Saturday, March 21, 2009

Week in review (3/15 to 3/21)

Work on the Joint Strike Fighter Training Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is now officially under way. A groundbreaking was held at the base Friday, and attracted about 175 people, according to media reports.

The construction involves nine separate projects, including an academic center, dormitories, dining facilities and hangars. Total construction costs will be about $250 million.

The F-35 Lightning II, built by Lockheed Martin, will be used by the Air Force, Navy and Marines as well as foreign militaries. The plane is the result of international collaboration involving the United States and allied nations. Eglin in 2005 was chosen as the primary training facility for pilots and maintenance personnel from all branches - a real economic development coup for the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

The center has not been without controversy. The city of Valparaiso, just outside the gate, is still concerned about noise from the fighter and has said it plans to sue. The Air Force has said the F-35 is twice as loud as an F-15. Another just-released study by the National Air and Space Laboratory in the Netherlands states that the noise the JSF makes is just a little more then the F-16. It all depends on what is being measured - takeoff, landing, full power.

Meanwhile, a Marine pilot took the controls of an F-35 for the first time during the week. The major flew an F-35A for an hour and 20 minutes at the Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The version the major flew was the type the Air Force will be using. The Marines will use a short-takeoff/vertical landing version of the F-35, designated the F-35B.

In another F-35 story during the week, the United Kingdom announced it will buy three F-35B operational test aircraft. That marks the U.K.’s commitment to the Operational Test and Evaluation phase of the Joint Strike Fighter program. The F-35B will be flown from the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. Still to come is a decision in the Netherlands on whether to buy two and participate in the Operational Test and Evaluation phase.

The Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team is back home at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The team, which performs in F-18s, had been at the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron’s winter training grounds at El Centro, Calif.

The Constellation Program keeps moving ahead. All the hardware required for the flight this summer of the Ares I-X is now at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Four Alliant Techsystems' Ares I-X motor segments arrived during the week. The segments were originally produced for the space shuttle and later transferred to the Ares I-X mission.

During the week, Alliant Techsystems awarded United Space Alliance a $257 million contract to perform subcontractor support to ATK for the NASA’s Ares I and Ares 1-X programs through the design, development, test and engineering phase. It includes engineering, deceleration system development and technical operations support for Stage I activities. Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., are involved in the Constellation Program.

Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi held a ribbon-cutting ceremony during the week for the new $15 million parking structure. It’s a three-story, 800-vehicle structure. The project had been on the drawing board for 10 years.

Over in Mobile, Ala., the Airport Authority in Alabama approved $26.1 million in spending at the city’s two airports. Projects include taxiway work and terminal work at the Mobile Regional Airport, and road and drainage work at Brookley Field Industrial Complex.

Only one contract with a Gulf Coast connection was awarded during the week. It was a fixed price contract for Lockheed Martin Corp., Maritime Systems and Sensors, Integrated Defense Technologies, Baltimore, Md., in the amount of $49.9 million for FY08 MK 41 Vertical Launching System production and delivery requirements. Fourteen percent of the work will be performed in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Finally, we should also note that earlier this month the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions, the Mississippi program that corridinates that state's geospatial technology industry cluster, announced it added six new companies to EIGS. Three of them, Innovative Imaging and Research, Skylla Engineering and Themis Vision System, are all based at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The other three are in Hattiesburg, Jackson and Starkville. EIGS is run by the University of Mississippi.

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