Saturday, December 26, 2009

Week in review (12/20 to 12/26)

The Financial Times during the past week reported that Airbus fears a six-month delay in a crucial World Trade Organization report on Boeing could harm its chances of winning the multibillion-dollar Pentagon aerial tanker contract.

The WTO does not plan to release its interim report until June 2010 on Brussels’ claims that the United States had granted Boeing subsidies. Washington and Brussels accused one another of subsidising their respective aircraft makers illegally in October 2004, with each case being handled by a separate WTO panel. The one hearing the U.S. claim against Airbus handed down its draft report in September. (Story)

A developer has been chosen for the new Emerald Breeze Resort on Air Force Gulf-front property in Okaloosa County. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., chose Innisfree Hotels and Innisfree Development for the operation and development of a $24 million hotel and multi-use resort a dozen miles south of Eglin's west gate. The 17-acre property with 600 feet of Gulf frontage will continue its military function as a radar installation, and the resort will be open to military and civilian visitors.

- The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., was tasked by National Weather Service officials to fly its first winter storm of the season on the East Coast starting Dec. 25. The "Hurricane Hunters" normally collect weather data during tropical storms, but between hurricane seasons they have a lesser known role of collecting weather data during winter storms.

The United Kingdom received financial approval to buy its third Lockheed Martin F-35B operational test aircraft. The approval follows recent F-35 down-select or procurement commitments by Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and the United States. More than 100 British companies are involved in the Joint Strike Fighter program. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will become home of the JSF training center.

- AeroVironment of Monrovia, Calif., has received a $23.9 million firm fixed-price order under an existing contract to upgrade existing analog Raven systems being used by the Army and Marine Corps. The Raven unmanned aircraft is a 4.2-pound, hand-launched sensor platform that provides real-time video imagery for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of tactical units. AeroVironment has an operation in Navarre, Fla.

- An F-15C fired Raytheon’s AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder advanced, infrared-guided air-to-air missile as part of the missile's developmental testing program. The weapon successfully passed within lethal range of a BQM-74 target drone, meeting all primary test objectives. The Nov. 20 test occurred at the test range at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and marks the second time the missile has been fired.

A 15-story shuttle external tank from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans is now at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was a roughly 900-mile trip. The tank, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, will boost shuttle Discovery into orbit in March.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week in review (12/13 to 12/19)

It wasn’t the most significant Gulf Coast-related aerospace story during the week, but it was certainly entertaining. I’m talking about the war of words over a comment made by a Washington politician about Alabama.

Sen. Patty Murray told NPR in early December that thousands of workers in Washington go to work every day building planes, but she challenged anyone to say they’ve seen “anybody build anything” in Alabama. Murray, of course, is a big supporter of Boeing's bid to build Air Force tankers.

Alabama politicians, who are backing the Northrop/EADS team that wants to build the planes in Mobile, Ala., immediately took up the challenge and got loads of ink and air time. They pointed out the many things produced in the state, not the least of which are high-tech space and defense systems.

But when Murray challenged anyone to say different about making things in Alabama, NPR should have taken up the challenge. It would have taken little to learn that in Alabama, major NASA and defense work is done in Huntsville, auto manufacturing plants dot the state and that shipbuilding is big business in Mobile. And that’s just the most cursory rundown. A sentence right after the Murray quote would have been appropriate.

It might not have stopped the reaction to the Murray quote, but it would have been the right thing to do. I went back to hear the report and the context. The audio for the “All Things Considered” story doesn’t have that particular quote from Murray, nor does the transcript. But the printed story on the NPR site does, along with other copy that never made it to the audio.

NPR had a follow-up story Saturday, saying the political bickering over the tanker has reached a new level. Perhaps the better word might have been “sunk” to a new level. The update notes that since the piece from earlier this month aired, NPR has received media requests for Murray's quote.

The update also points out that what’s been lost in the rhetoric is how long it will be before the Air Force gets new tankers. NPR says nobody has asked to rebroadcast the quote from a defense analyst that the arithmetic is starting to get a little worrisome.

Well of course not. That’s not nearly as entertaining.

- In a more newsworthy item on the tanker, the Pentagon is unlikely to change dramatically its list of requirements for a fleet of aerial tankers, despite objections, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said. Northrop Grumman and partner EADS have said the terms favor Boeing, and Northrop said it would not compete without significant changes that favor a smaller tanker. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R.-Ala., said he’s unsure what Congress will do if the Northrop makes good on its threat.

An innovative method for joining composite structures passed a series of structural tests. The design was used to mate two segments of NASA’s composite crew module demonstrator test article, which represents the inner pressurized shell for the Orion crew module. Test results proved the mating process retains compartment pressure and withstands external loads at twice the level normally experienced in flight. The Orion is part of the Constellation program, NASA’s bid to return astronauts to the moon and beyond. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are both involved in Constellation.

- Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne received the 2009 Large Business Prime Contractor Excellence Award from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The company was recognized for exemplary support of the center’s subcontracting programs under the J-2X upper stage engine and space shuttle main engine contracts. The J-2X engine will power the nation’s next generation space launch vehicles, Ares I and V. The space shuttle main engine – all tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. – is a reusable rocket engine that has powered the shuttles since 1981. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne also has an operation at Stennis Space Center.

- In another Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne item, the company during the week celebrated the opening of a new research facility on the campus of University of Alabama in Huntsville, Ala. It’s part of a collaborative effort designed to develop new technologies and business strategies for both company and the university. UAH will provide offices, laboratories and support so Rocketdyne personnel can collaborate on planning, research and development activities.

Harrison County, Miss., is on its way to buying 600 acres for an industrial park north of Interstate 10 that likely will be marketed to aerospace companies. Larry Barnett, executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission, estimates the park will be ready for tenants in 2013. Barnett expects manufacturing appropriate for the aerospace corridor that runs along Interstate 10 from New Orleans to Florida.

- AirTran Airways flights will resume at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi on Jan. 8. The non-stop flights will initially be three days a week aboard a 117-seat Boeing 717. Jeremiah Gerald, director of air service and business development at the airport, said it’s been almost a year since AirTran pulled out of the Gulfport market.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Pasadena, Calif., announced it's acquired Tybrin Corp., a 1,500-person professional services firm headquartered in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Terms were not disclosed. Founded in 1972, Tybrin is a supplier of mission planning solutions, systems engineering, software development, modeling and combat environment simulation, engineering and testing, range safety, and other services to the government.

Contract extension
ST Aerospace Mobile said Friday that it has won a three-year extension of a contract to maintain/overhaul Airbus A330s, Boeing 737s, Boeing 757s and Boeing 767s for US Airways. No terms were announced. It’s the second big contract announced this month for the company at Brookley Field Industrial Complex in Mobile, Ala. It earlier won a three-year $90 million contract to maintain Airbus A320s and Boeing 767s for an unnamed airline.

Star Aviation of Mobile, Ala., won its first military subcontract. MacAulay-Brown Inc., an engineering firm based in Dayton, Ohio, awarded the company a deal to work on combat survivor locator systems for Air Force C-130s. The value was not released. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $19.8 million contract which will provide the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Production Lot 23 contract. 695 ARSS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $114.6 million contract to provide support for small diameter bomb Increment 1 production for munitions, carriages and technical supports. 681 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Week in review (12/6 to 12/12)

It was an unusually slow week for Gulf Coast aerospace news, but then again, it usually is slower during the holiday season, what with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Here's a recap of the aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast:

Propulsion systems
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne engines, the RS-68 and RL10, helped boost into orbit the third in a series of Wideband Global SATCOM satellites designed to improve military communications capabilities. The mission launched Dec. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV. The Rocketdyne engines provided the booster (RS-68) and upper stage (RL10) propulsion. RS-68 engines are assembled and tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

- Rolls-Royce engines were chosen by United Airlines to power its new fleet of Airbus A350 XWB aircraft. The contract for 25 Airbus A350 XWB plus long-term service support is worth $2 billion. The aircraft are due to be delivered between 2016 and 2019. In addition, the airline has also announced future purchase rights for a further 50 aircraft. There are some 1,000 orders on the books now from 33 customers for the Trent XWB engine, which enters service in 2013. This story has several Gulf Coast tie-ins: Rolls-Royce next year or the year after will begin testing XWB engines at Stennis Space Center, and ATK will produce composite structures and tooling for the A350 XWB in Iuka, Miss. ATK, by the way, also has an operation in Northwest Florida.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week confirmed that the base will host an air show in 2010. "75 Years of Eglin Pride" is the theme for the air show scheduled for April 10-11. A variety of aerial performers, including the Thunderbirds, will headline the show. Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis, Air Armament Center commander, said air shows allow the public to better understand the military mission.

