The Navy’s great-power shopping list; Radar-building robots; The Office meets the Space Force and a bit more.

Walking around the cave-like exhibit hall at this week’s Surface Navy Association conference, you could feel the defense industry embracing the “great power competition” articulated in the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy — which turns one year old on Saturday. The show floor was packed with unmanned underwater vehicles, lasers, unmanned boats, next-generation air-defense radars, hypersonic and long-range cruise missiles.

Navy leaders who spoke at the conference made the focus explicit.

“We must prepare for this great power competition by embracing the concept of mission command once again,” Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces and commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said Tuesday. “Mission command requires combat-ready ships, materially sound and full-system redundancy to go to sea and sustain combat operations.”

The Navy is planning for “large-scale fleet engagements,” and preparing commanders “to react to an environment and fight right though the fog of war, loss of communications and the imperfect information, while still executing commander's intent,” he said.

On the admiral’s shopping list: “advanced, long-range, multi-mission weapons much like the SM-6 and the maritime strike Tomahawk for our surface combatants.” Oh, and he wants hypersonic weapons that can launch from a ship’s vertical-launch tubes — plus “medium and large unmanned surface vessels," "a capable frigate," and "a new large surface combatant.”

After spending much of the last year-plus focusing on readiness, the Navy, like many of the services, is now prioritizing the development and fielding of next-generation weapons.

“The arrows are pointing in the right direction, but the rate of change must increase,” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said on Wednesday. “We need to deliver the Navy the nation needs with a true sense of urgency.”

“We must be accountable for how we invest and must understand the return we are getting for that investment as it pertains to readiness and lethality,” he added.

Spencer said the Navy (and Pentagon) has aligned its budget proposal for fiscal 2020 with the National Defense Strategy. And he said the Navy has to react to China’s military buildup in a “balanced manner.”

“The fact of the matter is: if we start chasing our tail, we’re not going to be spending the dollars in the right way,” he said.

Spencer said sailors need “to start thinking differently on how we spend the money.”


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The skies over Eastern Ukraine are becoming more crowded as Kiev looks to Ankara for weapons.

Next Week: Global Business Briefing with SAIC CEO

Join us next week when I sit down with SAIC CEO Tony Moraco for one of my Global Business Briefings. I mean that literally: come to Defense One HQ in the Watergate (600 New Hampshire Ave NW) on Wed., Jan. 23 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. It’s free; register to attend here.

New Ship Radars Taking Shape

The Navy’s new air and missile defense radars for ships are built by a robot holding a smaller one. “It’s a very large robot with an articulating arm that then has a smaller robotic arm that has all the tools in an equipment tray,” explains Scott Spence, director of Naval Radar Systems for Raytheon, maker of the new radars that will be installed on new destroyers.

The large robot lifts its diminutive cousin into position. “Then the smaller robot does the precise work of putting in beam formers … on the array face and then it goes down and grabs more equipment to install,” Spence continues. “It’s pretty interesting how the team came up with it.”

The robots assemble a 14-by-14-foot array designed to detect and track objects across the sky. Called the SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, or AMDR, it’s 70 times more sensitive than ships’ existing radars.

“You can see smaller objects, much further away,” Spence said. “Longer range, so as the threats are going faster, you have to see ’em sooner.” Then if needed, you fire SM-6 or SM-3 interceptors to bring them down.

There’s so much existing and anticipated demand for the radars that Raytheon adding a new factory in Mississippi to its existing one outside Boston suburbs, he said.

“Now we can handle all the things that we see coming in the future,” Spence said. “We built the first [site in Andover, Massachusetts,] to handle…programs that we have today, but we see opportunities and need for these radars for the back fit of [older destroyers]. There’s an international market, there’s a lot of other demand there, so we needed to make sure we had the capacity to meet that demand.” For example, Spence called the radar a “perfect fit” for the upgrading the Aegis Ashore missile defense radars in Romania and Poland down the road.

The first arrays will head to the destroyer Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) in 2020. Some of the equipment that will be installed below the ship’s deck will head to the shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries in Mississippi later this year.

‘Great Power’ Contract

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Exquadrum and Dynetics a contract to develop technology for hypersonic weapons. Called the Operational Fires (OpFires) Propulsion System program, “the program aims to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched system for hypersonic boost glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time sensitive targets,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Lockheed Gets LCS, Anti-Ship Missile Contracts

Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine received a contract for another Littoral Combat Ship, which will be the 16th Freedom-class version built. LCS 31 will be built in Marinette, Wisconsin. Lockheed Martin also received a $172 million contract from the U.S. Navy and Air Force for Long Range Anti-Ship Missile production. The missile is being built for Air Force B-1B bombers (which cannot carry nuclear weapons) and Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Wall Street Notes

  • Credit Suisse analyst Robert Spingarn has upgraded Northrop Grumman from neutral to outperform, but he’s lowered his price target from $311 to $301. Northrop’s stock was trading around $255 on Wednesday.
  • Morgan Stanley upgraded Boeing to overweight from equal weight.
  • Morgan Stanley also downgraded Lockheed Martin to equal weight from overweight. It also cut its price target from to $300 from $366. The stock was trading around $273 on Wednesday.

Shutdown’s Impact on Contractors

Last week we told you how the partial government shutdown — which is now in its 27th day — was starting to bite defense firms. This week we learn that ManTech employees are donating their personal time off to other employees impacted by the shutdown, Jim Crawford, executive director of external communications for the company, tells us. “Those giving away their free time include senior execs,” he said.

Can the Pentagon Build Trump’s Border Wall?

With all of the talk of the president declaring a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border (which by the way hasn’t happened … yet), the Congressional Research Service has put together this backgrounder about the legal fight that would likely ensue.

‘Space Force’ TV Show Set for Netflix

I thought i was getting punked when someone sent me a Variety article about ‘Space Force’ — described as “as a workplace comedy centered around the people tasked with creating a sixth branch of the armed services” starring The Office’s Steve Carell and Greg Daniels. They’re basically making a television show about Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his staff, the ones working on this in real life. No air date yet, according to Variety.

Casting call. Send along or tweet your suggestions to me about who should play the essential characters in this show, to include: Shanahan; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command; Justin Johnson, special assistant to Shanahan; Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, Shanahan’s spokesman; Steve Kitay, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.