The Insider

By Briana Reilly
October 15, 2021 at 3:19 PM

The head of Air Mobility Command this week cleared the way for the KC-46 tanker aircraft to refuel F-15s and F-16s, marking the third time officials have approved an interim capability release to grant greater capacity to U.S. Transportation Command. 

AMC announced the move in a press release today, two days after Gen. Mike Minihan, who took over as commander after Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost was recently confirmed to lead TRANSCOM, signed off on the ICR. 

The latest expansion of the KC-46’s limited operational missions allows the tanker to refuel all variants of the two fighters, freeing up the legacy KC-10 and KC-135 for other operational taskings. It’s part of a broader plan from AMC, which Ovost announced in February, to expand the KC-46’s mission sets as the program awaits full mission capability amid delays that have pushed the decision to 2024. 

“The KC-46 can now support 62 percent of all receiver aircraft that request air refueling support from USTRANSCOM,” Brig. Gen. Ryan Samuelson, AMC’s deputy director of strategy, plans, requirements and programs and the KC-46 cross functional team lead, said in the release. "This step forward accelerates the critical projection and connection warfighting requirements the Pegasus brings to the joint force, even before it’s fully operational.” 

AMC in July approved the first ICR, permitting the KC-46 centerline drogue system to be used for operational missions; in August, the command allowed the aircraft to refuel the B-52, C-17 and other KC-46s.

By John Liang
October 15, 2021 at 1:53 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a recent multibillion-dollar reprogramming request, a proposed climate change-related acquisition regulation plus more from the AUSA conference.

Lawmakers have allowed the Defense Department to shift $3 billion out of an original $4.4 billion request among various programs:

Congress allows DOD to shift $3B in spending

Congress has granted the Defense Department permission to reprogram $3 billion in spending across a variety of accounts, though DOD had wanted to reprogram $4.4 billion, according to a new document from the Pentagon comptroller’s office.

Document: DOD's omnibus reprogramming request

The Pentagon issued a notice this morning seeking industry comments on a proposed climate change-related acquisition regulation:

DOD seeks comment on new climate change proposal aimed at contractors

The Defense Department is seeking public comment on a proposed acquisition regulation that would require major federal suppliers to publicly disclose greenhouse gas emissions and “climate-related financial risk,” while also mandating “science-based reduction targets.”

The Hudson Institute has issued a new report on the military services' dependence on China for batteries used on unmanned systems:

Hudson report warns of dependency on China for batteries powering unmanned systems

The military services’ push for more unmanned systems is dependent on the power supplied by batteries, a supply chain almost completed controlled by China.

Last but by no means least, our continuing coverage of this week's AUSA conference:

First operational M-SHORAD unit conducts first-ever live-fire in Europe

The first Army unit equipped with the new Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense capability conducted a first-ever, live-fire of the rapidly developed system this month -- a major milestone in the effort to harden U.S. ground forces in Europe from Russian threats.

Next round of major testing for IBCS set to launch in weeks

U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command is readying within weeks to commence a high-stakes assessment of Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense -- a command-and-control system that integrates sensors, weapons and mission command across an integrated fire control network.

Lockheed Martin forecasts 2027 delivery for NGI, meeting DOD hopes for accelerated timetable

Lockheed Martin believes it can accelerate delivery of a Next Generation Interceptor to support emplacement by 2027, a new development that matches expectations from senior military officials that incentives built into the acquisition strategy could deliver a new guided missile to defeat North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles sooner than 2028.

AM General pledges to compete for JLTV, guaranteeing Army competition in $7.6B acquisition

AM General, maker of the U.S. military’s legacy light tactical vehicle fleet, will toss its hat in the ring for the upcoming competition to build Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, a move that presents incumbent Oshkosh with a formidable challenger and assures the Army an industrial rivalry that acquisition officials hope will drive innovation and a fair cost in an estimated $7.6 billion project.

Army creating Black Hawk rendering to prepare for FVL digital design

The Army is making a three-dimensional scan of every part within a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter as a test run for the digital modeling that it plans to implement with the Future Vertical Lift programs, the leader of Army Aviation and Missile Command said this week.

(Read our complete coverage of the AUSA convention.)

By John Liang
October 14, 2021 at 4:26 PM

Boeing has hired former Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director Heidi Grant, the company announced today.

