The old tech at the bottom of an ICBM control capsule; Northrop no-bid; M&A madness; and a lot more.

I spent Friday night in an intercontinental ballistic missile launch control capsule some 80 feet under the Montana countryside. Unlike my quick visit to Minot Air Force Base last month, last week’s visit to Malmstrom AFB with Gen. David Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, afforded a bit more time to study check out the decades-old technology built to help pass the nuclear codes and launch the ICBMs.

The names of the venerable defense firms inscribed on everything from the launch console to metal electronics boxes underlined just how old this stuff is. The oldest tech predated even floppy disks, which are on the way out within the next few months.

More than one nameplate read: “Radio Corporation of America for The Boeing Company.” RCA — a name you probably recognize — hasn’t used its full name since 1969. Boeing made all of the Minuteman III ICBMs. Rockwell International — which divested much of its defense business in the 1990s before splitting into Rockwell Collins and Rockwell Automation in the early 2000s — is another name that popped up a few times. The launch switches were made by Loral Corporation, which was acquired by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed then spun off Loral units to create what is now L3 Technologies.

One name I saw a lot was DRS Technologies — now Leonardo DRS, the American arm of the Italian defense firm. Among the stuff DRS made for the Minuteman III ICBM: the “Environmental Control Systems for the electronic equipment and personnel [at] launch and missile alert facilities,” according to this January 2007 press release.

Another name that caught my eye was Puregas Equipment. The plate on a metal box mentioned the company’s location in a small town minutes from where I grew up: “Copiague, L.I., N.Y.” — the L.I. denoting Long Island, something once common on everything from equipment to matchbooks.

There’s a lot of older gear in the U.S. arsenal: B-52 bombers, KC-135 tankers, ICBMs. But looking under the hood sometimes helps gain a different perspective.

Welcome

You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. As always, send your tips, feedback and random thoughts to mweisgerber@defenseone.com or @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!


From Defense One

EXCLUSIVE: US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert // Marcus Weisgerber

If the order comes, the B-52s will return to a ready-to-fly posture not seen since the Cold War.

Trump Administration Plans a New Cybersecurity Strategy // Joseph Marks

The strategy will be based on the main elements of the president's May executive order.

US Air Force Chief Helps Young Airman Locate Family In Puerto Rico // Marcus Weisgerber

After going a month without hearing from his hurricane-stricken family, Sr. Airman Malcom Soto-Gonzalez got a hand from an unexpected source.


New Military-Drone-Spending Report

The report by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College is probably one of the most comprehensive recent accountings of spending on unmanned air, ground and sea vehicles by the Pentagon. Dan Gettinger, the report’s author, writes that “U.S. military’s spending on drones is set to reach a five-year high.” The Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget request, which still hasn’t been passed by Congress, includes $6.97 billion to buy drones, develop new systems for them, or build infrastructure to support them. That means the Pentagon “is requesting more in FY 2018 than any year since FY 2013 and $3.3 billion more than previously predicted,” Gettinger writes.

Between fiscal 2013 and 2018, military drone spending is set to total about $34.6 billion, according to the report. The largest drone project in the 2018 budget is purchases and support for the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, slated to consume $1.23 billion.

Northrop Grumman Won’t Bid for Navy Drone: It’s a huge surprise and the second time this year after not bidding to build a new pilot training jet for the Air Force — that the firm dropped out of a high-profile competition. Wes Bush, the firm’s chairman, CEO, and president, dropped the latest bombshell that the company wouldn’t bid to build the MQ-25 Stingray — also known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System — during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.

“Our assessment of the final [request for proposals], which required a fixed-price incentive bid for this development work, was that we could not put forward an attractive offering to the Navy that would represent a reasonable business proposition for our company,” Bush said. “We continue to work with the Navy on a variety of important autonomous systems programs, and we look forward to addressing future opportunities to support the Navy in this regard.”

It comes as a surprise because Northrop built the X-47B, a tailless drone that made the “first ever carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, low-observable relevant unmanned aircraft.”

Also: The Trump administration plans to expand the use of drones in the U.S. From Reuters: “White House adviser Michael Kratsios told reporters the ‘program will open the skies for delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations.’ Kratsios said the program would allow companies and governments to operate drones in ways that are currently restricted by the FAA ‘including beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights, nighttime operations, and flights over people.’” Read more about that, here.

