Sponsored by Hobson Industries
25 Mar 20. What happens when COVID-19 infiltrates the defense supply chain? The Defense Department had already started launching mass telework, visitor, movement and travel restrictions when the World Health Organization deemed the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. But the impact of coronavirus on DOD’s operations and supply chains is still unclear.
For now, defense contractors are being considered “essential critical infrastructure workforce” and have a “special responsibility” to stick to normal work schedules, according to a March 20 memo issued by Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
According to the memo, obtained by Defense Systems, the essential personnel includes “workers who support the essential products and services required to meet national security commitments to the Federal Government and the U.S. military,” and names engineers, IT support, mechanics, security staff along with transportation providers and medical suppliers for contractors and subcontractors as covered by the essential and critical designation.
The memo is notable for the categories of work it deems not essential: lawn care, recreational support and office supplies.
“There’s so much uncertainty here as the U.S. may be headed to a serious outbreak,” Andrew Hunter, the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ senior fellow and director for defense industrial initiatives, told Defense Systems.
And the question is: “How long do we have to hold on for?”
“I’m not really sure there is a really good historical precedent other than a government shutdown,” Hunter said, who was in the midst of CSIS’ telework preparations during the interview.
This time DOD has a budget and money is allocated, and its experience with years of continuing resolutions and sequestration — where funding lapses meant DOD personnel couldn’t come into work and reduced activity became the norm — could work to its benefit.
“Maybe in a perverse way, the department is prepared for the next couple of months,” Hunter said.
David Berteau, the Professional Service Council’s president and CEO, said that while DOD has persevered through multiple health crises — including multiple outbreaks of the avian flu starting in 2014, swine flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2009 and Ebola from 2014 to 2016 — “none of those matched this one in terms of magnitude or uncertainty of when we will turn the corner.”
And that acutely matters when people are the assets at risk.
“Parts don’t get sick but people do,” Berteau said. “I don’t think they have enough information about what [DOD’s] vulnerabilities are there.”
Hunter said the situation could become “problematic” and give rise to familiar long-term reduced readiness issues if conditions persist longer than a matter of weeks, especially if shipyards, depots have to be shut down.
James Geurts, the assistant secretary for Navy research, development and acquisition, told reporters following an House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing March 10 that he hopes it doesn’t come to that. The Navy has taken precautions to understand its supply chain vulnerabilities, he said.
“We’ve had, for the last couple of years, an effort [to] really understand our supply chain better, understanding where we’ve got fragility. Because if we have to surge for war or if we have to be able to repair a lot in war, that’ll be one of the first constraints.”
Guerts said he hasn’t seen issues regarding moving materiel, raw goods or transportation but understands that production ability is at risk.
“We’re looking across our whole supply chain to understand where we, where we’ve got … fragility and where we do, make sure we understand where we’ve got margin to deal with that,” he said.
When asked if there was a point of no return with regard to the uncertainty presented by COVID-19, Guerts said the focus is on “smart planning.”
“Maybe I’ll reorganize my build sequence, or maybe I’ll make a better choice of taking something out of a rotatable pool of spares so I can get the production line going,” the acquisition chief said. “If I wait until the day I’m looking for it and then the part isn’t there, I don’t have many options … and it’s different for every program.”
The telework conundrum
One of the Pentagon’s biggest challenges and opportunities lies with teleworking. It simultaneously allows for defense workers to continue their missions offsite while also opening up DOD’s network to more cyberattacks.
But one unique problem is classified work, especially since DOD tends to over-classify materials, Hunter said.
“There’s a lot of classified work at DOD — maybe more than it should be — because the tendency is to classify,” and mechanisms haven’t been developed to do much secret work remotely, Hunter said, referencing his time at the Pentagon.
“Even though you can work remotely on a problem, very few people have the ability to do classified work other than [at] their desk at their office,” he said, adding that there’s some level of secret work that can be done remotely, but doing so is generally discouraged.
“They haven’t really developed mechanisms to do classified work in a straightforward way.”
Then there’s the issue of having contractors work remotely, which isn’t always permitted or planned for in government contracts
“Can it be done remotely? If so, what does the government need to do? If that requires a modification to the contract, how quickly can it be done via blanket guidance or by contract?” Berteau asked.
