The Insider

By Ethan Sterenfeld
September 28, 2021 at 3:05 PM

Senate authorizers are supporting Army efforts to rapidly field land-based hypersonic missiles but are raising concerns about costs in their version of the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill.

“The committee is encouraged by the speed with which the Army is working to field an initial land-based long-range hypersonic weapons capability in fiscal year 2023,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in the report accompanying its version of the authorization bill.

The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon is expected to be the U.S. military’s first fielded hypersonic weapon if it remains on schedule. The unit that will operate the first battery of eight missiles has already begun training.

After it builds and fields the prototype missiles, the Army will need to pay more attention to costs, which should fall once the weapon enters regular production, the report stated.

“To better understand future costs and inform future decisions, the committee directs the Army to refine the cost estimate for additional currently designed hypersonic glide body missiles that are to be acquired,” the report stated. “Additionally, the committee directs the Army to assess alternatives to the current LRHW missile, to include lower-cost alternatives to glide bodies and air-breathing hypersonic technologies.”

The Army would have to brief the committee by Jan. 15, 2022 on its assessment of alternatives to the current hypersonic technology.

Army officials defended the service’s expansion in long-range fires earlier this year after the chief of Air Force Global Strike Command said land-based missiles replicate existing capabilities at great expense.

By Aidan Quigley
September 28, 2021 at 2:36 PM

The Navy and Air Force have launched an effort to eliminate redundancy in cybersecurity testing, assessment and documentation.

In a Sept. 14 memo, Navy Chief Information Officer Aaron Weis and Air Force Chief Information Officer Lauren Knausenberger agreed to cybersecurity reciprocity.

“Accepting Cybersecurity reciprocity accelerates approval timelines and eliminates redundant test, assessment and documentation efforts,” the memo states.

The memo states that in order to provide warfighting capability in an agile, secure way, the services must work together and determine if systems being assessed have already been assessed and tested.

“Achieving this balance requires that scarce security resources be spent on due diligence and analysis rather than redundant and unnecessary testing or bureaucratic documentation,” the memo states.

By Jaspreet Gill
September 28, 2021 at 2:13 PM

The Defense Department is asking agencies to submit information regarding opportunities to address key supply chain vulnerabilities, according to a Federal Register notice.

The notice follows President Biden’s Feb. 24 executive order, America’s Supply Chains, which focused on the need for resilient and secure supply chains to ensure national security and economic prosperity.

Agency comments will help DOD respond to the executive order, the Sept. 28 notice states.

One of the directives from the executive order requires the defense secretary to submit a report within one year on supply chains for the defense industrial base.

“This report will provide an assessment of key supply chains, including their vulnerabilities and potential courses of action to strengthen the defense industrial base,” according to the notice.

DOD specifically wants comments about supply chain vulnerabilities and opportunities in the areas of select kinetic capabilities, including hypersonics, directed-energy and precision guided munitions; energy storage and batteries; microelectronics; and castings and forgings.

In addition to the four topic areas, DOD is asking for input on five system enablers: workforce, cyber posture, interoperability, small business and manufacturing. These systemic enablers span all four topic areas and “are critical to mission success,” according to the notice.

The notice outlines specific questions for agencies and responses are wanted by Oct. 13.

By John Liang
September 28, 2021 at 1:40 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, an upcoming flight test of the Air Force's X-61A airborne retrieval system and more.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its version of the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill, is proposing a new requirement mandating MDA provide Congress and congressional auditors detailed “accountability matrices” that can be used to assess progress in the project to field by 2028 a new guided missile to protect the United States from long-range, nuclear-armed North Korean missiles:

Senate legislation would mandate exacting oversight of NGI development

Senate lawmakers want rigorous oversight measures imposed on the Next Generation Interceptor program -- the $17 billion acquisition launched after the Missile Defense Agency sank $1.2 billion and many years of development into the terminated Redesigned Kill Vehicle -- proposing new legislation mandating routine updates to Congress, including frequent independent cost and technical reviews.

An upcoming flight test of the X-61A airborne retrieval system is poised to include the long-anticipated recovery of multiple drones safely at an “operational rate of speed,” or within half an hour:

Gremlins mid-air retrieval demonstration set for fall

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The next flight test for the X-61A airborne retrieval system is slated for this fall, during which Dynetics' Gremlins team lead said the program will showcase repeated recoveries of a single drone and more amid what he anticipates will be the first successful demonstration of the effort.

