A man walks past a residential building destroyed by a Russian drone in Kyiv, Ukraine on January 12, 2023.

A man walks past a residential building destroyed by a Russian drone in Kyiv, Ukraine on January 12, 2023. Photo by Oleksii Chumachenko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Slow deliveries to Ukraine; Debt-ceiling showdown; New F-35 radar; and more.

Last August, as Russia bombarded Ukraine with kamikaze drones, the U.S. announced it would send counterdrone equipment to the besieged country. Among the weapons was Vampire, a kit whose camera, rocket launcher, and jammer could be mounted on any type of vehicle. Using a laptop, a person sitting on the passenger seat of a pickup truck or Humvee could, in theory, use a Vampire kit to nullify incoming drones.

But Ukraine won’t get the interceptors until mid-2023, almost a year after Colin Kahl, defense undersecretary for policy, announced the Vampire donation. Throughout the conflict, the Pentagon has made it no secret that the only U.S. weapons that will reach Ukraine quickly are the ones it can pull from an arsenal, load onto a plane, and fly across the Atlantic. Others, as Kahl acknowledged in August, “will take months to get [some weapons] on contract, and you know, one, two, three years, in some instances to arrive in Ukraine.”

Eleven months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the process of ordering weapons and waiting for their manufacture remains painstakingly slow. This is particularly the case for counterdrone gear, the Wall Street Journal reports.

I keep going back to a December quote from Greg Hayes. The Raytheon Technologies CEO bluntly questioned whether companies could fulfill the vast backlog of orders, particularly when it takes months, or longer, for the Pentagon to finalize contracts. Hayes said the only reason Raytheon was able to send NASAMS missile interceptors into Ukraine in a matter of weeks was the personal involvement of the Army’s top acquisition official.

L3Harris Technologies, the company that makes Vampire, showed off a prototype of the Vampire counter-drone tech in October at the Association of the U.S. Army annual conference in Washington. Before it finalized a contract with the Pentagon for the Ukrainian systems, the company spent $16 million to get a head start building the kits for Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the program.


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The U.S. will hit the debt ceiling on Thursday. House GOP leaders say they’ll force the United States to default on its loans unless they get billions of dollars in future spending cuts. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin told lawmakers late last week that her department can and will take “extraordinary measures” that would prevent that—at least until June. That means lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House have until around then to come up with a plan. Sound familiar? We went through all of this back in 2011 and the solution was to place caps on government spending for 10 years. I still have an email folder filled with messages from the last time we went through a fiscal fight and it’s a reminder that millions of people inside and out of government are affected. 

Northrop Grumman is developing a new F-35 radar, the company said last week. “The AN/APG-85 is an advanced multifunction sensor that will be compatible with all variants of the F-35 aircraft and will be capable of defeating current and projected adversarial air and surface threats,” the company said. “The development and integration of APG-85 will incorporate some of the latest technologies available and help ensure air superiority. This advanced sensor will provide unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.” 

Mark your calendars: Jim McAleese’s annual conference is scheduled for March 15 (which also happens to be my birthday). The Pentagon’s top acquisition, R&D, and budget officials are already confirmed, as well as four of the Joint Chiefs, the Air Force secretary, head of Army acquisition and Missile Defense Agency director. We’ll pass along the registration info when it’s available.

Stratolaunch completed the second captive-carry flight with the Talon-A separation test vehicle on its massive, six-engine Roc aircraft. The six-hour test was the latest milestone as the company “continues to progress toward separation test and its first hypersonic flight of TA-1 within the first half of 2023.” The company wants to conduct hypersonic flight testing for the government and companies that make hypersonic weapons.

Making Moves

  • Raytheon Technologies named former Boeing defense and space CEO Leanne Caret to its board of directors.
  • Former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has joined the board of Lynx Software Technologies.
  • AAR Corp. has named President and CEO John Holmes the chairman of its board, following the retirement of David Storch, who was the company’s chairman for 18 years. 
  • Leidos has named Frank Pandolfe, a retired Navy vice admiral, the vice president and strategic account executive for the Navy & Marine Corps.
  • Longtime journalist Bryan Bender has joined government affairs firm Strategic Marketing Innovations as vice president for communications strategy.