The Insider

By Jaspreet Gill
November 1, 2021 at 3:51 PM

The National Spectrum Consortium has launched a new industry group to explore the use of mid-band spectrum available for commercial 5G with the Defense Department.

The Partnering to Advance Trusted and Holistic Spectrum Solutions (PATHSS) task group “will provide a forum for industry and the Defense Department to exchange sensitive and classified information on current and projected military and commercial requirements in these bands,” according to an Oct. 27 National Spectrum Consortium press release. “Together, the group will identify and develop use cases based on a shared understanding of federal and commercial needs.”

Specifically, PATHSS will work on the commercial use of mid-band spectrum within the 3.1 to 3.45 GHz range.

Liz Paul, National Spectrum Consortium Chair, said in a statement PATHSS will “ensure that future spectrum decisions will result in realistic, collaborative spectrum-sharing implementations.”

The Pentagon has used the NSC as a focal point for its 5G experimentation plans, awarding most of its initial contracts for 5G prototyping work through the consortium. The NSC last year also established three working groups focused on spectrum superiority, 5G and regulations.

By John Liang
November 1, 2021 at 1:47 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on what could come after the MQ-9 Reaper and more.

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mark Kelly spoke about potential successors to the MQ-9 Reaper during a recent online Mitchell Institute event:

ACC head: ADAIR-UX initiative could 'inform our way ahead' on potential MQ-9 follow-on

The head of Air Combat Command says work to leverage unmanned, semi-autonomous platforms as simulated adversaries could inform what capabilities may come after the MQ-9.

L3Harris CEO Chris Kubasik spoke about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program during his company's recent quarterly earnings conference call:

L3Harris touts progress on F-35 Technology Refresh 3

The CEO of L3Harris said today the company is making "good progress" on a major F-35 technology refresh effort, following significant delays and cost growth in recent years.

A classified report to Congress details a potential programmatic blueprint for defending Guam against advanced Chinese cruise, ballistic and maneuvering hypersonic weapons:

DOD sends Congress classified blueprint for potential Guam Defense System

The Pentagon has outlined for Congress options for a new integrated air and missile defense of Guam in a classified report that marks the latest development in a long-running internal Defense Department debate over the efficacy of such as system, outlining a potential capability that uses elements of the Aegis Ashore as a building block and ties in Army technologies.

The Defense Department's new artificial intelligence and data accelerator initiative was launched earlier this year as part of the Joint All Domain Command and Control strategy:

AI and data initiative could inform COCOMs on how to enable JWCC

The Pentagon's new artificial intelligence and data accelerator initiative will help inform the Defense Department on how to enable combatant commands to use the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, according to a senior DOD official.

A South Korean company is throwing its hat into the ring for the U.S. Army's mobile howitzer programs:

Hanwha seeks to participate in Army howitzer programs

Hanwha Defense, a South Korean company that opened its American division in 2018, hopes to demonstrate and offer its technology to the U.S. Army for the Extended Range Cannon Artillery and other self-propelled howitzer programs, according to John Kelly, the president of Hanwha Defense USA.

By Audrey Decker
November 1, 2021 at 1:08 PM

Echoing the military services' push for more unmanned systems, the Marine Corps seeks information on an unmanned surface vessel that would extend its reconnaissance reach.

In a request for information released last week, the Marine Corps is asking industry for input on a small USV that would be carried as a payload on the Long Range USV.

The LRUSV is a small naval platform designed to extend the Marine Corps’ reach and support naval forces.

The unmanned vessel will be both offensive and defensive, Marine Corps spokeswoman Kelly Flynn told Inside Defense today.

The small USV would also “provide rear area security for the USV fires mission, provide scout ability to enhance the USV fires mission, provide sea vessel intercept capability,” according to the RFI.

The vessel would potentially be initiating contact and firing a weapon, but specific details of the vessel are not yet determined, Flynn said.

This RFI fits in with the service’s larger effort to acquire unmanned systems in order to achieve Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030.

In September, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson said the Marine Corps will be conducting an early operational assessment of its LRUSV.

