The Insider

By Apurva Minchekar
September 15, 2023 at 2:39 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Based on analysis and research of over 20 years, JetZero's Blended Wing Body seems to be a "promising" prototype, a top Air Force official told reporters Wednesday at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference.

“We're in the very front end of this developmental prototyping process for the Blended Wing Body aircraft. We know that that particular aircraft design has been through a number of trade studies over the past 20 years,” Assistant Air Force Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment Ravi Chaudhary said.

In August, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said JetZero’s new blended wing body aircraft will be a streamlined design that will also help to increase fuel efficiency and enhance capabilities, as well as impact the environment.

“I want to emphasize that this project is a win-win for the commercial industry as well as for the [Defense Department] and hopeful that the commercial interest will result in additional investments that will benefit all of us,” Kendall said at an Air and Space Forces Association event last month.

Chaudhary, at the ASC conference this week, said 15 years ago the service had flown the aircraft at a small scale to locate any issues and is now going to build the prototype at a full-scale level.

“So there's gonna be a lot of knowledge that comes out of that,” he said.

Chaudhary added his department is closely working with Air Mobility Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory to get closer to achieving the BWB goals.

“We look at ways in which we can improve aerodynamics and aircraft to reduce fuel consumption,” he continued.

Additionally, JetZero is also collaborating with Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composite to build the prototype and Pratt & Whitney to take benefit of its GTF engines that will help to easily integrate the prototype into the commercial fleet.

JetZero is expecting to launch the BWB prototype aircraft by 2027.

By Ben Dupont
September 15, 2023 at 1:05 PM

The Navy has created a federal advisory committee to provide counsel on science and technology questions.

The new Science and Technology Board, announced on Thursday, will advise the Navy on “matters and policies relating to scientific, technical, manufacturing, acquisition, logistics, medicine and business management functions.”

“We are eager to have the DON STB work with us to amplify existing initiatives and suggest new possibilities that will strengthen our warfighting capabilities,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said in the statement. “I look forward to meeting with our nation’s leading experts, many of whom have served in multiple roles within the government, academia, and industry.”

According to its charter, signed on July 31, the panel of outside advisers “is not established to advise on individual DOD or DON procurements or acquisition matters, but instead shall be concerned with the pressing and complex scientific and technological (S&T) problems facing the DON in such areas as research, engineering, organizational structure and process, business and functional concepts, and manufacturing, and will ensure the identification of new technologies and new applications of technology in those areas to strengthen national security.”

The charter also says the board will “Recommend applications of technology to improve U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps capabilities” and “Provide an independent review of the quality and relevance of the DON S&T portfolio.”

Richard Danzig will chair the STB. Danzig, who served as Navy secretary under President Clinton, has been a part of other federal advisory committees, including the Defense Policy Board.

“I am honored to be appointed as the Chair of the DON STB,” Danzig said in the statement. “The board’s highest priority will be to work with leaders in the Department of the Navy to match new opportunities in science and technology with present service needs.”

The board’s vice chair will be Howard Fireman, who served in the Navy for 35 years before becoming senior vice president and chief technology officer for the American Bureau of Shipping.

The rest of the board will be composed of academics and scientists, many of them former Navy officers.

The board will meet for the first time on Sept. 21, during a classified session in which the new members will be sworn in.

The board has a mission similar to that of the now-defunct Naval Research Advisory Committee, which was dissolved in 2019.

By Shelley K. Mesch
September 15, 2023 at 11:06 AM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The updated delivery date of Technology Refresh 3-equipped F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is "not low-risk," Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Mark Kelly told reporters this week.

TR-3 is already late, and contractor Lockheed Martin said last week that it would not meet its previously held goal of deliveries by December. Instead, Lockheed is anticipating deliveries to begin between April and June of next year.

The updated time frame is doable but not necessarily probable when considering the “number of actions that have to take place in terms of TR-3 burndown that they need to execute between now and then,” Kelly told reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association's Air, Space, Cyber conference.

The Defense Department is not accepting new F-35s until they are equipped with the TR-3 hardware and software upgrades.

By John Liang
September 14, 2023 at 2:31 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Air Force next-generation airlift and refueling aircraft, the Pentagon's cyber strategy and more.

The Air Force issued a request for information this week "seeking industry input to identify potential capabilities/technologies for development of Next Generation Refueling and Airlift Teams of Systems (ToS), which will be purpose-built for specific mission sets":

Air Force looking for solutions to develop NGAS, NGAL for mission needs

The Air Force is seeking information to identify potential capabilities and technologies to develop Next Generation Refueling and Airlift Teams of Systems built for specific mission requirements, according to a notice posted Tuesday.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Mieke Eoyang spoke about the Pentagon's new cyber strategy this week during a moderated discussion at the Center for a New American Security:

DOD and industry officials stress need for more information sharing in cyber defense

A top Pentagon official provided more details today about the Defense Department's intent to share more information with the private sector about cyberattacks, as outlined in the recently released 2023 Cyber Strategy.

