The Insider

By John Liang
November 24, 2021 at 2:29 PM

This pre-Thanksgiving INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's hypersonic weapons programs, the Air Force's 5G implementation efforts and more.

Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, the Navy's director for strategic systems programs and point man for design of the U.S. military’s marquee hypersonic strike weapon, spoke at the recent Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium:

DOD sets plan to upgrade long-range hypersonic strike fleet every two years

The Defense Department is laying plans to upgrade its future fleet of long-range hypersonic glide vehicles as frequently as every two years, creating windows for new technology insertion as experimental capabilities prove ready for production in a bid to catch up -- and overtake -- China’s current dominance of the near-space domain.

Inside Defense recently spoke with Debra Stanislawski, director of 5G tranche prototyping and experimentation in the Pentagon's research and engineering office:

Hill AFB to mark first successful 5G network deployment with ceremony next week

Officials at Hill Air Force Base, UT, are poised to mark the first successful 5G network deployment at a service installation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week, a key milestone in the first phase of mid-band dynamic spectrum sharing work at the site.

Officials at Letterkenny Army Depot, an organic industrial base location, have looked at the service's 35 priority modernization programs to determine the capabilities the base will need in the future:

Army depot looks at Futures Command efforts to guide its own modernization

CHAMBERSBURG, PA -- The Army's 35 priority acquisition programs grab most of the attention about what the service's chief of staff calls a once-in-four-decades modernization push.

Some cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Senate defense policy bill heading to floor lacks key Cyber Solarium proposals passed by Homeland Security panel

Major Cyberspace Solarium Commission proposals were not included in the revised version of the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill expected to be debated next week in the Senate, but a key Solarium leader says provisions on cyber incident reporting and others remain in play for ultimate inclusion in the legislation.

Inside Defense recently interviewed the head of Rheinmetall's U.S. subsidiary, covering tactical wheeled vehicles and more:

Rheinmetall 'looking forward' to Common Tactical Truck prototyping process, competition

Rheinmetall is participating with the Army in its acquisition process for the service's next-generation heavy tactical vehicles, according to Matthew Warnick, managing director at American Rheinmetall Vehicles.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The next INSIDER Daily Digest will be posted Nov. 29.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
November 24, 2021 at 11:28 AM

Foreign-built prototypes should be eligible for inclusion in the upcoming competition to provide a new suite of heavy tactical trucks for the Army, according to a recently released set of government responses to industry questions about the program.

"The Buy American Act will not apply to the prototype project" for the Common Tactical Truck, the government stated in a document released Nov. 18. The Army plans to begin an Other Transaction Authority prototyping process with three companies in fiscal year 2022.

Allowing foreign-built prototypes and waiving some Buy American Act rules is normal in the OTA prototyping process, according to Bill Greenwalt, a non-resident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Senate staffer.

"The Buy American Act is incredibly compliance-intensive, and the government went to OTA prototypes for a reason," Greenwalt said. "Let's do something fast, let's put things together, let's get solutions."

The Army has not created any requirements that a certain fraction of the CTT, by weight or cost, be produced in the United States, according to one of the responses.

"There is no requirement to produce a certain percentage in weight or cost in the U.S.," the Army wrote.

The CTT program seeks to increase competition for heavy tactical vehicles by increasing commonality with commercial trucks and simplifying the requirements process. The "Common" in CTT refers to commonality across the variants -- the CTT could replace five different chassis that are in use today -- and with commercial technology.

At least one interested competitor, Rheinmetall, has said that it would use foreign-built prototypes in the prototype process before standing up a factory in the United States for production.

The Army has not decided whether the CTT should be designed to accommodate a future upgrade to full electric technology, according to the responses to industry questions. But the government seeks enough commonality with commercial technology "to facilitate future technology insertion" of electric vehicle capabilities.

Many characteristics of the CTT and the acquisition process are still up in the air, according to the questions and responses. The government responded "TBD" to questions on a range of topics: joint service participation, technical data rights, robotic technology and acquisition quantities.

The Army will use its own organic maintenance capabilities for the trucks, rather than outsourcing maintenance to the dealer networks of commercial manufacturers, according to one of the responses.

