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The U.S. Army had awarded contracts under the Sub Compact Weapon (SCW) program, worth approximately $200,000, to ten companies to submit submachine guns for the service branch to evaluate.

Then a few weeks later, the service branch expanded the scope of the test and  added three more submachine guns to the mix: the Angstadt Arms’ UDP-9, the Heckler & Koch UMP9, and the Noveske Sub Compact Weapon.

The Army is reportedly considering them for units tasked with protecting senior Army leaders.

The list of sole-source contracts for the subcompact weapons, in alphabetical order, are:

Angstadt Arms for UDP-9

Beretta USA Corporation for PMX subcompact weapon

Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC for CM9MM-9H-M5A, Colt Modular 9mm subcompact weapon

CMMG Inc. for Ultra PDW subcompact weapon

CZ-USA for Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine gun

Heckler & Koch for UMP9

Lewis Machine & Tool Company for MARS-L9 compact suppressed weapon

Noveske for Sub Compact Weapon

PTR Industries Inc. for PTR 9CS subcompact weapon

Quarter Circle 10 LLC 5.5 CLT and 5.5 QV5 subcompact weapons

Sig Sauer Inc. for MPX subcompact weapon

Trident Rifles LLC for B&T MP9 machine gun

Zenith Firearms for Z-5RS, Z-5P and Z-5K subcompact weapons

The contracts come on the heels of a Request for Information issued last May for a SCW that will fire 9×19-millimeter (9mm Luger) ammunition, fire full automatic, and have a Picatinny rail for attaching lights and optics.

The ten companies awarded contracts are from the U.S. and Europe. Gunmaker Colt is the first on the list, with what is described as the Colt Modular 9mm Sub Compact Weapon.

Some of the weapons, such as the Colt, CMMG, LMT, and Quarter Circle offerings are likely based on so-called short barrel AR15 “pistols” using the AR15/M16/M4 operating system.

Other guns are based on the famous Heckler and Koch MP-5 submachine gun.

The U.S. Army has not fielded a new submachine gun since World War II.

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Air Force has awarded the contract to carry its national security satellites to SpaceX.

The $130 million firm-fixed price contract for evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) services will utilize SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to deliver Air Force Space Command’s 52 satellite, known as AFSC-52, into orbit.

Scheduled for late 2020, the launched will originate from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

SpaceX had to demonstrate the capabilities of its Falcon 9 rocket several times before the Air Force certified that launch vehicle, but military officials apparently acquired enough data from the Falcon Heavy’s single launch and the Falcon 9’s track record to give their go-ahead for AFSPC-52.

SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy launch went viral when the payload consisted of launching Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster sports car into a solar orbit past the reach of Mars, far below the payload capacity of 63.8 metric tons.

Work on the project will be performed in Hawthorne, California; the Kennedy Space Center; and McGregor, Texas.

The launch will support the Air Force Space Command’s “mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation while maintaining assured access to space,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force program executive officer for space and commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center.

“On behalf of all of our employees, I want to thank the Air Force for certifying Falcon Heavy, awarding us this critically important mission, and for their trust and confidence in our company,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. “SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions.”

SpaceX’s first substantial military contract was awarded in 2016, when the Air Force tapped Elon Musk’s company to launch a GPS III satellite aboard its Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX was the sole bidder for the launch.

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $4.2 million contract to BAE Systems to develop specialized software that will aid military planners in understanding and addressing the dynamics that drive conflicts around the world.

The idea is to use technologies to “model different political, territorial and economic tensions that often lead to conflicts” and will help “planners to avoid unexpected outcomes,” according to the BAE website.

BAE is developing software called Causal Modeling for Knowledge Transfer, Exploration, and Temporal Simulation (CONTEXTS). The CONTEXTS software , the first-of-its-kind, is intended to create an interactive model of an operational environment, allowing planners to explore the causes of a conflict and assess potential approaches.

