What's in NDAA markups; 400 F-35s; UK defense-policy interview; and more...

On Wednesday, June 12, the House Armed Services Committee will begin its review of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Chances are you’ll be sleeping by the time the committee wraps its marathon markup, which tends to push on long after midnight.

The various subcommittee markups completed this week have already told us quite a bit about some of the policy decisions the committee will recommend. But nothing has yet emerged about the proposed creation of a Space Force, and that’s sure to come up during the full-committee mark. Until then, here are some highlights:

Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee: Read the full mark.

  • In April, Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper made his case for cutting some red tape to buy new B-52 engines. Not so fast, says the subcommittee. The panel has introduced language that would limit funding for the engines until the service produces a “capability development document” for the program and a “test and evaluation master plan … approved by the Director of Operational and Evaluation.”
  • The subcommittee wants a new Mobility Capabilities Requirement Study, a review closely watched by contractors because it determines the number of cargo planes, aerial refueling tankers and ships needed in war.
  • The subcommittee wants certain ship parts to be made only by companies based in the United States, Britain, Canada, or Australia. Such parts include pumps; cranes; and propulsion system components, including engines, reduction gears and propellers.

Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee: Full mark.

  • Restricts the Air Force from buying Boeing F-15EX aircraft until the Air Force better details its long-term plan for the jets.
  • Gives the Pentagon more flexibility to buy parts for new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Strategic Forces Subcommittee: Full mark.

  • Prohibits spending any money to deploy the W76-2 low-yield ballistic missile warhead.
  • Prohibits the Navy from developing hypersonic conventional prompt strike technology “that would be unique to sub-launched systems, and requests a report on efforts to deliver [conventional prompt strike] capability onboard surface ships.
  • Calls for the Space Development Agency to buy commercial space situational awareness services by awarding at least two contracts.

Readiness Subcommittee: Full mark.

  • The subcommittee wants a report from the undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment about “steps being taken to improve the availability and accountability of F-35 parts within the supply chain.”
  • “Creating a pilot program to require the ship depot maintenance budget exhibits provide a breakdown of funding, categorized by class of ship, requested for ship and submarine maintenance and how those amounts compare to the identified maintenance requirement.”
  • Recommending additional funding for projects in support of the European Deterrence Initiative.


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L3 Lands C-130 Cockpit Upgrade

The $500 million contract covers a “major avionics upgrade” for 176 C-130H aircraft flown by the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command. It’s expected to run for 10 years. L3, per a Defense Department announcement, edged out five other bidders to score the work.

Army-Engine Protest Denied

The Advanced Turbine Engine Company — the Pratt & Whitney-Honeywell joint venture seeking a multibillion Army deal to build more powerful Black Hawk and Apache helicopter engines — is “disappointed” that the Government Accountability Office has denied its protest of the Army selecting rival GE. The companies, in a joint statement, said they are “reviewing the [GAO] decision in detail.” GAO has not posted its decision, which “is covered by a protective order, which means that some information in the decision may require redaction before public release.” The Advanced Turbine Engine Company is arguing for the Pentagon to “thoroughly test competing engines before making a final down select.” It wants Congress to “provide the funding to allow the Army to take both engines further into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase of the procurement before making a final selection.”

More From GAO: The Pentagon needs to figure out how it plans to oversee what’s known as middle-tier acquisition programs, go-fast efforts designed to field capabilities in two to five years, GAO said in a new report. “DoD also continues to face implementation challenges, including one related to disagreements about oversight roles and responsibilities between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military departments,” GAO said. “Senior DoD leadership has not fully addressed these disagreements.”

Helping Pilots See Through Dust

The Air Force has chosen Sierra Nevada Corp. to develop special equipment that would allow search-and-rescue helicopter pilots to safely take off and land in dust clouds and snowstorms. “Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, 58 percent of helicopter losses and 52 percent of fatalities have been attributed to controlled flight into terrain, wire and object strikes, or hard landings in Degraded Visual Environment conditions,” the company said in a June 3 statement. The $75 million contract covers installation of the equipment on 85 CSAR helicopters.

Northrop Tests OmegA Rocket

The company said it has successfully tested the first stage of its rocket with odd capitalization in its name. Northrop Grumman is pitching OmegA to the U.S. Air Force to launch national security payloads. In case you were wondering, this is what it looks like when a rocket producing more than 2 million pounds of thrust is fired horizontally into the side of a mountain.

