The Insider

By John Liang
February 12, 2024 at 1:58 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine upgrade, over-the-horizon radars and more.

We start off with news -- outside the paywall -- that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine upgrade effort will run out of money soon if a full appropriations bill isn't passed:

F-35 engine upgrade program to run out of money in June without FY-24 budget

An ongoing engine modernization program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will have to halt at the end of June if Congress isn't able to rectify a monthslong partisan divide over the fiscal year 2024 budget, Inside Defense has learned.

More aircraft engine news:

Pratt & Whitney reaches crucial digital design milestone for NGAP prototype

Pratt & Whitney has completed a crucial preliminary design review of its digital offering for the Air Force's secretive Next Generation Adaptive Propulsion prototype, according to an advance news release from the company.

The Air Force's top acquisition official spoke at an Atlantic Council event late last week:

Hunter: Foundational architectures the cornerstone for future Air Force acquisition

The Air Force will develop several foundational architectures that acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said today will better integrate the service and boost competition for major programs.

U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Bryan Fenton told the Defense Writers Group last week that artificial intelligence will help counter unscrewed aerial system attacks in a multitude of ways:

SOCOM sees AI as key to countering unmanned drone attacks

The chief of U.S. Special Operations Command says integrating artificial intelligence and autonomy will be key to developing and fielding systems that can counter unmanned aerial systems.

The fiscal year 2024 budget request included $423.6 million for a homeland defense OTHR system and sought to complete installation of the first system in FY-27 and second in FY-28, but Congress has yet to pass an appropriations bill:

Air Force needs to award OTHR contract 'soon' to meet end-of-decade timeline, contractor says

U.S. Northern Command has pushed the need for modernized over-the-horizon radar capabilities within a few years, which a major contractor said would be possible only if the Defense Department is able to issue contracts soon.

The Pentagon's top acquisition official spoke last week at a RAND Corp. event in Arlington, VA, alongside members of the congressional Planning, Programming, Budget and Execution Reform Commission:

DOD would 'love' a special counter-drone fund but senior officials say Congress will balk

Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante said the Defense Department would "love" to have a special category of money with spending flexibility to quickly counter attacks from unmanned drones, especially since U.S. adversaries change their tactics nearly every two weeks. But he also said he knows congressional appropriators think his wish for "agility" sounds a lot like a "slush fund."

February 12, 2024 at 12:28 PM

Without an approved appropriations bill all F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine modernization efforts, "to include the Engine Core Upgrade (ECU) and Power and Thermal Management Upgrade (PTMU), will be delayed," a spokesman for the the F-35 Joint Program Office is warning.

Inside Defense has the story, now available to all.

By Tony Bertuca
February 12, 2024 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are slated to speak at several events this week. The Air and Space Forces Association also hosts its annual air warfare conference in Colorado, while a key Navy conference takes place in San Diego, CA.


The Air and Space Forces Association hosts its annual Air Warfare Symposium in Aurora, CO, this week. The event runs through Wednesday.


The U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International host the West 2024 conference in San Diego, CA. The event runs through Thursday.

Executives from Lockheed Martin, RTX, Boeing and General Dynamics speak at the Cowen Aerospace and Defense Conference.


The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on defense innovation and outpacing China.

The CyberScoop Zero Trust Summit is held in Washington.

The U.S. Institute of Peace hosts a discussion on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy.


Washington Technology hosts a discussion on the National Defense Industrial Strategy.

By Vanessa Montalbano
February 9, 2024 at 6:09 PM

The Air Force has awarded autonomy startup Xwing military approval to fly cargo missions across California after successful completion of the AGILE FLAG 24-1 Joint Force exercise, the company said in a Friday news release.

This designation of airworthiness via a military flight release in unrestricted airspace marks the first granted under the Air Force Research Laboratory's AFWERX Autonomy Prime program.

“Xwing had to meet the rigorous safety and the technical standards necessary to transparently integrate its autonomous aircraft into the National Airspace System (NAS),” the announcement said. “Xwing proved its dynamic capability for rapid and cost-effective dispersed logistics, delivering mission-critical, time-sensitive cargo to multiple operating stations, demonstrating the potential of autonomous operations as a force multiplier within Agile Combat Employment (ACE).”

Autonomy Prime is an arm of the AFWERX program, which intends to bring small businesses and startups to the table to address the Air Force’s top priorities, including autonomy, and strengthen the industrial base. The goal is to better facilitate the transition from research and technology to operational capability.

