The Insider

By Shelley K. Mesch
May 2, 2023 at 9:22 AM

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems will build four MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones for Taiwan under a foreign military sales contract worth up to $217.6 million, according to a Defense Department contract notice posted Monday.

To procure the four uncrewed aircraft as well as two Certifiable Ground Control Stations, spares and support equipment, $107 million was obligated at the time of the award, according to the notice.

Work on the systems, which will be done in California, is expected to be completed in early May 2025, the post states.

By Apurva Minchekar
May 1, 2023 at 5:11 PM

The Space Force and other agencies will host an industry day in Colorado Springs, CO on its proposed National Space Test and Training Complex idea from June 22 to June 23, according to a recent notice posted by the Air Force.

The industry day aims to share information on the NSTTC system concept, acquisition strategy and projected timelines.

According to the notice, the NSTTC is an effort led by Space Training and Readiness Command in partnership with Space Systems Command and the Space Force Office of Test and Evaluation, that comprises an electromagnetic spectrum range, cyber range, orbital range and digital complex.

The NSTTC also supports the development of new joint multidomain operating concepts and integrates joint mission partners.

“For the services, STARCOM will train Guardians on the NSTTC to effectively execute their missions in support of named operations and tasked numbered Operations Plans, deliberately developing Guardians for their primary roles of in-domain space warfighters and joint combat enablers,” the Space Force said when it unveiled its plan for the training range in a vision document late last year.

In addition, it will also provide space forces with realistic, threat-informed test and training environments to enhance their ability to analyze and respond to current and future threats within a joint warfighting context, according to the document.

NSTTC's vision is to provide space warfighters interconnected, scalable, and distributed physical and digital ranges for full spectrum test and training, which will help to develop, validate and sharpen joint warfighting solutions in conflict, states the vision document. It focuses on four areas: Service Capability, Joint Applicability, Integrated Test and Threat Replication.

By John Liang
May 1, 2023 at 1:53 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a Defense Science Board task force, the Navy's fiscal year 2024 budget request and more.

Pentagon research and engineering chief Heidi Shyu wants a Defense Science Board task force to identify critical materials unavailable in the United States that are required for weapon systems manufacturing and recommend any needed additions to the Defense Logistics Agency:

DOD 'refocuses' industrial base task force on supply chain security

The Pentagon's technology chief is directing a special task force to "refocus" its efforts on improving the resilience of the U.S. defense industrial base, specifically for supply chain security and manufacturing issues that have already garnered the attention of senior defense officials amid ongoing efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons to defend itself against Russia.

Document: DSB 'refocused' terms of reference memo for DIB task force

The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing late last week on the Navy's fiscal year 2024 budget request:

Gilday: Closer U.S. and Australian integration key to AUKUS success

A close partnership between the United States and Australian navies and industry will be key to the success of AUKUS, according to the U.S. Navy's highest-ranking officer, who emphasized the importance of Australian personnel having adequate access to U.S. facilities and information.

Gilday offers 'best military advice' for long-term shipbuilding

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told lawmakers Friday that he supports a 30-year shipbuilding plan that calls for the service to increase to 356 crewed ships by fiscal year 2042 and to 367 crewed ships by FY-53.

Smith: House spending cap bill could threaten DOD funding

The recently passed House bill proposing steep cuts to discretionary federal spending could result in reduced funding for the Pentagon, according to House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), who said the bill could put Navy leadership in an "impossible position."

The Pentagon has awarded contracts to General Electric, Carbon-Carbon Advanced Technologies and Northrop Grumman for hypersonic missile components:

DOD makes targeted investments to grow U.S. hypersonics industrial base

The Defense Department has made three awards to companies intended to strengthen the supply chain for hypersonic missiles.

Executives from L3Harris Technologies spoke about their company's latest earnings last week:

L3Harris confident it can close Aerojet Rocketdyne acquisition this year

L3Harris Technologies executives are confident that the company's $4.7 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne will go through this year despite a delay last month, CEO Chris Kubasik said Friday.

The annual Quad-A conference took place last week:

Army leaders expect milestone B for FLRAA in third quarter of FY-24

NASHVILLE, TN -- Army leaders said this week they expect the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to enter milestone B in the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.

Read our full Quad-A coverage.

By Shelley K. Mesch
May 1, 2023 at 12:12 PM

The Air Force is beginning research into its Next Generation Reentry Vehicle for the LGM-35A Sentinel nuclear missile, according to a request for information posted last week.

The Air Force wants industry information on future advanced reentry vehicles and countermeasure concepts, according to the post. Responses will inform the government on contractor capabilities and interest from the industrial base, it states.

