The Insider

By John Liang
September 18, 2023 at 11:52 AM

AeroVironment announced today it has completed its acquisition of Tomahawk Robotics, a maker of artificial intelligence-enabled robotic control systems, for $120 million in a mix of cash and stock.

"Now that the acquisition is finalized, we’re able to further integrate both companies' technologies and accelerate our implementation of AI and autonomy into AeroVironment's platforms, enabling us to offer the best solutions for our customers' operational needs," Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment's chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement. The company announced the purchase last month.

Tomahawk Robotics will become part of the small uncrewed aerial systems business unit within AeroVironment's Unmanned Systems segment.

By Tony Bertuca
September 18, 2023 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak around the Washington area this week.


The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and acting Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on furthering U.S.-India security cooperation.

The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on defense cooperation with Taiwan.


The House Armed Services cyber, innovation and information technology subcommittee holds a hearing with industry officials on the defense innovation ecosystem.

The House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee holds a hearing on the military promotions process.

The Association of the United States Army hosts a discussion with the chief of Army Training and Doctrine Command.

The Reagan Institute hosts a discussion on artificial intelligence and the National Defense Strategy.

The Center for a New American Security hosts a discussion on emerging technology and the AUKUS alliance.


By Apurva Minchekar
September 15, 2023 at 3:42 PM

The Air Force is seeking solutions from industry to "deliver commercial-derivate air refueling systems," according to a notice posted Thursday.

Recently, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter told Congress the service is expecting a gap period between the end of KC-46 tanker aircraft production and the delivery of the next-generation replacement and plans to close that gap by recapitalizing its current tanker fleet.

Along with the request for information, the service has also released the “System Requirement Document (SRD) for the KC-135 Replacement Aircraft System,” both of which are in controlled unclassified information format.

“The draft SRD will capture the current requirements for the Tanker Recapitalization Program with projected deliveries to begin after the last KC-46A delivery,” the service said earlier this month.

Last month, Scott Boyd, deputy program executive for mobility aircraft at the Air Force Life Cycle Industry Day in Dayton, OH said this is the first time the industry will see formal requirements and have an opportunity to respond to it.

Boyd at the event also said after the responses are reviewed, the service will build a business case analysis followed by an acquisition strategy, which is expected to be completed by the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.

Additionally, the House Appropriators Committee, in its draft fiscal year 2024 spending bill, expressed concern about tanker availability during the recapitalization phase and asked the service to continue competition throughout all stages of tanker recapitalization.

The committee has also asked the Air Force secretary to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations panels that will provide details on a 10-year schedule for the recapitalization of the tanker fleet, planned tanker aircraft divestitures over the same period as well as a risk assessment of a reduced bridge tanker procurement prior to the delivery of the Next-Generation Air refueling System.

The report should be created in coordination with the FY-25 budget request, the committee noted.

By Georgina DiNardo
September 15, 2023 at 3:29 PM

House Republican committee chairmen are requesting the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security and other government agencies brief them by Sept. 28 on the national security implications of granting licenses to companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

“We are extremely troubled and perplexed about the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) inability to effectively write and enforce export control rules against violators, especially China,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Commerce Under Secretary for Industry and Security Alan Estevez.

The letter requested BIS coordinate with the Defense, State and Energy departments for the briefing and urged placement of “additional pressure” on export controls for U.S. adversaries and competitors, like China.

“For more than two years, our committees and numerous members of Congress have written you regarding loopholes in BIS rules attempting, unsuccessfully, to restrict technology to Huawei and [Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC)], among others,” the letter stated. “Despite this knowledge and continued Congressional pressure to adopt stricter policies, BIS has continued to grant licenses to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled companies, such as SMIC, worth hundreds of billions of dollars. These companies support the CCP’s military and have been responsible for manufacturing semiconductors that power Huawei’s 5G devices, in violation of BIS’ export controls.”

The letter comes in response to reports which revealed that Huawei Technologies Co. developed a smartphone containing 7-nanometer chips capable of supporting 5G, produced by the Chinese state-owned SMIC, which the lawmakers say violates U.S. export-control regulations.

The letter was signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Robert Latta (R-OH), Young Kim (R-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

The lawmakers suggested seven immediate steps that BIS should take, stating they were already explained to the Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year.

These suggestions included establishing a sanctions authority through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act on Chinese companies, barring the import of SMIC produced semiconductors, placing SMIC and Huawei on the Entity List with a Foreign Direct Product Rule designation, implementing a policy of denial for all items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) for Huawei subsidiaries and SMIC, removing all license exceptions for all items subject to the EAR to SMIC and pursuing criminal charges against SMIC and Huawei executives.

