A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress flies alongside Royal Air Force of Oman Eurofighter Typhoons above Oman, March 29, 2022.

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress flies alongside Royal Air Force of Oman Eurofighter Typhoons above Oman, March 29, 2022. U.S. Air Force / Staff Sgt. Joseph Pick

Defense Business Brief: B-52 factory gets new work; One-on-one with AIA’s new head of international affairs; Retiring Air Force general to run Tennessee public school district; and more.

The final B-52 bomber rolled off a Boeing Wichita, Kansas, assembly line in June 1962. Now some 60 years later, that same factory will make parts for the new engines slated for installation on the wings of the still-flying B-52. Spirit AeroSystems, the company that now owns those one-time Boeing hangars, will make engine pylons and nacelles for the new engines, the company said in a statement. Each B-52 has eight engines, and the Air Force intends to replace 608 engines in all. 

Dak Hardwick was recently promoted to vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, one of the three major trade groups that promote American aerospace and defense companies. AIA typically has a large presence at air shows overseas, which have now resumed a coronavirus-prompted hiatus. The organization also pushes to attract more students into STEM careers. Hardwick recently talked to Defense One about the group’s priorities for the months ahead.

Hardwick said he leads a team that is “responsible for all commercial trade, all defense trade, all export controls. Anything associated with the global business environment, I am now responsible for.”

Supporting the United States military, NATO allies, and the Ukrainian military in its fight against Russia is at the top of his to-do list. That includes U.S. firms producing weapons for Ukraine, as well as replenishing U.S. stockpiles. It also includes navigating how sanctions placed on Russia could impact U.S. companies with global supply chains.

Hardwick also sees himself spending a lot of time focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, as U.S. officials still consider countering China’s military advancements as top priority.

“The challenge associated with China continues to be something that drives U.S. policy, and as a supporter of the larger foreign policy of the United States, we follow their lead,” he said.

Responding to the ever-evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic and supply chain disruptions it has created is also a forefront issue. U.S. officials in recent years have pressed to remove Chinese and other foreign parts from U.S. weapons.

“We see the government taking a very aggressive stance on trying to address supply chain vulnerabilities, whether it's domestic manufacturing, or whether it's overseas sourcing,” Hardwick said.

But that supply chain should also have global partners. 

“We continue to be supportive of the push for domestic manufacturing [and] the push for domestic sourcing—that's generally very helpful to our business,” Hardwick said. “But at the same time, we have to acknowledge the role of the global supply chain, the need for it, and the fact that we have to balance out the domestic sourcing and the international sourcing.”

That could mean opportunities for supply chain partnerships with companies based in countries with close U.S. relations.

“Something that we continue to emphasize with the U.S. government, [is] that the industrial relationships that we maintain, both on the commercial side and on the defense side, allow the U.S. government to have very strong bilateral relationships, because the economic piece is already there,” Hardwick said.

Rounding out his list, Hardwick said AIA will look to deepen its relations with Congress, as well as continue to focus on export control issues, defense export financing, and technology transfer reforms.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office is advancing plans to build a mobile nuclear micro reactor. The 1 to 5 megawatt reactor will be designed to provide power for at least three years, the Pentagon said in a statement. “This reactor will be assembled and initially operated at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and will be the first electricity-generating Generation IV nuclear reactor built in the United States,” the Pentagon said. China built a similar reactor in 2021.

Making moves

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been named a partner and chairman of the national security practice at Red Cell, a venture capital firm that “backs, builds, and scales early-stage technology-led companies in healthcare and national security.” His responsibilities: “Esper will lead Red Cell’s activities investing in and building new businesses in the areas of defense, cyber security, international affairs, space, and aerospace, and will eventually expand on the firm’s relationships within the government and national security sectors.”

President Biden has nominated Air Force Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson for his fourth star and to be the commander of Air Force Materiel Command. Richardson, who is the Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition official at the Pentagon, would replace Gen. Arnold Bunch, who is expected to retire after 37 years in uniform.

Speaking of Bunch, this week he was elected to lead the public schools in Hamblen County, Tennessee. Bunch grew up in Morristown, the county seat of Hamblen County. He and his wife plan to return there when he retires. 

From Defense One

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