Saturday, March 18, 2017

Week in review (3/12 to 3/18)

NASA selected 133 proposals from U.S. companies to conduct research and develop technologies to help NASA's future deep-space missions. They include four projects with a combined value of $3 million that are tied to Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The proposals were selected under Phase II of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. SBIR Phase II projects will expand on the results of recently-completed Phase I projects. Phase I projects received six-month contracts of as much as $125,000. Phase II contracts are awarded up to $750,000 and the period of performance is no more than two years.

Successful Phase II projects may go on to Phase III of the program, which is commercialization. The proposals were selected according to technical merit and feasibility, in addition to the experience, qualifications and facilities of the companies, and their work plans and commercial potential. (Post)

In another space-related item outside this region, OneWeb Satellites LLC broke ground on an $85 million high-volume satellite manufacturing factory in Exploration Park, Fla., near NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It's set to begin production, integration and satellite testing later this year.

OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a satellite-based internet provider, and Airbus.

The factory is being built in partnership with the state of Florida and Space Florida. The initiative is anticipated to create nearly 250 direct, highly skilled manufacturing and engineering jobs, as well as thousands more throughout a broad supplier base across the nation that will support production.

"This new American-built manufacturing facility is the latest example of Airbus' commitment to expanding our manufacturing footprint in the U.S.," said Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas. "We already build civil and military helicopters in Texas and Mississippi, as well as commercial aircraft in Alabama. So, building satellites in Florida with our partner OneWeb continues the Airbus trend of growing U.S.-based manufacturing and jobs and staying close to our American supply chain, within which we invest $17 billion annually.” (Press release)

MAAS Aviation named Geoffrey Myrick as the chief operating officer in Mobile, Ala. Myrick will serve as operations officer for both the existing OEM (original equipment manufacturing) hangar that supports Airbus Americas and the new twin bay MRO hangar that provides services to commercial aircraft carriers as well as lease companies, military and corporate jet markets.

Prior to joining MAAS, Myrick served as vice president of sales for Certified Aviation Services, LLC, where his focus was the creation and execution of sales strategies in the MRO market. In previous roles, Myrick spent about five years at VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering in various capacities centered around marketing, sales, and management. (Post)

Two Eglin Air Force Base officers have been nominated for general rank appointments. In one appointment, Brig. Gen. Shaun Morris, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons and Armament Directorate director, was nominated to the grade of major general. In the other, Col. Lansing R. Pilch, commander 33rd Fighter Wing, Air Education and Training Command, has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. (Post)

-- Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson announced that Rear Adm. (lower half) Kyle J. Cozad, selected for promotion to rear admiral, will be assigned as commander, Naval Education and Training Command, Pensacola, Fla. Cozad is currently serving as commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, Norfolk, Va. (Post)

HX5 LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $95 million contract for personnel, supervision, and services necessary to provide services for research and development and related activities for the Engineer Research and Development Center Information Technology Laboratory. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of March 14, 2022. … Kratos Defense and Security Solutions’ subsidiary Composite Engineering Inc. (CEi) received the Lot 13 production of a previous awarded contract for Lots 11-13 of the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target. The $22.3 million contract will be performed by the Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, comprised of CEi and Micro Systems Inc. (MSI). CEi’s Sacramento, Calif., facility will lead the effort and provide 25 high performance BQM-167A aerial targets and associated technical support. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based MSI will supply the majority of the high performance avionics utilized on the aircraft, including critical command, control and flight computer systems. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. received a task order to support the U.S. Air Force 53rd Wing operations. The task order was awarded with a value of $204.9 million over four years and nine months if all options are exercised, and focuses on the provision of information technology support for weapons and computer systems related to systems development and operational activities. Work sites are primarily located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., but some work will also be done at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and other locations. … Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) engineering, manufacture and development. Work will be performed at Sunnyvale and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2019. Work on the propulsion module for the SBIRS is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … URS Federal Services Inc., Germantown, Md., was awarded a $35.1 million contract to provide maintenance services, including integrated support equipment (SE) maintenance repair and overhaul services to reduce repair cycle time and the availability of ready for use SE in the fleet and the Fleet Readiness Center Aviation Support Equipment sites. New Orleans will be the location for 5 percent of the work.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Week in review (3/5 to 3/11)

The House passed a $578 billion fiscal 2017 defense spending bill during the week. It allocates $8.2 billion to buy 74 additional F-35 fighters and funds 28 Lakota helicopters. Not in the bill is the expected supplemental budget request from the administration.

Any spending on the F-35 is welcomed in this region. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming labs. There are also companies, like Fort Walton Machining, that make parts for the fifth-generation fighter.

The bill also includes $187 million for the Lakota helicopters built by Airbus in Columbus, Miss., and in this region they are used by the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. It now has to make its way to the Senate. (Post)

On another front, Trump's plan to cut the Coast Guard budget to help fund his proposed wall along the border with Mexico is facing rough waters. One group that is highly critical is one of the oldest advocacy groups in the nation, the Navy League.

According to Breaking Defense, the group points out the number of search-and-rescue missions conducted each day the the Coast Guard, and the lives saved, as well as its role in stopping undocumented migrants and illegal drugs. A single National Security Cutter of the type Trump wants to cancel conducted 12 drug interdictions, confiscated more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine and detained 32 suspected smugglers in a single month, according to the League. (Story)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, says Trump would be "foolish" to cut the Coast Guard's budget to help fund a wall, saying such a move would make the nation less safe and kill jobs in states like Virginia. (Story) Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says 40 percent of all Coast Guard activity is in Florida, and it makes no sense to build a wall along the border and remove the maritime wall. (Story)

In addition to Nelson’s point about the level of activity in Florida, the rest of the Gulf Coast also has a lot at risk. We have Coast Guard stations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala.

If my guess is right, this proposal is a no-go.

In other aerospace news of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week:

Italy's Leonardo is flying solo in the competition to build the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer. The company plans to establish final assembly for the M-346 trainer derivative in the United States, but where is still up in the air. When Raytheon was a partner, the plan was to build the trainers in Meridian, Miss., if the team won the contract. But that went away when Raytheon dropped out in January.

The proposed T-100 will use two Honeywell F124 engines made in Arizona, and its CAE simulators will be built in Florida. DRS will represent the American face of Leonardo, which did not select a separate US partner when it re-entered the competition. (Post)

-- Germany's defense ministry has decided to buy MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance planes built by Northrop Grumman for deliveries after 2025. The new drones will replace the Euro Hawk program, which Berlin canceled in May 2013 after it became clear that it could cost up to 600 million euros to get the system approved for use in civil airspace.

The plan, which must still be approved by parliament, calls for Germany to buy the Tritons from the Navy. Sensors for the Triton are to be built by Airbus. Fuselage work on the Triton variants of the Global Hawk are built in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

In Alabama, the 79,000-square-foot CAE Dothan Training Center is now officially opened at Dothan Regional Airport. It’s designed to provide fixed-wing flight training to the Army, Air Force and other customers.