A new 200,000-square-foot Marine Corps facility uses a 5G core to connect over 40 systems -- including 11 robots that manage inventory -- in an effort to improve the speed and efficiency of warehousing logistics:

Marine Corps' 'smart' warehouse prototype headed for ATO decisions by year's end

The Marine Corps' 5G-enabled "smart" warehouse prototype is preparing for two separate Authority to Operate decisions expected to clear the facility for functional use before the end of calendar year 2023.

More coverage from this week's AFA 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Space Force to use EW and PNT to organize mission area resources under one command

NATIONAL HABOR, MD -- The Space Force has launched Integrated Mission Delta, a two-prototype unit which will use electronic warfare and positioning, navigation and timing to bring operations and sustainment of the mission area under one command, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said Tuesday morning.

A final draft of the air warfare (AW) ship self-defense enterprise test and evaluation master plan (TEMP) for ship self-defense system baseline 12 (SSDS BL 12) is expected to be completed at the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, according to the Navy:

TEMP final draft for threat ASCM self-defense targeted for FY-24

The Navy is working to resolve “final missile allocations” to complete master planning for test strategy and evaluation of self-defense systems against anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

By John Liang
September 14, 2023 at 10:39 AM

The Defense Science Board will meet in closed session later this month to talk about innovation, critical infrastructure and position, navigation and timing issues.

According to a Federal Register notice published this morning, the Sept. 28 meeting will cover a classified briefing "on the Defense Science Board Task Force to Advise Implementation and Prioritization of National Security Innovation Activities' findings and recommendations followed by a DSB ('board') vote."

After that, the board will discuss "the Defense Science Board Task Force on Department of Defense Dependencies on Critical Infrastructure's findings and recommendations followed by a board vote."

Additionally, the DSB will get "a classified briefing on the Defense Science Board Task Force on Position Navigation & Timing Control's findings and recommendations followed by a board vote."

By Nickolai Sukharev
September 13, 2023 at 4:47 PM

The Army awarded RTX and Lockheed Martin contracts for Stinger surface-to-air missile upgrades and replacements for a combined $729 million, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.

RTX received a contract for $418 million with the work to be completed in Tucson, AZ by an estimated completion date of March 12, 2028.

Lockheed Martin received a contract for $311 million with the work to be completed in Grand Prairie, TX by an estimated completion date of June 12, 2028.

The United States has sent approximately 2,000 Stinger missiles to Ukraine during its ongoing conflict with Russia as part of numerous military assistance packages, according to Defense Department documents.

Entering service in 1981, the Stinger is designed to provide short-range air defense and can be fired from man-portable launchers and vehicles. It comes in numerous variants including an air-to-air variant designed to be launched from helicopters.

The Stinger is used by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and many other nations.

In March 2023, the Army selected RTX and Lockheed to develop a Stinger replacement.

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 4:14 PM

The State Department has approved a possible $5 billion foreign military sale to South Korea for 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

The deal would cover the conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant of the jet, with up to 26 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines and other assorted equipment.

“The proposed sale will improve the Republic of Korea’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces,” DSCA said. “The proposed sale will augment Korea’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability. Korea already has F-35s in its inventory and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, TX, and Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, CT.

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 4:10 PM

The State Department has approved a possible $389 million foreign military sale to Poland that would cover sustainment of its F-16 fleet, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

“The proposed sale will improve Poland’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing the reliability of their F-16 fleet,” DSCA said. “Poland has purchased sustainment support for the F-16s in its inventory for many years, and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

The principal contractor would be Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, TX.

By John Liang
September 13, 2023 at 2:32 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news from this week's AFA 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference plus an Army Science Board study and more.

We start off with more coverage of the AFA 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

LaPlante makes case for production readiness to drive contract awards, highlights Replicator

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante today repeated his mantra of "production, production, production," asserting that such an approach should be baked into the weapons design process and prized when it is time to award final contracts.

Space Force to create African and European Command to support regional combatant commands

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The Space Force is creating a service component to support regional combatant commands in Africa and Europe to leverage integration, collaboration and cooperation with joint "teammates," partners and allies in respective regions, a senior Space Force official said today at the Air, Space and Cyber conference.

Air Force senior official sets goal to connect 25% of mobility fleet by 2025

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Mobility Command aims to connect 25% of the mobility fleet by 2025 and connect the ground systems, including the air operations centers, air mobility operation wings and contingency response groups, according to a senior Air Force official.