By John Liang
November 23, 2021 at 1:34 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on German company Rheinmetall looking to get into the U.S. tactical wheeled vehicle market, the Space Warfighting Analysis Center's latest force design and more.

Inside Defense interviewed the head of Rheinmetall's U.S. subsidiary, covering tactical wheeled vehicles and more:

Rheinmetall 'looking forward' to Common Tactical Truck prototyping process, competition

Rheinmetall is participating with the Army in its acquisition process for the service's next-generation heavy tactical vehicles, according to Matthew Warnick, managing director at American Rheinmetall Vehicles.

A Ronald Reagan Institute task force has issued a new report on China:

Report: U.S. must revitalize manufacturing to compete with China

In order to revitalize its manufacturing competitiveness to compete with China, the United States must scale up workforce training, modernize the Defense Production Act and establish new partnerships with allies, according to a new report from a Ronald Reagan Institute task force.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies this week issued a report on Marine Corps unmanned systems:

CSIS: Marine Corps lagging in unmanned aerial vehicles

As the Marine Corps continues a major restructuring, analysts say the service has a long way to go before it fields enough unmanned aerial systems.

The Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office recently awarded Dynetics a $478 million contract "for the development of Hypersonic Thermal Protection System prototypes, support materials research, and novel inspection and acceptance criteria":

DOD stands up new industrial capacity critical to hypersonic weapon production

The Defense Department last week took a major step toward fostering an industrial base needed to produce hypersonic strike weapons, capping a five-way, private-sector contest to develop one of the most sensitive technologies required to develop a long-range hypersonic glide vehicle: thermal protection systems.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Col. Robert Davis, senior materiel leader in Space Systems Command's strategic systems division:

Evolved Strategic SATCOM program embracing competition for space and ground segment

As the Space Force’s Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications program moves through the prototyping phase of its space segment and finalizes the ground segment acquisition strategy, Space Systems Command officials say they are leaning forward in their use of competition to drive innovation and reduce cost.

The Space Warfighting Analysis Center recently unveiled a new force design:

New SWAC force design could drive near-term shifts in missile warning, tracking space architecture

The Space Force's new analysis and force design center last month gave industry an early look at its draft recommendation for the service's future missile warning and tracking architecture, revealing possible near-term shifts across the portfolio and seeking feedback from companies on how to best address current and anticipated threats.

The Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office next fiscal year will pass the baton to the service's traditional acquisition professionals to run a follow-on contest for production beginning in FY-25 of Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense system:

Army plans M-SHORAD laser competition in FY-23 for post-prototype production

The Army plans to launch a second competition for Stryker-mounted, 50-kilowatt lasers, giving Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in fiscal year 2023 a chance at procurement planned beyond initial prototype systems that Raytheon currently owns under a rapid-development and fielding agreement.

Last but by no means least, some Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

DCMA pauses audits for CMMC assessment organizations to address program changes

Cyber certification audits for certified third-party assessment organizations are currently on hold at the Pentagon while the Defense Department works through changes to its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, according to a DOD official.

Ross: NIST plans to update publication for handling controlled unclassified information

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2022 will update its publication guiding agencies and industry on how to secure controlled unclassified information, a key component of the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, according to lead author Ron Ross.

By Courtney Albon
November 23, 2021 at 10:28 AM

The Space Force has signed off on a critical design review for Block 0 of the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared geosynchronous Earth orbit program, prime contractor Lockheed Martin announced today.

The company said in a press release today the program, which will eventually replace the Space-Based Infrared System constellation with improved warning capabilities and resiliency, is making good progress toward its planned 2025 launch date.

“Our adversaries are finding ways to make missile warning more difficult. They are also posing threats to space assets themselves,” Joseph Rickers, Lockheed Martin vice president and program manager for NGG Block 0, said in the release. “NGG was specifically designed as a ‘Go Fast’ program to maintain and grow our nation’s advanced technology edge ahead of the threat.”

The Block 0 CDR occurred Oct. 28 and focused on space and ground segment integration as well as integration between the program’s interim operations ground system and the legacy missile-warning system.

