The Insider

By Apurva Minchekar
September 7, 2023 at 11:52 AM

Firefly Aerospace announced Sept. 5 its collaboration with L3Harris Technologies for three satellite launches on Firefly's Alpha vehicle in 2026 from the SLC-2 launch site at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Under this multilaunch agreement, Firefly will assist L3Harris with rapid launch capabilities that will result in direct access to low Earth orbit at a lower cost and aid the space needs of the U.S. military, according to the announcement.

According to media reports, L3Harris won a $225 million contract to design and build three satellites to support the national security space mission.

“Firefly is honored to support the ongoing mission needs of L3Harris as they continue to deliver satellite systems that advance our national security,” Bill Weber, Firefly Aerospace's chief executive officer, said in the announcement.

Highlighting features of the Alpha vehicle, the company said it has the capability to launch more than 1000 kg to LEO and “provides affordable, responsive and reliable launch service for small satellites and spacecraft.”

Additionally, Firefly has doubled the size of its facilities to assist its ongoing contract with Northrop Grumman to build a medium launch vehicle to lift off in 2025 “to serve the commercial, civil and national security space launch market.”

The company is currently focused on increasing Alpha production from its rocket manufacturing and test site in Briggs, TX, to contribute to multiple government and commercial launches, the announcement states.

By John Liang
September 7, 2023 at 10:56 AM

Leidos this week announced the promotion of Amy Smith to lead the company's lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

Smith joined Leidos as vice president of government affairs in 2020. Before that, she worked for Boeing for seven years as chief of staff and senior director of international operations and policy.

Prior to that, Smith spent 17 years working for various House lawmakers, including a six-year stint as policy director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

By John Liang
September 7, 2023 at 10:43 AM

Saab announced today it has bought Silicon Valley, CA-based artificial intelligence/machine learning company CrowdAI.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, and the acquisition "is part of Saab's technology leadership in this new era for the defense industry," the company said in a statement.

Future operations will be carried out primarily in San Diego, according to Saab.

Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab in the U.S., said the acquisition "brings a new capability as well as deeply rooted relationships with new customers to Saab, underscoring our commitment to innovation and growth in the United States."

By Tony Bertuca
September 7, 2023 at 10:20 AM

Anduril, a non-traditional defense startup based in California, has acquired drone maker Blue Force Technologies amid a flurry of announcements from senior Pentagon officials in the past few weeks that fleets of autonomous weapon systems must be fast-tracked to compete with China.

Neither company has disclosed the terms of the deal.

Chris Brose, Anduril’s chief strategy officer and a former chief of staff on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview with Inside Defense that the company intends to “pour investment” into Blue Force, especially its unmanned Fury aircraft, which, when paired with Anduril’s “Lattice for Mission Autonomy” could compete to be the kind of “collaborative combat aircraft” sought by the Air Force.

“We want to catalyze and accelerate that progress,” he said. “This is something we are seeking to build an alternative industrial base to produce.”

The announcement of Anduril’s acquisition of North Carolina-based Blue Force comes amid the Pentagon’s unveiling of its new Replicator program, which aims to purchase thousands of small, autonomous and “attritable” drones to counter China’s enormous military presence.

“The Replicator initiative is music to my ears,” Brose said. “I think it is what the department has needed, what industry has needed for years now, which is moving beyond innovation and experimentation and getting to real large-scale production and autonomous capabilities.”

But, he said, “the devil is in the details.”

“Will there be money for this? Why will this work when other large defense initiatives have worked less well?” Brose said. “All of those challenges are surmountable. It really comes down to whether the government has the will to complete the swing.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, meanwhile, said at a Defense News conference Wednesday that DOD does not intend to make Replicator a program of record or seek new funding for it in fiscal year 2024.

“We're not creating a new bureaucracy and we will not be asking for new money in FY-24,” she said. “Not all problems need new money. We are problem solvers and we intend to self-solve. So, Replicator will use existing funding, existing programming lines and existing authorities to accelerate production and deliver at scale.”

Hicks said DOD envisions “flocks of systems, flying at all sorts of altitudes, doing a range of missions” to compete with China’s No. 1 advantage in the Indo-Pacific: size.

“They could be deployed by larger aircraft, launched by troops on land or sea, or take off themselves,” she said.

Brose said Anduril, which purchased autonomous underwater vehicle maker Dive Technologies in 2022 and rocket firm Adranos in June, is positioning itself to bring “affordable mass” to DOD.

