The Insider

By Dan Schere
May 15, 2024 at 2:19 PM

Army acquisition head Doug Bush told Senate appropriators today that the service could use more funding to increase its contracting workforce.

Bush, speaking during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, said the Army’s contracting workforce currently numbers about 9,000. The workforce had to “double their workload” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which was followed immediately by the start of Ukraine’s war with Russia, he noted.

“If I worry about one workforce, it’s the contracting workforce,” he said.

When asked by subcommittee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) whether 9,000 people was optimal, Bush said “some more would be helpful.”

“However, we are in the meantime focused on giving them better technology and tools to be more efficient. So, I think a little help in both realms, efficiency investment and perhaps some more people, would be warranted,” he said.

Tester asked later in the hearing whether the services utilize a “distinct appropriations account to ensure sufficient funding to recruit and retain acquisition personnel,” and Bush said the Army does for training.

“And if it was bigger that would actually be very helpful. And it wouldn’t have to be dramatically bigger. A little bit could go a long way across the services,” he said.

Bush told Inside Defense following the hearing that contracting centers such as Redstone Arsenal, AL and Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, as well as others, are the types of facilities that could use more workers.

Bush said the Army plans to come back to the Senate with a more precise number of how many more workers it needs but added the increase would not be a “dramatic number.”

“I’m not talking doubling it. I’m talking just some more people to make sure that as you have a churn of workforce in and out . . . that we have enough flexibility to make sure all the work gets covered as you have workforce churn,” he said.

By John Liang
May 15, 2024 at 1:24 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Navy seeking a cheap solution to defend against Houthi missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles, plus more coverage of the House Armed Services Committee's draft fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill and more.

The primary threats facing the collective of naval forces currently gathered in the Red Sea -- also known as Operation Prosperity Guardian -- are unmanned drones, anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles:

Cost-effective method of battling Houthis poses challenge, Pyle says

The Navy needs to find a more cost-effective method of retaliating against Houthi drones and missiles in the Red Sea -- an ongoing threat posed toward merchant and military vessels since last October, Surface Warfare Division Director Rear Adm. Fred Pyle said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies panel Tuesday.

To that end, lawmakers are calling for a "re-arm-at-sea" capability:

House authorizers want a strategy to enable re-arming at sea within three years

House authorizers want an operational 're-arm-at-sea' capability within three years of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill's enactment, and are calling on the Navy to deliver a concrete strategy for developing and fielding the system on this timeline.

House authorizers also want a congressional mandate for stationing missile defense interceptors on the U.S. East Coast:

Draft legislation seeks statutory mandate for East Coast counter-ICBM location

House lawmakers are advancing a statutory mandate for an East Coast national missile defense location by the end of 2030, the latest development in a 12-year campaign to create a third Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptor field which the Pentagon doesn't want.

The Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act designated the U.K. and Australia as “domestic sources” for DPA funds, while Canada has been a domestic source since 1992:

DOD seeks critical tech prototypes from U.K., Australia and Canada for DPA funding

The Defense Department has released an "open announcement" seeking proposals for critical technology prototypes from companies in the U.K., Australia and Canada that will be funded under the Defense Production Act.

Document: DOD critical technology prototypes 'open announcement'

More news on Canada:

Canada will bolster its northern defenses for changing threat environment, starting with OTHR

At least one of the four Over-The-Horizon Radar systems planned for Canadian soil will be in the country's southern region, Canada's Defence Minister Bill Blair said Monday.

The draft FY-25 defense authorization bill would integrate some Air National Guard units into the Space Force:

House authorizers would allow National Guard transfers to Space Force with limitations

The House Armed Services Committee may allow the Space Force to integrate some units of the Air National Guard, but would limit the authorities the service sought in a proposal sent to Congress earlier this year.

The draft policy bill also has shipbuilding provisions:

More LSM design requirements need to be met, defense subcommittee says

Funding for the procurement of the Medium Landing Ship should be prohibited until the Navy secretary ensures the ship's design meets several requirements, according to the recently released House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s mark-up of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill.

Senate authorizers join push to fund two Virginia subs in new letter to appropriators

A bipartisan group of 15 senators sent a letter to appropriations committee leadership calling for the full restoration of funding for two Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2025.