The CAE center provides classroom, simulator training and live flight training. CAE is responsible for providing all the training required for experienced rotary-wing aviators transitioning to fly the services fleet of more than 350 fixed-wing aircraft. More than 600 Army and Air Force pilots will be trained annually. The center is 10 miles from Fort Rucker. (Post)

-- A record 11.1 million passengers traveled through Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in 2016, with more than a third using Southwest Airlines. The Dallas-based airline continued to dominate domestic flights in and out of New Orleans, shuttling more than 4.1 million travelers in 2016. That was double the number who flew Delta Airlines. (Post)

-- Alaska Airlines, the parent company of Virgin America, will launch daily nonstop flights from Louis Armstrong International Airport to San Francisco starting Sept. 21. The daily Virgin America flight will depart New Orleans at 4 p.m. and arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 p.m. local time. The return connection will depart San Francisco at 8:48 a.m. and arrive in New Orleans at 3:03 p.m. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $64.7 million for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order procures work on the integrated core processor in order to alleviate diminishing manufacturing sources constraints projected under F-35 production Lot 15 for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners (20 percent). Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in March 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Applied Systems Engineering Corp., Niceville, Fla., was awarded an $11.7 million contract to provide essential hardware, upgrades, and repairs for the Battle Management Systems program, specifically Advanced Tactical Navigator units. The work will be performed in Niceville and is expected to be completed by March 2022. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity. … ViON Corp., Herndon, Calif., was awarded a $34.8 million contract to provide Capacity as a Service support to Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Headquarters, SPAWAR System Center Pacific and SPAWAR System Center Atlantic. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C. (63 percent); San Diego, Calif. (30 percent); New Orleans, La. (5 percent); and Norfolk, Va. (2 percent). Work is expected to be completed March 2022. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Week in review (2/26 to 3/4)

Northwest Florida as a region must commit to economic diversification if it wants to create the change its business leaders envision. That was the message from Jon Roberts for more than 100 people who showed up at Northwest Florida State College recently for a preview of the "blueprint" for successful regional diversification.

The plan is called Northwest Florida Forward. Key points are training a workforce capable of filling positions as new industry locates in the area, and taking advantage of existing regional industry clusters such as aerospace and defense.

"We designed this regional strategy to be a framework for prioritizing projects so everyone in Northwest Florida benefits," said Rick Byars, the chairman of the board of Florida's Great Northwest. (Post)

This is something that clearly needs to be done. I've always said the entire region, from Southeast Louisiana to Northwest Florida, has huge potential if the various organizations would work together. Doing something like this in one part of that region - Northwest Florida- certainly makes sense.

-- On another economic development front over in Mobile, Ala., Roger Wehner resigned as executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority. The authority said Mark McVay, director of finance, will serve as interim executive director while the board of directors conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

It was in 2013 that Wehner became executive director of MAA, which oversees operations of the Mobile Aeroplex and Mobile Regional Airport. He was involved in activities at MAA even before that, on loan to the agency from Alabama Power. During his tenure the Mobile Aeroplex saw considerable growth as aerospace companies came to the aeroplex to be close to the Airbus A320 final assembly line. (Post)

I just hope Wehner ends up staying in this region working in economic development in some capacity. His experience is crucial to our region.

It looks like the Air Force Special Operations Command will be installing and testing lasers on AC-130 gunships this year. That’s what Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, head of AFSOC, told Breaking Defense.

Webb said AFSOC, based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., hasn’t decided where the laser would go. The tests will help determine that, as well as which mix of weapons is most effective. Webb’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, had previously said the laser would probably go on the left side of the plane. (Post)

-- Speaking of Hurlburt Field, AFSOC is currently hosting Emerald Warrior, a joint military exercise involving 1,500 military personnel from the Air Force, Army and Marines, along with three partner nations.

It began Feb. 27 and ends March 11. Scenarios include operations involving inserting and removing troops from combat situations, direct assaults, military freefall, and live-fire events. In addition to the activities in Northwest Florida, training will be conducted at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, Melrose Range, N.M., and Fort Knox, Ky. (Post)

-- Halfway through their winter training in El Centro, Calif., the Blue Angels are getting ready to begin their 2017 season March 11 with their annual start-of-season performance at Naval Air Facility El Centro. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

The 20th Space Control Squadron's Charlie Crew at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., successfully tracked India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle Feb. 15. Loaded with 104 satellites, the Indian PSLV set the record for the most spacecraft launched by a single rocket.

Using the world's most powerful phased-array radar, the space surveillance squadron uses an integrated team of military and civilian airmen to track an estimated 23,000 near-Earth and deep-space objects each day. The AN/FPS-85 is the only phased array radar capable of tracking objects 40,000 kilometers away. (Post)

The Northwest Florida International Beaches Airport Authority is set to begin exit terminal security improvements. The board approved GAC Contractors to install glass-walled security corridors and a video-enabled exit lane breach control system from Tyco Integrated Security.

Tyco's system uses video analytics technology to immediately identify if an individual attempts to enter an airport exit lane from the wrong direction. It alerts security personnel and records the incident for instant playback. (Post)

The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility will be making more than A320 series jetliners next week. The production team will be making pink paper planes March 8 as part of the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week’s Guinness World Record Attempt. It’s designed to show Airbus’ support of women in the aviation industry. The plane throw will be at 11 a.m. CST. A minimum of 40 and up to 200 paper planes are expected to be thrown. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded three contracts related to the F-35 program. It was awarded a $1 billion contract for recurring logistics support and sustainment services for F-35 aircraft in support of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants; and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. It also was awarded a $20.6 million modification to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract. The modification provides for airworthiness requirements, technical reviews, deficiency corrections, and chase maintenance for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-U.S. Department of Defense (Non-U.S. DoD) participants, and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. The company also was awarded an $11.6 million contract action against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order provides for initial operational test and evaluation configuration support efforts in support of the F-35 aircraft for the Air Force and Navy, and international partner countries. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity for all three contracts. … ECSC LLC, Panama City, Fla., was awarded a not-to-exceed $40,000,000 contract for paving requirements at Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada. The 99th Contracting Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for aircraft maintenance and logistical life cycle support for the C-12 utility lift aircraft. New Orleans will be one of the work locations (4 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity. … Pride Industries, Roseville, Calif., was awarded an $18.4 million contract for base operations. Work will be performed in Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2018. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Fort Rucker, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Week in review (2/19 to 2/25)

At the request of the Trump administration, a team has been formed to study a possible manned mission around the moon as early as next year, which would make a major speed-up of current plans for NASA's Space Launch System.

Preliminary results of the panel's review should be ready in about a month. That will determine whether it would be feasible, or even advisable, to put two astronauts inside the Orion capsule on the first test flight of the 322-foot tall Space Launch System (SLS).

Under current plans, the first unmanned orbit around the moon is slated for 2018, with a crewed flight three years later. One of the issues that will have to be addressed is that Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion crew capsule, didn't plan to install life-support systems until the second flight.

William Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters, said major technical challenges will need to be resolved, and the agency will need more money to make it happen.

No doubt all of this will have an impact on the Gulf Coast region, where we have Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center. Both are heavily involved in NASA's SLS program.

To read more about this, take a look at Bloomberg or CBS News.

-- NASA engineers conducted their first RS-25 test of 2017 on the A-1 Test Stand late in the week. The test of development engine No. 0528 ran the scheduled 380 seconds, allowing engineers to monitor various engine operating conditions.

Four RS-25 engines will be used to launch the first stage of the Space Launch System on its deep-space missions. The engines for the first four SLS flights are former space shuttle main engines, which were tested extensively at Stennis Space Center.

Engineers are conducting an ongoing series of tests this year for SLS on both development and flight engines for future flights to ensure the engine, outfitted with a new controller, can perform at the higher level under a variety of conditions and situations.

Stennis is also preparing its B-2 Test Stand to test the core stage for the first SLS flight with Orion, known as Exploration Mission-1. (Post)

Also at SSC, Aerojet Rocketdyne recently demonstrated the highest chamber pressure of any United States produced liquid oxygen and kerosene main combustion system. That occurred during a series of successful test firings of the AR1's staged combustion system at SSC.

Preparations for the staged-combustion testing began at Stennis last summer. During this testing, Aerojet Rocketdyne combined the engine's preburner with the main injector in order to validate injector design parameters and performance.

