The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
December 1, 2022 at 4:19 PM

The State Department has notified Congress that it has approved a $380 million sale to Finland of Stinger missiles that have proved especially critical in Ukraine's defense against an ongoing Russian invasion.

Finland, which requested membership in NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, wants to purchase 350 FIM-92K Stinger Man-Portable missiles and five Production Verification Flight Test FIM-92K Stinger Man-Portable missiles, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

“It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist Finland in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability,” DSCA said. “The proposed sale will improve Finland’s defense and deterrence capabilities. Finland intends to use these defense articles and services to increase its national stock. This critical platform will bolster the land and air defense capabilities in Europe’s northern flank, supporting the U.S. European Command’s top priorities.”

The principal contractors will be Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Tucson, AZ and Lockheed Martin Corporation, Syracuse, NY.

“There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale,” DSCA said.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials and lawmakers are pushing the U.S. industrial base to build more missiles and munitions to aid allies and replenish U.S. stockpiles.

By John Liang
December 1, 2022 at 2:00 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a billion-dollar Army contract for surface-to-air missile systems meant for Ukraine and more.

The Pentagon this week announced a billion-dollar contract for six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System batteries destined for Ukraine:

Army awards contract for more than $1B in missile system batteries, training, support for Ukraine

The Army awarded a contract to Raytheon Missiles & Defense for up to $1.2 billion to provide missile defense system batteries, training and support for Ukraine's military and security, the service announced Wednesday.

Weapon systems used in Ukraine have exploited vulnerabilities in the roofs of combat vehicles, where defense companies around the world have previously removed armor to save weight:

BAE: Looser Army requirements empowered vehicle bid to adapt to threats seen in Ukraine

Increased flexibility in requirements for the Army's competition to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle has enabled BAE Systems to adapt its proposal to leverage new information coming out of the war in Ukraine, a company executive said Wednesday.

AM General recently delivered to the Army’s program manager for towed artillery systems a pair of Extended Range Soft Recoil systems for live fire and mobility testing at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, after receiving a July contract potentially worth $16 million:

Live-fire testing of prototype 155mm cannons eyes next-gen highly mobile artillery fleet

The Army will begin experimenting with prototype big guns in the Arizona desert next week to assess the potential for mounting artillery on wheeled vehicles, conducting live-fire tests of extended-range, soft-recoil technology paired with new tubes, including a Next-Generation Cannon, to possibly replace towed systems now vulnerable to counterbattery fire.

The Pentagon's latest report on the Chinese military looks at three potential threats to Guam:

DOD eyes China's Renhai-class cruisers, H-6K bombers and DF-26 as key Guam threats

The Pentagon's new status report on China's military power highlights three potential threats to Guam -- advanced air, sea and ground systems -- that could credibly strike U.S. military bases on the Western Pacific U.S. territory and complicate any attempt by Washington to counter a Beijing offensive against Taiwan.

A new Congressional Budget Office report released this week examines the age and condition of buildings used by the active Army and assesses their renovation and maintenance costs:

CBO: Highest maintenance costs for Army buildings are in admin, supply, operation and training

With a price tag of more than $50 billion to renovate, modernize and eliminate a maintenance backlog for thousands of Army buildings, the costs will be highest for buildings in administration, supply and operation and training, a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office found.

By Tony Bertuca
December 1, 2022 at 12:23 PM

The Senate voted 92-3 on Wednesday to confirm Robert Storch as Defense Department inspector general, making him the first Senate-confirmed official at that post since January 2016.

Storch was nominated for the job one year ago but, like many other Pentagon nominees, he became entangled in the Senate confirmation process, where Republicans have been blocking President Biden’s picks for months.

Prior to his DOD IG confirmation, Storch served since January 2018 as the first IG at the National Security Agency to be appointed by a president, having been nominated to that post by former President Trump.

Storch will be assuming the job at a time when some lawmakers, watchdog organizations and defense analysts have voiced concern about overseeing tens of billions of dollars in emergency spending being used to provide military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

The Pentagon has not had a Senate-confirmed IG in place since John Rymer left the job in January 2016.

Sean O’Donnell, the IG for the Environmental Protection Agency, served as the acting DOD IG, put in place in April 2020 by Trump after the demotion -- follow by the resignation -- of Glenn Fine, who had been acting in the position since January 2016.

Fine resigned amid fierce criticism of Trump, who removed several inspectors general over a period of weeks in the spring of 2020.

