The Insider

By Audrey Decker
April 6, 2022 at 5:06 PM

The Navy announced on Tuesday that the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78), the first carrier of its class, reached initial operational capability in December.

Operational capability was "recently declared" with the turnover of the last elevator, according to Capt. Brian Metcalf, program manager of the Navy’s future aircraft carrier program.

“We didn’t announce it,” Metcalf said. “Some people know what IOC means and some people don’t. It’s an acquisition-specific milestone. The conditions on the ship don’t really change because of IOC.”

The ship’s official IOC date is Dec. 22, Metcalf said at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference.

All 11 of Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators have been turned over to the ship’s crew, Metcalf said. The elevators enable crew members to safely move ordnance from weapons magazines to the flight deck.

The carrier has faced long-standing issues with the elevators and reliability concerns with its electromagnetic aircraft launch system and arresting gear.

Ford completed its first planned incremental availability in February and is preparing for deployment early this fall, according to the Navy.

“As Ford is integrated into the fleet operations over the summer, we’ll continue to roll all of these lessons learned into the following ships,” Metcalf said.

John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) is about 85% complete and is on track to be delivered in 2024, Metcalf said. The ship will feature a new radar system, combat suite and joint strike fighter capability, he added.

Enterprise (CVN-80) is 15% complete and the keel will be laid this spring, targeting delivery in 2028, Metcalf said. Enterprise is the first carrier built completely with digital modeling, he said.

By Evan Ochsner
April 6, 2022 at 4:10 PM

The largest 3D-printed structure in the Western Hemisphere is under construction at Ft. Bliss, TX, according to a Defense Department announcement released Tuesday.

DOD's Defense Innovation Unit, Army Installation Management Command, and Army Engineer Research and Development Center are partnering to build three 3D-printed barracks at the post, according to the announcement.

The project will use a 3D printing construction system provided by ICON, a private company that has 3D printed homes and a training barracks.

Each of the 5,700 square-foot buildings would be the first 3D-printed structures to comply with DOD’s newly released Unified Facilities Criteria, the announcement states.

“Constructing facilities using this cutting-edge technology saves labor costs, reduces planning time and increases the speed of construction of future facilities,” Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commanding general of the Army’s Installation Management Command, said in the announcement. “We are looking at other ways to use this innovative technique for rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks.”

DIU previously partnered with the Marine Corps to prototype ICON’s construction processes, using the technology to produce a structure to hide a vehicle.

By Shelley K. Mesch
April 6, 2022 at 2:43 PM

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- After being delayed along with the fiscal year 2022 budget, all reassigned Army and Navy units will soon complete their transfer to Space Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting said.

“We did have to wait until we got the appropriations bill,” Whiting, the chief of Space Operations Command, told reporters at the Space Symposium here. “We are expecting this fiscal year to see the transfer.”

With all military satellite communications under one service, the Space Force could be more responsive to threats by integrating the various operations, Whiting said.

Space Force is talking with the Army about transferring its missile warning capabilities, Whiting said, but there is no current timeline on when that would happen.

By John Liang
April 6, 2022 at 2:15 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the fiscal year 2023 defense budget request, Navy shipyards, Army helicopters and more.

We start off with senior Pentagon leadership testifying on Capitol Hill about the FY-23 budget request:

Inflation's impact on defense budget emerges as bipartisan concern

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers today the fiscal year 2023 defense budget assumes an "obviously incorrect" level of inflation, while Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord pledged to work with congressional defense committees to provide a more accurate picture of the U.S. military's lost buying power in the coming months.

Document: Austin, Milley testimony on the FY-23 budget

More news from the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space symposium:

Navy wants fewer people, more dependability in future shipyards

The shipyards of the future will produce ships faster, feature fewer people and be "a lot more dependable," a service official said today at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space conference.

Conn: Land-based testing needed to drive down unmanned risk

Before the Navy can deliver unmanned systems, the service needs to prioritize land-based testing to mitigate risk, especially for surface and sub-surface programs, according to a senior service official.

Selby: Navy needs to 'check our ego at the door' to innovate

The Navy needs to "check our ego at the door" and use what industry has already built if the service wants to innovate quickly, according to Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, chief of naval research.

Senior HII executive sees risk in Navy's planned LPD cuts

While industry is expressing concern over cuts to the LPD-class amphibious transport dock program in the Navy's fiscal year 2023 budget, some senior lawmakers say Congress will likely alter the service's plans.

(Follow all the news from Sea-Air-Space.)

