The Army test fires a Patriot missile in 2019.

The Army test fires a Patriot missile in 2019. U.S. Army

Defense Business Brief: Arms-export approvals spike; Armored vehicles delivered; Tech efforts ranked; And more...

Correction: Due to an editing error, the original version of this newsletter stated that a 2021 F-35 sale to Finland fell through. It did not. The text below has been updated.

Welcome to August, the “slow news month” that never manages to live down to the hype. Could it come true this year, as Congress packs up for summer recess and everyone else heads out for some revenge travel? To be sure, July was far from slow, with the first Farnborough Airshow in four years and a burst of approvals for massive arms sales. Let’s review: 

In the past two weeks, the U.S. State Department has approved more than $15 billion in foreign military sales. Among the deals approved: Patriot interceptors for Saudi Arabia and THAAD interceptors for the United Arab Emirates.

With just under two months left in the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, the Biden administration has approved $71 billion in weapon sales to allies this year, according to a tally kept by Cowen & Company analyst Roman Schweizer. That total tops the value of weapon deals approved during the Trump administration in fiscal 2018, 2019, and 2020, Schweizer wrote in a Thursday note to investors. The deals approved in fiscal 2021 totaled $85 billion—but remember, that included a prospective sale of F-35s and F/A-18s to Finland. Helsinki chose the F-35 over the the F/A-18, so the Super Hornet sale didn't happen.

For years, the Middle East was a hotbed for foreign arms sales as partners inked weapons deals, in part, to deter Iran. Allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific are buying weapons amid China’s weapons buildup. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European allies are planning to spend more on defense and security. All the while, Congress is expected to add tens of billions of dollars to the 2023 Pentagon budget after doing the same this year.

“We discussed the possibility of increased purchases and stockpiling in U.S. inventories given the high usage rate of advanced weapons in Ukraine and believe this could also be a similar theme for allies in Europe and Asia that use U.S.-made weapons (leading to a higher inventory build),” Schweizer wrote.

Data analysis firm Govini has released a new national-security scorecard, this one looking at investments in critical technologies, such as biotechnology, hypersonics, directed energy, space, advanced materials, and a whole lot more.

“[T]he world stands on the eve of a new era in the character of war brought forth by rapid technological change,” Govini Chairman Bob Work and CEO Tara Murphy Dougherty wrote in the report’s forward. “Unlike in the past, however, the technologies driving change are not primarily military in nature, but rather civilian technologies that can be adapted for military use. As a result, the United States’ intensifying techno-military confrontation with the People's Republic of China will hinge not on which side can build the best weapons, but on who can best harness critical emerging technologies.”

Oshkosh has delivered the first Stryker double-V-hull infantry carrier vehicle upgraded with the 30-millimeter Medium Caliber Weapon System for evaluation at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Test Center. The company is expected to deliver seven of the vehicles to the Army by September for testing through June 2023. 

Defense and technology firm Leidos announced it would acquire Cobham Aviation Services Australia’s Special Mission business. “Cobham’s Special Mission team conducts essential operations that protect Australia’s borders, support law enforcement and environmental protection and save lives,” Leidos CEO Roger Krone said in a statement. “The integration of Special Mission into Leidos Australia will expand the scope of our global airborne ISR capabilities, diversify revenues, and open up new growth avenues.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In other M&A news, Thales Defense and Security took full ownership of Advanced Acoustic Concepts, a undersea technology joint venture it previously had with Leonardo DRS. The acquisition allows Thales to “increase its engineering and industrial footprint in the US defense market, with reinforced U.S.-based teams and capabilities.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Making Moves

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has named Air Force Gen. Patrick Ryder the Pentagon Press Secretary. Ryder is currently the director of public affairs for the Air and Space Forces. 

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control head Scott Greene announced he will retire on Dec. 31 after 41 years with the company. A successor has not yet been named.

Palantir has named David Spirk, the Pentagon’s first chief data officer, a senior counselor. He will “advise company leadership and focus on growing the U.S. government and international business,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Parsons has named James Lackey the head of its Defense and Intelligence Mission Solutions sector. “In his new position, Lackey will oversee the sector’s business execution and strategic growth initiatives, such as the company’s development of next-generation near-peer threat simulation environments and an innovative mix of integrated hardware and software solutions including space satellite launch integration, ground station command and control, space domain awareness, and DevSecOps engineering,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Boeing on July 28 named Brian Besanceney, a former Walmart and Disney executive, the company's senior vice president and chief communications officer effective Sept. 6

Sierra Space formed a National Security Advisory Group of former top government and military officials that includes William Fraser, Lori Garver, Susan Gordon, David Hamilton, Paul Selva, Mac Thornberry, and Stephen “Seve” Wilson. James “Hondo” Geurts is the board’s chairman.

From Defense One

Major Aerospace Supplier Spirit AeroSystems Looks to Expand Military, Space Business // Marcus Weisgerber

Company executives see the company playing a larger role in designing hypersonic weapons and next-generation aircraft.

Just Weeks After Saudi Trip, Biden Administration Greenlights $5B in Arms for Gulf Nations // Marcus Weisgerber

Under the deal, Riyadh could spend $3 billion on Patriot interceptors; the UAE, $2.2 billion on THAAD interceptors.

Lockheed Martin Doubles Ventures Fund as It Hunts for Future Tech Startups // Marcus Weisgerber

Lockheed plans to continue investing in companies with disruptive technology.

SOCOM Orders Cropduster Attack Planes from L3Harris Technologies // Marcus Weisgerber

The contract, which could grow to 75 aircraft, marks a major victory for proponents of prop-driven close air support.

Robot Ships Debut at RIMPAC, Helping US Navy Sail Toward a Less-Crewed Future // Caitlin M. Kenney

Four unmanned surface vessels sailed with manned ships, sharing data and testing how they would operate with the larger U.S. fleet.

The Naval Brief: Lessons from RIMPAC; Unmanned ships test capabilities; A Marine Corps first; and more... // Caitlin M. Kenney

Cyber Ambassador Pick Wants to Bring 'Coherence' to Tech Diplomacy Efforts // Lauren C. Williams

Nathaniel Fick, the former Marine and head of Center for a New American Security, also wants more deterrence efforts in cyberspace.

Can a New Aviation Safety Office Avoid Its Predecessors' Mistakes? // Tara Copp

And can it help salve annual mishap spikes caused by Congressional inaction?