“The pacing threat that everyone is focused on rightly is China,” he said. “As a company that is the problem we are helping and seeking to help the DOD solve. That is where we want to be relevant, that is where we want to add value and that is where we want to change the game.”

By Dan Schere
September 6, 2023 at 4:29 PM

Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said Wednesday that the service's ability to procure quantities for programs with requested multiyear authorities set to begin in fiscal year 2024, such as the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, would be impacted by a stopgap continuing resolution lawmakers are preparing to consider.

Congress must pass a CR by the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 to avert a government shutdown. Under a CR, new-start contracts are not allowed and programs transitioning from development to production would also be impacted, Camarillo said at a Defense News conference in Arlington, VA.

The Army had requested multiyear authorities from Congress for PAC-3 MSE and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System starting in FY-24. The service has estimated multiyear contracts for PAC-3 MSE and GMLRS could save more than the initially projected $147 million.

“Without that authority, it will affect how much quantity we’re going to be able to buy,” Camarillo said Wednesday in reference to PAC-3 MSE.

Another program that could be impacted by a CR is the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the Army’s replacement for the M113 armored personnel carrier. The service recently announced the transition of that program from low-rate initial production to full-rate production and subsequently awarded the full-rate production contract to manufacturer BAE Systems. Mid-range capability, one of the Army’s long range fires priorities that is scheduled to transition to a program of record, could also be delayed, Camarillo said.

However, he said, much of the United States’ support for Ukraine during its war with Russia has been funded through supplemental appropriations from Congress.

“Nothing would impact our ability to support Ukraine,” he said. “We’re in this as long as it takes.”

The White House, meanwhile, is seeking a $40 billion supplemental spending package for Ukraine, with nearly $10 billion pegged for military aid, which is contingent on support from Congress.

By Jason Sherman
September 6, 2023 at 3:28 PM

We've moved our exclusive story on the Defense Department's new project to develop an Air and Cruise Missile Defense Homeland capability outside the paywall -- free to all readers here.

The United States -- which since the advent of flight more than a century ago has relied on two vast oceans as a buffer against adversaries attacking U.S. citizens and soil with low-flying aircraft and missiles -- this summer began designing a next-generation domestic air defense system to protect cities and critical infrastructure from Russian and Chinese cruise missiles.

This not previously reported development was launched in July when the Air Force began an Air and Cruise Missile Defense of the Homeland Analysis of Alternatives, slated to produce recommendations next spring for investments -- with implications for Army, Navy and Missile Defense Agency spending plans -- in the fiscal year 2026 budget proposal.

By John Liang
September 6, 2023 at 3:21 PM

The Pentagon today released a specific list of the number of general and flag officer promotions being held up due to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

The number of holds by military service include:

  • Army: 91 (61 active-duty; 15 Army Reserve; 15 Army National Guard)
  • Air Force: 98 (73 active-duty; 25 Air Force Reserve)
  • Navy: 86 (72 active-duty; 14 Naval Reserve)
  • Marine Corps: 18
  • Space Force: 8

Additionally, the number of holds tied to positions in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility is 22, according to DOD.

Tuberville is protesting the Pentagon's leave and travel reimbursement policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

By John Liang
September 6, 2023 at 2:23 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar valuation error on Ukraine weapons funding, plus the Navy's plan to dismantle the former aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65) as well as the latest from the Space Development Agency.

The Pentagon's inspector general will be looking into the Defense Department's multibillion-dollar valuation error on Ukraine weapons funding:

DOD watchdog to audit $6.2B valuation error in Ukraine weapons transfers

The Defense Department inspector general is launching an audit this month examining the process by which the Pentagon values weapons being transferred to Ukraine, which follows an accounting error that resulted in DOD having $6.2 billion more in funding than it initially projected.


Nearly $6B remains in DOD 'drawdown' funds for Ukraine

The Defense Department has nearly $6 billion remaining in congressionally appropriated funds used for transferring weapons to Ukraine, giving the Pentagon some cushion as the threat of a shutdown looms over the federal government and as some lawmakers voice reluctance about passing a supplemental spending bill to continuing aiding Kyiv against Russia.

A commercial vendor will dismantle the former aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65), including the ship's nuclear reactors:

Competitive bids will decide commercial site for CVN-65 dismantlement

The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier -- the former Enterprise (CVN-65) -- will be dismantled over five years by a commercial vendor in Newport News, VA, Brownsville, TX or Mobile, AL, that will also manage disposal of the defueled vessel and its inactive reactor plants.