The AR1 engine is being developed as a replacement for Russian-made engines currently used on domestic rockets. (Post)

Meanwhile, at Cape Canaveral, Fla., SpaceX last weekend launched the first private rocket from the same historic site that saw some of NASA's greatest space missions, then landed a booster nearby in a resounding success.

The company's Falcon 9 launched a Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The pad was used for Apollo and space shuttle missions. SpaceX uses Stennis Space Center to develop its next generation Raptor engine. (Post)

Dragon arrive at the space station Thursday with some 5,500 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments.

Economic development
The Bay County Commission during the week gave a thumbs up to $750,000 in incentives for GKN Aerospace Florida, which plans to open a parts manufacturing facility at Venture Crossings near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The incentive funds would come from tax dollars the company would be paying into Bay County in the coming years, county officials said.

The company will be required to create at least 170 jobs at an annual wage of $63,156 in Bay County by Dec. 31, 2020, or a mutually agreeable date, and maintain each of those jobs for at least three years from the date of their creation. (Post)

For a deeper look at how this project all came about, take a look at a feature story that appeared in the News Herald. (Post)

In a move to save money, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group teamed up with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Naval Support Activity Panama City, to utilize the Navy's recently-built communications tower to replace the 53rd WEG's unserviceable, outdated Gulf Range Drone Control System tower.

These towers are essential for triangulating communications for controlling unmanned drones over the Gulf of Mexico. This innovative investment took about a year to accomplish and will save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Constructing a new tower would have cost an estimated $700,000, and leasing a commercial tower would cost approximately $9,000 annually. (Post)

-- With nearly 1.2 million takeoffs, landings and other operations a year, the airspace surrounding Whiting Field Naval Air Station in Northwest Florida is busier than the airspace above the airport in Atlanta. It all happens under the watchful eyes of veteran flight instructors and experienced military air traffic controllers. A feature story. (Post)

-- The chief of staff, Air Force announced the assignment of Brig. Gen. Christopher P. Azzano, commander, 96th Test Wing, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to director, air, space and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (Post)

Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, McKinney, Texas, was awarded an estimated $45.5 million modification for low-rate initial production and full-rate production of the Silent Knight Radar system in support of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The work will be performed in McKinney and Forest, Miss., and is expected to be completed by June 2019. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, part of USSOCOM, is headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Week in review (2/12 to 2/18)

The latest edition of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Newsletter was published Tuesday, and if you didn't get a copy, you can download the 8-page PDF here.

The newsletter has a story about one of the region’s technology goldmines, NASA’s Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi, and a redesigned portion of its website. The change is intended to make it easier for companies and individuals to find the technologies that can be developed for the public – and that’s something that can mean big bucks. (Story)

We also had a story out of Northwest Florida about Santa Rosa County's new pitch to aerospace and aviation companies. The county sits in the middle of a highly active aerospace neighborhood, and the new pitch, which includes a brochure and eventually an addition to the Santa Rosa Economic Development website, tells why it's a good choice as a home for aviation-focused companies. (Story)

The newsletter also has a story out of Mobile, Ala., about one of the aerospace companies that found Mobile County to be a great place to call home. Late last month there was a celebration at the Airbus Engineering Center marking 10 years at the Mobile Aeroplex. Airbus, in fact, has had an operation in Mobile going back a dozen years. Airbus now has some 650 workers at three separate facilities in Mobile. (Story)

We hope you enjoy our bimonthly. The next one is scheduled for April.

In other aerospace news for the Gulf Coast region:

Economic development
GKN Aerospace is locating a new manufacturing facility in Venture Crossing Enterprise Centre in Bay County, investing $50 million and providing 170 jobs. GKN, a British multinational, will lease a building that will be developed and owned by a subsidiary of The St. Joe Company.

GKN Aerospace provides components and assemblies for aerostructures, engine products, landing gear, wiring systems and special products like ice protection systems, for civil and military fixed-wing and rotary-wing platforms, and is also involved in the space market. (Post)

Workers at a Boeing plant in South Carolina rejected a drive to unionize, with almost three-quarters of workers at the aircraft factory rejecting union representation. The vote at the North Charleston plant was a high-profile test for organized labor in a strongly anti-union state.

The National Labor Relations Board said 74 percent of the 2,828 workers who cast ballots Wednesday at locations throughout the plant voted against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The vote is of high interest to Mobile, where Airbus operates the plant that makes A320 series jetliners. It’s clear that at some point there will be an attempt to unionize there. (Post)

Southwest Airlines will add two new non-stop flights from New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, beginning the weekend of April 30. The Raleigh-Durham connection will be available twice a week on Fridays and Sundays. The Columbus flight will depart once a week on Sundays. (Post)

-- The Air Force chief of staff announces the assignments of Maj. Gen. Michael T. Plehn, chief of staff, Headquarters U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla., to vice commander, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla. (Post)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Week in review (1/29 to 2/4)

As the saying goes, nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. I'd offer another: consequences.

The 90-day civilian hiring freeze that the new president imposed Jan. 23, which has no impact on military personnel, is having an impact on civilians who work at federal government activities across the region. It prevents vacancies from being filled, and that means more work for those who toil away.

The Defense Department late in the week announced 16 separate functions exempt from the freeze, allowing hiring to resume across broad categories of the workforce ranging from cybersecurity specialists to depot maintenance and shipyard personnel. The exemptions are for positions deemed critical to national security and public safety.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents Florida's 1st District, supports the freeze and reducing the size of the federal government. But he's concerned about how it could impact civilian employees here. He wrote a letter to the Defense Department asking for clarification. According to one report, at Eglin Air Force Base alone there are more than 360 vacant positions.

Welcome to Washington, congressman. It's pretty common to hear politicians say, yes, I'm in favor of this or that, only to realize there are consequences that might not be good for your own back yard. The devil is always in the details.

Here's your week in review:

In Alabama, Airbus Engineering Center celebrated its 10th year at the Mobile Aeroplex with a tip of the hat to its 220 workers and the major contributions they've made to the community. Site Director Dave Trent said the workers are hardworking, dedicated, tenacious and diverse, representing 25 countries. Barry Eccleston, CEO of Airbus Americas, said the engineering center is probably one of the most successful endeavors he’s been involved in. He said it exceeded his expectation. (Post)

The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducted boat operations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay late this week and will continue during the upcoming week. Each morning, fighter aircraft release munitions about 20 nautical miles south of Destin in the Gulf of Mexico. In the afternoons  about 30 boats traveling in formation will transverse between the Mid-Bay Bridge and the Highway 331 Bridge, to include 10 to 20 miles south of Destin in the Gulf of Mexico. The boat formation will be used as visual targets by military aircraft flying over the area. No weapons or ammunition will be involved with this boat formation. (Post)

-- At Fort Rucker, Ala., the Air Traffic Services Command last month welcomed the newest addition to its fleet, a new C-12S aircraft. At the same time it bid goodbye to its predecessor, a JC-12D. Col. Michael E. Demirjian, ATSCOM commander, said the new C-12S is the only one in the Army’s inventory. C-12S is a twin-engine turboprop based on the Beechcraft Super King Air and Beechcraft 1900. (Post)

High school students in Mississippi and Louisiana have been invited to participate in a pilot “swarmathon” competition to develop robotic swarms for use in space missions. The competition to develop algorithms for robotic swarms has openings for 20 area teams to compete. Teams have until Feb. 15 to enter the challenge, and their final algorithm code must be submitted by April 15. Teams must have a faculty mentor and
coach. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded an $18.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract exercising an option for supplies and services to implement engineering changes to the Rolls Royce lift fan systems, 3Bearing Swivel Module Conditioning Flow System, and production thrust recovery in support of the F-35 for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and international partners. Work will be performed in Indiana and Oklahoma and is expected to be complete in December 2018.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Week in review (1/22 to 1/28)

It didn't take long for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to order a complete review of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, as well as Air Force One. The fifth-generation F-35 is behind schedule, still has issues and is very costly. But it does represent a leap in technology.