The Army has lowered the number of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles it says it will need in the future:

JLTV follow-on contract shrinks to 16,600 vehicles

The follow-on Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production contract could include 16,600 vehicles and 10,000 trailers over 10 years after the Army makes an award in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2022, according to the most recent draft numbers.

The Marine Corps is trying to field by 2024 a modified Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with medium-range cruise missiles to give the service a Ground Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) capability:

Marine Corps will start NMESIS user evaluation in October with 11th Marines

The Marine Corps next month plans to launch user evaluation of its top ground-vehicle modernization priority -- a new robotically controlled, ship-killing ground vehicle -- by providing 11th Marines in Camp Pendleton, CA, Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) assets, beginning a process that is slated to transition to a formal operational assessment next spring.

Last but by no means least, some news about the transfer of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency data translation tool to the Air Force:

DARPA: STITCHES' transition to Air Force 'a model' for other potential JADC2 efforts

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has fully transitioned its data translation tool to the Air Force, a process that one official said will "serve as a model" for moving other efforts that could be leveraged to enable joint all-domain command and control to the service and elsewhere.

By Tony Bertuca
September 28, 2021 at 9:59 AM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, testifying before Congress today on the chaotic and violent completion of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said American forces deployed there over 20 years “helped build a state, but we could not forge a nation.”

In his opening testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Austin, who once led U.S. Central Command, said along with “tactical issues” associated with the evacuation of Kabul last month, there are also “tough questions” and “uncomfortable truths” about the 20-year U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

“Did we have the right strategy? Did we have too many strategies?” he asked. “Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions -- an army, an air force, a police force, and government ministries?”

Austin said it would be “dishonest” to claim the collapse of the Afghan military -- which the United States spent years funding and training -- came as anything other than a surprise to U.S. military leaders.

“The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away -- in many cases without firing a shot -- took us all by surprise,” he said.

Skeptical lawmakers, however, have pointed to the work done by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which for years has released reports about the failing U.S. mission to build the Afghan government and military.

Austin said the United States must now grapple with the fact it “did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in their senior ranks, that we did not grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders, that we did not anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that Taliban commanders struck with local leaders in the wake of the Doha agreement, that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers, and that we failed to fully grasp that there was only so much for which -- and for whom -- many of the Afghan forces would fight.”

Austin also acknowledged the lives “tragically” lost during the evacuation of Kabul, including several Afghans killed climbing aboard a departing aircraft the first day; 13 U.S. servicemembers and dozens of Afghan civilians killed in a terrorist bombing on Aug. 26 and as many as 10 innocent people, many of whom were children, mistakenly killed in a U.S. drone strike Aug. 29.

“As for the mission’s end, my judgment remains that extending beyond the end of August would have greatly imperiled our people and our mission,” he said. “The Taliban made clear that their cooperation would end on the first of September, and as you know, we faced grave and growing threats from ISIS-K. Staying longer than we did would have made it even more dangerous for our people and would not have significantly changed the number of evacuees who we could get out.”

Austin said the U.S. government is still working to evacuate Americans who remain in Afghanistan, along with Afghan allies not yet enrolled in the Special Immigrant Visa program.

“We take that very seriously,” he said. “That is why we are working across the interagency to continue facilitating their departure. Even with no military presence on the ground, that part of our mission is not over.”

Austin said the U.S. military planned to move between 70,000 and 80,000 people out of Afghanistan but ended up transporting more than 124,000.

“It was the largest airlift conducted in U.S. history, and it was executed in just 17 days,” he said. “Was it perfect? Of course not. We moved so many people so quickly out of Kabul that we ran into capacity and screening problems at intermediate staging bases outside of Afghanistan.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said lawmakers need to understand why and how the Afghan state failed and fell to the Taliban, despite 20 years of U.S. presence and “enormous sacrifice” and “vast investment.”

