Senate appropriators are backing the acceleration of a DoD space architecture that prioritizes low and medium Earth orbit satellites for detecting and monitoring hypersonic missiles and devising targeting solutions.
In January, the Space Force’s Space Warfighting Analysis Center delivered its first force design on hypersonic missile warning and tracking–a proposed mix of the LEO and MEO satellites.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s draft fiscal 2023 defense bill would add $400 million to accelerate the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command LEO missile warning and missile tracking effort; $300 million for enhancing the planned MEO missile warning and missile tracking constellation to increase the number of orbital medium field of view planes for satellites to increase polar coverage; and $216 million for two additional launches of LEO satellites for missile warning and missile tracking.
“The committee understands that the [Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared] program is schedule-driven with the constraining factor being the remaining life expectancy of the current Space Based Infrared Radar System,” per the draft bill. “Given that ballistic missile defense is a no-fail mission, a capability gap cannot be tolerated. However, analysis of the MEO/LEO constellation programs during the fiscal year 2023 program and budget review indicate that they are scheduled to field prior to NGEN OPIR, deliver additional capability to track emerging threats, and provide a distributed transport layer, all within a more resilient architecture with a modernized acquisition approach for future capability upgrades. The committee realizes that a change in architecture is required to compete in space, particularly in the transition from a benign environment to a warfighting domain.”
Lockheed Martin [LMT] is developing the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites.
The Space Development Agency (SDA), which is to become part of the Space Force by Oct. 1, awarded L3Harris [LHX] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] fixed price Other Transaction Authority contracts worth $1.3 billion for 28 satellites–14 by each company–for Tranche 1 of the Tracking Layer to detect, identify, and monitor advanced missiles, including maneuvering hypersonic ones (Defense Daily, July 18). The satellites are to fly in lower, 1,000 kilometer polar orbits.
L3Harris is to receive $700 million, Northrop Grumman $617 million–a price that puts the per unit cost of L3Harris’ 14 satellites at $50 million and $44 million for each of Northrop Grumman’s 14 satellites.
Tranche 1 Tracking Layer satellite launches are to start in April 2025. Such satellites are to integrate with Transport Layer satellites to provide intercept options against advanced missiles.
The fiscal year 2022 defense appropriations law provided $550 million for SDA to accelerate development of the Tracking Layer to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Defense Daily, March 15).
SDA published the Tranche 1 Tracking Layer solicitation on March 17, two days after President Biden signed the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill into law.
Besides the space missile warning architecture additions, three other Department of the Air Force programs receiving significant increases from Senate appropriators in their draft fiscal 2023 bill include the BAE Systems EC-37B electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, the Lockheed Martin C-130J airlifter and the HH-60W Jolly Green II Combat Rescue Helicopter. Senate appropriators’ bill added $1.7 billion for 16 C-130Js for the Air National Guard, $370 million for 10 more HH-60Ws above the Air Force’s $707 million request for 10 of the helicopters, and nearly $554 million for four EC-37Bs.
Last year, the Air Force and BAE Systems moved the EW system of the EC-130H Compass Call onto what is to be the Air Force’s next generation onboard EW plane, the BAE Systems’ EC-37B (Defense Daily, Dec. 2, 2021).
BAE Systems’ Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resources (SABER) technology is the backbone of the EC-37B’s operating system and is to facilitate EW upgrades for the aircraft.
The EC-37B is based on the Gulfstream [GD] G550 business jet.
The EC-130H Compass Call has been in service since 1981 to disrupt enemy communications, radar, and navigation systems.
On the HH-60W, the Air Force wants to end the buy in fiscal 2023–a proposal that would result in an HH-60W inventory of 75, versus the 113 previously planned.