- While on the topic of air shows and the Thunderbirds, Keesler Air Force Base’s “Thunder on the Bay” air show held this past April was named the Air Force Thunderbirds Best Military Show Site 2009. Thunder on the Bay was held April 4 and 5 at the base in Biloxi, Miss., and drew an estimated crowd of 142,000. Keesler's next air show will be March 19-20, 2011, and will feature the Navy Blue Angels, based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

The first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system successfully completed its first flight last month. Designated AF-18, the Global Hawk flew about two hours from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The company performs Global Hawk subassembly work at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., and final assembly at its Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale.

- On the topic of aircraft, the Army earlier this month awarded the fifth year contract for the Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to EADS North America for $247.2 million. The contract funds fiscal year 2010 production of UH-72A Lakotas to be delivered through June 2011, and brings the total number of Light Utility Helicopters ordered by the U.S. Army to 178. The contract ensures continuity of UH-72A deliveries from the American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Week in review (11/29 to 12/5)

The aerospace industry already knows the market for unmanned aerial systems is going to grow. And now an effort is under way to open up the potential customer base even more by changing the current limitation on sales to foreign customers.

Reuters reported during the week that in a letter to President Obama, signed by more than 100 chief executives, the Aerospace Industries Association urged a broad overhaul of the U.S. export control system. (Story) The industry wants to change the Missile Technology Control Regime, an agreement aimed at limiting the spread of unmanned delivery systems that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. MTCR was created in 1987 by Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States, but membership has since grown to more than 30 countries.

But the AIA says subjecting slow, unarmed unmanned aerial systems with limited maneuverability and performance capability to the same restrictions as cruise missiles is unnecessary and inappropriate. The MTCR hasn’t stopped the United States from selling UAVs to other countries, it does complicate the process and makes it more time-consuming.

What a chance in the MTCR might do is unclear. As it is, worldwide spending on remotely piloted aircraft will more than double to $7.3 billion from $3.4 billion annually within a decade and total nearly $55 billion in the next 10 years, Teal Group, an aerospace consultancy, estimated in a 2008 market study.

Any increase in the potential customer base would be of high interest to the Gulf Coast. Global Hawk and Fire Scout UAVs are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and there are other operations in the region involved in UAV work.

- Speaking of UAVs, 15 NATO nations will fund an air surveillance command and control system at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily. The Air Ground Surveillance system consists of eight Northrop Grumman Global Hawks. The NATO project is expected to cost between $1.5 billion to $2.3 billion. The project will be in place by 2012.

- The Coast Guard is actively pursuing a vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned aerial vehicle for its National Security Cutter, built in Pascagoula, Miss. In October, the service used Northrop Grumman's company-owned P6 Fire Scout for land-based tests in Maryland. It was equipped with off-the-shelf imaging surveillance radar. Northrop used its own money to integrate the radar on the P6, and in fact has been pouring R&D funds into the Fire Scout to reduce risk for potential customers.

During the week a letter from Northrop Grumman to the Pentagon saying it would not bid on the $40 billion tanker project unless changes are made in the draft request for proposals made a lot of headlines.

Northrop, which is teaming with EADS to offer the Airbus A330 and plans to assemble the planes in Mobile, Ala., says that under the draft RFP the contest shows a clear preference for a smaller aircraft, like the one Boeing is expected to offer in the 767.

From what the Pentagon is saying, it doesn’t plan to make any substantial changes in the RFP when the final one is issued in January. But if you’ve been following this tanker issue, you know how quickly things can change. There’s a lot of behind the scenes maneuvering, no doubt. Some analysts said they believed Northrop Grumman is posturing, and preparing for a future protest. It does appear unlikely the Northrop/EADS team will simply walk away. A lot has been invested in the lucrative contract, and it’s simply too big a deal.

- In another Airbus-related item during the week, David Trent, head of the Airbus Engineering Center at Brookley Industrial Complex, was named 2010 chairman of the board of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. The Airbus center has 145 employees who do interior design work on several Airbus commercial aircraft.

A congressional hearing during the week on astronaut safety turned into a pep rally for NASA’s Constellation program. Lawmakers and witnesses at the hearing endorsing Constellation and its Ares system as the best replacement for the shuttle. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who heads the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, organized the hearing as a counter to a presidential panel that raised questions about the value of Constellation's Ares I rocket in favor of commercial launchers. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are involved in the Constellation program.

Alliant Techsystems and Elbit Systems Ltd. successfully conducted flight tests of the Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket fired from an Army OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The tests took place at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. GATR can be used in urban areas and against targets where a low collateral damage solution is required. GATR uses advanced acquisition, tracking and guidance algorithms to achieve one-meter accuracy against stationary and moving targets.

- Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans has begun $755 million worth of projects to modernize its facilities. It includes construction of a new concourse and the eventual abandonment of two old ones. The airport has identified 16 projects, including new signs and lighting at the terminal curbside and rescue station.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $329.4 million modification to the previously awarded Joint Strike Fighter air system low rate initial production Lot III contract for special tooling and special test equipment. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home to the JSF training center. … Composite Engineering Inc., Sacramento, Calif., was awarded a $29.3 million contract which will provide Lot 7 option to procure a quantity of 36 additional BQM-167As. 691 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $19 million modification to a previously awarded contract for AIM-9X Sidewinder (Block II) missile obsolescence and engineering technical support for the Navy and Air Force. Five percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. … EADS North American Defense, Arlington, Va., was awarded a $247.2 million contract for the funding of program year 2005 of the Army's Light Utility Helicopter program for 45 light utility helicopters and more. Work is to be performed in Columbus, Miss. EADS also has operations in Mobile, Ala. … GCC/Thomco LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and CCI Group LLC, Shalimar, Fla., each were awarded $10 million contracts to provide base engineering requirements, maintenance, repair and minor construction efforts. 96 CONS/PKAC, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … ST Aerospace Mobile, Mobile, Ala., won a new airplane maintenance contract to maintain Airbus A320 and Boeing 767 planes belonging to an unnamed airline. The contract is worth $90 million for the first three years with an option for another two years worth another $80 million.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week in review (11/22 to 11/28)

You might not have heard much about it during the week, but the announcement that the United States won’t share the F-35’s sensitive software codes with allies who buy the Joint Strike Fighter is bound to have implications down the road.

The software coding is key to the stealthy plane's electronic brains, controlling systems ranging from weapons to radar and flight performance. The United States is concerned about protecting the code from falling into the wrong hands. But without the code, allies won't be able to maintain or upgrade the aircraft without U.S. help. And that irritates the British.

The Mail in the United Kingdom reports that British defense chiefs are furious, and see the decision as a blow to the “special relationship” between the two countries. The U.K., which has been pushing for access for years, doesn’t want to have to depend on the United States to maintain or modify the F-35s. It’s a question of sovereignty.

The F-35 built by Lockheed Martin and its partners is promoted as an international fighter development program. The United States has been shouldering most of the cost, but Britain is its biggest partner. Other core partners are Italy, Holland, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

Lockheed Martin projects it will sell up to 4,500 F-35s worldwide. But whether this decision about the coding will lower the numbers remains to be seen. Australia just this past week approved the purchase of its first 14 F-35s. And Canadian officials are not concerned about the codes. A Canadian defense spokeswoman told the Ottawa Citizen that Canada knew it would not be provided with the codes.

The decision could be a boost to F-35 competitors, including Boeing’s F/A-18E/F SuperHornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon made by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies, Saab’s Gripen, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, and Russia’s MiG-35 and Sukhoi Su-35.

For the Gulf Coast, the decision to withhold the coding may wind up giving this region yet another crucial aerospace asset. To address the concerns of allies, the United States plans to set up a "reprogramming facility," probably at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which is also the home of the first Joint Strike Fighter Training Center.

That reprogramming facility will further develop F-35-related software and distribute upgrades. Software changes will be integrated there and new operational flight programs will be disseminated out to everybody who is flying the jet.

The Pentagon's chief arms buyer during the week spurned pressure from Boeing allies in Congress to factor a World Trade Organization ruling against Airbus into the competition to build aerial tankers to the Air Force.

Ashton Carter told reporters the Pentagon addressed the trade issue when it put out draft bidding rules in September for a tanker rematch between Boeing and the team of Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS. The Pentagon said the WTO findings were preliminary.

The issue is being watched closely in Mobile, Ala. If the Northrop Grumman/EADS team wins the competition, it will assemble the tankers in that city.

