validate reuse activities.
“We are building on the successful booster recoveries of GPS III-3 and GPS III-4 last year and making a historic step with the GPS III-5 mission using a previously flown vehicle,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director at Los Angeles Air Force Base said in a news release. “The affordability and flexibility provided with SpaceX’s reused launch vehicles open additional opportunities for future NSSL missions and provide our nation’s warfighters with the advanced capabilities they need.”
GPS provides Positioning, Navigation and Timing signals and is a critical part of national infrastructure, driving an estimated $300 billion in annual economic benefit, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The GPS III satellites are part of a modernization program for the fleet, improved accuracy and anti-jamming capabilities. Once GPS III SV05 is operational, about 16 percent of the 31-satellite constellation will be modernized with the GPS III capabilities.
This particular satellite also establishes the constellation’s Military Code (M-Code) baseline. M-Code is a more secure signal. SV05 will be the 24th M-Code signal-enabled GPS satellite, completing the constellation’s baseline requirement for the more secure signal.
Lockheed Martin said that the next three satellites, GPS III SV06, SV07, and SV08 are complete and awaiting launch dates.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded Parsons [PSN] two contracts on June 16 worth nearly $3 billion total in various support services.
One contract awarded to Parsons’ Government Services division, is valued at $2.24 billion to provide support including engineering and technical support; studies, analysis, and evaluations; and management and professional services.
The work will occur at various facilities across the U.S. running from July 2021 to January 2029.
According to the original solicitation, this contract covers agency-wide missile defense systems engineering services directed by the MDA Engineering Directorate. It covers a base period of three years with two separate two-year options and a third six-month option, “should the Government need to extend services” in accordance with regulations.
This contract is labelled TEAMS-Next MDS Engineering.
The solicitation said the government was awarding based on the most advantageous proposal looking at mission capability and cost and price. Mission capability was divided into five equal subfactors including MDS-level System Engineering and Integration; MDS Subsystem-Level System Engineering and Integration; Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications to Integrate Across All Layers of the MDS; MDS Modeling and Simulation; and Human Capital Approach.
The Defense Department announcement said this contract was competitively procured with two proposals received. Jefferies aerospace and defense analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu said in a note to clients last Thursday that KBR was the other bidder.
DoD said that $36 million in fiscal year 2021 research, development, test and evaluation funds were obligated at the time of award.
Separately, Mobius Parsons Solutions LLC, a joint venture between Parsons and Mobius Consulting, won a $567 million contract to provide test support services to MDA.
The performance period for this contract runs from September 2021 to September 2027 and will be performed at various locations where MDA conducts tests including Albuquerque, N.M.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall islands; Wake Island; Honolulu, Hawaii; Huntsville, Ala.; Kauai, Hawaii; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Boeing [BA] signed agreements with ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH and Lufthansa Technik on June 17 outlining joint efforts to support a potential German P-8A Poseidon selection as the country’s next maritime surveillance aircraft.
Boeing said these memorandum of understanding “may lead to more definitive agreements” if Germany chooses the P-8A.
The German navy is looking for a new naval patrol aircraft to replace its aging P-3C Orions, with the P-8A Poseidon as the favorite as an interim solution. Germany and France are working on a separatie cooperative program called the Maritime Airborne Warfare Systems, but that is not expected to produce a new aircraft until at least 2035, while the German navy needs to replace its P-3Cs within a few years.
Last March, the U.S. State Department approved a potential $1.77 billion Foreign Military Sale of five P-8As to Germany. In that announcement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Germany planned to retire its fleet of P-3Cs in 2024 and the P-8As would sustain the country’s maritime surveillance aircraft capability for another 30 years (Defense Daily, March 12).
“Together with ESG and Lufthansa Technik, we will offer indigenous and cost-effective support, training and maintenance solutions that will bring the highest operational availability to the German Navy to fulfill their missions,” Michael Haidinger, president of Boeing’s Germany, Central & Eastern Europe, Benelux & Nordics division, said in a statement.
“Our partnership with ESG and Lufthansa Technik is another testimony to who we are and how we operate in Germany. We are shaping meaningful and long-term industry partnerships that impact the local economy,” he added.
Boeing said it and the two German companies identified opportunities to collaborate in several areas and plans to explore them in more detail. This includes training and simulation, cyber security, systems integration, certification, environmental compliance, communications systems, electronic attack and electronic protect systems, aircraft and engine sustainment, component support services, predictive maintenance analysis and logistics services.
“This cooperation agreement underlines once again that we take our responsibility seriously when it comes to ensuring urgently needed capabilities. As Boeing's strategic partner for the P-8A Poseidon fleet, we are pleased to be able to make the Bundeswehr a viable offer characterized by effectiveness, efficiency and the reliable delivery of services,” Christoph Otten, CEO of ESG, said in a statement,
Relatedly, Boeing said Lufthansa Technik has a long history in technical support of Boeing airplanes globally. Moreover, the company noted that under Boeing’s Performance-Based Logistics program, Lufthansa Technik provides hardware support to the Italian Air Force fleet of Boeing KC-767A tankers.
“Lufthansa and Lufthansa Technik are partners with Boeing for more than 60 years. The companies know and value each other. This partnership is an excellent starting point for us to provide technical support at the highest level for this new aircraft, should our long-standing customer, the German Bundeswehr, procure P-8A,” Michael von Puttkamer, head of Special Aircraft Services, Lufthansa Technik, said in a statement.