Over the span of nearly two weeks, Xwing worked with Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command to transport mission critical cargo between eight different public and military airports, racking up 2,800 autonomous flight miles across California and 22 overall hours in the air.

“AGILE FLAG was an opportunity to showcase autonomous light cargo logistics and demonstrate operational relevance and increased technical readiness,” AFWERX Autonomy Prime deputy branch chief Kate Brown said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the ACE concept encourages improved distribution among the bases to ensure that one is not singularly targeted and that each is capable of defending itself when faced with pacing threats. The Air Force has said that autonomy will play a major role in this and future efforts.

“We saw first-hand during AGILE FLAG that the use of Xwing’s autonomous aircraft eliminated the need to fly a larger aircraft such as a C-130 to deliver critical cargo to the warfighter on short notice,” said Maxime Gariel, president and co-founder of Xwing. “When you fly missions autonomously, you operate with the speed and efficiency required for dispersed ACE operations, delivering cargo and personnel at a much lower cost and risk.”

By John Liang
February 9, 2024 at 2:00 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar Army helicopter program, a successful missile defense intercept test over the Pacific Ocean, the ongoing congressional fight over military funding and more.

We start off with the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar Army helicopter program:

Army canceling Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program

The Army has announced it is canceling the multibillion-dollar Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, one of the service's highly touted Future Vertical Lift programs, at the conclusion of prototyping activities this fiscal year.

The Navy and Missile Defense Agency conducted a successful missile defense intercept test over the Pacific Ocean:

Major test over Pacific pairs next-gen missile interceptor, next-gen Aegis radar for first time

The U.S. military executed one of the "most complex" ballistic missile defense tests to date, pairing for the first time the most advanced Aegis guided missile interceptor with its next-generation Air and Missile Defense Radar to shoot down a medium-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, speaking this week at a RAND Corp. event in Arlington, VA, said the White House intends to submit the FY-25 budget on March 11 regardless of whether Congress, which has been mired in stopgap continuing resolutions and partisan debate for months, can pass an FY-24 appropriations package:

Senior DOD officials say Capitol Hill dysfunction threatens their race against China

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante said today that ongoing congressional dysfunction is hobbling their ability to compete with China, detailing some of the specific financial stress that lawmakers have put the department under as the government continues down an uncertain path toward the fiscal year 2025 budget submission.

Blake Stone, a policy analyst with the Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office, spoke this week on the sidelines of the SAE Media Group's Counter UAS Homeland Security USA Conference in Arlington, VA:

Updated counter UAS strategy will include homeland security annex

The Pentagon's Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) will include a "homeland security annex" in the next update to its CUAS strategy, according to an official from the office.

Adm. Samuel Paparo, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander nominated to replace retiring Adm. John Acquilino as the top U.S. military official in the region, said the U.S. military must think deeply about conducting mobility and logistics missions across the region where the vast spaces between locations that need to be covered is referred to as the "tyranny of distance":

INDOPACOM nominee concerned about U.S. ability to refuel in a fight against China

The presumptive new U.S. Indo-Pacific Command boss is concerned about the adequacy of the United States' refueling capability in the event of a regional conflict, presumably against China, vowing -- if confirmed -- to work with lawmakers to "close the gaps" to keep bombers, destroyers, cargo trucks and more in the fight.

Don't expect to see a public version of a congressionally mandated spectrum band report anytime soon:

Pentagon will not publicly release spectrum band report senators asked for

The Pentagon will not publicly release a report that senators requested the publication of after lawmakers voiced concerns about the National Spectrum Strategy's request for a deeper inquiry into the lower 3 GHz Band, Inside Defense has learned.

The Senate has approved an updated national security supplemental spending bill:

Senate Dems pare back security supplemental after GOP blocks border provisions

The Senate voted 67-32 to advance consideration of a $95.34 billion security supplemental spending package that would aid Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan after Republicans forced Democrats to remove border security and immigration reform provisions.

The Navy wants to develop a multimission affordable capacity effector (MACE) weapon through digital engineering and its range would be complementary to the Long-Range Anti-Ship missile (LRASM), which is estimated to be more than 200 nautical miles:

Navy asks industry if it can quickly build new low-cost, standoff air-launched weapon

The Navy wants to develop a low-cost, air-launched standoff weapon that would be funded starting in fiscal year 2026 and fielded as early as 2027 and has notified industry partners it is open to an exchange of ideas.

By Dan Schere
February 9, 2024 at 1:28 PM

The Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and Directed Energy Project Office are seeking high-energy laser solutions that can address Group 3 unmanned aerial system threats.

The service will hold an industry day in early April at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, according to a Feb. 6 government notice.