New Carrier Still Plagued by Broken Munitions Elevators

That’s on top of ongoing problems with the ship’s propulsion system, USNI News reports. “We are working right now with the fleet on what elevators do we need to have complete so they can exercise all the function in October, and for any of that work that isn’t done, how we’re going to feather that work in over time,” James “Hondo” Geurts, the Navy’s top acquisition official, said during a media briefing Wednesday. On top of that, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will not be able to initially deploy on the Ford, USNI reports.

400 F-35, and Counting

Speaking of the F-35. Lockheed Martin has built more than 400 of them, nearly half for the Air Force, and the company expects to build 131 more this year. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 283 F-35As, the conventional-takeoff-and-landing version being purchased by the U.S. Air Force and most allies.
  • 87 F-35Bs, the jump-jet that can take off from short runways and amphibious ships, being purchased by the U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Italy and Japan.
  • 30 F-35Cs, the aircraft carrier version being purchased by the U.S. Navy.

State Clears F-16 Sale to Bulgaria

The deal for eight jets, spare parts, and other necessary equipment could total $1.6 billion, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arm of the Pentagon that oversees foreign weapon sales. A day after the sale was approved, Bulgarian Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov told reporters he expects the deal to cost $1.2 billion. The F-16s would replace Bulgaria’s Soviet-made MiG-29s. The United States has been urging NATO members in Eastern Europe to give up Soviet-made arms.

3D-Map Startup Opens DC Office

Hivemapper, a four-year-old Silicon Valley startup that creates 3D maps from video feeds, is opening an office in Washington next week, as it expands its military business. The company recently received a $2.4 million Defense Department contract, CEO Ariel Seidman said this week. “The Hivemapper DC office will focus on supporting Hivemapper’s current customers as well as expanding into new opportunities,” he said. “Proximity to the DC based commercial and US Government offices as well as the broader East Coast market makes DC a prime expansion location. DC now becomes a launch point as the company expands into the European market in both the public and private sectors with expected new customer signing on in Q3 of 2019.”

On Wall Street

More on the Max: A UBS analysis predicts that the stigma attached to Boeing’s 737 Max, the airliner involved in two deadly crashes and now grounded worldwide, will subside. Marketwatch reports that UBS “surveyed more than 1,000 people living in the U.S. about their views on the Boeing 737 Max’s debacle.” UBS analyst Myles Walton, kept a “buy” rating on Boeing stock with a price target of $500.  Boeing’s stock was trading around $350 on Wednesday afternoon.

In advance of the Paris Air Show: JetBlue is in talks with Airbus to buy long-range A-321 aircraft that will help the airline expand service into Europe, its CEO tells Reuters. Why it matters for defense? Although it’s unlikely the Pentagon would chose a foreign-made plane, the new A-321XLR could be among those evaluated to replace the Boeing 757s that serve as Air Force Two. For years now, Boeing has been studying how it plans to replace the 757 and 767. Wall Street analysts say they expect a delay to that endeavor until the 737 Max is fixed.

Making Moves

Ken Asbury will retire as CACI’s president and CEO on June 30, the company announced this week. The CACI board has elected John Mengucci, the company’s COO, as its new president and CEO effective July 1. “We do not see any material change in the company’s strategy as a result of this change,” Citi analyst Jon Raviv wrote in a June 4 note to investors. Under Asbury’s leadership, the company made a “strategic pivot to bid on bigger, more solution-oriented work,” Raviv wrote.

Gen. Arnold Bunch is now is charge at Air Force Material Command, the organization that oversees all of the service’s program offices.

John Mulholland, a retired Army three-star who served as an associate director at the CIA and deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, has joined the board of advisors of Forge.AI, a self-described “artificial intelligence company that transforms the world's unstructured information into structured machine ready data.” Upon announcing Muholland’s appointment, the company also announced on June 5 that it has struck “a strategic investment agreement with In-Q-Tel,” non-profit venture capital firm that invests in cutting-edge tech for the CIA and intelligence community.

Ben Stone, the former Alenia (now Leonardo) executive is now the Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president of membership and strategic development. “In this role he will lead AIA’s membership and business development activity and oversee its Supplier Management Council,” AIA said.

Cullen Glass was named corporate director of enterprise transformation at Huntington Ingalls Industries. “Glass is responsible for working with corporate and division leadership to co-implement improvements in core business processes,” the company said.