- An Australian A330 tanker has performed the first simultaneous fuel transfer with its all-digital hose-and-drogue system, fueling two fighter aircraft at the same time, according to EADS. The hose-and-drogue fuel transfers occurred Nov. 18 during a flight test sortie that utilized both the A330 MRTT's left and right under-wing pods. The plane conducted 11 simultaneous airborne refueling contacts with two NATO F/A-18 fighters and transferred more than 25,000 lbs of fuel. The tanker is the same type being offered by the Northrop Grumman/EADS team to the Air Force.

NASA has selected for development 368 small business innovation projects that include research to minimize aging of aircraft, new techniques for suppressing fires on spacecraft and advanced transmitters for deep space communications. Chosen from more than 1,600 proposals, the awards are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Six of the awards will develop technologies for the Innovative Partnership Program at John C. Stennis Space Center.

- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will present astronaut Fred Haise Jr. with NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award during a Dec. 2 ceremony at the Gorenflo Elementary School in Biloxi, Miss. Haise will present the award, consisting of a moon rock encased in Lucite for display, to the superintendent of the Biloxi Public School System and the school’s principal. Haise attended Gorenflo many years ago.

Unmanned systems
Northrop Grumman completed the first three MQ-8B Fire Scout production deliveries to the Navy, which completes the first year of Low Rate Initial Production for the UAV helicopter. Two of the three Fire Scouts were deployed aboard the USS McInerney for use on a scheduled operational deployment.

Fire Scouts have been aboard the USS McInerney four times since December 2008, completing 110 ship takeoffs and landings and 45 landings with the harpoon grid, accumulating over 47 hours of flight time. Fire Scouts are made in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Layoffs and recalls
Goodrich in Foley, Ala., will lay off 78 people in January. The layoffs are from the maintenance, repair, and overhaul division. A representative from the company blamed it on slow demand and the global recession. Company leaders say employees will be offered severance packages and will be eligible to keep their health insurance for six months. Goodrich employs about 800 people in Foley.

- Teledyne Continental Motors in Mobile, Ala., is recalling and replacing an engine part in several hundred airplane engines after the part began to wear out more rapidly than normal. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all the planes containing the hydraulic lifters until the parts are replaced. About 450 engines and parts sets were in question, and more than two-thirds have already been replaced.

Passenger levels were up nearly 9 percent last month at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. Figures show there were 704,686 passengers, compared to 648,544 in October 2008. It’s attributed to concert-goers, conventioners and football fans.

Composite Engineering Inc. was awarded a $37.6 million contract which procures additional subscale aerial targets. 691 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week in review (11/15 to 11/21)

Anyone who wants the U.S. military to get the best equipment available has to be disgusted by the entire aerial tanker fight. It hasn’t been about the best aircraft for a long time. It’s been about political clout, jobs and public relations. The Pentagon is forced to walk such a fine line that it’s no longer looking for value, but the path of least resistance.

And that does not bode well for America’s leadership role.

This nation's procurement system is captive to parochial interests. Politicians and the companies that are in their backyard have teamed up to the point where the welfare of the United States – and notably the warfighters we send in harm’s way – has taken a back seat to winning contracts and creating or maintaining jobs back home. And that means fighting for nearly every dollar the Pentagon awards.

The proof can be found in the numbers. Back in April the Government Accountability Office found that Pentagon contract protests rose 24 percent in 2008 from the previous year. The Pentagon is trying to figure out the cause and the cost of the record 611 contract award protests in 2008. I can save them some time. The cause is the chase for dollars, and the cost is a denigration of U.S. warfighting capability.

Military procurement has taken the normal relationship between customer and manufacturer and turned it on its head. It’s not the customer deciding what he or she wants, but the manufacturer and its supporters. That’s a recipe for disaster. Ask yourself this: Who should be responsible for the nation’s defense, the political-industrial teams or the Pentagon? Before you answer, take a close look at what motivates them.

A politician’s first order of business is getting elected, and that means showing constituents they are protecting jobs. For companies, it’s the bottom line – bringing in money and making shareholders happy. And the Pentagon? Its mission is to defend the nation. The Pentagon should have the same mindset as the men and women who are in the field. Ask the warfighter if they care who’s making the equipment. My guess is the only concern is if that it work and provide them with competitive advantage on the battlefield.

Politics and parochial interests also threaten our leadership role in space. A panel of experts during the week told the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that America’s once clear dominance in space is eroding as other nations, including China, Iran and North Korea, step up their activities. Sixty nations now have their own space agencies, and 13 have active space programs. Eight are capable of launching their own satellites.

Panelists attributed the relative decline in U.S. space leadership to NASA's fluctuating budgets and repeated changes of direction as administrations and congresses come and go. There you have it. Politics, once again.

In the current tanker fight, it might help Boeing, Northrop Grumman and EADS to take a longer view. If they did, they’d realize that, while they are competitors this year and in the immediate future, they won’t be the only game in town in coming years. China is making a big push to become a major player in aerospace, and so is Brazil. How many other players there might be in years to come is unclear. But it’s time this tanker fight wind to a close. Split the contract, build tankers in Washington state and Mobile, Ala., and move on to contract battles yet to come.

- In other tanker-related items during the week, Mayor Sam Jones of Mobile, Ala., in the wake of a lobbying trip to Washington this week, expressed hope that lawmakers are open to the possibility of buying new aerial refueling tankers from both Boeing and the Northrop Grumman/EADS team. Jones said the Mobile group met with nine lawmakers Wednesday and Thursday. Earlier this week, a group of more than a dozen lawmakers who are Boeing supporters began a push to have the Pentagon factor a World Trade Organization dispute over aircraft subsidies into the tanker competition.

Unmanned systems
The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $302.9 million fixed price incentive fee contract for five RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems. Under the Lot 7 production contract, the company will build two Block 30 systems and three Block 40 systems for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

- Northrop Grumman during the week said the Air Force has granted the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle a military Airworthiness Certification, a step on the path to routine unmanned flight within the United States. The AWC process verifies an aircraft design has met performance requirements within the mission profile to safely fly in national airspace and assures operators and mission managers that the production articles conform to the design.

- Navy researchers are asking industry to develop a collision avoidance system to enable unmanned aerial vehicles to operate in civil airspace. The Office of Naval Research issued a broad agency announcement for the Unmanned Air System Autonomous Collision Avoidance System to enable UAVs to sense and avoid other aircraft while operating in the National Air Space System. Initial research to develop a UAVcollision-avoidance system will focus on the Navy Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and Army Tier 2 Shadow fixed-wing UAV. Air Force researchers are pursuing a similar initiative. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

- Unmanned aerial systems may be the rage, but Boeing has just announced the successful test of a mobile laser system to bring them down. The test was conducted in May, and demonstrated the ability of mobile laser weapon systems to track and destroy small UAVs. During the tests at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., the Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX) used a single, high-brightness laser beam to shoot down five UAVs at various ranges. Boeing has operations in the Gulf Coast; the Gulf Coast has several unmanned systems operations.

NASA’s Ares I rocket got top honors in TIME magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2009” special edition. The magazine calls the rocket the "best and coolest and smartest thing built in 2009." The magazine’s Paul Kluger noted that in 2004 the nation committed itself to sending astronauts back to the moon and beyond, and Ares I’s first flight last month "dazzled even the skeptics." Alliant Techsystems is the prime contractor for the solid rocket motor first stage of the Ares I. The company’s air-burst munitions system, XM25, was No. 46 in the best inventions list. Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., are both involved in NASA's program to return astronauts to space.; ATK has an operation in Northwest Florida.

A Lockheed Martin F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing fighter arrived in Maryland last weekend and will soon conduct its first hovers and vertical landings. The ferry flight initiates a sequence of F-35 arrivals at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., this year and next. The F-35 flew from Fort Worth, Texas, with one stop in Georgia. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will become home of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training center.

Airbus SAS and partners Aerolia SA, Premium Aerotec GmbH and Spirit AeroSystems Inc. selected Alliant Techsystems to produce composite structures and tooling for its A350 XWB aircraft. Total expected revenues for ATK is about $1 billion. Combined with the previous announcement for A350 XWB composite engine components, this new selection makes the aircraft the largest commercial program in ATK's history. The company will produce the components at its composite manufacturing center of excellence in Iuka, Miss. ATK has an operation in Northwest Florida; Airbus has an engineering center in Mobile, Ala.

The secretary of the Air Force presented the 2008 and 2009 Small Business Programs Special Achievement Awards at the Air Force Office of Small Business Programs Conference Nov. 17 in Arlington, Va. Among the eight recipients of the fiscal 2009 awards: the 693rd Armament Systems Squadron, Lethal Suppression of Enemy Air Defense Harm Targeting System Team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which won the team award.