“While there is a temptation to close the book on Afghanistan and simply move on to long-term strategic competition with China and Russia, we must capture the lessons of the last two decades to ensure that our future counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere continue to hold violent extremists at bay,” he said. “The United States faces new and evolving threats around the world. To overcome them, we must first understand what went wrong during our mission in Afghanistan and learn from those missteps. We owe it to the American people.”

Reed said he understands many lawmakers will want to focus their attention on the final months of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

“I think it is equally important, however, that this committee takes a step back and examines the broader two-decade mission that shaped the outcome we face today,” he said. “Our withdrawal this summer and the events surrounding it did not happen in a vacuum. The path that led to this moment was paved with years of mistakes, from our catastrophic pivot to Iraq, to our failure to handle Pakistan’s support for the Taliban, to the flawed Doha Agreement signed by President Trump.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the committee’s ranking member, said he is concerned the Biden administration has yet to present a strategy for future counterterrorism operations in the region.

“There is no plan,” he said. “We have no reliable partners on the ground. We have no bases nearby. The Afghan government is now led by terrorists with long ties to al-Qaeda. And we’re at the mercy of the Pakistan government to get into Afghanistan airspace. Even if we can get there, we can’t strike al-Qaeda in Afghanistan because we’re worried about what the Taliban will do to the Americans still there.”

Inhofe said President Biden made a “disastrous decision” to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“President Biden’s decision to withdraw has expanded the threat of terrorism -- and increased the likelihood of an attack on the homeland,” he said. “The administration is telling the American people that the plan to deal with these threats is something called ‘over the horizon’ counterterrorism, and that we do these types of operations elsewhere in the world. That’s misleading at best and dishonest, at worst.”

Austin said U.S. forces conducted an “over-the-horizon” strike in Syria a few days ago.

“When we use that term, we refer to assets and target analysis that come from outside the country in which the operation occurs,” he said. “These are effective, and fairly common, operations. Just days ago, we conducted one such strike in Syria, eliminating a senior Al Qaeda figure. Over-the-horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible and the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources, not just U.S. boots on the ground.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the United States has been drawing down troops from Afghanistan for the past decade.

“This has been a 10-year multi-administration drawdown, not a 19-month or a 19-day deal,” he said.

In fact, Milley said, he received an unclassified, signed order on Nov. 11 from former President Trump directing the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Jan. 15.

“After further discussions regarding the risks associated with such a withdrawal, the order was rescinded,” he said.

Milley said it is “clear that the war in Afghanistan did not end on the terms that we wanted with the Taliban in power in Kabul.”

Still, he said, “there is no doubt in my mind that our efforts prevented an attack on the homeland from Afghanistan, which was our core mission and everyone who served in that war should be proud.”

By Tony Bertuca
September 28, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Defense technology company Anduril Industries announced today it has acquired Copious Imaging, a Massachusetts company focused on passive sensing technology to counter unmanned aerial systems.

In an interview with Inside Defense, Brian Schimpf, Anduril's chief executive, said Copious’ Wide-Area Infrared Sensing with Persistence technology made the company an attractive acquisition, Anduril’s first since April when it acquired Area-I.

“We’re very excited about the technology they have,” he said of Copious’ WISP system. “The basic idea is their sensor can look 360 degrees, find everything that is moving based on its thermal signatures, be able to ID that out at huge range with incredible accuracy.”

Schimpf said the WISP technology is ideal for counter-UAS systems, a key area for Anduril.

“We do a lot of work in counter-drone systems . . . where the ability to identify these sort of inbound threats is incredibly important,” he said. “Historically, this has been done with radar. But radar obviously emits a huge amount of energy and it is very easy to detect. Passive sensing completely eliminates that vulnerability. Now you can detect and understand what the adversary is doing without giving up any information about yourself.”

He also said the new counter-drone systems Anduril is working on are far cheaper than shooting down a small drone with a sophisticated missile.

Copious, which spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory almost four years ago, is a company of more than 40 employees and Schimpf said Anduril isn’t planning on cutting any jobs or facilities.

Bill Ross, CEO of Copious, said in a statement that “joining forces with Anduril will help get our technology out to the field faster and at greater scale, safeguarding our critical infrastructure and protecting our security forces to make America and its allies safer.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, Schimpf said Anduril wants to acquire more promising technology companies.