Prior to losing his reelection bid, Trump nominated Jason Abend for the DOD watchdog post. At the time, Abend was a senior policy adviser at Customs and Border Protection and was criticized by lawmakers during his confirmation process for having never served as an IG before. He was never confirmed by the Senate.

The Government Accountability Office, meanwhile, said in June that O’Donnell was unlawfully serving as acting DOD IG as his posting there was in violation of the 210-day period stipulated by the Vacancies Act.

The Senate still has nine DOD officials it must confirm before the end of the year or their nominations will need to be resubmitted.

The Biden administration has also nominated a host of other DOD officials who have not yet had Senate hearings and will likely need to be resubmitted early next year.

One such official is Nickolas Guertin, who was confirmed as director of operational test and evaluation less than a year ago but has been nominated to be the Navy's new assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition. Russell Rumbaugh, who was nominated to serve as Navy comptroller in March, also remains stalled.

By Michael Marrow
November 30, 2022 at 4:34 PM

The Space Force will activate its component of U.S. Central Command on Dec. 2, the command announced in a news release.

U.S. Space Forces-Central, or SPACECENT, will initially consist of 28 servicemembers and will be led by Col. Christopher Putman, CENTCOM said in the Nov. 30 release.

Activating the component will, according to CENTCOM, enable better coordination for the use of space assets and give the Space Force a more direct role in regional operations.

“Just as the evolution of space as a warfighting domain necessitated the establishment of a separate service, SPACECENT provides CENTCOM a subordinate command focused solely and continuously on space integration across the command -- with all domains and all components,” Putman said in the release.

SPACECENT is the third service component to be activated at a unified combatant command following Space Operations Command at U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Forces, Indo-Pacific at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The INDOPACOM component, called USSPACEFOR-INDOPAC, was activated Nov. 23.

As one of 11 combatant commands, CENTCOM coordinates joint force operations in the Middle East. The command is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, FL.

By Dan Schere
November 30, 2022 at 4:25 PM

The Army is asking industry to submit prototype proposals for the newest version of its Joint Effects Targeting System by early February.

The request for prototype proposals, posted last week, is the latest step the service has taken to solicit information from the private sector in developing the JETS II. The proposals are due Feb. 2.

The RPP states the Army intends to integrate a military code global positioning system receiver, and that it will handle call-for-fire missions for “coordinate seeking, laser guided and conventional munitions.”

JETS allows soldiers to “engage targets with precision munitions” in addressing a “high-priority capability gap for a lightweight, highly accurate targeting system,” according to the Army. The service included $10.3 million in its fiscal year 2023 budget request for JETS procurement, down from $62 million in FY-22.

The Army included $10.9 billion for JETS II research, development, test and evaluation for FY-23. According to budget documents, JETS II will be an “advanced, lighter weight precision targeting system” that will feature better targeting sensors, weigh less and use less power.

In June, the Army held an industry day in which the service presented information about the schedule and contracting efforts for JETS II, and for vendors to present their ideas.

The RPP states that prototype development will consist of up to two competitive other transaction authority agreements, meaning that they will not be contracts or grants. The OTA will be a cost-plus fixed-fee agreement and the performance period will be 30 months, according to the government.

A panel made up of government personnel, experts from Johns Hopkins University, CACI International and QinetiQ will evaluate the proposals, the RPP states.

Reviews of the proposals are scheduled to begin on Feb. 3, with a projected award date of May 24.

After the prototyping phase is complete for JETS II, the Army will select one vendor for low-rate initial production, the RPP states.

By Tony Bertuca
November 30, 2022 at 4:21 PM

House and Senate lawmakers have finished their annual defense authorization bill, agreeing to a topline that would support roughly $858 billion in total defense spending -- which is covered by multiple bills -- for fiscal year 2023, around $45 billion more than the White House has requested, according to congressional sources.

A final version of the bill is expected to be released Friday, with the House planning a vote early next week and the Senate some time in the next two and a half weeks.

Staffers stressed the schedule remains in flux.

The massive policy bill would, among a host of other things, authorize a total of $847 billion that is aligned with an overall national defense topline of $858 billion, with the difference being accounted for by defense-related spending in other legislation that is not under the bill’s jurisdiction. President Biden, meanwhile, has requested $813 billion.

The new FY-23 topline comes from a version of the bill crafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee. A House-passed version of the bill was $8 billion less.

