The Insider

By Dan Schere
July 18, 2024 at 11:48 AM

The Army has laid out a plan to initiate a science and technology demonstration effort for hybrid-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft systems, according to a request for information posted this week.

The RFI will inform a request for proposals for a demonstration effort that will be funded under research, development, test and evaluation budget activity 6.3 -- an account that deals with advanced technology development efforts. This budget account involves the development and integration of “subsystems or components into system prototypes for field experiments and tests in order to demonstrate technological feasibility and assess operability and producibility,” according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

With the RFI, the Army intends to analyze various electric and hybrid propulsion aircraft technologies from both traditional defense contractors and others that are not affiliated with the Defense Department.

“For the Army, many questions remain about the viability of these systems for military missions. Internal analysis based on best available knowledge has shown specific power and energy limitations may present mission performance challenges,” the notice states.

For example, systems that only use battery power limit mission flexibility and require additional ground charging equipment and time, the RFI notes. However, a hybrid system could be advantageous, but the Army notes that a “high level of expertise is required to properly optimize a system that shows mission benefits.”

The Army is asking that industry technologies align with one of these mission descriptions:

  • A militarized, autonomous hybrid-electric VTOL or vertical-short-takeoff-and-landing (VSTOL) aircraft capable of frequent and routine logistics movement of supplies with a payload capacity of 1,200 to 2,000 pounds.
  • A small helicopter weighing between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds that is capable of extended, precision hover and can carry a payload of more than 1,200 pounds 200 nautical miles at 180 knots.
  • A medium-lift rotorcraft with improved range/payload capacity, operating and sustainment cost, fuel quantity use or safety.
  • Group 3 (less than 1,320 pounds) or 4 (more than 1,320 pounds) unmanned air vehicles using hybrid-electric technology to extend range and endurance, or provide good flight performance characteristics “in multiple flight regimes.”

The demonstration projects could start as early as fiscal year 2026 and “should complete no later than the end of FY-30,” according to the Army. The service anticipates a funding effort of $5 million to $7 million per year, according to the notice.

“While available funding is significant, it may be insufficient to solely fund the design, fabrication and test of a new-build aircraft. The Government is open to cost sharing/teaming opportunities with industry for technology demonstrations provided goals and schedules align, and data rights arrangements are suitable. The Government, however, does not intend to fund new test facilities under any future arrangements,” the notice states.

Responses to the RFI are due Aug. 30.

By Dan Schere
July 18, 2024 at 10:06 AM

Bell Textron’s revenues were up $93 million in the second quarter of calendar year 2024 compared with the second quarter of 2023, executives said in the company’s quarterly earnings call today.

The increase was due to higher military volume, which was primarily related to progress on the Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. It was partially offset by lower volume on the V-22 program, according to the company.

Textron President and CEO Scott Donnelly noted that Bell recently completed its preliminary design review for FLRAA, and it continues to place orders for long-lead materials as the program continues to ramp up.

Donnelly also pointed to other successes, such as the company being down selected for Phase 1B of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Speed and Runway Independent Technologies X-Plane program, and the Army’s selection of Textron for options 3 and 4 of the Future Tactical UAS program.

Donnelly expressed optimism overall for Bell’s military business outside of FLRAA and said there are opportunities for upgrades on the V-22 Osprey and H-1 helicopter programs.

“I do think that while the production unit volumes, obviously, will continue to ramp down, we will see some good flow of upgrade and modernization efforts on both the H-1 and V-22 lines. It will help to keep that solid as we start to ramp and really move towards a production mode of the FLRAA program,” he said.

During the call, an investor asked Donnelly about the impact of the Army’s decision in February to phase out the Shadow UAS platform. He said “from a modeling standpoint” Shadow is a $50 million business, but that he expects the impact of the program termination to be offset by revenue growth in other areas of the business.

“We’ve already obviously worked our way through what the revenue is going to be this year as we wound down from Q1 to Q2, so I’d say it’s fairly de minimis as we go through the balance of the year,” he said.

By Abby Shepherd
July 17, 2024 at 5:05 PM

The Navy plans to hold an industry day next month centered around the Submarine Launched Unmanned Aerial System and will present an overview of the program's fiscal year 2025 procurement strategy and other key updates.

The event -- to be held in Washington -- will give industry members a chance for one-on-one discussions with the Navy, according to a notice posted Tuesday. An overview of the SLUAS All-Up-Round support and handling system and life cycle support functions will be provided as well.

