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April 19, 2021 | International, Land

L3Harris Technologies and American Rheinmetall Vehicles team to pursue U.S. Army’s New Fighting Vehicle

The agreement combines L3Harris’ open system design and equipment manufacturing leadership with the maturity and modularity of American Rheinmetall Vehicles’ Lynx next-generation fighting vehicle for an OMFV offering that is...

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  • The US military’s chaff and flare industry is on fragile ground

    November 14, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    The US military’s chaff and flare industry is on fragile ground

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — The two companies responsible for producing chaff and flares for U.S. military aircraft could be poised for a major shakeup, and the Pentagon and congressional critics have begun sounding the alarm about this small, vulnerable segment of the defense-industrial base. In an October report to the White House on the health of the defense-industrial base, the Pentagon relayed concerns about the small number of domestic chaff and flare producers, and stated that weakened demand — especially for flares — could leave companies little incentive to make internal investments. Only one producer of chaff exists in the United States: Esterline Defense Technologies, also known as Armtec. Esterline, which also makes flares, is joined by one other domestic flare manufacturer: Kilgore Flares Co., a part of Chemring Countermeasures USA, which itself is a subsidiary of a firm based in the United Kingdom. This already precarious industrial situation may be further rattled by TransDigm Group Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Esterline, two lawmakers said. In an Oct. 29 letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Walter Jones, R-NC, called on the Defense Department to block the deal until its inspector general completed an investigation into TransDigm's business practices. The letter was first reported by The Capitol Forum. “TransDigm has repeatedly purchased companies that are the sole providers of Department of Defense items and engaged in price gouging,” Speier and Jones wrote. “The abuses have been sufficiently common and severe enough to warrant a DoD inspector general investigation. Unsurprisingly, Esterline is the sole DoD chaff provider and one of two flare providers. The alarm bells should be ringing.” The industrial base issues, however, extend far beyond TransDigm's proposed acquisition. A small but critical market Chaff and flare are countermeasures used by military planes and helicopters to help evade a missile attack by an enemy aircraft. For the non-stealthy fourth-generation assets that make up the bulk of the services' inventory, these systems are pivotal to that aircraft's defense. Chaff — which comprises “millions of tiny aluminum or zinc-coated fibers” — is stored onboard an aircraft in tubes and ejected behind the plane to confuse radar-guided missiles, the Pentagon's defense-industrial base report stated. Meanwhile, flares distract heat-seeking, infrared-guided missiles “by ejecting magnesium pellets from tubes to ignite in the wake behind an aircraft,” the report states. Those pellets are so hot — more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — that the temperature exceeds that of the aircraft's engine or exhaust, tricking an infrared-guided missile about the path of the aircraft. According to the industrial base report, “defense unique requirements and decreasing DoD demand drove out other suppliers, leaving a single qualified source for chaff.” Peter Navarro, the White House's director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, called attention to the fragile chaff supply base during a Nov. 9 speech at the Center of Strategic and International Studies, calling it a “single point of failure.” Meanwhile, the outlook for flare companies seems even more grim, with the report noting a number of explosions that had plagued both Esterline and Kilgore over the past several years, often leading to factorywide shutdowns that delayed deliveries of product to the Defense Department. “Both companies have experienced quality and delivery problems since the accidents,” the report stated. “As program offices look to improve quality and cost, they are beginning to look offshore at more modern facilities, where there are fewer quality and safety concerns.” One of the biggest problems facing chaff and flare manufacturers is the fluctuating demand signal from the Defense Department — their only customer for the product — based on the military's operational needs, the Association of Old Crows, a professional organization centered on electronic warfare and other countermeasures, said in a statement to Defense News. “Spending on countermeasures flares in the U.S. and among several NATO allies surged during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and then dropped sharply as these conflicts reduced their operations tempo or wound down,” the organization stated. “The industrial base is small, yet it must be able to meet big fluctuations in customer demand. This creates a tremendous challenge that could be managed more successfully with better coordination among U.S. military customers or even between NATO partners." A history of safety issues and scandal Though chaff and flare companies