Thirteen GOP senators, meanwhile, have pledged to vote against the defense authorization bill unless the Pentagon backs off COVID-19 vaccine mandates, though staffers said they still anticipate the bill to pass before the end of the year and those senators alone cannot block the bill’s passage.

The final defense topline, which was first reported by Politico, is ultimately up to congressional appropriators. Lawmakers, however, remain mired in omnibus negotiations and the federal government is operating under a stopgap continuing resolution that expires Dec. 16. Congress will need to reach a spending deal or pass an extension before then to avoid a government shutdown.

Additionally, the White House is seeking $38 billion in emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine, with $21 billion for the Defense Department.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress in a letter this week that the Pentagon needs a full FY-23 appropriations package passed by the end of the calendar year.

“Failure to do so will result in significant harm to our people and our programs and would cause harm to our national security and our competitiveness,” Austin said.

By John Liang
November 30, 2022 at 2:27 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Army building maintenance costs, the three biggest Chinese threats to Guam and more.

A new Congressional Budget Office report released this week examines the age and condition of buildings used by the active Army and assesses their renovation and maintenance costs:

CBO: Highest maintenance costs for Army buildings are in admin, supply, operation and training

With a price tag of more than $50 billion to renovate, modernize and eliminate a maintenance backlog for thousands of Army buildings, the costs will be highest for buildings in administration, supply and operation and training, a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office found.

Document: CBO report on Army deferred maintenance backlog costs

The Pentagon's latest report on the Chinese military looks at three potential threats to Guam:

DOD eyes China's Renhai-class cruisers, H-6K bombers and DF-26 as key Guam threats

The Pentagon's new status report on China's military power highlights three potential threats to Guam -- advanced air, sea and ground systems -- that could credibly strike U.S. military bases on the Western Pacific U.S. territory and complicate any attempt by Washington to counter a Beijing offensive against Taiwan.

More on that report:

DOD: China's nuclear breakout continues

The Pentagon, in a new report, says it believes China will have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, continuing a surge previously categorized as a "strategic breakout" by a top U.S. military commander.

Document: DOD's 2022 China military power report

Army leaders in recent weeks have said the effectiveness and importance of unmanned aerial systems has been a key takeaway from the war in Ukraine:

Army seeking new self-detonating drones due to success in Ukraine

The Army is interested in bulking up its loitering munitions, or self-detonating drones, after observing the effectiveness of the systems in the war in Ukraine, according to a Nov. 28 request for information issued by Army Futures Command.

The latest on the Navy's expeditionary advanced base operations efforts:

Navy warfare lab develops concept for logistics tool after EABO-focused event

A Navy warfare laboratory has developed a concept for a logistics tool to aid naval forces after the department hosted an internal think-tank competition focused on expeditionary warfare.

By Michael Marrow
November 30, 2022 at 1:57 PM

The Air Force has awarded Boeing $398 million to deliver two additional KC-46A tankers to Japan, the Pentagon announced Nov. 29.

The contract modification will deliver a total of six Pegasus tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Boeing said in a press release, raising the nation’s planned KC-46 fleet from four to six.

Japan is the first foreign customer to fly the aircraft following approval from the State Department for an original sale of four tankers in 2016, though Israel is also on contract for up to eight.

Work will complete on the contract by June 30, 2025, the award announcement says, about four months before an anticipated delivery date for a fix for the KC-46’s Remote Vision System, called RVS 2.0.

By Audrey Decker
November 30, 2022 at 12:53 PM

The America-class amphibious assault carrier Tripoli (LHA-7) returned from its maiden deployment on Tuesday, after operating for seven months in the Indo-Pacific.

Homeported in San Diego, CA, Tripoli operated under Expeditionary Strike Group 3 in 3rd and 7th Fleets, according to today’s press release.

The Navy and Marine Corps tested the lightning carrier concept during the deployment -- operating 16 F-35B jets aboard the ship. The service stated this proves amphibious assault ships can be a “lethal addition” to the force.

“Whether it was launching and recovering aircraft at night, acting as a base of operations for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to conduct operations ashore, or serving as an instrument of diplomacy to our ally and partner nations, the crew performed their duties professionally and demonstrated why they are the Navy’s greatest asset,” said Tripoli’s commanding officer Capt. John Kiefaber in a statement.

