We’re on a mission: to make sense of defense in a way that doesn’t suck. 

Read, enjoy, and forward this on so your wingmen can get the read-in…and we can keep growing.

Fight’s on!
F-16 Gets Over-the-Air Software
An F-16 Viper received an in-flight software update during a recent proof-of-concept flight test.

This shows the viability of treating the F-16 (and other combat aircraft) like a Tesla, whose cars regularly receive over-the-air software updates that add new features and functionality.

The test involved an F-16 flying at Nellis AFB and a data lab at Hill AFB 369 miles away.

A mission data file that runs its ALQ-213 EW system was sent beyond line-of-sight from the lab to the jet. The jet downloaded the file, overwrote the existing data file in the ALQ-213, rebooted, and was able to validate the new software was correctly running.

What media coverage got wrong is that this isn’t a story about mission data files, EW, and certainly not cognitive EW.

This is about systems and networks, and about finding innovative ways to unlock dormant capability in hardware the Air Force already owns. We're going to tell you how it was done.

The Deets
The brain of the operation is the new Central Display Unit (CDU) – which is a display (duh), but don't let the name fool you. It's more like an iPad because the CDU has its own processor and operating system. This means it can have apps developed for it.
The CDU operates in parallel with the F-16’s native operational flight program (OFP) software — it works with either SCU F-16s (gov-owned and developed OFP often used in older F-16s) and MMC F-16s (vendor locked OFP in the newest F-16s).

The CDU itself runs on gov-owned software, which permits Airmen at Hill's 309th Software Engineering Group to write software and apps that run on it.

The F-16 also had a new Gen V ARC-210 radio, which permits Variable Message Format (VMF) data-link and UHF SATCOM. So, the data packets were in VMF but transmitted through UHF SATCOM. 

For those not keeping up: The F-16 was 369 miles away from the lab that sent the software update, but the data traveled 40,000 miles because it was bounced off a satellite in GEO. And because it was a broadcast message, any F-16 flying anywhere in the world would have also instantly gotten the update. Just like a Tesla.

An app was developed for the CDU that unpacked data, told the jet where to store it and where to send it later from the push of a button.

So What
CDU-equipped F-16s represent the only real open-mission system (OMS) currently in the active US fighter fleet and it shows a sliver of what is possible when platforms start to shift to OMS (ahem, F-15EX Lot 2).

OBTW: This bar napkin idea took just 8 months and ~$5K (That’s a K, not an M), which is only possible because it was gov-owned software. #novenderlock

What Now
There are a series of experiments being planned. The focus in these is to expand the pipe and get highspeed data rates using Starlink. This would open the possibilities to transferring imagery, mission planning files, over-the-air crypto updates, and much more. 

The Air Force has demoed this already with larger transport aircraft under the Global Lightning initiative, so the trick here is to 1) build a Starlink app for the F-16, and 2) figure out how to build and integrate a smaller antenna.

Or, they could tap the company that recently helped the B-52 do something strikingly similar (see Saved Rounds at the bottom).

* We took no money from the Viper Mafia to write this 

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In That Number
$14 billion

The amount of money the Navy says it would have in the wrong accounts and unable to execute, if Congress fails to pass a budget in October and punts with a continuing resolution.  
Trivia: In 1963, This B-52H lost its vertical stabilizer in flight. What happened?
A) Mid-air collision
B) Turbulence
C) Battle damage
D) Maintenance mistake
On The Radar
The Navy completes the first live-fire test of Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range Completes (AARGM-ER). ICYMI, the Air Force had intended to leverage the Navy’s AARM-ER effort to develop its own Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW), but (mostly) abandoned that effort a couple of months ago. No worries, Northrop Grumman has a ground-launched AARGM-ER concept that’s rebranded as the Advanced Reactive Strike (AReS) missile, which is now planned to live fire next year and part of a JCTD proposal being reviewed with Army and Marine Corps interests. It's confusing, we know.

Raytheon demoed its company-developed Expeditionary Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (eJPALS) with the Marine Corps. The three-week demo flushed out several novel operating concepts the company had not envisioned…which is exactly why these sorts of industry demo engagements are critical. Now, go talk to the Air Force, who has almost zero game in precision navaids for austere operations for things like Agile Combat Employment. Better yet, Air Force go talk to the Marine Corps.
They Said It
“It failed miserably.”

— Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Hyten on the Pentagon war-gaming its first Joint Warfighting Concept last year. That failure informed the newest Joint Warfighting Concept that is supposed to be based on what is being called “expanded maneuver.” 

Buzzword or big idea? Time will tell.
Word(s) of the Week
Most Dangerous Course of Action: The MDCOA are actions that an enemy can reasonably take that are the most draconian to your operation, but less likely to happen. This capabilities-centric view is accounted for in planning contingencies. See below for why it matters.

Most Likely Course of Action: The MLCOA are actions and reactions that an enemy will likely take, and is the basis of military planning. This intentions-based view is used by leadership to paint a picture of the enemy's fight to his subordinates. See below for why it matters.
Zoom in
Great power competition is less about the MDCOA of linear high-end force on force scenario most senior leaders salivate over, and more about the MLCOA: through proxies. There are many types, but zoom in here to learn about the competition via geographic proxies using the skies over Syria as a case study.

Saved Rounds
  • Outerlink Global Solutions showed it can easily connect a B-52 to a LEO Iridium constellation using a commercial-off-the-shelf solution to give the BUFF reliable global connectivity for communication and data transfer
  • The Air Force used a Lockheed Martin Block 1.5 Legion Pod to conduct its first-ever IRST-cued radar-guided missile shot
  • Skyborg, the Air Force’s AI-driven autonomy algorithm program, is backing off on its 2023 goal to transition to a formal procurement program
  • Blue Force Technologies is expecting an Air Force contract to produce the first unmanned stealth adversary air drones for testing
  • The Navy conducted a test using Shiebel UAS helicopter outfitted with down-firing LIDAR to map the ocean floor in shallow water areas
  • Peraton wins another CENTCOM counter-misinformation contract worth up to $979 million, doubling the work under the existing counter-threat messaging support program (yes, the DoD contracts this out)
  • The Space Force follows the WERX trend and announces its new SpaceWERX to attract small businesses and startups
  • The Air Force designates its grass-roots gov-owned WIDOW as its official mission planning cell tool for real-time and distributed contribution, coordination, and visualization of planning
  • The Army now has all three of their Gunsmoke-J space-based near-real-time tactical imagery satellites on-orbit and ready for testing
  • DIU is looking for commercial tech that can detect GPS spoofing and disruptions using data analytics
  • Sierra Nevada and General Dynamics win $774 million encryption device contracts to replace the Army’s prevalent but archaic Simple Key Loaders (SKLs)
  • Astrolight performs the first operational test of its mobile optical ground station for LEO satellites
  • New Zealand is using Eight360′s NOVA ball-shaped untethered VR 360-degree movement platform to train amphibious ship drivers in various sea states and situations
  • The Space Force wants to manage acquisitions by portfolios instead of programs of record…just like everyone else wants to do #blameCongress
  • Australia’s Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS) taps Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman with a $2 billion phase 1 contract (not to be confused with the US Air Force’s ABMS)
  • SEAKR Engineering’s Mandrake I satellite, as part of DARPA’s Black Jack program, successfully demonstrated mission autonomy, over-the-air updates, massless payload deployment, and sensor edge processing and exploitation—all using commercial-off-the-shelf processing hardware
  • Amazon wins a $10 billion (with a B) classified cloud computing contract from the NSA…which is being contested by Microsoft…who won a now-defunct $10 billion Pentagon contract…which died under protest by Amazon. #cloudwars
  • Northrop Grumman’s ESPAStar bus is being used by the Space Force’s SMC for its LDPE payload experiment…which uses ESPA to connect a ring of secondary smallsat payloads to a larger ring in orbit…which will eventually transition to a program of record called ROOSTER…which is the service’s freight train to space #ournuggethurts #toomanyacryoyms 
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The 5 Second Debrief
Trivia Answer: Turbulence. The aircraft damage occurred while executing a test mission to measure the effects of turbulence at varying altitudes and airspeeds on the B-52, whose changing tactics required it to fly a different flight profile than the one it was originally designed for. This B-52 flew for 6 more hours before landing; read about it here.
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