The U.S. Air Force Secretary, Frank Kendall, stated that commercial services need to be available for operational use to ensure national security. He highlighted the importance of having reliable commercial architectures and systems during wartime, as they are currently relied upon by the U.S. military and its allies. This statement came after Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, admitted to withholding satellite internet service to Ukraine.
Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s military has relied on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet for military command and control. However, Musk disabling Starlink access reportedly prevented Ukrainian forces from attacking Russian warships in Crimea. To address the issue, Kendall, who oversees both the Air Force and Space Force, has been in discussions with the Space Systems Command, which manages the Space Force’s relationships with commercial space firms.
In addition to this, the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) has been sharing more intelligence with commercial air and sea carriers. Before the invasion of Ukraine, TRANSCOM provided a classified threat briefing to its commercial carriers. Recently, the command also gave a similar briefing to shipping companies operating in the Gulf near Iran. To enhance cybersecurity, TRANSCOM has partnered with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to protect computer networks of cargo airlines and sea carriers, ensuring the safety of manifests and schedules.
Furthermore, Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, has developed an engine performance improvement package for its C-17 F117 engines. This improvement package, based on technology used in the company’s commercial engine products, is part of a $5.5 billion F117 sustainment contract awarded by the Air Force. It is expected to save approximately $29 million in reduced fuel costs and reduce the need for 6.5 million gallons of fuel annually. The improved fuel burn and increased time on wing will make more planes available for operations.
Other notable developments include LightRidge Solutions’ Geost building a resiliency payload for Northrop Grumman’s Tracking Layer Tranche 1 satellites and Boeing converting an MD-90 into an experimental aircraft with a new transonic truss-braced wing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Saab has completed its acquisition of CrowdAI, a Silicon Valley-based company specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Anduril has also acquired Blue Force Technologies, the maker of the Fury drone, while Bell has selected GE Aerospace for the development of various technologies for the V-280 tiltrotor, chosen as a replacement for Black Hawk helicopters.