“We need to enforce laws under your authority against them and not play into their hands,” the letter states. “Times have changed in our relations with China. It is beyond time for our bureaucracy to as well.”

By John Liang
September 15, 2023 at 2:42 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Space Force's classification process, a radar to be based in Palau, Navy amphibious vessels and more.

We start off with more coverage from this week's AFA Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Space Force is 'actively' working to tackle overclassification problem

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The Space Force is "actively" reviewing the classification process to perform its duties effectively and collaborate with allies and partners, a top service official said Tuesday.

The Air Force this week announced plans to issue a request for proposals for the Tactical Multi-Mission Over the Horizon Radar (TACMOR) during the second quarter of fiscal year 2024 -- sometime between January and March:

2024 start set for new Palau radar needed to plug huge Indo-Pacific surveillance gaps

The Defense Department has unveiled plans to compete a new, high-priority radar project in the Indo-Pacific region -- a long-range surveillance sensor slated for emplacement in the Republic of Palau that top brass say is needed to plug air domain awareness gaps in the Western Pacific by providing thousands of square miles of wide-area surveillance.

Document: Air Force TACMOR industry day briefing slides

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a confirmation hearing Thursday to fill the Navy's top uniformed position:

Franchetti pledges support for 31-amphib mandate, delivering Columbia submarines on time

Stating the amphibious force is critical to the fleet, acting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti told lawmakers Thursday she is committed to the 31-ship legal mandate.

News on the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System:

Army greenlights IVAS 1.2 for next phase of development

The Army has given the OK for the Integrated Visual Augmentation System's 1.2 variant to transition to the next phase of development, following positive soldier feedback from a test last month.

Air Force Gen. David Allvin submitted answers to advance policy questions to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week regarding his nomination to become Air Force chief of staff:

Air Force chief of staff nominee's written testimony provides updates on major acquisitions

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Allvin laid out key dates on the service's major acquisition programs this week in his written testimony to the Senate, which held a hearing for his nomination as chief of staff.

Document: Allvin's answers to advance policy questions

The Air Force issued a request for information on the Mobility Cross-Cutting Operational Enabler this week:

Air Force looking for solutions to develop NGAS, NGAL for mission needs

The Air Force is seeking information to identify potential capabilities and technologies to develop Next Generation Refueling and Airlift Teams of Systems built for specific mission requirements, according to a notice posted Tuesday.

Document: Air Force mobility COE RFI

By Apurva Minchekar
September 15, 2023 at 2:39 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Based on analysis and research of over 20 years, JetZero's Blended Wing Body seems to be a "promising" prototype, a top Air Force official told reporters Wednesday at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference.

“We're in the very front end of this developmental prototyping process for the Blended Wing Body aircraft. We know that that particular aircraft design has been through a number of trade studies over the past 20 years,” Assistant Air Force Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment Ravi Chaudhary said.

In August, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said JetZero’s new blended wing body aircraft will be a streamlined design that will also help to increase fuel efficiency and enhance capabilities, as well as impact the environment.

“I want to emphasize that this project is a win-win for the commercial industry as well as for the [Defense Department] and hopeful that the commercial interest will result in additional investments that will benefit all of us,” Kendall said at an Air and Space Forces Association event last month.

Chaudhary, at the ASC conference this week, said 15 years ago the service had flown the aircraft at a small scale to locate any issues and is now going to build the prototype at a full-scale level.

“So there's gonna be a lot of knowledge that comes out of that,” he said.

Chaudhary added his department is closely working with Air Mobility Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory to get closer to achieving the BWB goals.

“We look at ways in which we can improve aerodynamics and aircraft to reduce fuel consumption,” he continued.

Additionally, JetZero is also collaborating with Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composite to build the prototype and Pratt & Whitney to take benefit of its GTF engines that will help to easily integrate the prototype into the commercial fleet.

JetZero is expecting to launch the BWB prototype aircraft by 2027.

By Ben Dupont
September 15, 2023 at 1:05 PM

The Navy has created a federal advisory committee to provide counsel on science and technology questions.

The new Science and Technology Board, announced on Thursday, will advise the Navy on “matters and policies relating to scientific, technical, manufacturing, acquisition, logistics, medicine and business management functions.”

“We are eager to have the DON STB work with us to amplify existing initiatives and suggest new possibilities that will strengthen our warfighting capabilities,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said in the statement. “I look forward to meeting with our nation’s leading experts, many of whom have served in multiple roles within the government, academia, and industry.”

According to its charter, signed on July 31, the panel of outside advisers “is not established to advise on individual DOD or DON procurements or acquisition matters, but instead shall be concerned with the pressing and complex scientific and technological (S&T) problems facing the DON in such areas as research, engineering, organizational structure and process, business and functional concepts, and manufacturing, and will ensure the identification of new technologies and new applications of technology in those areas to strengthen national security.”