Future testing of the small USV will be conducted in the second quarter of fiscal year 2024, according to the RFI.

By John Liang
November 1, 2021 at 9:32 AM

ManTech International announced today it has agreed to buy Washington, DC-based Gryphon Technologies from AE Industrial Partners for $350 million.

Gryphon Technologies provides digital and systems engineering capabilities for Defense Department agencies, including the Navy, Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency and others.

The acquisition adds over 1,500 employees to ManTech, according to a company statement.

"This acquisition maps directly to our Defense Sector expansion strategy of leveraging transformational innovation to advance missions, modernize operations and safeguard military systems and personnel across the DOD landscape," said Mantech Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Kevin Phillips. "We are very pleased to welcome Gryphon's talented employees, sophisticated capabilities and customers."

Gryphon CEO and Founder P.J. Braden said, “We are very excited to become a part of ManTech, a recognized leader in supporting national and homeland security. This is a great opportunity for our employees, who will benefit from ManTech’s more than 50 years of serving our nation, as well as its advanced professional development and commitment to career enablement.”

ManTech said it would pay for the acquisition "from cash on hand with additional funding from its existing line of credit and delayed draw term loan facilities." The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

By Tony Bertuca
November 1, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are slated to speak at a conference this week focused on U.S. special operations.

Tuesday

Senior defense officials speak at the Aspen Security Forum, which runs through Thursday.

Thursday

Senior defense officials speak at the National Defense Industrial Association's SO/LIC Symposium.

Friday

The Brookings Institute hosts a discussion on the "strategy of denial."

By Courtney Albon
October 29, 2021 at 6:51 PM

The Air Force today awarded General Electric a $1.6 billion contract to provide its F110 engine for the F-15EX.

The contract includes an initial 29 engines with options for up to 329. GE's offering was chosen over Pratt & Whitney's F100 engine, a newer variant of the propulsion system that powered the legacy F-15 and F-15E.

"We are honored to help the U.S. Air Force open a new chapter by providing reliable F110 power for the F-15EX," Shawn Warren, GE's vice president and general manager of combat and trainer engines, said in a press release. "The F110 production line is active today and ready to deliver on the U.S. Air Force's urgent and compelling requirement for an F-15EX propulsion system."

The Air Force awarded GE an initial sole-source contract in 2020 for the first lot of F-15EX engines -- which the company supplies for the F-15 Silent Eagle -- and had intended to expand the contracting strategy across the fleet. However, Pratt protested the decision, and the service opted to stage a competition.

GE's F110 is already flying on the first two F-15EX aircraft, which were delivered to the service earlier this year.

In a press release tonight, the Air Force said the engine competition "further reduced production costs," but didn't offer details on the reduction. The service's Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Gen. Dale White said in the release that the decision supports the program's focus on rapid delivery.

"I am laser-focused on rapid delivery of this new aircraft to our warfighters," White said. "Not only will it reduce sustainment costs and drive down risks as it replaces our aging F-15C/D fleet, it will also deliver new capabilities that complement the existing and future [tactical aircraft] portfolio."

The Boeing-made F-15EX this week completed its first slate of operational testing at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, and expects to complete developmental test next year.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
October 29, 2021 at 3:38 PM

The Army today released the third draft of the request for proposals for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle follow-on contract, and it announced a virtual industry day Nov. 15 to discuss the program.

This will likely be the last draft RFP before the Army releases the official RFP for the competition, Michael Sprang, project manager in the Joint Program Office for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, told Inside Defense earlier this month.

Oshkosh, the incumbent JLTV manufacturer, is expected to face competition from AM General and possibly GM Defense for the follow-on contract, which the Army plans to award in fiscal year 2022. The contract will include up to 16,600 vehicles and 10,000 trailers over a decade and some technical upgrades over the current JLTV.

The virtual industry day will include a presentation from the Army to interested contractors, according to today's announcement. Contractors will be able to submit written questions, to which the Army will respond later in the presentation.