The system-level CDR follows two successful payload design reviews this summer. Raytheon and a Ball Aerospace and Northrop Grumman team are competing to provide the Block 0 payloads.

By John Liang
November 22, 2021 at 2:21 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of a new Missile Defense Agency contract to design an interceptor against hypersonic missiles, plus the Navy's Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle program and more.

The Missile Defense Agency has awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman to complete accelerated concept designs for a new Glide Phase Interceptor:

MDA taps Lockheed, Raytheon, Northrop to design new hypersonic-busting missile

The Missile Defense Agency has tapped three companies to advance their respective concept designs for a Glide Phase Interceptor, setting up a three-way contest between Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman for a new Aegis guided missile optimized to defeat a new class of ultra-fast maneuvering weapons and give the Navy a second layer of defense against hypersonic threats.

More missile defense news:

MDA official: New Guam defense system must include SM-6, implying major role for Aegis Ashore

The Standard Missile-6 must be a non-negotiable component of whatever new air and missile defense system is designed for Guam because it is the only fielded counter-hypersonic capability, said a senior Missile Defense Agency official -- an assertion that implies the Navy’s Aegis Ashore should be a central component of any system acquired for the Western Pacific U.S. territory.

Some Navy unmanned systems news:

Navy's XLUUV will fill 'specific mission' in INDOPACOM

The Navy is "committed" to getting Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles into the submarine fleet, particularly in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command region, according to a top service submariner.

Inside Defense recently interviewed the head of General Dynamics Electric Boat:

Electric Boat working through workforce, industrial base concerns as Columbia construction progresses

General Dynamics Electric Boat is taking steps to address vendor base and workforce concerns as the company works to keep the Columbia-class submarine, the Navy’s top acquisition priority, on track, General Dynamics Electric Boat President Kevin Graney told Inside Defense in an interview.

The Pentagon has issued formal solicitations to Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Oracle to bid for spots on the Defense Department's revamped cloud effort:

DOD issues formal solicitations for JWCC cloud contract

The Defense Department has invited four major cloud service providers to submit bids for its multivendor Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability effort.

Inside Defense also recently interviewed the head of the Letterkenny Army Depot:

Letterkenny Army Depot avoids pandemic slowdowns, production changes

CHAMBERSBURG, PA -- Letterkenny Army Depot, a facility in the Army’s organic industrial base with specialties in air defense and long-range fires, has been able to stay on schedule during the past year and a half of the pandemic without any significant changes to its production process, the depot commander told Inside Defense Nov. 17.

By Thomas Duffy
November 19, 2021 at 3:26 PM

Today’s end-of-the-week INSIDER Daily Digest begins with news on the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, more from the Army’s Project Convergence 21 event, coverage of the Submarine League’s annual gathering, and reaction to the Russian anti-satellite test.

The Navy has figured out how to fix a serious problem on LCS ships:

Navy announces LCS combining gear fix successfully implemented and tested on LCS-21

The Navy announced Thursday that a fix to the combing gear issue that has been plaguing the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship was successfully tested on the Littoral Combat Ship Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21).

The Army recently showed off some capabilities that may aid the service’s Future Vertical Lift aircraft:

Army tests FVL enablers at Project Convergence

YUMA PROVING GROUND, AZ -- The Army experimented with aerial capabilities that could work in tandem with its future manned aircraft to hunt targets and establish a tactical communications network during the Project Convergence 21 experiment.

The Navy has a dry dock problem:

Navy officials highlight the need for more dry docks to reduce submarine maintenance backlog

Navy officials want to “aggressively” engage industry to help fix the service’s dry dock shortage and optimize submarine maintenance.

Ohio-class submarines may see their maintenance plans changed:

Navy considering Ohio-class submarine maintenance options to ease Columbia transition

The Navy is weighing maintenance options for some Ohio-class submarines to ensure a smooth transition to the Columbia-class submarine, a top Navy submariner said Thursday.

Finally, Defense Department space officials reacted to the Russian ASAT test:

Space leaders highlight importance of space domain awareness following Russian ASAT test

Following Russia’s test of an anti-satellite weapon earlier this week that created more than 1,500 pieces of trackable space debris, officials from the Space Force and U.S. Space Command say space domain awareness capabilities are crucial to understanding the impact of the debris field and predicting and attributing future hostile actions.

