UK defense spending; COVID-prediction app; Good news for Boeing; and more.

The U.K. is planning what officials call the largest “investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War.” It’s a four-year, £16.5 billion ($21.8 billion) defense-spending plan that beefs up space, cyber, and shipbuilding in particular. But that’s hardly all: the U.K. plans to stand up a new artificial intelligence agency, a National Cyber Force, and a Space Command that will be able to launch a rocket in 2022.

“This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our Armed Forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.

British government officials also said the plan would create 10,000 jobs annually across the United Kingdom. The conservative prime minister said the country would boost research and development spending on the Future Combat Air System — the Tempest sixth-generation fighter jet under development by BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo and MBDA.

“This reverses the systematic decline in this crucial area in the last thirty years, creating new advances which surmount the old limits of logistics and go beyond military use with a vast number of civilian applications such as autonomous vehicles and aviation,” Johnson said.

Gen. Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said the budget increase “funds a pathway to modernisation and the digital force we need for the 2030s, integrated across the domains of maritime, air, land, cyber and space.”


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App Aims to Predict COVID Spread in Offices, Factories 

There’s a new tool to help companies predict how coronavirus will spread among employees working in offices and factories.

The free COVID Calculator app considers numerous factors, such as local coronavirus infections rates, number of employees, the type of working environments (open floor plans, private office or a factory floor), and whether masks are being worn.

“It gives you a sense of how quickly infection is going to spread in your facility based on the safety measures that you're putting in place,” said Ojas Rege, chief product officer at One Concern, the disaster science company behind the app.

The company’s traditional focus has been natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, but in recent months began focusing on the coronavirus. It began by analyzing how COVID-19 would spread through Gulf Coast hurricane shelters if thousands of residents were displaced from their homes. 

“We decided to take the learnings that we had from this analysis and the modeling work that we had done and apply them to the more corporate environment,” Rege said.

Earlier this month the company launched a beta version of its COVID Calculator, which Rege said is being used by at least one defense firm. He declined to name the company.

“The goal of this product was to support data driven policy for workplace safety,” Rege said. “It doesn't replace the regulations that the local counties would provide [and] it certainly doesn't replace the advice of health care professionals. It's additional data and additional modeling, to help people make decisions on what kind of safety measures they should use and how they should open.”

Oshkosh Warns of COVID Impact

The Wisconsin-based company, which experienced slowdowns to its armored vehicle production this year, warned more pandemic-related production problems are expected in 2021. “The Defense segment still faces production challenges due to COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions and workforce availability as the Company enters fiscal 2021, which could negatively impact Defense segment production in fiscal 2021,” the Oshkosh said in a regulatory filing this week. Oshkosh’s defense segment expects to deliver $2.2 billion of its backlog in fiscal 2021, according to the company’s 10K.

FAA Clears 737 MAX to Fly

Some 20 months after grounding the Boeing planes, the Federal Aviation Administration said the plane could resume flights. Now Boeing must make design changes to 737 Max aircraft parked for more than a year at various airfields around the world. “These actions do not allow the MAX to return immediately to the skies,” the FAA said. “The FAA must approve 737 MAX pilot training program revisions for each U.S. airline operating the MAX and will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the FAA issued the grounding order.”

Boeing’s reaction: In a message to employees, President and CEO Dave Calhoun said: “We have implemented a series of meaningful changes to strengthen the safety practices and culture of our company. These include strengthening the Engineering function, establishing a Product & Services Safety organization, and implementing an enterprise-wide Safety Management System, among others.” 

Pentagon Invests $13M in Domestic Rare Earths

It’s the latest move by the U.S. Defense Department to increase domestic rare earth materials mining. The majority of the world’s rare Earths are produced in China. A $9.6 million investment in MP Materials will “establish domestic processing capabilities for light rare earth elements ... [which] are critical to numerous defense and commercial applications, including petroleum refining, glass additives, and magnets used in electric vehicle drivetrain motors and precision-guided munitions.”  The Pentagon also signed a $2.3 million deal with TDA Magnetic and a $860,000 deal with Urban Mining Company “for rare earth element magnet supply chain studies and inventory demonstrations.”

Lockheed Aero Boss Taking Medical Leave

Michelle Evans, the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, will take the extended medical leave beginning Dec. 1, Air Force Magazine reports. Evans took an extended medical leave last year as well. Greg Ulmer, the head of the F-35 program, will fill in for Evans during the leave.

Training Conference Goes Virtual

The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, better known is IIT/SEC, will be held online from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. More info is here.

Thales to Make Combat Systems for New German Frigate

The French firm signed a €1.5 billion ($1.78 billion) deal with Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding to integrate the Thales’s Mission and Combat System into four MKS 180 class frigates being built for the German Navy. “The system will be designed by Damen and completely built by German shipyards, under Damen’s project management,” Thales said in a statement.

CAE Acquires Flight Simulation

The Canadian training and simulation acquired Amsterdam-based Flight Simulation for €70 million ($83  million) “The acquisition expands CAE’s ability to address the training market for customers operating in Europe, including airline and cargo operators,” CAE said. “It provides CAE with an expanded portfolio of customers and an established recurring training business which is highly complementary to CAE’s network.”

Making Moves

  • There’s a big game of musical chairs at Lockheed Martin scheduled for January. Sikorsky President Dan Schultz is retiring. Paul Lemmo, currently vice president of Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors, will assume Schultz’s responsibilities. Jon Rambeau, currently vice president C6ISR, will assume Lemmo’s role. Gregg Bauer, vice president of undersea warfare, will assume Rambeau’s responsibilities. Earlier this year, Chauncey McIntosh was named vice president of Lockheed Martin Training and Logistics Solutions, and Tony DeSimone was named vice president of Engineering and Technology of Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems.
  • Former Obama administration Pentagon appointees Jim Miller, Deborah Lee James and Mike Vickers have been named to the U.S. board of managers of AI firm Improbable.
  • Essye Miller, a former principal deputy chief information officer and acting defense chief information officer, has joined Pallas Advisors as a principal.