The Insider

By Ethan Sterenfeld
June 14, 2022 at 11:58 AM

Lockheed Martin will recapitalize and upgrade 15 British tracked rocket launchers, so they can fire new missiles that the U.S. Army is developing, under a $33 million contract that the Pentagon announced June 9.

British Multiple Launch Rocket Systems will be upgraded from the M270B1 variant to the M270A2 variant, according to Guy Yelverton, Lockheed's project manager for strategic and operational rockets and missiles in the U.S. Army.

The A2 variant brings a new, more powerful fire control system, which supports compatibility with the Precision Strike Missile and Extended-Range Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Both missiles are expected to extend the range of the systems they replace when they are fielded, and PrSM doubles the number of missiles per launch pod compared to the incumbent Army Tactical Missile System.

The A1 variant that the U.S. Army currently uses, which shares its fire control system with the B1, cannot fire the new missiles.

Lockheed should complete the upgrades by May 2026, according to the Pentagon announcement. Fiscal year 2022 United Kingdom foreign military sales funding will pay for the contract.

Up to 44 M270s from the United Kingdom will be recapitalized and brought to the A2 standard, the British army announced last year. The army expects to field PrSM in 2024 and ER-GMLRS the following year.

An initial increment of PrSM will be fielded to the U.S. Army by the end of FY-23 under current plans, although full certification and the development of improved variants should last most of this decade.

Upgrades to the U.S. Army’s M270s will overlap with an expansion of the service’s rocket launcher fleet, as the service bulks up its long-range fires capabilities amid preparation for great power conflict. Battalions of the M270 or the wheeled High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which fires the same missiles, will grow from 16 to 27 launchers.

By Audrey Decker
June 13, 2022 at 3:53 PM

After multiple crashes involving Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, the service announced that a safety pause will begin today for all non-deployed Navy aviation units.

Commander of Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell has directed the safety pause to review risk-management practices and conduct training on threat and error-management processes, according to a statement released over the weekend.

Most recently, an MH-60S Seahawk crashed near El Centro, CA on Thursday while conducting a routine training flight. All four of the aircrew on board survived the crash, although one was transported to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

After an MV-22B Osprey crashed near Glamis, CA on June 8, five Marines died. All five Marines were assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 -- based in Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, CA.

On June 3, a Navy pilot was killed when an F/A-18E Super Hornet crashed in the vicinity of Trona, CA. The incident, among others, is currently under investigation.

"In order to maintain the readiness of our force, we must ensure the safety of our people remains one of our top priorities," the June 11 statement said.

The Navy added that deployed units will conduct the safety pause at the earliest possible opportunity.

By Briana Reilly
June 13, 2022 at 3:50 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking to explore the potential of turning existing tankers into so-called "airborne energy wells" that can use laser beams to send power to drones.

Agency officials want industry feedback on the possibility of retrofitting aerial refueling aircraft like the Air Force’s KC-46 and KC-135 with “an underwing power beaming pod” to wirelessly recharge a fleet of unmanned aerial systems, according to a request for information published today.

The solicitation, which lays out a July 11 deadline for submissions, notes such a solution “should have sufficient power for a 100 [kilowatt] or greater continuous wave laser as well as the thermal control for integrating the laser” onto the tankers.

The notice aims to gauge broader feedback from respondents surrounding industry’s confidence in creating and testing such components and subsystems, as well as the associated challenges of adapting equipment and missions to that new capability.

As for the drones themselves, the benefits of designing UAS to receive directed energy, the RFI states, are extended range and operations in addition to weight reduction of the vehicles’ organic energy storage.

An airborne energy well, the RFI states, could become one part “of a more expansive energy web of power generation, transfer relays and receiving solutions, enabling the Department of Defense to dynamically allocate energy resources to more flexibly deliver military effects.”

Officials are looking to use the RFI as a jumping-off point as they assess and build out aircrafts’ ability “to dynamically move energy across a network” of platforms with capabilities to beam energy and receive it, according to the notice.

By Briana Reilly
June 13, 2022 at 2:30 PM

The Pentagon's deputy defense secretary said officials haven't yet seen a "substantial amount of inflation effect" on the military's budget, though she expects "those buying power concerns" will be visible down the line.