Must-Read Report on Northrop’s Acquisition of Orbital

Acquiring Orbital ATK will help Northrop better position itself to win space and weapons work, according to a new report from data analysis shop Govini.

“Northrop’s acquisition of Orbital ATK provides benefits for delivering such capabilities over the short-term and the long-term. The two short-term plays include missiles and munitions, and the long-term play is space vehicles,” the report says. “All three have high potential for the future and augment Northrop’s existing capabilities in each market.”

One area where this will help Northrop: its competition against Boeing to win an $85 billion deal to replace Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Northrop’s acquisition of Orbital ATK provides critical components to compete at scale with its integrator peers. In the near-term, Orbital’s booster technology will allow Northrop to better compete against Boeing for replacing the existing land-based intercontinental ballistic missile system,” the report says. “Even if Northrop loses the high-stakes ICBM competition, owning a platform positions Northrop as a full-scale integrator in key markets including space launch and missiles.”

What does Northrop leader Wes Bush think of the planned acquisition? “We believe all of our stakeholders will benefit from expanded capabilities, accelerated innovation, and greater competition in the critical global security domains of space, missiles and missile defense,” he said on the company’s third-quarter earning call on Wednesday. “In addition to these compelling strategic benefits, we expect Orbital ATK will be accretive to our earnings per share and free cash flow per share no later than the first full year after acquisition.”

Boeing Still ‘Skeptical’ of UTC’s Acquisition of Rockwell Collins

It’s been no secret that the plane maker has not been happy that the two aircraft suppliers would become one. “This needs to produce value for our customers, value for the health of our supply chain,” Dennis Muilenburg, the firm’s chairman, CEO, and president, said on Wednesday’s quarterly earnings call. “We're skeptical until proven otherwise.”

Not surprisingly, United Technologies sees things differently. “We're...confident the combination of Aerospace Systems and [Rockwell] Collins will create significant value for our customers as we develop aircraft systems that are more electric, more intelligent, more integrated and more connected,” Gregory Hayes, chairman and CEO of UTC said in his firm’s quarterly earnings call this week.

He also said Boeing would benefit from the acquisition. “[T]hinking about from an innovation standpoint, what can we do together, where can we take cost out, where can we take weight out, where can we add value across the connected airplanes,” Hayes said. “So look, it's too early to say, to point specifically to where the benefits will come from. But it's one of the things that we're going to commit to the airlines and to the airframers is we will provide value to you guys because of this.”

Goldfein Underlines Importance of Tanker Fleet

Traveling last week with Gen. Goldfein to four of his service’s nuclear bases — facilities that host bombers, weapons, ICBMs and command-and-control locations — I did not expect to talk about much tankers. But after stops at a B-52 bomber wing and U.S. Strategic Command headquarters, the general stressed their critical role.

“We tend to talk about the triad in terms of bombers, missiles and submarines,” Goldfein said. “I’m now going to include in my lexicon — as I describe this force — the tanker force because it is as critical as the bomber force to be able to project power and accomplish the STRATCOM commander’s mission.”

Goldfein said he wants to “make sure is we’ve got all the connective tissue that we need between the STRATCOM commander and our tanker force.”

The Air Force’s new KC-46 tanker is critical to that, he said.

“It immediately comes into play because when we set the requirements for that tanker, we set the requirements so that it could be survivable and have the connectivity it needs to be able to stay connected to the nuclear command-and-control enterprise,” he said.

Speaking of that tanker, Boeing disclosed this week that it had to eat $329 million on the new tanker. That brings the total value pre-tax charges to nearly $3 billion. Remember, taxpayers are not paying for the cost overruns because the Air Force signed a fixed-price contract.

Boeing’s Muilenburg called the KC-46 “a challenging development program” during a quarterly earnings call on Wednesday. He said the company is 80 percent through flight testing.

“We've completed more than 2,000 hours of flight testing. We have six aircraft in the flight test program now,” he said. “We have more than 30 aircraft that are flowing through our production system.”

The company expects to deliver the first tanker to the Air Force in 2018 despite company executives insisting they would deliver the first plane before the end of the year.

The news led to the quarter’s best earnings-note headline, by Jason Gursky & team over at Citi: “Tanker continues to leak, but cash pieces still in place”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.