The F-35 review is being done to "significantly" reduce costs, which have been dropping for several years now. A release from Mattis said the review, among other things, would compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent the Boeing jet improvements can be made in order to provide competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.

This is of high interest to our region because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has played and continues to play a big role in the development of the program. Elgin is home to the F-35 integrated training center, as well as reprogramming labs.

We'll have to keep an eye on this one for quite some time. Best hope is the cost comes down even more.

Meanwhile, Mississippi got some bad news this week on another aircraft program. Raytheon and Leonardo will no longer jointly pursue the U.S. Air Force's T-X trainer competition.

The two companies had planned to offer the T-100, based on the Leonardo M-346. Last year Raytheon had announced that the plane would be assembled in Meridian near the airport.

The withdrawal narrows the field of competitors to Boeing with Saab, Lockheed Martin and Korean Aerospace, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems; and Sierra Nevada and TAI. The Air Force last month released a request for proposals. (Post)

Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a modification to exercise the option on a previously awarded contract for Small Diameter Bomb (SDB II). The contractor will provide, among other things, low-rate initial production for 312 SDB II Lot 3 munitions. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … General Dynamics - Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Lincoln, Neb., was awarded an $8 million contract for production of the BLU-129/B warhead case assemblies. Work will be performed at Lincoln and is expected to be complete by Jan. 27, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … PAE Applied Technologies LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $9.2 million modification to exercise an option on a previously awarded contract for base operations support services. Work will be performed at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and is expected to be complete by May 31, 2017. The 81st Contracting Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services Inc., Rockville, Md., was awarded a $24.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for about 568,551 hours of logistics services and incidental materials in support of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s Special Communications Mission Solutions Division to support command, control, communications, computers and intelligence projects. One of the work locations that will do 3 percent of the work is Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Week in review (1/15 to 1/21)

This is the first day of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States. Whether you love him or loathe him, he is the leader of the American team on the world stage.

For our heavily militarized region, one key side show of the inauguration was the confirmation and swearing in of James N. Mattis as secretary of defense. The retired Marine general was approved with a 98-1 vote after the inauguration.

Mattis released a statement to U.S. troops afterward that credited not only them, but intelligence personnel as "sentinels and guardians of our nation." Mattis also pledged to work with the State Department to strengthen U.S. alliances abroad, some of which have been rattled by Trump questioning their worth.

Mattis retired in spring 2013 as the chief of U.S. Central Command after a career in which he became one of the most influential officers of his generation and commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the first senior military officer to serve as defense secretary since President Truman nominated Army Gen. George C. Marshall for the job in 1950. (Story)

Mattis has indicated his support of the F-35 program, which is good news for our region since Eglin is home of the F-35 integrated training center and two F-35 reprogramming labs. He's apparently an independent thinker willing to take a different approach from the boss, who has criticized the F-35.

It's time for everybody to take a deep breath and give the new administration a chance. Our country is far more resilient than some might think. All the things you see going on right now have happened in the past and will happen in the future.

The 33rd Fighter Wing on Jan. 17 loaded and released the Air Education and Training Command's first live bombs from an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Six aircraft were loaded with armed GBU-12s, and two bombs were released over the Eglin range.

The GBU-12 is a 500-pound laser guided bomb. The F-35 can carry a combined payload of 2.3K pounds of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions internally, with an extended capacity of munitions on each wing. While this is the first live bomb to be loaded into an F-35A here, weapons personnel also regularly load the 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition and the AIM-120 missile as part of their training and readiness. (Post)

The 96th Test Wing was scheduled to conduct testing on the Eglin range complex requiring the closure of State Roads 85, 123 and 285. Testing was to take place Jan. 25, and several backup dates were provided. But later in the week Eglin’s testing schedule for Jan. 25, along with backup dates, was canceled. (Post)

-- More than 300 aeromedical specialists attended a week-long conference at Naval Air Station Pensacola designed to provide participants with the latest information regarding aerospace medicine. Rear Adm. Rebecca J. McCormick-Boyle, commander of Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command, was among the featured speakers hosted by the Pensacola-based Navy Medicine Aerospace Medical Institute. Capt. Joseph LaVan, NAMI officer in charge, noted the event was a critical component in maintaining the continued excellence of Navy Medicine's aerospace community. (Post)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Week in review (1/1 to 1/7)

For those who follow the aerospace and defense industry, one of the biggest question marks with the incoming administration is what will happen to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program?

We care in this region in part because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and two reprogramming labs. And beyond that, we're pro-military for both political and economic reasons. So we care about keeping our nation second-to-none when it comes to the nation's defense.

Regarding the F-35, if you were to base your assessment of its future on tweets from the president-elect, you would see trouble ahead for the fifth-generation plane. Trump's clearly not a fan. Early on he said the plane was "not very good," then later, singled out the F-35 in another tweet where he said military costs are out of control, and he plans to save billions.

Then came this one: "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35 I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" That caused a lot of folks to scratch their heads and wonder if Trump understands the F/A-18 and F-35 are not in the same league. It's like hanging on to your old, trusty Nokia in an age dominated by smart phones (yes, I tried but finally succumbed).

It's simply not possible to take a late 1970-era plane and turn it into a 21st century stealthy aircraft. One is a Navy multi-role fighter that first saw combat in 1986 over Libya, the other an avionics-packed flying battle station that works with other assets as a holistic unit in a battle field against highly competent, tech-savvy opponents.

For those who think the F-35 is important and must be continued despite all its ongoing issues, there's reason to believe it will survive. Departing Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently said he believes all the work done to fix the troubled program is paying off.

He pointed out that in 2010 the program was in trouble, in danger of being canceled, after racking up $13.5 billion in cost overruns and a six-year delay. But after seven years of hard work on the government and industry sides, costs are coming down and the Marines and airmen beginning to operate the F-35B and F-35A say they are in awe of its capabilities. Carter said there are still challenges, but he said the F-35 is unequivocally the best fighter in the world. (Post)

Importantly, Carter's expected replacement, Retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, has recently indicated his support of the program despite the tweets from the man who will be his boss. That's according to a Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who recently met with Mattis. He told the Hartford Courant newspaper that Mattis gave a "clear commitment" to the continuation of the F-35 program. Connecticut cares because that's where the engines for the F-35 are made by Pratt and Whitney.

Of course, Mattis still has to get a waiver to serve as defense secretary. But it does show he's an independent thinker willing to take a different approach from the boss. Whether the boss will listen to the advice of those around him is another matter entirely. We'll just have to wait and see.

In a story we had in the December issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter, we noted Trump's concern over government spending and his concern with the F-35. That was before Trump's tweet about the F/A-18 as a possible alternative.

But if anything, that tweet underscores the significance of a comment made by aerospace expert Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group. He said in the article that he didn’t think the Trump team had a good handle on the F-35 program, and that once they got up to speed, they'll understand the unmatched role of the F-35. Aboulafia said that if Trump wants to spend money on top-of-the-line weapons systems, the F-35 is the only game in town. (Story)

I'm not blind to the real concerns raised about the costly program. A lot of critical issues still have to be addressed, but as has been said many times by many experts, any new program goes through development problems. In this case, procurement came before all the kinks were worked out.

