The Insider

By John Liang
December 21, 2021 at 1:48 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on STEM education, a Marine Corps medium-range air defense capability and more.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Will Marsh, president of the Printed Circuit Board Association of America, and discussed investing in science, technology, engineering and math education:

Industry eyes increased investment in STEM programs to strengthen domestic manufacturing base

Industry and congressional lawmakers say increasing investment in science, technology, engineering and math education and workforce development are key factors to strengthening a domestic manufacturing base and supply chain security.

A recent test of the Marine Corps' Medium Range Intercept Capability prototype was the first in a series of live-fire events scheduled for fiscal year 2022 that will be carried out against increasingly challenging cruise missile profiles:

Marine Corps announces successful Medium Range Intercept Capability test

The Marine Corps' Medium Range Intercept Capability prototype successfully engaged targets last week at White Sands Missile Range, the service announced Tuesday.

House and Senate lawmakers' latest defense policy bill includes language on improving military vehicle safety:

Ground vehicle training safety makes it into defense policy bill, data recorder pilot program dropped

The Army and Marine Corps will need to submit reports to Congress about measures they are taking to prevent accidents during ground vehicle training under a provision in the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill.

The Air Force is recruiting universities to help with space domain awareness as well as mobility and logistics:

AFRL looking to strengthen university ties, boost tech transition through new space research initiative

The Air Force Research Laboratory on Friday announced the first two winners of a new Space University Research Initiative that aims to help transition new concepts developed in academia to technology that can be used by the Space Force.

In case you missed it, here's our deep dive into some of the major decisions facing the Pentagon in 2022:

Pentagon faces key decision points in coming year

The Pentagon is poised to make several significant decisions in 2022 that could impact its budget and acquisition programs for years to come, all while dealing with continued challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Briana Reilly
December 21, 2021 at 12:37 PM

The F-35 joint program office is surveying suppliers on the potential for implementing new cost reduction strategies over the life cycle of the fighter aircraft, a request for information shows.

The notice, posted today, seeks responses from current subcontractors and suppliers tied to the F-35’s air system to gauge interest in working with prime contractors and the JPO’s affordability war room “to innovate, collaborate, and ultimately implement” those cost reduction mechanisms.

Prioritized responses will include those with “well developed near-term cost reduction strategies and initiatives that are ready, or near ready, for implementation to the air system,” the notice states.

Among the information the JPO is seeking from responses is a description of the initiative and an explanation for how it would reduce costs, an anticipated dollar figure tied to implementing the proposal, projected life cycle cost savings through fiscal year 2081, a timeline for when those expected savings would begin and to what extent a respondent would be willing to partner with Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney and internally fund officials to collaborate with the JPO’s affordability war room to finalize implementation details.

Responses are due by the end of January.

By Courtney Albon
December 21, 2021 at 12:30 PM

The Space Force on Friday wrapped up a two-week Space Flag training exercise, the service's first to include a simulated combat environment available to the partner nations who participated in the event.

Held from Dec. 6-17 at Schriever Space Force Base, CO, the 13th Space Flag exercise included nine Space Force Deltas and representatives from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a Dec. 20 press release.

The event is focused on deterring and denying adversary aggression and providing joint warfighters a realistic training environment. During this most recent Space Flag, participants were split into three cells representing Space Force guardians, a simulated adversary and command-and-control operators.

Brig. Gen. Shawn Bratton, the commander of Space Training and Readiness Command, said in the press release exercises like Space Flag are crucial to preparing guardians to operate in a threat environment.

“Though our goal is to avoid conflict, we must be prepared if it occurs,” Bratton said. “It is vitally important we provide space forces with realistic, threat-based training to enhance their ability to analyze and respond to current and future threats in space.”

By Audrey Decker
December 21, 2021 at 12:00 PM

The Navy is requesting information from industry and academia to explore autonomous performance prediction and fault mitigation for unmanned undersea vehicles.

A two-day, unclassified workshop will take place in February and focus on UUVs’ performance estimation as the duration of the UUV mission increases, according to a revised request for information issued today.

“It is anticipated that performance, fault handling and overall reliability will become even more important as UUV missions increase in duration from hours to days or weeks of operation,” the RFI states.

Operational UUVs do not perform the same on-site as the systems do in controlled test environments, the RFI states, “which can lead to negative impacts on overall mission performance.”

“The interactive effects of the ocean environment on navigation, power generation, and other UUV operations carried out during missions will be considered during this workshop; these effects include current, temperature, salinity, density, bottom depth, and bottom type,” the RFI states.

The workshop will explore why on-site variations occur and how the changes can be evaluated and mitigated, according to the RFI.

Earlier this month, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division hosted an industry day to discuss a contract that would support current and future autonomous and unmanned systems.