Boeing noted other German companies already supplying components to the P-8A include Aljo Aluminium-Bau Jonuscheit GmbH and Nord-Micro GmbH.
The Army last Wednesday held a proof of concept demonstration for an Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML) capability that could function as an unmanned, mobile launcher to fire both current and future munitions.
The event at Fort Sill in Oklahoma was a combined effort between the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, Ground Vehicle Systems Center and Aviation & Missile Center, and involved running through three simulated scenarios in an effort to showcase the concept and garner support for continued AML development.
“The prototype launcher will be capable of leader-follower autonomy, autonomous waypoint navigation, drive-by-wire, and remote launcher turret and fire control operation,” the Army wrote in a statement detailing AML. “It will be capable of launching longer munitions while remaining compatible with the current munitions.”
Officials at the event demonstrated a surrogate capability of the “autonomous, unmanned, highly mobile, C-130 transportable launcher,” which included using remote driving and remote fire control kits to operate a HIMARS launcher using leader-follower technology.
The Army said the goal for the demonstration was to generate soldier feedback on the concept to inform future design changes, identify potential physical and cyber security challenges and evaluate communication needs for manned-unmanned teaming.
“An AML would thicken the force by providing Fires Forces with additional launcher platforms to mass fires with minimal impact on force structure manning,” the Army wrote. “The AML would also provide the Army a force multiplier increasing capacity (3X increase in fire power/magazine depth) and force projection in support of Joint Operations.”
The Air Force's AFWERX Agility Prime program has been investing in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with the hope of bringing advancements to the industry and providing possible new forms of transport for the military. During an exercise in May, Agility Prime demonstrated one of these use cases during a medical evacuation exercise with eVTOL maker and new partner Kitty Hawk, according to a June 7 announcement.
The demonstration marked Agility Prime’s first operational exercise, according to the release.
“We are pleased to welcome a new partner and happy about the progress in this first Agility Prime exercise,” Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director, said in a statement. “This is just the beginning of many examples that the team will be exploring in the coming months to partner with commercial companies in a way that accelerates maturity for commercialization, while providing the Department of the Air Force with decision-quality data for future force design.”
AFWERX is an Air Force effort to tap into the commercial-based innovation ecosystem in the U.S.
Agility Prime used Kitty Hawk’s Heaviside eVTOL during the demonstration, according to the release. Heaviside can fly up to 180 mph and has a range of 100 miles on a single charge. The eVTOL is quieter than a helicopter and uses less energy per mile than an electric car.
“This exercise produced important data that will bolster the program going forward,”Lt. Col. Martin Salinas, the mission design team lead in the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC), said in a statement.
The demonstrations included medical evacuation, personnel recovery, and logistics, according to the release.
“The Agility Prime and Kitty Hawk teams facilitated the convergence of Air Force and Marine Corps testers and operators to engage with Heaviside, all while experimenting within the context of Personnel Recovery and logistics use-case scenarios,” Salinas said in a statement.
Heaviside also has autonomous flying capabilities which were demonstrated during the exercise.
“This collaborative commercial/DoD use-case exploration revealed common attributes that serve both urban air mobility and search and rescue operations: High-reliability, responsive launch & recovery, minimal logistical footprint, accessibility for mobility-challenged, low acoustic signature, and high levels of autonomy,” Col. Don Haley, commander of Air Education and Training Command Detachment 62, who leads a team in developing training syllabi for these new electric aircraft, said in a statement.
Following President Joe Biden’s lecture on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin that cyber attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure are off limits, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday said he will update Congress on attempts by Russia and China and criminal organizations within those countries whether they are using cyber means to infiltrate critical sectors of the nation’s economy.
During a budget hearing held by the House Homeland Security Committee to review the Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) highlighted Biden’s message to Putin and told Mayorkas that an update to the committee from him on if “ the Russians tried to penetrate, have the Chinse tried to penetrate, have ransomware groups emanating from those countries tried to penetrate” networks of U.S. critical infrastructure entities would show “real accountability for these nation-states that are allowing these groups to muck around with the average American’s stuff, the stuff we need, so I make that request.”
Mayorkas replied that “We will indeed update you in a couple months as you’ve requested with respect to the cybersecurity challenge and the 16 sectors specifically.”
Biden met with Putin in Geneva, Switzerland following meetings with European and NATO officials dating back to last week. In a press conference following the meeting with his Russian counterpart, Biden said “cyber and cybersecurity” were two areas of lengthy discussion and “I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack—period—by cyber or any other means.”
Biden said he gave Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including energy and water, that both countries should respect. Later during the press event, Biden said he brought up the ransomware attack on U.S. pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline the criminal group DarkSide, which is believed to operate out of Russia but is not directly linked to that country’s government.
“For example, when I talked about the pipeline, that cyber hit for $5 million, that ransomware hit in the United States, I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?’ He said it would matter,” Biden said.
Cyber-attacks on each countries’ critical functions are “about mutual self-interest,” Biden said.
No agreement was signed between Biden and Putin and the U.S. president said time will tell “whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order,” Biden said. He put the timeframe at six months to a year.
Asked by a reporter about potential consequences for Russia if U.S. critical infrastructure is interfered with, Biden said he “pointed out to [Putin] that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant. And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber. He knows.”
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