It's also clear this program is far too entrenched – yes, too big to fail. It involves nearly every U.S. state and eight nations. Perhaps Trump might do well to do what he can to drive down the cost without jeopardizing the F-35's performance goals. Chalk this one up to lesson learned and focus on making sure we take care of getting the most bang for our bucks at the front end of any new program.

Southwest Airlines announced additional service to two airports in the region.

It will offer additional services and routes this summer at Pensacola International Airport (PNS). New, non-stop weekend service to Denver International Airport (DEN) will run June 3-August 14. Southwest is also renewing its seasonal service to both Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and Dallas Love Field (DAL) with an increase in frequency. (Post)

At Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) near Panama City, the company announced two new nonstop flights to Austin, Texas, and Chicago-Midway, bringing the number of nonstop and one-stop destinations available to more than a dozen. Enhanced nonstop service on Southwest begins in June with flights scheduled through the summer season. Southwest is also increasing flight frequency on routes to Nashville, Houston and Dallas throughout the summer season. (Post)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Week in review (12/25 to 12/31)

This is the time of year that we reflect on the past and look forward to the future. So this is as good a time as any to provide you with some insight into this weekly column, our aerospace news feed and our other efforts to highlight aerospace activities in the Gulf Coast region.

Since we started the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor daily news report in 2008, we've posted close to 5,000 news briefs and are approaching a quarter-million page views. We'll hit that mark in the coming year. In 2016, we posted 340 news briefs and had well over 39,000 page views. For December, we had 31 news briefs and over 9,500 page views.

Most of the news feed audience has been from the United States, but we have a substantial audience in Russia, Germany, France and Italy, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom and China.

As for this weekly column, I’ve posted more than 430 since I started it in 2008, with more than 93,000 page views. Interestingly, most of the column audience is from Italy, followed by the United States, Germany, Russia and France.

Of course, those numbers are pretty modest in the world of internet traffic, but aerospace is a niche topic, and we target only those who care about aerospace and aviation. But the number of posts indicates just how much activity we have in the Gulf Coast region, and the domestic and foreign audience shows there's growing interest in what we do here in the region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida.

And what we do goes beyond the digital news and column. We also have produced 18 eight-page aerospace newsletters since 2013, along with one four-page out-of-cycle special report. We already have a special report planned for January. We've also produced five annual aerospace reference books since 2011. Now we're producing the books every-other-year and will be publishing our sixth one in June 2017. We do know that some groups from this region have brought the books to international air shows.

All things considered, if you want to do research on aerospace in this region, you'll find us a valuable source. We have an archive of aerospace news briefs dating to 2005. Interestingly, the first brief in the archive was about the search by Airbus, then called EADS, for a site to build Air Force tankers. The tanker project went to Boeing and Washington state, but as you know, Airbus is now producing A320 series jetliners in our region.

I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to thank the groups that believe in the value of our work and have been consistent underwriters. Santa Rosa Economic Development, Gulf Power, Mobile Airport Authority and FloridaWest were year-long underwriters in 2016 for all of our aerospace products. Without them, we could not provide the aerospace feeds, newsletters or books.

I also want to heap praise on all the Gulf Coast Reporters' League associates, all of them highly experienced journalists, who provided our content. The associates as a group have more than 500 years of newspaper experience. With a team like that, no wonder we're getting noticed. So on that note, I want to wish all of you a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Now for your week in review:

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded two contracts during the week in connection with the F-35. In one, the company was awarded a $450 million modification to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract.

This modification continues the integration work to implement the development and delivery of the F-35A Air System to the Republic of Korea under the Foreign Military Sales program. This effort will also provide for non-recurring engineering work.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in August 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

In another contract, Lockheed Martin was awarded $19.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to procure, deliver, and install a deployable mission rehearsal trainer in support of F-35. The Naval Air Systems Command in Maryland is the contracting activity. (Post)

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as you know, is home of the F-35 integrated training center.

In another contract that has nothing to do with the F-35, Lockheed Martin Corp. - Rotary and Mission Systems, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $20 million modification to a previously awarded contract for training system support center services.

The contractor will provide software and hardware support, monitor modification work, obsolescence monitoring and identification, and overall system operation reporting. Hurlburt Field, Fla., and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., are two of the sites where the work will be performed. Other sites are in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, California, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany.

Work is expected to be complete by Dec. 29, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the contracting activity. (Post)

Other contracts
The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded $308.3 million for modification to a previously awarded cost reimbursement contract to provide for the engineering change proposal integration of Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) Pod onto the EA-18G aircraft. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is one of the sites were work will be performed. Other sites are in Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, and Maryland and is expected to be completed in December 2021. … CAE USA Inc., Tampa, Fla., was awarded a $50 million contract for rotary wing flight training instructor support services. Work will be performed at Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2026. Army Contracting Command, Fort Rucker, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Week in review (12/11 to 12/17)

I usually don't lead off my column with something that's non-aerospace, but in this case it's interesting enough and has a Gulf Coast tie that's important to note.

An underwater drone operated by the Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center, Miss., was seized Dec. 15 by China in the South China Sea. The Pentagon called upon China to immediately return the unmanned underwater vehicle that was collecting military oceanographic data such as salinity and water temperature. China has said it will return the vehicle, but is blaming the U.S. for "hyping" the issue.

The unclassified ocean glider, commercially available and sells for about $150,000, was being retrieved by the survey ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) when the drone was seized by China's PRC DALANG II-Class ship (ASR-510) about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines.

The Chinese ship launched a small boat and retrieved the UUV conducting a routine operation. Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV. The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored. Only later did China say it would return the drone.

The gliders are piloted by civilian workers at the oceanographic office at Stennis Space Center. The office has more than 130 such UUVs. The pilots use encrypted satellite communications to link up to the drones, which travel just a few miles per hour and are tracked by oceanographic vessels like Bowditch. You can read the story we posted on our shipbuilding/maritime news feed here. 

Some years back when I was writing for a Mississippi client I wrote at length about the underwater drones operated by the Naval Oceanographic Office. I remember at the time thinking how fascinating it was the pilots sitting at an office at NASA’s Stennis Space Center controlled all of these underwater drones.

In aerospace-related news during the week:

Continental Motors said it's joining other members of the Mobile Aeroplex and the Mobile Airport Authority Foundation to contribute to a STEM initiative that will sponsor 36 students to attend the National Flight Academy's six-day deployment program in June 2017.

The program at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., begins on a landlocked, virtual aircraft carrier, AMBITION. Students live aboard the carrier surrounded by advanced technologies and virtual reality missions that encourage learning. On board they participate in activities that demonstrate the practical uses of STEM skills. (Post)

The 300th A320 to come off the assembly line at the Airbus Tianjin Delivery Center was delivered to China Development Bank Financial Leasing Co. Ltd. Thursday and turned over to Sichuan Airlines.

Inaugurated in 2008, the Tianjin assembly line has reached its phase I production target of four aircraft per month. The assembly line is a joint venture between Airbus, Tianjin Airport Economic Area Zone and Tianjin Port Free Trade Administrative Committee, and the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The partners have agreed to extend the joint venture until 2025 for phase II.

