The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
August 25, 2021 at 11:45 AM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo today directing all military service secretaries to immediately begin full vaccinations of all U.S. troops against COVID-19.

The order follows the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance,” according to the Defense Department.

Servicemembers who have already become voluntarily immunized with vaccines released under the FDA’s emergency authorization policy will be considered fully vaccinated.

“Service members who are actively participating in COVID-19 clinical trials are exempted from mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 until the trial is complete in order to avoid invalidating such clinical trial results,” DOD said.

Austin has also directed the military to “impose ambitious timelines” for fully vaccinating all U.S. troops, DOD said.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said today approximately 68% of the active-duty force has been fully vaccinated, while 76% have had at least one dose.

Kirby said troops can apply for exemptions on religious our medical grounds. Any troops refusing the vaccine for other reasons will have to answer to their chain of command after being offered counseling by a physician.

“This is a lawful order,” he said. “It hasn't been a problem in the past with other vaccines. . . . It's our expectation that troops will obey lawful orders.”

By Audrey Decker
August 24, 2021 at 4:21 PM

The Navy’s T-AO 205 John Lewis Fleet Oiler delivery date is delayed to March of next year.

“The delay was predominately driven by the flooding of the graving dock,” Navy spokeswoman Jamie Koehler told Inside Defense.

The Navy christened the T-AO 205 last month, the first ship in the fleet oiler program.

The second ship, T-AO 206 Harvey Milk, is 81% complete and is planned to launch later this year with delivery scheduled for the first quarter of FY-23, Koehler said.

The Navy’s fiscal year 2022 budget called for one T-AO 205 class oiler and eight ships in total.

By Thomas Duffy
August 24, 2021 at 3:55 PM

Tuesday’s INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a space acquisition shakeup, the Missile Defense Agency’s No. 1 program, an Army robotics effort, microelectronics, and more.

The new Air Force secretary announced a reorganization for the service’s space acquisition office:

Kendall announces major reorganization of space acquisition

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall today announced a significant reorganization of the service’s space acquisition directorate that will create a new Space Force acquisition and integration office, adding that he’s working through a short list of candidates to recommend for the new Space Force acquisition executive role.

An upgrade to a major missile defense project will add more interceptors:

DOD estimates GMD SLEP will add additional ‘missiles’ to GBI inventory, grow fleet beyond 44

The Defense Department believes it can increase the inventory of Ground-based Interceptors by integrating existing components with new hardware acquired through the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), giving U.S. commanders more than 44 guided missiles to counter North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Army is expanding its use of robotics:

Army adds leader-follower tech to artillery resupply vehicle

DETROIT ARSENAL, MI -- The Army has added its leader-follower autonomous driving technology to an artillery resupply vehicle, and it could be added to self-propelled howitzers in the future, service officials said last month.

The lead scientist for the Air Force says America should make a big investment in microelectronics:

Investments, goal-setting needed in microelectronics, USAF chief scientist says

The Air Force’s chief scientist is calling on policymakers to not only invest in new microelectronics technologies, but also help shape goal-setting around those investments, as the service and defense officials seek to make the area a budget priority in the next fiscal year.

New radar technology may be coming for North America:

NORAD lobbying for next-gen, over-the-horizon technology in North Warning System modernization

The top military official responsible for defending U.S. and Canadian airspace is lobbying for the two nations to invest in an advanced, next-generation sensor system capable of seeing beyond the horizon and detecting a wide range of threats -- from large bombers to small, unmanned aircraft -- advocacy that is likely to influence future plans to replace NORAD’s centerpiece radar network: the North Warning System (NWS).

By Ethan Sterenfeld
August 24, 2021 at 3:53 PM

The Army has begun a competition for companies to supply the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station for five years under a contract that could be worth nearly $1.5 billion, according to a contract solicitation posted August 23.

One contractor will win a hybrid firm fixed-price, indefinite delivery contract to produce CROWS, according to the solicitation.

The winner will supply a number of CROWS variants, including the Abrams CROWS-Low Profile, Navy Mk-50, Marine Corps Amphibious Remote Weapon Station and Stryker versions, according to the solicitation. Accessory kits, spare parts and upgrades for CROWS units will be included in the contract.

Bids for the contract are due November 22.

Kongsberg Defense currently builds the CROWS, stabilized mounts that typically control machine guns on a range of systems, from light tactical vehicles to tanks. Some new CROWS include the Javelin anti-tank missile.

By Courtney Albon
August 24, 2021 at 2:55 PM

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- The commander of U.S. Space Command today announced the organization has achieved initial operational capability.

Speaking at the Space Symposium here, Gen. James Dickinson said SPACECOM is “a very different command today at IOC then we were at stand-up in 2019.”

Some of SPACECOM’s major milestones include receiving assigned components from the services, standing up two functional components, establishing a headquarters for the command and entering into more than 100 space operations-related data sharing agreements.

“Simply put -- U.S. Space Command is ready to deter conflict and, if necessary, defeat aggression,” Dickinson said.