usually fly under the radar of the defense trade press, when they do appear in the media, it's usually related to life-threatening accidents at manufacturing facilities or the like. In May 2016, Esterline was forced to temporarily halt operations at its plant in East Camden, Arkansas, after an explosion injured two employees. Local newspaper El Dorado News Times reported that one of the victims suffered “a blast to the face,” which left burns on the hands, chest and face, and took shrapnel to the elbow, according to a Facebook post by the victim's relative. Kilgore Flares also sustained several high-profile accidents in recent years, most notably a 2014 explosion that killed one employee at its factory in Toone, Tennessee. The same plant was the site of a 2016 explosion where no one was injured, according to WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation of the 2014 incident, the worker had been removing residual flare materials that ignited, prompting the explosion. “The investigation identified noncompliance in process safety information, process hazard analysis and ... operating procedures. The employee suffered severe burns on multiple areas of his body and was transported to a hospital, where he received medical treatment and burn therapy, but died from his injuries,” the administration had said. Kilgore also came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Justice Department in 2016 for selling the Army flares made with magnesium that a supplier — ESM Group Inc. — illegally imported from China. The company was fined $8 million for violating a requirement that all magnesium used to make flares be sourced from American or Canadian suppliers, reported the Memphis-based CBS affiliate WREG. Kilgore and Esterline did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Pat Kumashiro, former head of the maintenance division for the Air Force's Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection Directorate and currently director of the Air Force market at LMI, said China is paying attention to weaknesses in the American defense-industrial base. “They are pretty savvy as it relates to understanding global supply chains, and when they have opportunities to buy mineral rights — and you see them doing a lot of work and being very aggressive in Africa — they are doing it for a reason,” he said. If an adversary such as Russia or China identifies that there are a limited number of sources for chaff and flare, they can find ways to impact U.S. suppliers — which in turn degrades the mission capability of fourth-generation planes, Kumashiro said. “Operational pilots are not going to go into harm's way without an operational chaff [and] flare system,” he said. The evolving landscape for chaff and flare Big changes appear to be coming down the pipeline for both Esterline and Kilgore Flares. For the former, the question is whether the Defense Department allows TransDigm to acquire Esterline. "Our general goal in this area is to promote competition among contractors but also ensure that DoD is paying fair prices for the best, most usable products that it can get,” a staff member of Rep. Speier told Defense News. But Speier and his colleague Jones believe TransDigm could artificially inflate prices by claiming there is a commercial market for those products, which would limit the ability of Defense Department procurement officers to have full access to pricing data, the staffer said. Should the Defense Department decide to allow the TransDigm deal to go forward, Speier may push to add language to next year's defense authorization bill that would pose additional limitations on what products are deemed “commercial,” or it could call on the Pentagon to study the level of competition throughout the industrial base, the staffer said. For Kilgore Flares, the changes appear to be more conventionally positive. This May, Chemring Group said it would spend $40 million to expand Kilgore's production facility in Toone and grow the plant's employment numbers from about 280 to 375 people. From 2018-2022, the company plans to improve existing facilities, construct new buildings and buy modern equipment, including a new flare extruder and assembly facility, the company said in a news release. In total, those expenditures will triple the plant's production capacity. Kilgore's investment may indicate that chaff and flare manufacturers see some relief on the horizon. Industry officials who spoke to Defense News about this sector said they were hopeful the Defense Department's industrial base report could indicate a heightened level of Pentagon interest. The department already has certain levers it can pull to address problems in its supply base. One such effort, called the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program, involves targeted investments to sustain certain manufacturers who produce a critical capability. Another resource is the Defense Production Act Title III program, which offers grants, purchase commitments, loans or loan guarantees to portions of the industrial base that are weakening. The Defense Department called for an expansion of those programs in recommendations to the White House submitted as part of the industrial base report. A classified annex also includes detailed fixes for certain critical industries. So far, however, it's unclear what assistance could be coming down the pipeline for the chaff and flare industry.

