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Podcast Alert 
This week we’re mixing it up! **that annoying DJ Airhorn 📣📣📣 **

Instead of unpacking a single topic here, this week I joined long-time Merge reader Eric Lofgren on his Acquisition Talk podcast to break down (and BS about) a few topics:

  • The “7-to-4” fighter force
  • The F-15EX vs F-35A circus
  • Agile Combat Employment
  • Budgeting and Programming
  • Test and Evaluation
  • Readiness vs Modernization
  • Solving World Hunger

All. In. One. Episode. Fence in and download the 69-minute pod here , or you can digest the transcript located in the podcast link, though the voice-to-transcript artificial intelligence that was used wasn't too, umm, intelligent. Follow your heart.
In That Number

The number of days until the FY22 Presidential defense budget request goes to Congress…and is uploaded for everyone to read. Fence in for an avalanche of “breaking news” defense stories every few hours beginning Thursday as the media sifts through the 5,000+ pages.

Don’t fret, we’re here to sort the chaff so you don’t have to. 
History: This week in 1967, some guy flying an F-4 with 2 eagles on his collars, 2 stars on his jet, and 1 bullet-proof mustache on his face, shot down 2 MiG-17s while escorting a strike package of F-105s on a bombing mission over North Vietnam.

He added 2 more stars to that jet.
On the Radar
Mark your calendars: DARPA’s Blackjack is projected to launch its first satellites in June 2022 . The program has been in the news the past few months with multiple contracts awarded to its various performers, though it will likely only have two different payloads . Unlike most ambitious programs, the goal of Blackjack is low cost and high autonomy (read: fewer operators). Specifically, to build and launch satellites for under $6 million each, and operate the networked constellation autonomously by an AI system called Pit Boss .

Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $14 billion contract to build 128 new F-16s . The Block 70/72 variants are for Bahrain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and Morocco. So, there is an updated F-16 manufacturing plant in Greenville, SC to make these F-16s…which are two versions newer than the U.S. Air Forces…on a production line that will be active through 2028…which is about the time the Air Force will decide whether to refresh its F-16s, buy more F-35s (if the price is right), or pursue MR-X (a clean-sheet low-cost multi-role fighter for homeland defense and counter-VEO).
They Said It
“I want you to rethink your business models.”

— Lisa Costa , Chief Information Officer of Special Operations Command, to IT industry during this week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC).
She’s right, and further clarifies:

“Think about not necessarily always proposing a full-stack solution, but instead focusing on providing infrastructure as a service, data as a service, algorithms as a service, and keeping those separate so that we can mix and match them for the next unknown mission.”
Zoom In
Some old dead guy once said, “Know thy self, know thy enemy.” So if you want to get a better understanding of how China views war, zoom in here to have some of your US-based conventional thinking challenged.
Saved Rounds
  • Airmen at Travis AFB begin using an exoskeleton prototype at their aerial port to lift heavy things
  • AFSOC is conducting a feasibility study to transform an MC-130 into an amphibious aircraft
  • The Air Force reveals that its bases have a $30 billion facility repair backlog
  • The Army is planning to fly an unmanned UH-60 (DARPA’s ALIAS) on a supply mission with an Android tablet in an upcoming Project Convergence demonstration
  • Microsoft and Ball Aerospace have demonstrated a cloud architecture for space-based information that is five times faster than the Pentagon’s target speed
  • NASA and Homeland Security have developed a device that can locate firefighters through walls in a building without using GPS or radio waves—it uses Magnetoquasistatic Fields, which is a real word but looks like a cat walked over the keyboard
  • Raytheon looks to adapt its AMRAAM-ER for F-35A internal carriage as a corporate hedge bet against the sluggish AIM-260 program (a Lockheed contract)
  • SOCOM taps five companies for its armed overwatch prototype demonstration—which does not include the A-29 Super Tucano
  • The CIA is retiring its classified fax machines…for email
  • The Air Force announced that the ABMS’s first operational capability will be a KC-46 communication pod to connect F-22 and F-35 datalinks—the draft request for proposals will hit the streets in FY22 (that’s a very slow on-ramp)
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The 5 Second Debrief