The Insider

By Ethan Sterenfeld
September 22, 2021 at 11:44 AM

The Army seeks prototype kits that can integrate current and future rifles with synthetic training environments without significantly changing the way the weapon looks or feels, according to a notice released Sept. 22.

“The [Weapon Skills Development] solution must simulate or enable the functional characteristics of the current and future family of individual and crew-served weapons,” the request for information states. “Soldiers must be able to move unencumbered (without wires and cables, i.e., tetherless), to rapidly assume different firing positions within the physical domain.”

Soldiers will use the kits while they are in synthetic training environments, and they will allow the Army to provide more immersive training scenarios, according to the RFI. Up to five soldiers with their own weapons, or up to six crew-served weapon teams, could use the system at a time.

Kits should not alter the “form, fit, and function” of weapons, although the service is interested in a capability that would prevent guns from firing real bullets with the kits installed, according to the RFI. The kits should not place “undue wear and tear” on the weapons.

During a training exercise, the kits will need to track the location, angle and orientation of the weapon, so that they can determine the trajectory of each shot, according to a list of requirements. Kits will also need to track the positions of the bolt and selector switch on each weapon.

Soldiers should be able to use their regular scopes and accessories with the kits installed, and the kits should not prevent pistols from fitting in standard issue holsters, according to the requirements list.

The system should be compatible with a range of the Army’s rifles and handguns, including the M4 carbine and its future replacement, the Next-Generation Squad Weapon, according to the list. It will also need to work with larger weapons, including grenade launchers, crew-served machine guns and shoulder-launched weapons.

Responses to the RFI are due Sept. 29.

By Tony Bertuca
September 22, 2021 at 8:29 AM

The House voted 220 to 211 on Tuesday night to pass a stopgap continuing resolution that would keep the federal government funded through Dec. 3, though Republicans in the Senate have pledged to block it.

The bill includes $28.6 billion in disaster relief and $6.3 billion to help resettle Afghan refugees, but would also suspend the U.S. debt limit through December 2022, something that has drawn opposition from Senate Republicans who are planning a filibuster that could only be defeated with 60 votes that Democrats do not have.

Senate Republicans have offered their own CR, which does not suspend the debt limit and would include $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense program.

House Democrats initially included the Iron Dome money in their CR but were forced to strip it amid opposition from progressive lawmakers. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has promised the money would be in a final fiscal year 2022 defense spending bill.

Congress has until Oct. 1 to pass either a stopgap CR or final appropriations package, otherwise the federal government will shut down.

By Tony Bertuca
September 21, 2021 at 4:19 PM

President Biden intends to nominate Douglas Bush for assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, Ashish Vazirani for deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Carrie Ricci for Army general counsel, according to a White House announcement.

Bush currently serves as the acting Army assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology where he is “responsible for leadership of the Army’s acquisition enterprise, overseeing all Army acquisition programs, and advising the secretary of the Army on acquisition programs and policies,” according to the White House.

Bush previously served as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, where he worked for more than 18 years.

Vazirani currently runs A2O Strategies LLC where he provides “advisory services to commercial and non-profit, high growth and large enterprises, on the development, implementation, and execution of growth strategies,” according to the White House.

Most recently, Vazirani was executive director and CEO of the National Military Family Association. He served as a Navy submarine officer from 1986 to 1993.

Ricci currently serves as associate general counsel for the Agriculture Department. Prior to joining the civil service, Ricci served in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2010.

By Tony Bertuca
September 21, 2021 at 4:00 PM

The House Rules Committee has voted to allow debate and floor votes for 476 amendments to the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill.

Lawmakers had proposed more than 800 amendments.

The 476 amendments approved for debate by the House Rules Committee can be viewed here.

The House is expected to begin debating the bill tonight on the floor.

Watch Inside Defense for further reporting on specific amendments that could impact the Pentagon.

By John Liang
September 21, 2021 at 2:48 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the multibillion-dollar stopgap funding bill being debated in the House as well as coverage of this week's annual Air Force Association conference.

We start off with news from the multibillion-dollar continuing resolution being debated in the House today:

House Dems reveal stopgap spending bill that runs through Dec. 3, pull Iron Dome funding

House Democrats have scrapped a provision from a proposed stopgap continuing resolution that would have provided $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system.

More details on the since-removed Iron Dome funding portion:

Iron Dome plus-up would bust agreed cap on Israeli missile defense spending for third time in last six years

The Biden administration’s gambit to provide an additional $1 billion in fiscal year 2022 funds for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system -- included as part of a wider stopgap spending bill proposed today by House Democrats -- would, if enacted, mark the third time in six years missile defense funding for Israel has exceeded the $500 million annual cap Israel and the United States agreed to in 2016.

