An AH-64E Apache helicopter flies near Blanca Lake, Wash., July 11, 2022.

An AH-64E Apache helicopter flies near Blanca Lake, Wash., July 11, 2022. U.S. Army / Capt. Kyle Abraham

Defense Business Brief: Spectrum lawsuit; New Apache variant; X-ray helmet; and more...

The Pentagon's years-long fight over spectrum rights has reached the courts in the form of a $39 billion lawsuit.

On Friday, satellite company Ligado Networks announced that it is suing the U.S. government, claiming that Defense and Commerce Department officials wrongly booted the company off a portion of shared spectrum without proper compensation.

The lawsuit, filed in federal claims court, points to a decision made by the Federal Communications Commission in 2020 that gave spectrum rights to Ligado, despite concerns that the 5G services would interfere with GPS receivers. Now the company says that government officials have taken its spectrum rights, worth tens of billions of dollars, “without any compensation and then [worked] to destroy Ligado’s reputation, threaten its business partners, and prevent Ligado from using its spectrum.”

The lawsuit alleges that officials have waged a “reckless campaign of misinformation” to allege that Ligado’s 5G mobile communications network would interfere with GPS services. 


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New Apache version takes flight

Boeing flew a new variant of its Apache AH-64E attack helicopter for the first time, the company announced at AUSA last week. Version 6.5 includes improvements to the software and pilot interface.

“We’re very excited about the ongoing development of the V6.5 software as it paves the way for Apache modernization,” said Col. Jay Maher, U.S. Army Apache project manager. “V6.5 aligns the entire E model fleet under the same software, streamlining training and maintenance while providing a pathway for sensor/capability parity, and enables the Army to address mandates and critical technologies. Ensuring relevance into the future is a top priority.”


Tech company Honeywell showed off its 360 Display headset, which aims to give a tank crew the ability to “see through” its thick armor by plugging into a camera network. Defense One demoed the goggles at AUSA and talked with Honeywell’s technical lead to learn more about how the capability can be used and how it differs from similar offerings. 

It’s DOD audit season

In coming weeks, the Pentagon is expected to release the results of its sixth annual audit. Neither DOD nor the Navy Department is expected to pass, the latter’s comptroller said Monday.

The Navy—and the Pentagon—will probably fail its annual audit, Russell Rumbaugh, the service’s comptroller predicted at a Stimson Center event Monday. 

“The Department of the Navy's goal is to get a [clean] opinion in 2028,” he said. “Somehow we're an accountable organization and we're not even close to auditable. What's the disconnect? The difference in that is how fast you can do it, how often you can repeat it.”

Rumbaugh said DOD can locate anything it owns, given enough time—but that can take too long to satisfy an annual audit, particularly when government property is held by contractors.

“Sensors we bought, a combat system we bought that's gonna go on a ship… ordnance that's been held at various prime contractors. And when my audit team shows up, and goes, ‘hey, where are these solid rocket motors that you own?’ The prime contractor says, ‘Oh, that's not in our contract. We don't have to tell you that,’” he said. “Two primes gave my audit team that answer within the last two weeks. That's ridiculous.”

Aircraft-satellite networks

The Air Force Research Laboratory has hired Northrop Grumman to put commercial space internet into airborne platforms to build a “constellation of connectivity.” The space internet will allow warfighters around the world to share data and operations within “milliseconds,” according to Northrop. The company said this will give the Defense Department affordable options for “resilient connectivity using commercial space internet constellations across multiple orbits.”

This week

  • Lockheed Martin will report its third-quarter earnings on Tuesday. Five other defense primes will report their quarterly earnings next week.
  • Professional Services Council is holding its 2023 Defense Conference on Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, with keynotes from Laura Taylor-Kale, the assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy, and Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration.

Making moves

Retired Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote has joined Pallas Advisors as a principal. Hinote previously served as the deputy chief of staff, strategy, integration, and requirements for the Air Force. In this role, he was the senior Air Force leader in charge of developing strategy and concepts for Air Force Futures.