PSC wants universal guidance so that contract officers don’t have to make the decisions program by program, which could result in “hundreds of separate decisions of who can come to work and who can work from home, who has access and who doesn’t,” Berteau said.
There are also lingering questions of what happens when a portion of the defense workforce gets sick with COVID-19.
“Fifty percent of our contract dollars are for services,” Berteau said. “There’s too little public focus on the impact on the virus for contractors doing services, and we need to have more of that discussion.”
James Yeager, the vice president for public sector business for the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, told Defense Systems that the coronavirus presents a ripe opportunity for hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities for financial gain and illuminates the dearth of qualified security workers in the government space.
“Whether it’s federal employees or federal contractors, there’s not just an abundance of cyber [information security] resources just sitting around, Yeager said. “They’re probably going to be accessing [potentially sensitive] applications through Wi-Fi, which I think we all know is dangerous and not so secure.”
Additionally, cyber workers may also face technical or infrastructure limitations that may require grace in terms of compassion and contracts.
“The demands from the government end users who own a requirement may be putting pressure on a contracting office to get something done in an acquisition capacity,” Yeager said. “But if there’s going to be limitations there because of physical health and access to a building or systems that they would normally access to execute something like that…. There’s a call for some understanding, some patience and some compassion there.”
Some sectors, namely telecommunications and IT services, could see an uptick in government business requests as the federal government moves toward mandatory telework.
“We could see some significant expenditures on IT and telecommunications services. And once people get habituated, that demand may sustain even after things revert to a more normal pattern,” Hunter said.
Technology for telework and network expansion is a big part of agency supplemental requests in the $45.8bn package being put together by the Trump administration. Overall, DOD and its industry base could be more stable than others, he said, but it’s too soon to know amid market turmoil. Everyone is “looking for a safe harbor.” (Source: Defense Systems)
25 Mar 20. USAF tests mixed-reality glasses for flight-line maintenance. Mixed-reality (MR) glasses are helping flight crews and flight-line maintenance staff with the Air Force’s 7th Bomb Wing for the B-1 do their jobs more efficiently and safely.
Using X2 MR Glasses by ThirdEye Gen, a maker of augmented- and mixed-reality solutions, and software from 3D Media, which specializes in AR and virtual-reality solutions, the unit is testing how it can use the solution for its maintenance processes. The glasses replace the tablets or large manuals that crews typically carry with them. They can overlay instructions on the machines, show PDFs or images and allow for remote support from others who can tap into the glasses to see what the wearers see.
“That is something that is really helping save time. It can improve efficiency, improve safety,” said Nick Cherukuri, founder of ThirdEye.
The setup uses a proprietary version of SLAM tracking, which stands for simultaneous localization and mapping. It allows for system and computer-aided design modeling and overlays, where step-by-step technical instructions and drawings project onto the glasses’ display. The glasses also take screenshots and enlarge images for better visibility. Users can open and view documents via voice command, while working on maintenance tasks with their hands.
“By using SLAM, you can have instructions overlaid onto a machine or mainframe within a couple millimeters’ accuracy, and because SLAM understands the environment around you, the digital instructions remain in place, so someone could wear the glasses, look at a machine, leave the room, come back and the instructions are still overlaid accurately,” Cherukuri said.
Whereas VR blocks out the real world and creates a virtual one, and AR displays additional information about the real world in front of the user, MR takes AR and SLAM to enable users to interact with the environment around them. For instance, users can display a hologram and walk around it because the glasses understand where they are and their position in the room.
“I believe that augmented reality’s largest opportunity is in the area of human performance, where there’s no margin for error,” 3D Media CEO and founder Daryl Roy said in a statement.
The glasses run on the Android operating system, rely on a strong internet connection and have 5G capabilities that will be augmented by the new wireless network as it develops, Cherukuri said.
AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation program, awarded 3D Media a $1m Small Business Innovation Research contract in November 2019 to build AR tools to improve training. Service members have used about 12 pairs of glasses during the pilot that’s been in progress for more than a month, and the company will be sending more.
ThirdEye has a long track record of working with government and plans deployments for the glasses with other military branches, primarily for training purposes, Cherukuri said.
