The Insider

By Thomas Duffy
March 25, 2022 at 2:15 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news from the Pentagon’s satellite communications chief, a look at an Army effort cut by congressional appropriators, the ICBM threat posed by North Korea, and the Navy’s future air superiority program.

The top Defense Department satellite official sees a future built by a military, commercial and international team:

DOD data transport layer work extends beyond JADC2’s ‘backbone’

The Defense Department’s satellite communications chief envisions a data “transport layer” that involves commercial, military and international partners and extends beyond the Space Development Agency’s work in low Earth orbit.

Appropriators have thrown cold water on a new Army cannon program:

Congress bumps Army’s 1,000-mile cannon from appropriations bill

Congress cut all funding for the Army’s 1,000-mile cannon program and created additional restrictions on reprogramming money for its development in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill President Biden signed this month.

The head of U.S. Northern Command laid out his concerns about North Korea’s rocket program:

NORTHCOM 'very concerned' about pace, capacity of North Korean ICBM threat

The top U.S. military official responsible for defending the nation against a North Korean nuclear strike said he is "very concerned" about the Pentagon's ability to keep pace with Pyongyang's technical advances in developing long-range missiles and industrial capacity to expand its offensive fleet.

And finally, the Navy’s top aviation official discussed the service’s newest air superiority effort:

NGAD program to maintain Navy air superiority

Despite tight budget environments, the Navy is developing its Next Generation Air Dominance Family of Systems, hoping to expand its reach and maintain air superiority. 

In the past, a pilot was able to go on a flight deck, look around and see all the other ships in its strike group. This is a reality that has changed in the distributed maritime operations concept, according to Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, director of the Navy’s air warfare division.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
March 25, 2022 at 11:56 AM

Bahrain could spend up to $176 million on upgrades, training and spare parts for nine tracked rocket launchers, under a deal approved by the State Department.

Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor for the project to upgrade Bahrain’s M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to the A1 version, according to a March 24 Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement. That is the same version the U.S. Army currently uses.

The upgrades will include the Common Fire Control System, according to the announcement. This system, which is currently being added to American M270s as part of the upgrade to the A2 standard, allows compatibility with the upcoming Precision Strike Missile and Extended Range Guided MLRS missile.

This sale will not alter the basic military balance in the region, and it will have no negative impact on American national security, according to the announcement.

“The proposed sale will improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future threats by enhancing Bahrain’s ability to defend itself against regional malign actors and improve interoperability with systems operated by U.S. forces and other Gulf countries,” the announcement stated.

By Shelley K. Mesch
March 24, 2022 at 2:43 PM

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is yet another reason U.S. Space Command should not be moved from Colorado Springs, CO, to Huntsville, AL, Colorado's congressional delegation told President Biden in a letter released today.

The unprovoked attack on Ukraine paired with Russia’s demonstration of anti-satellite weapons in November -- which created debris that threatened the safety of astronauts aboard the International Space Station -- show the need for the U.S. to maintain dominance in space, according to the letter, which was signed by all seven representatives and both senators from Colorado.

"Especially in light of instability in Eastern Europe, Iran's quest for nuclearization, and China's lingering desire to strong-arm Taiwan, it's imperative that U.S. Space Command continue its critical mission without interruption,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said in a separate statement.

Colorado’s Republican and Democrat members of Congress have opposed SPACECOM’s move to Alabama since it was announced by the Air Force last January.

SPACECOM announced it reached initial operational capability in August.

“We remain concerned that moving the combatant command headquarters will slow the progress toward full capability -- a delay we cannot afford at this fraught geopolitical moment in history,” the delegation stated in the letter to Biden.

The Government Accountability Office and Defense Department inspector general are both separately reviewing the selection of Huntsville as the permanent headquarters for SPACECOM. Lamborn requested the GAO review saying there were concerns that then-President Trump exerted “untoward political influence” on the Air Force during the decision-making process.

By John Liang
March 24, 2022 at 2:00 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's fiscal year 2023 budget request and more.

We now know how much money the Pentagon will seek for fiscal year 2023:

White House seeks $276B for defense modernization in FY-23

The White House will seek $813 billion in total national defense spending for fiscal year 2023, with $773 billion for the Pentagon, including $146 billion for procurement and $130 billion for research, development, test and evaluation funds, Inside Defense has confirmed.

Those involved in the Skyborg program say there's more science and technology maturation needed:

With combat drone programs forthcoming, transition of 'technology feeders' unclear

As the Air Force prepares to debut two classified combat drone programs in its forthcoming budget request, it remains unclear how or to what extent underlying contributors -- including the service's autonomous aircraft teaming endeavor -- could be wrapped into those new efforts down the line.