  • US drive to make green jet fuel with ethanol stalled by CO2 pipeline foes | Reuters

    November 14, 2023 | International, Aerospace

    US drive to make green jet fuel with ethanol stalled by CO2 pipeline foes | Reuters

    The U.S. drive to develop sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using ethanol could be slowed because of growing opposition to proposed pipelines that would curb greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol plants by capturing carbon dioxide and carrying it away to other states for storage.

  • Contract Awards by US Department of Defense - November 18, 2020

    November 18, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Contract Awards by US Department of Defense - November 18, 2020

    NAVY General Dynamics, Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, is awarded a $146,118,867 cost-plus-award-fee modification against previously awarded contract N00024-19-C-4452 for DDG planning yard services. Work will be performed in Bath, Maine, and is expected to be completed by January 2022. Fiscal 2020 other procurement (Navy) (80%); and fiscal 2021 operation and maintenance (Navy) (20%), funding in the amount of $1,016,645 will be obligated at time of award, of which $200,866 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Bath, Maine, is the contracting activity. Lockheed Martin Corp., Liverpool, New York, is awarded a $22,827,962 modification (P00003) to a firm-fixed-price order N00019-20-F-0535 against previously issued basic ordering agreement N00019-19-G-0029. This modification exercises an option to procure 12 retrofit advanced radar processor systems for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. Work will be performed in Liverpool, New York (54%); and Andover, Massachusetts (46%), and is expected to be completed in April 2025. Fiscal 2021 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $22,827,962 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is awarded an $11,977,622 modification (P00003) to previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract N00019-20-C-0026. This modification provides continued support required to establish the common reprogramming tool development network and selection of a service-oriented architecture for the development of enhanced reprogramming tools, which is essential for all standing labs in support of the F-35 aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the governments of Australia and Great Britain. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (90%); and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (10%), and is expected to be completed in December 2021. Fiscal 2021 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $711,406; fiscal 2021 research, development, test and evaluation (Air Force) funds in the amount of $711,406; and non-Department of Defense funds in the amount of $2,800,000, will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Rolling Meadows, Illinois, is awarded an $8,456,902 modification (P00010) to cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order N00019-19-F-0453 against previously issued basic ordering agreement N00019-15-G-0026. This modification adds scope to provide non-recurring engineering to upgrade the current large aircraft infrared countermeasures system processor replacement in support of efforts to resolve advanced threat warning processor and control indicator unit diminishing manufacturing source issues, and exercises an option to provide expanded growth capability for the AN/AAQ-24 system for the Navy and the Air Force. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and is expected to be completed in April 2023. Fiscal 2019 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $5,075,661; fiscal 2020 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $2,961,241; and fiscal 2020 aircraft procurement (Air Force) funds in the amount of $420,000, will be obligated at time of award; $5,075,661 of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. ARMY BAE Systems, Nashua, New Hampshire, was awarded a $49,937,097 firm-fixed-price contract for the Common Missile Warning System. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 15, 2025. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-21-D-0010). General Dynamics Land Systems, Sterling Heights, Michigan, was awarded a $25,982,972 modification (P00004) to contract W56HZV-20-C-0031 to provide maintenance training and procedural technical assistance to the Kuwait Land Force. Work will be performed in Kuwait City, Kuwait, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 5, 2023. Fiscal 2010 Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $25,982,972 were obligated at the time of the award. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, is the contracting activity. MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY ARES Technical Services Corp.,* Burlingame, California, is being awarded a $51,962,387 competitive cost-plus-fixed-fee, level-of-effort contract with a three-year base value of $21,651,531 and two one-year options for Technical, Engineering, Advisory, and Management Support (TEAMS) - Next Safety advisory and assistance services. The work will be performed in Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Dahlgren, Virginia; Huntsville, Alabama; Fort Greely, Alaska; Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; Kirkland AFB, New Mexico; Pacific Missile Range Facility, Hawaii; and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 13, 2025. This contract was competitively procured via publication on the website with three proposals received. Fiscal 2021 research, development, test and evaluation; and Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $2,599,751 are being obligated at time of award. The Missile Defense Agency, Huntsville, Alabama, is the contracting activity (HQ0858-21-C-0011). AIR FORCE L‐3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Mississippi, has been awarded a $38,000,000 firm-fixed‐price, indefinite‐delivery/indefinite‐quantity modification (P00021) to contract FA8106‐17‐D‐0001 for contractor logistic support of the Air Force C‐12 fleet. Work will be performed in Madison, Mississippi; San Angelo, Texas; Okmulgee, Oklahoma; Buenos Ares, Argentina; Gaborone, Botswana; Brasilia, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; Cairo, Egypt; Accra, Ghana; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Budapest, Hungary; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; Nairobi, Kenya; Rabat, Morocco; Manila, Philippines; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Bangkok, Thailand; Ankara, Turkey; Edwards Air Force Base, California; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Joint Base Elmendorf‐Richardson, Alaska; Oslo, Norway; and Yokota Air Base, Japan. Work is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021. The estimated cumulative face value of the contract is $158,000,000. Fiscal 2021 operation and maintenance in the amount of $6,648,772 will be obligated at the time of award. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, is the contracting activity. Engineering Arresting Systems Corp., Ashton, Pennsylvania, has been awarded a $15,691,772 requirements-indefinite-delivery type, firm‐fixed-price production contract for the Mobile Runway Edge Sheave (MRES). Work will be performed in Ashton, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be completed Nov. 15, 2028. This contract is the result of a sole-source acquisition. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is the contracting activity (FA8534-21-D-0001). DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY Burlington Apparel Fabrics, Greensboro, North Carolina, has been awarded a maximum $9,602,250 modification (P00010) exercising the second one-year option period of a one-year base contract (SPE1C1-19-D-1113) with four one-year option periods for cloth. This is a firm-fixed-price with economic-price-adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. Location of performance is North Carolina, with a Nov. 18, 2021, ordering period end date. Using military service is Army. Type of appropriation is fiscal 2021 through 2022 defense working capital funds. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. *Small business

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