In its fiscal year 2024 budget request, the service is seeking $15.5 million to begin early acquisition activities for the NGRV to integrate with current and future warheads.

With the funding, the service would expect a materiel development decision in FY-24 and milestone A in FY-26, the justification documents released with the budget request state.

By Dan Schere
May 1, 2023 at 11:35 AM

The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $615 million contract to produce launchers and equipment associated with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), the Pentagon announced in an April 28 notice.

According to the announcement, more than $207 million in Recovery Act funds were obligated at the time of the award, and the contract has an estimated completion date of May 30, 2026.

The additional HIMARS production is meant to expand the Army’s fleet of launchers and fulfill orders from other nations, according to Lockheed Martin.

Jay Price, the company’s vice president of precision fires, said in a statement that they are working with the Army and suppliers to ramp up production capacity.

“We’ve taken steps to shorten manufacturing lead time and we’re on track to meet increased capacity,” he said in the statement.

Lockheed’s announcement comes one day after the Army awarded the company a $4.7 billion contract modification for additional Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. Both HIMARS and GMLRS are among the weapon systems that the United States has continued to send to Ukraine during the Russian invasion, as the Defense Department attempts to increase investment in weapons to replenish U.S. stocks.

By Tony Bertuca
May 1, 2023 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill this week for several key posture hearings.


The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on "rebuilding" U.S. naval dominance.


The AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference takes place in Baltimore, MD and runs through Thursday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on the Air Force budget.

The Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee holds a hearing on the readiness of the joint force.

The Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee holds a hearing on the military space budget.

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee holds a hearing on the Army budget.


The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee holds a hearing on nuclear security.


The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on worldwide threats.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion with the chief of Air Force Global Strike Command.

By John Liang
April 28, 2023 at 6:49 PM

Army Chief of Staff James McConville has ordered a 24-hour aviation stand down in the wake of two helicopter collision incidents that killed 12 soldiers.

All Army helicopter pilots are to be grounded, "except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training," according to a service statement, which further reads:

"The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” said McConville, who, in addition to being Chief of Staff, is a senior Army aviator qualified in numerous aircraft. “During this stand down, we will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission.”

The order comes after yesterday’s mid-air collision of two AH-64 Apache helicopters returning from a training mission near Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Three soldiers were killed, and another was hospitalized. A month earlier, nine Soldiers were killed during a routine night training flight near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when their HH-60 Blackhawks collided. While both incidents remain under investigation, there is no indication of any pattern between the two mishaps.

“We are deeply saddened by those we have lost,” McConville said. “It is their loss that makes it all the more important we review our safety procedures and training protocols, and ensure we are training and operating at the highest levels of safety and proficiency.”

During the stand down, the Army will review the risk approval/risk management process, aviation maintenance training program, aircrew training standardization and management, and supervisory responsibility. They will also assess the flight-mission briefing process with an emphasis on risk mitigation, crew selection, flight planning, crew/flight briefings, debriefings and after-action reviews.

Active-duty units are required to complete the 24-hour stand down between May 1st and 5th, while the Army National Guard and Reserve will have until May 31 to coincide with their respective training schedules. Army aviation units will resume normal operations following the stand down, after any corrective actions are taken on issues identified in safety or training.

By John Liang
April 28, 2023 at 2:37 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage from this year's Quad-A conference in Nashville, plus news on defense contractor earnings and more.

We start off with coverage from this year's Quad-A conference in Nashville:

Army leaders expect milestone B for FLRAA in third quarter of FY-24

NASHVILLE, TN -- Army leaders said this week they expect the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to enter milestone B in the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.

McConville: Getting FLRAA and FARA 'over the hump' must be the priority

NASHVILLE, TN -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the service's priority for future vertical lift must be getting the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft "over the hump," meaning quickly fielded and transitioned to being programs of record.

McConville: Army must maintain enduring aircraft while seeking future vertical lift

NASHVILLE, TN -- The Army must continue to improve its enduring aircraft fleets and simultaneously move ahead on future vertical lift priorities, Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told an audience at the Army Aviation Association of America's annual conference Thursday.

Check out our full Quad-A coverage.

On April 21, Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive, approved a recommendation to transition the Glide Phase Interceptor program from the Material Solutions Analysis phase into Technology Development, the equivalent of a milestone A review:

DOD leaders, top brass advance hypersonic defense system through major acquisition review

Defense Department leaders last week approved the Glide Phase Interceptor program to proceed into technology development, signaling support for the Missile Defense Agency's proposed acquisition strategy and plan to mature technologies essential to producing a guided missile designed to hunt down and destroy enemy hypersonic glide vehicles.