- Airport officials say they hope to select a new aviation director for the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans during the first quarter of 2010. Monday is the last day for candidates to file resumes. About 30 applications have been received so far, according to Aviation Board Chairman Dan Packer. The board began its search in mid-September.

There were three contracts during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast region. Sierra Nevada Corp., Centennial, Colo., was awarded a $9.1 million contract to provide aircraft weapon integration. AAC/PKES, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … DTS Aviation Services Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $13.9 million contract which will provide aircraft backshop maintenance, munitions and equipment support services for the Air Armament Center and for their command and control, communications, computers and intelligence systems testing for a 12 month period. 96 CONS/PKB, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $18.4 million contract which will provide for the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Mission Targeting System fiscal year 10 contractor logistics support option. 693 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Week in review (11/8 to 11/14)

A few issues came up during the week in the aerial tanker competition, the battle between Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS to replace the Air Force’s fleet of KC-135s. It’s of interest to the Gulf Coast because the Northrop/EADS team plans to assemble the planes in Mobile, Ala.

Sen. John McCain raised concerns about the Pentagon's latest attempt to replace the aircraft. In an Oct. 29 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, McCain asked detailed questions about how bids for the program would be evaluated, how decisions were made about requirements for the new airplanes and whether the new rules would favor mostly smaller airplanes. Reuters obtained a copy of the letter.

But McCain is hardly alone. Robert Burton, a former deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement, told InsideDefense that the tanker request for proposals is inconsistent with federal regulations and may violate the law. He said the draft request “goes against the spirit of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act.” Burton focused on the draft request's use of a pass/fail approach for 373 mandatory criteria and awarding the contract to the lowest-priced plane that meets those criteria. (Story)

- The tanker competition came up during the week at the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation’s annual investors dinner in Moss Point, Miss. Mitch Waldman, Northrop Grumman’s point man on the tanker, said that if Northrop Grumman and teammate EADS win it will bring thousands of jobs to the area. Another speaker, Sen. Roger Wicker, called that process “politicized beyond what I’ve seen in my 15 years in Congress.” (Story)

- In another tanker story, EADS North America said the A330 tanker – the same type of plane that is being offered to the Air Force - achieved a milestone with its first nighttime refueling operation using the advanced Aerial Refueling Boom System. The Royal Australian Air Force A330 transferred more than 3,300 pounds of fuel through the ARBS during a multi-contact mission involving two F-16 fighter aircraft.

- Speaking of EADS North America, that company during the week delivered the first of five H-72A training helicopters to the Navy. The H-72A fleet will be based at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., where it is to be used to train test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. The H-72A shares the same airframe and is manufactured on the same production line as the Army’s UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter, both of which are produced in Mississippi by EADS North America’s American Eurocopter subsidiary in Columbus.

Joint Strike Fighter
There was also news during the week on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will become the home of the Joint Strike Fighter Training Center, which will train pilots on all variants of the plane.

The Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine powering the F-35 completed altitude qualification ground testing, the final testing that demonstrates the operability and performance required for conventional take-off and landing and carrier variant initial service release (ISR). ISR is the government’s recognition that the F135 engine is ready for operational use and clears Pratt & Whitney to deliver and field production F135 engines.

- Also during the week, Vought Aircraft Industries said it has taken possession of an F-35C JSF test article from Lockheed Martin and will perform full-scale drop testing on the aircraft in early 2010. The tests are to verify the strength of the F-35C Navy variant landing gear and airframe structure for carrier landing operations. Actual drop testing is currently estimated to start in January and continue through April at the Vought Structures Test Lab in Dallas.

The Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has been awarded the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award. The center manages a $52 billion portfolio of air-launched precision attack, combat support and special project weapon applications. The center also provided full spectrum battle space test capabilities to more than 1,000 ongoing test programs to include aircraft, weapons, command and control and special operations for multiple joint and non-DoD agencies.

- The 8th Special Operations Squadron returned to Hurlburt Field, Fla., with their CV-22s during the week, wrapping up their first operational deployment with the tilt-rotor aircraft. The squadron deployed to Iraq with a Boeing contractor as part of the team. The Osprey, which came to Hurlburt in 2007, has the vertical takeoff and landing and hover capabilities of a helicopter and the long-range and speed of a turboprop fixed-wing airplane.

- The new airport being built near Panama City, Fla., is getting yet another name change. The airport authority voted during the week to change the name to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. It was a month ago that the authority settled on the name Northwest Florida-Panama City International Airport. The new airport is scheduled to open in May.

NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi is teaming with students at four Mississippi high schools to develop prototype hardware for the next-generation rockets being built to carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit. In the next few months, students at East Central High School in Hurley, Gulfport High School, New Albany School of Career and Technical Education and Petal High School will participate in the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware initiative. They’ll partner with NASA engineers and mentors and use materials provided by the space agency to develop prototype models for the next generation J-2X engine and the Ares I rocket.

Unmanned systems
News involving unmanned aerial systems is always of high interest to the Gulf Coast region, in part because a number of UAV activities take place here.

BAE Systems has successfully flown the largest fully autonomous unmanned aircraft ever to be built in the United Kingdom. MANTIS completed its maiden flight in Woomera, Australia. Mantis has a 65.6-foot wingspan and is intended to be able to carry electro-optical and radar sensors, as well as a range of air-to-surface weapons. BAE System’s partners in the project include Roll-Royce, QinetiQ, GE Aviation, Meggit and Selex Galileo. Of note to the Gulf Coast, BAE Systems, Roll-Royce, QinetiQ and Selex Galileo all have operations in the region. (Story)

- In another UAV-related story, Boeing received a $500,000 Air Force Research Laboratory contract for the first phase of a program to demonstrate miniature weapon technology for use on unmanned aerial vehicles. As the prime contractor during the initial nine-month program, Boeing will use its experience on the Joint Direct Attack Munition and Small Diameter Bomb programs to develop the system integration, seeker, avionics, guidance and control, and mission planning systems. (Story)

W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co., Biloxi, Miss., is being awarded a $37.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for construction of a community hospital tower at Keesler Air Force Base. Work will be performed in Biloxi and is expected to be completed by September 2011.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Week in review (11/1 to 11/7)

NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was officially designated a “Project Ready” site in a formal event Friday. It’s the first site to earn certification in the “technology park” category of the Mississippi Power program.

The Project Ready designation indicates a site is “shovel-ready” for new businesses that are interested in locating at the facility. The 14,000-acre SSC has about 4,000 acres of developable space. It’s now the second Project Ready site in South Mississippi. The 300-acre Jackson County Aviation Technology Park in Moss Point, Miss., where unmanned aerial systems are built, received the designation in August.

Stennis Space Center is a huge complex. It's where NASA tests propulsion systems, and it remains the facility’s primary function. But over the years it’s attracted more than 30 other tenants. The largest is the Navy, which has its Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command at the center. There’s also a detachment of the Naval Research Lab at Stennis, and it’s home to the National Data Buoy Center.

One of the key attractions of SSC is the security. It's surrounded by a 125,000-acre acoustical buffer zone.

- The first Space Based Infrared System missile warning satellite bound for geosynchronous orbit is on track for delivery to the Air Force by the fourth quarter of calendar year 2010, according to Lockheed Martin. It will be a milestone for the $10.4 billion program, which has undergone restructuring, overruns and delays. Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space & Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., builds subsystems for the SBIRS program.

Capt. Pete Hall has been installed as the new commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., replacing Capt. Enrique Sadsad. More than 2,000 people were at the change of command ceremony Thursday. Hall said he looked forward to becoming part of the Whiting family. Sadsad is being assigned to Bahrain. Whiting Field provides initial training for naval aviators.

- Brig. Gen. O.G. Mannon, 82nd Training Wing commander at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, has been named the next vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The announcement was made by the Defense Department Nov. 2. Mannon, who has spent most of his career in the special operations community, said he looks forward to working with old friends.

In the tanker competition pitting Boeing against the Northrop Grumman/EADS team, no “first” goes unnoticed. Boeing said it delivered the first Remote Aerial Refueling Operator Trainer to the Japan Air Self Defense Force last month to support the Boeing KC-767J tanker. It simulates the system that allows boom operators to refuel aircraft while sitting near the tanker cockpit at a console using an array of cameras and remote controls. Meanwhile, in Toulouse, France, the Airbus A330-200 freighter flew Thursday, a milestone for a plane that could eventually be assembled in Mobile, Ala. The Northrop/EADS team wants to assemble the A330-based tanker and the freighter in Mobile, Ala., if the team wins the Air Force competition.