During the industry day, the Navy said the ceiling value of the contract is $62 million and the award will be made in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023.

By Briana Reilly
December 21, 2021 at 11:34 AM

The Air Force's Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon faced "an unknown issue" during an attempted booster test flight this month, the service's program executive officer for weapons confirmed, marking the latest testing mishap for the hypersonic missile.

First reported by The War Zone last week, the Dec. 15 demonstration -- the hypersonic weapon’s third flight test -- was cut short as officials aborted its launch sequence from a B-52 before its release, Brig. Gen. Heath Collins said in an emailed statement.

No further details about the underlying issue were included, and spokeswoman Lena Lopez declined to address additional questions, saying officials don’t “have any new information to share.” Collins in his statement said the program will “immediately” begin an analysis of the telemetry and onboard data following the missile’s return to the factory.

The news comes in the wake of testing issues in July, in which ARRW separated from the bomber but failed to light its rocket motor -- an episode that prompted a recently wrapped-up failure review board investigation.

The probable root cause, program lead Marya Bard told Inside Defense this month, was attributed to “an electrical issue which caused the booster ignition device to not function.”

A few months before the July flight test, ARRW failed to launch from a B-52 during what was supposed to be the first time the weapon was released from a host aircraft, an initial demonstration that had previously been set to take place in December 2020.

It’s unclear when the next flight test may occur. Collins’ statement said the program aims to resume demonstrations “as quickly as possible.”

The service previously conducted seven captive-carriage tests, ending in August 2020. Officials have maintained that the program is heading toward fielding a fully operational capability in the early 2020s.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has spoken about his dissatisfaction with the service’s pace on hypersonics development, telling reporters in September he’d like to see quicker progress as he noted Russian and Chinese efforts are “concerning” because of their speed. He added that officials need “to do a better job of figuring out exactly what we need in our inventory and what the best delivery systems are.”

“There’s some test assets that we’d like to have that could still be funded,” he said. “There are things we could do to accelerate that but again, we’ve got to solve the problem first, where are we trying to go? Then we can get there as quick as possible.”

By Courtney Albon
December 21, 2021 at 10:27 AM

The Space Force on Monday awarded Boeing a $329 million, 10-year contract for GPS IIF sustainment.

The sole-source contract provides on-orbit services to include operational and technical support, software maintenance, anomaly resolution and planning for future integration with the Next-Generation Operational Control System, GPS OCX.

Today, there are 12 operational GPS IIF satellites on orbit, all of which were launched between 2010 and 2016 and were designed for a 12-year lifespan. As Boeing and the Space Force maintain the IIF constellation, the service is working with Lockheed Martin to develop and field GPS III and IIIF satellites, with the first GPS III launching in 2018.

By Briana Reilly
December 20, 2021 at 4:07 PM

The Air Force Research Laboratory is looking to incorporate strike and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities into its air-breathing hypersonic effort, according to a new contract notice, which clears the way for an anticipated request for proposals next month.

Called “Mayhem,” the system -- publicly revealed in August 2020 -- has been the focus of two requests for information in the time since, with the most recent one from summer 2021 indicating officials were considering employing a System Design Agent to facilitate development of the program.

Those notices showed the program, then referred to as the “Expendable Hypersonic Multi-Mission Air-Breathing Vehicle,” would be capable of carrying larger payloads over further distances than allowed under current hypersonic capabilities. But they didn’t mention the potential for strike or ISR functions -- both of which are represented in the push’s new name, as listed in this month’s contract notice: “Hypersonic Multi-mission ISR and Strike.”

The latest notice, initially published Dec. 14 but then updated Dec. 17, notes an RFP is anticipated for publication in January 2022, with a 45-day window for development and submission. The notice also lists an anticipated “program ceiling” of $371 million and continues to call for leveraging an SDA approach.

The effort, according to the initial Dec. 14 notice, includes three distinct payloads to execute multiple mission sets, all marked as Controlled Unclassified Information -- an “area effect payload,” a “large unitary payload” and a “responsive” ISR one, all designated to carry out “three key mission goals.” Earlier RFIs had outlined the need for a modular weapons bay with the trio of payloads, but lacked additional details.

“The system goal is to carry payloads five times the mass and double the range of current technology capability systems,” the Dec. 14 notice said. The line, along with the details about the payloads, was removed from the updated Dec. 17 notice.

By John Liang
December 20, 2021 at 2:20 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the big decisions the Pentagon is due to make next year and more.