Document: Senators' letter on Virginia-class sub funding

The Army's Program Executive Office for Aviation, in a May 10 statement to Inside Defense, said the the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft's program schedule "will be determined as part of the pending milestone B decision,” but that the goal is still to “get the initial aircraft delivered in 2030":

Army plans to determine program schedule for FLRAA as part of milestone B decision

The Army will have a more firm cost and schedule baseline for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft once it reaches a milestone B decision later this year, according to service officials.

By Abby Shepherd
May 15, 2024 at 11:17 AM

A robotics technology company has been awarded a five-year contract for production, sustainment and development of the MK20 Defender Remotely Operated Vehicle platform -- which the Navy will use for its Maritime Expeditionary Standoff Response (MESR) -- according to a contract announcement.

The contract -- worth over $92 million -- will allow defense company VideoRay’s underwater robotics systems to support the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Underwater Response Vehicle program, as well as MESR. MESR seeks to improve sensors, among other components, of remotely operated technology used for underwater explosive detection and removal. Work on the platform is expected to be completed by May 2029, the announcement said.

"This production contract with the U.S. Navy marks an exciting new chapter for VideoRay, acknowledging the dedication and hard work of our team to achieve this significant milestone," VideoRay Chief Executive Officer Chris Gibson said in a statement. "We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Navy and to receive valuable feedback, which has been instrumental in continuously enhancing our next-generation Expeditionary EOD and MCM systems to meet the fleet's requirements.”

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the U.S. Navy, along with our partners to advance our technology and capabilities to meet the needs of our defense and commercial customers alike worldwide,” Gibson continued.

By Dan Schere
May 15, 2024 at 9:00 AM

Epirus has delivered the last two Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC)-high power microwave (HPM) systems to the Army, and the systems have completed new equipment training and engineering developmental testing, the company announced today.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office awarded Epirus a $66 million contract in 2023 to develop IFPC-HPM prototypes, with the first of four being delivered to the Army last November.

Epirus CEO Andy Lowery said in a statement today that by March, all four systems had been delivered to the Army. Engineering developmental testing was conducted in April to determine the systems’ effectiveness against swarms of unmanned systems, “utilizing a range of increasingly complex flight patterns.”

Data collected during the test will inform Army Test and Evaluation Command’s test report for the program, which will have an impact on “follow-on programming, budget and operation utilization of the counter-drone solution,” according to the company.

Lowery told Inside Defense in an interview this week that the testing went well and served as an important “proof of concept,” but said he can’t discuss details about the test results until the test report is released this summer. Soldiers from Air Defense Artillery 51 participated in the test, he said.

“We’re not out there ready to go deploy today to [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command], but we were proving a concept for the very first time where we had real ADA soldiers. Not us doing it and soldiers standing behind us or something,” he said.

Lowery said the biggest challenge when it comes to HPM is rapidly integrating the system into a short-range air complex.

“You have to rapidly integrate it and ensure that you’re coordinated with [Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control] or whatever the C2 system of choice is,” he said.

By John Liang
May 14, 2024 at 1:38 PM

The bulk of this Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest deals with the House Armed Services Committee's draft fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill.

We start off with House authorizers' thoughts on the Pentagon's most expensive weapon system acquisition program ever:

House authorizers cut F-35 procurement to reinvest $1B in mitigating production issues

The House Armed Services Committee's draft of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill would cut 10 of the Pentagon's 68 requested F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and reinvest about $1 billion in the production of the Lockheed Martin-made aircraft, which continues to see performance and cost challenges.

House lawmakers also want more information on how vulnerable U.S. armored vehicles are:

House lawmakers want Army briefing on survivability of armored systems on the modern battlefield

House lawmakers are alarmed over the vulnerability of armored vehicles as shown in Ukraine, particularly from unmanned systems, and are asking the Army for a briefing on how it will address new battlefield threats, according to the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee's mark-up of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

Additionally, unmanned systems are an area of focus in the draft policy bill:

DOD tasked with defining use of 'attritable UAS,' commonly used in describing Replicator

Lawmakers are asking the defense secretary, in coordination with the service secretaries, to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee defining what an "attritable unmanned aircraft system" is, according to the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee's fiscal year 2025 authorization mark released this week.

House subcommittee mark-up would establish drone corps in the Army

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee has proposed establishing a drone corps as a branch of the Army in its mark-up of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

House authorizers propose adding CUAS funding from Army UPL in chairman's mark

House authorizers have proposed adding millions of dollars in counter-drone funding in the chairman's mark of the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2025.

