The Insider

By John Liang
August 19, 2021 at 1:53 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the engine replacement effort for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more.

We start off with coverage of the F-35 engine replacement effort:

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 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.

The Air Force is still working through the more than 60 responses it received to a second request for information surrounding an expanded MQ-9 Reaper replacement search from this past spring, 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.

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.

By Audrey Decker
August 19, 2021 at 11:29 AM

The Navy's unmanned MQ-25 Stingray completed an air-to-air refueling test with the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye on Wednesday, the service announced today.

The test took place in MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, IL, according to a press release.

In June, the Navy completed its first-ever refueling from an unmanned tanker to an F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Once the MQ-25 is operational, it will be able to refuel every receiver-capable platform, according to the Navy.

"The Stingray's persistent mission tanking coupled with the E-2D's aerial refueling capability will transform the Hawkeye from an over-the-horizon airborne early warning platform limited to shorter missions in the carrier environment, to an asset capable of providing comprehensive battle management for extended periods from anywhere within the battlespace," the press release states.

A Boeing-led team previously conducted a virtual demonstration of manned-unmanned teaming using the MQ-25, the E-2D and the F/A-18 to demonstrate different teaming possibilities.

Boeing will complete another demonstration later this year. The MQ-25 program should be in flight test in 2023, according to Don Gaddis, Boeing's MQ-25 advanced design lead.

The Navy requested $47 million for the MQ-25 in its fiscal year 2022 budget.

By Tony Bertuca
August 18, 2021 at 4:25 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said today the Pentagon is committed to the ongoing evacuation of U.S. personnel and allies from Afghanistan.

Austin said during a Pentagon press conference the U.S. military is "laser focused" on keeping control of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in so it can ramp up the flow of people out of the country.

"We're going to get everyone that we can possibly evacuate evacuated . . . until the clock runs out or we run out of capability," he said.

Currently, that clock is set to run out Aug. 31.

"We're really working hard to get as many people through as possible," he said. "Our goal is to be able to increase our capacity going forward."

Austin said the United States has moved about 5,000 people out of Afghanistan since the Taliban took over. Earlier today, John Kirby, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said 2,000 people have been airlifted from Afghanistan in 18 flights over the past 24 hours.

The Pentagon's goal, Kirby said, is to move a maximum of between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day.

Though Austin said there have been no "hostile interactions" with the Taliban, Milley said U.S. troops there are still in "harm's way."

Milley said the U.S. military continues to communicate and "deconflict" with the Taliban forces that have seized control of most of the country, including the capital, Kabul.

Meanwhile, Milley said no one in the U.S. national security community predicted the fall of the Afghan military within an 11-day period.

"I can tell you that there are not reports that I am aware of that predicted a security force of 300,000 would evaporate in 11 days from 6 August to 16 August with the capture of 34 provinces and the capital city of Kabul," he said.

Milley said now is not the time for the Pentagon to run a "post-mortem" or after-action report on the chaotic evacuation operation, which he noted will likely be the second-largest, non-combatant evacuation the United States has ever executed.

"We are the United States military, and we will successfully evacuate all American citizens who want to get out of Afghanistan," he said. "Right now, there are troops at risk . . . there's going to be plenty of time to talk about regrets."

By John Liang
August 18, 2021 at 1:37 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the U.S. budgetary impact of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and more.

We start off with a deep dive into the budgetary implications of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan:

Fall of Kabul puts spotlight on billions sought to prop up Afghan military

The Pentagon, according to its spring budget request, anticipated spending $3.3 billion in fiscal year 2022 to bolster the Afghan military, but that force has since surrendered in the face of a swift and stunning onslaught by Taliban militants who recently seized control of the capital city of Kabul.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Army Brig. Gen. John Rafferty about the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program:

Army considering alternatives to autoloader for ERCA

The Army could use robotic technology from the Fire Faster initiative in the Extended Range Cannon Artillery in place of the government-designed autoloader, according to the director of the Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team.