The SLUAS provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as surface warfare targeting capabilities. The program was formed in 2012 through the Joint Capability Technology Development initiative and reached middle-tiered acquisition in 2019.

The industry day follows a Navy announcement in June seeking manufacturing sources. The notice stated the Navy is not currently requesting proposals, yet added the program would ideally reach full-rate production within 12 months of a contract award.

In the posting, the Navy clarified that government purpose rights are desired, and any interested parties should “provide details of any limitations on technical data rights for the system.”

The upcoming industry day’s registration deadline is July 29.

By John Liang
July 17, 2024 at 2:38 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Defense Innovation Board, Deloitte Consulting getting a multibillion-dollar Navy contract and more.

The Defense Innovation Board met today:

DIB advises DOD to recombine acquisition and sustainment and research and engineering offices

The Defense Innovation Board said it will launch two new studies focused on expanding Defense Department partnerships with non-traditional companies and the effective development of small, cheap drones for Ukraine as it also provided final recommendations for two past studies, including combining the Office of Acquisition and Sustainment and Office of Research and Engineering into one office, reversing a 2018 congressional decision.

Deloitte Consulting is now the Navy's "Enterprise Integration Partner (EIP)," charged with delivering "systemic, holistic solutions to regional and broader submarine industrial workforce and industrial base challenges,” according to a service announcement:

Deloitte Consulting awarded $2.4 billion to orchestrate submarine production revival

The Defense Department has awarded Deloitte Consulting a contract worth as much as $2.4 billion over five years to bolster the submarine industrial base and improve production to a sustained rate of one Columbia- and two Virginia-class boats per year, according to a Monday notice.

The Air Force last year formally decided to modernize the F-35's existing engine rather than develop a completely new engine for the fifth-generation fighter, making Pratt the sole vendor for the project:

Pratt F135 engine upgrade completes preliminary design review

The Pratt & Whitney-made F135 engine has completed a preliminary design review for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's Engine Core Upgrade, putting the program on track to field by 2029, according to a company announcement.

The Joint Fires Network falls under the Pentagon's broader Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) effort, focusing specifically on prototyping needs to solve urgent combatant command priorities:

Joint Fires Network on track to deliver prototype 1.0 to INDOPACOM by end of year

A senior Pentagon official said today that the Joint Fires Network battle management system is on track to deliver prototype 1.0 to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command by the end of the year.

Task Force Lima, first established by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks last August to develop recommendations for the safe implementation of generative AI technologies, is led by Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer Radha Plumb:

Task Force Lima report on generative AI nears 'final stages'

Task Force Lima's report on generative artificial intelligence is in the "final stages" with a due date in August, according to a senior Pentagon official.

By John Liang
July 16, 2024 at 2:10 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's artificial intelligence-centered Task Force Lima, the Navy's next-generation DDG(X) large surface combatant and more.

We start off with the latest on Task Force Lima, first established by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks last August to develop recommendations for the safe implementation of generative AI technologies:

Task Force Lima report on generative AI nears 'final stages'

Task Force Lima's report on generative artificial intelligence is in the "final stages" with a due date in August, a senior Pentagon official said today.

The Navy is encouraging power and propulsion equipment manufacturers, power systems integrators and academics to share information with the service to further DDG(X) development:

Navy seeks more information on potential DDG(X) power and propulsion system

The Navy is expanding efforts to develop and design the DDG(X) large surface combatant's power and propulsion system, according to a request for information.

In a recent notice, the Marine Corps' Ground Based Air Defense (GBAD) program office is looking for mature, dismounted counter-small unmanned aircraft systems that can be carried by individual Marines or in light tactical vehicles for defense against group 1 and 2 UAS:

Marine Corps seeks input on dismounted counter-drone systems to inform emerging urgent requirement

The Marine Corps is looking for lightweight, "dismounted" air defense systems to detect, track and neutralize small drones, according to a July 15 request for information that indicates industry feedback will inform an emerging urgent requirement.

More coverage from the Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill:

Proposed advisory panel would consider 'clean-sheet' reform for weapon system requirements

The Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Pentagon to establish a new advisory panel that would help reform the requirements process used to procure U.S. weapon systems, including a "clean-sheet approach."

Lawmakers would authorize DOD to forge new air and missile defense ties with Jordan

Draft legislation would authorize the Defense Department to spearhead efforts to cooperate with Jordan on air and missile defense capabilities, a move that comes after the Hashemite Kingdom in April defended its airspace against Iranian threats launched toward Israel.