Unmanned systems
The Navy's top admiral said he hoped to speed up work on unmanned weapons systems, including underwater vehicles and an unmanned combat plane. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead cited the Navy's earlier-than-planned deployment last month of the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, which he said is performing “wonderfully.” Roughead also said he’s pressing to accelerate development of the Unmanned Combat Aerial System. The Fire Scout and UCAV are both Northrop Grumman products. Northrop Grumman Fire Scout finishing work is done in Moss Point, Miss.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week in review (10/25 to 10/31)

A new military joint training program has been launched at a Navy outlying field near Holley in Santa Rosa County, Fla. It's yet another indication of the growing importance of unmanned systems for the nation's military.

The Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems will teach special operations personnel from all branches of the military how to operate Battlefield Air Targeting Micro Vehicles, unmanned aircraft used in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are the smaller aircraft launched by personnel on the field. The training center has its first class of 11 students.

Santa Rosa County is home to Whiting Field Naval Air Station. To its east is Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command, and Eglin Air Force Base, where the Air Force develops air weapons systems. To the county's west is Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The Gulf Coast region has a growing footprint in the UAV field. Northrop Grumman builds portions of large UAVs - Global Hawks and Fire Scouts - at its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss. Further to the west, there's at least one company that builds modules for sensors of UAVS at Stennis Space Center, Miss. And in Navarre, Fla., AeroVironment has a training site. In South Mississippi there's also a lot of work in the related field of sensors.

Don't be surprised if you see more activity in this field in this region. It's the wave of the future.

Joint Strike Fighter
There were some disappointed people in the Tyndall Air Force Base area near Panama City, Fla. They heard last week that the Air Force had come up with a short list of bases that are being considered for the Joint Strike Fighter - the F-35 - and Tyndall wasn't on the list. The base is losing its F-15 aircraft, and had hoped to convince the Air Force to bring in some F-35s. Now it looks like there best hope is with more F-22s.

The list did include Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which has already been chosen as the location for the JSF training school for all branches of the military. This list indicates it's being considered for more of the planes. Hardly a surprise. The short list includes 11 Air Force and Air Guard bases.

- Speaking of Eglin, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, JASSM, successfully completed Lot 7 Reliability Assessment Program flight tests with 15 successes out of 16 flights Oct. 22. The tests were done at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., using B-52 bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and F-16 fighters from Eglin. The tests pave the way for awarding the Lot 8 production contract to Lockheed Martin. Eglin, home of the Air Armament Center, oversees the development of air weapons systems.

Boeing, Northrop, EADS and tankers
Boeing will have a new 787 production line in North Charleston, S.C. It's the second production line for the aircraft. The news came out last week, and was not really much of a surprise. Washington state had feared that was the direction Boeing was going. The facility will also be used to support the testing and delivery of the plane.

This was an incredibly big deal for Washington state. A group called the Washington Roundtable, which is composed of representatives from private sector employers in the state, said the decision by Boeing shows the group needs to work harder to make the state more competitive.

It was many years ago that Boeing moved its headquarters from Washington state to Chicago. And in more recent years the company has begun to outsource some production services. The production line in the South, where costs are lower and the unions are far weaker, certainly doesn't bode well for Washington state.

Many folks in the Gulf Coast are keeping a close eye on anything involving Boeing. Mobile, Ala., still hopes the team of Northrop Grumman/EADS will end up winning the contest against Boeing to build tankers for the Air Force. If the Northrop/EADS team wins, the planes will be assembled in Mobile.

- During the week, Northrop Grumman left open the possibility it might boycott the new aerial tanker competition. It faulted the draft bidding rules and continued to complain about the pricing information that had been given to Boeing after that company lost the competition in 2008. That loss was, of course, overturned, but Northrop was never given similar information on Boeing's pricing. The Pentagon has said that information is no longer relevant, then asked Boeing if it would agree to release it to its competition. Boeing declined. Seems like nobody likes this new competition. Boeing is also complaining.

- In another Boeing-tanker-Northrop-EADS story during the week, the governors of Alabama and Mississippi jointly announced on Monday formation of the "Aerospace Alliance," which also involves Louisiana and Florida. Their first order of business is doing what they can to help Northrop and EADS win the tanker project.

NASA successully launched the Ares I-X rocket during the week. The prototype rocket flew for about two minutes. The Ares I-X is part of the Constellation Program, which is designed to return astronauts to the moon and beyond. The Gulf Coast region is involved in Constellation through Michoud Assembly Facility, which is used to build some of the hardware, and Stennis Space Center, Miss., which tests propulsion systems for the program. The test was an important step for the Constellation Program, which is being re-evaluated by the Obama administration.

- Aerospace industry leaders will meet in Washington, D.C., on Monday to debate the future of America's space programs. A hot topic no doubt will be the findings of the Augustine Commission, which raised the issue of whether NASA has the necessary funds to pursue its plan to return astronauts to space. But another hot topic no doubt will the the successful launch of Ares I-X. Should be a fascinating meeting.

- Speaking of Stennis Space Center, on Friday of this coming week - Nov. 6 - the NASA center will receive official designation as a Project Ready site. The designation means it's shovel-ready for new projects. The 14,000-acre facility has been in existence since the 1960s, and has attracted over the years about 30 agencies, including the Navy. NASA says there are about 4,000 acres that are available for green field development.

- One final Stennis-related note: Meridian Community Collge established an engineering scholarship in honor of alumnus Gene Goldman, director of the NASA center. The first $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to an engineering student during the 2010 spring semester. After graduating from MCC, Goldman went on to earn degrees from Mississippi State University in Starkville.

W R Systems of Fairfax, Va., was awarded a $26.9 million contract for in-service engineering technical support services for various navigation systems. Three percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. ... Bell Aerospace Services of Bedford, Texas, was awarded a $13.2 million contract to provide up to 145,152 hours of contractor engineering technical servides training for airframe, avionics and electrical systems of the H-1 aircraft. Nine percent of the work will be done in New Orleans, La. ... McDonnell Douglas of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $72 million contract to provide guided vehicle kits for joint direct attack munitions. Eglin Air Force Base., Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Week in review (10/18 to 10/24)

The governors of Mississippi and Alabama have scheduled a briefing Monday in Bay Minette, Ala., to announce a new effort to promote the Gulf Coast's aerospace corridor. Its first order of business: land the Air Force refueling tanker project.

Alabama’s Bob Riley will be at Faulkner State Community College and he’ll be joined by Mississippi's Haley Barbour via satellite to announce the launch of a 501(c)(6) group designed to promote the four-state aerospace corridor.

The region between New Orleans and Northwest Florida has a long history in aviation. It’s where the Navy trained its first aviators, and where NASA began testing rocket engines in the 60s (details). But the contest pitting Boeing against Northrop Grumman and partner EADS to build aerial tankers has galvanized efforts to promote the region’s aerospace activities. EADS wants to assemble the tankers in Mobile, Ala., a move that would also benefit Northwest Florida and South Mississippi.

There are now multiple efforts to highlight the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor or portions of the corridor. In Northwest Florida, three counties formed the Gulf Coast Aerospace and Defense Coalition, which promotes Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. In Alabama, the Mobile County Commission has its Keep Our Tanker site, a strong advocates for the tanker project.

Further to the west, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Alliance for Economic Development’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor highlights news and information about South Mississippi’s aerospace infrastructure. Even further to the west, Sen. David Vitter helped organize a group called the Stennis-Michoud Corridor, which wants to promote the 40-mile region between NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility and John C. Stennis Space Center.

And there's this site, Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, which provides news and data about the full range of aerospace activities in the Gulf Coast region.

- There was a fair amount of tanker-related news during the week. One of the more interesting: Reuters reported that Boeing declined a Pentagon request to release its pricing information from the last aerial tanker competition to Northrop Grumman. The Pentagon gave Boeing information on the winning bidders pricing after Boeing lost the contest in 2008 to the Northrop Grumman/EADS team. That’s common. But Boeing’s protest of the award was upheld and the battle over the tanker contract has been renewed. That led Northrop to seek Boeing’s pricing information. A Pentagon general counsel told Northrop in a letter Sept. 23, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, that the Pentagon "sought Boeing's permission to release this information, and Boeing declined." The Pentagon has said the information is dated and irrelevant. It doesn’t appear Boeing feels the same.

- Reuters also reported during the week that industry executives are starting to raise questions about the Pentagon’s draft rules for the tanker, saying the bid for a "fixed-price" deal on such a big development program is unprecedented and risky. Boeing and Northrop Grumman are not saying much, but some executives are beginning to privately air concerns about the rules, according to Reuters.

- One of the key concerns about the Airbus tanker has been addressed, it seems. A Royal Australian Air Force A330 tanker, the same type EADS hopes to sell to the U.S. Air Force, conducted its first in-flight refueling. The test involved the integrated Aerial Refueling Boom System, which transferred fuel to two F-16. The test lasted four hours and 30 minutes.