The Pentagon announced this week that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan had agreed to a joint statement on NORAD modernization:

U.S., Canada set new framework for NORAD modernization, guide for future investments

The United States and Canada have adopted a new joint framework for modernizing North American Aerospace Defense Command capabilities to defend against advanced Russian and Chinese air- and sea-launched cruise missile threats, a policy step that lays the groundwork for future collaborative investments in new technologies across three broad areas: sensors, command and control, and interceptors.

The Navy has issued a new Intelligent Autonomous Systems strategy:

Navy's autonomous systems strategy details plan for investment

The Office of Naval Research has released a 20-page document detailing how the Navy will invest in Intelligent Autonomous Systems, noting investments must be focused because the commercial world is not investing in technologies that most benefit the Navy.

Document: Navy's IAS strategy

The Robotic Combat Vehicle will have a "symbiotic" relationship with the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman told Inside Defense in a recent interview:

RCV and OMFV could share components

The Robotic Combat Vehicle could use some of the same components as the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, including the software that powers autonomous features, according to the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

By Courtney Albon
August 18, 2021 at 10:20 AM

Raytheon Technologies announced this week it completed a critical design review for the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system Block 0 sensor payload.

The company's payload is competing with one being designed by a Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace team, which passed CDR earlier this summer. Lockheed Martin is developing the geosynchronous satellites and will work with the Space Force to select a final payload design.

Raytheon said in a press release this week the timing of the milestone is on pace with the program's schedule.

The Space Force expects the first Next-Gen OPIR satellite to launch in 2025.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
August 17, 2021 at 5:23 PM

The Army Requirements Oversight Council has approved a set of requirements for the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, according to the Future Vertical Lift Cross Cross-Functional Team.

AROC approved the Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document today, which will allow the service to enter a rapid prototyping phase on the program to replace the Textron RQ-7B Shadow drone. AROC did not mandate any changes to the A-CDD.

The FTUAS is designed to perform reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting assistance. It is supposed to have a smaller acoustic signature and fly in worse weather than the Shadow, and it will not require a runway.

The Army completed a test and demonstration in March that included drones from Textron, Arcturus, L3Harris and Martin, which followed a yearlong soldier touchpoint with the drones.

A full-rate production decision on the FTUAS, at which point the Army would choose a competitor, is scheduled for fiscal year 2024. The service included $79 million for the program in an unfunded priorities list sent to Congress this year, and officials have said fielding could be delayed without the funding.

By Aidan Quigley
August 17, 2021 at 3:12 PM

The Navy awarded Nebraska-based company 381 Constructors a $1.7 billion contract to build a multimission dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, the service announced Friday.

The contract will be incrementally funded, with the first $70 million paid at the time of the award. Work on the dry dock, which will be used for the Los Angeles- and Virginia-class submarine programs, is expected to be completed by June 2028, according to the contract announcement.

381 Constructors will build a partitioned addition to the shipyard’s Dry Dock #1 which will consist of two bays, labeled Dry Dock #1 North and Dry Dock #1 West. Both of the bays will be large enough to support the maintenance and overhaul of Virginia-class submarines.

"New construction will include concrete floors, walls, and center wall separating Dry Dock #1 North and Dry Dock #1 West, new pump well systems, pump station building, two caissons, portal crane rails, mooring hardware, mechanical and electrical utilities, utility tunnels, and all appurtenances required to ensure an operational dry dock," the contract announcement states.

The Navy received two proposals for the work, according to the contract announcement. 381 Constructors was selected "based on technical factors and price, which together constitute a best value to the government," according to a Navy press release announcing the contract.

The project is part of the Navy's Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, the service's 20-year, $21 billion plan to revitalize the nation's four public shipyards.

By Courtney Albon
August 17, 2021 at 3:05 PM

Raytheon announced today it has named former under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness Matt Donovan as vice president of customer engagement and solutions within its intelligence and space business.

Donovan most recently served as acting Air Force secretary and was previously the USD for personnel and readiness and the Air Force under secretary. He will take on the new role within Raytheon effective Aug. 23.