In the world of Microsoft Office 365, the Navy is stuck in 2017 or 2018 capability-wise but is "moving rapidly to the right," according to Aaron Weis, the service's chief information officer:

Navy over 10 years behind in enabling cloud infrastructure

While the Navy is rapidly working to enable a cloud environment, the service is still playing catch-up when it comes to modernizing its technology.

Sandia National Laboratories launched a trio of research rockets last October from Wallops Island, VA, carrying a total of 23 experiments on behalf of the Defense Department office spearheading the main project to field a hypersonic weapon by 2023:

Hypersonic defense experiments featured prominently in Wallops flights last fall

The Missile Defense Agency sponsored nearly a third of the projects flight tested last fall during a series of sounding rocket tests to evaluate potential technologies to improve the U.S. military's hypersonic program -- a strong showing for the defensive portfolio which represents about 10% of total Pentagon spending on hypersonic capabilities.

The U.S. military has sent or has plans to send a total of 4,600 Javelin missiles to Ukraine so far:

Surge capacity exists for Javelin, but Army has yet to say how many it wants

There is enough surge production capacity available in the Javelin missile supply chain to build thousands more per year, to refill U.S. stockpiles that have supplied Ukraine, but the Army has made no public announcements yet concerning how many missiles it will buy or how much they will cost.

By Briana Reilly
March 24, 2022 at 12:23 PM

The Space Force's director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sees a need for what she called a "predator" capability that would serve as a high-fidelity sensor and give officials "that persistent look" needed to track, attribute and help predict attacks in space.

Pinpointing the realization of the need for such a capability back to her time as the head of intelligence at U.S. Space Command, Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback said today the idea could manifest itself in the form of perhaps one so-called “predator” to something like 15 small orbital satellites.

“I thought that what we needed was a persistent, like a predator in space, that’s the simplest way for me to say" it, she told DefenseOne’s online Intelligence Summit. “I need something that’s probably orbiting or is sitting really close to whatever capability that counterspace capability might be, so that I can watch it consistently.”

“There’s so many things that are in space, there’s no way I would say, ‘Let’s do that for everything,’ but let’s prioritize and figure out what are the most important things that we do need to be tracking and how do we track those,” she continued.

Lauderback forecasted that the kind of capability she is describing is “probably years” -- not decades -- away, noting the Space Force has other priorities that rank above it.

Still, the general said the area is one that she sees the private sector “can really help us with.”

“If we can collaborate with the commercial sector on this, then we need to do some of our own analysis and research to figure out what is the best way about going out to do this, then I think we’ll be there [in] single-digit years type of thing,” she said.

Beyond that capability, and others needed within space domain awareness, Lauderback said she hopes to soon reach the point where officials can make decisions surrounding force design for that realm. But for now, she credited the “great progress” the service has made in pivoting away from the space situational awareness idea toward SDA.

More broadly, Lauderback lauded the Space Force for understanding the “need for intelligence,” pointing to the stand-up of the National Space Intelligence Center, the creation of new squadrons at the tactical level to collect and analyze intelligence before providing it to a commander or operator, and more.

“That’s what we’re doing in the first few years -- is really building that capability,” she said.

By Evan Ochsner
March 23, 2022 at 4:45 PM

The Army engine intended to power current and future aircraft crossed a key milestone Tuesday when it ignited fuel to produce power for the first time, the Army announced Wednesday.

The General Electric T901, developed through the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program, will replace the existing TI700 engines in Black Hawk and Apache helicopters and power the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, the Army says.

The Army says the new engine will provide increased power, improved reliability and better fuel efficiency over its predecessor.

The T901 First Engine to Test will over the next few months undergo a “gradual break-in process that builds up to maximum power runs,” according to the announcement.

Over the summer, the Army will test the T901 against Army Military Airworthiness Certification Criteria standards, the announcement said.

The Army says the T901’s improved performance will counteract the additional weight that Apache and Black Hawk helicopters have tacked on over the years as they have added capabilities.

By John Liang
March 23, 2022 at 2:08 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the fiscal year 2023 defense budget and more.

The Senate Armed Services Committee's top Democrat spoke this morning about the Biden administration's upcoming defense budget request:

Reed ready to receive -- and study -- Biden's FY-23 defense budget

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said today he would like to see the Biden administration's National Defense Strategy before committing to a topline for the fiscal year 2023 budget, but that has become increasingly unlikely as the White House is planning to submit its budget request next Monday.