Boeing and Northrop Grumman executives discussed their quarterly earnings this week:

Boeing suffers $245M loss from KC-46A in Q1

Boeing experienced a loss of $245 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 due to added costs on the Air Force's KC-46A tanker program, the company disclosed in an earnings call Wednesday.

Northrop Grumman sees benefits in FY-24 budget request, executives say

Funding increases requested in the Defense Department's fiscal year 2024 budget reflect good opportunities for revenue growth for some of Northrop Grumman's key programs, executives said during the company's first-quarter earnings call Thursday morning.

Lockheed Martin has nabbed a multibillion-dollar Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System contract:

Lockheed awarded $4.7B GMLRS contract as DOD eyes munitions replenishments

The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $4.7 billion contract modification to produce additional Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, a weapon that has proved critical in ongoing U.S. support to Ukraine.

By Dan Schere
April 27, 2023 at 5:08 PM

NASHVILLE, TN -- The Army will release its updated doctrine on aviation this fall, service officials told reporters Thursday at the Army Aviation Association of America's annual conference here.

In October, the Army released Field Manual 3-0, which is its new combat operations capstone doctrine. The field manual emphasizes the importance of multidomain operations and using data in how soldiers fight. The release of FM 3-0 was delayed in order for the Army to send analysts to Ukraine to study ground combat there in its war with Russia.

Maj. Gen. Michael McCurry, the commanding general of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Ft. Novosel, AL, told reporters Thursday that the aviation doctrine is a companion document to FM 3-0 for the specific warfighting capability of aviation. The document will be released this fall, he said.

“I think you can expect us to talk a little bit about how we influence land and maritime from the lower tier of the air domain, and how we do that as we transition different capabilities from what we’ve had in the past to the future,” he said.

The last update to the Army aviation doctrine was in April 2020.

By John Liang
April 27, 2023 at 2:22 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on defense contractor earnings, the ethics of defense contractors hiring former military personnel and more.

It's earnings season, so let's start off with several defense contractors:

GD execs: Columbia is on schedule while Virginia supply chain challenges remain

The lead Columbia-class submarine is approximately one-third complete and remains ahead of its official 84-month delivery schedule, while supply chain challenges continue to delay Virginia construction, according to General Dynamics executives.

Textron executives anticipate revenue growth following FLRAA protest resolution

Textron executives reported a slow first quarter for Bell, the company's helicopter-building subsidiary, but expect to see revenue growth for the remainder of the year as the company resumes work on the Army's Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft.

Oshkosh highlights JLTV protest, looks to upcoming combat vehicle contests

Oshkosh, amid the ongoing protest over its loss of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle contract, reported sales growth in a quarterly earnings call today that exceeded Wall Street expectations and asserted the Army is taking "significant risk" with its JLTV award to AM General.

At least one senator is concerned about a "too-cozy relationship" between the Defense Department and an increasingly powerful group of defense contractors:

Warren again targets post-service employment of ex-DOD officials

Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee Chairwoman Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is again pushing legislation that would restrict the employment of former defense officials, citing ethical concerns about the "ugly underbelly" she says exists between the Pentagon and defense contractors.

Document: DOD's ethics testimony

Don Yeske, the Navy’s acting chief technology officer, spoke this week about his service's zero-trust strategy:

Navy CTO emphasizes data-centric security approach

Applying zero trust across the information environment -- from ships and bases to mobile devices and national security systems -- is critical to safeguarding data, according to the Navy's chief technology officer.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, spoke about unmanned systems at a congressional hearing this week:

Air Force sets requirements for first of its uncrewed CCAs

Air Combat Command has set the requirements for the first of its Collaborative Combat Aircraft, the uncrewed platform being designed to autonomously operate and partner with existing and future platforms, a top service official said Wednesday.

The Pentagon's top weapons tester found that the Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle's command and control variant was operationally effective as a stationary command post but struggled to meet mission requirements while moving:

Marine Corps upgrading ACV-C to improve command and control capabilities

The Marine Corps is implementing engineering upgrades for one of its Amphibious Combat Vehicle variants to improve command and control capabilities following an assessment from the Pentagon's chief weapons tester.

Last but by no means least, our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have been covering the RAS Conference out in San Francisco this week:

Contracting attorney Metzger: Concerns over small business burden could delay release of CMMC rulemaking

SAN FRANCISCO -- Contracting attorney Robert Metzger offered two potential reasons behind why the Pentagon's process to issue a rulemaking implementing its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program is delayed, following a panel discussion at an industry event here at the RSA conference.