The charter also says the board will “Recommend applications of technology to improve U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps capabilities” and “Provide an independent review of the quality and relevance of the DON S&T portfolio.”

Richard Danzig will chair the STB. Danzig, who served as Navy secretary under President Clinton, has been a part of other federal advisory committees, including the Defense Policy Board.

“I am honored to be appointed as the Chair of the DON STB,” Danzig said in the statement. “The board’s highest priority will be to work with leaders in the Department of the Navy to match new opportunities in science and technology with present service needs.”

The board’s vice chair will be Howard Fireman, who served in the Navy for 35 years before becoming senior vice president and chief technology officer for the American Bureau of Shipping.

The rest of the board will be composed of academics and scientists, many of them former Navy officers.

The board will meet for the first time on Sept. 21, during a classified session in which the new members will be sworn in.

The board has a mission similar to that of the now-defunct Naval Research Advisory Committee, which was dissolved in 2019.

By Shelley K. Mesch
September 15, 2023 at 11:06 AM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The updated delivery date of Technology Refresh 3-equipped F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is "not low-risk," Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Mark Kelly told reporters this week.

TR-3 is already late, and contractor Lockheed Martin said last week that it would not meet its previously held goal of deliveries by December. Instead, Lockheed is anticipating deliveries to begin between April and June of next year.

The updated time frame is doable but not necessarily probable when considering the “number of actions that have to take place in terms of TR-3 burndown that they need to execute between now and then,” Kelly told reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association's Air, Space, Cyber conference.

The Defense Department is not accepting new F-35s until they are equipped with the TR-3 hardware and software upgrades.

By John Liang
September 14, 2023 at 2:31 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Air Force next-generation airlift and refueling aircraft, the Pentagon's cyber strategy and more.

The Air Force issued a request for information this week "seeking industry input to identify potential capabilities/technologies for development of Next Generation Refueling and Airlift Teams of Systems (ToS), which will be purpose-built for specific mission sets":

Air Force looking for solutions to develop NGAS, NGAL for mission needs

The Air Force is seeking information to identify potential capabilities and technologies to develop Next Generation Refueling and Airlift Teams of Systems built for specific mission requirements, according to a notice posted Tuesday.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Mieke Eoyang spoke about the Pentagon's new cyber strategy this week during a moderated discussion at the Center for a New American Security:

DOD and industry officials stress need for more information sharing in cyber defense

A top Pentagon official provided more details today about the Defense Department's intent to share more information with the private sector about cyberattacks, as outlined in the recently released 2023 Cyber Strategy.

A new 200,000-square-foot Marine Corps facility uses a 5G core to connect over 40 systems -- including 11 robots that manage inventory -- in an effort to improve the speed and efficiency of warehousing logistics:

Marine Corps' 'smart' warehouse prototype headed for ATO decisions by year's end

The Marine Corps' 5G-enabled "smart" warehouse prototype is preparing for two separate Authority to Operate decisions expected to clear the facility for functional use before the end of calendar year 2023.

More coverage from this week's AFA 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Space Force to use EW and PNT to organize mission area resources under one command

NATIONAL HABOR, MD -- The Space Force has launched Integrated Mission Delta, a two-prototype unit which will use electronic warfare and positioning, navigation and timing to bring operations and sustainment of the mission area under one command, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said Tuesday morning.

A final draft of the air warfare (AW) ship self-defense enterprise test and evaluation master plan (TEMP) for ship self-defense system baseline 12 (SSDS BL 12) is expected to be completed at the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, according to the Navy:

TEMP final draft for threat ASCM self-defense targeted for FY-24

The Navy is working to resolve “final missile allocations” to complete master planning for test strategy and evaluation of self-defense systems against anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

By John Liang
September 14, 2023 at 10:39 AM

The Defense Science Board will meet in closed session later this month to talk about innovation, critical infrastructure and position, navigation and timing issues.

According to a Federal Register notice published this morning, the Sept. 28 meeting will cover a classified briefing "on the Defense Science Board Task Force to Advise Implementation and Prioritization of National Security Innovation Activities' findings and recommendations followed by a DSB ('board') vote."

After that, the board will discuss "the Defense Science Board Task Force on Department of Defense Dependencies on Critical Infrastructure's findings and recommendations followed by a board vote."

Additionally, the DSB will get "a classified briefing on the Defense Science Board Task Force on Position Navigation & Timing Control's findings and recommendations followed by a board vote."

By Nickolai Sukharev
September 13, 2023 at 4:47 PM

The Army awarded RTX and Lockheed Martin contracts for Stinger surface-to-air missile upgrades and replacements for a combined $729 million, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.

RTX received a contract for $418 million with the work to be completed in Tucson, AZ by an estimated completion date of March 12, 2028.