The Navy's Constellation-class frigate program looks to be delayed:

House authorization mark adds $1 billion for a second Virginia sub and cuts frigate procurement

The House Armed Services Committee's initial mark-up of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill looks to add $1 billion for the purchase of a second Virginia-class submarine while cutting all procurement funding for the Constellation-class frigate program.

Authorizers also want the Defense Innovation Unit to set up a pilot program focusing on commercial, dual-use technologies, specifically technologies that aren't already included in an established program of record:

CITI mark-up assigns DIU to establish testing and evaluation pilot program

The House Armed Services cyber, information technologies and innovation subcommittee's fiscal year 2025 mark-up released today requires the Defense Innovation Unit to perform a pilot program that establishes new testing and evaluation pathways within the Defense Department.

Last but by no means least, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing last week on missile defense programs:

MDA: Even with additional funding, GPI fielding by 2029 'very hard date to meet'

The Pentagon's project to develop a new counter-hypersonic weapon cannot be accelerated by a funding increase, which means U.S. forces for the next decade will rely on a pair of advanced guided-missile interceptors that have some capability against ultrafast maneuvering threats in the terminal phase.

Document: FY-25 BMD budget request posture testimony

By John Liang
May 13, 2024 at 1:24 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill, Air Force depots and more.

The House Armed Services Committee today released the draft chairman's and subcommittee marks for the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill:

Document: House lawmakers' FY-25 defense policy bill marks

We also have a deep dive into the Air Force's depot overhaul efforts:

Air Force depots in line for robust, brand-new IT makeover

The Air Force in September will release a dramatic, three-phased plan to overhaul its depots to be better equipped for a potential fight with a near-peer adversary, formally dubbed "The Air Force Depot Infrastructure Optimization Plan," an service spokesperson told Inside Defense May 9.

Related Air Force aircraft news:

Air Force eyes $18B for new investment by retiring 938 'legacy' aircraft through 2029

The Air Force wants to harvest $18 billion for new modernization priorities by divesting 938 aircraft -- including fighters, bombers, cargo planes, trainers, rotorcraft and more -- according to a DOD report that reveals for the first time the scope of plans between fiscal years 2025 and 2029 to finance new capabilities -- such as uncrewed fighters -- out-of-hide.

Some potential Virginia-class submarine funding news:

Plans to fund two Virginia subs take shape in Congress, with or without defense spending cap

The push to procure two Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2025 is gaining momentum in Congress, where some lawmakers are preparing to fund a second boat regardless of whether the Pentagon's topline budget stays within Fiscal Responsibility Act spending limits or breaks its $895 billion cap.

The Defense Innovation Unit was also in the news last week:

DIU releases Replicator overview targeted at industry involvement

The Defense Innovation Unit released an overview of the Replicator initiative this week, answering frequently asked questions and focusing on increasing industry's involvement amid the private voicing of frustrations from some companies.

DIU seeks quantum sensing and hypersonics for new emerging tech portfolio

The Defense Innovation Unit launched the first solicitation under its new emerging technology portfolio today, focusing the first lines of effort on quantum sensing and hypersonics.

By Georgina DiNardo
May 13, 2024 at 12:44 PM

Eleven Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today calling for funds from the recent Ukraine supplemental to be spent on more small, U.S.-built drones and deployed to Ukraine, citing issues with Chinese-made drones being the main small drone supplier.

Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Rich McCormick (R-GA), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Nick LaLota (R-NY), Michael Turner (R-OH) and Don Bacon (R-NE) authored the letter.

The lawmakers note the recently enacted Ukraine supplemental, which provides $13.8 billion in funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, calls on Austin to include small, U.S.-built drones in the appropriation of those funds.

“Without these drones, Ukrainian forces cannot conduct effective battlefield operations and must rely on insecure drones from China that are increasingly difficult to procure,” the letter states.

The lawmakers claimed that Ukraine uses around 10,000 small drones every month, most coming from a single Chinese company.

“These systems are the primary method for identifying targets, directing artillery fire, surveilling enemy positions and enabling battlefield maneuvers and force protection,” the letter said.

The lawmakers claim the State Department has sent Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior “several hundred small drones,” however the Defense Department has only sent larger systems to Ukrainian front lines.

The lawmakers call upon DOD to provide small drones to Ukraine for three reasons.

First, the lawmakers believe drones are vital to Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

“Without drones, Ukrainian forces are unable to direct battlefield fires, identify and surveil enemy positions, and protect their own forces,” the letter states.