The directed-energy office wants to increase the ability of high-energy lasers to address Group 3 UAS threats, and will “asses the operationalized maturity” of industry solutions at the subsystem level, which includes the beam-control system, beam director, power/thermal systems and threat tracker, according to the notice. The system is to demonstrate a modular, open-system architecture, it states.

The Pentagon defines Group 3 UAS as those weighing between 55 and 1,320 pounds, and that operate at flight level.

Following the vendor demonstration, the government plans to issue a solicitation to develop a high-energy laser prototype solution, the notice states.

Companies are asked to submit a two-page summary and quad chart to the contacting officer by Feb. 21.

By John Liang
February 8, 2024 at 4:35 PM

Mercury Systems today announced that Douglas Munro had been promoted to vice president and chief accounting officer.

Reporting to Chief Financial Officer Dave Farnsworth, Munro will be responsible for the company's accounting operations and financial reporting.

Munro succeeds Michelle McCarthy, "who has accepted another role outside the company," according to a Mercury statement.

Munro has worked for Mercury since 2012, most recently serving as the company’s corporate controller.

By Nick Wilson
February 8, 2024 at 3:17 PM

The Marine Corps has postponed an Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle industry day, first scheduled for Feb. 29, to an undisclosed date later in fiscal year 2024 in order to further refine program requirements.

“The USMC has gained critical knowledge through the ARV prototyping effort and is applying that knowledge to refining the requirement,” according to a Feb. 8 announcement that provides no further explanation for the delay.

The Marine Corps spent FY-23 evaluating initial ARV prototypes from contractors Textron Systems and General Dynamics Land System. The two companies are now working to mature these vehicles and preparing to build additional 30mm cannon vehicle prototypes for further government testing ahead of the program’s engineering and manufacturing development phase.

At the industry day, the Marine Corps is expected to provide information on the upcoming EMD phase. The service anticipates releasing a request for proposals in the second quarter of FY-25 and awarding an EMD contract in the second quarter of FY-26.

The Marine Corps is eyeing a family of six ARV mission role variants to replace the legacy Amphibious Assault Vehicle and become the primary platform supporting the new mobile reconnaissance battalions.

The service’s FY-24 budget request includes $63.6 million in continuing research and development funding for the program and projects procurement to begin in FY-28.

By Nickolai Sukharev
February 8, 2024 at 2:25 PM

The Army needs to protect the commercial shipping firms that help the service project forces overseas, according to a National Guard colonel.

“What can the total Army do now to keep those supply lines open in the future knowing that most likely cyber and information attacks are going to degrade [operations] and it’s cheap, quick and sometimes when you don’t feel it it’s not very tangible,” said Col. Kristine Henry, a projects officer for cyber and information operations at the Maryland National Guard.

Speaking Wednesday at an Association of the United States Army event on contested logistics in Arlington, VA, Henry stressed that cyberattacks that have disrupted commercial shipping operations in recent years can also disrupt the military’s reserve fleet of commercial vessels intended to be used during emergencies.

Henry added that the commercial shipping companies help the Army move people, vehicles and systems during overseas operations.

Speaking about the June 2017 NotPetya malware attack that temporarily shut down the shipping company Maersk, she added that disinformation can also cause physical disruptions, such as protesters delaying the departure of a supply vessel.

“This is a great example of the physical impacts of [malware], [misinformation] and disinformation that could affect the logistics enterprise,” she said.

Henry recommended the Army position cyber units to “work from the rear” to support frontline operations by investing secure spaces and protective data infrastructure within the country, which she added would make units more accessible.

She also stressed the importance of joint inter-agency task forces to help address cyber issues, adding the National Guard soldiers who work in the industry can help with more “formalized,” unified efforts.

“In the context of Contested Logistics, a JIATF-like structure including industry partners, particularly in the homeland, could leverage coordinated authorities to achieve ‘left of boom’ capability, response or even to counter cyber and Information attacks,” she added in an email following the event.

“During a peace-to-war transition, this model could enable organizations like the National Guard that have dual-status authorities to be able to deliver timely ‘Strategic Effects’ to Combatant Commanders.”

By John Liang
February 8, 2024 at 2:09 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, unmanned underwater vehicles, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more.

We start off with coverage of the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon rejects industry request to extend comment period for CMMC proposed rule

The Defense Department is turning down a request from industry groups to extend the comment period for its long-awaited proposed rule to implement the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

The U.S. military is working on a Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicles fleet that has diverse capabilities to help these platforms:

Navy partners with DIU for prototyping of unmanned underwater vehicle platforms

The Navy and Defense Innovation Unit have partnered to select three vendors tasked with Unmanned Underwater Vehicle platforms prototyping and development.

