* DJI, the manufacturer of the drone that crashed on White House grounds, is pushing a mandatory firmware “upgrade” that disables their devices within a 15.5 mile radius around Washington D.C. area. The move is a fast and shrewd move for a firm that likely faced – and still might – greater regulatory burdens after a series of ne’er-do-well recreational drone incidents. DJI had already developed the code for location exclusion in anticipation of needing to keep its customers a safe distance from airports and other obvious safety hazards. The White House incident comes just as civilian technology has driven military-class functionality to five-figure prices, and the resulting boom in recreational use has drawn calls for regulation based on safety and privacy concerns. For those who aren’t concerned about breaking regulations, U.S. contractors and others are developing countermeasures of various sorts.
* Japan’s much-observed three-year defense budget increase is really just a return to the norm when seen historically.
* Russia, facing 10 percent cuts to most budget departments, will hold harmless its defense budget from those cuts, as well as cuts anticipated to be about five percent per year for the next three years. The government statement on the “Anti-Crisis Plan” included language (“…to stabilize the work of system-based organizations…”) that in Russian usage connotes a statist, planned economy.
* Europe’s commissioner in charge of space policy is raising eyebrows with a pronouncement that she hopes to force member countries that have access to high resolution space imagery to share it with countries who have not made such investments. In the meantime, she has reconfirmed the commitment to using Soyuz rockets for some of the future Galileo network satellite launches, despite the sad outcomes of the last two satellites launched with the Russian technology. They will also purchase the services of three Ariane 5 rockets, which can each lift four satellites to orbit.
* Just as various think pieces have been proliferating predicting the unaffordability of maintaining the U.S.’s nuclear deterrent, the general leading Global Strike Command told Aviation Week about the secret analysis making the rounds for the Long Range Standoff project. This comes less than a week after the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent RFI was released in hopes of finding a replacement for the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and related control and launch systems.
* Breaking Defense caught Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall between hearings and got him on record indicating that the F/A-XX replacement for the almost fielded and almost affordable F-35 and F-22 will get “significant” funding to develop technologies and keep design teams together and working.
* In the actual hearing that Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, attended, he discoursed to to the House Armed Services Committee about what sorts of reform worked. He pointedly showed that various procurement reforms appeared not to move the cost needle in the right direction, and that the best medicine for keeping costs down was consistent budgeting with long-term planning. “the rules our program managers must follow are still too complicated and burdensome,” said Kendall. “We need the flexibility to tailor our contracts.”
* The Army found out the hard way that rotary aircraft-borne scouts are expensive, grounding the Kiowa upon the onset of budget sequestration. And then an interesting thing happened: an opportunistic use of drones – sometimes even controlled by crews in attack helicopters – burgeoned. In one battalion, more than half of Apache attack missions involved drones. It’s given the Army something to think about, the disadvantage stemming from the lack of a human observer can be made up for with the capability of going higher, faster, and staying longer on mission.
* FedBid, a firm that contracts with major federal agencies to provide reverse auction procurement services, is currently barred from new government contracts until a U.S. Air Force proposed debarment is settled. The news comes four months after a damning Veterans Affairs inspector general report.
* SpaceX released a rendered video of its Falcon Heavy heavy lift vehicle, the one that the U.S. Air Force is now legally obligated not to arbitrarily dislike.