A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II on the flightline at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Dec 6, 2021.

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II on the flightline at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Dec 6, 2021. U.S. Air Force / Staff Sgt. Sean Martin

Defense Business Brief: Super Hornet loses again; Vax mandate, blocked; Rare earth plans; and more...

The Boeing-made Super Hornet has now lost three straight competitions — in Switzerland, Canada, and now Finland, which just announced its decision to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35. The Swiss also picked the F-35, and the Canadians are now choosing between the F-35 and Saab’s Gripen. 

Boeing officials are putting a brave face on things, telling Breaking Defense that there’s “significant international interest” in the Super Hornet and its EA-18G Growler electronic attack version. The most significant competition on the horizon is in India, which is planning to buy 114 new fighter jets. The F-35 is not part of that contest;  Lockheed is pitching an updated F-16. Germany chose the Super Hornet and Growler (and Eurofighter Typhoon) over the F-35 last year.

Back in the U.S., Congress is taking steps to make sure the Super Hornet production line in Missouri stays open. The House this week approved $1 billion for 12 Super Hornets, jets that the Navy says it doesn’t want or need.

A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal contractors that was set to begin on Jan. 18. It’s the latest in what has been a confusing White House rollout of the executive order. Companies have pushed back on the mandate over fears of mass layoffs to already short-staffed workforces.

Still, Raytheon Technologies, the second-largest U.S. defense firm, will still require its employees to get the shot, in accordance with a company policy put in place before the White House mandate.

At Outlook 2022, the annual Defense One Summit, we heard from a host of national security leaders. You can watch on-demand videos of this week’s sessions here. Speakers included National Security Advisor Jake Sillivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, defense policy undersecretary Colin Kahl, and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems struck a deal with the Energy Department to build a rare earth element “separation and processing demonstration plant” in Wyoming. “This project will provide valuable information regarding the development of domestic rare earth element resources and separation technologies that have the potential to improve [rare earth element] supply and availability to meet growing demand,” General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems President Scott Forney said in a statement. Rare earth metals are essential in commercial and military electronics and equipment.

From Defense One

Finland Chooses F-35 Over Super Hornet, 3 European Fighters // Marcus Weisgerber

It's the second win this year for the F-35 in a European fighter competition.

General Atomics Unveils New Drone That Carries 16 Hellfire Missiles  // Marcus Weisgerber

The Mojave, marketed for special forces, doesn't need a traditional runway to launch.

Defense Spending Could Rise, Wall Street Analysis Say // Marcus Weisgerber

Ten months into the Biden administration, predictions of flat budgets are evaporating amid inflation and Congress delays.

New National Defense Strategy to Be Released Early 2022 // Caitlin M. Kenney

The Pentagon's NDS will follow the release of a new National Security Strategy from the White House, officials said.

Austin Warns Against Over-Hyping Recent Chinese Weapons Tests // Marcus Weisgerber and Tara Copp

The defense secretary also pushed for deeper ties between the Pentagon and technology firms.

This Air Force Targeting AI Thought It Had a 90% Success Rate. It Was More Like 25% // Patrick Tucker

Too little of the right kind of data can throw off target algorithms. But try telling the algorithm that.

How China Is Challenging US Central Command, Digitally // Patrick Tucker

The Pentagon may have "CENTCOM fatigue," but Beijing is pushing into the Middle East, warns the command's communications chief.

Should Killing a Satellite Provoke War on Earth? // Jacqueline Feldscher

A Space Force official says the service is considering how to respond to attacks in orbit.