Back to news

May 24, 2023 | International, C4ISR

Northrop missile-warning satellites pass early design review

The Space Force plans to award a production contract in mid-2024 and the company is on track to launch the first satellite in 2028.

On the same subject

  • Lockheed And Pentagon Joust Over Lucrative F-35 Data Rights

    November 25, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Lockheed And Pentagon Joust Over Lucrative F-35 Data Rights

    Steve Trimble, Lee Hudson and Michael Bruno An ongoing legal dispute between the U.S. government and Lockheed Martin over intellectual property (IP) rights in the F-35 program has emerged as the source of a 2.5-year delay in activating a key system required to complete initial operational testing and the full-rate production decision. Involving the Pentagon's largest single weapons program ever—and with full-rate production critical to Lockheed's long-term profitability—the dispute has waylaid progress for both sides. But not only is the matter holding up the program, it may set a precedent for the military's increasing reliance on software and the government's desire to reap data-based rewards. “We still do have concerns,” says U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, F-35 program executive officer. “We don't need all the data, but the data that we need, it's important that we pursue it.” “We also have fundamental standards that we need to set down so that it is very, very clear,” adds Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. The military's open-air test ranges lack the capacity to fully test the F-35's advanced capabilities, so the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) office is relying on the activation of the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE). The JSE creates a synthetic world that allows operational testers to gauge the F-35's performance in theater-level scenarios, with multiple aircraft flying against an adversary's full arsenal of fighters, missiles and electronic warfare capabilities. The JSE was supposed to be activated in late 2017 but now is scheduled to achieve the first-use milestone in July 2020, Robert Behler, the head of DOT&E, told lawmakers Nov. 13 during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on F-35 readiness. The DOT&E has completed 91% of open-air missions during the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation phase required to qualify the F-35 for a full-rate production decision, but the testers still need to use the JSE to complete all of the testing. According to Fick's testimony, the IP dispute has delayed activation of the JSE. The JSE requires Lockheed to supply the software to enable a function nicknamed “F-35 in a Box,” he says. This is a software module that allows the JSE to virtually replicate each of the F-35's sensor subsystems, along with the sensor fusion brain embedded in the operational flight program. The government would then add software modules to replicate various threats, including aircraft, weapons and sensors of various adversaries. A dispute arose because Lockheed asserted an IP claim over nine specific algorithms that were included in the “F-35 in a Box” software package, the general says. The program office responded by bringing in the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) to review Lockheed's records. The DCAA's auditors determined they could not find the proof in Lockheed's records that the nine algorithms had been developed solely at Lockheed's expense. Since Lockheed failed to prove its claim, the DCAA determined the nine algorithms belonged to the government. Lockheed has appealed the DCAA's decision to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, where it is still being adjudicated, the general told lawmakers. The dispute over the JSE feeds into a larger source of tension between the government and contractors over IP rights. Lord testified that her office is in the final stages of approving a new, Pentagon-wide policy on preserving the government's rights to IP in acquisition contracts. The policy will be modeled on an approach adopted late last year by the Army, which requires program managers to establish the government's IP rights on specific systems up front, rather than treat the issue as an afterthought. “Before we put together an acquisition strategy, you have to think about what information is critical to a program, particularly in terms of sustainability, so that you're not always held hostage to the prime on that through the life of the contract and [so] that you can find better cost solutions through a variety of different providers,” she said. Still, the new approach could challenge the business models of prime contractors and suppliers, who traditionally have eaten costs up front or bid low to win weapons contracts, with the intent of making money in the two-thirds of the life cycle of the program that includes sustainment. At an Aviation Week defense conference years ago, defense executives were asked to address the idea of giving up IP rights to the government and were determined to resist. “No!” yelled one executive in the closed-door gathering. Indeed, the new policy—which will not require explicit congressional blessing, as it is internal rulemaking—still faces questions by industry lobbying groups, including the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). John Luddy, AIA's vice president for national security policy, said IP policymaking is “probably the most important” issue currently between his trade lobby group and defense leaders. Industry is not yet behind the emerging Pentagon policy, he indicated during the ComDef 2019 conference in October, because it does not strike the proper “balance,” in industry's view, to allow it to reap profits while letting the government contract to sustain weapon systems more affordably. “We think [it] is headed toward the right kind of balance, but I would just encourage that to continue—we're engaged quite a bit with the department on that,” Luddy said. “We have to find that balance.” Diana Maurer, director of defense capabilities and management at the Government Accountability Office, noted that her auditing office flagged the IP issue in 2014 and is happy to see the Pentagon make progress on the issue. But the changing nature of warfare systems means the issue will likely only grow. “Weapon systems today are essentially flying or sailing or moving pieces of software, and the intellectual property is an important piece of that.”