By John Liang
August 17, 2021 at 1:59 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Army's Robotic Combat Vehicle, the Marine Corps' CH-53K helicopter and more.

The Robotic Combat Vehicle will have a "symbiotic" relationship with the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, the planned Bradley replacement, Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman told Inside Defense in a recent interview:

RCV and OMFV could share components

The Robotic Combat Vehicle could use some of the same components as the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, including the software that powers autonomous features, according to the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

The Marine Corps started live-fire testing on a CH-53K ground test vehicle at China Lake, CA, in April 2020 and is set to complete it by November 2021:

Marine Corps: CH-53K meeting goals during live-fire testing on ground test vehicle

The Marine Corps' new CH-53K helicopter is meeting its goals during live-fire testing on a ground test vehicle, a Marine Corps spokeswoman told Inside Defense.

President Biden acknowledged the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed far sooner than the administration had anticipated:

Biden stands by decision to exit Afghanistan amid Taliban takeover

President Biden has defended his decision to withdraw the U.S. military from Afghanistan, despite the Taliban's swift takeover of most of the country, including the capital of Kabul, and the stunning images of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Some Ground-based Midcourse Defense system news:

MDA readies second GMD futures solicitation for SITR

The Missile Defense Agency has published the second of two new industry competitions planned for the continued sustainment and development of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system: Systems Integration, Test and Readiness (SITR).

The aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78) had successfully completed the third and final explosive shock test, wrapping up the four-month shock trial period:

Ford wraps up full ship shock trials

The Navy has concluded the full ship shock trials for the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78), the first carrier of its class.

By Courtney Albon
August 17, 2021 at 11:32 AM

The Space Force will officially activate Space Training and Readiness Command next week during a ceremony at Peterson Space Force Base, CO.

The Aug. 23 event will establish the service's third field command, following last week's official stand-up of Space Systems Command.

STARCOM will lead the Space Forces' training and education efforts. The service last year established a Space Training and Readiness Delta unit to serve as the "parent organization" to training and operational test units that shifted to the Space Force prior to STARCOM's establishment.

By Courtney Albon
August 16, 2021 at 4:22 PM

The Air Force recently awarded contracts to Kratos and General Atomics to continue development and experimentation on the Skyborg program.

The service announced the two deals today: up to $13.2 million for Kratos and its XQ-58A and as much as $7 million for General Atomics' MQ-20.

"These efforts will advance the integration of the Autonomous Core System along with continued operational experimentation through fiscal year 2022," the Air Force said in a press release. "The vehicles will demonstrate future warfighting capabilities through the teaming of manned and unmanned platforms at large-force test events."

Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Brig. Gen. Dale White told reporters last week the service may miss its FY-23 target for transitioning Skyborg to a program of record. White said while the original timeline is feasible, it's not clear where it fits among the service's other budget priorities.

"I just don't think we're ready to commit to that right now, and I think there's many other variables that go into that algorithm as to when we make that leap," he said.

In the press release today, White said the program will be ready to transition in FY-23 and will work closely with the service as it prepares its budget submission.

White said the contract awards are "strategically important" to Skyborg as the Air Force continues to explore how it might use the aircraft in the future.

The service has flown Skyborg's ACS twice, first on Kratos' UTAP-22 and later on General Atomics' MQ-20. The next exercise is planned for this fall.

Along with General Atomics and Kratos, Boeing is also slated to deliver aircraft to participate in Skyborg demonstrations. White said last week he expects Boeing's first aircraft to be ready "later in '22."

By John Liang
August 16, 2021 at 3:27 PM

Northrop Grumman recently announced it has added Graham Robinson to its board of directors.

Robinson is the senior vice president and president of STANLEY Industrial, a business segment of Stanley Black & Decker, a position he has held since April 2020, according to an Aug. 12 Northrop statement.

Prior to joining Stanley Black & Decker, Robinson was an executive with Honeywell for seven years, including roles as president of Honeywell Industrial Safety, president of Honeywell Sensing and IoT, and chief marketing officer of that company's Automation and Controls Solution division. He has also worked at Micron Technology, Samsung Electronics, AT&T Bell Laboratories and Motorola.