The latest cyber news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

DOD assessment official: Pentagon is considering 'one-year affirmation' mechanism for CMMC certification

The Defense Department is looking into how to keep contractors who pass a Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification assessment accountable for maintaining their systems during the three-year certification period, according to John Ellis of the Defense Contract Management Agency, who says DOD may add an "affirmation" mechanism for companies to assert their compliance each year.

Republican lawmakers want the Biden administration to spend more on defense:

GOP lawmakers seek 5% increase above 'inflation-adjusted' FY-22 budget

Republican House and Senate Armed Services committee members, setting the stage for another spending battle with Democrats and the White House, say they want President Biden to request a fiscal year 2023 national defense budget that is 5% larger than the "inflation-adjusted" amount Congress just enacted for FY-22, which was $782 billion.

Document: GOP lawmakers' letter on 5% increase to defense budget

The Pentagon recently notified Congress that the State Department had approved a potential $700 million sale to the U.K. for a Ballistic Missile Defense Radar and C2BMC:

U.S. approves first-ever foreign linkage into DOD ballistic missile defense network

The U.S. government has agreed for the first time to integrate a foreign nation into the Pentagon's most critical ballistic missile defense network, approving a potential sale to the United Kingdom of a suite of technologies to create nodes that connect to the Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system.

Bill LaPlante, the president's selection to be the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, talked about supplying weapons to Ukraine during his nomination hearing this week:

DOD acquisition chief nominee wants more 'hot production lines' to aid Ukraine

Bill LaPlante, the nominee to be Pentagon acquisition chief, said today he believes the U.S. government should make new, one-time investments in the production of munitions and drones that can be sent to Ukraine to help hold off the ongoing Russian invasion.

Document: Senate hearing on LaPlante, Raven, Johnson, Adams nominations

By John Liang
March 22, 2022 at 2:39 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Pentagon acquisition chief nominee Bill LaPlante's testimony on Capitol Hill and more.

We start off with coverage of the nomination hearing for Bill LaPlante, the president's selection to be the Pentagon's top weapons buyer:

DOD acquisition chief nominee wants more 'hot production lines' to aid Ukraine

Bill LaPlante, the nominee to be Pentagon acquisition chief, said today he believes the U.S. government should make new, one-time investments in the production of munitions and drones that can be sent to Ukraine to hold off the ongoing Russian invasion.

Document: Senate hearing on LaPlante, Raven, Johnson, Adams nominations

Followed by the latest on the Army's Extended Range Cannon Artillery program:

Cuts to ERCA enablers will not affect development

Congressional budget cuts to programs that support the Extended Range Cannon Artillery should not delay the system's development and testing schedule, according to the Army.

The Air Force's proposed Cislunar Highway Patrol System aims to focus on object detection and extended sensing capabilities:

AFRL releases draft RFP for cislunar spaceflight effort; final expected in April

The Air Force Research Laboratory is seeking industry ideas through a new draft request for proposals tied to its Cislunar Highway Patrol System, with a final notice slated for release next month.

The non-public version of the Pentagon operational test and evaluation chief's annual report to Congress has additional details on hypersonic defense:

DOD sets FY-28 target for demonstrating hypersonic defense system

The Defense Department has set a fiscal year 2028 target for demonstrating a prototype hypersonic defense system to defeat long-range, ultrafast maneuvering glide vehicles during mid-flight -- more than 10 years after Congress directed the U.S. military to establish a program to plug an anticipated hole in U.S. air- and missile-defense capabilities.

The Pentagon recently released a reprogramming request submitted for congressional approval on Feb. 22, 2022 seeking permission to shift funds among various Army accounts for counter-Small Unmanned Systems efforts:

DOD bolsters program to counter small drones

The Defense Department has received congressional approval to shift $32 million to the Army to centralize the research, development, test and evaluation of technologies intended to counter small unmanned aerial systems.

Document: DOD c-SUAS reprogramming request

By Evan Ochsner
March 22, 2022 at 2:06 PM

Lockheed Martin plans to demonstrate its 5G capabilities at Project Convergence 22 this fall using an unmanned aerial vehicle, a company official told reporters Tuesday. 

Lockheed has applied to include the demonstration in PC22, David Rohall, senior program manager on the company's Sensors and Global Sustainment Advanced Programs team, said. The company will work throughout this year to improve its 5G capabilities after it says it proved in November that it could bring 5G capability to its Open Architecture Processor.

That demonstration, a “first step” in advancing the technology, showed Lockheed could provide low-latency, high-bandwidth network connection between two humvees, Rohall said. Lockheed’s OAP is mature and ruggedized, Rohall said, and it was a straightforward process to install and integrate the 5G capability into the processor.

Lockheed says its 5G capabilities will eventually improve communications and connectivity across domains and improve soldier decision-making by quickly providing high-quality information.