By Nick Wilson
July 16, 2024 at 12:22 PM

Two Connecticut House members have launched a new "maritime workforce campaign" in conjunction with the Navy and industry that aims to attract workers to the shipbuilding industry and improve submarine output, according to a Tuesday announcement from House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee Ranking Member Joe Courtney (D-CT).

The initiative, titled “Hire Hartford,” is a collaborative effort between Courtney, fellow House Democrat John Larson (CT), the Navy, Connecticut-based shipbuilder General Dynamics Electric Boat and other workforce partners and suppliers, according to the announcement.

Its purpose is to “build awareness for jobs across the maritime industry and connect workers to job training and employers,” the notice states, emphasizing the need to “meet submarine demand.”

Electric Boat’s Groton, CT shipyard is responsible for building both the Navy’s submarine programs -- Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and multimission Virginia-class boats -- in collaboration with HII’s Virginia-based Newport News Shipbuilding.

The companies are struggling to meet the Navy’s desired production schedules for both vessels due to a variety of factors including workforce and supply chain challenges. Both Electric Boat and HII are working to improve hiring and retention, with HII aiming to hire approximately 6,000 new personnel in 2024.

According to today’s announcement, the new initiative is based on the prior “Project Providence” campaign of 2023, which resulted in the hiring of 155 personnel at Electric Boat’s 2023 and 2024 Rhode Island signing day, compared to just 14 hires during the previous year’s event.

Additionally, Project Providence “more than doubled the number of workers who completed Rhode Island Trades Training, which prepares workers for metal trade jobs across the entire supply chain,” the notice adds.

While the Navy’s fiscal year 2025 budget proposes a five-year, $11.1 billion submarine industrial base investment intended to get Virginia submarine production back on track by FY-28, the service also moved to cut Virginia procurement to only one boat in FY-25 -- a move that prompted a backlash from many lawmakers, including Courtney.

By John Liang
July 15, 2024 at 1:34 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on missile defense in the Middle East, Army munitions supply chain chokepoints and more.

The Senate Armed Services Committee in its proposed fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill includes a provision that is intended to strengthen air and missile defense in the Missile East against Iran and its proxies across the region:

Lawmakers would authorize DOD to forge new air and missile defense ties with Jordan

Draft legislation would authorize the Defense Department to spearhead efforts to cooperate with Jordan on air and missile defense capabilities, a move that comes after the Hashemite Kingdom in April defended its airspace against Iranian threats launched toward Israel.

The committee is also calling on the Army secretary to submit a plan that would provide "options to establish secondary domestic production sources at existing arsenals, depots and ammunition plants of the Army to address munitions supply chain chokepoints":

Senate authorizers want Army to address munitions supply chain chokepoints

Senate authorizers want the Army to provide options to establish secondary domestic production sources within the service's manufacturing base to address chokepoints in the ammunition supply chain.

Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: annual South China Sea conference:

U.S. to continue strengthening involvement in Indo-Pacific in coming months, says defense official

The past year was "transformative" for the United States' force posture in the Indo-Pacific, with the Defense Department set to deliver more action in the coming months, a DOD official said this week.

F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt foresaw in April that the earliest an initial, incomplete yet training-capable variation of TR-3 software for the fifth-generation aircraft may arrive is "July of this summer":

JPO expects first delivery of F-35 enabled with truncated TR-3 software to begin soon

Deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enabled with a truncated version of the Technology Refresh-3 software upgrade will soon resume, putting an end to a temporary pause in aircraft deliveries until Lockheed Martin fixed a series of developmental issues, according to a statement issued today by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

A Naval Strike Missile multiyear procurement contract is due out next month:

Navy anticipates NSM multiyear award in August, but is unable to advance similar SM-6 deal

The Navy is preparing to award Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace a five-year, multiyear procurement contract for the Naval Strike Missile in August, after receiving authority and funding from Congress' fiscal year 2024 defense legislation, a Navy spokesperson told Inside Defense.

By John Liang
July 15, 2024 at 11:13 AM

Oshkosh Corp. announced today that Angela Ambrose has been hired as the company's new vice president of government operations.

Ambrose most recently worked as vice president for government relations and communications at General Motors Defense, according to the Oshkosh announcement. Prior to that, she was the defense portfolio government relations lead within Accenture's federal practice.

Ambrose has also served as the chief congressional strategist for Northrop Grumman's aerospace business.