- In the final tanker-related item, EADS North America announced during the week that former NASA leader Sean O'Keefe will become chief executive of EADS NA. Ralph Crosby, current chief executive of EADS North America, will stay on as nonexecutive chairman. O'Keefe is a former Navy secretary who served as NASA administrator from 2001 to 2005. He also served as chancellor of Louisiana State University from 2005-2008 and most recently was GE Aviation vice president. His EADS appointment is effective Nov. 1.

Aerospace parks
NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center next month will be formally recognized as a “Project Ready” site, a designation that indicates it is “shovel-ready” for new businesses that come calling. The Mississippi Power program was created last year and Stennis is the fifth site to receive the designation, and the first one to fall under the “technology park” category. The formal recognition is Nov. 6. In August, the Jackson County Aviation Technology Park in Moss Point, Miss., was awarded Project Ready status.

- Speaking of the Jackson County Aviation Technology Park, there as another item of interest during the week for Northrop Grumman workers at that park. The park is home to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center, which builds portions of the Global Hawk and Fire Scout unmanned systems. During the week, a much earlier version of the Global Hawk made its initial flight as a NASA vehicle, one that will be used for environmental science research. The fight was Friday at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. NASA has two Global Hawks, both of which were among seven Global Hawks built and flown in the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program. The aircraft that flew for about four hours Friday last took to the skies in May 2003.

Southwest Airlines plans to begin serving the new Panama City, Fla., airport, when the facility opens in May 2010. Three Florida cities, Panama City, Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, all hoped to get the discount airliner. Mobile, Ala., also made a pitch for the airliner.

- Frontier Airlines will return to the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans next year for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, offering a daily service to Denver beginning June 15. In addition, Southwest Airlines, which trimmed New Orleans service after the hurricane, is adding two daily trips in May. One is a direct flight to St. Louis and the other is a second flight to Denver.

- The 708th Armament Systems Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has been recognized for unprecedented acquisition management success with selection by the Department of Defense as the winner of 2009 David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award. The award singles out the group as the best acquisition team in the Air Force. The 708th delivered a new laser-guided version of the Joint Direct Attack Munition to warfighters in 11 months. The award will be presented Nov. 3.

Joint Strike Fighter
Okaloosa County commissioners received an introduction and update of the F-35 program during the week from J.R. McDonald, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of corporate and business development. McDonald, who moved to Okaloosa County a few months ago to oversee the company’s activities from Pensacola to Panama City, is the first vice president the company has stationed at its office in Shalimar. McDonald said he anticipated the first F-35 to arrive next summer, a few months later than the original March goal.

3Q reports
Goodrich Corp. saw profit and revenue continue to fall in the third quarter. The company had a profit of $145.4 million in the third quarter, down 13 percent from a high-water mark in the same quarter of 2008. … Teledyne Technologies profit per share hit a record in the third quarter, helped by cost cutting and a tax windfall. Total profit rose to $35.1 million, up 14 percent from $30.9 million in the same quarter of 2008. … Boeing Co. posted a third-quarter loss of $1.6 billion and reduced its full-year profit forecast, hurt by $3.5 billion in charges for the delayed 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 jumbo jet programs. … Northrop Grumman reported that third quarter 2009 earnings from continuing operations totaled $487 million compared with $509 million in the third quarter of 2008.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Week in review (10/11 to 10/17)

Defense industry consultants predict the market for unmanned aerial vehicles will reach $18 billion worth of procurement through 2018, with related research and development possibly adding another $20 billion. That’s according to Forecast International.

That’s something the Gulf Coast region should keep in mind. The region has several UAV-related activities, including a Northrop Grumman UAV plant in Moss Point, Miss., which does some of the work on Global Hawks and Fire Scouts. Another company, Mehlcorp at Stennis Space Center, Miss., designs and builds payload operation modules for UAVs. And AeroVironment has a training operation at Navarre, Fla.

They’ll all be busy in the future, based on these projections.

According to Larry Dickerson, Forecast’s senior unmanned systems analyst, no matter how many UAVs are built military agencies want more. He says the United States is the driving force behind this market, and U.S.-based companies will account for more than 60 percent of the market’s value. But France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. also are trying to expand their UAV fleets, and China, too, has entered the market. There have been reports about designs in China that look like the Predator and Global Hawk.

- Northrop Grumman hopes the Euro Hawk rolled out recently will lead to “a huge” international market, according to Duke Dufresne, company strike and surveillance division general manager. Aviation Week reports Dufresne as saying that aside from sales to Germany and NATO, the Global Hawk also is being eyed by Australia, Spain, Korea and Japan. The first international version of the UAV will start taxi tests in February, with the first flight in March.

- At least one university recognizes the growing role UAVs will be playing in the future. The University of North Dakota is the first educational institution in the nation to offer an undergraduate major in unmanned aircraft systems operations. The program addresses the increasing demand for qualified pilots and sensor operators in the rapidly growing field. The systems are used for military and commercial applications. (Story)

First Lady Michelle Obama visited Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., at the end of the week. She spent Thursday afternoon meeting with commanders and speaking privately with military families stationed at Eglin and nearby Hurlburt Field. In a speech to more than 1,000 service members, families and civilians she said she’s in awe with the courage, patriotism and commitment to excellence men and women in uniform display every day.

- After walking over 800 miles through five states, 12 special tactics airmen arrived at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Friday, completing a memorial march for their fallen comrades. The marchers split up into six two-man teams and walked day and night to honor 12 special tactics airmen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The march began at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 6.

- People who want to see more air shows at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., will have to wait until the spring of 2011. Col. Chris Valle, vice commander of the 81st Training Wing, said Keesler is bidding to bring the Navy's Blue Angels to South Mississippi for the next show. Keesler in April held its first air show since Hurricane Katrina. Featured were the Thunderbirds, the Air Force precision flying team. Some 140,000 spectators attended the show over two days.

Minnesota’s Alliant Techsystems delivered a technological first to NASA: a full-scale, crew module structure made of composite materials. The Composite Crew Module is designed to reduce the overall weight of future manned launch vehicles. Full-scale structural testing will be performed at NASA's Langley Research Center to determine the viability of the composite structure. The structure was fabricated and assembled at ATK's facility in Iuka, Miss. ATK has an operation in Northwest Florida; South Mississippi has multiple companies involved in manufacturing with composites; Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., are involved in the space program.

A delegation from Okaloosa County, Fla., will attend an aviation business conference in Orlando next week to try to lure companies to Bob Sikes Airport’s industrial park. The National Business Aviation Association is holding its annual convention Oct. 20-23. Some 30,000 people are expected to attend, among them more than a dozen county and business leaders to promote the Crestview Air Park at Bob Sikes Airport. The airport has an 8,000-foot runway and is close to highways, the Gulf of Mexico and military bases.

- United Airlines will be coming to Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport in Florida beginning Feb. 11 and offering direct flights to Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The flights will be on 50-seat Canadair regional jets. The Washington flights will be twice daily, and one Chicago flight will be added on the weekend during the winter and spring. United will be serving Pensacola for the first time. The airport is also trying to get Southwest Airlines.

Leaders from Washington state’s largest companies are urging Boeing to build a second 787 production line in the state. The company has one 787 production line in the state, but there’s concern it may opt to use a recently purchased plant in South Carolina – the former Vought Aircraft plant – for the second 787 line. The letter from members of the Washington Roundtable points out that work remains to be done to improve Boeing’s competitive standing in the global economy, but said the state and Boeing have a long track record of success together. Boeing is competing against Northrop Grumman and EADS to build aerial tankers for the Air Force. Boeing wants to build them in Washington, and EADS wants to assemble them in Mobile, Ala.

- The Boeing GBU-40 Small Diameter Bomb II team finished a 42-month risk reduction program last month with a flight test at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. In the test, the guided test vehicle dropped from an F-15E Strike Eagle was equipped with production-ready components, including a Harris data link, Lockheed Martin tri-mode seeker, and modified SDB Increment I (GBU-39) assemblies. The weapon received target updates using a tactical radio communications system processed by the seeker. The seeker successfully performed search, detect, track and classify and the weapon fuze detonated upon impact with the intended target. Boeing is teamed with Lockheed Martin in the SDB II program competition, and as the prime contractor will provide the air vehicle and system integration. Lockheed Martin will supply the sensor/seeker.

Wintec, Arrowmaker, Inc., of Fort Washington, Md., was awarded a $85,000,000 contract which will provide advisory and assistance services to Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. HQ AFSOC/A7KZ, Hurlburt Field is the contracting activity.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

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

The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, built in part in Moss Point, Miss., made naval aviation history during the week when the fleet deployed it aboard the USS McInerney. It's not the UAVs first time on the ship - it's been tested aboard the vessel. But this is the first deployment. Fleet introduction of the Fire Scout marks the first time a large, automated UAV has been delivered for ship board operation by sailors.