A recent Joint Strike Fighter review assessed the progress and efficiency of the platform's new computational core, known as Technology Refresh 3, which is meant to bring greater processing power, better computer memory and a panoramic display to F-35s:

Joint F-35 office completes critical technology review amid crucial delays

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program office in mid-January completed a technical baseline review for its long-overdue hardware and software upgrade, an F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman told Inside Defense.

Adm. Samuel Paparo, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander nominated to replace retiring Adm. John Acquilino as the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, warned lawmakers this week that there is "no holiday" between now and when Beijing could potentially attack Taiwan:

Presumptive new INDOPACOM boss on China's massive navy: 'We are not overmatched'

China's naval forces -- the largest in the world, including a battle force of more than 370 ships and submarines -- cannot "overmatch" the U.S. Navy's 292-ship fleet, the presumptive new head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command assessed, while also cautioning the pace of Beijing's warship buildup is on a "concerning trajectory."

The Mitchell Institute think thank hosted a wargame in July 2023, during which three "blue" teams overwhelmingly opted for collaborative combat aircraft to disrupt and confuse a peer adversary, in this case China, by helping to "determine key threats and nodes, and then target them," and "impose costs, and open the path to follow-on crewed and uncrewed forces":

Report: Air Force needs an 'affordable mass' of autonomous drones to defeat China

The Air Force needs collaborative combat aircraft to fill capability gaps as its legacy fighter fleet shrinks and the service prepares for a potential fight with China, according to a report published yesterday by the Mitchell Institute.

By Tony Bertuca
February 8, 2024 at 1:53 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee today voted to advance four senior Defense Department nominees to the full chamber for confirmation votes.

The nominees advancing include Cara Abercrombie to be assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, Aprille Ericsson to be assistant secretary of defense for science and technology, Ronald Keohane to be assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, and Douglas Schmidt to be director of operational test and evaluation.

It's unclear when or if the nominees will receive speedy confirmation votes, however, as Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), who withdrew his holds on military nominees has said he intends to keep his block in place for Pentagon civilians as he continues to protest DOD’s travel and leave policy for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The Senate has confirmed just one DOD nominee since April -- Nickolas Guertin to be the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition.

By Tony Bertuca
February 7, 2024 at 4:34 PM

The State Department has approved a possible $1.2 billion foreign military sale for airspace and surface radar reconnaissance aerostat systems, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The deal, according to DSCA, would cover the ASRR systems and a variety of radars, sensors and other equipment.

“The proposed sale will improve Poland's capability to meet current and future threats of enemy air and ground weapons systems,” DSCA said. “Poland will use the capability as an airborne early warning system to defend against incoming regional threats. This will also enable Poland to increase its contribution to future NATO operations.”

The agency recently reported that U.S. foreign military sales increased by 56% in fiscal year 2023 partly driven by $30 billion in new deals with Poland, which has grown increasingly alarmed by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The principal contractors involved in the deal will be Raytheon Intelligence and Space, of El Segundo, CA; TCOM, L.P., of Columbia, MD; ELTA North America, of Annapolis Junction, MD; and Avantus Federal LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of QinetiQ), of McLean, VA, according to DSCA.

The agency noted that the actual dollar value of the deal will likely be lower than $1.2 billion if and when the arrangement is concluded.

By John Liang
February 7, 2024 at 1:59 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a recent Mitchell Institute report on collaborative combat aircraft, the Defense Innovation Unit's "3.0" strategy and more.

The Mitchell Institute think thank hosted a wargame in July 2023, during which three "blue" teams overwhelmingly opted for collaborative combat aircraft to disrupt and confuse a peer adversary, in this case China, by helping to "determine key threats and nodes, and then target them," and "impose costs, and open the path to follow-on crewed and uncrewed forces":

Report: Air Force needs an 'affordable mass' of autonomous drones to defeat China

The Air Force needs collaborative combat aircraft to fill capability gaps as its legacy fighter fleet shrinks and the service prepares for a potential fight with China, according to a report published yesterday by the Mitchell Institute.

Amid all its upgraded responsibilities, the Defense Innovation Unit's core task remains helping the U.S. military harness commercial technology to counter China:

DIU releases new '3.0' strategy to expand its role in tech development

The Defense Innovation Unit released its new strategy today for "DIU 3.0," which aims to help the U.S. military leverage more commercial technology amid bolstered support from lawmakers and the Pentagon's senior leaders.