Additionally, she worked on the senior legislative liaison teams in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Defense Department's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

By John Liang
July 15, 2024 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are slated to speak at various security conferences this week.

Monday

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Lt. Gen. Andrew Gebara speaks at a Mitchell Institute event.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a conversation on "AI Transformation at the DOD."

Wednesday

The Defense Innovation Board holds a public meeting.

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

Friday

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Vipin Narang speaks at a Center for a New American Security virtual event on "Adapting NATO's Nuclear Posture to Current Threats."

By John Liang
July 12, 2024 at 1:36 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an imminent Naval Strike Missile multiyear procurement contract and more.

We start off with some big F-35 Joint Strike Fighter news:

JPO expects first delivery of F-35 enabled with truncated TR-3 software to begin soon

Deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enabled with a truncated version of the Technology Refresh-3 software upgrade will soon resume, putting an end to a temporary pause in aircraft deliveries until Lockheed Martin fixed a series of developmental issues, according to a statement issued today by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

A Naval Strike Missile multiyear procurement contract is due out next month:

Navy anticipates NSM multiyear award in August, but is unable to advance similar SM-6 deal

The Navy is preparing to award Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace a five-year, multiyear procurement contract for the Naval Strike Missile in August, after receiving authority and funding from Congress' fiscal year 2024 defense legislation, a Navy spokesperson told Inside Defense.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing this week to consider the nominations of Tonya Wilkerson to be under secretary of defense for intelligence and security and Michael Sulmeyer to be assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy:

Senate Armed Services Committee holds confirmation hearing for intelligence and cyber positions

Tonya Wilkerson, the nominee to become the new under secretary of defense for intelligence and security, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing today that China remains the U.S.’s main challenge, a threat that, if confirmed, she would focus on.

Document: Senate hearing on intel, cyber nominations

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon final rule to establish CMMC program remains on track for November release

The Defense Department plans to finalize in November its first final rule for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program amending Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, according to the latest unified agenda and regulatory plan.

The head of the Air Force's Air Combat Command spoke at a Mitchell Institution event this week:

ACC chief wants to keep aging F-22s, says NGAD down select will happen this year

Air Force Air Combat Command boss Gen. Ken Wilsbach today said the service has no official plan to replace its fleet of F-22 Raptors, despite leaders for years saying a replacement would be the Next Generation Air Dominance system.

By Dan Schere
July 12, 2024 at 11:54 AM

The Army is asking for industry responses to a request for information published last month that seeks to identify potential sources for manufacturing the M284 155mm cannon tube.

The June 10 notice asks vendors to describe their ability to manufacture rifled, 155mm artillery cannon tubes as well as information about their facility location, manufacturing square footage, infrastructure age and number of workers. The notice asks companies to respond by July 17.

The Army produces cannons for the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, M1 Abrams tank M777 lightweight howitzer and the Air Force’s AC-130 gunship at Watervliet Arsenal, NY -- a service-owned and operated facility that dates back to the War of 1812.

With the RFI released last month, the government is “surveying the market for secondary sources,” and there is no intent to move production away from Watervliet, Army contract specialist Brianna Davis wrote in an email to Inside Defense this week.

“The government would evaluate sources who respond to assist in developing an acquisition strategy, determine market capability and identify commercial practices,” she wrote.

An award made to industry would “likely be binding by way of a government-to-private industry contract,” according to Davis.

By Nick Wilson
July 12, 2024 at 11:48 AM

Shipbuilder Austal USA broke ground this week on a new final steel assembly facility at its Mobile, AL yard that is scheduled to be complete and fully operational by the summer of 2026, according to a July 9 company announcement.

The project will include a new 192,000-square-foot, three-bay assembly building and a shiplift system capable of launching and docking vessels weighing over 18,000 long tons, including Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships, TAGOS-25 Ocean Surveillance Ships and Constellation-class frigates, the notice states.

Although the Mobile shipyard was initially designed to build aluminum vessels like the trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS and Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport, Austal began expanding the yard to accommodate steel production in 2021 when it broke ground on a steel panel line.

In addition to building surface ships, Austal has partnered with drone company Saildrone to produce autonomous unmanned surface vehicles at the shipyard as well as building submarine components for both the Columbia- and Virginia-class programs.

When the new final assembly facility is complete, the yard will encompass “a 117,000-square-foot steel panel line, two module manufacturing facilities totaling over one million square feet of covered manufacturing space optimized for serial production, and seven assembly bays providing over 400,000 square feet of indoor erection space,” the announcement continues.