For now, Kathleen Hicks told an online Defense One Tech Summit audience today that the Defense Department has logged impacts in some areas, such as fuel prices.

But officials, she added, have also noted “the potential for inflation to affect buying power and everything from military housing to services’ contracts, which is really wage inflation sensitive, to of course, looking at those big platform acquisitions.”

“We are not seeing what most people would think of as substantial, a high percent of the defense budget being affected right now by those buying power concerns, but I do anticipate we’ll see them in the longer term,” she said.

If any of those buying power issues do arise, Hicks said DOD will “want to work with Congress to go after them.”

With the confluence of inflation, continued COVID-19-related fallout and supply chain issues, Hicks said she’s keeping a close watch on potential delays tied to firm-fixed-price contracts across DOD as summer progresses.

“It may not be that we see a price increase because it’s a firm-fixed-price contract, but we might see schedule slips and that could be supply chain, it could be workforce related, et cetera, it could be supplier prices,” she said.

On fuel prices, Hicks noted while the rising costs “underscore what we know already about fuel dependency,” she said the department is already “motivated at a more strategic level to make sure that we can free that tether on fossil fuel to the extent that we can.”

Doing so, she said, will help bolster the nation’s “combat credibility, particularly in places like the Pacific, where the logistics lines are very long.”

“For the United States to be effective in the Pacific, we already know we have a significant logistics challenge, worsened by the reliance that we have on fuel,” Hicks said.

By John Liang
June 13, 2022 at 2:15 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit, the Marine Corps' explosive ordnance disposal units and more.

With Defense Innovation Unit Director Michael Brown slated to step down in the coming months, DIU may be facing an uncertain future as it seeks to rebound from a fiscal year 2022 budget that included a more than 20% reduction while military spending neared $800 billion:

Vaunted Defense Innovation Unit nearing inflection point

The Defense Innovation Unit, known for being the Pentagon's Silicon Valley outreach team, could be headed for a crossroads as it is poised to lose its longest-serving leader at a time when some in Congress -- critical of top military officials' commitment to the highly visible but small-budget organization -- are rallying to boost investment in the outfit.

The family of Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization systems aims to provide safe maneuver within the littoral regions -- helping the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community and the service as a whole:

Marine Corps exercising LEON's network capability during RIMPAC

CAMP PENDLETON, CA -- The Marine Corps is leveraging a networked Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization system in the world's largest international maritime exercise this summer.

Two pilots flew in a synchronized augmented reality environment where a KC-46A Pegasus one of the pilots refueled with was not real:

Red 6 successfully tests new AR training technology

Flying somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 feet on May 10 in the skies above Ventura County, CA, Brandon Harris, a test pilot for aerospace startup Red 6, pulled in behind a refueling tanker as another Red 6 pilot, Tom Mackie, observed in a separate aircraft.

The pandemic delayed technological maturity testing of a new engine produced by the Improved Turbine Engine Program, from January 2021 until March this year, the Army told the Government Accountability Office:

GAO: COVID delayed testing, manufacturing of ITEP engine

A new report from the Government Accountability Office released Wednesday found the coronavirus pandemic created prolonged delays in manufacturing and testing a new helicopter engine that will one day power the Black Hawk, Apache and Future Attack Reconnaissance helicopters.

Document: GAO's annual weapon systems assessment

Inside Defense recently interviewed the Pentagon's senior information security officer and deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity:

Pentagon cyber chief: DOD plan to meet CUI controls goes 'above and beyond CMMC'

Pentagon cyber chief David McKeown says military officials are focused on ensuring their systems that deal with sensitive data are held to standards "above and beyond" the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework that applies to defense contractors who handle controlled unclassified information.

By Audrey Decker
June 13, 2022 at 2:00 PM

(Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect that the Navy demonstrated a capability that could be used to launch an unmanned underwater vehicle from an amphibious ship's well deck.)

HII, shipbuilder and defense technology company, recently demonstrated a capability that could be used from an amphibious ship to launch, operate and recover a large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicle.

The company's amphibious ships have well decks that can launch and recover various maritime platforms, HII said in today's announcement.

The launch and recovery demonstration featured prototype platform Pharos and HII’s LDUUV Proteus in the Pascagoula River in Mississippi, according to the press release.

