Defense Business Brief: Companies invest in Kendall’s operational challenges; KC-46 cleared for deployment; Switzerland signs contract for F-35; and more.

I first attended the Aerospace Forces Association Air, Space and Cyber ​​Security Conference in 2006, and in the last 16 years a lot has changed—and stayed the same.

It seemed that this week’s conference was the largest, with about 16,000 registered. It was difficult at times to navigate the crowded corridors and floor of the exhibition hall.

But this year’s conference also provided time to reflect on what has and has not changed. For me, the biggest change in the showroom has been the new technologies and systems that companies are developing with their own funds. There were years – I mean the beginning of the last decade, let’s call it the era of sequestration – when there was not much that was new. Companies exhibited the same things. Maybe it was a concept image or a model of something they were aiming to build, but nothing tangible or concrete.

This year, several companies have announced that they are investing their own funds in the development of new technologies and weapons for the Air Force. It’s a big shift from the days when companies basically waited for the Air Force to come up with a full set of requirements and launch a funded acquisition program before bending the metal, so to speak.

At a press conference on Monday, I asked Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall what he thought about why companies invest in efforts that aren’t so-called recording programs? He, in particular, attributed the answer to his seven “operational imperatives” – technologies that, in his opinion, are necessary to win future wars.

“One of the things that seems to have been achieved through operational requirements is that I identified the problems that we are trying to solve, and this gave the industry some information that they could use for their own investments,” — he said. “I think they reacted to it.”

While Kendall acknowledged that “you always hear the words of something new that you say,” now he “sees some real action and content.”

“I see people coming up with innovative ideas that we certainly want to consider,” he said. “So I’m very excited about it. I have repeatedly told the industry: I don’t want you to wait for the RFP to come out, I want you to think about how to solve our problems. If we accept your solution to our problems, it will obviously give you an advantage. So it’s in your best interest to think ahead of us and implement his creative ideas.”

So why is the industry responding to Kendall’s operational imperatives? and his messages now, as opposed to when he was head of acquisitions at the Pentagon during the Obama administration? “I didn’t write requirements,” he said. But “now I have a lot more to do with requirements and budgets.”

The Air Force is also trying to figure out how much they can afford.

“We are trying to communicate as openly as possible with the industry so that the industry knows what we are interested in, what problems we are trying to solve, what is the value for us … so that they can offer us.” he said. “It inspires me.”

Kendall said that during the Cold War era, industry and government worked “much more closely together to solve problems. I don’t think we’re going to go back to it completely because of the ethical constraints we have, but I think we could do a lot better than we’ve done for the past 20 to 30 years.”

Among AFA news: First, the US Air Force plans to introduce the B-21 stealth bomber in the first week of December. Since the first flight of the aircraft is not expected until 2023, it is safe to say that the launch will take place at the Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale, California. As I mentioned earlier this week, the Reagan National Defense Forum takes place the first weekend in December, about an hour away in Simi Valley. Dozens of Department of Defense representatives will already be on the West Coast, and it’s safe to say that many of them will also be involved in the deployment.

Next is the Air Force tanker KC-46. has been cleared for deployment around the world, Air Mobility Commander Gen. Mike Minihan said on Monday. “We are ready to use this aircraft globally in any combat without hesitation,” Minihan said. The only aircraft that is not capable of refueling from the KS-46 is the A-10 attack aircraft. The plane won’t be officially declared operational for a number of years until Boeing fixes the tanker’s refueling cameras, called a remote vision system. But on any given day, about a dozen KC-46s fly over the United States, according to flight-tracking apps.

In addition, the Air Force created new Executive Director of the Command, Control, Communications, and Battle Management Program, or C3BM, to oversee its domain-wide unification and management efforts and the Advanced Battle Management System program. Brig. General Luke Cropsey will act as Chief Engineer and Andrew Hunter, Air Force Procurement Chief, and will work “closely” with Frank Calvelly, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Space Integration.

Interestingly, the new bomber and tanker were one of the main issues back in 2006. Air Force leaders insisted on getting a new bomber by 2018. Four years after this goal, the Air Force is approaching reality. And, of course, who could forget the tanker. “The Air Force should start buying new tankers now as it will take decades to replace the aging KC-135 stratotankers,” the Air Force secretary said. Here is the full agenda for the then Air & Space conference in 2006. She’s worth a look.

Back to this week, in the showroom several contractors submitted new projects funded by the company. L3Harris Technologies’ plan to convert an Embraer KC-390 tanker into an air tanker with a filling boom has attracted a lot of attention. The twin-engine tanker is positioned by L3Harris as the tanker aircraft needed in a war against a peer because it can land on more airfields than the larger tankers used today by the Air Force and other militaries around the world. So what do Air Force leaders think of the KC-390? “We don’t currently have requirements for this, but I certainly sit and listen,” said Gen. Duke Richardson, head of Air Force Logistics Command.

Boeing and Red 6 announced they are “collaborating on the development of advanced air combat technologies and training in the operation of advanced tactical aircraft,” the augmented reality startup said in a statement. The partnership, which was announced on the sidelines of AFA, could see Red 6 technology being used on the T-7 trainer and F-15EX fighter jet.

Not in AFA Switzerland has signed a contract to buy 36 F-35 stealth fighters. More about it here.


Out of defense one

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If the US cannot give Kyiv Western planes, they have a plan B.

Frank Kendall said Russia’s failed invasion should give Beijing pause.

The company and its partner Northrop Grumman were selected over proposals from Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The three-year-old twin-engine jet will be a “maneuverable tanker,” according to L3Harris CEO.

The trials will show if a battery-powered personal watercraft can help search and rescue missions.

But the Pentagon supervisory body is already dissatisfied with how the material part is monitored.

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