By Dan Schere
July 12, 2024 at 10:23 AM

The Army has awarded a $251 million contract to Sikorsky for UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft that will be used for foreign military sales to Croatia and Jordan, according to a notice from the Pentagon posted Thursday.

The contract has an estimated completion date of June 30, 2027, according to the notice.

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin, noted in an announcement today that the foreign military sale will buy eight of the aircraft for Croatia, which will bring the country’s fleet to 12.

The deal includes aircraft, organizational equipment, spare and repair parts as well as associated support equipment, according to Sikorsky. The aircraft can support “troop lift, border security, counterterrorism, medical evacuation, search-and-rescue, resupply or external lift and combat support.”

Hamid Salim, Sikorsky’s vice president for Army and Air Force systems, said in a statement that “Croatia’s decision to acquire eight more of the latest generation UH-60M Black Hawks for its armed forces, tripling its fleet, will support ongoing modernization efforts and strengthen the Balkan region’s ability to deter current and future threats.”

By John Liang
July 11, 2024 at 2:15 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Sentinel nuclear missile program's cost, the Air Force pondering whether to keep older F-22 fighter aircraft and more.

We start off with more coverage of the Sentinel ICBM system's ballooning costs:

Lawmakers criticize Sentinel's ballooning cost

Lawmakers overseeing the Defense Department are criticizing the management of the Sentinel nuclear missile program as the price tag has jumped to $140.9 billion, but many still support the Pentagon's decision to continue the acquisition effort.

The head of the Air Force's Air Combat Command spoke at a Mitchell Institution event this week:

ACC chief wants to keep aging F-22s, says NGAD down select will happen this year

Air Force Air Combat Command boss Gen. Ken Wilsbach says the service has no official plan to replace its fleet of F-22 Raptors, despite leaders for years saying a replacement would be the Next Generation Air Dominance system.

More coverage of the Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill, including language on missile defense, Navy autonomous systems and the nuclear-armed, sea-launched missile program:

Draft bill eyes 'comprehensive integrated' domestic air and missile defense architecture

Draft legislation would require the Pentagon to develop a "comprehensive" integrated architecture to defend the United States against all missile types -- ballistic, cruise and hypersonic -- and assign an official responsibility for identifying the collection of radar, command and control and guided missiles or non-kinetic systems.

Senate policy bill pushes Navy to develop 'dual-modality' autonomous systems

The Senate version of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill directs the Navy to invest in developing "dual-modality" autonomous systems, authorizing an $18 million addition to the service's research and development budget to experiment with up to seven uncrewed vehicles.

Senate authorizers signal strong support for nuclear-armed, sea-launched missile

Senate authorizers are pushing the nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile program forward, with a new provision that would limit the Navy secretary's travel if certain steps are not taken to further establish the program.

Last but by no means least, the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon final rule to establish CMMC program remains on track for November release

The Defense Department plans to finalize in November its first final rule for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program amending Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, according to the latest unified agenda and regulatory plan.

By Georgina DiNardo
July 11, 2024 at 2:14 PM

The Defense Department today announced an additional security assistance package for Ukraine, including air defense systems, munitions and anti-tank weapons worth an estimated $225 million, with the announcement coming on the heels of the NATO summit in Washington.

This marks the 61st tranche of equipment the Biden administration has provided Ukraine, totaling more than $54.4 billion in security assistance, DOD said today.

At the NATO summit earlier this week, President Biden announced the U.S. is working together with Germany, Romania, the Netherlands and Italy to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses by supplying five strategic air defense systems, like Patriot batteries and SAMP/T systems.

The package announced today after a meeting between Biden and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy includes supplying one additional Patriot battery. A previous Pentagon fact sheet noted that the U.S. has already supplied Ukraine with one Patriot battery since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.

However, a February Defense Department I.G. report found that there was no lifecycle sustainment strategy for the Patriot air defense systems the Pentagon delivered to Ukraine, although the department was working on sustainment efforts.

Today’s package also includes munitions for national advanced surface-to-air missile systems; stinger anti-aircraft missiles; ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems; 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds; tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided equipment and missiles; Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems; demolitions munitions; and spare parts for maintenance.

“The United States will continue to work together with some 50 Allies and partners to ensure Ukraine's brave defenders receive the critical capabilities needed to fight Russian aggression,” DOD said.