"The demonstration involved having the LDUUV approach and be captured by the Pharos cradle, while Pharos was being towed behind a small craft that simulated an amphibious ship at low speed. Pharos was put in a tow position, then using a remote control, it was ballasted down in the trailing position allowing the LDUUV to navigate into Pharos," HII said.

"Once the unmanned vehicle was captured, Pharos was deballasted back up into a recovery and transport position. The demonstration also included ballasting down to launch the LDUUV after the capture," HII said.

Pharos was designed by HII and Metal Shark in Louisiana constructed the prototype device. The University of New Orleans, in conjunction with the Navy, performed the initial model testing, according to HII.

"HII is currently exploring modifications for other UUVs and participating in live demonstrations with the fleet within the next year. HII will use results from the Pharos demonstration to further mature concepts and continue to develop innovative national security solutions," HII said.

In April, the company released a suite of autonomy solutions -- named “Odyssey” -- that can turn any platform in any domain into a robotic platform.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
June 13, 2022 at 11:32 AM

GM Defense will pursue and manage business in international markets through a newly created legal entity, the company announced today.

The company will market its products in Europe, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific through the new entity, GM Defense International, according to a press release.

“Forming GM Defense International will drive our continued expansion as we leverage GM’s rich legacy of innovation in support of global defense and government customers,” Steve duMont, president of GM Defense, said in the press release.

This comes two weeks after the General Motors subsidiary announced it would expand into Canada. GM Defense could use its parent company’s existing commercial production sites in the country to build Canadian products in Canada.

“We understand that the Canadian military procurement process requires significant investments in country, and we’re confident that GM’s current and future investments will help us meet our Industrial Technological Benefit obligations in support of our Canadian customers,” duMont said in a May 31 press release announcing the company’s expansion north from Detroit.

Canada plans to buy a new light utility vehicle this decade, and one of the vehicles it will replace is a military version of the Chevrolet Silverado, according to the country’s defense investment plan.

GM Defense’s largest U.S. contract has been for the Infantry Squad Vehicle, a new Army troop carrier that is based on a smaller Chevrolet truck.

By Tony Bertuca
June 13, 2022 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee will vote this week on its version of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill.

Monday

The Senate Armed Services Committee begins its subcommittee marks for the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and other senior DOD leaders speak at the virtual DefenseOne Tech Summit that runs through Friday.

Tuesday

The Army and Air Force chief information officers speak at a Fedscoop Together event.

Pentagon Chief Sustainability Officer Joe Bryan speaks at a Center for Climate and Security virtual panel event.

Wednesday

The full Senate Armed Services Committee marks up its version of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill in closed session.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee will mark up its version of the fiscal year 2023 defense spending bill in closed session.

Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith speaks at a Stimson Center webinar on the implications of Force Design 2030 for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

By John Liang
June 10, 2022 at 2:31 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Pentagon cybersecurity, congressional efforts to curb defense contractor "price gouging" and more.

Inside Defense recently interviewed the Pentagon's senior information security officer and deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity:

Pentagon cyber chief: DOD plan to meet CUI controls goes 'above and beyond CMMC'

Pentagon cyber chief David McKeown says military officials are focused on ensuring their systems that deal with sensitive data are held to standards "above and beyond" the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework that applies to defense contractors who handle controlled unclassified information.

Two House and Senate Democrats want to put an end to what they call "price gouging" by defense contractors:

Dem lawmakers push bill to stop defense contractor 'price gouging'

As lawmakers prepare to craft the annual defense authorization bill, two senior Democrats from the House and Senate have authored legislation they say would stop defense contractors from “price gouging” the military by strengthening existing acquisition regulations by, among other things, requiring contractors to provide new cost and pricing data.

Document: Lawmakers' price gouging bill

The Missile Defense Agency has submitted a $28.5 million fiscal year 2023 unfunded requirement for a microwave testbed project:

MDA: High-powered microwave weapon blueprint ready in 2023, will need additional $28 million

The Missile Defense Agency is seeking additional funds to advance work on a High Power Microwave Technology Testbed, a project that aims to potentially give the U.S. military an additional layer of defense against ballistic, cruise and hypersonic missiles by introducing a new directed-energy weapon.