The next ship of the America class -- Bougainville (LHA-8) -- is under construction at HII. Ingalls Shipbuilding was recently awarded a contract for LHA-9.

The Navy’s fiscal year 2023 budget request pushes LHA-10 out to 2031, which is about a nine- or 10-year gap in production from LHA-9. Lawmakers are hoping to move the LHA-10 schedule to the left in the final defense policy bill to avoid a cost increase for the Navy and keep the industrial base on track.

By Dan Schere
November 29, 2022 at 3:33 PM

The Army has awarded Sikorsky a $98.9 million contract for seven Black Hawk helicopters as a result of funding Congress has added to the service's budget, according to the company.

Sikorsky, a part of Lockheed Martin, agreed in late June to provide the Army, other government agencies and foreign militaries with 120 UH-60 and MEDEVAC Black Hawks in a $2.3 billion contract that runs through 2027.

The June contract included options for 135 additional aircraft, which would bring its value up to $4.4 billion.

The contract awarded this month to Sikorsky is part of the multiyear deal agreed to in June, according to company spokeswoman Britt Rabinovici. She told Inside Defense on Monday that the contract is for seven option helicopters that will be delivered next year. The contract came about “as a result of congressional plus-ups,” she said.

Sikorsky and Boeing have a joint bid for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, which will succeed the Black Hawk, and are competing with Bell. Army officials had previously indicated a decision on the FLRAA award would be made this fall, but the timing remains unclear. The service, however, will continue to fly the Black Hawk after the FLRAA begins operation.

By Evan Ochsner
November 29, 2022 at 3:02 PM

The Pentagon will ship an estimated 54 Stryker combat vehicles to NATO member North Macedonia, an Army spokesperson told Inside Defense.

The Pentagon publicly announced on Nov. 17 that it had awarded General Dynamics Land Systems a $147 million firm-fixed-price contract for Strykers. Though the contract was posted publicly, the destination and quantity of the sale had not been released publicly.

North Macedonia, a Balkan state of former Yugoslavia, will use the Strykers to set up a vehicle brigade combat team “in order to meet its NATO membership requirements,” the Army spokesperson said.

The foreign military sale has an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2024, according to the Pentagon listing.

Of the 18 versions of the Stryker, 10 are flat-bottom variants, including the Infantry Carrier Vehicle, Mobile Gun System, Reconnaissance Vehicle and Medical Evacuation Vehicle. Newer versions of the Styker have a double v-hull.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has renewed interest in equipping Stryker combat vehicles in Europe with active protection systems, which could defend vehicles against antitank missiles, Inside Defense previously reported.

“There is renewed interest in a hard-kill APS system for the Stryker forces in Europe,” Col. William Venable, project manager for Stryker brigades, said June 2 at a conference on APS for combat vehicles.

By John Liang
November 29, 2022 at 2:13 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Army self-detonating drones, naval expeditionary warfare, the Defense Department's latest China military power report and more.

Army leaders have in recent weeks said the effectiveness and importance of unmanned aerial systems has been a key takeaway from the war in Ukraine:

Army seeking new self-detonating drones due to success in Ukraine

The Army is interested in bulking up its loitering munitions, or self-detonating drones, after observing the effectiveness of the systems in the war in Ukraine, according to a Nov. 28 request for information issued by Army Futures Command.

As the Defense Department plans to counter Chinese aggression in the Pacific, Navy and Marine Corps officials have described expeditionary advanced base operations as key to the future fight:

Navy warfare lab develops concept for logistics tool after EABO-focused event

A Navy warfare laboratory has developed a concept for a logistics tool to aid naval forces after the department hosted an internal think-tank competition focused on expeditionary warfare.

The Defense Department's latest China Military Power report says Beijing “probably accelerated its nuclear expansion” last year, with a current stockpile of over 400 warheads:

DOD: China's nuclear breakout continues

The Pentagon, in a new report, says it believes China will have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, continuing a surge previously categorized as a "strategic breakout" by a top U.S. military commander.

Document: DOD's 2022 China military power report

The latest from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Industry groups urge lawmakers to cut China-based semiconductor ban for federal contracts from defense policy bill

A coalition of industry groups is pushing for Senate Armed Services Committee leadership to drop an amendment from the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill that would extend the current ban on federal contractors using equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE to include three Chinese semiconductor companies.