Second, drone usage in Ukraine gives a glimpse into future “near-peer conflict” since drone tactics evolve regularly. By providing U.S.-made drones, the lawmakers believe the U.S. would be able to improve domestic drone capabilities for future military efforts.

“Surging small, American-made systems to Ukraine benefits the United States military and our industrial base by enabling rapid iteration and improvement in the world’s most demanding battlefield conditions,” the letter states. “The use of American drones in Ukraine allows the United States to iterate and build systems superior to Chinese drones and develop capabilities that are necessary for deterring -- and if necessary, winning -- future near-peer conflicts.”

Finally, the lawmakers state that delivering U.S.-made drones is a “geopolitical victory” as it displaces China’s hold on drone monopolies.

“Drone exports are an increasingly important tool for influence abroad; replacing Chinese systems in Ukraine will further erode Chinese influence and control of this critical global industry,” the letter states.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 13, 2024 at 10:57 AM

Lockheed Martin received a $332 million contract to manufacture the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System for the Army, the Defense Department announced Friday.

In a modification to a 2022 indefinite-delivery contract, the Maryland-based company will build the rockets by an estimated completion date of Oct. 20, 2027, while the “work locations and funding will be determined with each order,” the May 10 announcement reads.

Launched from the ground, the GMLRS is a GPS guided rocket designed to hit targets up to 70km. The rocket can have a unitary warhead or cluster-like effects warhead and has an extended-range variant.

Earlier this month, the Army delayed design reviews and flight tests for the extended-range variant, Darrell Ames, a spokesperson at the program executive office for missile and space programs, wrote in an email to Inside Defense.

In January, the Army also proceeded with a production “cut-in” for the current batch of the Extended Range GMLRS variant to implement an engineering change proposal that will extend the maximum range of the missile from 70km to 150km.

The GMLRS is part of a family of munitions along with the Army Tactical Missile System and Precision Strike Missile that can be launched from the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

The Army plans to spend approximately $1.2 billion to 1.4 billion on the GMLRS between fiscal years 2025-2029, according to service budget documents.

The GMLRS will also be included in the Army’s multiyear procurement in the fourth quarter of FY-24, which is estimated to save $67.6 million, according to a service spokesperson, who spoke with Inside Defense in April.

Since February 2022, the U.S. has included the GMLRS as part of military aid for Ukraine as the country counters an invasion from Russia.

By Tony Bertuca
May 13, 2024 at 5:00 AM

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

Monday

The Center on Foreign Relations hosts a discussion with senior military leaders on U.S. defense strategy.

The Association of the United States Army holds its annual LanPac conference in Honolulu, HI.

The Atlantic Council holds a discussion on strengthening the “middle ground” of the defense industrial landscape.

Tuesday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on U.S. military operations in the Red Sea and lessons learned for surface warfare.

Wednesday

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee holds a hearing with senior Pentagon leaders on select defense acquisition programs.

The Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee holds a hearing on Army modernization.

Thursday

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

DefenseOne hosts a discussion on Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Center for a New American Security hosts a discussion with Doug Beck, director of the Defense Innovation Unit.

Friday

The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion with Gen. Christopher Cavoli, chief of U.S. European Command and NATO supreme allied commander.

The Center for a New American Security hosts a discussion on developing drone and counter-drone capabilities with Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo.

By John Liang
May 10, 2024 at 3:26 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Virginia-class submarine funding, more details on the Pentagon's secretive Replicator program and more.

Draft marks of the FY-25 defense policy bill -- expected to appear in the coming weeks -- are likely to authorize the purchase of a second Virginia-class submarine and outline a strategy for funding the multibillion-dollar vessel:

Plans to fund two Virginia subs take shape in Congress, with or without defense spending cap

The push to procure two Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2025 is gaining momentum in Congress, where some lawmakers are preparing to fund a second boat regardless of whether the Pentagon's topline budget stays within Fiscal Responsibility Act spending limits or breaks its $895 billion cap.

On May 6, DIU released a brief overview of Replicator, which is the first time the unit has released a public document about the program due to the secrecy surrounding the initiative:

DIU releases Replicator overview targeted at industry involvement

The Defense Innovation Unit released an overview of the Replicator initiative this week, answering frequently asked questions and focusing on increasing industry's involvement amid the private voicing of frustrations from some companies.

