🔷 Defending the Air

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Credit: RTX


Pop quiz hot shot: What air defense system is being used in Ukraine right now—and is also protecting the White House?

The title has the answer: The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System.

They’ve been in Ukraine for a while, and have shot down 100+ Russian missiles and drones. But this ground-based air defense system has a strange origin story and a novel approach—it uses AIM-120 and AIM-9X missiles, weapons associated with fighter jets.

How did offensive weapons become part of a defensive system? Despite protecting Washington DC for almost a decade, why has such a mature US air defense system not been proliferated across the US military? And what else does Raytheon have up their sleeve?

We wanted the full story on NASAMS, so we went straight to the source. In our latest podcast, we sat down with Joe DeAntona, Raytheon’s Vice President of Land Warfare and Air Defense, to chat about the missiles, the radars, and the fire control systems that make it all happen.

Spoiler alert: extended-range AIM-120s and a mobile AESA radar are in the cards…

Check it out on YouTube or grab the pod on SpotifyApplePandoraiHeartRadio, or wherever you get audio content.

In That Number

$470 Billion

The Department of Defense awarded $470 Billion in contracts in FY2023, an 11% increase from the previous year.

Of that, software and hardware contract awards totaled $80 billion.


On this day in 1968, Project Crested Ice began. What was its purpose?

A) Deploy nuclear submarines into the Artic
B) Clean up a bomber that crashed
C) Build military airfields in Antarctica
D) Weaponize ice to augment ammunition

On the Radar

The F-35 is getting HARMs. Lockheed Martin was awarded a $97m contract to integrate the AGM-88G High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles onto the F-35A/B/C. HARMs lock onto emitting surface radars and are a staple weapon for the SEAD mission (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses); HARMs are currently carried by Air Force F-16s and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F and EA-18G fleet.

  • The Merges Take: Considering the F-35 was designed to be a multi-role strike platform and assume the SEAD role—it was declared operational in 2016 without a SEAD weapon. Looks like the joke will have a 10-year run by the time the warfighter gets this capability.


Lockheed is planning a live-fire test that will use the Navy’s Aegis system to guide an Army Patriot missile. The MDA funded a hardware-in-the-loop demo, but this live-fire test is self-funded by Lockheed.

  • The Merge’s Take: Putting Patriot missiles on ships? Maybe, but we think this is more about land-based air defenses. Aegis ashore is the Navy program to put Navy Aegis systems in key land areas—namely Poland, but perhaps also Guam (it was proposed, but the Army is in charge so…..).  


Northrop Grumman’s new Sentinel ICBM has critical cost and schedule overruns and is now forecasted to cost 37% percent more than expected and take at least two years longer than previous projections.

  • The Merges Take: Stated another way, a $95B (B as in Billion) program is now projected to cost a whopping $125B. Good news though: most of the issues lie in the command and launch segment, not the LGM-35 missile itself.

  • The Merge’s Spicy Take: Another day, another off-track defense program. The real salt in the wound is where the issues are though—almost every command and control program in the Pentagon is behind schedule and over cost.

They Said It
“Special Access Programs have additional controls which make it very difficult to talk back and forth even between components. Anything we can bring from a SAP level to a top-secret level, for example, [provides] massive value to the warfighter, massive value to the department.”

John Plumb, the Pentagon’s top space policy official, on the stove-piped classification system and recent changes that are removing some of these legacy classification barriers.

Zoom in

The way the Pentagon measures pilot readiness hasn’t changed in generations.

Zoom in to learn how AI can change that.

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B) A B-52 bomber crashed in Greenland…while carrying 4 nuclear weapons. The impact caused the high-explosive components of the weapons to explode, rupturing and dispersing the nuclear payload across the ice field. Despite search and recovery efforts, to this day, one nuclear warhead remains unaccounted for.