“We think there is a huge array of technologies you can bring forward in terms of autonomy, how you apply AI, how you utilize unmanned systems that are incredibly compelling and our goal is to bring those forward as fast as possible,” he said. “You can’t really do that unless you’re basically a prime, where you are actually delivering all of the capabilities; you’re delivering something that goes all the way out to the user, all the field support, all those pieces as well as all the supporting technologies to enable these capabilities to get out there. M&A is a huge chunk of how we are going to get there.”

By Briana Reilly
September 27, 2021 at 4:28 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has notched a free-flight test of one variant of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, the agency announced today.

The test, completed last week, involved a demonstrator from a Raytheon and Northrop Grumman team, featuring Raytheon’s ultra-fast missiles and Northrop-produced scramjet engines. But the release doesn’t mention Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne, which have paired up to develop their own demonstrator.

DARPA spokesman Jared Adams confirmed Lockheed’s platform wasn’t involved in the flight test.

“We are readying our next vehicles and working toward additional flight tests later in the year,” Andrew Knoedler, DARPA’s HAWC program manager, said in a statement to Inside Defense.

The effort came a year after DARPA finished captive-carry tests of both Lockheed’s and Raytheon’s HAWC variants. At the time, free-flight demonstrations were expected later last year.

During the test last week, Raytheon’s missile -- carried under the wing of an aircraft prior to its release -- was boosted to supersonic speeds ahead of the ignition of the scramjet engine, which pushed it to greater than Mach 5, or hypersonic speeds, a company press release said.

"This test proves we can deliver the first operational hypersonic scramjet, providing a significant increase in warfighting capabilities," said Colin Whelan, Raytheon’s vice president of advanced technology, in the release.

Overall, DARPA’s press release noted, the test successfully demonstrated vehicle integration and release sequence, the safe separation of the missile from the launch aircraft, booster ignition and separation, engine ignition and cruise.

"The HAWC free flight test was a successful demonstration of the capabilities that will make hypersonic cruise missiles a highly effective tool for our warfighters,” Knoedler said in the DARPA release. "This brings us one step closer to transitioning HAWC to a program of record that offers next generation capability to the U.S military."

By Tony Bertuca
September 27, 2021 at 3:42 PM

The Pentagon is taking “prudent” steps to prepare for a government shutdown on Oct. 1 in the event Congress cannot reach a short-term spending agreement, according to a new memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

A shutdown would mean halting the pay of active-duty U.S. military personnel and furloughing some Defense Department civilians.

While DOD would continue “excepted” operations “necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property,” Hicks said “all other activities -- including, with few exceptions, temporary duty travel -- would need to be shut down in an orderly and deliberate fashion.”

House Democrats passed a stopgap continuing resolution last week that would keep the federal government funded through Dec. 3, but Senate Republicans have vowed to block the measure because it would suspend the U.S. debt limit until December 2022.

“The administration does not want a lapse in appropriations, which would require the federal government to shut down,” Hicks said. “The administration is willing to work with the Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution (CR) if necessary to fund critical federal government operations and allow Congress the time to pass the full 2022 appropriations.”

Hicks notes that under a shutdown, all military personnel performing active duty would continue in their normal duty status regardless of whether they are involved in excepted activities.

However, military personnel would not be paid “until such time as Congress appropriates funds available to compensate them for this period of service,” Hicks said.

Civilians necessary to carry out excepted DOD activities would continue to do so but would also not be paid until Congress can appropriate funds for their compensation. Civilians who are not supporting excepted activities would be furloughed.

“The responsibility for determining which activities meet the criteria for being excepted from shutdown resides with the secretaries of the military departments and heads of the DOD Components, including the combatant commanders with respect to activities undertaken by their immediate headquarters and subordinate joint headquarters,” she said. “These officials may delegate this authority as they deem appropriate.”

By John Liang
September 27, 2021 at 2:00 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a DARPA data translation tool being transferred to the Air Force, an MQ-9 Reaper exercise in Hawaii and more.

We start off with news from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency:

DARPA: STITCHES' transition to Air Force 'a model' for other potential JADC2 efforts

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has fully transitioned its data translation tool to the Air Force, a process that one official said will "serve as a model" for moving other efforts that could be leveraged to enable joint all-domain command and control to the service and elsewhere. 