The Defense Department issued a 50-page report in April that tallies 484 aircraft slated for retirement across the U.S. military in FY-25 to save $3 billion and 19 ships slated to be pulled from service for a savings of $224 million:

Air Force eyes $18B for new investment by retiring 938 'legacy' aircraft through 2029

The Air Force wants to harvest $18 billion for new modernization priorities by divesting 938 aircraft -- including fighters, bombers, cargo planes, trainers, rotorcraft and more -- according to a DOD report that reveals for the first time the scope of plans between fiscal years 2025 and 2029 to finance new capabilities -- such as uncrewed fighters -- out-of-hide.

A new Defense Innovation Unit solicitation is seeking sensors designed at the atomic level for better accuracy, responsiveness and less degradation of Global Positioning System signal:

DIU seeks quantum sensing and hypersonics for new emerging tech portfolio

The Defense Innovation Unit launched the first solicitation under its new emerging technology portfolio today, focusing the first lines of effort on quantum sensing and hypersonics.

News on the Army's Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system:

Army issues RFI for M-SHORAD increment 4

The Army released a request for information for the fourth increment of the Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system Wednesday, stating that this capability will focus on delivering “air defense capability to support dismounted maneuver.”

By Tony Bertuca
May 10, 2024 at 1:45 PM

The Defense Department has announced a $400 million transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine to combat the ongoing Russian invasion, including air defense munitions, artillery rounds, armored vehicles and anti-tank systems.

The package being provided to Ukraine via Presidential Drawdown Authority includes:

  • Munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
  • Munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
  • Stinger anti-aircraft missiles;
  • Equipment to integrate Western launchers, missiles and radars with Ukrainian systems;
  • Additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ammunition;
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles;
  • M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
  • Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles;
  • Trailers to transport heavy equipment;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • Precision aerial munitions;
  • High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs);
  • Small arms and ammunition;
  • Demolitions munitions and equipment;
  • Coastal and riverine patrol boats;
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment; and
  • Spare parts, training munitions, maintenance and other ancillary equipment.

The announcement is the 57th tranche of equipment the Biden administration has provided to Ukraine via PDA since August 2021. It is the second PDA to be announced since Congress agreed April 23 to a supplemental spending bill that will provide billions in additional aid to Ukraine.

The first post-supplemental PDA covered $1 billion in U.S. equipment and was announced shortly after the bill was passed.

By Dan Schere
May 10, 2024 at 1:01 PM

The Army awarded Lockheed Martin an $861 million firm-fixed-price contract for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and supporting services on May 8, according to a Pentagon notice.

The contract is part of an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to “increase inventory” of HIMARS launchers and equipment, according to a Lockheed statement provided to Inside Defense Friday. The contract amount represents the “authorized base year funding value” for fiscal year 2024, according to the company.

UPDATE: The contract is for 96 launchers, Army spokesman Darrell Ames told Inside Defense on May 14.

The contract has an estimated completion date of May 31, 2026, the Pentagon notice states.

HIMARS ammunition is among the weapons the Pentagon has been sending to Ukraine to aid the nation in its war with Russia. Since the start of the war in 2022, the U.S. has sent 39 HIMARS to Ukraine, Newsweek reported Friday.

By Dan Schere
May 10, 2024 at 10:04 AM

The Army has released a sources-sought notice asking industry for solutions to fulfill the Precision Strike Missile Increment 2 requirement.

The notice, posted Thursday, states a contract will include engineering development for early operational capability, initial production of missiles and an option for a possible seeker that supports a full-rate production decision.

PrSM Increment 2 will include a seeker that uses radio frequency and infrared imaging to “engage moving maritime and relocatable targets up to and beyond 400 kilometers,” according to the Army. Increment 2 also will double the magazine capacity of each launcher, extend range and increase velocity, compared with the Army Tactical Missile System, which PrSM is replacing.

The Army is in the procurement phase for Increment 1 of the PrSM program, with plans to spend nearly $493 million on the procurement of 230 missiles in fiscal year 2025. The service also plans to spend $184 million on research and development funding for engineering and manufacturing of the Increment 2 seeker in FY-25, Maj. Gen. Mark Bennett, the Army budget director, said in March.

The start of procurement scheduled for Increment 2 was delayed from FY-25 to FY-26 due to a lack of technical maturity with the seeker, Maj. Gen. Joe Hilbert, director of force development to the deputy chief of staff, previously told reporters.