The Fire Scout departed with the 4th Fleet to assist during a counter-narcotics trafficking deployment. It will provide situational awareness as the fleet employs its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The Moss Point facility also participates in the production of another unmanned system, the Global Hawk, and during the week a variation of that aircraft was shown to the public. The Euro Hawk, made for Germany, was introduced to the public during an event in Palmdale, Calif. The Euro Hawk marks the first international configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance UAV, and solidifies Northrop Grumman's first transatlantic cooperation with Germany and EADS.

What’s of particular interest to the Gulf Coast region is that EADS is the same company Northrop is teaming with in the bid to secure the contract to build aerial tankers for the Air Force. If the Northrop/EADS team wins, the planes would be assembled in Mobile, Ala. – about 30 miles from the Mississippi plant that works on Global Hawks and Fire Scouts.

Speaking of the contest over the tankers, leaders of one of the nation's largest labor unions at the end of the week called on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to select Boeing to build the tankers. A group of 10 state presidents representing the AFL-CIO said in a letter to Gates that Boeing is the right choice for investing in American workers.

In northwest Florida, the Bay County airport authority has voted to name the new international airport now under construction near Panama City the Northwest Florida – Panama City International Airport. It’s scheduled to open in May 2010. The authority solicited input from community organizations, including the region’s Tourism Development Councils, Economic Development Alliances, chambers and citizens.

Two other airports in northwest Florida have recently changed their names, and all include a regional spin. Pensacola Regional Airport is now Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport, and the Okaloosa Walton Airport is now Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

All three of those airports are competing to land Southwest Airlines. Now another airport has entered the fray. Mobile Regional Airport in Alabama and business leaders launched a new push for the Dallas-based discount carrier. The push could include efforts to give public money and free hotel rooms as enticements.

- Passengers in New Orleans are now able to take a new non-stop AirTran Airways flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The flight from Louis Armstrong International Airport departs at 5:04 p.m. every weekday but Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when it doesn't operate.

The Pentagon acknowledged during the week what we already knew. Deployment of the massive “bunker buster” bomb, capable of penetrating deeply buried facilities, is on a fast track. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the first 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator should be ready by the middle of next year. The weapon is being developed by Boeing and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

- The National Flight Academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., hosted a keel-laying ceremony during the week to celebrate construction on the 100,000-square-foot educational facility. When completed in 2011, the academy will be a science camp for students grades 7-12, and will use a naval-aviation-themed environment.

- In Gulfport during the week, EADS North America and the U.S. Army successfully loaded four Army UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters and one company-owned EC145 helicopter onto a U.S. Air Force C-17, validating the transportability of the LUH. It was done in preparation for a future delivery of four U.S. Army UH-72A Lakotas to the Pacific theater for basing on the Kwajalein Atoll. The Lakotas are build in Columbus, Miss.

Boeing successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., the WorldView-2 satellite for DigitalGlobe aboard a Delta II rocket Thursday. Liftoff was at 11:51 a.m. Pacific Time, and the Delta II released WorldView-2 about 62 minutes after liftoff into a sun-synchronous orbit. The satellite is designed to collect and record commercial, high-resolution Earth imagery. DigitalGlobe, which now has three satellites in its constellation, has an operation at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

This and that
In a bid to get more students interested in engineering, nine Mobile County, Ala., elementary and middle schools will get a $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a program designed to do just that. U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner said it’s a pilot program that will set the pace for educators across the nation. The program is Engaging Youth in Engineering. Alabama needs at least 1,200 more engineers and about 24,000 technicians, said Bob Foley, assistant dean at the USA's College of Engineering. The state's engineering colleges are only producing about 400 a year.

- Goodrich during the week celebrated 25 years in Foley, Ala. The plant, which makes and repairs aircraft engine housings, has grown from 37 to 800 employees. Attending the celebration were local, state and federal dignitaries.

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., of Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $17,471,784 contract to provide 578 propulsion sections to be installed into AIM-120B air vehicles. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 695 ARSS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Week in review (9/27 to 10/3)

Now that the Air Force has reopened the competition of the tanker contract, and now that the first week has passed, it’s clearer than ever that the only way out of the tanker mess will be to buy tankers from both Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing. It took no time at all for a controversy to begin.

Boeing is competing against Northrop Grumman and partner EADS to build the tankers to replace the old KC-135s. EADS plans to assemble the planes in Mobile, Ala. The last contest ended in a Northrop/EADS win, but a protest by Boeing was upheld by the Government Accountability Office. The rematch finally got under way last week when the details of the request for proposals were released.

Within days of the restart, Northrop Grumman cried foul that Boeing had been given access to Northrop’s pricing information after the contract was awarded to Northrop in February 2008. Northrop has been denied similar access to Boeing's information.

"It is fundamentally unfair, and distorts any new competition, to provide such critical information to only one of the bidders," said Paul Meyer, Northrop's president and general manager.

Then Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., introduced legislation to block funding for the tanker program until the Pentagon releases pricing data to Northrop Grumman from the first round of competition.

Jacques Gansler, former Pentagon acquisition chief, told Aviation Week he was surprised the Air Force disclosed Northrop's pricing data for its winning proposal to Boeing during the company's debrief. He said they had to know there was a protest coming.

Gansler is also raising questions about the methodology proposed by the Air Force. It calls for a pass/fail rating on 373 requirements. The price of the bids that pass all of those requirements will be adjusted based on performance in various wartime scenarios and peacetime operations. He says his impression is they are trying to avoid a protest instead of trying to do the best thing for the warfighter.

All we can say is, stay tuned.

- With Boeing already facing new competition against Northrop in the tanker competition, you got to figure it really smarted during the week when Boeing found out it lost another competition - this one a $3.8 billion contract - to Northrop Grumman to maintain and service Air Force KC-10 refueling tankers. Boeing has been servicing the planes for more than a decade, and its current contract expires in January.

As if all that isn't enough to lock jaws at Boeing, the company is watching as its rival EADS dig in even deeper in the Gulf Coast region. EADS North America, the European company's U.S. subsidiary, held a grand opening during the week for a new 30,000 square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul delivery center at the Mobile Regional Airport in Alabama. It's the same city - though not the same location - where EADS hopes to assemble the tankers.

The $6 million facility will provide North American operators of the C-212 and CN-235 tactical transports with a certified FAA repair station and direct manufacturer support. The C-212 and CN-235 are used by a variety of military and civil operators, including the U.S. Coast Guard, which is building a fleet of HC-144A Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft based on the CN-235.
The new facility expands upon an already-existing EADS CASA North America facility that’s provided training, spares and customer support since 2005. EADS used the grand opening to announce it has renamed EADS CASA North America to Airbus Military North America. The new facility will bear the Airbus Military name.

It's official now. Eglin Air Force Base's 33rd Fighter Wing, which for years flew F-15s as an operational organization, is now a training wing and part of the Texas-based Air Education and Training Command.

Col. David Hlatky, the new commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, said training the first generation of F- 35 Joint Strike Fighter pilots and maintainers is the "privilege of a lifetime." The wing, which now falls under AETC's 19th Air Force, is the Department of Defense's first joint strike fighter organization.

Meanwhile, about 30 miles away from Eglin at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., the 479th Flight Training Group officially activated Friday. The group’s first training jet, a T-1A Jayhawk with the ceremonial name "The Spirit of Pensacola," arrived at the base Wednesday.

Last year construction began at NAS Pensacola on the $45 million training facility. The 479th will train 360 aircraft navigators and combat systems officers and electronic warfare officers. The new training school was brought to Pensacola through the 2005 decision by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. It combines three existing training groups to provide a training pipe line with more options for students.

All of this just reinforces the Gulf Coast region is a hot spot for military training.

- In another base-related event during the week, a workhorse of the military was given a ceremonial goodbye during an event at the Army National Guard’s Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot in Gulfport, Miss., Saturday.

The 9 a.m. event commemorated the UH-1 Iroquois "Huey," which retired from the Army inventory in September. The event was also a way to pay tribute to the pilots and crew chiefs from Mississippi who flew the UH-1 during its tenure with the Army National Guard. The AVCRAD where the ceremony took place is at the Trent Lott National Guard Training Center on the east side of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. It does repair work on helicopters from a nine-state region, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I.

- Seems a lot of folks are noticing the benefits of training in this region. Members of the 53rd Wing of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, were at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to test the capabilities of B-1s in an effort to better defend the aircraft and prove the strength of new software systems.