Weighing 300 grams, or about 10.6 ounces, and ruggedized to withstand a 6.5-foot drop onto concrete, the X2 MR Glasses are one of a few on the market that use SLAM. Others include Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap’s glasses. (Source: Defense Systems)
24 Mar 20. US Navy Shipbuilding: Increasing Focus on Sustainment Early in the Acquisition Process Could Save Billions. The US Navy has delivered warships—such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines—to its fleet over the past 10 years that require more effort to sustain than initially planned. In assessing how these classes of ships are sustained, GAO found 150 examples of class-wide problems, such as unreliable ship systems.
These problems stemmed from shipbuilding programs not identifying, evaluating, or mitigating sustainment risks during the acquisition process. GAO found that it would cost the Navy $4.2bn to correct just the 30 percent of these problems for which the Navy had data on estimated repair costs.
GAO found that shipbuilding programs’ requirements for sustainment reflect weaknesses with how Department of Defense (DOD) policy defines these requirements for ships. Sustainment requirements should influence acquisition decisions that determine the sustainability of a ship class, such as the ship’s design. However, the Navy’s sustainment requirements do not provide key information on how reliable and maintainable mission-critical systems should be and, therefore, cannot adequately inform acquisition decisions.
GAO also found that shipbuilding programs did not consistently address sustainment risks in acquisition planning documents. For example, the operating and support costs included in cost estimates did not capture all sustainment risks that could affect costs or evaluate sensitivity to changing sustainment assumptions, contrary to DOD and Navy cost estimating guidance. As a result, for six shipbuilding programs whose costs GAO could assess, the Navy had underestimated sustainment costs by $130bn, as shown below.
The Navy has begun making some changes to its acquisition oversight process, such as developing sustainment program baselines and adding a sustainment oversight review. While positive, these changes focus on considering sustainment after key decisions are made early in the acquisition process. GAO also found that DOD is not required to provide detailed information about shipbuilding programs’ sustainment cost growth to Congress. As such, Congress does not have full insight into the extent of shipbuilding programs’ cost growth and why such growth occurred.
Why GAO Did This Study
The U.S. Navy requested over $40bn each of the last 3 years to build, operate, and sustain its fleet. Acquisition decisions made as ships are developed and built can have a long-term effect on sustainment costs and ship quality.
GAO was asked to assess the extent to which DOD considers and plans for sustainment when acquiring weapons. Among other objectives, this report assesses the extent to which: (1) Navy ship programs deliver ships to the fleet that can be sustained as planned; (2) the Navy develops and uses effective sustainment requirements during acquisition; (3) ship programs are effectively identifying and evaluating sustainment risks in planning documents; and (4) leadership considers programs’ sustainment planning and outcomes.
GAO reviewed DOD and Navy acquisition policy and guidance, evaluated acquisition plans, collected sustainment metrics, and conducted interviews with more than 100 organizations, including program office and fleet units. GAO assessed 11 classes of shipbuilding programs (all nine that delivered warships during the last 10 years, as well as two newer classes of ships).
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making one matter for Congressional consideration to enhance oversight and 11 recommendations to help DOD and Navy improve ship sustainment. DOD concurred with 8 and partially concurred with 3 recommendations but did not describe specific actions, which GAO believes are necessary to improve sustainment outcomes. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/US Government Accountability Office)
23 Mar 20. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) and Uptake, a leader in the development of industrial-use artificial intelligence software, have teamed to bring predictive maintenance capabilities to deployed U.S. Marine Corps teams using M88 armored recovery vehicles. With this partnership, Raytheon brings the technical ability for onboard recording, processing and transfer of large quantities of sensitive data over secure Wi-Fi, while Uptake brings a suite of advanced artificial intelligence software that offers actionable insights at the component level.
“Commanders should have data-driven confidence that the vehicles chosen for a critical operation are not trending toward an issue right when it matters the most,” said Matt Gilligan, vice president of Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business. “These kinds of decisions don’t just save dollars and ensure mission success– they save lives.”
Current maintenance and logistics decisions are event based or timeline driven, but militaries are increasingly using advanced data analytics and condition-based monitoring to identify problems and provide alerts before they happen. For Marines using the M88, this proactive approach ensures predictive maintenance strategies are in place to improve long-term vehicle health and maximize availability.
“To shift from reactive to predictive maintenance requires advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence technologies,” said Brad Kewell, Uptake’s Founder and CEO. “We want to radically improve mission readiness, success and safety for deployed Marines at the tactical edge.”