Followed by news from Quad-A:

Boeing creating predictive maintenance for Chinook

NASHVILLE, TN -- Boeing is introducing algorithm-based predictive maintenance that could reduce sustainment costs on CH-47 Chinook helicopters, a company official said April 4 at the Army Aviation Association of America's annual conference.

(Follow all the news from Quad A.)

The Marine Corps has sent its unfunded priorities wish list to Congress:

Marines send Congress unfunded priorities list seeking $2.2B in procurement

The Marine Corps has sent Congress a $3.5 billion unfunded priorities list, with $2.2 billion being sought for the procurement of weapon systems, according to documents obtained by Inside Defense.

Some space news from Colorado:

U.S. Space Command crafts strategy to integrate commercial technology

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- U.S. Space Command will work more closely with commercial companies to more quickly integrate existing and new technology, Gen. James Dickinson told reporters here Tuesday.

Lockheed Martin unveils open-source hardware upgrade system for satellites

LITTLETON, CO -- Aiming to provide continuous capability upgrades to satellites, Lockheed Martin has released open-source plans for docking systems that would allow for autonomous, in-orbit hardware additions.

Air Force urges industry to move faster in 'contested' space domain

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- Speed needs to be a greater priority for industry when developing and delivering space capabilities, according to Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond.

Last but by no means least, more news on the U.S.-Australia-U.K. submarine development agreement:

AUKUS agreement expands to include hypersonics, EW capabilities

The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have expanded the scope of efforts under their recently unveiled trilateral agreement to include hypersonic and electronic warfare capabilities, the White House has announced.

By Michael Marrow
April 6, 2022 at 12:27 PM

L3Harris Technologies was awarded an option-year three expansion of its 10-year, $1.2 billion contract with the Space Force to modernize capabilities that can better track objects in space.

The company was first selected for the program in February 2020 with an initial contract worth $23 million. In February 2021, the Space Force opted to award an option-year two period for $89 million.

The Space Force and U.S. Space Command program, known as Maintenance of Space Situational Awareness Integrated Capabilities (MOSSAIC), provides space domain awareness data for military, civil and commercial users, according to a company press release.

The project involves upgrades to ground-based radar and optical sensor systems to improve performance and reliability and ensure that new capabilities can be integrated into a command-and-control architecture. Work is underway at Peterson Air Force Base, CO and other various locations worldwide.

By Tony Bertuca
April 6, 2022 at 11:10 AM

President Biden has authorized the Defense Department to transfer $100 million worth of Javelin anti-armor weapons to Ukraine so it can continue to defend itself against a Russian military invasion.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Biden, using presidential drawdown authority, has authorized the transfer of the Javelins from U.S. stocks to meet an urgent need in Ukraine.

“Combined with $300 million in military assistance announced by the Department April 1, this brings the total U.S. security assistance commitment to Ukraine to more than $2.4 billion since the beginning of the Biden Administration and more than $1.7 billion since the beginning of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked invasion on February 24,” Kirby said.

By Briana Reilly
April 6, 2022 at 10:58 AM

The Defense Department has teamed up with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to kick-off a competition seeking to advance the development and adoption of an open 5G network.

The competition, announced today, is focused on Radio Access Network subsystem interoperability, with applications open through May 5.

An attempt to bolster a vendor base with an interest in 5G interoperability, DOD’s release said the preliminary challenge event aims to take steps “towards true plug-and-play operation and unleashing a new era of technological innovation based on this critical technology.”

Participants who submit hardware or software solutions for subsystems that meet certain stipulations will be eligible for awards up to $3 million, per the release. Those interested can apply though www.challenge.gov.

By Briana Reilly
April 5, 2022 at 5:35 PM

The Air Force announced today its effort to replace the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system has a new name: the LGM-35A Sentinel.

Formerly known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, the effort is one part of a push to modernize the nation's nuclear triad and is on track to reach initial operational capability in 2029.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a service press release the new name “recognizes the mindset that thousands of airmen, past and present, have brought to the deterrence mission, and will serve as a reminder for those who operate, secure and maintain this system in the future about the discipline and responsibility their duty entails.”

Northrop Grumman in September 2020 won a $13.3 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract for the new missiles, though the framework does not include costs for low-rate initial production.

The company’s former vice president and general manager of the Strategic Deterrent Systems division, Greg Manuel, told Inside Defense in the fall the program is looking to launch its first test missile in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2023, with production following in 2026.

The Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act included a 30-day timeline following the language’s enactment to give GBSD a “mission-design series popular name.”

By John Liang
April 5, 2022 at 2:27 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command's unfunded priorities lists plus coverage from the Sea-Air-Space and Quad-A conferences.

We start off with NORTHCOM's and STRATCOM's unfunded priorities:

NORTHCOM seeks $135M in unfunded priorities

U.S. Northern Command has sent Congress a $135 million list of unfunded priorities for fiscal year 2023 focused on procuring additional information technology equipment and refurbishing aging infrastructure, according to a letter obtained by Inside Defense.

STRATCOM chief bucks White House on low-yield nukes

Adm. Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, wants Congress to know that he believes President Biden's fiscal year 2023 defense budget reflects the "essential minimum" required for nuclear national security, telling lawmakers he sees the need for a low-yield nuclear weapon to address a "deterrence and assurance gap," according to a letter obtained by Inside Defense.

Followed by Quad-A coverage:

FARA prototypes reach 85% completion

NASHVILLE, TN -- Bell and Sikorsky have each built at least 85% of their first competitive prototypes for the Army's Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft program, the companies said April 4 at the Army Aviation Association of America's annual conference here.

Bush: Ground warfare could receive more budget attention after Ukraine war

NASHVILLE, TN -- Funding for the Army's land forces could grow -- or at least avoid cuts -- in the Pentagon's fiscal year 2024 budget request as leaders assess the impact of the war in Ukraine, the Army acquisition executive said April 4.

(Follow all the news from Quad A.)

Plus the latest from the Sea-Air-Space symposium:

Navy envisions new UAS mission set

The Navy wants to expand the mission of its unmanned aerial systems to multiple areas, according to a senior service official.

Gilday and Berger sell FY-23 divestments as path to future force

The Navy's fiscal year 2023 budget request is about capability, rather than simple numbers, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said today.

(Follow all the news from Sea-Air-Space.)

By Briana Reilly
April 5, 2022 at 1:24 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has completed a second free-flight of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept -- this one tied to a variant from a Lockheed Martin-Aerojet Rocketdyne team.

The test, announced by the agency today, comes after a successful demonstration last fall from Raytheon and Northrop Grumman and clears the way for additional planned tests from both performers.

In the latest test, Lockheed’s missile was released from a B-52 bomber before a boost from the Aerojet-produced scramjet engine accelerated it to Mach 5, or hypersonic speeds, as it reached altitudes above 65,000 feet and flew for more than 300 nautical miles, per the DARPA release.

Though the test occurred in mid-March, a defense official told Inside Defense the news was delayed amid Russia’s announcement that it used its own hypersonic missile as it invaded Ukraine and President Biden’s trip to Europe.

A DARPA spokesman didn’t say when additional tests would occur, but he told Inside Defense that “more tests are planned” for both variants.

Going forward, Andrew Knoedler, DARPA’s HAWC program manager, said in the release that officials are working to analyze flight test data “but are confident that we will provide the U.S. Air Force and Navy with excellent options to diversify the technology available for their future missions.”

The DARPA spokesman said the agency “is actively working with our transition partners and have been since the program began,” though he didn’t indicate when HAWC may make the transition to a military service.

By John Liang
April 5, 2022 at 1:20 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted today to approve the nomination of Bill LaPlante to become the Pentagon's acquisition chief.

During his nomination hearing last month, LaPlante said 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.

LaPlante, who served as Air Force acquisition chief during the Obama administration, told the committee he believes the Pentagon needs “multiple hot production lines” for munitions, unmanned aerial systems, and other capabilities.

The committee also approved Erik Raven to be Navy under secretary, M. Tia Johnson to be a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and Marvin Adams to be deputy administrator for defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The nominations now go to the full Senate for approval.

By Briana Reilly
April 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM

The Biden administration has signed off on the sale of up to eight F-16 jets, 19 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, 28 Small Diameter Bombs and a host of other equipment to Bulgaria under a deal valued at $1.6 billion, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced today.

The potential sale, DSCA said in its release, would bolster “the security of a NATO ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe” while building off Bulgaria’s initial purchase of eight new F-16s.

Pointing to Bulgaria’s “commitment to modernizing its armed forces,” DSCA noted the new agreement would improve the country’s ability “to meet current and future threats by enabling the Bulgarian Air Force to deploy modern fighter aircraft routinely in the Black Sea region” and more frequently operate alongside other regional F-16 customers.