Moving on to coverage from this week's annual Air Force Association conference:

Space Force announces first tranche of Army, Navy units to transfer

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The Space Force today announced the first tranche of Army and Navy units it plans to transition into the new service on Oct. 1, though the chief of space operations said a continuing resolution could disrupt that plan.

Kendall's message to Congress: Air Force can't win without retiring legacy platforms

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said today that while Congress plays a key role in enabling the Defense Department to deter threats from China and Russia, the service won’t succeed unless it’s authorized to shed old platforms and invest in new technology.

Air Force Special Ops eyes flying demo for amphibious MC-130J next year

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The Air Force is seeking to hold a flying demonstration for an amphibious capability tied to the C-130J cargo plane in the latter part of calendar year 2022, according to the head of the service’s Special Operations Command.

(For complete coverage of the AFA conference, click here.)

More Air Force news:

Air Force awards Northrop 3DELRR integration contract

The Air Force has chosen Northrop Grumman as a second integrator for the Three Dimensional Long-Range Radar recompete effort, awarding a contract late last week.

News on Navy and Marine Corps future vertical lift:

Navy planning future vertical lift material development decision this month

The Navy is planning to launch an analysis of alternatives for its future vertical lift program this fall after completing its material development decision by the end of September, a program spokeswoman told Inside Defense Friday.

Kaman unveils unmanned helo to resupply Marine Corps forces

Kaman Corp. has unveiled an unmanned aerial vehicle designed to resupply deployed Marines and other servicemembers in contested areas.

By Aidan Quigley
September 21, 2021 at 11:03 AM

The Marine Corps’ Harvest Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit Plus has reached full operational capability, the service announced Monday.

The 10th and final KC-130J to be updated with the Harvest HAWK Plus configuration was delivered to the Fleet Marine Forces on Aug. 26, the service announced.

The Harvest HAWK improvements were part of the service’s KC-130J Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Weapons Mission Kit program that began in 2015.

“The program improved the existing Marine Corp KC-130J Harvest HAWK system by integrating the MX-20 electro-optical/infra-red multi-sensor imaging system and adding door mounted missile employment capability,” the service said in a press release.

Sierra Nevada Corp. modified the final four aircraft after Naval Air Systems Command modified the first six. Five of those aircraft were delivered to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport (VMGR) 352 in California, four went to VMGR-252 in North Carolina and one is remaining at VX-20 in Naval Air Station Patuxent River for future testing.

The first Harvest HAWK kit -- a package that allows KC-130J to perform gunship-like missions and traditional refueling and hauling tasks -- was first deployed in Afghanistan in 2010.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
September 21, 2021 at 9:52 AM

The Army has placed a $100 million order with L3Harris for the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular, which provides both night vision and thermal sensing modes, according to a Sept. 16 press release from the company.

This is the second order placed under the Army’s $442 million ENVG-B program of record contract with L3Harris, according to the press release. The company has already delivered more than 6,000 goggles to the Army.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who represents the L3Harris facility where the goggles are built, said in the company’s press release that she would continue to support the program in Congress. Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Our soldiers deserve the best technology possible to ensure successful missions at home and abroad,” she said. “I’ll continue working in Congress to guarantee our warfighters have the technology they need to ensure success and that New Hampshire stays on the frontlines of producing cutting-edge technology.”

First fielded in 2019, ENVG-B uses a binocular design, which provides improved depth perception and a wider field of view compared to older monocular designs. ENVG-B has some augmented reality features and can connect with weapon sights.

By Courtney Albon
September 20, 2021 at 5:38 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall revealed today there are five B-21 test aircraft being manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, CA, production facility.

The Air Force had previously indicated there were two test aircraft being built as part of the program’s engineering and manufacturing development phase, but Kendall’s disclosure confirms there are at least three more.

“We have been living off of bomber fleet investments made many decades ago, but that is rapidly changing,” he said during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference here. “As I speak here, there are now five test aircraft being manufactured on the F-21 production line at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale.”

Kendall said the aircraft, which is slated to fly for the first time next year, is progressing well through development.

“You’ll never hear me make optimistic predictions about programs,” he said. “All programs are at risk; the same is true for the B-21. But at this point, at least, the program is making good progress to build real capability. This investment in meaningful military capabilities that project power and hold targets at risk anywhere in the world addresses my No. 1 priority.”

The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21s.

By John Liang
September 20, 2021 at 1:38 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Air Force's Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and armed overwatch programs and more.

Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, program executive officer of the Air Force's armament directorate, spoke this morning at a Defense News panel:

Air Force: Root cause of latest ARRW test issue still unknown; no complete redesign expected

The Air Force's top armament official said he doesn't expect the service's Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon will need to undergo a complete redesign in the wake of continued testing setbacks, though the root cause of the latest issue is still unknown.