The latest on the Space Development Agency's activities:

SDA to procure 54 SVs for Tranche 2 Tracking Layer

The Space Development Agency is planning to procure at least 54 space vehicles as part of the Tranche 2 Tracking Layer to launch in April 2027, according to a notice posted yesterday.

SDA successfully launches second round of Tranche 0 satellites

The Space Development Agency announced Sept. 2 that it has successfully launched 13 Tranche 0 satellites for its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture.

By Tony Bertuca
September 6, 2023 at 1:50 PM

The Defense Department today announced a $175 million weapons package for Ukraine that will be drawn directly from U.S. stocks, including depleted uranium ammunition for Abrams tanks that is slated to arrive on the battlefield this fall.

The package includes:

• Equipment to support Ukraine's air defense systems;

• Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);

• 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;

• 81mm mortars systems and rounds;

• 120mm depleted uranium tank ammunition for Abrams tanks;

• Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;

• Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;

• Over 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition;

• Tactical air navigation systems;

• Tactical secure communications systems and support equipment;

• Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing; and

• Spare parts, maintenance, and other field equipment.

The Pentagon says the United States has committed more than $43 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the start of an ongoing Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

By Shelley K. Mesch
September 6, 2023 at 10:37 AM

Lt. Gen. James Slife has been nominated as Air Force vice chief of staff, succeeding Gen. David Allvin, who has been nominated to chief of staff.

Along with the vice chief of staff title, Slife would also be promoted to general, according to a Senate announcement of military nominations.

Slife is the current deputy chief of staff for operations and previously served as commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.

It’s unclear when leadership will officially change over for any of the services. More than 300 military nominations have been stalled in the Senate as Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) continues his blockade as a protest against the Defense Department’s leave and travel reimbursement policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

By John Liang
September 5, 2023 at 12:20 PM

This post-Labor Day INSIDER Daily Digest has an exclusive deep dive into a new cruise missile defense initiative, plus Naval Sea Systems Command working on an unmanned maritime minelaying system and more.

We start off with an exclusive deep dive into a new cruise missile defense initiative:

DOD launches domestic cruise missile defense program to protect U.S. cities, 'critical' sites

The United States -- which since the advent of flight more than a century ago has relied on two vast oceans as a buffer against adversaries attacking U.S. citizens and soil with low-flying aircraft and missiles -- this summer began designing a next-generation domestic air defense system to protect cities and critical infrastructure from Russian and Chinese cruise missiles.

NAVSEA has announced plans to design, fabricate and test the “mining expendable delivery unmanned submarine asset,” also known as MEDUSA UUV:

Unmanned minelaying MEDUSA advances

Naval Sea Systems Command has issued a draft request for proposals to develop and evaluate MEDUSA -- an unmanned maritime minelaying system.

The Air Force is aiming to close the gap between the end of KC-46 tanker aircraft production and the delivery of the next-generation refueling system by recapitalizing the current tanker fleet:

Air Force plans to collaborate with industry on tanker recapitalization program

The Air Force is planning to release a "draft system requirements document for the KC-135 replacement aircraft system" later this month, according to a notice posted Friday.

A recent Defense Department inspector general's office report "determined whether the Air Force effectively used the middle tier of acquisition (MTA) pathway for the prototyping and fielding of the Three‑Dimensional Expeditionary Long‑Range Radar (3DELRR) program":

IG: Air Force misused MTA pathway for 3DELRR

The Air Force misused the middle tier of acquisition pathway for its Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar program because it misinterpreted the stage at which procurement funds could be used, according to a Defense Department inspector general report released this week.

Document: DOD IG report on the 3DELRR program

Boron nitride nanotubes (BNNT) perform well under extreme heat with potential applications for aerospace, electronics and energy:

Nanotubes project closes research-prototype gap

Military applications for boron nitride nanotubes -- which hold promise for their strength and radiation-shielding properties -- are expected to move more quickly from the laboratory to prototype under the inaugural S²MARTS Research OTA project.

By Tony Bertuca
September 5, 2023 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak at several events this week.


Labor Day.


The Billington Cybersecurity Summit is held in Washington. The event runs through Friday.


The Defense News Conference is held in Arlington, VA.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the AUKUS partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on the Army’s role in campaigning against China.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on acquisition for innovation.


The FedTalks 23 conference features a discussion with the Defense Department’s principal deputy chief information officer.

