Selling COIN in a great-power era; Former NSA chief’s startup gets funded; Marines’ brawny new helo, and more.

With the National Defense Strategy shift to great-power competition — and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ ubiquitously quoted “three lines of effort” — it’s no surprise that the defense industry has been tailoring marketing messages to suit. Perhaps more surprising are the pitches for the kinds of weapons that would have been perfect for the past 17 years of counterinsurgency warfare.

Exhibit one: The U.S. Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment, an ongoing evaluation of two bomb-carrying turboprop aircraft. They’re the types of planes that would have been perfect for supporting combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such planes would also have saved tons of wear and tear on the far more expensive F-15E and F-16 fighter jets, designed for high-end combat but pressed into service against low-end foes. Some in the Air Force wanted the planes back then, but service leaders never found funding. (I explored this at greater length in Air Force Magazine’s January 2010 issue).

Now, as the Pentagon shifts its focus to better preparing for war with Russia or China, some predict that the Air Force will buy hundreds of these small turboprop planes. Why, you might ask? Read the rest here to find out. 


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Navy Closes Unmanned Systems Office

The U.S. Navy has “dis-established” an acquisition office that oversaw unmanned systems, the service’s acquisition chief wrote in an April 30 memo. The move follows the completion of a “comprehensive Unmanned Systems Roadmap,” which has been delivered to Congress (we haven’t seen the roadmap, yet, so if you have, let us know). James “Hondo” Geurts wrote that the “integration of manned and unmanned systems into a seamless fighting force is an objective of our unmanned systems strategy and critical to our future naval force.” The office was created in November 2015 by then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

The Marines Finally Get the CH-53K

The U.S. Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion helicopter on Wednesday. The aircraft is based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. “The helicopter's arrival to New River enters it into the Supportability Test Plan where U.S. Marines will conduct a logistical assessment on the maintenance, sustainment and overall aviation logistics support of the King Stallion,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. Some facts: The massive helicopter has lifted 18 tons from its cargo hook, three times more than its predecessor. Its top speed of 200 knots also outpaces the Echo variant. The Marines have purchased eight King Stallions from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and are negotiating for six more, Reuters reported last month when the helicopter flew at a German air show. Germany is considering buying CH-53Ks or Boeing CH-47 Chinooks. The Marine Corps plans to buy 200 of these heavy-lift helicopters.

V-280’s First Cruise

Since we’re talking about helicopters, the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor flew in “cruise mode” for the first time this week. Cruise mode is when the propellers are rotated to the forward position allowing the aircraft to fly faster than a traditional helicopter. “We limited the airspeed to 190 knots true: we will be gradually expanding the flight envelope to achieve our goal of 280 knots,” a Bell spokesman writes. Here’s a video of the flight.

BUFF Has ‘Good Bones’

That how Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski’s characterized the B-52 bomber, which is in line to get some new engines. At this rate, the plane will be around until it’s 100. “It may be older, but when you look at the number of flying hours, for many, many years that airplane sat ground alert,” Pawlikowski said. “So the number of flying hours on that airplane compared to some of the others isn’t as high for its age. But it’s got good bones. It’s structurally solid and we think with the re-engining we can really drive down the fuel cost.”

Former NSA/CYBERCOM Chief’s Startup Gets Financial Backing

IronNet Cybersecurity, a Maryland-based firm founded by retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander, has received $78 million in its second round of financing, including $35 million from venture capital firm C5 Capital. “The new funds will be used to support IronNet’s strategic growth and to continue accelerating the development and adoption of its industry-leading cybersecurity solutions,” C5 said in a statement. IronNet’s products are used to defend critical infrastructure and other networks from cyber attacks.

Making Moves

Jason Yaley has been named vice president of membership & strategic development at the Aerospace Industries Association. He was previously assistant vice president of communications. “In this role he will lead the organization’s membership engagement and business development activity and oversee AIA’s Supplier Management Council, focusing on solutions to issues and opportunities facing the aerospace and defense supply chain,” the organization said in a statement. Before joining AIA, Yaley was chief of staff to Gen. Mark Welsh, who, at the time, was the Air Force’s top general.

Two moves at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Senior Fellow Evan Montgomery takes on an additional role as director of research and studies. Over the past decade, Montgomery has conducted research on great-power competition, alliance management, East Asia security, and nuclear issues.

And the think tank earlier this year named Maureen Fitzgerald as director of external affairs. She worked as a strategic communications executive for more than 25 years in the federal and corporate sectors.