By Shelley K. Mesch
April 27, 2023 at 1:32 PM

The Sentinel nuclear missile system is still on track to reach initial operational capability by the end of the decade, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers Thursday, but that schedule is at risk.

“At this point, as far as I know, we are still holding to the schedule for IOC,” Kendall said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Air Force's fiscal year 2024 budget request. “But my sense of this is that I think it’s going to be a challenge to make that. We have to do everything we can.”

The program is “realizing some risk areas,” Kendall said, for the “very complicated, very large program.”

Kendall also noted the length of time it's been since an intercontinental ballistic missile has been developed as the Minuteman III was fielded during the Cold War.

Air Force Acquisition chief Andrew Hunter and Defense Department Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante have adjusted the program, Kendall said.

By Tony Bertuca
April 26, 2023 at 3:10 PM

Gen. Christopher Cavoli, chief of U.S. European Command and NATO, told lawmakers today that Ukraine has nearly all the weapons it requires to commence a spring counteroffensive against Russian troops who have dug into the eastern region of the country.

“According to the modeling that we’ve very carefully done with them, the Ukrainians are in a good position,” he told the House Armed Services Committee.

Cavoli noted that 98% of promised combat vehicles have arrived in Ukraine.

“I am very confident that we have delivered the materiel that they need and we’ll continue a pipeline to sustain their operations as well,” he said. “We checked it a couple of times, and we gathered it from our allies, who were very generous, especially with regard to tanks and armored fighting vehicles, and we have been shipping it into the country.”

Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said air defense, artillery and armor remain Ukraine’s top priorities, while acquiring fighter jets -- which the United States has not yet provided -- is “about eighth” in terms of importance.

Wallander said the Pentagon is also wrestling with a “time issue” related to supplying Ukraine in the most efficient way.

“What do they require right now, which is what we’ve been focused on for the battles that they’re facing,” she said. “What can we deliver that will be timely and effective?”

Cavoli said helping Ukraine “control the airspace over its country” with ground-based air defense systems provided by the United States and other NATO nations “is most imperative right now."

The United States has provided a Patriot air defense battery to Ukraine and has trained Ukrainians to use the system, which recently arrived in the country.

Cavoli said Russia remains a formidable foe for the Ukrainians, despite suffering severe losses since the invasion began in February 2022. For instance, he said, the Russian ground force is larger today that it was at the start of the conflict. Additionally, he said the Russian air force has “lost very little” or about 80 planes.

“They have another 1,000 fighters and fighter bombers,” he said.

By John Liang
April 26, 2023 at 1:30 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a Defense Department report that covers the U.S. military's aircraft inventory plans, plus the Government Accountability Office's analysis of space situational awareness and more.

We start off with coverage of a previously unreported Defense Department report on its long-range plans for military aircraft inventory:

DOD 15-year plan shrinks overall aircraft inventory; grows bomber, refueling, SOF fleets

The U.S. military plans to steadily shrink the total number of aircraft it operates over the next 15 years from 13,749 to 12,721 -- a 7% reduction -- with the bomber force, aerial refueling and Special Operations Forces slated for growth, according to the most detailed public forecast of the Defense Department's aircraft inventory to date.

DOD sets goal to grow Air Force long-range strike force by 20%, 173 bombers by 2037

The Pentagon has set a goal to increase the size of the Air Force bomber force by 20% -- growing the fleet from 143 today to 173 by 2037, according to the first major recalibration of the U.S. military's long-term aviation inventory in five years, a previously unreported expansion that reflects the importance of long-range strike in war plans for a potential fight against China.

Document: DOD's annual aviation inventory and funding plan summary report

Related bomber news:

Air Force would consider new bomber if B-21 can't counter new threats, official says

Though currently not planned, the Air Force is open to adding new aircraft to its bomber fleet in future years if it finds the B-21 Raider is unable to counter an emerging capability, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs Lt. Gen. Richard Moore told lawmakers last week.

The Space Force is facing challenges due to the increase of objects in space, which include gaps in the geographical distribution of global sensors that collect data and limited sensor capability for objects in deep space, the Government Accountability Office noted in a report released Monday:

Air Force, Space Force expect to complete by June new strategy looking at use of commercial data

The Air Force and Space Force are collaborating on a new space strategy that will look at using commercial data to bolster the Defense Department's space situation awareness capabilities. The strategy is expected to be completed by June.

Document: GAO report on space situational awareness

More coverage of the Navy's latest 30-year shipbuilding plan:

Navy marks 62 ships for decommissioning across FYDP

The Navy intends to decommission 62 ships over the next five years, pursuing a "divest to invest" strategy that calls for the retirement of ageing carriers and ballistic missile submarines, the decommissioning of more amphibious warships than are procured, and further divestment from the troubled class of Littoral Combat Ships.

