Defense Business Brief: New aid package, finally; KC-Y, up in the air; Raytheon’s secret unit; and more

It took an extra week, but Congress passed a new aid package that provides $40 billion in funding and support for the Ukrainian military and begins replenishing weapons stockpiles. Now all it needs is President Biden’s signature. But getting that signature is going to require more than the two-mile trip down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. That’s because Biden just arrived in South Korea.

“The president does intend to sign the bill while he’s on the road so that he can sign it expeditiously,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters traveling with the President on Air Force One. “The modalities of that are being worked [out] right now so that he can get it and sign it.”

The latest batch of U.S. weapons to Ukraine includes howitzers, tactical vehicles and counter-artillery radars. The U.S. has committed 108 howitzers to Ukraine, my colleague Tara Copp reports.

On the weapons replenishment front, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin two contracts worth $309 million for Javelin anti-tank weapons. The contracts are meant to backfill more than 1,300 Javelins sent to Ukraine; they also include orders for Albania, Latvia, Norway, and Thailand.

Back stateside, House Republicans are urging the U.S. Air Force to compete its next large order of aerial refueling tankers instead of just handing a contract to Boeing. In March, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall put the prospects of a competition in doubt when he questioned whether a completely new aircraft was needed for what the service calls the bridge tanker, or KC-Y. On Thursday, Andrew Hunter, the Air Force’s top weapons buyer, said the service is awaiting requirements for the new tanker before it decides how to buy up to 160 refueling planes.

“We haven’t made that decision about what we would be doing with KC-Y at this point,” Hunter told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee during a Thursday hearing.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., said: “I think there are very few instances where competition would not be of value to the nation and to the Air Force. So I hope that that’s reflected in your decision.”

Lockheed Martin and teammate Airbus very much want the opportunity to compete against Boeing, which has struggled to build 179 refueling aircraft. This week, Lockheed and Airbus said they would build refueling booms for the new tankers in Arkansas if the Air Force choses their LMXT tanker, a version of the Airbus A330 tanker already flying in foreign militaries.

Of note, it’s the first announcement made by the Lockheed-Airbus team since Lockheed quietly worked to block Airbus from joining an influential U.S. aerospace and defense trade group earlier this year. Lockheed itself ended up quitting the Aerospace Industries Association last month.

Raytheon Technologies has revealed a secretive business unit “focused on rapidly developing next-generation military technologies aimed at widening the capability gap over the nation’s near-peer adversaries.” The more than two-decade-old business, which operated in the shadows, was recently rebranded Department 22. It resides within Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “Department 22 will focus on developing multi-function systems; miniaturized sensors and systems; cross-domain capabilities; autonomous mission systems; and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology,” the company said in a statement. While much of the McKinney, Texas-based business’s work is classified, it plans to hire more than 400 engineers, scientists, and technologists by the end of the year.

There’s more Aerojet Rocketdyne drama in the wake of its failed acquisition by Lockheed. The company released the findings of an investigation into allegations made by the firm’s chairman and its CEO. Defense News has a good summary of the back-and-forth.


From Defense One

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Marcus Weisgerber