"The main purpose of our deployment out here is to conduct defensive threat reaction test to basically validate our defensive tactics against threats," said Lt. Col. Jeff Aldridge, 337th Test Evaluation Squadron commander. The squadron flew two B-1s to Eglin for a week and was able to complete extensive testing.

Aldridge said that normally they fly two missions a week but at Eglin they are flying every day. The B-1, a long-range bomber, can track, target and engaging moving land vehicles. The tests revealed more information about the aircraft's software.

Bunker buster
While we're on the subject of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., here's one to keep your eye on.

A 20-foot long, 30,000-pound "bunker buster" bomb designed to destroy hard targets or targets buried deep underground is moving forward fairly quickly, based on a series of contracts recently awarded to Boeing unit McDonnell Douglass.

Back in August, Reuters reported that the Pentagon wanted to speed deployment of the bomb on board the radar-evading Northrop Grumman B-2s as soon as July 2010. The non-nuclear Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), developed by the Air Force and Boeing, is designed to destroy deeply buried bunkers beyond the reach of existing bombs. And this one is huge, a third heavier than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Burst Bomb (MOAB) tested twice at Eglin in 2003. Eglin is also handling the MOP program.

In June, the Air Armament Center at Eglin said it planned to buy 20 of the bombs, five to be used for tests. In August, McDonnell Douglass was awarded a $12.5 million contract to provide for three MOP separation test vehicles, associated aircraft and handling equipment, and technical support for one single and one dual release separation and de-conflict test on the B-52 aircraft. Just this past week, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $51.9 million contract to provide MOP integration on B-2 test aircraft.

Construction of the A-3 test stand at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi is approaching another milestone with delivery and installation of 14 water, isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen tanks.

Nine of the tanks already have been installed, with the remaining five to arrive on-site in upcoming weeks. The A-3 stand will provide high-altitude testing on the J-2X engine in development for the Constellation Program, NASA’s bid to return humans to the moon and beyond.

This and that
The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, built in part in Moss Point, Miss., is in the running for an innovation award from the C4ISR Journal. The awards honor outstanding innovations in intelligence gathering and networking. Finalists were selected for five categories: sensors, innovations, organizations, network systems and platforms. A "top five award" will be presented to one winner from each category at a banquet later this month in Arlington, Va.

In addition to Fire Scout, the other products in the innovations category are QinetiQ’s solar-electric powered Zephyr, Sierra Nevada’s sensor pod for tactical level ISR, the Naval Air Systems Command’s digital close air support system and Raytheon’s ARTEMIS imaging spectrometer. By the way, QinetiQ has an operation in Long Beach, Miss.

- Despite signs that the recession is easing, some companies are still feeling he pinch. Mobile's Teledyne Continental Motors workers face more unpaid down time in the future. The entire 420-worker plant, which makes aircraft engines, will shut down this week and most of the 160 salaried employees will work only four days a week for the remainder of the year. Hourly employees will work a normal schedule, officials said. Holiday schedules are also trimmed back. All this is being caused by a downturn of business.

In addition to the contract mentioned earlier for the bunker buster, eight contracts with a connection to the Gulf Coast, including three for one company, were awarded during the week. The multiple contracts were awarded to L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss. One was a $47.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for total aircraft maintenance and logistics life cycle support for 54 Navy and 11 Marine Corps C-12 aircraft. Some of the work will be done at Naval Air Station New Orleans. The second contract was a $17.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance of 14 T39N and 6 T-39G aircraft at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The third contract was a $7 million aircraft lease service contract for four helicopters for pilot training in support of U. S. Special Operations Command's Air Force Special Operations Command. Work will be performed at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Other contracts awarded during the week: Tybrin Corp., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $6.2 million contract to provide for non-personal advisory and assistance services to fully support aerospace research, development, test and evaluation activities at the Air Force Flight Test Center. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $16.1 million contract for 155mm Excalibur Block 1A-1 projectiles, with six percent of the work to be done in Niceville, Fla. … Kaman Precision Products Inc. of Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $6.4 million contract to provide for joint programmable fuze systems. 679 ARSS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Cubic Defense Application Inc., San Diego, Calif., was awarded an $8.6 million contract to provide 20 P5 combat training system pods, four display and debrief stations and two control display units, as well as contractor logistical support to be placed at two locations in Egypt. 675 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $17 million contract to provide for miniature weapon demonstration research and development for a 5-year ordering period. AFRL/RWK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Week in review (9/20 to 9/26)

The biggest aerospace story during the past week for the Gulf Coast aerospace region was the release of the guidelines for the competition to build aerial tankers for the Air Force. The contract is worth some $35 billion to build 179 planes in the first of three acquisition stages. Boeing and the Northrop Grumman/EADS are the competitors to build the tankers.

Lawmakers were briefed on the draft request Thursday. It cut from 800 to under 400 the number of requirements, and opts for a best-value tanker instead of best price. It will also be a fixed-price contest.

The Air Force also decided not to put in anything about the ongoing trade dispute between Boeing and EADS over government subsidies. The World Trade Organization made a ruling that favors Boeing on one phase of the rift. But another part of the dispute might well go in EADS’ favor. The Air Force did not want to include anything about a trade dispute that will take years to resolve.

Boeing plans to offer a tanker based on the 767 or 777, or perhaps both. The Northrop Grumman/EADS team will be offering a tanker based on the Airbus A330. Boeing wants to build the tankers in Washington and Kansas, and Northrop/EADS want to assemble them in Mobile, Ala.

This is the third attempt to replace the aging KC-135 tankers. The first attempt was a lease arrangement that was scuttled because of some shaddy antics by a top Boeing and Air Force official. The second contract was awarded to the Northrop Grumman/EADS team in February 2008, but a Boeing protest was upheld on grounds the selection process was flawed.

NASA is targeting Oct. 27 for the flight test of the Ares I-X rocket. There is another launch opportunity on Oct. 28. The date will be finalized at a Flight Test Readiness Review scheduled for Oct. 23 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The launch will provide NASA with an opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations, while gathering critical data for the Ares I rocket and future launch vehicles. Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., are both involved in the NASA’s space program.

- A next-generation satellite designed and built by Lockheed Martin is performing as required following its successful launch from Cape Canaveral earlier this month. The program, designated PAN, consists of a turnkey commercial-based satellite, ground and launch system developed to meet the U.S. government's future needs. The satellite is based on Lockheed Martin's A2100 spacecraft series. Some of the work on the satellite was done at Lockheed Martin Space and Technology Center, Stennis Space Center, Miss.

New Orleans officials intend to find out whether investors are interested in making Louis Armstrong International Airport the nation's first privately operated airport. The Federal Aviation Administration this month accepted the local airport’s application to participate in a pilot privatization program that the FAA authorized for U.S. airports in 1997.

- In Biloxi, Miss., Keesler Air Force Base’s 81st Medical Group has received full accreditation as a joint training platform. The program was evaluated by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in April and can proceed with training four general surgeons each year for five years of general surgery residency. The surgical residency was restructured in 2008 to include integration with the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., 96th Medical Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the Biloxi Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

At least eight contracts with Gulf Coast connections were awarded during the week. Sikorsky Support Services Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $133.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for maintenance and logistics services in support of 374 T-34, T-44, and T-6 aircraft. Some of the work will be done at NAS Whiting Field and NAS Pensacola. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded two contracts. One was a $112.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance required to support 49 T-45A and 151 T-45C aircraft based at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., NAS Kingsville, Texas, and NAS Pensacola, Fla. The other was a $44.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics support for 126 TH-57B/TH-57C aircraft. The work, 99 percent, will be performed at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla. … Rolls-Royce Defense Services Inc., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded a $90.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for intermediate and depot level maintenance and related support for in-service T-45 F405-RR-401 Adour engines. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, NAS Meridian, Miss., NAS Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Patuxent River, Md. … Jacobs Technology Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded $18.1 million under a previously awarded contract to provide support of the transition from the NMCI environment to the next generation USMC IT environment. … BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $5.9 million modification under a previously awarded contract to exercise option year three for ammunition handling and management services for Navy Munitions Command, East Asia Division Detachment Pearl Harbor. … InDyne Incorp., of Reston, Va., was awarded a $14 million contract which will provide Eglin Test and Training Complex range in Florida operations and maintenance of test and training areas and technical facilities to include test and training mission support, engineering support for range system design/modification/range configuration and range support services to accomplish authorized range activities. … Del-Jen Inc., Gardena, Calif., was awarded $23.1 million modification under a previously awarded contract to exercise the second option period for base operations support services at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Saufley Field, Corry Station, and Bronson Field.