The Government Accountability Office's annual weapon systems assessment has found cost overruns and delays with the Navy's submarine programs:

GAO: Navy's submarine programs face cost overruns and delays as industry builds two subs at once

As shipbuilders juggle the construction of two submarine programs at once, the Columbia- and Virginia-class programs are facing delays and growing costs, according to an annual Government Accountability Office review of the Defense Department's major weapon systems.

Document: GAO's annual weapon systems assessment

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee wants the Army acquisition chief to submit a report to Congress on the SHORAD industrial base by the end of January 2023:

House panel wants SHORAD industrial base report

A House panel wants more information from the Army on industrial base capabilities for short-range air defense missiles for which stocks have been depleted amid the war in Ukraine, such as the Stinger.

Document: House subcommittee marks of the FY-23 defense policy bill

By Ethan Sterenfeld
June 10, 2022 at 11:53 AM

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has delivered the first five Sentinel A4 radars to the Army, according to a June 8 press release from the company.

The Army received the radars on May 26, according to the press release. With this delivery, the program remains months ahead of schedule.

“Our team understands the criticality of this technology and the need to get it fielded,” Mark Mekker, director of Army radars at Lockheed, said in the press release.

Operational testing will begin after the delivery, and it is scheduled to last eight to 12 months, Mekker told reporters in April.

Next year, Lockheed plans to deliver another set of five radars, which the Army purchased through an accelerated contract last October. Those systems will be delivered to a operational units for a user evaluation.

Lockheed beat Raytheon, the original Sentinel manufacturer, in a 2019 competition build the A4 model, which brings additional capabilities to track low-flying aircraft, cruise missiles and drones.

The Army listed Sentinel -- both the A4 and older versions -- as one of the key enablers last year to its modernization program, in which air and missile defense is a priority line of effort. The radar is expected to support Increment 2 of the Indirect Fire Protection Capability, as well as other short-range air defenses.

By Evan Ochsner
June 10, 2022 at 11:21 AM

A House panel wants the Army to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee on the small arms industrial base because the service's current procurement strategy leaves its manufacturing capabilities at risk, according to a provision suggested for the annual defense policy bill.

At issue is the drawdown in production of the M240 medium machine gun after the Army didn’t request any money to procure the weapon in fiscal year 2023. The Army is underestimating the problems that could create for its ability to produce small arms, according to a provision in the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee’s mark of the annual defense authorization bill.

The Army has achieved the procurement objective for the M240, and the current acquisition and sustainment strategies rely on replacement of individual parts instead of new production, according to the provision.

The subcommittee said that strategy could lead to a decrease in the Army’s ability to produce a weapon that provides a vital capability for the U.S. and its allies: “The committee is concerned about the impact of this strategy on the industrial base and the potential risk of eliminating a production line that would be difficult and costly to reestablish at a later date.”

The briefing provided by the Army, before Dec. 23, should include information about the state of the small arms industrial base and “the impacts to the small arms industrial base of shuttering legacy production lines such as the M240.”

It should also include information about mitigating the issue, like potential future requirements for the M240, including foreign military sales and replacing existing M240B machine guns with the improved M240L models.

“The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has highlighted both the need for active production lines for critical equipment as well as the risks associated with not having them when unforeseen events arise,” the provision states. “The committee is concerned that the resulting small arms industrial base will lack the capacity and capability necessary to support current and future Department of Defense and allied requirements.”

By Evan Ochsner
June 9, 2022 at 5:14 PM

The Army should consider expanding the responsibilities of its chief information officer to more closely match the structure of the offices in the Air Force and Navy, a House panel suggested this week in its mark of the annual defense policy bill.

The House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies and information systems subcommittee lauded the "tangible productivity and cost benefits” created by the Army CIO but viewed skeptically the office of business transformation. Responsibility for technology is divided between the CIO and the office of business transformation – a division does not exist in the other services, according to a provision in the subcommittee’s mark.

The provision calls on the Army secretary to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee before the end of the year “to address the current division in responsibilities” between the CIO and the director of the office of business transformation.

In the other services, the CIO oversees all technology responsibilities, according to the provision, whereas the Army CIO “maintains responsibility for only a portion of information technology.”