  • BAE awarded $111M contract for Navy's Archerfish mine neutralizers

    September 22, 2020 | International, Naval, C4ISR

    BAE awarded $111M contract for Navy's Archerfish mine neutralizers

    Ed Adamczyk Sept. 21 (UPI) -- BAE Systems announced a contract Monday worth up to $111 million to supply the U.S. Navy with Archerfish mine neutralizers. Archerfish is used by the US Navy's MH-60S Helicopter squadrons as part of their Airborne Mine Neutralization System capability, and reduces the need to put diving personnel in the water for clearance missions, according to the company. The system is a remote-controlled, torpedo-like device that can be launched and operated from a surface ship, helicopter or an unmanned underwater vehicle. Using fiber optic data link relays, Archerfish can provide real-time sonar pictures of potential targets through on-board sensors, a BAE statement on Monday said. "Archerfish not only keeps sailors safer, it also reduces the number and cost of mine clearance missions," said Brooke Hoskins, director of products and training for BAE's maritime services business. Each AMNS device consists of a Launch and Handling System for all data processing during a mission, and up to four elements called destructors, which handle target acquisition and demolition. The Navy established a requirement for rapid neutralization of bottom and moored sea mines to support operations in littoral zones, confined straits, choke points and the amphibious objective area. This is the fourth Navy contract awarded to BAE since 2003 to build AMNS devices, which will be manufactured at the company's facilities in Britain. The number of devices ordered by the Navy was not reported.