Grant will "lead Boeing’s defense, space and government services sales teams," according to a company statement. "She will join the company Nov. 8 as vice president of Business Development, leading the organization previously known as Global Sales and Marketing (GSM)."

Grant succeeds Jeff Shockey, who departed the company in July, according to Boeing. Mike Manazir, who has served as interim GSM vice president, returns to his role as vice president, Boeing Global Services business development.

DSCA announced Grant's resignation earlier this week.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
October 14, 2021 at 2:35 PM

The Army has delayed fielding and operational testing of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, a militarized version of a Microsoft augmented reality headset, according to an announcement today from program executive office soldier.

“This decision allows the Army and Industry team to continue to enhance the IVAS technology platform,” the announcement stated. “The Army intends to continue developing and fielding this revolutionary, first-of-its-kind technology in” fiscal year 2022.

Microsoft won a $21.9 billion contract in March for IVAS, which is designed to enhance training and give soldiers more information in the battlefield.

That award was supposed to begin rapid fielding of IVAS, which Microsoft had adapted for military use through a $479 million other transaction agreement, a flexible contract that allows for rapid prototyping. OTAs are designed to accelerate the development process for new systems, and the Army has used them for for many of its priority modernization programs.

The Army had planned to equip a unit with IVAS by the end of last month, but first unit equipped has been delayed to September 2022, according to a new timeline included in today’s announcement. An initial operational test is scheduled for May.

Last month, the Army completed an integration test with the Bradley fighting vehicle and electronic warfare testing with the IVAS, according to the timeline. The service held a “user jury” in July on the criteria to begin operational testing.

The Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern in its version of the FY-22 defense authorization bill that the Army planned to field IVAS before system development was complete. Even as the committee voted to add $1.4 billion to the service’s procurement budget, it cut $270 million from IVAS procurement funding.

By John Liang
October 14, 2021 at 1:44 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II, a proposed Air Force advanced tactical trainer aircraft and more.

Putting the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II on Navy Super Hornet fighter aircraft has been a challenge for the service:

Weather, technical difficulties causing SDB Increment II F/A-18E/F integration delay

The Navy continues to face setbacks fielding the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet due to weather delays and technical challenges, a program spokesman told Inside Defense Tuesday.

An Air Combat Command spokeswoman has confirmed to Inside Defense that a request for information released this week was meant to address Reforge requirements and “modernize the training pipeline and ecosystem for development of [Combat Air Force] pilots”:

ACC: Air Force RFI for tactical training jet aims to address Reforge requirements

After canceling an open solicitation to industry this summer aimed at supporting a new concept for streamlining pilot training, Project Reforge, the Air Force this week initiated the acquisition process for a new advanced training jet that would meet the requirements of Reforge and possibly serve as an adversary air platform and tactical aircraft surrogate.

Document: Air Force RFI for new advanced tactical trainer

More coverage from this week's AUSA convention:

Lockheed says PrSM sets new distance record, mum about 499km objective

Lockheed Martin is touting a "record-breaking" flight of the Precision Strike Missile but will not disclose whether the new surface-to-surface round exceeded a 499-kilometer objective during an Oct. 13 test over the Pacific Ocean.

Army developing implementation strategy for new network plan

The Army expects to publish an implementation strategy for its newly released Unified Network Plan, according to service officials.

Document: Army's 2021 unified network plan

(Read our complete coverage of the AUSA convention.)

The Air Force's former top software official hopes the service will replace him soon:

Chaillan pushes for Air Force chief software successor, calling role 'critical' for U.S. future

More than a month after posting a pointed resignation message on his LinkedIn page slamming the Defense Department’s approach to IT modernization, the Air Force’s first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan, is hopeful the service will hire a successor for the role he described as "critical for the future of our nation."

By Jaspreet Gill
October 13, 2021 at 4:32 PM

The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit yesterday announced $14 million in Defense Production Act Title III agreements to strengthen the domestic small unmanned aerial systems industrial base.

DIU made eight awards in total as part of a larger strategy to accelerate the adoption of capable and secure sUAS through the Blue UAS effort, according to an Oct. 12 DOD announcement.

Blue UAS is “focused on increasing DOD access to commercial systems and strengthening the industrial base to disrupt the dominance currently demonstrated in the supply chain by one of the nation’s near-peer adversaries,” the announcement states.

The companies awarded include Systems and Technology Research; Skydio; Shield AI; Auterion Government Solutions; Kutta Technologies; Vantage Robotics; and Tomahawk Robotics. Auterion Government Solutions received two separate awards, according to the announcement.