In addition to the industry day, interested prime contractors will each have up to an hour and a half for one-on-one virtual meetings with the Army. Those meetings will be held Nov. 16.

By John Liang
October 29, 2021 at 1:36 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a classified report to Congress that details a way to defend Guam against Chinese missile attack and more.

A classified report to Congress details a potential programmatic blueprint for defending Guam against advanced Chinese cruise, ballistic and maneuvering hypersonic weapons:

DOD sends Congress classified blueprint for potential Guam Defense System

The Pentagon has outlined for Congress options for a new integrated air and missile defense of Guam in a classified report that marks the latest development in a long-running internal Defense Department debate over the efficacy of such as system, outlining a potential capability that uses elements of the Aegis Ashore as a building block and ties in Army technologies.

Some Pentagon artificial intelligence news:

AI and data initiative could inform COCOMs on how to enable JWCC

The Pentagon's new artificial intelligence and data accelerator initiative will help inform the Defense Department on how to enable combatant commands to use the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, a senior DOD official said this week.

A South Korean company is throwing its hat into the ring for the U.S. Army's mobile howitzer programs:

Hanwha seeks to participate in Army howitzer programs

Hanwha Defense, a South Korean company that opened its American division in 2018, hopes to demonstrate and offer its technology to the U.S. Army for the Extended Range Cannon Artillery and other self-propelled howitzer programs, according to John Kelly, the president of Hanwha Defense USA.

The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee held a hearing this week on depot maintenance and modernization:

Navy to submit 30-year ship repair plan with FY-23 budget

The Navy will submit both a 30-year shipbuilding plan and a 30-year ship repair plan with its fiscal year 2023 budget request, the service’s acting top acquisition official said Thursday.

Garamendi pushes for more details on services' near-term depot modernization priorities

The chairman of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee wants more details from the military services on their near-term funding and execution plans for modernizing their depot facilities.

News on the Air Force's Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) advanced technology demonstration program:

AFRL: Remaining high-energy laser demonstrator subsystems to be delivered in FY-22

The Air Force Research Laboratory is poised to receive the remaining major subsystems for its high-energy laser demonstrator effort this fiscal year, after "technical challenges in the build phase" pushed back the delivery timeline, an official told Inside Defense this week.

By Audrey Decker
October 29, 2021 at 1:34 PM

The Navy has released its vision "to form the framework of Navy aviation's future," but doesn't detail specific program dates or benchmarks.

Navy Aviation Vision 2030-2035, released Wednesday, emphasizes that carrier strike groups remain at the heart of aviation.

"CSGs bring unmatched contributions of lethality, battle space awareness, and mobility to any maritime theater, ensuring the Navy's ability to establish and sustain sea control, achieve maritime superiority, and project power at great distances," the Navy states.

A big issue for the Navy is readiness and the vision notes the Future Readiness Team's cost-reduction initiatives have major projected savings.

"Since [the fiscal year 2012 program objective memorandum], this effort has identified 51 projects, received over $870 million in funding, and has a projected lifetime savings of $2.9 billion," the Navy states.

The FY-23 POM includes future readiness initiatives with $800 million in projected savings, according to the document.

The Navy Aviation Vision 2030-2035 replaces the Vision for Naval Aviation 2025, released in 2016.

By Tony Bertuca
October 28, 2021 at 4:09 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to advance four nominees tapped by President Biden for senior Defense Department positions.

The nominees advancing to the full Senate for final confirmation are: Nickolas Guertin to be director of operational test and evaluation; Alexandra Baker to be deputy under secretary of defense for policy; John Coffey to be Navy general counsel; and Douglas Bush to be Army acquisition chief.

A final vote to approve Baker, a former staffer for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), could be close and is expected to break down mostly along party lines as indicated by Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during her contentious nomination hearing.

By Courtney Albon
October 28, 2021 at 2:56 PM

(Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details on the new solicitation)

The Government Accountability Office today dismissed a protest of the Space Development Agency's Tranche 1 Transport Layer solicitation, following the agency's decision to rescind the original solicitation and reissue it as an other transaction agreement "to avoid the perception that competition was limited in some way."