The Chinese assembly line was the third A320 final assembly line in the world and the first outside Europe. It delivered its first aircraft in June 2009. The fourth A320 family assembly line was established in Mobile, Ala., and has delivered 15 aircraft so far. Airbus anticipates it will deliver four aircraft per month in Mobile by the end of 2017. (Post)

The Gulf Coast Reporters League Aerospace Newsletter was published earlier in the week. You can read a piece on how president-elect Donald Trump’s stated views bode well for military aerospace and defense in the Gulf Coast region, but there is more uncertainty when it comes to commercial aviation, private space companies and NASA. (Post)

There's also a story about the fifth aerospace summit held last month in Gulfport, Miss., where the message was really quote upbeat. One participant things the longevity of the alliance provides a lesson in other cooperative marketing ventures for the region. (Post)

Finally, there's a story about the new $46 million VT MAE maintenance, repair and overhaul operation being built in Pensacola, Fla., that could wind up being for more important for the growth of the aerospace sector than some might think. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $181.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for recurring logistics services of F-35 aircraft in support of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Primus Solutions, LLC, Beltsville, Md., was awarded a $12.6 million contract modification for refuel and defuel services. Work will be performed at Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 16, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Fort Rucker, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Week in review (12/4 to 12/10)

The December issue of the bimonthly aerospace corridor newsletter will publish Tuesday, and you won't want to miss it.

While we usually have four articles in each eight-page newsletter, this time there are three. That's because we had given four pages rather than the usual two to a story about what the Trump presidency might mean for the Gulf Coast aerospace and defense corridor.

We also have an article about the upbeat messages that came during November’s Aerospace Alliance Summit in Gulfport, and another story about the groundbreaking for the VT MAE facility in Pensacola. We'll tell you why there's reason to believe it will be a catalyst for more growth.

If you would like the newsletter delivered to your inbox, drop me a line and I’ll add you to the distribution list. Or you can download it next week the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor or Gulf Coast Reporters' League websites..

Now for your week in review:

Delta Air Lines took delivery of its first U.S.-built A321 during a week ago Friday at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility at the Mobile Aeroplex. Attending were executives from Airbus and Delta Air Lines, a team of employees from the airline’s Minneapolis-St. Paul station, and representatives of the more than 370 employees at the facility. This is the jetliner that made a flyover at the Iron Bowl in late November. It’s the 14th A321 to join Delta's fleet. The plant has delivered 15 aircraft so far since its opening. Airbus anticipates delivering four aircraft per month at Mobile by the end of 2017. (Post)

-- While we'e on the topic of airlines, American Airlines will launch daily nonstop service between Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on April 4, 2017. Flights are scheduled to depart Pensacola daily at 11 a.m. and arrive in Washington DC at 2 p.m. Washington National becomes Pensacola International Airport’s twelfth destination, the fourth daily nonstop served by American Airlines. American previously offered weekend service only. (Post)

More than 50 aircraft from six installations are at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., for the training exercises Checkered Flag and Combat Archer. The Air Combat Command live-fire training runs Dec. 5-16 and includes F-35A, F-22, F-15E, F-16, HH-60G and E-3 aircraft. Assets have traveled from as far away as Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, and Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Also involved are aircraft from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and Florida Air National Guard and Louisiana ANG. Combat Archer evaluates weapons systems specifically in air-to-air exercises. (Post)

- In another training-related story, the 53d Wing and 49th Wing alongside veterans, retirees and community members will bid farewell Dec. 21 to the last active duty F-4 Phantom II airframes – this one a QF-4 aerial drone – in a ceremony at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The QF-4 aerial targets are currently assigned to the 82 Aerial Target Squadron, Detachment 1 at Holloman, a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Raytheon Co., Goleta, Calif., was awarded a $102 million contract for repair support of 10 weapon replaceable assemblies for the AN/ALR-67(V)3 for F/A-18 A/B/C/D/E/F aircraft. The contractor is also responsible for managing technical and configuration changes, and obsolescence. This is a four-year base period contract with a one one-year option period, which if exercised, brings the total estimated value to $128,175,612. Forest, Miss., will do 7 percent of the work. Other work sites are in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Hampshire. Work is expected to be completed by December 2020. … Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean Va.; Deloitte Consulting LLP, Arlington, Va.; Reef Point Group LLC, Edgewater, Md.; and Whitney, Bradley & Brown Inc., Reston, Va., were awarded $45.8 million multiple award contracts in support of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery of Falls Church, Va., for the Military Health System at its headquarters, medical treatment facilities, the Defense Health Agency, and the health systems for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Four percent of the work will be done in Pensacola, Fla. Other work sites are in Virginia, California, Washington, North Carolina, other locations in Florida, Japan; Guam; Europe and contractor facilities. ... Dawson Enterprises LLC, Honolulu, Hawaii, was awarded a $21.4 million contract for construction of modular buildings. Contractor will provide all site preparation and construction of modular buildings. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2017. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Week in review (11/20 to 11/26)

We know we have a lot of entrepreneurs in the Gulf Coast region. We had a cover story about entrepreneurship in the October issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Business Quarterly, so I know there are plenty of innovators.

So for all you idea folks, here's one you might find interesting: It's the "Space Poop Challenge." NASA has launched the contest to come up with the best solution to get rid of waste while astronauts are stuck in a space suit for days on end.

Here's the deal. When those high-flying adventurers are in the International Space Station, there are specially designed waste collection systems. But when they are stuck in their space suits, they are fitted with absorbent diapers. That's fine for short-duration stays in the suit, but they sometimes have to be there for 10 hours at a time. And once they start venturing into deep space, they can expect to be in them even longer. Thus the NASA challenge.

NASA vowed to award up to three $30,000 prizes for the most promising in-suit waste management systems. The goal is to test them within a year and start using them within three years. Inventors have until Dec. 20 to submit designs for a personalized, hands-free system that routes and collects waste and takes it away from the astronaut’s body for up to six days.

You can see the details at the contest website. Take a look. I promise it won't be a waste of time.

An A321 built in Mobile, Ala., for Delta Air Lines was scheduled to perform a flyover Saturday at the Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The A321 flyover was scheduled to be after the National Anthem and before kickoff. The plane had its first flight Nov. 12 and will be delivered to the customer in December. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $7.2 billion modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The Lot 10 modification provides for the procurement of 90 aircraft, including planes for the Air Force, Navy, Marines and foreign customers.

Work will be done in Texas, California, Florida, New Hampshire, Maryland, the United Kingdom and Japan and is expected to be completed March 2020. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming labs. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $93.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for F119 engine sustainment. The engine is used in the F-22 Raptor fighter. The contractor will provide engine sustainment labor, data and combined test force operations and support.

Work will be done in Connecticut, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Virginia, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma and at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the contracting activity. (Post)

Other contracts
Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $267.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional joint performance-based logistics support for the Marine Corps MV-22, and the Air Force and Special Operations Command CV-22 aircraft. Work will be performed at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and sites in Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Mexico, Virginia, California, Arizona, Hawaii, and various locations outside the continental U.S., and is expected to be completed in November 2018. … Raytheon Co., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a $9 million modification to an order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to manufacture and deliver three AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radars in support of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18 aircraft. Work will be done in Forest, Miss., Dallas, El Segundo, Calif., and Andover Mass. (8 percent), and is expected to be completed in August 2018.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Week in revew (11/13 to 11/19)

For any journalist, it's easy to recall the tragedies you've covered, whether you were at the scene or in a newsroom working the phones. In my more than 40 years working for newspapers and what at the time was called the wire service, there were plenty. And all of them are memorialized in my mind.

But sometimes, the memorial ends up being a physical reflection of the loss.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, about 200 people were in Navarre, Fla., Friday morning for the unveiling of a memorial at Navarre Park. It’s for the crew of the Army UH-60 Black Hawk that went down in Navarre Sound March 10, 2015.

Eleven servicemen died, including the four-man National Guard flight crew and seven Marines. It happened during a night-time training mission when thick fog turned a routine training mission into a tragedy. Responders worked 10 days to locate all of the fallen soldiers and Marines.