By Audrey Decker
November 19, 2021 at 1:29 PM

The Navy is investing in Guam through submarines and infrastructure, according to the commander of the Pacific submarine force, who said this week the service plans to have five fast-attack submarines stationed in the U.S. territory by the end of 2022.

“We are focused on the Pacific and increasing our posture there,” Rear Adm. Jeffrey Jablon said Thursday at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium.

As the Navy starts moving the subs to Guam, there will be increased infrastructure to support it, Jablon said.

There is a pier plan to support the Virginia-class Block 5 submarine that will eventually come to Guam in the future, Jablon said.

Not only is the submarine force expanding its presence on Guam, the Marine Corps and the Air Force are also advancing in the area, Jablon said.

The Navy is considering putting the Standard Missile-6 on Guam, the only weapon system that could have the capability to defend against hypersonic missiles.

“Investments are being made on Guam and they’re really impressive right now. We need to continue those investments because our focus is only going to continue to move the forces West,” he said.

Jablon also discussed the effectiveness of submarine-launched unmanned aerial vehicles in a communications-denied environment such as the South China sea and highlighted the Pacific force’s Submarine-Launched Unmanned Aerial System program as “very successful” in addressing the threat to secure communications.

“My vision is that a submarine launches an unmanned aerial vehicle, but then the submarine can go submerge, do the things it needs to do and come back up and talk to that aerial vehicle and get the information downloaded from that vehicle,” Jablon said. “I think that’s where we need to go with that concept, but we’re not there yet. If we could get there soon, that’d be great.”

By Ethan Sterenfeld
November 18, 2021 at 3:29 PM

The Army plans to award Kord an other transaction agreement to produce up to eight more prototypes of a 50-kilowatt air-defense laser integrated onto a Stryker combat vehicle through fiscal year 2024, according to a Nov. 17 Army announcement.

Kord, a subsidiary of KBR, will deliver up to four more Directed Energy Mobile Short-Range Air Defense prototypes in FY-23, with four more delivered in FY-24, according to the announcement.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which manages the service’s priority directed energy programs, plans to award the OTA. The announcement did not include the expected cost for the prototypes.

“The DE M-SHORAD prototypes will incorporate design changes to reduce overall weight and increase maintainability on the system,” the announcement stated. “U.S. Army RCCTO believes Kord is the only responsible source capable to develop and deliver this prototype within the required schedule; competition of this effort is not practicable and will not meet mission fielding requirements.”

Four DE M-SHORAD prototypes are expected to be fielded to Europe in FY-22, where they will operate in the same battery as kinetic M-SHORAD systems. RCCTO’s director has said management of the DE M-SHORAD program will transition to the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space in FY-23.

A laser is expected to be a more cost-effective option for air defense against rockets and drones than kinetic systems. Rather than expensive rockets with complex supply chains, the laser just needs “cups of gasoline” to shoot down threats, a RCCTO official said in April.

Raytheon will provide the lasers for the four prototypes that will be delivered in FY-22. A new competition to build the laser is expected before the system reaches full-rate production.

The Army has made improving its air defenses a top modernization priority as it equips for large-scale combat operations. Senate authorizers asked for a report on the service’s short-range air defense modernization efforts earlier this year.

By Thomas Duffy
November 18, 2021 at 2:06 PM

This Thursday Insider Daily Digest starts off with news of a new Defense Department technology demonstration, Air Force software news, a new report on Taiwan defense, and more cyber news.

The Defense Department is asking industry for new technologies in the area of data discovery:

DOD seeking industry tech for ‘Thunderstorm’ demo

The Pentagon is asking industry to provide technologies that could be included in a capability experimentation next year focused on data discovery innovation and visualization.

The Air Force has a new agreement in the area of software development:

Kessel Run, Platform One teams look to step up collaboration under new agreement

A new agreement between the Air Force’s Kessel Run software factory and Platform One -- the service’s flagship DevSecOps team -- aims to lay the foundation for increased collaboration and guide future development between the two outfits.

