It’s been clear for several years that the expanding usefulness of 3D printing was going to collide with a legal structure that supports profit. Now it’s happening, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told lawmakers.
The military has eagerly put the improving tech to use. Sailors at Naval Base San Diego print tools to make their jobs easier. Elsewhere, troops in all branches are starting to make parts for weapons, equipment, and tools that break at sea or remote bases on land. Perhaps most usefully, they can print parts that are no longer manufactured.
But defense companies often retain the rights to those shapes, even if they’ve long since ceased to make them.
“If we need a new handle or a fairing on an aircraft and the supplier is no longer in business and we can’t get somebody to make the part for us, we don’t always have the intellectual property to be able to do it,” Wilson told lawmakers on a House Appropriations defense subcommittee. “Now we might be able to scan an old part and be able to use that, but the manufacturer may say, ‘You know we no longer make those but we still hold the IP.’ This will be an increasingly contentious issue on contract negotiations going forward.”
Case in point: Lockheed Martin is challenging the Air Force’s request for IP related to its Black Hawk helicopter as part of its bid to replace 84 UH-1 Hueys.
Why it matters: The Pentagon wants to own more IP so it can upgrade and maintain its weapons without having to pay sustainment costs to contractors. Lowering sustainment costs has been a top priority of Ellen Lord, the undersecretary for acquisition, who like to note that 70 cents of every dollar spent on a program goes toward sustainment.
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From Defense One
Instead of single interceptors rising to meet an enemy missile, think about swarms of sub-launched UAVs armed with explosives, sensors, and brains.
Certainly, no one seemed concerned about it until Trump’s tariffs sent them scrambling to find out.
The president’s words could reanimate a legislative proposal that the defense secretary and others thought they had killed.
Air Force One, Missiles, and Dogs
We’ve brought you a lot of news about Air Force One, but here’s something we missed: the Air Force is building a $250 million complex for the new 747-8 planes because they’re too big to fit into the VC-25A hangars at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. (That scoop’s from Lara Seligman at Aviation Week.) It turns out that the planning has been under way for some time since there have to be all sorts of environmental impact studies. That new Air Force One hanger is so big it’s forcing the move of a few existing facilities at Andrews, including a surface-to-air missile launcher that helps defend the capital region. On the maybe-move list: a military working dog kennel; it’s to be determined whether those new 747-8s will expose the pups to too much noise or pollution from.
A Flashy New Acquisition Report
Yup. The Air Force’s new 96-page report its major acquisition programs is easy to read, well-designed, a good overview of what’s happening right now, and a great resource.(Kudos, USAF!) Check it out here.
One-on-One: Sikorsky’s Chief
Dale Bennett, formally the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems, encompasses much more than the helicopter maker, but we’ll just focus on that this week. A few weeks back, Lockheed CFO Bruce Tanner talked about Sikorsky’s challenges stemming from the low price of oil, which translates into fewer demand for S-92 helicopters. That’s because the oil and gas companies shut down their drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. But as the price of oil starts climbing, that drilling, and helicopter sales, are expected to pick up again.
“We do expect that some of the offshore drilling is starting to come back to life, so we’re expecting to see some, nothing in ’18, probably, hopefully in ’19-’20,” Bennett said in a March 5 interview. “We laid the plan flat so we don’t have any big, miracle thing laid out in our plan on the commercial side.”
Sikorsky delivered 182 aircraft in 2017 (including an uptick in sales of Firehawk, a firefighting version of the Black Hawk).
One aircraft it is hoping to sell internationally is the CH-53K, the U.S. Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopter. “Really good vibes internationally for that platform, both in Germany and Israel,” Bennett said.
A Boeing executive touted the Chinook over the CH-53K. Lockheed is planning to fly the helicopter at the ILA Berlin Air Show in April. Sikorsky is building the CH-53K in Stratford, Connecticut.
$1B Deal for Contactors to Fly Drones
The Air Force continues to hire contractors to fly drones. Last Friday, it hired URS Federal Technical Services to fly and maintain its Predators and Reapers at locations around the world. They firm will also work on high-altitude Global Hawks. The deal is worth nearly $1 billion. In 2015, the Air Force called for using contractors to augment military aircrews flying drones. That’s because it said the military crews were tapped out after years of surging to meet the insatiable demand for drones, primarily in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Africa. The contractors do not launch weapons or designate targets.
A Different Side of Marillyn Hewson
When we see (or hear) Lockheed Martin’s CEO, it’s often on carefully scripted earnings calls, Wall Street investor conferences or events like last week’s company media day. But if you want to see the head of the world’s largest defense firm talk about everything from meeting with President Trump to her modest upbringing, watch this video of a one-on-one fireside chat Marillyn Hewson had last week Economic Club of Washington president David Rubenstein.
Adriane Brown has been elected to Raytheon’s board of directors. She was previously president and chief operating officer of Intellectual Ventures, and a senior vice president of Energy Strategy at Honeywell International.
Here’s What Want to See in Top Gun 2
At last! The long-awaited sequel to Naval Aviation’s best recruiting tool ever will start filming this summer. Since it’s my birthday, here are five things I want in “Top Gun: Maverick”:
- The F-14 must make an appearance. Not one on a stick outside a base or in a museum. Maybe a plotline involving the Iranians, who, amazingly, still fly the Tomcat. Perhaps Maverick and Iceman will steal Iran’s F-14s and fly them out of the country.
- F/A-18 vs. F-35. Put the #AvGeeks favorite argument on the big screen. (Six whole years ago, Flightglobal reported that the F-35 would be the star of the show. But the military will have only about two dozen F-35Cs by the summer. That means we’re likely to see a lot of Super Hornets, which seems like good news for Boeing, which is looking to keep the fighter jet in production in coming years.)
- Dogfighting: All everyone wants to talk about these days is BVR. That’s beyond visual range — detecting, shooting and killing the bad guys before they know you’re there. It’s what the F-35 was built to do.
- Drones: You just know someone’s fancy unmanned aerial vehicle is going to prove insufficient to the mission, requiring Maverick to swoop in and do some of that pilot stuff.
- Realism. Tom Cruise better not be a captain. The only way he’s still in uniform some 33 years after the original flick is if he’s an admiral. Perhaps he’s the Air Boss at North Island on Coronado? That way they could film in southern California (remember TOPGUN — the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program — is no longer at Miramar, which is now controlled by the Marines. It’s a NAS Fallon in Nevada).
- Honorable Mention: “Top Gun Anthem” is a must at the beginning. Does Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” return? Send your thoughts now.