Some GPS news:

Software problems could delay launch of GPS IIIF satellites

Further delays in the Next Generation Operational Control System for the GPS enterprise could push back the launch date for the GPS III Follow-On satellites, according to the annual report from the director of operational test and evaluation.

SSC pursuing rapid prototyping model for GPS satellites

Space Systems Command is looking to develop and launch a set of prototype satellites for a GPS constellation, seemingly following the lead of the Space Development Agency's spiral development model.

A test conducted last year, called "The Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in a Contested Environment," studied challenges facing autonomous systems in "congested electronic warfare environment[s]" and was held in the Cultana Training Area in South Australia:

Autonomous ground vehicles tested in AUKUS Pillar II event

The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom tested robotic vehicle sensors during a fall 2023 trial aimed at solving the weaknesses of autonomous systems, according to a Defense Department announcement.

By John Liang
February 6, 2024 at 1:43 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Army counter-drone capabilities, the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program plus Navy shipbuilding and Army ammunition stockpiles.

The Army's top uniformed officer spoke this morning during a breakfast hosted by the Association of the United States Army in Arlington, VA:

Army chief seeks 'broad funding lines' for counter-UAS capabilities

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George said today that he thinks it would be more effective to have "broad funding lines" when it comes to purchasing counter-drone capabilities that would create more flexibility in the service's budget.

The latest CMMC news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Major coalition asks for CMMC proposed rule 60-day extension amid notable increase in stakeholder feedback requests from agencies

A coalition representing major defense associations and government contractors is asking the Defense Department to extend the comment period for a proposed rule to implement the Pentagon's cyber certification program, in a new letter highlighting three public comment periods for cyber rulemakings that closed last week.

DOE releases guide to help maturity model stakeholders understand Pentagon's CMMC program

The Energy Department has published a guide comparing its voluntary maturity model for developing cybersecurity plans to the Pentagon's upcoming program for defense contractors who are handling sensitive government data on nonfederal systems.

The Army's acquisition chief spoke this week at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

Bush suggests maintaining larger ammo stockpiles could be helpful during largescale conflicts

Ukraine's war with Russia has shown how the U.S. defense industrial base would benefit from maintaining larger stockpiles of ammunition during instances of largescale conflicts, Army acquisition chief Doug Bush suggested Monday.

The Heritage Foundation held an event this week on "Regaining America's Maritime Security and Competitiveness":

Rep. Waltz: U.S. must focus on shipbuilding to contend with China's naval 'overmatch'

A decline in American shipbuilding coupled with China's rise as a maritime powerhouse could soon become a crisis for United States security and economics, according to Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), who is leading a growing group of lawmakers calling for more aggressive action to bolster U.S. industry.

By John Liang
February 5, 2024 at 1:48 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Senate's supplemental security spending bill, further coverage of the Pentagon's latest annual operational test and evaluation report and more.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Parry Murray (D-WA) over the weekend released a section-by-section summary as well as the legislative text of a bipartisan national security supplemental package:

Bipartisan Senate supplemental bill tags $35B for U.S. defense industry

A new supplemental security spending bill that emerged from the Senate over the weekend after months of bipartisan negotiations injects $35 billion into the U.S. defense industrial base, focusing on new weapons for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as replenishing U.S. stocks and adding $2.44 billion to cover the latest military actions in and around the Red Sea against Iran-backed militants.

Document: Senate's national security supplemental package

The latest from the Pentagon's operational test and evaluation report:

DOT&E flags frigate design risks, confirms program delays

An early assessment of the Constellation-class frigate program identified design risks that could challenge the operational effectiveness of all three of the ship's primary mission areas -- air, surface and anti-submarine warfare -- according to an annual report from the director of operational test and evaluation.

DOT&E: Medium tactical trucks are 'effective, suitable and survivable'

The Army's medium tactical trucks are "effective, suitable and survivable," an annual report from the Pentagon's chief tester states.

Pentagon's top weapons tester notes software issue in upgraded Javelin command launch unit

An upgraded command launch unit for the Javelin Antitank Missile System-Medium experienced a software issue during follow-on operational test and evaluation last year that led to "multiple system aborts," according to a report issued Feb. 1 by the Pentagon's top weapons tester.

Document: DOT&E's 2023 annual report

(Read our full DOT&E report coverage.)

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

CMMC accreditation body plans to release updated draft assessment process guide for comment

The accreditation body behind the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program plans to release a new draft of its assessment process guide, known as "the CAP," for public comment before the Defense Department completes its rulemaking efforts to finalize the program, according to CEO Matthew Travis.