The Air Force is conducting a Reaper exercise in Hawaii:

Three MQ-9 Reapers head to Hawaii for maritime-focused exercise

Three MQ-9 Reapers are participating in a weeks-long exercise in Hawaii that allows the drones to showcase their maritime tactics, techniques and procedures, ahead of a planned transfer of a handful of the aircraft to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in the years ahead.

The Army has awarded Dynetics a $237 million other transaction agreement to produce Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 prototype launchers and interceptors:

Dynetics wins Enduring IFPC competition

Leidos subsidiary Dynetics has won the competition to build the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2, and it will supply the first battery's worth of 12 launchers by the end of fiscal year 2023, the Army announced Sept. 24.

The Army recently held a demonstration to showcase various counter-small unmanned aerial systems capabilities:

Industry showcases C-sUAS capabilities for Pentagon's JCO

Five industry vendors last week wrapped up a demonstration held by the Army-led Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office showcasing their ground-launched aerial denial and handheld and dismounted solutions.

Last but by no means least, some missile defense news:

Lawmakers seek new assessment of high-volume, advanced missile salvo defense capability

Senate lawmakers want a new assessment of the military’s ability to counter high-volume salvos of advanced missiles against joint force critical fixed sites and high-value assets, considered “one of the greatest threats” to U.S. forces posed by Russia and China that is forecast to grow as competitors expand their inventories of weapons that stress existing U.S. air and missile defense systems.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
September 27, 2021 at 1:24 PM

The Army has placed its first full-rate production orders for Manpack and Leader tactical radios, with a total value of $345 million across two vendors for each radio, the service announced in a Sept. 24 press release.

“Full-rate production of these radios across the force will provide our warfighters with the most advanced radio network capabilities available for enhanced situational awareness, which is critical for mission success,” Col. Garth Winterle, project manager for tactical radios, said in the press release.

Most of the funding, $226 million, will go to the satellite-connected Manpack radio program. L3Harris will supply 2,320 radios, and Collins Aerospace will supply 1,547.

The rest of the money, $119 million, will buy handheld Leader radios. L3Harris will supply 2,498 radios, and Thales will supply 1,096.

Radios will go to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker brigade combat team that is permanently stationed in Europe, and “multiple” infantry brigades in the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, according to the Army press release.

L3Harris will receive more than $200 million for the radios from this round of orders, according to a Sept. 27 press release from the company.

By Audrey Decker
September 27, 2021 at 12:14 PM

Boeing delivered the most advanced version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet to the Navy this month.

“Block III gives the Navy the most networked and survivable F/A-18 built with a technology insertion plan that will outpace future threats,” according to today’s press release from Boeing.

Boeing will build 78 F/A-18s with the Block III configuration for the Navy and deliver these capabilities through the mid-2030s.

The new capabilities include a “10-inch-by-19-inch touch screen display, enhanced networking, open mission systems, reduced radar signature and a 10,000-hour airframe,” the press release states.

Block III allows the jet to receive apps-based solutions to upgrade the aircraft, giving Navy pilots more situational awareness, Boeing said in the press release.

Also, Boeing will use Service-Life Modification lines to extend the life and upgrade the Block II Super Hornets to Block III, Boeing said.

In August, the House Armed Services Committee added $970 million to the F/A-18E/F program for 12 jets in the fiscal year 2022 budget.

Adm. Andrew Loiselle, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 4, said last month that the Navy doesn’t want any of these aircraft because new Super Hornets won’t be a suitable platform for the mission at the end of their 30-year service life.

"That takes us out to about 2055," Loiselle said. "There isn't a lot of analysis out there that supports fourth-generation viability against any threat in that timeframe. You have to juxtapose that with the capabilities a [Service Life Modernization] Block III will deliver."

By John Liang
September 27, 2021 at 9:39 AM

Mercury Systems announced today it has agreed to buy Gulf Breeze, FL-based avionics company Avalex Technologies Corp.

Avalex is expected to generate approximately $40 million in revenue for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2022, according to a Mercury statement. The dollar amount of the sale was not disclosed.