“This is an enabling technology to share data securely, resiliently and seamlessly across that battlespace,” Rohall said.

The capability would improve joint-all domain communications and data transfer across greater distances, making Project Convergence an ideal venue for demonstrating improvements, he added. Project Convergence is the Army’s annual experiment in the Joint Warfighting Concept and Joint All Domain Command and Control where it collects information on a wide range of technologies.

PC22 is slated to be the first to include multinational partners, with Australia and the United Kingdom expected to participate.

Lockheed’s 5G demonstration will expand the capabilities of its earlier test, Rohall said.

“We’re actually going to provide our own network with the 5G on a Lockheed Martin Space asset,” Rohall said.

The company will also include an unmanned aerial vehicle to send real-time video back to the humvees, which would allow operators to better identify and locate threats and determine how to respond, he said.

By John Liang
March 21, 2022 at 1:52 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Joint All-Domain Command and Control and more.

We start off with what's next for Joint All-Domain Command and Control:

Following implementation plan sign-off, DOD focused on JADC2 capability delivery

With the Defense Department's final installment of its delivery plan tied to the military-wide Joint All-Domain Command and Control completed, the general in charge of the effort said today officials "are now focused from our most senior leader on down to delivery of a capability."

Related, in case you missed it:

Pentagon completes classified JADC2 implementation plan

The Pentagon has finished its classified Joint All-Domain Command and Control implementation plan and has released an unclassified executive summary of its JADC2 strategy, which is intended to set the department on a path to connect all U.S. military battlefield sensors to a single network.

Document: Pentagon's JADC2 strategy summary

Legacy Army aviation programs like the Black Hawk and Chinook are getting funding boosts:

Army aviation benefits from overall defense increase

Army aviation programs, including legacy programs and Future Vertical Lift priorities, appear to be among the winners from the defense spending increase above what President Biden requested in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending law.

More helicopter news, this one from the Marine Corps:

Marine Corps' CH-53K program completes operational testing

The Marine Corps' CH-53K program completed initial operational test and evaluation earlier this month and is on track to be operational this year.

A Space Tracking and Surveillance System technical risk assessment conducted last year determined the satellites -- which launched in 2009 -- had to be promptly pulled out of service:

MDA scrapped plan to squeeze additional service life from STSS after 2021 risk analysis

The Defense Department last summer decommissioned a pair of missile defense satellites -- the Space Tracking and Surveillance System -- which delivered three times their original forecast service life but were nevertheless expected as recently as last year to remain in orbit supporting the U.S. military until 2023.

By Audrey Decker
March 21, 2022 at 12:40 PM

The Navy's Lionfish Small Unmanned Undersea Vehicle program is gearing up for a production contract after completing the prototype effort, according to a service notice.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Unmanned Systems will fulfill the requirement for the procurement, according to the notice released on Friday.

“HII UxS successfully completed the Lionfish SUUV prototype effort previously awarded under Defense Innovation Unit’s Other Transactional authority utilizing a competitive Commercial Solutions Opening,” the notice states.

While the Navy didn’t specify how many SUUVs would be procured, Naval Sea Systems Command requires the procurement of “multiple production lots” of Lionfish, support equipment, production hardware spares and engineering support services, according to the notice.

Lionfish will replace the Mk 18 MOD-1 and Viperfish, a medium UUV program, will replace the Mk 18 MOD-2.

In November, Vice Adm. William Houston, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, told Inside Defense that he envisions numerous small and medium UUVs in the submarine force because the systems can be carried internally.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
March 21, 2022 at 12:10 PM

Top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee would support a reprogramming request to accelerate development of a Stinger missile replacement, according to a letter they sent Friday to Pentagon leaders.

“Therefore, the committee strongly urges that the [Defense Department] prioritize acceleration of a [short-range air defense] modernization or replacement that will deliver a low-cost, exportable evolution of a system, within 36 months,” the letter stated. “The committee urges focus on the most rapid possible development, testing, and fielding of a more capable SHORAD system and would favorably consider an appropriate reprogramming request to get this started.”

Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) signed the letter, which was addressed to the Pentagon’s top uniformed and civilian leaders.

The letter addressed the ability of allied countries, which have also sent munitions to Ukraine, to refill their own missile stockpiles. A Stinger replacement should be exportable, the letter said.

The U.S. military has sent more than 1,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems to Ukraine in recent months. The Cold War-era missiles can be mounted on vehicles or launched from shoulder-fired systems.

Lawmakers expressed concern in 2018 about the size of the U.S. military’s Stinger stockpile and the possible deterioration of the industrial base that supports the weapon. The Army released a request for information in 2020 about options to replace the missile, which included plans to award a production contract by fiscal year 2026.