“This investment in the defense industrial base is intended to provide critical battlefield capabilities across the spectrum of conflict, including on-demand reconnaissance which augments service members’ capabilities and increases their survivability, lethality and mission flexibility,” Jesse Salazar, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, said in a statement.

By Tony Bertuca
October 13, 2021 at 4:19 PM

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency today announced the resignation of director Heidi Grant, one of the top U.S. officials overseeing foreign military sales.

“Director Grant had been considering this transition for some time and believed the moment was right after successfully leading DSCA to its full operational capability phase of organizational transformation on October 1, 15 months after becoming the first permanent DOD civilian to lead DSCA in its 50-year history,” the agency announced.

Deputy Director Jed Royal will become acting DSCA director on Nov. 7.

Grant previously served as the Air Force’s deputy under secretary of international affairs.

It has been reported that Grant spoke critically this week of the U.S. government’s decision to not supply drones to allies in the Middle East, which instead purchased them from China.

By John Liang
October 13, 2021 at 2:30 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Air Force software and refueling aircraft as well as continuing coverage of the AUSA convention.

The Air Force's former top software official hopes the service will replace him soon:

Chaillan pushes for Air Force chief software successor, calling role 'critical' for U.S. future

More than a month after posting a pointed resignation message on his LinkedIn page slamming the Defense Department’s approach to IT modernization, the Air Force’s first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan, is hopeful the service will hire a successor for the role he described as "critical for the future of our nation."

In a request for information released this week, the Air Force "seeks to provide Air Mobility Command (AMC) with the technical, programmatic, research, data analytics expertise, and assessment to determine if a shortfall in U.S. Air Force day-to-day peacetime air refueling capability exists":

Air Force seeking aerial refueling gap analysis to inform broader COMAR study

The Air Force plans to commission a study to determine whether there is a gap in peacetime aerial refueling capacity that will set the foundation for a broader look at options for bridging such a shortfall.

Document: Commercial air refueling case study RFI, PWS

More coverage from AUSA's annual conference:

McConville touts Army prototypes and 'transformation' as service wrestles with new mission

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said yesterday the service is advancing a series of developmental technologies necessary to dominate land warfare in the 21st century, but he provided scant details on what missions and weapon systems the Army is prepared to leave behind as it shifts focus away from the Middle East and toward China.

Lockheed: Max-range PrSM shot could possibly exceed 499km requirement

Lockheed Martin is planning an Oct. 13 flight test of its new deep strike weapon over the Pacific Ocean by conducting a maximum-range assessment of the Precision Strike Munition, untethering the next-generation surface-to-surface missile to fly out as far as it can -- possibly further than the 499-kilometer objective, according to a senior company representative.

Contractors likely to host OMFV digital design

The Army is "leaning towards" having companies host the authoritative source of truth for the digital design of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, the Bradley fighting vehicle replacement, James Schirmer, the deputy program executive officer for ground combat systems, said Oct. 13 at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington.

(Read our complete coverage of the AUSA convention.)

By Courtney Albon
October 13, 2021 at 12:54 PM

The Space Development Agency is preparing to release a request for proposals for a slate of demonstration and experimentation satellites meant to augment the Tranche 1 Transport Layer.

According to a draft RFP released Oct. 8, SDA anticipates the Tranche 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System (T1DES) will launch by May of 2025 and include up to 18 satellites -- including 12 “offeror-sourced” payloads and six developed by the government.

The agency plans to award a single contract for the effort.

Meanwhile, proposals were due last week for SDA’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer, which includes 126 satellites that will make up the agency’s initial warfighting capability. 

The Tranche 1 capability will build on that of the Tranche 0 transport satellites, which are currently in development, providing improved technology, integration and production efficiencies. 

“The T1TL will provide global communications access and deliver persistent regional encrypted connectivity in support of warfighter missions around the globe by serving as the backbone for Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control built on low-latency data transport, sensor-to-shooter connectivity and direct-to-weapon connectivity,” the RFP states.

By Briana Reilly
October 12, 2021 at 5:01 PM

Northrop Grumman announced today it has opened a software development facility as part of an expanded footprint in Huntsville, AL, to support the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.

A newly renovated site, the location will host Northrop’s work as GBSD prime contractor associated with engineering and manufacturing development in the software realm, in addition to some production activities, company spokesman Nathan Drevna told Inside Defense.