A new report says the Defense Department needs more money for the Pacific theater:

Report: Cross-Strait stability eroding; robust funding of INDOPACOM priorities urgent

Taiwan’s ability to deter war with mainland China is “in a period of dangerous uncertainty” requiring Congress to take “urgent measures” to strengthen the credibility of U.S. military deterrence, according to a new report.

And finally, two from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Pentagon considers options for contractor incentives to increase CMMC adoption

The Defense Department is exploring how it can offer incentives to contractors who adopt standards from the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program before the official rollout begins, according to Pentagon official Stacy Bostjanick.

Pentagon provides details on upcoming rulemakings for revamped CMMC program

The Pentagon has formally announced two new rulemakings that will make changes to its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, including the removal of third-party assessments for level one and starting a plan of action and milestones process.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
November 18, 2021 at 11:53 AM

The follow-on contract for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle could be worth $6.5 billion over 10 years, rather than the $12.3 billion that was predicted last December, according to slides from a Nov. 15 industry day.

The Army announced in September the contract would shrink to 16,600 vehicles and 10,000 trailers, but the updated price had not been publicly announced. Last December, the Army said it planned to buy 30,000 vehicles and 10,000 trailers under the follow-on contract.

Oshkosh Defense, the current manufacturer of the JLTV, has said since the reduction was announced that it will compete for the follow-on contract, which the Army plans to award in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2022. The company warned investors last month that its defense revenue could fall because of reduced JLTV funding.

AM General has said it will compete for the follow-on work, and GM Defense has expressed interest in the competition, but its president said the reduction “changes the business case a bit.” The company has not yet confirmed whether it will bid as a prime contractor.

A recently released draft set of contract requirements adjusted the deadline for the winning company to add a next-generation electronics architecture to the vehicle, according to the industry day slides. The engineering change proposal with the architecture will be due two and a half years after contract award, and it must be implemented by the beginning of the third order year in the contract.

The Army increased the price credit for the next-generation architecture to $7,500 per vehicle, up from $6,000, after it received feedback from contractors that it will be difficult to include, according to the slides. A price credit for corrosion resistance was decreased to $3,000 per vehicle, from $5,000, based on industry progress with the technology.

By Courtney Albon
November 18, 2021 at 10:07 AM

Northrop Grumman today announced Tom Wilson will serve as corporate vice president and president of the company’s space systems business.

Wilson, who now serves as sector vice president and general manager of strategic space systems, will assume the role effective Jan. 1. He will succeed Blake Larson.

“Tom’s leadership experience and achievements in the national security, civil and commercial space markets make him ideally suited for his new role,” Northrop CEO Kathy Warden said in a press release today. “I am confident our space business will continue to grow and perform under Tom’s strong leadership, vision and values.”

By Audrey Decker
November 17, 2021 at 5:18 PM

The Navy’s newly formed unmanned task force kicked off its “Blue Angels for Geeks” event yesterday, a public hacking event to attack the service’s unmanned systems.

This week “Hack the Machine Unmanned” will bring the public a series of virtual challenges to help accelerate the task force’s mission of developing and fielding unmanned systems.

Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby spoke on day two of the event, emphasizing the need for the Navy’s systems to be “small, agile and many.”

“If the simulations of wargaming about the power of the small and the agile and the many prove accurate, then we need formations composed of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of unmanned vehicles, above, below and on the surface of the ocean,” Selby said today. “We need to build collaborative, autonomous formations, not a collection of platforms.”

The Navy needs to find out if it can hedge against large and complex vessels with small and agile systems, Selby said.

“We need to be bold and prove this idea works and that we can build it,” Selby said.

However, this focus on unmanned systems doesn’t mean carrier strike groups are irrelevant.

“What we’re talking about now is not the demise of the carrier strike group, but another alternative, another option,” he said. “Like anything else in life, it’s nice to have a variability of options and not always have to use your biggest sledgehammer on all problems. Sometimes you only need a screwdriver.”