Stinger production ended more than two decades ago, and the military’s stockpile has shrunk in the intervening years. But the Army still lists the Stinger as a key enabler to its modernization effort for large-scale combat, in which air defense is one of six priorities.

The service’s new kinetic Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense systems use the Stinger alongside Hellfire missiles and an anti-aircraft cannon. A future increment of the kinetic M-SHORAD vehicle, which would utilize a Stinger replacement, is expected toward the end of this decade.

By John Liang
March 21, 2022 at 10:02 AM

The U.S. Strategic Command Strategic Advisory Group is meeting this week, according to a notice published this morning.

"The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice on scientific, technical, intelligence, and policy-related issues to the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, during the development of the Nation's strategic war plans," the March 21 Federal register notice states.

Topics for discussion during the March 22-23 meeting will include: "Dual Peer Threat Assessment and Integrated Deterrence, Stockpile Assessment, Nuclear Detection Capabilities and Technological Advances, Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) system and NC3 Enterprise Center (NEC) way forward, Mission Surety of Current, Legacy TRIAD Systems, and Burdensome and Unnecessary 'Requirements.'"

By Tony Bertuca
March 21, 2022 at 5:00 AM

Senior Pentagon officials are scheduled to make several public appearances this week.

Monday

The Satellite Conference begins in Washington and runs through Thursday.

Tuesday

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds confirmation hearings for several key defense nominees, including Pentagon acquisition chief and Navy under secretary.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion with the U.K. defence procurement chief.

The Federal News Network's DOD Cloud Exchange conference begins in Washington.

Wednesday

The Senate Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee holds a hearing on security in the Western Hemisphere.

Thursday

DefenseOne hosts its Intelligence Summit.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with the chiefs of U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command.

By John Liang
March 18, 2022 at 3:04 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Army helicopter programs, the Defense Department's scrapping of a space-based missile tracking system and more.

The FY-22 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by President Biden earlier this week, includes increases for procurement and research and development for legacy Army aviation programs like the Black Hawk and Chinook, as well as increases for Future Vertical Lift:

Army aviation benefits from overall defense increase

Army aviation programs, including legacy programs and Future Vertical Lift priorities, appear to be among the winners from the defense spending increase above what President Biden requested in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending law.

A Space Tracking and Surveillance System technical risk assessment conducted last year determined the satellites -- which launched in 2009 -- had to be promptly pulled out of service:

MDA scrapped plan to squeeze additional service life from STSS after 2021 risk analysis

The Defense Department last summer decommissioned a pair of missile defense satellites -- the Space Tracking and Surveillance System -- which delivered three times their original forecast service life but were nevertheless expected as recently as last year to remain in orbit supporting the U.S. military until 2023.

The Marine Corps' next-generation CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter program could be operational by the end of 2022:

Marine Corps' CH-53K program completes operational testing

The Marine Corps' CH-53K program completed initial operational test and evaluation earlier this month and is on track to be operational this year.

The Defense Department's classified Joint All-Domain Command and Control implementation plan is done:

Pentagon completes classified JADC2 implementation plan

The Pentagon has finished its classified Joint All-Domain Command and Control implementation plan and has released an unclassified executive summary of its JADC2 strategy, which is intended to set the department on a path to connect all U.S. military battlefield sensors to a single network.

Congressional leaders have named the people they want to be part of the new Planning, Programming, Budget and Execution Reform Commission:

PPBE Reform Commission roster finalized

The membership of a new reform commission has been finalized that has the potential to upend the Pentagon's decades-old budget planning regime.

The director of operational test and evaluation's annual report for fiscal year 2021 originally didn't provide enough details about the Army's M-SHORAD system, but the Project on Government Oversight obtained a not-for-public release version that did include additional details:

DOT&E: Computer crashes 'often occurred' in M-SHORAD operational assessment

Computers that are essential for tracking and responding to airborne threats on the Army's new short-range air defense system repeatedly malfunctioned during a December 2020 operational assessment, according to the Pentagon's top weapons tester.

Pentagon leaders will consider a decision as soon as this spring to leapfrog a previous goal to target development of a 500-kilowatt, missile-killing laser and instead scale up from current work on 300 kilowatt-class power directly to a megawatt:

DOD eyes decision to accelerate ballistic missile-killing laser development

The Defense Department -- buoyed by recent rapid advances in directed-energy technology and alarmed by North Korean progress in maturing intercontinental rockets as well as other potential adversary threats -- is readying a proposal to accelerate development of the Holy Grail of lasers: a megawatt-powered weapon capable of killing ballistic missiles.