We start off with a deep dive into major decisions for the Pentagon in the coming year:

Pentagon faces key decision points in coming year

The Pentagon is poised to make several significant decisions in 2022 that could impact its budget and acquisition programs for years to come, all while dealing with continued challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google is eyeing the Pentagon's Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract:

As Google Cloud works through JWCC bid, officials look to broaden military service deals

After securing a number of military service deals in recent years, Google's cloud wing is positioning itself to expand existing partnerships and win major contracts within the Defense Department, the latter of which, an official said, would help "level the playing field" between the company and its competitors.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon publishes level two assessment guide for revamped CMMC program

The Defense Department has released the assessment guide for level two of its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, making changes to the initial model through the removal of processes as well as 20 controls that go beyond the initial standard developed by NIST.

L3Harris has announced its Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor proposal passed muster with the Missile Defense Agency:

MDA completes review of HBTSS prototype designs; L3Harris, Northrop cleared to build

The Missile Defense Agency has approved the second of two competing design proposals for a Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, clearing L3Harris to proceed with Northrop Grumman in beginning to fabricate space vehicles critical to U.S. military plans to counter a new class of ultra-fast maneuvering weapons.

Ross Hempel, deputy head of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division's Naval Architecture & Engineering Department, spoke at a recent industry day:

Unmanned programs coming to 'a lot' of Navy warfare centers

Navy warfare centers are seeing a growing emphasis on unmanned systems, including the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division.

By Audrey Decker
December 20, 2021 at 1:44 PM

The Navy will not finish its Offensive Surface Fires analysis of alternatives on the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel until next year.

Navy spokesman Lt. Lewis Aldridge told Inside Defense on Thursday that the AOA should be completed by February or early March, but the exact timeframe is unknown.

Aldridge said it’s “not a delay,” just that the analysis hasn’t been finished yet.

The Navy expected to complete the analysis and report its findings to Congress “before the end of this calendar year,” according to joint testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Service seapower subcommittee in June.

House and Senate defense authorization panels included a provision in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Navy to conduct an AOA.

“As directed in the FY-21 National Defense Authorization Act, the Navy is conducting a Distributed Offensive Surface Fires AOA to compare the currently planned large unmanned surface vessel with an integrated missile launcher payload against a broad range of alternative surface platforms and capabilities to determine the most appropriate vessel to deliver additional missile capability and capacity to the surface force,” the joint testimony states.

The Navy also said it is delaying production of LUSVs to ensure technical maturity in FY-22 and instituting a prototyping plan to be completed before production.

Initial production of LUSVs was planned to begin in FY-23, but the Navy is delaying production “until the enabling technologies are sufficiently mature and representative machinery has been qualified,” according to the service’s FY-22 budget justification documents.

By Audrey Decker
December 20, 2021 at 11:57 AM

Boeing announced today its MQ-25 Stingray T1 test asset has successfully maneuvered aboard a Navy aircraft carrier.

The unmanned aircraft taxied on the deck, connected to the catapult, parked and performed other maneuvers on the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), according to a company press release.

“The demonstration was intended to ensure the design of the MQ-25 will successfully integrate into the carrier environment and to evaluate the functionality, capability and handling qualities of the deck handling system both in day and night conditions,” the press release states.

A Boeing deck-handling operator used a handheld deck-control device to maneuver the aircraft, according to the press release.

The MQ-25 test asset has also completed air-to-air refueling tests with the E-2 Advanced Hawkeye, F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.

Boeing is currently using digital models to bridge the gap between the T1 prototype and the actual aircraft the company will build for the Navy.

“When we got the contract, the prototype we had built did not include all of the functionality and the carrier-based information necessary and corrosion protection for Navy aircraft and the subsystems redundancies and all of that that we need when we go to war, when this airplane goes to war,” said David Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 Program Director.

Boeing’s digital model will link the prototype and the Navy aircraft and validate the two versions of the unmanned system, Bujold told reporters last week.

By Jason Sherman
December 20, 2021 at 10:32 AM

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Technologies -- teamed to design a new intercontinental ballistic missile killer -- completed their Next Generation Interceptor System Requirements Review with the Missile Defense Agency, clearing the companies to proceed with product development of their new missile design.

On Dec. 20, Northrop announced the SRR “was completed ahead of schedule.”

Lockheed Martin, also competing to design and develop NGI, completed its SRR on Sept. 27.

By Tony Bertuca
December 17, 2021 at 4:46 PM

The Defense Policy Board met this week for the first time since being reestablished following a review by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the upcoming National Defense Strategy.

The board, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, met with Austin Thursday to discuss classified briefings on Chinese military modernization, the National Defense Strategy, integrated deterrence, the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

The board is the second advisory committee to reconvene since Austin completed his review, according to the Pentagon. The Defense Business Board, which convened in November, was first.

"The secretary thanked the members for their continued dedication to the nation and their sound advice and counsel as the department continues to refine the NDS,” Kirby said.

Austin launched the "zero-based" review of all DOD advisory boards and committees in February amid concern that former President Trump had used them in a lame-duck attempt to reward loyalists.