“Avalex’s product and technology portfolio is highly complementary to Mercury’s existing offering," Mercury's President and CEO Mark Aslett said in the statement. "With deep expertise in integrated displays, digital video recorders, and communications management, their suite of innovative avionics solutions uniquely position the company to address and enable the growing demand for digitally converged solutions in the C4I and platform/mission management markets. Like our previous acquisition of Physical Optics Corp., Avalex is also experiencing accelerated growth due to their strong product offerings and supply chain delayering by the Government. Finally, we see strong alignment in our strategies and vision, as well as our cultures, values, and commitment to innovation."

The all-cash acquisition is expected to close by the end of December 2021, according to Mercury.

By Courtney Albon
September 27, 2021 at 8:53 AM

The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have negotiated a “production smoothing” agreement for F-35 deliveries to increase stability as the company’s production process recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

The plan calls for Lockheed to deliver 133-139 jets this year, 151-153 in 2022 and 156 in 2023 “and for the foreseeable future,” according to a statement the company released this morning.

The projected delivery rates for 2021 match what Lockheed’s F-35 Vice President and General Manager Bridget Lauderdale told reporters in June while negotiations were underway but are slightly lower in 2022 than the company’s projections at the time, which saw deliveries hitting the 160s next year.

At the time, Lauderdale said the production line and supply base were stabilizing “and we will expect to ramp back up and support cost-effective and high quality of product as we go forward.”

The delivery targets come as the program is finalizing negotiations on a production contract for lots 15-17 aircraft. Program Executive Eric Fick told reporters recently he does not expect a finalized deal this month but hopes it will be completed in October.

By Tony Bertuca
September 27, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are slated to testify before Congress about the end of U.S. operations in Afghanistan this week. 

Monday

The Senate begins consideration of the continuing resolution passed by the House that would keep the government funded through Dec. 3.

Tuesday

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, and Gen. Frank McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command, to discuss the conclusion of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations.

Senior defense officials speak at the annual ComDef conference.

The online Fed Supernova event takes place Tuesday and Wednesday, featuring Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Hiedi Shyu and others.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a panel discussion on Africa’s security challenges.

The Heritage Foundation hosts a discussion with the Coast Guard commandant.

Wednesday

The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with Austin, Milley and McKenzie.

Thursday

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with think tank experts on Afghanistan.

Friday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a national security conversation with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

By Courtney Albon
September 24, 2021 at 6:13 PM

The Air Force has selected Rolls-Royce to re-engine the B-52 fleet, awarding the company a contract worth up to $2.6 billion to provide 608 engines and spares.

Rolls-Royce’s F130 engine was selected over offerings from competitors General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, the incumbent B-52 engine manufacturer. The company plans to manufacture the engine at its Indianapolis facility, which recently underwent a $600 million advanced manufacturing upgrade.

“We are proud to join a truly iconic U.S. Air Force program and provide world-class, American-made engines that will power its missions for the next 30 years,” Rolls-Royce North America CEO Tom Bell said in a press release today. “The F130 is a proven, efficient, modern engine that is the perfect fit for the B-52.”

The engine replacement effort is meant to improve the B-52’s fuel efficiency and range and keep the bomber flying into the 2050s.

Bell told reporters tonight that while the company will have a better sense of what set it apart from competitors following its debrief with the Air Force, he thinks the relatively low-risk design of the F130 played a role. He said the engine will require minimal changes to the B-52 wing, cell and pylons.

“In the F130, we have an engine where the thrust, the center of gravity, the circumference is very similar to the existing engine, but has a far superior service life, far superior fuel consumption numbers that allow the Air Force to get everything they wanted out of the CERP engine program,” Bell said.

Craig McVay, the company’s senior vice president for strategic campaigns, said during the media call that with the first phase of virtual prototyping completed, the company will proceed to Phase 2, during which it will complete a physical prototype. McVay said he expects a preliminary design review to occur within eight or nine months.

The Air Force is using mid-tier acquisition authorities for the program and expects to shift to a traditional acquisition pathway or to a rapid-fielding MTA once the prototype is complete, likely in the fiscal year 2025 timeframe.

The Air Force had originally expected to complete virtual prototyping and award a contract by last December, but that timeline shifted about nine months due to a longer-than-expected preliminary design phase and a decision by the service to shift some work from the program’s later physical prototyping phase to the virtual phase.