Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week in review (9/21 to 9/27)

The controversy in Northwest Florida over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training mission at Eglin Air Force Base and the noise level it might bring continues to be a significant issue for the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor.

Eglin, which has an estimated $7 billion economic impact on the surrounding community, will be losing the 33rd Fighter Wing but gaining the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It's slated to become the Joint Integrated Training Center for F-35 pilots of all branches.

But residents of Valparaiso, directly east of the base, have raised issues over noise and safety. This past week, Valparaiso filed suit against the Air Force, alleging that previously requested information about the Base Realignment and Closure measures have been withheld. The city wants records about the Joint Land Use Study and the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Other cities in Okaloosa County have been concerned that the controversy might cause the Air Force to look elsewhere. Fort Walton Beach passed a resolution showing support. Next week Destin officials will consider a resolution backing the Eglin mission.

Considering the pro-military attitude of this region and the way officials work closely with the military to resolve encroachment issues, it's likely the controversy surrounding the joint strike fighter will also be resolved. It will just take time.

Don’t think for a moment that the Air Force tanker issued has died. This past week Alabama Gov. Bob Riley told real estate agents in Mobile that he feels the tankers will be built in Mobile.

Earlier in the week, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said the defense authorization bill passed by the House has a provision requiring the Defense Secretary to review the impact of subsidies on the tanker replacement program. The U.S. government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the money European governments have given Airbus. Dicks thinks the next administration will wait until the WTO rules on the matter.

Meanwhile, Defense Sectary Robert Gates has ruled out a split buy, which many people have begun talking about since the battle between Boeing and the Northrop Grumman/EADS team over the tanker has become so politicized. But does it matter what Gates says about a split buy? He won't be in office when the next administration makes a decision.

Two large contracts were awarded this week for military aircraft in the region. Sikorsky Support Services of Pensacola won a $132.8 million contract modification for logistics support services for the T-34 (Mentor), T-44 (Pegasus) and T-6 aircraft. Work will be done at more than a dozen, including Pensacola, Milton and Fort Rucker, near Dothan.

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace of Madison, near Jackson, Miss., won a $42.5 million contract modification for logistics support for TH-57B/TH-57C helicopters. Work on that will be done in Milton and Maryland.

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