We’ll revisit a bit of the news from the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference, but first, a few highlights from my discussion on Thursday with executives from US shipyards at the event. State of the Navy from Defense One.
Kevin Graney, chairman of General Dynamics Electric Boat, said he was excited about the AUKUS defense pact brokered by the Biden administration that will pave the way for Australia to receive nuclear-powered submarines. FYI: It is not yet determined what type of submarine Canberra will get: A version of the American Virginia class? The smart class of the UK? Something else?
“It’s a pretty exciting time and personally I think it’s right that we partner with the Australians in this way to strengthen our defensive posture,” said Graney. “But my message to my team is absolutely clear, and that is that we stay focused on the mission at hand. The mission to accomplish is two Virginia submarines per year and [the] Colombia [class]. “
He added: “We are ready to lend our support when we are tasked with it, and in the meantime we have a lot of work to do. “
Graney may be waiting a moment; in a Defense 1 Interviewed earlier Thursday, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday said it might take “decades” to prepare the Australian military and industry to support the arrival of the first powered ships nuclear power in the country.
Graney and Mark Vandroff, CEO of Fincantieri Marinette Marine, also discussed the challenges of getting their employees vaccinated against COVID-19 and the ways in which they seek to recruit skilled workers to build the next generation of ships and submarines from Marine.
You can watch the full discussion here (free registration required).
Now on to the AFA, where we could hear a little of the priorities of Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. Or, in this case, the priority: “China, China and China,” Kendall said in a speech to AFA attendees. It brings back memories of former SecDef Patrick Shanahan, doesn’t it! Here are some highlights of what Kendall had to say:
- China’s nuclear projects put them on the path to having “a de facto first strike capability, ”a statement disputed by independent nuclear policy experts.
- Kendall criticized Congress for failing to allow the Air Force to remove unnecessary old warplanes and said the Air Force would continue to push for retirements.
- Northrop Grumman is currently building five B-21 stealth bomber test planes
- Kednall also questioned the role of hypersonic weapons, which is officially one of the top priorities for modernizing his service.
You can read the full recap here.
Air Force plans to buy Boeing E-7 Wedgetail radar plane, Kendall said, delving deeper into a topic some Air Force executives touched on at the Air Force Association’s last conference in February. “There is some interest in the E-7,” he said. “He has very good abilities and that could be of use to the Air Force, so we are looking at that.” This aircraft would likely replace the E-3 AWACS.
Kendall refused to influence planned acquisition of Lockheed Martin of Aerojet Rocketdyne due to an ongoing government review of the sale. In the past, he has criticized certain defense-related mergers and acquisitions, and in particular Lockheed’s purchase of Sikorsky. Darlene Costello, the Air Force’s acting procurement officer, said the service had “provided feedback” to the Defense Secretary’s office on the sale. “There was a bit of back and forth,” Costello said.
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