Specifically, Drevna said the facility would be charged with building part of the weapon system and integrating it with the rest of the program, though he declined to share further details.

The move comes as Northrop pushes to launch its first test missile in the fourth quarter of 2023 and kick-start production in 2026.

“We are excited to grow our GBSD team in Alabama and leverage the dynamic aerospace talent in the Rocket City to support this critical strategic deterrent capability for our country and allies,” Greg Manuel, the vice president and general manager of Northrop’s Strategic Deterrent Systems division, said in the press release announcing the move.

Meanwhile, the company is in the midst of "a massive construction effort" at Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA, where the test launch will occur, Manuel told Inside Defense in an interview last month. The company is now in possession of two launch facilities there and its first launch center.

By John Liang
October 12, 2021 at 1:52 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of the AUSA convention and more.

The Army's top civilian spoke this week during the Association of the United States Army's annual convention:

Wormuth: Army must 'ruthlessly prioritize' to avoid becoming a 'bill-payer' for other services

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth this week acknowledged the tensions between the Army and other the U.S. military services as the Pentagon is structuring its multiyear budget strategy, especially since deterring the "pacing threat" of China means accepting geographic realities in the Indo-Pacific region.

More from AUSA:

Pentagon's CTO creating new positions to improve software and sustainment

The Pentagon’s chief technology officer announced this week she is creating two new positions in her office to improve the Defense Department’s software and technology sustainment.

Army plans to spend $16B modernizing organic industrial base

The Army intends to spend around $16 billion over the next five years to modernize all its depots, arsenals and ammunition plants as the service shifts its logistics posture to compete more directly with China, according to a senior official.

Army aims for flexibility with Common Tactical Truck requirements, could use diesel rather than jet fuel

The Army might consider relaxing some of its tactical vehicle requirements, including the use of diesel fuel, to maintain commonality between commercial systems and the upcoming Common Tactical Truck, service officials told Inside Defense in an Oct. 6 interview.

Army plans OTAs for wheeled 155 mm howitzer development

The Army intends to award other transaction agreements for the prototyping of a next-generation 155 mm truck-mounted mobile howitzer that fills the role of the M777 towed howitzer, according to a pair of Oct. 7 notices from the Army’s program office for towed artillery systems.

GM Defense to display all-electric and gun carrier ISV variants at AUSA

GM Defense will display two potential variants of its Infantry Squad Vehicle at its booth at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, which begins today: a heavy machine gun carrier and a fully electric model.

Army RCV experiment to include General Dynamics prototypes

Four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium from General Dynamics Land Systems will participate in a soldier operational experiment at Ft. Hood, TX, next year, a spokesman for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team told Inside Defense Oct. 5.

Raytheon to unveil new medium-range air and missile radar optimized to support NASAMS missile

Raytheon Technologies has developed a new medium-range radar optimized to support the full reach of the NASAMS missile, offering users of the ground-based air defense system a detection range greater than the Sentinel radar by drawing on technology developed for the Army’s Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor.

(Read our complete coverage of the AUSA convention.)

Moving on to F-35 Joint Strike Fighter news:

Pratt & Whitney targets 36% cost reduction on first F135 scheduled maintenance visit

The F-35 program is approaching its first wave of scheduled engine maintenance in 2023, and in preparation, engine-maker Pratt & Whitney is readying its architecture and processes for what the company views as a test of whether the engine sustainment enterprise is positioned to maintain readiness as it takes on additional workload.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has released a new report on Future Vertical Lift:

CSBA: FVL programs need new cost projection methods due to open architectures

The Modular Open Systems Architecture the Army is developing alongside its new Future Vertical Lift manned aircraft might require changes to current cost projection methods, according to a new report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The Navy's top civilian recently issued his first strategic guidance:

Del Toro's strategic guidance warns of China threat, supports modernization

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro echoed familiar themes in his first strategic guidance released today, identifying countering China as the service’s top priority while also stating he is focused on improving the Navy’s culture and working to address climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Document: SECNAV's strategic guidance

By Courtney Albon
October 12, 2021 at 1:24 PM

The Air Force is looking for industry input on a possible competition to develop a new advanced tactical aircraft to train fighter pilots, according to a notice released today.

In a new request for information, the service indicates it is conducting market research for an advanced training aircraft that would support initial tactical training for fighter pilots, provide adversary air support and serve as a “tactical fighter surrogate of existing and future United States Air Force frontline fighters.”