The head of the Air Force's Special Operations Command spoke about the armed overwatch program today:

Slife: 'Good likelihood' SOCOM's armed overwatch will enter procurement in FY-22

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Citing industry readiness and anticipated congressional support, the head of the Air Force’s Special Operations Command said today "there's a good likelihood" the armed overwatch program will transition to procurement in fiscal year 2022.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Army Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer for ground combat systems:

Operational experiment to flesh out ERCA fighting strategy

PICATINNY ARSENAL, NJ -- Determining the doctrine needed to fight with the Extended Range Cannon Artillery will be as much of a focus as the technical changes from existing howitzers in an upcoming yearlong operational experiment, service officials told Inside Defense Sept. 15.

The Navy expects an independent review team to begin its work looking into the Next Generation Jammer-Low Band contract this month:

Navy launching NGJ-LB review as L3Harris challenges GAO decision in court

The Navy plans to launch an independent review of its Next Generation Jammer-Low Band contract later this month after the Government Accountability Office upheld a protest Northrop Grumman filed against the award to L3Harris Technologies last month.

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), chairman of the Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight, is sponsoring an amendment to the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill that would commission an "Independent Study on Impact of Missile Defense Development and Deployment":

House to consider new review of long-range missile defense and overall U.S. security

The House next week will consider a proposal to launch a sweeping assessment on the efficacy of long-range missile defense programs in the context of overall security of the United States, specifically a proposal to charter the National Academy of Sciences to explore potential adverse consequences associated with the $202 billion program to develop and procure the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
September 20, 2021 at 12:00 PM

The Army will host a technical exchange meeting Dec. 2 to discuss progress on Capability Set 25, a suite of new network and communications technology that is expected to be fielded in 2025, according to a Sept. 15 service announcement.

The event will be designed for a technical audience, including engineers, integrators and architecture experts, according to the announcement. Vendors will have the chance to question Army network technical experts about Capability Set 25 and programs that will follow.

“As with previous [Technical Exchange Meetings], TEM 7 will be structured to inform industry’s research and development efforts to align with Capability Set 25 and 27+ design goals,” according to the announcement.

Sessions will discuss user feedback from infantry, Stryker and armored brigade combat teams, security force assistance brigades and multidomain task forces, according to the announcement. The Army will provide updates on the planned experimentation strategy, the implementation of open standards, network modernization and command post modernization.

The Army plans to roll out a new capability set every two years, starting with Capability Set 21 this year, to allow for continuous network modernization. Capability Set 25 is expected to focus on armored units.

The meeting will take place in Nashville, TN, and there will be an option to attend virtually.

By Tony Bertuca
September 20, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak at different venues around Washington this week.

Monday

The Air Force Association hosts its 2021 Air, Space & Cyber Conference through Wednesday, featuring senior service officials.

Tuesday

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a closed hearing on Defense Department support for Afghan nationals who left Afghanistan.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts two days of panel discussions on nuclear policy and modernization.

Thursday

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a nomination hearing for Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, picked to be chief of U.S. Transportation Command.

Defense One hosts a "State of the Navy" event.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a panel discussion on “investing intelligently in remotely crewed systems.”

CSIS also hosts a discussion on connecting the U.S. innovation ecosystem with national security.

By John Liang
September 17, 2021 at 3:17 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Marine Corps organic fires munitions, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Army's Common Tactical Truck program and more.

The Marine Corps is looking to industry to provide expertise on how to conduct swarming and Automatic Target Recognition and Tracking and integrate these capabilities into loitering munitions:

Marine Corps searching for more autonomy out of its organic fires capability

The Marine Corps is looking to give more autonomy to its organic fires munitions, a technical approach that may allow the service to "swarm" a target.

The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill included a number of provisions aimed at reducing the cost to operate and maintain the F-35:

F-35 JPO, DOD creating options for more organic sustainment

As House lawmakers push the Defense Department to drive down the F-35's long-term sustainment costs, the head of the joint program office said this week the Defense Department is taking steps to secure more of the technical data rights that could create future options to shift toward a more government-managed, competitive approach to sustaining the Joint Strike Fighter enterprise.

Keep an eye out for a draft version of an abbreviated specifications document that will detail the capabilities of the Army's Common Tactical Truck program:

Army to release desired capabilities for Common Tactical Truck in FY-22

The Army plans to release more information in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 about the desired capabilities for the Common Tactical Truck, the potential replacement for its cargo-hauling ground vehicles, according to a Sept. 16 service notice.