Document: Navy's FY-24 shipbuilding plan

Last but by no means least, our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity are at the RSA conference in San Francisco this week:

Boyens: Work continues to set up Federal Acquisition Security Council ahead of issuing removal and exclusion orders

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Federal Acquisition Security Council completed a lot of work to make sure the process for issuing removal and exclusion orders for untrustworthy equipment on federal systems is deliberate and risk-based, according to National Institute of Standards and Technology supply chain leader Jon Boyens, who participated in a panel with leaders behind the Defense Department's cyber certification program.

By Tony Bertuca
April 26, 2023 at 10:15 AM

The Defense Department and the European Defence Agency have signed a new agreement to provide "stronger transatlantic cooperation" in several areas, including information sharing on supply chain issues.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the agreement will strengthen U.S. and European commitments to NATO and transatlantic security.

“Russia's aggression against Ukraine underlines the importance of strong U.S.-European ties in NATO and with the European Union,” he said. “Deepening dialogue and cooperation will only strengthen this key strategic partnership moving forward.”

The “administrative agreement,” according to DOD, will “enable a substantial defense dialogue” with the EDA.

“Initial activities include consultations on the impact of EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation; military mobility; supply chain issues; and the impact of climate change on defense,” DOD said. “It also allows for U.S. participation in the open session of the European Defence Standardisation Committee.”

The agreement was signed today in Brussels by Jiři Šedivý, chief executive of the EDA, and Bill LaPlante, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

LaPlante and other Pentagon officials have said their top priorities include finding global solutions -- like “friend-shoring” -- to capacity issues in the U.S. defense industrial base that have been highlighted by ongoing support to Ukraine.

Josep Borrell, head of the EDA, said the information-sharing agreement would be key for future cooperation.

“At a time when war has returned to Europe, we need to open every avenue for cooperation with our closest partners,” he said. “The EDA-U.S. Administrative Arrangement provides another pillar to strengthen transatlantic cooperation and the link between the EU and the U.S. The European Defence Agency, as the hub for EU defense cooperation, plays a unique role in raising our level of defense cooperation and contributing to make the EU a stronger defense actor and partner."

By Dan Schere
April 25, 2023 at 5:23 PM

Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo said Tuesday afternoon that the company is examining the feedback from the Army and the Government Accountability Office on the reasons for losing the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft contract.

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin, lost out to Bell, owned by Textron, on the FLRAA contract. After the Army announced the decision in early December, Sikorsky filed a bid protest with GAO, alleging inconsistencies in the way the Army evaluated its DEFIANT X proposal and Bell’s V-280 Valor.

This month, GAO denied Sikorsky’s protest, agreeing with the Army’s original feedback that the DEFIANT X lacked enough detail when it came to engineering design and development. The company ultimately chose not to take further legal action.

Lemmo, speaking by phone to reporters Tuesday ahead of the Aviation Association of America’s annual conference in Nashville, TN, said despite the outcome of the protest, he is still encouraged by positive feedback from the Army on the company’s X2 technology -- a coaxial rotor system that eliminates the need for a tail rotor. Sikorsky’s proposal for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft also uses X2 technology.

“As we review all the feedback that we got on the proposal on the FLRAA offering, in particular the X2 technology, I think the good news there is that we have many strengths associated with X2,” Lemmo said.

“Specifically, the feedback that we received from the Army let us know that the agility, stability and scalability of our X2 technology can be extremely useful in contested areas,” he added.

Lemmo did not elaborate on the reasons Sikorsky chose not to take the FLRAA case to court. He emphasized that the Army only rated the DEFIANT X as “unacceptable” in the architecture subfactor, but that caused the overall engineering and design factor to also be viewed as unacceptable.

As Sikorsky competes with Bell for the FARA contract, Lemmo said they are continuing to review feedback from the FLRAA case.

“I would say that we are obviously learning from that and moving on, and we’ll take all the lessons learned to all of the future opportunities that we bid on,” he said.

Sikorsky’s RAIDER X prototype is 96% complete in the company’s West Palm Beach, FL facility. Lemmo said the prototype is currently undergoing risk-reduction testing, and they hope to fly it by the summer of 2024.

That timing is based on the Improved Turbine Engines being delivered this fall, which have experienced quality-control-related delays, according to Army acquisition chief Doug Bush. Then, additional tests must be conducted once the engines are installed, Lemmo said.

“It’s got to go through a number of ground tests and checkouts, and then we can begin flight checks,” he said.