"While this is a shift from our earlier acquisition approach, OTAs generally allow for a more streamlined solicitation, evaluation, and contract award processes that is well-suited for SDA," SDA spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said in a statement Thursday. "This change is not expected to substantially impact the delivery timeline, cost, or technical requirements for the Tranche 1 Transport Layer."

Maxar Technologies protested the T1TL solicitation on Oct. 8, claiming the service's solicitation limited competition. Elzea said today SDA is "committed to full and open competition" and that any perceived limitation was inadvertent. 

The T1TL will be made up of 126 communication satellites that will form the foundation of SDA's initial warfighting capability in low Earth orbit. The agency expects to begin launching the satellites in September 2024.

SDA plans to launch an additional 18 experimental satellites as part of the same tranche and released a draft request for proposals for the effort earlier this month. SDA director Derek Tournear said during an America's Future Series event Thursday the agency expects to release a formal RFP in January or February.

In the new T1TL OTA solicitation, released Thursday afternoon, the 126 satellites will be divided into six orbital planes and awarded to multiple vendors, depending on how much funding is available. Responses are due Nov. 24.

SDA plans to release a separate draft RFP for the ground and integration component of T1TL next week, Tournear said a formal solicitation will likely come early next year, following the satellite awards. 

By John Liang
October 28, 2021 at 1:35 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on China's hypersonic missile development efforts and more.

The Pentagon's No. 2 uniformed officer would really, really like to talk openly about what the Defense Department knows about China's hypersonic missile development efforts, but he can't because that information is classified:

Hyten outlines hypersonics development problems following 'very concerning' Chinese test

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, reacting to news that China has conducted a hypersonic missile test that reportedly caught U.S. military officials off guard, said today many of the facts remain classified but are "very concerning," if for no other reason than Beijing has conducted "hundreds" of similar tests in about the past five years, while the United States has completed only nine.

The Air Force's new F-15EX fighter recently completed an operational test:

F-15EX moves through first operational test exercise

The F-15EX this week completed its first operational testing exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, NV -- six months after the service had its first two aircraft on hand.

The Army's Precision Strike Missile is getting an upgrade:

Army, Lockheed plan to start work on anti-ship variant of PrSM by December

The Army and Lockheed Martin are aiming by the end of this year to begin incorporating a multimode seeker into the Precision Strike Missile -- adding a sensor that will give the long-range weapon an option to attack ships as well as surface targets -- expanding the service's inventory of so-called multidomain weapons, a capability intended to complicate China's response in a potential conflict.

Keep an eye out for an Air Force follow-on production contract for Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kits in FY-24:

Air Force projects new multiyear JDAM contract to be awarded in FY-24

The Air Force expects to award a follow-on production contract for Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kits in fiscal year 2024, a service spokeswoman said this week, with the new deal "likely" going to the program's current prime contractor, Boeing.

In case you missed it, we have a deep dive into the defense industry's efforts to get its workforce vaccinated against COVID-19:

DOD under pressure as contractors prep for possible disruptions triggered by vaccine mandate

Major defense companies are bracing for workforce and supply chain disruptions related to the federal mandate requiring all government contractors be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

By Audrey Decker
October 28, 2021 at 12:44 PM

A former Pentagon official is arguing the only way to save what is seen as an eroding industrial base is to build a new market bridge between the Navy and industry.

“Our military industrial base has continued to collapse. Meanwhile, new companies have grown up in this nation making amazing technology, but without a relationship with the military to begin with,” said Will Roper, former Air Force acquisition executive and the founder of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office.

Roper, now the chief executive officer of commercial drone company Volansi, and Brent Sadler, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation who focuses on Navy issues, discussed the need for a market bridge between the Navy and industry to develop future capabilities.

The Navy could be “a leader in the world” if they regulated new capabilities, like autonomy, and set the safety standards for developing these systems, Roper said today at a Heritage Foundation virtual event.