Albright, along with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, were among several officials ousted from key DOD advisory boards at the end of Trump’s first term.

By John Liang
December 17, 2021 at 2:09 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on naval unmanned systems and more.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division recently held an industry day:

Unmanned programs coming to 'a lot' of Navy warfare centers

Navy warfare centers are seeing a growing emphasis on unmanned systems, including the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division.

More Navy unmanned systems news:

Boeing using digital model to move from MQ-25 test asset to Navy aircraft

ST. LOUIS -- Boeing is using digital models to bridge the gap between its MQ-25 Stingray T1 prototype and the aircraft the company will build for the Navy.

And more news from Boeing's facility in St. Louis:

Boeing ramping up Navy's Super Hornet Block III conversion

ST. LOUIS -- Boeing is going to convert the Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to the most advanced version of the fighter jet -- at a fast pace.

The fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill includes a provision that calls for existing missile defense technologies be adopted to expedite fielding on Guam with "an objective of achieving initial operating capability in 2025":

Defense policy bill would set new marker in debate over improved Guam missile defense: IOC in 2025

Lawmakers have set a 2025 target for fielding an improved air- and missile defense capability on Guam to give the island 360-degree protection against advanced Chinese threats, a statutory provision -- once the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill is signed by the president -- that would set a new marker in the debate over whether, what and when to deploy on the Western Pacific U.S. territory.

Inside Defense recently interviewed the head of a consortium formed in April consisting of U.S.-based companies that advocate for legislation to bolster domestic production of printed circuit boards:

Industry group calls for holistic approach to microelectronics 'ecosystem'

An industry group formed earlier this year is calling for a holistic approach to the microelectronics "ecosystem" that includes increasing federal investment in the printed circuit board industry to build a resilient supply chain and domestic manufacturing base.

We also chatted with Anne Cheever, program manager for DARPA's Biomanufacturing: Survival, Utility and Reliability beyond Earth (B-SURE) effort:

DARPA exploring in-space biomanufacturing under new B-SURE program

A new program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will consider the feasibility and economic viability for space-based biomanufacturing.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
December 17, 2021 at 12:23 PM

The Army approved the newest upgrade to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle for a conditional materiel release on Dec. 13, an Army spokeswoman told Inside Defense this week.

Fielding of the Bradley A4 has begun to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Ashley John wrote in an email. The brigade, based at Ft. Stewart, GA, will begin field maintenance and new equipment training in January, and the final vehicle will be delivered in March.

The service plans to field the Bradley A4 to four armored brigades, as well as one pre-positioned stock, John wrote. Fielding to the pre-positioned stock will take place in FY-23.

A full materiel release for the A4 is planned for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2025, according to the spokeswoman.

The A4 upgrade brings improved powertrain and electrical systems to the Bradley, according to Army budget documents. The Army plans to award a follow-on contract for A4 production in FY-22 to BAE Systems, the prime contractor on the Bradley program.

By Briana Reilly
December 17, 2021 at 9:38 AM

An armed cruise missile, deployed from a pallet dropped from an MC-130J, successfully destroyed its target during a capstone live-fire test this week as part of the Air Force’s Rapid Dragon program.

The Air Force Research Laboratory on Thursday announced the results of the latest flight test, held at Eglin Air Force Base, FL -- a demonstration that marked the end of the effort’s first phase.

Dean Evans, Rapid Dragon program manager at the service’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office, told Inside Defense in an email the end of the two-year-long initial stage, in which officials “worked toward a developmental prototype to demonstrate the live fire of a palletized munition,” would clear the way for a second, two-year-long push.

That phase, which he said “will mature this system to an operational prototype and integrate different weapons/effects,” will include a live-fire test with a cruise missile in the spring involving a C-17.

During the latest flight test, the Air Force Special Operations Command-flown MC-130J received new targeting data that was routed to its battle management system and uploaded to the missile flight test vehicle, allowing it to find its new target en route to the drop zone, per the release. Once there, a four-cell deployment system, including the vehicle and three mass simulators, dropped from the aircraft and the weights were sequentially released from the box.

The vehicle then deployed its wings and tail, the release said, ignited its engine and flew toward its target, destroying it.

The release notes the retargeting methodology deployed in the test “is designed to be transferrable to other strike and cargo platforms, potentially increasing the lethality of those aircraft.” But it didn’t name examples of the airframes it could be paired with.

This week’s demonstration comes in the month after the SDPE office held a separate test of the Rapid Dragon program at White Sands Missile Range, NM.

Evans noted the previous test involved a production line weapon without an engine or warhead, while this month’s included both.

In all, the latest AFRL release said, Rapid Dragon has seen five system-level flight tests over the last five months across three aircraft: MC-130J, EC-130SJ and C-17A.