Boeing is already on contract to develop an advanced trainer, the T-7A, to replace the current T-38 fleet, however the Air Force envisions the T-7A as being one element of an Advanced Pilot Training "family of systems." It's not immediately clear where this aircraft would fit into the APT architecture, though the RFI indicates aggressor support would be part of its mission.

The notice indicates the service is seeking feedback on the cost schedule and feasibility of delivering at least 100 aircraft “and for subsequent lots of 50 aircraft.” Responses are due by Nov. 23.

“The aircraft needs to simulate and/or replicate current and future fighter aircraft systems by providing the training environment and relevant experience to build transferable tactical skills, systems management skills and decision-making skills required for weapon system employment actions,” the RFI states.

The service is looking for a two-seat jet with secure, open architecture, large area displays and secure transmission capabilities, among other features. The service is also interested in a low-cost, helmet-mounted display, automatic ground collision avoidance system and generators “sufficient to power wing stations, antennas and avionics stations with sufficient growth capacity to support follow-on incorporation of electronic countermeasures, infrared sensor and radar or threat emulator capabilities.”

Air Combat Command did not immediately respond to a request for more details about the Air Force’s interested in a new tactical training aircraft.

By Audrey Decker
October 12, 2021 at 11:41 AM

The Navy will move away from an isolated information technology system to one that operates across different networks, systems and units.

The transition to an enterprise IT services approach will reduce waste and duplication, increase data availability, accelerate productivity and reduce cyber risk, according to a memo from the Navy’s chief information officer released last week.

“The intent of enterprise IT services is to operate across more than one network, security domain, system, or organizational unit,” the memo states.

Enterprise IT services apply technology that enables the reuse of use cases every time those use cases come up, according to the memo.

These IT services will improve the Navy’s interoperability, data sharing and “increase agility and speed in the development, delivery, and management of capability to the warfighter,” the memo states.

Having common models to organize and share data is going to be very important for the Navy to ensure interoperability and trustworthy data, Tom Sasala, the Navy’s chief data officer, said last week at the online Billington CyberSecurity Summit.

“We need to rapidly, especially in the tactical environment, get to an environment whereas things change, the data environment gets updated and that information gets pushed to the people who need to see it,” Sasala said.

Within 60 days of the release of the memo, the Navy’s chief technology officer will lead a forum to define the processes required for the adoption of enterprise IT services, the memo states.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
October 11, 2021 at 8:45 AM

The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin an accelerated contract to produce five additional Sentinel A4 radars by the end of fiscal year 2022, which soldiers will use to test the upgrades in the A4 variant, the company announced Oct. 11.

“Once equipped with the Sentinel A4, our soldiers will operate in a more secure warfighting environment, improving capabilities against multiple evolving threats,” Troy Allen, the Army’s program manager for the Sentinel A4, said in the Lockheed press release. “The Lockheed Martin team truly understands the importance that this system holds for our warfighters.”

Lockheed completed production of its first Sentinel A4 in August, five months ahead of schedule, according to the press release.

“Even though the initial Sentinel A4 contract for 18 radars was awarded only two years ago, the Sentinel A4 team already completed production of the first A4 system this summer,” a Lockheed press release stated. “The first five systems of the original contract are expected to be delivered to the U.S. Army in March 2022.”

Sentinel A4 passed its critical design review in February, five months ahead of schedule. Sentinel is designed to detect low-flying threats, such as cruise missiles and helicopters, and the upgrades in the A4 variant are designed to improve detection of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The upgrades include a new digital, modular backbone of the radar, which Lockheed says will be more easily upgraded than previous systems.

Earlier this year, the Army identified the Sentinel radar as one of the “key enablers” for the priority modernization program. The second increment of the Indirect Fire Protection Capability will rely upon the Sentinel radar.

Lockheed beat Raytheon, the original Sentinel manufacturer, in 2019 for the A4 upgrade program. It won a $281 million contract that year, for what could be a $3 billion upgrade program.

By Tony Bertuca
October 11, 2021 at 5:00 AM

The annual Association of the United States Army conference is being held in Washington this week.

Monday

The annual Association of the United States Army conference is held in Washington. The event, which features senior military officials, runs through Wednesday.

Wednesday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on 21st century warfare with the chief executive of Lockheed Martin.

Thursday

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on advanced batteries and critical supply chains.