  • Talk of national 5G plan from DoD causes confusion, concern among lawmakers

    October 23, 2020 | International, C4ISR

    Talk of national 5G plan from DoD causes confusion, concern among lawmakers

    Joe Gould and Andrew Eversden The White House is reportedly pressuring the Pentagon to lease some of its prized spectrum for the lucrative 5G market to a single politically connected company, Rivada, using a non-competitive process. The White House's push to fast track a contract for mid-band spectrum to Rivada Networks has alarmed senior administration officials, according to CNN. Rivada and the Pentagon have both rejected those reports, but the denials haven't squelched concerns on Capitol Hill that the administration is using the Defense Department to make an end-run around regulators in pursuit of an expensive boondoggle. The concern on Capitol Hill and elsewhere stems from a September RFI from the Department of Defense that seeks industry input on dynamic spectrum sharing, or ways the Defense Department and commercial entities can safely operate on the same spectrum bands. The RFI asks “how could DoD own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations?” and “what are the potential issues with DoD owning and operating independent networks for its 5G operations?,” which has fueled fears and pushback in industry about DoD nationalizing a 5G network. In a statement to C4ISRNET on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson Russ Goemaere said “No, DOD does not intend to own and operate a national 5G network.” Rather, he said, the DoD needs to better understand how dynamic spectrum sharing can support training, readiness and lethality in the contiguous United States. "This RFI will help DOD understand best methods and approaches for owning and operating independent DoD 5G networks supporting ‘spectrum for training, readiness, and lethality,' " Goemaere said. Rivada has also denied allegations that it's in favor of a nationalized 5G network. “We want to add our voice to those condemning, in the strongest terms, anyone planning to nationalize 5G in America. Whoever they may be. Assuming they exist,” the company said in a statement Oct. 8. The company also released part of its response to the RFI earlier in the week that listed several reasons the DoD shouldn't operate a national 5G network, including costs of operations and maintenance, as well as limited coverage and capacity. Frustration on the Hill The plan has been met with opposition from the wireless industry, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and reportedly senior officials within the Trump administration. On Wednesday, Smith told reporters he too is opposed to what he has heard so far. “I don't initially support the idea of DoD controlling the 5G network and building it. Someone's going to have to do a lot of convincing to show me that's a good idea,” Smith said. Smith said he agrees with U.S. efforts to counter Chinese dominance in 5G and build a western alternative, and he supports spectrum sharing between the Pentagon and private sector as a way there. But the prospect of a nationalized, DoD-led 5G network has “a lot of folks a little bit nervous” about its feasibility and effectiveness, Smith said, adding the administration's true plans remained unclear. “There is concern if DoD comes in and says, ‘we're just going to build and control the network' — and it's a little murky right now exactly where the Trump administration's at or whether or not they're going to try to go forward with that plan,” Smith said. “That's what we're trying to get some answers to right now.” The direct nature of the White House's push, and emphasis on a fast result, has frustrated and confused congressional committees and agencies covering commercial spectrum allocation — such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Federal Communications Commission — that are traditionally involved in forming telecommunications policy, according to one congressional staffer. Leading the effort on Capitol Hill are Fox News commentator and GOP strategist Karl Rove, who is also a lobbyist for Rivada, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a close ally of the president. “When you have somebody going directly to members, that's usually a sign they're trying to pull one over because they're not interested in doing an evidenced-based approach, talking to experts for that member of Congress. Using people like Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich was an indicator early on that Rivada was not interested in engaging in good faith, but was interested in corporate welfare,” the staffer said. Two lawmakers with jurisdiction over the issue — Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Pa. — said they are probing reports the White House had “instructed DoD to proceed immediately to a Request for Proposal (‘RFP') in order to move forward toward a national 5G network.” “According to press accounts, several political operatives or lobbyists with close ties to President Trump or his staff – including Karl Rove, Peter Thiel, Newt Gingrich and Brad Parscale – are pushing for the seismic shift in spectrum policy contemplated by the RFI,” they said in a statement this month, referring to the DoD RFI on dynamic spectrum sharing. “These reports also suggest these Republican operatives are working for the benefit of a specific company, Rivada, Inc., which has long championed a national network that Rivada would construct and operate using its sharing technology.” They argued that DoD has “limited or no legal authority ... to construct, operate, or maintain a commercial communications network or lease its assigned electromagnetic spectrum (‘spectrum') to private entities to provide commercial communications service,” and asked that the Government Accountability Office conduct a legal analysis to confirm it. On the other side of the aisle, a Republican aide to the committee warned that Congress would have to be consulted before DoD proceeds beyond the initial RFI. “DOD is collecting information to build a public record, which is never a bad thing, but if the DOD takes additional steps forward we would have to evaluate whatever those proposals may be," the aide said. "[Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden, R-Ore.] has publicly stated that he opposes a nationalized 5G network, as do all five FCC commissioners.” Eighteen Senate Republicans led by Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., wrote to President Donald Trump, to argue against, “nationalizing 5G and experimenting with untested models for 5G deployment,” and in favor of previous White House efforts, which emphasized the private sector building multiple 5G networks. They did not mention Rivada. “While we recognize the need for secure communications networks for our military, we are concerned that such a proposal threatens our national security,” their letter said. “When bad actors only need to penetrate one network, they have a greater likelihood of disrupting the United States' communications services.” The spectrum sharing RFI Dynamic spectrum sharing is a technology the Defense Department is working to develop. The Pentagon recently announced six vendors would take part in a test bed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, part of $600 million investment into 5G experimentation. The new RFI for spectrum sharing, developed in part by the office of DoD chief information officer, is another step forward in developing ways to share spectrum so the DoD systems that will rely on 5G, like many radar systems, can continue operating unencumbered. A major problem, according to former FCC commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, is that the RFI is “vaguely worded and at times not very accurately worded.” “A benign interpretation of the RFI is that they're really focused on the technology and not on non-federal networks,” said Furchtgott-Roth, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “But the less benign is that ‘5G' is really a codeword for civilian networks.” Though the RFI has caused outcry, Furchtgott-Roth told C4ISRNET that the RFI did raise “good questions” about spectrum sharing with commercial companies. One of the routes the Pentagon explores in the RFI is leasing the spectrum it owns instead of reallocating. “The Department believes that more spectrum sharing must be the norm and that technology is a way to achieve greater sharing,” said Goemaere, the DoD spokesman. “As a result, DOD is looking for new approaches to spectrum policy, access, and use, and for innovative spectrum sharing technologies. This RFI seeks to expand DOD's knowledge base, understand the state-of-the-art, and inform future DoD research, development and acquisition activities.” Asked if the source selection process would be competitive, Goemaere told C4ISRNET that the DoD will “follow Federal Acquisition Regulations if any further acquisition is sought on this effort.” Furchtgott-Roth said that the leasing aspect raises questions about the DoD's authority to rent out federal assets — a piece that the DoD is also looking for answers to in its RFI. Any RFP would likely need to be a multi-award contract. Given the DoD's challenges with sole-source contracts in the past, particularly its Joint Enterprise Infrastructure Cloud, multiple vendors are likely needed. “It's hard to imagine that the Pentagon would want to repeat that disaster,” Furchtgott-Roth said.

All news