By John Liang
August 16, 2021 at 1:22 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, the Air Force's Skyborg unmanned aerial system and more.

Cyberspace Solarium Commission members want to work on getting adequate funding for proposals that were enacted in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act:

Solarium Commission plans to prioritize establishing Bureau of Cyber Statistics, codifying 'SICI'

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission's latest report focuses on setting up the body's recommendations for "sustained success," according to commission senior director Robert Morgus, who explained key priorities including the creation of a Bureau of Cyber Statistics and obtaining appropriations for other efforts at a Thursday event.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, recently spoke about the Skyborg unmanned aerial system:

Skyborg program of record transition may slip past FY-23

Originally expected to transition to a program of record in fiscal year 2023, a top official tied to the Air Force's Skyborg effort is backing off that timeline, telling reporters the program is poised to continue operational experimentation over the next several years.

Jo Cangianelli, the director of Northrop Grumman's launch and missile defense systems division, said company representatives will attend an upcoming Space Force National Security Space Launch program industry day:

Northrop eyeing next round of NSSL competition

As the Space Force plans for its next phase of competition for the National Security Space Launch program, Northrop Grumman officials said they are closely watching the process as they weigh whether to invest in a system to compete for that effort.

Inside Defense recently interviewed the Army's No. 2 top uniformed officer:

Martin: Look to 2030 for MDO-centric force structure changes

DETROIT ARSENAL, MI -- Army force structure changes, which would adapt the service to multidomain operations, could come around 2030, Gen. Joseph Martin, the vice chief of staff of the Army, told Inside Defense in a recent interview.

Army Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, spoke at last week's Space and Missile Defense symposium:

Directed Energy M-SHORAD to appear at Project Convergence 21

The Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense will participate in the Project Convergence 21 exercise this fall, according to Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.

By Courtney Albon
August 16, 2021 at 12:32 PM

The F-35 joint program office and Lockheed Martin this summer have deployed Operational Data Integrated Network hardware at two additional squadrons, the program announced last week.

The program installed one ODIN Base Kit (OBK) July 16 at Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA, on July 16 and a second at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, on Aug. 6. According to an Aug. 9 press release, the two deployments are the first of 14 installations scheduled through early 2022.

The JPO's announcement comes as the program is reevaluating its plans to transition from the F-35's Autonomic Logistics Information System -- which has been notoriously unreliable for maintainers -- to ODIN, a cloud-based system.

F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Eric Fick told lawmakers in April that Congress' 42% reduction to the program's research and development budget in fiscal year 2021 forced the JPO to implement a strategic pause for the transition. An updated schedule is now expected later this year or in early 2022.

With this summer's ODIN deployments, the program has now installed hardware at four locations. Last September, the JPO conducted more than 30 days of hardware tests at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, AZ. Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, also has an OBK installed to support integrated flight test operations.

The ODIN hardware replaces ALIS' unclassified Standard Operating Unit (SOU-U) with a much smaller system that costs 30% less than the legacy hardware, according to the JPO. The press release notes that the current plans is to replace all remaining SOU-U servers beginning in 2022.

The press release does not address the status of ODIN software development. The JPO had previously expected to field ODIN software next year, but Fick said in May the plan had been "scoffed at" by agile software experts who said the timeline was too aggressive.

By Audrey Decker
August 16, 2021 at 11:12 AM

The Navy has awarded over $2.7 billion in multiyear maintenance contracts for Littoral Combat Ships, the Defense Department announced Friday.

BAE Systems and Fincantieri Marine Systems North America were awarded a combined contract worth up to $1.3 billion to “support sustainment execution efforts” for LCS in Mayport, FL.

Austal USA, General Dynamics and multiple small businesses were also awarded a combined $965 million for sustainment efforts. And Life Cycle Engineering Inc., Neal Technical Innovations and Valkyrie Enterprises received a contract worth up to $499 million to support LCS sustainment.