By John Liang
September 1, 2023 at 12:53 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has the Pentagon's thoughts on the upcoming continuing resolution needed to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, the Missile Defense Agency's Long Range Discrimination Radar program suffering another setback, the Army's Precision Strike Missile and more.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has submitted to lawmakers a list of requested continuing resolution "anomalies":

Columbia-class sub included in White House's CR 'anomalies' request

The White House is asking Congress to avert a looming government shutdown by passing a stopgap continuing resolution that, among other things, would include authority for the Defense Department to spend money on the Columbia-class submarine program to avoid a 20-month delay, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The Missile Defense Agency's Long Range Discrimination Radar program suffered another setback this week:

Target malfunction trips up LRDR; DOD at risk of taking ownership before validating utility

A ballistic missile target malfunctioned during a key test required to make an operational assessment of the Long Range Discrimination Radar, dealing the new sensor project another schedule setback and putting the Pentagon in the position of taking ownership of a new weapon before validating it works as promised.

Operational testing for the Army's Precision Strike Missile is scheduled to start in 2024 with low-rate production, full-rate production and initial capability testing scheduled for 2025:

Army Precision Strike Missile development on track and meeting benchmarks

In the midst of early capability testing, development of the Army's next-generation ballistic missile is on track and meeting benchmarks, according to the service.

Some nanotube news:

Nanotubes project closes research-prototype gap

Military applications for boron nitride nanotubes -- which hold promise for their strength and radiation-shielding properties -- are expected to move more quickly from the laboratory to prototype under the inaugural S²MARTS Research OTA project.

Todd Serres, the Air Force's associate chief of command and control and integrated air and missile defense, spoke about the service's Agile Combat Employment concept this week:

Air base defense for Agile Combat Employment will need large upfront investment, official says

Fully implementing the Air Force's Agile Combat Employment concept in the Indo-Pacific will require large upfront investments to better defend proliferated bases, an Air Force official said this week at the Mitchell Institute.

By Dan Schere
September 1, 2023 at 11:43 AM

The Army has awarded BAE Systems a $797 million contract for full-rate production of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the company announced Friday. The total contract amount is worth up to $1.6 billion if additional options are exercised.

The announcement from BAE comes about a month after Army officials said the decision had been made for the AMPV program to enter full-rate production.

The AMPV, the replacement for the M113 armored personnel carrier, is “specifically designed to accommodate future technology needs, including enhanced size, weight and power provisions for network integration and future mission payloads,” according to BAE.

There are five variants of the vehicle which include a “general purpose” version that conducts resupply, maintenance and casualty evacuation, as well as variants that are specifically designed for medical evacuation and medical treatment. The other versions include a mortar carrier that supports armored brigade combat teams during “fast-paced offensive operations,” and a mission command vehicle, according to BAE.

The Army first awarded BAE the AMPV contract in 2014 before low-rate initial production began in 2018, according to BAE. The first low-rate initial production vehicle was delivered three years ago.

Last month, service acquisition chief Doug Bush announced the AMPV program would be transitioning to full-rate production. At the time, Bush said service officials were confident that previous challenges about the program not being able to deliver at rate during low-rate initial production had been overcome.

Bush said he was hopeful Congress would fully support the AMPV program, despite a proposed $155 million cut for fiscal year 2024 included in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense spending bill.

The M113s, which date to the period of the Vietnam War, are among the weapons the United States has been sending to Ukraine. With supplemental funding from Congress, the Army plans to backfill that M113 inventory with AMPVs.

By Linda Hersey
August 31, 2023 at 4:09 PM

Retired Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the former Missile Defense Agency director, has joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies as a senior adviser with the international security program's missile defense project, CSIS announced Thursday.

Hill, whose Navy career spanned more than 30 years, also will serve as a member of the missile defense project’s advisory board.

Hill was the 11th MDA director, heading the agency from May 2019 to July 2023.

As MDA director, he executed the agency’s mission to “develop, deliver and sustain global layered capabilities” for defending deployed forces, the U.S. and allies and partners from missile attacks, according to CSIS.

As a Navy leader, he served as program executive officer for integrated warfare systems from 2014-2016; director of cruiser and destroyer combat systems, 2013-2014; and major program manager, Aegis combat systems, 2010-2013.

Hill currently is vice president and chief engineer for training and logistics solutions at Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems.

“The coming years will be a pivotal time for missile defense, and it is a privilege to be part of an organization shaping the conversation on the future of national security,” he said in a prepared statement about his role as senior advisor at CSIS.

The CSIS missile defense project conducts research and analysis and holds events on missile defense policy, budgets, legislation and programs.

The project runs a “Missile Threat” website, which offers a look at policy, news and strategy on missile defense.