The Insider

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.

By Michael Marrow
November 29, 2022 at 10:06 AM

Space Systems Command has exercised the third production option for Global Positioning System IIIF satellites built by Lockheed Martin, the command said in a Nov. 28 press release, an order that covers space vehicles 18, 19 and 20 for an estimated value of $744 million.

The GPS IIIF satellites will replenish legacy systems and add greater anti-jam protection, improved search-and-rescue capabilities, enhanced triangulation of a user’s location and better nuclear detonation detection. SSC’s original $7.2 billion contract inked in 2018 includes options for up to 22 IIIF satellites, the first of which is scheduled to lift off in 2026.

The 2018 agreement added the IIIF space vehicles on top of orders for GPS III satellites. Lockheed at the time was already on contract for 10 GPS III satellites, and the IIIF award added options for up to 22 IIIF space vehicles for a total of 32 III-series satellites.

Under the current contract, up to 10 more IIIF satellites could still be ordered.

Launch of the IIIF satellites will depend on fielding the constellation’s ground system first. The current GPS ground system is being overhauled by Raytheon, which is replacing it with the Next Generation Operational Control System, or OCX.

OCX, already six years behind schedule, recently suffered another schedule slip, Inside Defense reported in September. OCX is now expected to be delivered in December, potentially shaving off all remaining schedule margin before an April 2023 deadline for initial operational capability.

An OCX follow-on segment, called Block 3F, is needed to operate the IIIF satellites and is planned to be delivered by Raytheon in 2025. However, the Government Accountability Office warned in its June weapon systems assessment that OCX delays could imperil the Block 3F schedule, “with potential corresponding effects to the GPS IIIF program.”

By John Liang
November 28, 2022 at 4:44 PM

Red Cat Holdings announced today it has agreed to sell its consumer division to Unusual Machines.

The consumer division consists of Rotor Riot and Fat Shark Holdings, the company's recreational and hobbyist drones and first-person-view goggles subsidiaries.

The sale will consist of Unusual Machines paying $18 million in cash and security, according to a Red Cat Holdings statement.

The sale agreement "will allow us to focus our efforts and capital on military and defense," Red Cat CEO Jeff Thompson said in the statement. "Our recent partnerships with Tomahawk Robotics and Reveal Technology gives the Warfighter a complete 'Made in USA' system with 360 degrees of situational awareness, multi-ship control of four vehicles by one operator, and rapid intelligence at the tactical edge. This transaction will strengthen our already healthy balance sheet with additional non-dilutive capital to help us execute our rapid growth."

By John Liang
November 28, 2022 at 2:13 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on quantum technology, lawmakers' efforts to require the Pentagon to have a Software Bill of Materials with defense contractors and more.

While quantum technology is far from maturity, the Navy's Washington, DC-based research laboratory has been tasked with accelerating the development of quantum research:

How the Navy's DC research lab is developing quantum for advanced military capabilities

As the Pentagon invests in new technologies to maintain a strategic advantage over its adversaries, the Navy is exploring quantum technology to potentially deliver new warfighting capabilities including quantum sensing, computing and network communications.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have the latest on the Software Bill of Materials effort:

Industry coalition urges lawmakers to drop SBOM procurement requirement from major defense bill

A coalition of industry groups is urging congressional leaders to remove a provision in the Senate version of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill that would direct the Defense Department to require a Software Bill of Materials from defense contractors.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania is home to a lot of satellite communications gear:

In northeast Pennsylvania, a key cog in DOD's satellite mission

TOBYHANNA, PA -- Inside a vast warehouse on a plot of land that can trace its Army roots back over a century, computer servers whirr and hum at a volume that makes it difficult to carry on a conversation at regular volume.

In case you missed it last week, here's a deep dive into the Air Force's T-7 trainer program:

T-7 testing delay could trigger schedule slip and spell new trouble for Boeing

Boeing's T-7 Red Hawk is facing a possible schedule slip after qualification testing for the aircraft's emergency escape system was pushed to fiscal year 2024, according to the Air Force and the company.

The Pentagon also released its zero-trust strategy and roadmap last week:

DOD unveils new strategy as it drives toward FY-27 zero-trust target

The Pentagon has unveiled an overarching framework to bolster military components' safeguards against current cybersecurity risks as officials push to implement a zero-trust baseline within the next five years.

Document: DOD's zero-trust strategy, roadmap