The Army Science Board has released a report on "An Independent Assessment of the 2040 Battlefield and its Implications for the 5th Generation Combat Vehicle (5GCV)":

Report urging Army to spend $3B-$4B on combat vehicle modernization coincides with Abrams overhaul announcement

An Army advisory board recommends the service invest $3 billion to $4 billion on plans to modernize its combat vehicle fleet to meet the challenges of the future battlefield, according to a report released last week that coincides with a recent announcement that the Abrams tank will be redesigned for 2030.

Document: ASB report on 2040 battlefield and implications for 5GCV

The Defense Department has released an unclassified summary of its classified 2023 Cyber Strategy:

DOD releases 2023 Cyber Strategy highlighting China and industrial espionage

The Pentagon unveiled the broad concepts behind its classified 2023 Cyber Strategy today, which is focused on deterring China, highlights lessons learned from Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and prioritizes protecting the U.S. defense industry from cyber espionage.

Document: Summary of DOD's 2023 cyber strategy

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 2:08 PM

House GOP leadership has delayed a vote on the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill amid in-fighting over government spending and a looming federal shutdown.

House committee staffers said the first procedural vote on the bill, which is aligned with President Biden’s request for $886 billion in national defense spending, was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today but has been delayed.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the staffers said, has not been able to secure the 218 votes needed for the bill to proceed.

The vote would be for the rule governing debate on the bill, which was passed last night by the House Rules Committee by an 8-5 vote. The bill has been criticized by Democrats and has drawn a veto threat from the White House for its inclusion of controversial “culture war” provisions targeting diversity initiatives, climate change mitigation and the Pentagon’s leave and travel policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The delay in the defense appropriations vote is part of a larger spending battle that has pit the GOP-led House against the Democrat-led Senate and some Republicans against one another.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who joined Rules Committee Democrats in voting against the rule, said he is ready to support a government shutdown if federal spending continues to increase.

“It's time to call a halt to spending and if the government shuts down, then let's shut it down,” he said. “This government shut us down during COVID. This government is being weaponized.”

The rule adopted by the committee, meanwhile, includes 184 amendments, 103 of which were offered by Republicans, 45 from Democrats and 36 were bipartisan.

Several politically controversial amendments were championed by members of the GOP’s Freedom Caucus. For example, one amendment would prohibit the transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, while another would cut the annual salary of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1.

Staffers said a vote on the bill could be quickly rescheduled if House GOP leaders are able to whip enough votes to reach 218.

By Georgina DiNardo
September 13, 2023 at 1:17 PM

The Defense Department has awarded Rockville, MD-based X-energy a contract to develop an enhanced engineering design for a transportable micro nuclear reactor in an effort to inject competition into the Project Pele initiative being run by the Strategic Capabilities Office.

Project Pele has been an ongoing DOD initiative to address the growing demand for a safe and portable nuclear reactor.

In 2022, SCO chose Lynchburg, VA-based BWX Technologies to construct a prototype micro reactor for Project Pele. With that work currently underway, they are now looking to X-energy to create a design that meets the technical requirements of Project Pele so it can be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for both commercial ventures and military uses.

However, the contract awarded to X-energy is not to physically build anything; instead, it is for one year of work to create a fully fleshed-out Preliminary Engineering Design that will allow the SCO to initiate a regulatory reapplication process and create competition in the niche field.

"The Strategic Capabilities Office specializes in adapting commercial technology for military purposes," SCO Director Jay Dryer said in a DOD release announcing the contract.

"By nurturing and developing multiple micro reactor designs,” he said, “SCO will not just provide options for the military services but will also help jumpstart a truly competitive commercial marketplace for micro reactors."

According to DOD, the department uses approximately 30 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day, though this number is expected to increase.

"Due to their extraordinary energy density, nuclear reactors have the potential to serve multiple critical functions for meeting resiliency needs in contested logistical environments," Project Pele program manager Jeff Waksman said. "By developing two unique designs, we will provide the services with a broad range of options as they consider potential uses of nuclear power for both Installation and operational energy applications in the near future."

By Georgina DiNardo
September 13, 2023 at 11:46 AM

One of the top defense industry associations released a report today detailing its key priorities for emerging technologies and international cooperation.

A new report from the Aerospace Industries Association prioritizes artificial intelligence, space systems, cyber, hypersonic capabilities, unmanned aerial systems and electronic warfare.

The report cites these areas as “essential” since “the advancement of such technologies and capabilities in the coming decades will have a profound impact on the economies, national security landscape and defense postures of the United States and its allies and partners.”

“Emerging and advanced technologies are fundamentally reshaping the 21st century battlefield, and the United States, alongside its allies and partners, must work closely with the aerospace and defense industry to win the escalating technology race,” said AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning. “AIA’s new agenda provides a roadmap for a more competitive regulatory and trade environment for these new technologies that will help the United States maintain our strategic advantage over potential adversaries.”

The agenda emphasizes the importance of allies and partners maintaining relationships with the A&D industry, specifically with rising global tensions due to the war in Ukraine and the challenges posed in the Indo-Pacific, something the unclassified DOD 2023 Cyber Strategy summary cited as a major framing issue as well.