Thursday’s sources-sought notice states a contract will eventually support the procurement of 120 early operational capability missiles along with engineering and manufacturing development activities to support full-rate production. With the procurement, the Army expects Increment 2 to reach initial operational capability in FY-28, the notice states.

Responses to the government are due May 16.

By John Liang
May 9, 2024 at 3:11 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Army challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, Air Force modernization programs, plus continuing coverage from the AI Expo for National Competitiveness.

A senior Army official spoke this week about challenges in the Indo-Pacific region at the Fires Symposium in Lawton, OK:

Flynn: Army is 'out of position' in the Indo-Pacific

Army units need to be in better position to maintain an advantage against potential adversaries in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the commander of Army forces in the Pacific.

The Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee held a hearing this week on Air Force modernization programs:

Hunter: Air Force 'closing gap' on E-7A Wedgetail cost negotiations with Boeing

Despite an initial proposal that was about twice the anticipated cost, the Air Force is nearing an agreement with Boeing for the E-7A Wedgetail prototypes, according to service acquisition chief Andrew Hunter.

Document: Air Force modernization testimony

Senior defense officials spoke this week at the AI Expo for National Competitiveness in Washington:

Army hashing out a tiered approach to fielding UAS capabilities

The Army is in the process of determining its approach to unmanned systems, which service officials envision to be a combination of UAS systems at echelon, launched effects and more urgent capability needs such as loitering munitions.

Kendall: Autonomy in the air a done deal

There is no question that autonomy will be useful in the air domain, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said today, and it will be implemented through the Collaborative Combat Aircraft program and others.

Russian aircraft patrols will typically fly around the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, especially if the U.S. is conducting an exercise in the Arctic. But about a month ago, two or three flights "in a short period of time" approached the continent off the Northeast of Maine, near Iceland and Greenland, according to a DOD official:

Senior defense official: Russian aircraft flew near Northeast ADIZ

In the last month, several Russian aircraft have attempted to enter North American airspace from the East for the first time in two or three years, a senior defense official told a group of reporters at the Pentagon this week.

A new congressional maritime strategy calls for several actionable steps to deter China’s advances in the Pacific Ocean, including the establishment of a presidentially appointed position to "synchronize all national maritime affairs and policy," as well as a national maritime council:

Bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers calls for national maritime strategy

The creation of a national maritime strategy is necessary amid "great power competition, aging infrastructure and the threat of high-intensity war," according to a bipartisan, bicameral document released by lawmakers this week.

Some follow-up news from last week's Modern Day Marine conference:

Marine Corps will award I-CsUAS contract before year's end, advancing effort to defend bases from drones

The Marine Corps is evaluating counter-drone technology proposals and plans to select a vendor in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024 to produce a system to defend buildings, bases and other assets from small, unmanned aircraft systems.

(Full Modern Day Marine 2024 coverage)

By Nick Wilson
May 9, 2024 at 1:10 PM

The Marine Corps tallied its first overseas use of Amphibious Combat Vehicles during a May 4 training exercise that saw the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ACV platoon complete waterborne, live-fire training off the coast of the Philippines during Exercise Balikatan.

During the exercise, ACVs launched from the well deck of amphibious warship Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and formed into assault sections before firing 40mm training rounds at shore-based targets using their Mk 19 grenade machine guns, according to a service release.

Harpers Ferry and the embarked ACV platoon departed from Southern California on March 19, marking the first ACV operational deployment.

“During this first deployment, 15th MEU will continue to provide insights for ACV employment, embarkation, maintenance requirements, logistics trains, and integration with our allies and partners,” the service announcement states. “These insights are vital for the service to ensure we continue to provide our Marines with the most operationally ready and capable platforms.”

The ACV is an important platform for Marine Corps force design and Indo-Pacific operating concepts, providing ship-to-shore mobility and a variety of other capabilities. Though nearly 200 of the vehicles have been delivered to the Marine Corps to date, readiness kinks have slowed down fielding and operational use.

A series of training accidents, in which ACVs rolled over during waterborne exercises, prompted the Marine Corps to temporarily pause some vehicle operations and later launch initiatives to improve operator proficiency.

Now, with efforts to retrain ACV drivers and procure training simulators underway, the service is advancing fielding efforts, program manager Col. Tim Hough said last week. In June, the service plans to send 12 ACVs to the 4th Marine Regiment in Okinawa, Japan and will begin fielding to the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC, in the second quarter of FY-25.