The office of business transformation manages the integrated pay and personnel system, Army contract writing system and accessions information environment, each of which are “years behind schedule and grossly over budget,” according to the provision.

The subcommittee is concerned with the Army’s current approach, which signifies the technology related to those systems is different from the technology underlying the Army’s other systems, and therefore limits the CIO’s responsibilities, according to the provision.

The secretary’s briefing should “include reflections of an evaluation of the Department of the Navy’s construct in which all technology responsibilities are made the responsibility of the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer.”

By John Liang
June 9, 2022 at 1:49 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Marine Corps CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters, Army ground vehicle autonomy, the Navy's Zumwalt-class destroyer program and more.

We start off with continuing coverage of the House Armed Services subcommittee mark-ups of the FY-23 defense authorization bill:

House subcommittee mark authorizes Navy's multiyear CH-53K procurement

House lawmakers are endorsing the Navy's multiyear procurement plan for up to 30 CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters over fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

House panel seeks ground autonomy updates

A House panel wants the Army to produce a trio of reports on ground vehicle autonomy, according to proposals released this week for the annual defense policy bill.

Document: House subcommittee marks of the FY-23 defense policy bill

Plus more from the Government Accountability Office's annual weapon systems report:

Zumwalt to reach operational capability in December following multiple delays

The Navy's Zumwalt-class destroyer program is slated to complete operational testing in December -- a 15-month delay from its September 2021 goal.

Several air and space program designs deficient, GAO report says

An annual review of the Defense Department's most expensive weapon systems by the Government Accountability Office detailed numerous shortfalls in the development of aircraft and space programs, illuminating underlying causes for delays and climbing costs.

GAO: Persistently low reliability levels could prevent Ford from deploying aircraft

A government watchdog's analysis has found that until the Navy reaches its reliability goals for the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78), the ship may not be able to complete one of its main missions -- rapidly deploying aircraft.

GAO finds Pentagon's top weapons programs beset by delays

The Defense Department's largest and costliest weapons programs continue to experience schedule delays, despite the Pentagon's stated focus on speedier technology development and procurement, according to an annual report from the Government Accountability Office.

Document: GAO's weapon systems annual assessment

The Army this week issued a request for information seeking industry input on merging counter-unmanned aerial system technology with ground vehicles:

Army seeking information about integrated C-UAS platform for ground vehicles

The Army is seeking information from industry about its ability to integrate multiple anti-drone capabilities onto a Stryker or other ground vehicle platform.

Document: Army RFI on integrated C-UAS platform for ground vehicles

By Michael Marrow
June 9, 2022 at 10:05 AM

Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson will serve as the new commander of Air Force Materiel Command, succeeding Gen. Arnold Bunch, according to an AFMC press release.

The change-of-command ceremony will occur the morning of Monday, June 13 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. Gen. Charles Brown will preside over the ceremony, which will be attended by several senior Air and Space Force officials, the release says.

Following the ceremony, Bunch’s retirement will begin immediately. He will return to his native Tennessee to become director of Hamblen County Schools, according to the release.

Richardson currently serves as the Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. He was previously the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Presidential & Executive Airlift, according to his service biography.

Prior to the change of command, Richardson will attend a private ceremony to pin on his fourth star, the release states.

By John Liang
June 8, 2022 at 7:54 PM

The House Appropriations Committee late this afternoon announced it would begin the mark-up process for the fiscal year 2023 defense spending bill next Wednesday.

The panel's defense subcommittee will mark up the military spending bill in closed session at 9:30 a.m. on June 15 and the military construction subcommittee will mark up its portion that same day at 1:00 p.m., according to a committee statement.

The full committee will then mark up the defense spending bill the following Wednesday, June 22 at 10:00 a.m., with the military construction spending bill being marked up on Thursday, June 23 at 10:00 a.m., according to the panel.

“Earlier this year, we passed a bipartisan, bicameral federal funding bill that pulled us out from under the previous administration’s budget and showed just how government can deliver for working people,” committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said in the statement. “Beginning with next week’s markups, the Appropriations Committee will build off those transformative investments with bills that continue to help meet the needs of working people, lower costs, and address many of the major challenges we face at home and abroad. I look forward to working with my colleagues -- on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers -- to get our spending bills once again over the finish line.”