“I predict if the Navy did that, civilian regulators would say, ‘Thank you, I don’t have to figure it out, I’m going to do exactly what the Navy did,’ and the market would happen,” Roper added.

To make that happen, the Navy needs to focus on becoming “less of a procurer and more of a catalyst,” he said.

“Look what happens when we just procure: We shrink the industrial base and create generational programs. That’s a losing strategy,” Roper said.

The Navy needs to build a “digital ship,” representative of today’s technologies, and if it doesn’t, the consequences will be dire, Roper warned.

“We need to build a fourth industrial revolution ship today because if we don’t, someone else will and if there’s a military advantage to be had, they’ll have it,” he added.

If the Navy could realize that systems built for one purpose can do something else, it could also realize that it’s possible to take technology being built for a commercial purpose and seed it into the military space, according to Roper.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
October 28, 2021 at 12:15 PM

Oshkosh Corp. expects the military will slow its purchases of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle in the coming years, but that total acquisition objectives will remain stable, executives said today during the company's quarterly earnings call.

"We do expect that JLTV volumes are going to be lower, and that will put downward pressure on defense revenues," said Mike Pack, Oshkosh's chief financial officer and executive vice president.

Officials from Oshkosh Defense, the subsidiary that builds the JLTV, said recently the company remains committed to the program even after the Army shrank the size of a follow-on contract.

“The JLTV program will go well into the 2040s,” Oshkosh CEO John Pfeifer said on the earnings call. “It’s a great base business, and then we build on top of that some of these other programs.”

Sales for the JLTV, the partial humvee replacement, are expected to fall under the military’s fiscal year 2022 budget, and the lower figures will likely continue in FY-23, Pfeifer said.

The Medium Caliber Weapon System, an unmanned turret and 30 mm cannon that Oshkosh will integrate onto the Stryker vehicle, will begin production in FY-22, and that should make up some of the future defense revenue drop from the JLTV, Pack said.

Supply chain concerns dominated most of the analyst questions on the earnings call, which executives said were concentrated in non-defense portions of the company’s business.

“We just completed a challenging quarter, and we expect those challenges to continue for the coming quarters,” Pfeifer said. The company has added hundreds of new suppliers to make its supply chain more robust, although executives did not say if the defense segment added suppliers.

Oshkosh’s net sales for the quarter ending Sept. 30 were $2.1 billion, a 16% increase from the same period a year earlier. Adjusted operating income fell 16%, to $104 million, due to supply chain constraints and higher material costs.

Sales in the defense segment grew by 5%, to $650 million. Adjusted operating income fell to $50 million, down 10% from a year earlier. Last year’s results did not include Pratt Miller, which Oshkosh Defense bought in December.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
October 28, 2021 at 11:08 AM

Textron expects some employees will quit their jobs rather than comply with the coronavirus vaccine mandate for government contractors, and the company has accelerated its hiring of new workers, Textron's chief executive officer said today.

"There's no question that we're going to lose some employees because of this," Scott Donnelly said in response to an analyst question on the company's third-quarter earnings call. "It's a curveball we wish we didn't have, but we're managing our way through it."

The Defense Department has come under pressure from contractors over the vaccine mandate, which might lead to workforce and supply chain disruptions. All employees of federal contractors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

"It has created a lot of noise," Donnelly said. "It has not been well received by a pretty sizable portion of our employees."

Textron's revenue for the third quarter grew by 9% compared to the same period a year earlier, on a rebound in commercial aircraft sales, to $3 billion. Net income grew by 61%, to $185 million.

Revenue at Bell, which builds helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, fell by 3% on lower military revenues to $769 million. Profit for the division fell 12%, to $105 million. Bell delivered nine aircraft to the government in the quarter, the lowest number since the first quarter of 2020.

Bell is 60% done with building its prototype for the Army's Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft competition, Donnelly said.

Textron Systems, which makes a number of ground vehicles and drones, had $299 million in revenue, down 1%. Segment profit increased 13%, to $45 million. The withdrawal from Afghanistan hurt revenue growth in the division, according to the company.