U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford

Defense Business Brief: F-35 wraps tests; NATO’s Ukraine shops; Boeing’s V-22 settlement…

The F-35 Lightning II has finished long-delayed virtual combat tests that should allow the program to move to full-rate production.

Before the F-35 can officially graduate from initial operational testing, it must successfully complete 64 “runs for score”—essentially, various combat scenarios in the Joint Simulation Environment. The tests were supposed to have been completed years ago—the Pentagon once envisioned moving to full-rate production in 2019—but were delayed by technical problems with the simulator and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, production has continued in limited but accelerating fashion—a course of action that critics warned could prove costly if the tests reveal flaws that require fixing some or even all of the 900-plus aircraft already delivered. 

“F-35 Runs for Score in the JSE and initial trial validation were completed on September 21.  Further data analysis and final adjudication of results are required before the final report will be ready,” said F-35 Joint Program Office spokesperson Russ Goemaere. The results of the test will now go to the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation to be analyzed and inform a full-rate production decision.  


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Some good news

Lawmakers averted a shutdown this weekend, passing a stopgap funding bill on Saturday to keep the government running for 45 more days. The final bill did not include the Senate’s ask for $6 billion in aid for Ukraine, but did include $16 billion for disaster relief. 

F-35s for Czech Republic

The Czech government has approved a $6.5 billion contract to buy 24 F-35s from Lockheed Martin. The country’s largest-ever defense contract follows Pentagon officials’ assessment that Putin’s invasion of Russia is boosting F-35 sales in Europe. Officials say the program will increase interoperability within NATO. Czech officials said they will have all the jets by 2035.

NATO companies set up shop in Ukraine 

French and German companies will open repair facilities for military tech in Ukraine, as French, German, and British firms explore setting up co-production in the country. The push comes after France’s Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu led a delegation of 20 French defense contractors to Kyiv last week. 

French firm Arquus has reportedly agreed to maintain armored personnel carriers, while software company Vistory will set up two 3-D printing factories. Separately, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office s gave tank-maker Rheinmetall the thumbs-up to build and repair military vehicles in Ukraine. British firm BAE announced in August that it was seeking partners to help produce artillery in the wartorn country.

Boeing pays to resolve false-claims allegations

Boeing will pay the government $8.1 million to resolve allegations that the company submitted false claims in its contract to build the V-22 Osprey for the U.S. Navy, according to a press release from the Justice Department. The government said the company failed to follow manufacturing specifications while making composite components for the V-22 at its facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. 

“All government contractors have a responsibility to follow the obligations and protocols set forth by their contracts,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero. “This office is committed to accountability and protection from false claims as shown in cases such as this.”

Britain awards almost $5B in AUKUS work

The UK government has awarded £4 billion, or $4.9 billion, worth of contracts to design and build submarines for the AUKUS security partnership. “The signing of the detailed design and long leads phase with BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, and Babcock represents a significant milestone for both the UK and the trilateral AUKUS programme as a whole, in the lead up to build the future class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, known as SSN-AUKUS,” the Ministry of Defence said in a release. The UK says it will deliver its first submarines in the late 2030s, and the first Australian submarines in the early 2040s. 

Sub test-fires ballistic missile

The ballistic missile submarine Louisiana fired an unarmed Trident II D5 Life Extension Fleet Ballistic missile off the coast of California on Sept. 27 to test the crew and submarine’s Strategic Weapon System after going through a refueling overhaul. The Louisiana is the last Ohio-class submarine to complete its Demonstration and Shakedown Operation, or DASO, after a refueling overhaul, the Navy said. The successful test launch was the 191st for the missile, Lockheed said. The weapon will also be used by the new Columbia-class submarines. Watch a video of the missile firing here.

SpaceX nabs Space Force contract

Elon Musk’s SpaceX received its first contract with the U.S. Space Force on Sept. 1. The one-year, up-to-$70 million contract is for the company’s Starshield satellite internet service, and provides for “Starshield end-to-end service (via the Starlink constellation), user terminals, ancillary equipment, network management, and other related services,” Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said.

The department said SpaceX is one of 19 companies that has “proliferated low Earth orbit” contracts with Space Systems Command’s Commercial SATCOM office. “By Sept. 30 about $15 million will be obligated to SpaceX with funding that supports 54 ‘mission partners’ across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard,” Stefanek said.

Making moves

  • The Brookings Institution appointed Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s former top policy official, as the Sydney Stein Jr. Scholar in Foreign Policy. Kahl is currently working as a professor at Stanford University and is also the Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. 
  • Patrick Shanahan will serve as interim CEO for Spirit Aerosystems, a key supplier for Boeing, after Tom Gentile resigned. The company has had manufacturing problems recently, which have caused delays for Boeing.