The initiative to create the memorial was led by the 35 members of Leadership Santa Rosa Class 29, and businesses, organizations and individuals donated time and money to make the memorial a reality. It is on permanent display at Navarre Park, 8543 Navarre Parkway. (Story)

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter during the week joined in a training exercise at Northwest Florida's Eglin Air Force Base with special tactics airmen and Army Green Berets. He also toured the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Headquarters at Hurlburt Field and met with base commanders before taking part in the hour-long exercise.

Carter joined a special forces assault team in a simulated hostage rescue that included special operations teams landing in two CV 22 Ospreys and assaulting a mock target. During the exercise Carter called in an air strike involving an F-35, AC-130 gunship and a U28 surveillance aircraft. (Post)

- The Trust for Public Land says 626 acres of Northwest Florida’s Wolfe Creek Forest has been acquired and added to the Blackwater River State Forest. The property, which includes frontage on Big Coldwater Creek, will help protect Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s base operations from encroachment that could jeopardize its mission.

The purchase will also protect water sources, public recreational activities, bird migration, and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife. TPL bought the land last month from CF Florida LLC for $1.5 million and sold it to the state for the same amount. (Post)

The first Airbus A321 aircraft built for Delta Air Lines at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., took to the air for the first time last weekend for a three and a half-hour flight. The jetliner will go through a couple more weeks of final production before being delivered to Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. This is the fourth customer’s aircraft to have their first flight in Mobile in 2016, and this will be the 15th aircraft to be delivered in 2016. (Post)

Raytheon Co. - Missile Systems Div., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $17.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for depot repairs and sustainment activities. Contractor will provide High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile targeting system contractor logistics support services. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Week in review (11/6 to 11/13)

With the presidential election now behind us and the future administration starting to put the pieces in place, the question comes to mind, what will a Trump administration mean for the aerospace industry, and particularly in the Gulf Coast region, which has military, commercial and NASA operations?

We'll go into a lot more in the upcoming December issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter, but speaking very broadly, it appears to be good for the defense industry based on the Trump promise to enlarge the military. We have plenty of defense contractors in the I-10 region, and plenty of bases that would benefit from more defense dollars.

But the commercial aerospace side is a big question mark, since so much of it depends on trade agreements. Trump's anti-trade rhetoric during the campaign raises real concerns about the expansion of global trade. He wasn't shy about blasting globalization, which is at the heart of the steady expansion of the aerospace sector over the past 20 years, an expansion that included Airbus setting up an A320 final assembly plant in Mobile, Ala.

But by and large the industry is making nice with the Trump administration – as is to be expected when there are so many questions on the table. Boeing, which is finalizing a deal to sell 100 jetliners to Iran, congratulated Trump and Congress and said it looked forward to working with them to promote global economic growth and protect workers. But Trump has strongly criticized an Iran nuclear deal that made the sale of those planes possible. (Story)

Some of the key questions at this early stage include who will be Secretary of Defense? While we don't yet know, some defense stocks rose after the election based on Trump comments that he wants to enlarge the military.

But a lot of questions remain, like what will happens to the Pentagon's initiatives to reach out beyond the traditional industry to harness innovation and technology in places like Silicon Valley? We've seen that initiative here through Fort Walton Beach's Doolittle Institute. It acts as a go-between for Eglin Air Force Base and private businesses.

According to the Washington Post, under Obama, the Pentagon reached out to non-traditional sources to harness innovation to help the U.S. military hold on to its technological advantage over potential adversaries. But under Trump those initiatives could be imperiled, according to Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said Trump would likely bring in "a totally new team of civilian leaders with completely new priorities."

But Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, who briefed the Trump campaign several times, said that those programs are a relatively small portion of the budget, and that it is vital to invest in technology at a time when it is moving so fast. "We have lost our technological supremacy," she said. "He would be crazy to abandon that." (Story)

According to Flightglobal, the Trump call for a retreat from globalization has to be viewed with some concern by the industry. It seeks to reverse a nearly 20-year trend that has transformed the geography of aerospace and enabled its expansion. In the last five years alone, the industry has benefited from global trade. Airbus now assembles A320s in China and the United States, as well as in Europe. Boeing is also planning a completion and delivery center for 737s in China. Major structures for the F-35 are assembled outside the United States. (Story)

And what will the Trump administration mean for NASA? At this point, it's not clear what the administration's priorities will be. What programs will be continued and which will be dropped? Both NASA programs and commercial space programs are important for this region, which has two major NASA operations.

I don't know if we can say at this point what a Trump administration will mean in the long run for aerospace and defense - certainly not on any specific level. It does appear that once a political candidate wins an office and learns more about the intricacies, there's a tendency to make adjustments to stated goals. As I've heard some put it, they tend to grow into the office. We'll have to see how this all goes.

Test centers
The Air Force has approved the realignment of selected Air Force Test Center operations 
and facilities from several separate locations under one commander at Arnold Engineering Development Complex, Tenn.

The change consolidates the current capabilities of the AEDC at Arnold; the Hypersonic Combined Test Force, currently part of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; and all the current capabilities of the 96th Test Group, headquartered at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; and the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., both currently part of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin.

Also part of the consolidation are the Federal Research Center at White Oak, Md., and operating locations at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif.; Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and the Army's White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

As part of this action the 96th Test Group and 796th Test Support Squadron at Holloman will be inactivated and will then be activated as the 704th Test Group and 704th Test Support Squadron, respectively. The duty locations, manpower authorizations and resources of the 704th TG and 704th TSS will be exactly the same as the inactivated 96th TG and 796th TSS.

Only the parent unit will change from the 96th TW to AEDC. This realignment will only impact the administrative reporting chain of the affected organizations and will not require the transfer of personnel or any change in missions at those locations. (Post)

When F-35 fighters flew simulated combat missions around Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., their pilots couldn’t see the “enemy” radars on their screens. That’s because the F-35s’ on-board computers analyzed data from the fighters’ various sensors, compared the readings to known threats, and figured out the radars on the training range weren’t real, so the software didn’t even display them.

The F-35 and the F-22 fifth-generation fighters are overturning how the Air Force operates. In its simplest terms, it could be that a pilot closer to the battle has an even better picture of the battle than senior officers further away in an AWACs or operations center. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $167.5 million advance acquisition contract for long lead components, parts and materials associated with the low-rate initial production Lot XI of 48 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Air Force; 14 F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the Marine Corps; and 4 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Navy. In addition, this contract provides for the long lead components, parts and materials associated with 41 F135-PW-100 and 3 F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for international partners and foreign military sales customers. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co. - Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $76 million option 
to a previously awarded contract for Lot 10 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer (MALD-J) vehicles and support equipment. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2020. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Week in review (10/30 to 11/5)

While the movers and shakers of the region were gathering in Gulfport, Miss., Thursday and Friday for the fifth annual Aerospace Alliance Summit, there was another fifth annual that was going on in South Mississippi.

It was the two-week long Southern Strike training exercise that involved more than 2,000 special warfare operators from all branches of the U.S. services, along with some foreign units. It was noteworthy, in part because it illustrated just how important this region is to the nation's defense. More on that later.

The Aerospace Alliance summit was held at the Island View, and about 130 people attended. The impressive list of participants included economic development leaders, academic officials and officials from a host of companies that are involved in aerospace activities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, the member states of the Aerospace Alliance.

This is the third one I've attended, starting with the inaugural event at the Sandestin Resort at Miramar Beach, Fla. I also attended the summit in Huntsville, Ala., a few years ago in part because I have family who live in that area, so it was a great opportunity to visit as well as cover the summit.

The 2016 iteration of the summit kicked off with a dinner Thursday evening. In his introduction, Neal Wade, chairman of the 8-year-old Aerospace Alliance, said the four states rank as the third largest aerospace corridor in the world. He said that says a lot about the depth the breadth of the aerospace and defense industry in the four states.