The deal would include four each of the F-16 C/D Block 70 variant, as well eight engines and three spares and related equipment ranging from embedded GPS navigation systems to anti-spoofing modules. In addition to the AMRAAMs and SDBs, the buy would also feature 12 Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits, fuze systems and more.

Bulgaria is currently awaiting delivery of the first batch of F-16s to replace its Soviet-made Mig-29 jets. One of a number of countries that have continued to express interest in Lockheed Martin’s signature fourth-generation fighter, Bulgaria had previously sent the U.S. Air Force a request for pricing and availability for more of the latest Block 70/72 variant, Inside Defense reported early last year.

DSCA notified Congress today of the potential sale, following the State Department’s decision to approve it, per the release.

The news comes in the weeks after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Defense Minister Dragomir Zakov during his trip to Europe, in which Austin “affirmed U.S. appreciation for the U.S.-Bulgarian strategic partnership and reiterated U.S. commitment to the security of NATO's Eastern Flank during this critical time,” according to a Pentagon readout of the visit.

By Tony Bertuca
April 4, 2022 at 4:44 PM

While the Defense Department continues to use hundreds of millions of dollars in "drawdown authority" granted by President Biden to transfer weapons to Ukraine from existing U.S. stocks, the Pentagon announced Friday it would also begin buying $300 million in new systems for Ukraine from defense contractors.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said today the decision underscores the U.S. commitment to Ukraine, noting DOD would also continue to move an $800 million package of weapons through presidential drawdown authority.

“We’re going to continue to support Ukraine’s ability to defense itself, we’re going to do that as much as we can, as fast as we can,” he said.

The $300 million in planned purchases includes: laser-guided rocket systems; Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems; Puma UAS; Counter-UAS capabilities; armored humvees; small-to-large-caliber non-standard ammunition; night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, and optics; tactical secure communications systems; non-standard machine guns; commercial satellite imagery services; medical supplies, field equipment, and spare parts.

The Pentagon said the United States has now committed more than $2.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including more than $1.6 billion in security assistance since the Russian invasion.

By Michael Marrow
April 4, 2022 at 2:53 PM

Raytheon Technologies announced today it has tapped retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said to be vice president of global security for the company's Intelligence & Space business unit.

Said previously served as Air Force inspector general. He will report directly to RI&S president Roy Azevedo, the company said in a press release.

Said will lead the organization’s global security function, including the execution of a Secure Technology Product Strategy to spur security as a competitive discriminator for RI&S, according to Raytheon.

By John Liang
April 4, 2022 at 2:01 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a couple of the Pentagon's FY-23 unfunded priorities lists and more.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command have sent lawmakers their fiscal year 2023 unfunded priorities lists:

INDOPACOM sends Congress $1.5B unfunded priorities list

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has sent Congress a list of unfunded priorities totaling about $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2023, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

CENTCOM sees $35M unfunded need to replenish 'bunker buster' bombs

U.S. Central Command has for now identified a single item on the annual unfunded priorities list it sends to Congress: $35 million to replenish GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators, sometimes called "bunker buster" bombs, according to a letter obtained by Inside Defense.

The Missile Defense Agency's fiscal year 2023 budget request includes $89 million for the Hypersonic and Ballistic Space Tracking Sensor project, which is slated to be on orbit by mid-FY-23:

HBTSS payloads taking shape; L3Harris and Northrop eye acquisition endgame

The Hypersonic and Ballistic Space Tracking Sensor project is beginning to take physical shape, with both L3Harris and Northrop Grumman beginning assembly of their respective prototype payloads as the two companies await word from the Missile Defense Agency on whether a down-select is in the offing or if both could be carried forward as suppliers.

Air Force engineers in coordination with Boeing have issued a temporary fix to a flaw found on the KC-46A airborne refueling tanker:

KC-46 cleared for TRANSCOM fueling missions as program grapples with trim defect

Air Mobility Command has authorized the KC-46A Pegasus to refuel the F-35A and F-22 aircraft, expanding the new tanker’s U.S. Transportation Command-approved mission sets as the aircraft awaits full mission capability and faces a recently discovered trim issue.

During a recent panel discussion hosted by the Center for a New American Security, defense analysts took the Pentagon to task for how it calculates for inflation:

Defense analysts: DOD too optimistic in FY-23 about buying power lost to inflation

Washington analysts who have had several days to dissect the fiscal year 2023 defense budget request criticized the White House and Pentagon today for using unrealistic inflation assumptions, but were uniform in their predictions that Congress would add tens of billions more to the Pentagon's coffers.