23 Mar 20. Indian Air Force may lease aerial refuelling tanker craft. The doors to leasing military hardware were opened for the first time last week with the government unveiling a draft policy on arms acquisition that allows the armed forces to go in for leased capability to cut down on costs associated with purchasing weapons and systems.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is considering, for the first time, leasing aerial refuelling tanker aircraft to extend the reach of its fighter jets instead of a direct purchase against the backdrop of previous failed attempts to buy new tankers, two officers familiar with the move said on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
The doors to leasing military hardware were opened for the first time last week with the government unveiling a draft policy on arms acquisition that allows the armed forces to go in for leased capability to cut down on costs associated with purchasing weapons and systems.
“The IAF has made two attempts to buy tankers during the last decade-and-a-half. On both occasions, we were close to signing the deal but things fell through because of the high acquisition cost. Leasing is a good option to fill the capability gap,” said one of the officers cited above.
The IAF operates a fleet of six Russian-origin Ilyushin-78 tankers that are plagued by maintenance problems and the force urgently needs at least six more.
“We are finalising the requirements for the proposed lease of tankers to boost our in-flight refuelling capabilities. We are looking at aspects such as whether we should opt for a wet [the lessor provides crew and maintenance] or dry lease. Leasing will be a better option as our budget is under pressure,” said a second officer.
Leasing has been introduced in the draft Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2020 as a new category for acquisition in addition to the existing ‘Buy’ and ‘Make’ categories in order to substitute huge initial capital outlays with periodical rental payments.
Leasing is permitted in two categories—where the lessor is an Indian entity and is the owner of the assets and where the lessor is a global entity. The provision of leasing in the draft DPP governs military equipment that is not deployed during the war—transport fleets, trainers and simulators.
“Tankers are a force multiplier and the IAF has been pressing for more inductions for the past 15 years. Finance has been and still is the issue. Leasing is a good option. It will save the flying hours of the IAF-owned aerial refuelling tanker aircraft for wars, with the leased ones doing the very substantial task of training and long ferries for exercises abroad,” said Air Vice Marshal (retired) Manmohan Bahadur, additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
According to an August 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General of India report, the desired serviceability of the Il-78 fleet should have been 70% by the IAF’s own standards but it stood at 49% during 2010-16—barely half of the planes were available for missions at any given time during that period.
American (Boeing KC-46A), Russian (Il-78) and European (A330 MRTT) military contractors were expecting the IAF to float a global tender for more tankers. Israel Aerospace Industries’ Bedek Aviation Group was also looking at participating in the contest with its Boeing 767-200 multi-mission tanker transport—a conversion of the Boeing aircraft by Bedek Aviation. (Source: News Now/https://www.hindustantimes.com/)
About Hobson Industries
Hobson Industries is a private company established in 1987 by Peter Hobson, after serving as a Charge Chief Weapons Engineering Artificer in the Royal Navy. Hobson Industries is an innovative and highly technical engineering business operating to the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System which is complimented with our ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System.
Across the markets we serve in, the UK and globally, we establish close relationships with the people that trust and depend on us. We specialise in the through life support management and development of Land Rover heritage military and civilian platforms – in effect, the Land Rover need never die!
Hobson Industries offer four core services that we specialise in:
We offer Land Rover vehicle builds to original specification or complete with modifications and upgrades at the customers request. All work is done in house using our bountiful facilities. In addition to vehicle refurbishment, reconditioning and homologation across all Land Rover models.
Powertrain and Transmission Units:
We offer new and reconditioned units, perfect for your Land Rover. All built using Land Rover tolerances and specifications. All for sale on our website. Additionally, we offer reconditioning services to your own units.
With over 16,000 part lines in stock, and the Asset Management programme pioneered by the company, we are able to provide a cost effective range of parts which may no longer be available. Additionally, we are offering Hobson Original branded parts to drawings for obsolete parts to help provide Land Rover owners the parts to keep them on the road. Our parts strategy ensures that all re-cycled, asset managed and reconditioned parts and units meet original equipment standards and specifications to ensure your safety while driving on or off road.
Amour – Design and Fabrication and Blast Protection
We offer armouring in steel, composite and ceramic of new and refurbished vehicles and fleets.