Lockheed Martin received a contract for $311 million with the work to be completed in Grand Prairie, TX by an estimated completion date of June 12, 2028.

The United States has sent approximately 2,000 Stinger missiles to Ukraine during its ongoing conflict with Russia as part of numerous military assistance packages, according to Defense Department documents.

Entering service in 1981, the Stinger is designed to provide short-range air defense and can be fired from man-portable launchers and vehicles. It comes in numerous variants including an air-to-air variant designed to be launched from helicopters.

The Stinger is used by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and many other nations.

In March 2023, the Army selected RTX and Lockheed to develop a Stinger replacement.

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 4:14 PM

The State Department has approved a possible $5 billion foreign military sale to South Korea for 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

The deal would cover the conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant of the jet, with up to 26 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines and other assorted equipment.

“The proposed sale will improve the Republic of Korea’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces,” DSCA said. “The proposed sale will augment Korea’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability. Korea already has F-35s in its inventory and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, TX, and Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, CT.

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 4:10 PM

The State Department has approved a possible $389 million foreign military sale to Poland that would cover sustainment of its F-16 fleet, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

“The proposed sale will improve Poland’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing the reliability of their F-16 fleet,” DSCA said. “Poland has purchased sustainment support for the F-16s in its inventory for many years, and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

The principal contractor would be Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, TX.

By John Liang
September 13, 2023 at 2:32 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news from this week's AFA 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference plus an Army Science Board study and more.

We start off with more coverage of the AFA 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

LaPlante makes case for production readiness to drive contract awards, highlights Replicator

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante today repeated his mantra of "production, production, production," asserting that such an approach should be baked into the weapons design process and prized when it is time to award final contracts.

Space Force to create African and European Command to support regional combatant commands

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The Space Force is creating a service component to support regional combatant commands in Africa and Europe to leverage integration, collaboration and cooperation with joint "teammates," partners and allies in respective regions, a senior Space Force official said today at the Air, Space and Cyber conference.

Air Force senior official sets goal to connect 25% of mobility fleet by 2025

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Mobility Command aims to connect 25% of the mobility fleet by 2025 and connect the ground systems, including the air operations centers, air mobility operation wings and contingency response groups, according to a senior Air Force official.

The Army Science Board has released a report on "An Independent Assessment of the 2040 Battlefield and its Implications for the 5th Generation Combat Vehicle (5GCV)":

Report urging Army to spend $3B-$4B on combat vehicle modernization coincides with Abrams overhaul announcement

An Army advisory board recommends the service invest $3 billion to $4 billion on plans to modernize its combat vehicle fleet to meet the challenges of the future battlefield, according to a report released last week that coincides with a recent announcement that the Abrams tank will be redesigned for 2030.

Document: ASB report on 2040 battlefield and implications for 5GCV

The Defense Department has released an unclassified summary of its classified 2023 Cyber Strategy:

DOD releases 2023 Cyber Strategy highlighting China and industrial espionage

The Pentagon unveiled the broad concepts behind its classified 2023 Cyber Strategy today, which is focused on deterring China, highlights lessons learned from Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and prioritizes protecting the U.S. defense industry from cyber espionage.

Document: Summary of DOD's 2023 cyber strategy

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 2:08 PM

House GOP leadership has delayed a vote on the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill amid in-fighting over government spending and a looming federal shutdown.

House committee staffers said the first procedural vote on the bill, which is aligned with President Biden’s request for $886 billion in national defense spending, was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today but has been delayed.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the staffers said, has not been able to secure the 218 votes needed for the bill to proceed.

The vote would be for the rule governing debate on the bill, which was passed last night by the House Rules Committee by an 8-5 vote. The bill has been criticized by Democrats and has drawn a veto threat from the White House for its inclusion of controversial “culture war” provisions targeting diversity initiatives, climate change mitigation and the Pentagon’s leave and travel policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The delay in the defense appropriations vote is part of a larger spending battle that has pit the GOP-led House against the Democrat-led Senate and some Republicans against one another.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who joined Rules Committee Democrats in voting against the rule, said he is ready to support a government shutdown if federal spending continues to increase.

“It's time to call a halt to spending and if the government shuts down, then let's shut it down,” he said. “This government shut us down during COVID. This government is being weaponized.”

The rule adopted by the committee, meanwhile, includes 184 amendments, 103 of which were offered by Republicans, 45 from Democrats and 36 were bipartisan.

Several politically controversial amendments were championed by members of the GOP’s Freedom Caucus. For example, one amendment would prohibit the transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, while another would cut the annual salary of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1.

Staffers said a vote on the bill could be quickly rescheduled if House GOP leaders are able to whip enough votes to reach 218.