In a new letter to Congress, the Pentagon's top civilian says the stopgap continuing resolution the federal government has been operating under since Oct. 1 is harming national security and will do grave damage if lawmakers extend it much further beyond the Dec. 16 deadline:

Austin warns that budget impasse imperils nuclear modernization

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is telling Congress that the ongoing fiscal gridlock on Capitol Hill risks, among many other things, the planned modernization of all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad "when we have no schedule margin left to give."

Document: Austin letter to Congress on CR

By Audrey Decker
November 29, 2022 at 1:25 PM

The Navy is considering re-opening a contract to include more industry partners to build various payloads and subsystems for its portfolio of unmanned surface vehicles.

The service originally selected 40 companies in February 2020 to receive indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity multiple award contracts -- or IDIQ-MACs -- to compete for task orders from six functional areas: payloads, non-payload sensors, mission support systems, autonomy and vehicle control systems, ashore and host platform elements as well as logistics and sustainment.

In a notice published last week, the Navy is gauging interest if additional companies would want to pursue access to the USV IDIQ-MAC pool of awardees.

“Orders to date have included various design and integration studies, combat systems ship integration activities, and payload development and integration efforts,” the notice states. “The Navy is currently pursuing various unmanned sustainment support efforts as well, and planning is ongoing for other unmanned technology development efforts.”

Responses to the notice are due by Dec. 19.

By Nick Wilson
November 29, 2022 at 12:17 PM

The Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), returned to Naval Station Norfolk, VA on Nov. 26, completing its first official deployment.

The Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) set sail on Oct. 4 and spent two months navigating the North Atlantic while testing the carrier’s capabilities in preparation for its first Global Force Management Deployment, expected to begin in calendar year 2023.

The Navy called the expedition a “service-retained deployment,” meaning that Ford deployed under the authority of the chief of naval operations rather than that of a geographic combatant commander.

During the deployment, Ford conducted a variety of exercises including air defense, anti-submarine warfare, distributed maritime operations, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, according to a Navy release.

The Ford CSG collaborated with eight partner nations -- Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden -- focusing on interoperability in maritime operations. Ford joined a coalition of NATO allies for Exercise Silent Wolverine and participated in a multicarrier exercise alongside fellow U.S. carrier George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).

Ford also made its first international port call in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and its first European port visit in Portsmouth, U.K.

“Through integrated and combined operations such as live and inert ordnance expenditure by Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and air defense, we set the stage for operating with Ford-class technologies in a deployed environment,” said Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, in a statement included in the release. “We completed more than 1,250 sorties, expended 78.3 tons of ordnance and completed 13 underway replenishments -- and we accomplished this because of what Ford-class aircraft carriers bring to the fight.”

Ford is the first new U.S. aircraft carrier designed in over 40 years and includes 23 new technologies that enhance aircraft launch capabilities, propulsion, power generation and ordnance handling, according to the Navy’s release. These technologies also reduce the number of personnel needed to operate the vessel compared to Nimitz-class carriers.

Although the deployment was long delayed by reliability issues with some of these new technologies, including the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and arresting gear, Navy officials have expressed confidence that these systems are now ready for operational use.

The carrier is the first of at least four Ford-class ships the Navy plans to procure, with delivery of a second vessel, the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), expected in 2024.

By Michael Marrow
November 29, 2022 at 11:33 AM

Critical design reviews for two separate sensors for the Missile Track Custody program have been completed, Space Systems Command said in a Nov. 28 press release, setting the stage for the payloads to be integrated in satellites that will detect and track missiles from medium earth orbit beginning in 2026.

The sensors, built respectively by Boeing subsidiary Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon Technologies, will trace missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles as part of a multilayered architecture alongside the Space Development Agency’s tracking satellites in low earth orbit and Next Generation Overheard Persistent Infrared satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

“The CDRs proved the sensors designs are mature and we can move from demo to development,” Lt. Col. Gary Goff, material leader for strategic payloads with SSC’s Space Sensing Directorate, said in the release.

Millennium first announced the successful CDR Nov. 23, and Raytheon confirmed that its sensor cleared the hurdle Nov. 29. News of both was first reported by C4ISRNET.

Both companies said in their releases that the next phase for the program will focus on development of space and ground segments, which will be followed by a full system critical design review planned for summer 2023, according to the SSC release.

The Space Force’s fiscal year 2023 budget documents say up to six satellites are planned for the MEO constellation, though the service has not yet decided whether to move forward with payloads from both companies or push down to a single vendor.