National Harbor, MD–Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) was one of many presenting entities at this year’s Sea Air Space 2022 Conference and Exhibition, taking place this week at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.

Sea-Air-Space brings the U.S. defense industry and key military decision-makers together for informative educational sessions, important policy discussions, and a dynamic exhibit hall floor. The event is owned and produced by the Navy League of the United States, and attracts maritime leaders from sea services around the globe.

Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, Program Executive Officer for Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft Programs (PEO(T)) began NAVAIR’s speaker series Monday morning by giving an overview of the program office’s recent achievements.

PEO(T) provides full life-cycle support for naval aviation aircraft, weapons, and systems operated by Sailors and Marines. This support includes research, design, development, and systems engineering; acquisition; test and evaluation; repair and modification; and in-service engineering and logistics support. PEO(T) comprises a senior staff and program offices including PMA-213: Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program; PMA-231: E-2/C-2 Airborne Command and Control Systems Program; PMA-234: Airborne Electronic Attack Systems Program; PMA-251: Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program; PMA-257: AV-8B Program; PMA-259: Air-To-Air Missiles Program; PMA-265: F/A-18 and EA-18G Program; PMA-272: Advanced Tactical Aircraft Protection Systems Program; and PMA-273: Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program.

Gahagan outlined how some program offices, such as Advanced Tactical Aircraft Protection Systems, are working across many platforms “to get us where we need to be, with the ‘Air Wing of the Future,’ innovative payloads … to go win the fight where we need to.”

He also highlighted the Airborne Electronic Attack Systems program, noting that the development of current jamming technologies such as the Next-Generation Jammer-Low Band and Mid-Band pods are “the most critical” programs in development, with the delivery of the jamming pods expected to be delivered to the fleet in the next couple of years.

Delivering a presentation about the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office and how to change the game to deliver top products to the fleet faster was Capt. Jason M. Denney, program manager.

The F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) provides critical current and future capabilities in the form of total life cycle support management (cradle to grave) for the F/A-18A-D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and EA-18G Growler weapons systems.

“Why do we change the game? I think world events specifically in the last month raised everybody’s awareness levels and the fact that there are some folks out there that wish us and our allies harm,” Denney said. “So the impetus to change the game, to change the way that we deliver acquisition products to the fleet is of the utmost importance.”

Denney said many of the ways that program offices, the government, and industry have conducted business over the years were devised in the time when people were using typewriters, and in order to keep up with emerging threats and remain competitive, there is a need to adapt.

“It all comes from the relationships, the behaviors, the alignment [between program offices, NAVAIR engineering, Fleet Readiness Centers, industry] being in a collaborative mode, rather than trying to push things over the fence—we’re all aligned to a simple goal.”

Col. Victor Argobright, program manager for Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office, showcased several of the fast-evolving unmanned, or “drone,” technologies being put to use in the Navy and Marine Corps, technologies evolving so quickly that he compared it to that of modern cell phones, using the analogy that most people will not be using their current cell phones within the next three to five years due to the pace at which they are advancing.

Argobright said unmanned aerial technology has the ability to alleviate the burden and costs related to the missions currently performed by existing aviation systems.

“Some of the fleet commanders are tired of having to spin up a V-22 [Osprey] or an H-60 [Seahawk helicopter] to deliver what amounts to be a very small package,” he said. “There’s a high desire at this point to start the learning process on how we integrate unmanned logistics and carrier strike groups into normal operations, as well as in military field command.”

Rounding out the day’s presentations was Shelby Butler, director of NAVAIR’s Small Business Program, who gave an overview explaining how potential small business partners can join NAVAIR in its mission to “provide full lifecycle support of naval aviation aircraft, weapons, and systems operated by Sailors and Marines. This includes research, design, development, system engineering, acquisition, test and evaluation, training facilities, equipment repair and modification, and in-service engineering and logistics support,” Butler said.

Butler discussed ways that NAVAIR and potential collaborative small businesses would need to achieve together in order to continue NAVAIR’s mission in support of the fleet.

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