By Briana Reilly
August 24, 2021 at 12:22 PM

The Air Force has released a second request for information surrounding the Next Generation Aerial Target as officials are poised to again consider potential development of the fifth-generation training and testing tool.

The RFI, published Friday, comes some two years after the service put out its first request for the target in March 2019, though at that time, “funding priorities did not permit further action on this effort,” service spokeswoman Lena Lopez told Inside Defense.

The language in the two RFIs are largely identical, but Lopez said the new notice comes as the government seeks “insight into any new technologies, and maturity of existing technologies that may have emerged/progressed” over the last two years.

That information, she said, would help inform the schedule, performance, cost and risk estimates should the effort move forward.

The request is seeking sources with the ability “to design, integrate, build, test and manufacture an affordable suite of aerial target solutions and payloads” to bolster testing, training and tactics development at a unit cost of less than $10 million. The targets, which include both destructible and reusable assets, should be capable of supporting radio frequency and electronic attack emissions from representative Chinese J-20, Russian Su-57 and others, per the document.

Responses are due Oct. 19, according to the listing. Lopez said beyond that, “budget priorities and capability needs will determine whether the [Defense Department] will pursue any action going forward.”

By Aidan Quigley
August 24, 2021 at 10:50 AM

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has named Meredith Berger, the current assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment, as the acting under secretary of the Navy effective Wednesday.

Berger is succeeding acting under secretary Hondo Geurts, who assumed the position in February after serving as the Navy’s acquisition executive from December 2017 to January 2021. Geurts is retiring after 34 years of government service.

Berger previously served as the deputy chief of staff to the Navy secretary from 2014 to 2017, and has also held other positions at the Defense Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Department of Financial Services.

The Senate confirmed Del Toro as Navy secretary earlier this month.

By Briana Reilly
August 23, 2021 at 5:51 PM

The Utah Air National Guard demonstrated the use of Tactical Targeting Network Technology with a KC-135 Stratotanker for the first time in a flight earlier this month as part of a push to support the Air Force’s role in implementing the broader Joint-All Domain Command and Control framework.

The Aug. 7 flight which occurred during the guard’s Wingman Day and 75th anniversary event, showcased a streaming connection between a KC-135, airborne contracted aircraft and mobile ground party and “successfully demonstrated advanced communication, mission computing and sensor technologies,” according to a service news release issued Sunday.

The demonstrated TTNT connectivity, a tactical datalink that sends information through networks such as JADC2 and the Air Force’s own Advanced Battle Management System, was paired with an upgraded KC-135 that was first upgraded with Link 16 communication capabilities in July 2020, per the release.

The KC-135, called Aircraft 0275, has been used to test the real-time information in the cockpit system, which provided the tanker with the NATO-standard datalink, Link 16, as well as other communications and situational awareness upgrades.

Col. Douglas Foster, 151st Operations Group commander, said the demonstration “showed that with minor modifications to the RTIC system, the bounds are almost limitless to what we can do with a 60-year-old aircraft.”

He added that future technology demonstrated on the KC-135, such as defensive systems and force multiplying capabilities, can be transferred to aircraft such as KC-46 tankers and others “at a much lower program risk level to individual aircraft programs.”

In the spring, Air Mobility Command Commander Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost said she expected the KC-135 would eventually carry a communications pod, a node called Capability Release One that’s currently set to be installed on the KC-46 tanker to bolster data flow between the F-22 and F-35 as part of the ABMS program.

The release didn’t mention that possibility, though it stated: “Giving the KC-135 the situational awareness via advanced tactical datalinks is the first step in creating a survivable tanker force while buying down technological risk to almost all mobility Air Force aircraft.”

By Thomas Duffy
August 23, 2021 at 3:40 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on cruise missile defense, a new Lockheed radar and cybersecurity certification.

We start off with news about cruise missile defense around the nation’s capital:

VanHerck: unfunded Elevated Radar ‘crucial’ to protecting U.S. leadership in DC from cruise missile strike

The head of the binational North American Aerospace Defense Command said he is eyeing a “crucial” new ground-based sensor to help defend Washington, DC, from long-range, high-speed, difficult-to-detect Russian cruise missiles that could be used to disrupt strategic decision-making -- or even decapitate U.S. leadership.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, who is also head of U.S. Northern Command, explained why he believes the Defense Department needs an additional $27.2 million in fiscal year 2022 beyond the Pentagon’s base budget request for an Elevated Radar project that he said would provide a “proof of concept” for the new sensor.

Lockheed is making improvements to one of its counterfire radars:

Lockheed to add digital architecture to Q-53

Lockheed Martin is developing an upgrade to the Q-53 counterfire target acquisition radar that will provide the system with a new digital backbone using components borrowed from the Sentinel A4.

Mark Mekker, Lockheed's director of Army radar programs, told Inside Defense in an August 10 interview this will be the first major upgrade to the system since the company finished building the Army’s production objective of 189 Q-53 radars. Lockheed won a three-year upgrade contract in July. 212450

And news from the world of cybersecurity:

CMMC final rule update could come this fall

The Defense Department in the fall could have a decision on the status of the implementation of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program’s final rule, the chief executive officer of the program’s accreditation body said today.

