A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter of the New York Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation in Latham hovers above the Mohawk River as the crew fills the Firehawk firefighting system attached to the underside of the helicopter.

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter of the New York Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation in Latham hovers above the Mohawk River as the crew fills the Firehawk firefighting system attached to the underside of the helicopter. U.S. Army

Defense Business Brief: Senators' budget boost; Demand up for firefighting helos; 'Weak' assessment of military; and more.

A Democrat-led Senate panel is calling for a 5 percent increase in fiscal 2022 defense spending. This week the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee recommended a $24 billion increase over the Biden administration’s request. The money would largely go toward counter-China initiatives, traditional weapons projects, and a host of technology efforts.

“We remain surprised by how much the outlook for defense spending has changed over the past 11 months—from Progressive calls to cut defense by -10% to Biden's initial 1.6% [year over year] increase to FY22 legislation including ~5% increases,” Cowen & Company’s Roman Schweizer wrote in a note to investors this week. “Also, keep in mind, this is being done with Democrats holding the White House and both chambers of Congress, and post-Afghanistan.”

Of note, the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee is the only panel to date not to recommend a double-digit spending increase for the Pentagon. The defense budget is a sideshow, with Congress needing to strike a budget deal and raise the debt ceiling by early December.

“[I]f DoD sees an increase above the level of the administration request, it will be accompanied by increases in FY22 non-defense discretionary spending,” Capital Alpha Partners Byron Callan wrote this week in a note to investors.

The increase in wildfires has spurred interest in a firefighting version of the Black Hawk helicopter, Paul Lemmo, president of Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, said in a recent interview. “We've got interest coming now even from outside the U.S. in Firehawk,” he said, specifically noting interest among European nations. While Lemmo did not name specific countries, Greece, Portugal, and Spain have recently experienced wildfires. In the United States, wildfires this year have burned more 6.5 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Sikorsky has delivered about a dozen Firehawks and is building five more. The aircraft, which can carry 1,000 gallons of water, is built at a Sikorsky factory in Poland and are modified by United Rotorcraft in Colorado.

Weekend Reading: The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank, released its annual assessment of “military strength,” calling the Air Force and Space Force “weak,” the Navy trending toward “weak,” and the Army as “marginal.” The Marine Corps was the only military branch rated “strong,” an upgrade from the think tank’s prior assessment. “As currently postured, the U.S. military continues to be only marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests,” the report concludes. 

Making Moves

Booz Allen Hamilton has hired James Reilly, a retired NASA astronaut and the former director of the United States Geological Survey, as an executive advisor. “In this role, he will collaborate with a wide range of partners—the Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, intelligence community agencies, universities, and the commercial space industry—on innovative solutions for space-related services and applications,” the company said.

Airbus has named Rob Geckle the CEO of Airbus U.S., the company said. Chris Emerson, who was president of the U.S. arm of the European aerospace and defense firm, has been named executive chairman. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 21 advanced the nomination of Andrew Hunter to be Air Force acquisition executive, and David Honey to be deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

From Defense One

Sikorsky Exploring Ways to Link Next-Gen Helicopters to F-35 // Marcus Weisgerber

It's part of Lockheed's push to network all of its weapons.

One of Four Boosters Fails in Rapid-Fire Hypersonic Tests // Caitlin M. Kenney

Three launches got off successfully from Virginia; investigations have begun into the Alaska failure.

The Military is Preparing for a 'Space Superhighway,' Complete with Pit Stops // Tara Copp

Those hubs would do more than refuel spaceships; they are seen as key to staying ahead of China.

Army Delays IVAS Display Headset by a Year // Caitlin M. Kenney

Officials cited problems with the unusually wide field of view.

China's Hypersonic Test Raises Questions About US Missile Defense, Deterrence // Patrick Tucker

Basic questions about how to defeat or deter orbital weapons remain undecided.

It's Not About Submarines. It's about Software // Nicole Camarillo and Oliver Lewis

Important as AUKUS submarines are in the military balance, the new way of deterrence will be about the strength, speed, and resilience of software.

China Ambassador Nominee 'Concerned' By Beijing's Nuke Buildup // Jacqueline Feldscher

In his confirmation hearing, Nicholas Burns also talked about more American help for Taiwan and NATO's views on China.

It's Time for Rapprochement Between Turkey and the United States // Hasan Murat Mercan

Recent events from Afghanistan to Africa require us to revisit the entire transatlantic partnership—together.