By Thomas Duffy
November 17, 2021 at 1:15 PM

This mid-week INSIDER Daily Digest leads off with news from the Australian ambassador to the United States, new plans from the Space Force, Navy artificial intelligence, analysis of the Chinese navy’s capabilities, and news on a commercial space broadband experiment.

Australia’s ambassador sees more technology opportunities with the U.S.:

Australia eyes more defense tech work with U.S. as sub deal enters 18-month study period

Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, said today Australia is interested in increasing cooperation with the United States and the U.K. on emerging defense technologies like artificial intelligence and believes weapon system partnerships will be accelerated by a new Indo-Pacific agreement between the nations that, among other things, allows Canberra access to sensitive U.S. nuclear submarine propulsion technology.

The Space Force is taking steps toward an on-orbit refueling capability:

Space Force eyeing on-orbit refueling as first foray into OSAM services; RFP expected ‘very soon’

The Space Force is making plans for a program aimed at developing a satellite purpose-built for on-orbit refueling -- a first step for the service in understanding how to leverage on-orbit servicing and logistics capabilities.

Artificial intelligence will likely play a part in improving Navy shipyards:

Moran: AI to play crucial role in shipyard optimization

Artificial intelligence will play a key role in improving shipyards for the Navy, a retired service official said today.

The Navy’s 20-year, $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program is not just about building and construction, said retired Adm. Bill Moran, former vice chief of Naval Operations.

China’s navy is getting better but still lags behind the U.S.:

Chinese Navy narrowing capability gap with U.S., analysts say

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy is rapidly growing its fleet and improving its capabilities, according to a new Defense Department report, but analysts say the United States retains a sizable advantage at sea.

The Air Force carried out a commercial space broadband experiment:

Hughes, OneWeb achieve IOC on AFRL commercial space broadband experiment at Thule AFB

An Air Force Research Laboratory experiment aimed at demonstrating managed low-Earth orbit satellite communications services in the Arctic region achieved initial operational capability last month and is eyeing full operational capability by January.

By Courtney Albon
November 17, 2021 at 12:22 PM

The Air Force Research Laboratory and SpaceWERX issued a solicitation today for the first phase of Orbital Prime, an effort to leverage and invest in available commercial on-orbit servicing technology for possible future military use.

SpaceWERX announced Orbital Prime earlier this month.

The effort includes three technology tracks: on-orbit object approach, acquisition and docking and object servicing. Through the Phase One solicitation, SpaceWERX plans to award Small Business Technology Transfer Agreements worth $250,000 early next year.

The three-phased program will culminate in 2024 with an on-orbit demonstration.

By Briana Reilly
November 17, 2021 at 10:29 AM

Northrop Grumman has performed initial insulation and casing work tied to the first-stage solid rocket motor for the new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, a step a company official called a “manufacturing milestone” for the modernization effort.

Completed in August and announced late last week, the efforts involved an insulation wind around a plaster tooling mandrel -- designed to protect the rest of the rocket from the motor’s hot temperatures -- and a case wind process, in which composite materials such as carbon fiber are wrapped around the insulation and hardened through the application of an epoxy to form the motor’s outer shell.

“This manufacturing milestone further demonstrates the maturity of our first-stage solid rocket motor design, manufacturing process, tooling and business systems,” Steve Lunny, the vice president of Northrop’s GBSD program, said in the release.

The work has cleared the way for Northrop to test and validate the first-stage motor’s tooling and manufacturing processes, in addition to pressure testing. Company spokesman Nathan Drevna told Inside Defense Tuesday that case tooling and manufacturing methods have been validated.

Meanwhile, officials have started on a similar insulation and case wind process for the second-stage motor, the release notes, though it’s unclear what the timeline is for wrapping up those efforts. Northrop is building the first and second stages of the three-stage solid rocket motor, while Aerojet Rocketdyne is working on the third stage case in Huntsville, AL.

Last month, Northrop opened a software development facility in Huntsville as officials push to launch the first GBSD test missile in the fourth quarter of 2023 and kick-start production in 2026.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week posted a notice requesting proposals to design and construct a stage processing facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA, for GBSD test operations, including the assembly and installation of “critical mission abort equipment” to avoid interruptions to the Minuteman III ICBM test launch schedule.