The Pentagon in September 2020 issued an interim final rule to implement CMMC and an internal review of the program was ordered in March.

By Tony Bertuca
August 23, 2021 at 2:13 PM

Huntington Ingalls Industries announced today former Navy spokesman Danny Hernandez will be the company’s new corporate director of public affairs.

Hernandez will succeed Beci Brenton, who intends to retire Oct. 31.

Prior to joining HII, Hernandez served as director of communications to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

By Audrey Decker
August 23, 2021 at 12:57 PM

The Navy will release a request for proposals to help maintain the service’s afloat enterprise system.

Contractors will have the opportunity to win a 10-year contract to work on the Navy’s Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise, according to a notice issued Aug. 16.

CANES provides the infrastructure required to succeed in the cyber warfare tactical domain, according to the notice.

“CANES represents a key aspect of the Navy's modernization planning by upgrading cybersecurity, command and control, communications and intelligence systems afloat, and by replacing unaffordable and obsolete networks,” the notice stated.

This contract will be overseen by the Office of Naval Information Warfare Systems.

The Navy will issue a request for proposals at the end of fiscal year 2021 or beginning of FY-22.

By Tony Bertuca
August 23, 2021 at 11:43 AM

The Pentagon said today it will soon mandate vaccinations for all U.S. troops following the Food and Drug Administration’s new approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

At a briefing today, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby reminded reporters that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced his intent to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month upon approval from the FDA.

“Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance requiring all servicemembers to be vaccinated,” he said.

Kirby said a timeline for vaccination completion will be provided in the coming days.

“It's important to remind everyone that these efforts ensure the safety of our servicemembers and promote the readiness of our force not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live,” he said.

By Aidan Quigley
August 23, 2021 at 11:42 AM

The Marine Corps announced Friday that Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 had conducted the first-of-its-kind cross-deck aviation mission with an F-35B from a foreign aircraft carrier.

The service said an F-35B aircraft launched Friday from the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and landed on the amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) to “load ordnance, refuel, and strike follow-on objectives.”

The mission was the first time in “modern history” that the United States cross-decked aircraft for a mission with a foreign aircraft carrier, according to the Marine Corps’ press release. The mission reflects the service’s increased distributed maritime operations ability, the Marine Corps said.

“The multi-national maritime aviation operation extends the reach of the F-35, enabling the 5th-generation aircraft to effect objectives farther away, for extended amounts of time, and with increased ordnance capacity,” the Marine Corps said.

By Tony Bertuca
August 23, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to publicly discuss a variety of national security issues this week.


The Space Symposium begins. The event runs through Thursday.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on sustaining U.S. microelectronics leadership.


The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion with the chief of U.S. Strategic Command.


The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on implementing “mosaic warfare.”

By John Liang
August 20, 2021 at 11:27 AM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a new Marine Corps robotically controlled, ship-killing ground vehicle and more.

The Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) recently hit a target as part of a major exercise:

USMC test fires NMESIS during major exercise, validating design ahead of key milestone review

The Marine Corps says it successfully demonstrated its new robotically controlled, ship-killing ground vehicle during Large Scale Exercise 21, launching a pair of cruise missiles from an unmanned tactical vehicle in Hawaii and sinking an at-sea target, a significant development for the service's No. 1 ground vehicle modernization priority.

General Electric is lobbying military officials to pick its F-35 engine replacement proposal:

GE makes case for F-35 engine replacement, touts 'leapfrog' technology matured through AETP

As the F-35 joint program office considers future propulsion system modernization options, General Electric is arguing for an F135 engine replacement the company says would outpace technology offered through an incremental upgrade approach.

The Army has revealed that Northrop Grumman has dropped out of the competition to develop a short-range air defense laser:

Raytheon to provide laser for DE M-SHORAD after Northrop drops out

Raytheon Technologies will supply the laser for the prototype platoon of four Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense systems the Army plans to field in fiscal year 2022, after competitor Northrop Grumman dropped out of the program, according to service officials.

The Air Force is still working through more than 60 responses it received this past spring to a second request for information surrounding an expanded search for an MQ-9 Reaper replacement, a review that comes as officials work to upgrade the existing fleet:

Air Force determining next steps as service moves away from 'MQ-Next' direct replacement

With the Air Force moving away from seeking a direct replacement follow-on to the MQ-9, officials are assessing their next steps as they determine how a multirole unmanned aerial system could integrate with the broader force design going forward, according to a service spokesman.

More Reaper news:

ANG 'Ghost Reaper' demos are one leg of push 'to synchronize MQ-9 modernization'

The Air National Guard 174th Attack Wing's recent demonstration of a host of new MQ-9 capabilities within the Ghost Reaper suite is one leg of a synchronized push to "create an aircraft that is far more capable than any one service or organization could make on its own," the wing's chief of weapons and tactics told Inside Defense this week.