But with the election coming up Tuesday, politics was the focus of the dinner speaker, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. He was the state’s two-term Republican governor from 2004 to 2012, and he spoke about the uncertainties and concerns over the presidential election.

Barbour, the 63rd governor of Mississippi, is also the former chairman of the Republican Governor's Association and former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He was widely praised for his leadership during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Gulf oil spill of 2010, and today is a respected observer of the political system.

"Nobody's ever seen anything like this," he said about the contentious race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. He said two-thirds of the American people think the nation is going the wrong way, and that people are mad and scared.

Barbour brought up the decision of the British to leave the European Union, where many people were mad and tired of having decisions made in Brussels rather than London. They wanted to tell Brussels "something vivid," he said. Then he shifted to the United States election.

"In America, Washington is not in another country, but a lot of Americans feel like it's in another country. And they wanted to shoot Washington the bird and they couldn't think of a better, more magnificent jackass middle finger than Donald Trump," he said.

He ran through a litany of problems the country faces, including the weak recovery, terrorism, crime and the balkanization of the media. Barbour said that historically when there’s parity between the two parties, "we're bunched up in the middle. Today there is no middle."

He said that in this environment, we are stuck with the two most negatively perceived nominees of the two greatest political parties in the world, he said, and for many the choice is "which one I want to vote against more?"

The next day the focus shifted back to aerospace. Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis with The Teal Group, discussed the growth of the aerospace industry, still the strongest industry on the planet. But he also warned that a correction looms in the future. There were also several panel discussions, including one on commercial applications of unmanned aircraft systems.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant in his welcoming address spoke about the significance of aerospace for Mississippi. He said virtually every commercial plane in the world has at least one part made in Mississippi, which has 120 aerospace sector companies, including some of the biggest names in the industry. He also said the four-state region is where the growth of the industry is going to be.

When the summit was over, Glenn McCullough Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the event highlighted that there are great opportunities for the four states. Don Pierson, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, said the region is building an important corridor, noting that among other things the shared “NASA DNA” provides unique advantages. (Post)

We'll have a more detailed story and analysis about the summit in the December issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor/Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Aerospace Newsletter.

Meanwhile, while the summit was going on, special operators and conventional units were wrapping up their two weeks of training in South Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

The nerve centers for the training were the Mississippi National Guard at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, just south of Hattiesburg.

The training included three, large-war games, multiple bilateral events, and a final culmination exercise. (Post) The Sun Herald had a story about the training Friday. (Story)

HX5 LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $7.3 million modification to a contract for a six-month extension providing for the entire spectrum of mission planning support for 98 Army National Guard flying units. Work will be performed in Arlington, Va.,, with an estimated completion date of April 30, 2017. … DCS Corp., Alexandria, Va., was awarded $59.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for weapons and systems integration support services for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s (NAWCWD’s) aircraft integrated product teams. Aircraft include the F/A-18, EA-18G, F-35, AV-8B, AHN-1/UH-1, and unmanned aerial systems. Work will be performed at NAWCWD China Lake, Calif. (87 percent); Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (8 percent); and at various locations within the U.S. (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in October 2017.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Week in review (10/23 to 10/29)

Pensacola leaders were, understandably, overjoyed Friday when they had the ceremonial groundbreaking for the $46 million aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility that will be built at Pensacola International Airport.

In addition to the construction jobs, the VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering hangar - which will be larger than the terminal building at the airport - will provide permanent jobs for some 400 aerospace workers, and it's likely to grow in the future.

About 100 invited guests showed up for the event, five years in the making, at a corner of the airport on what was a picture perfect day. The new operation at the airport is an expansion for VT MAE, owned by ST Engineering of Singapore. VT MAE has had a large operation at the Mobile Aeroplex since 1991.

Construction on the four-acre building in Pensacola will begin Monday and is scheduled to be finished by February 2018. (Post)

While it's being ballyhooed as marking Pensacola's entry into the growing aerospace segment of the economy, it's really just the latest, albeit highly publicized, addition to the Pensacola metropolitan area's aerospace sector.

For years the Pensacola MSA has been a key military aviation training center, includes the training of pilots. Pensacola and Milton have been the location for private companies that ensure the Navy can satisfy that mission. Take a look at "Keeping 'em flying still big business" in the April 2015 issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter.

You might also find interesting "The Rockhill Group continues to grow" in the February 2016 issue of the newsletter, about a former military pilot's startup that is having a high degree of success landing military contracts. Then take a look at "Small company with a big task" in the December 2014 issue of the newsletter, about Marianna Airmotive.

There's more, including "Avalex innovating in key security fields" in the February 2015 issue, a story about the Gulf Breeze-based company, and you might also find it interesting to read "TPR settles in, mulling expansion" in the August 2014 issue of the newsletter, and "Aircraft displays simplify flying" in the March 2014 issue.

And we're planning to do more stories in coming issues about these aviation-related businesses that don't get a lot of publicity, but are playing a key role.

Economic development
In Mobile, Ala., we found out during the week that France's Thales has joined the growing list of aerospace companies that have set up operations at the Mobile Aeroplex. Thales is involved in avionics, in-flight entertainment, aircraft connectivity and aircraft electrical systems.

"Our relationship with Thales spans more than a decade and when it requested a flexible and scaleable location to meet their current business case needs, we were more than happy to get to work," said Roger Wehner, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority. (Post)

The Aeroplex is also the location of the Airbus A320 series manufacturing facility, which is now routinely building jetliners. The first U.S.-built Delta Air Lines Airbus A321 has been painted with the company's colors and has left the paint shop at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility.

The Delta jetliner is the 15th A321 produced by Airbus in Mobile since the start of operations in July 2015. Twelve aircraft have been delivered to customers thus far. MAAS Aviation completed the painting in its facility located on the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley within the Airbus manufacturing facility campus. (Post)

Meanwhile, over in east central Mississippi, Raytheon announced Monday that it will assemble the T-100 trainer in Mississippi if the company wins the Air Force's T-X competition. The jet is a modified Aermacchi M-346. True, Meridian is a bit outside the immediate I-10 aerospace corridor, but it does show just how hot this broader region has become for aerospace.

The site in Meridian is near the airport was chosen because it has the infrastructure and is close to its customers. One newspaper said it would mean 450 jobs. Raytheon has manufactured products in Mississippi for more than three decades. Leonardo-Finmeccanica, CAE USA and Honeywell Aerospace have partnered with Raytheon to offer the T-100 to the U.S. Air Force. Also competing for the contract are Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. (Post)

JobsA host of companies were on hand to take applications from job-seekers Friday at the 8th annual CareerSource Escarosa job fair at Pensacola State College’s Jean and Paul Amos Performance Studio. Among the companies are VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering, Eastridge Workforce Solutions, and Navy Federal Credit Union. EWS is hiring people to build solar energy farms that are part of a partnership between regional military bases and Gulf Power. (Post)

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was issued a $10.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for production of one MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned air system. Moss Point, Miss., will do 16 percent of the work. Other work sites are San Diego, Ozark, Ala., and Fort Worth, Texas. Work will be completed in August 2019. … PAE Aviation and Technical Services LLC, Marlton, N.J., was awarded a $14.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract. The contractor will provide maintenance of aerial targets, and operations and maintenance of range instrumentation systems at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; and maintenance of full-scale aerial targets at Holloman AFB, N.M. This includes functional and quality assurance support for the Aerial Targets Program, which directly supports live-fire weapons system testing and enables the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group in the developmental and operational weapons testing for all air-to-air missiles and for the F-22, F-35, F-16, and F-15 aircraft. Work is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2017.