“In policy and practice for both the United States and our allies and partners, sharing and cooperating on emerging and advanced capabilities is complex,” the AIA report stated.

Specifically, the agenda wants to excel U.S. leadership in emerging and advanced capabilities cooperation amongst allies and partners, encourage exports and that U.S. policy regulations ensure American industry global leadership in emerging capabilities, tackle issues with cooperation between allies and partners, continue U.S. norm setting and invest and strengthen the resilience of the A&D supply chain through policy.

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 11:14 AM

The Defense Department has issued guidance to help military personnel and Pentagon civilians prepare for a possible government shutdown on Oct. 1.

While military personnel who are on active or reserve duty will continue to report for work, only “the minimum number of civilian employees necessary to carry out excepted activities will be excepted from furlough,” according to the “lapse in appropriations” guidance the Pentagon issued today.

If Congress does not pass a stopgap continuing resolution before the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, the federal government will shut down. Some hard-right Republicans, meanwhile, have said they will not support a CR unless it meets specific demands of the Freedom Caucus.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, “will continue to defend the nation and conduct ongoing military operations,” the guidance document states. “It will continue activities funded with any available budgetary resources that have not lapsed, as well as excepted activities such as those necessary for the safety of human life and the protection of property.”

Any defense contractor performing under a contract that awarded prior to the lapse in appropriations will be allowed to continue working but “new contracts (including contract renewals or extensions, issuance of task orders, exercise of options) may not be executed, nor may increments of funding be placed on incrementally funded contracts or to cover cost overruns, unless the contractor is supporting an excepted activity,” according to DOD.

By Jason Sherman
September 12, 2023 at 5:31 PM

Now outside the paywall: our story on the public push to put new teeth into a nearly 20-year-old validated -- but still unfulfilled -- joint requirement for an elevated sensor to counter cruise missiles:

Key Army general calls for JLENS-like system for Guam defense, wants very high elevated sensor

The U.S. military should resuscitate a 2004 requirement for a high-flying, stationary radar to bolster defense of Guam, a top Army official argued, noting capabilities demonstrated by the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System before its 2018 termination are now urgently needed.

By John Liang
September 12, 2023 at 1:38 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Navy electromagnetic warfare capabilities, the Landing Ship Medium program, the Army's artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts and more.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division issued a request for submissions late last week for private industry and government agencies to take part in the Silent Swarm 2024 Experimentation Event:

Silent Swarm 2024 to advance Navy's electromagnetic warfare capabilities

The Navy will continue a series of experiments on early stage unmanned systems capable of electromagnetic warfare with the third annual Silent Swarm planned for two weeks in July 2024.

The Navy's Program Executive Office for Ships recently hosted an industry day that was attended by shipbuilders, material experts and equipment manufacturers and integrators:

Navy to open LSM competition within calendar year 2023

Naval Sea Systems Command will seek industry proposals for the design and construction of the future Landing Ship Medium before the end of calendar year 2023, opening a contract competition for a vessel deemed critical for the Marine Corps' Indo-Pacific operations.

Document: Navy LSM industry day brochure

Project Linchpin is the Army's first initiative to create an artificial intelligence and machine learning pipeline, and will initially focus on sensor systems such as satellites and optics:

Army using 'agile' acquisition strategy as it moves forward on Project Linchpin

As the Army begins to develop a pipeline for artificial intelligence and machine learning, service officials have described what they view as an "agile" acquisition process that aims to take advantage of an already-interested private sector.

On Sept. 8, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced Boeing the winner of the Glide Breaker Phase 2 program -- moving forward a project launched in 2019 that aims to enable a divert and attitude control system (DACS) propelled kill vehicle capable of intercepting hypersonic threats during glide phase:

Boeing nabs hypersonic defense contract, potential technology key to GPI program

Boeing has elbowed its way into the hypersonic defense game, winning the second phase of the Glide Breaker program, an important advanced technology development contract that aims to provide a foundation for U.S. and Japanese efforts to jointly develop a hit-to-kill interceptor capable of chasing down and defeating ultra-fast maneuvering warheads.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the fiscal year 2024 defense spending bill today and the full House is expected to vote on it sometime this week:

Biden threatens to veto House defense spending bill, citing need for multiyear munitions deals

President Biden intends to veto the House's defense appropriations bill if, in the unlikely event, that is the final version he is presented by Congress, according to a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Document: Statement of administration policy on the FY-24 defense spending bill

The Air Force's top civilian spoke this week at the Air and Space Forces Association's annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Kendall calls out Tuberville holds, urges passage of budget

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall used his keynote speech at an Air and Space Forces Association conference Monday to call on Congress to pass a budget and for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) to lift his blockade of military nominations.