Our colleagues from Inside Cybersecurity have the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon internal review delays plans to release CMMC final rule in September

The Defense Department is not planning to release the final rule cementing the implementation of its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program in September, due to an ongoing internal review expected to conclude toward the end of 2021.

A new defense pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australia provides the framework for Australia to build between eight and 10 nuclear-powered attack submarines:

New U.S. submarine pact with Australia, U.K. triggers industrial base questions

The United States and the U.K. are entering into a new tripartite alliance with Australia in the Indo-Pacific region that will allow the Aussies access to sensitive U.S. technology to purchase nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.

The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week on the Navy's shipbuilding plans:

CBO: Navy must spend billions more each year to grow fleet under FY-22 shipbuilding plan

The Congressional Budget Office is estimating the Navy will have to spend billions more each year on shipbuilding to grow the fleet in line with the service's most recent shipbuilding plan that was released in June.

Document: CBO analysis of the Navy's FY-22 shipbuilding plan

The Marine Corps thinks it has a new use for the MQ-9 Reaper:

Marine Corps shifts Reaper's purpose to focus on 'great power competition'

The Marine Corps is shifting the purpose of the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system to move away from counterinsurgency.

Lawmakers want the JASON panel to assess the multibillion-dollar Ballistic Missile Defense System:

Proposed legislation would charter new JASON assessment of U.S. missile defense limitations

New legislation would establish an independent assessment of the $202 billion Ballistic Missile Defense System, chartering the JASON private scientific advisory panel to identify limitations of the collection of radars, interceptors and battle management, command and control tools that are designed to protect the nation against a long-range, North Korean nuclear strike

By Courtney Albon
September 17, 2021 at 2:52 PM

Lockheed Martin today revealed it will bid the LMXT tanker for the Air Force’s forthcoming KC-Y bridge tanker competition.

The aircraft builds on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport refueler -- the company’s bid for the KC-X competition that Boeing’s KC-46 ultimately won. The A330 is currently operating in 13 countries and is certified to refuel a slew of Defense Department aircraft, including the F-35, F-22, F-16 and A-10.

The LMXT features improved range and fuel offload capability, an open systems architecture and a multidomain operations node meant to increase situational awareness and allow the tanker to connect to the “larger battlespace,” Lockheed said in a press release.

"Lockheed Martin has a long and successful track record of producing aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, and we understand the critical role tankers play in ensuring America's total mission success," Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s executive vice president of aeronautics, said in the release. "The LMXT combines proven performance and operator-specific capabilities to meet the Air Force's refueling requirements in support of America's National Defense Strategy."

The company is expected to release more details on the aircraft next week during the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber conference.

The Air Force issued a request for information in July seeking industry input on non-developmental refueling capabilities that could supplement the current tanker fleet by the end of this decade. The bridge effort is meant to fill a projected gap between the end of KC-46 production and the development of a follow-on Advanced Aerial Refueler.

The service has said it expects to buy 140 to 160 non-developmental tankers.

Air Mobility Command is still crafting requirements for the bridge effort and expects to finalize them later this year. The service plans to release a request for proposals in 2022.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
September 17, 2021 at 2:08 PM

The Army released a request for information this week to assess the digital engineering capabilities and preferences of potential contractors for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, the planned Bradley replacement.

Phases three and four of the OMFV acquisition, the digital design and prototyping phases, will begin in fiscal year 2023, and the Army wants prime contractors and subcontractors to use digital engineering to incorporate technological advances into the design.

“To maintain technological and readiness levels to outpace threats, it is critical to rapidly innovate, design, test and field and have the ability to rapidly insert new technology and capability,” the Sept. 16 request for information states. “OMFV is considering multiple options for the use of collaborative digital engineering (DE) environments for the execution of Phases 3 and 4 of the OMFV Program leading to full digital thread/digital twin capability in production including logistic products.”

The request for information asks about industry’s current capabilities and processes for digital engineering, both within individual companies and for collaboration between contractors. Other questions ask about the integration of digital design tools and logistics operations.

Responses to the request for information are due Sept. 30.

By Tony Bertuca
September 17, 2021 at 10:41 AM

President Biden intends to nominate Nickolas Guertin to be Pentagon director of operational test and evaluation, and John Sherman to be the Defense Department's chief information officer.

Geurtin most recently “performed applied research for government and academia in software-reliant and cyber-physical systems for the past four years at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute,” according to a White House announcement.

“Over his career, he has been in leadership of organizational transformation, improving competition, application of modular open system approaches, as well as prototyping and experimentation. He has also researched and published extensively on system design, testing and acquisition,” the White House said.

Meanwhile, Sherman most recently served as the acting DOD chief information officer and CIO for the intelligence community. Prior to that, he served as deputy director of the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise. He has also served as a deputy national intelligence officer on the National Intelligence Council.