“Military planners often conduct manual research and use limited modelling tools to generate models and evaluate conflict situations, which are extremely time consuming and labor intensive,” said Chris Eisenbies, product line director of the Autonomy, Controls, and Estimation group at BAE Systems. “To break down these barriers, CONTEXTS will use reasoning algorithms and simulations with the goal to give planners a quicker and deeper understanding of conflicts to help avoid unexpected and counter-intuitive outcomes.”

BAE Systems, Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems plc, an international defense, aerospace and security company.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, BAE Systems, Inc. provides support and service solutions for current and future defense, intelligence, and civilian systems; designs, develops and manufactures a wide range of electronic systems and subsystems for both military and commercial applications; produces specialized security and protection products; and designs, develops, produces, and provides service support of armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, and munitions.

DARPA’s mission is to invest in breakthrough technologies. Working with innovators inside and outside of government, DARPA has repeatedly delivered on that mission, transforming concepts into reality. Besides game-changing military capabilities, the results have included the Internet, automated voice recognition and language translation, and consumer-friendly Global Positioning System receivers.

By Debbie Gregory.

“AQ Delta” is the U.S. Air Force’s new office that will streamline its weapons, platforms and networks procurement system.

Under Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper, the acquisition process will identify programs that will keep the acquisition process running smoothly.

Dr. Roper is responsible for and oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities totaling an annual budget in excess of $40 billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced the program during a May 4th town hall at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Roper had previously spearheaded the creation of the Strategic Capabilities Office, a cornerstone of the Third Offset initiative, which envisioned a modern arsenal of swarming unmanned air vehicles, hypersonic weapons and autonomous systems. During his tenure as SCO Director, Dr. Roper served on the Department’s 2018 National Defense Strategy Steering Group, Cloud Executive Steering Group and Defense Modernization Team. That office now has an uncertain future since Roper’s departure in February.

Wilson has touted the Air Force’s progress in improving its procurement approach, often pointing to additional acquisition authorities, rapid prototyping endeavors and even the service’s “Light Attack experiment” ongoing at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Accelerating how the Air Force acquires new weapons isn’t the only item on the agenda; the service is rethinking maintenance as well.

Roper has hinted that the Air Force may be more open to competing sustainment or upgrade contracts, allowing additional companies to compete for upgrades on current programs, which are often automatically dedicated to the firm that originated them.

“I would like to be able for a system to continually compete, replace and upgrade, all the different components,” Roper said earlier this month.

Wilson endorses the idea.

“In general, competition helps to drive up performance and drive down cost, and so competition works.”

By Debbie Gregory.

Despite the government’s lack of confidence in Boeing’s ability to deliver the KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling aircraft, Boeing has forecast delivery of 18 units by year’s end.

“Boeing has been overly optimistic in all of their scheduled reports,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee. “One of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force.”

Boeing’s design was seen as relatively low risk as the tanker bid was based on a modified commercial 767 passenger jet. But delivery of the first KC-46 aircraft is expected to be more than a year late.

Boeing has 34 tankers in various phases of completion.

Before delivery can be made, Boeing must conduct flight tests to certify that:

  • The F-16 fighter and the C-17 transport jet are capable of receiving fuel from the tanker under all conditions;
  • The new tanker can be refueled by the older KC-135 tanker; and
  • The newly developed fix for the camera systems is operational.

The price tag for the development and production of 179 tankers is estimated to be $41 billion.

In the international marketplace, the delays gave an advantage to the KC-46’s competition, the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. But the USAF had awarded the development contract to Boeing which, at the time,  was declared “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years

The tanker features a new advanced refueling boom that extends 58 feet out from the rear of the aircraft, a rigid pipe with wings sprouting either side to make it maneuverable.

In contrast to the older KC-135 tankers currently in use by the Air Force today, the KC-46 the operator sits at a computer station behind the tanker’s cockpit instead of laying prone on their belly at the rear of the plane. The cameras provide the visuals rather than the operator having to look out a window at the receiving aircraft.

“When you are flying and fighting at night, the capabilities of the cameras are a game-changer,” said Sean Martin, the KC-46 chief boom operator. “On this airplane, it’s the same as daytime.”

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