Saturday, July 18, 2009

Week in review (7/12 to 7/18)

A small step was taken during the past week to resolve the differences between the city of Valparaiso, Fla., and the Air Force over the establishment of the Joint Strike Fighter Training Center at Eglin Air Force Base.

Valparaiso city commissioners approved a settlement in the city’s Freedom of Information Act suit filed against the Air Force. The Air Force agreed to give Valparaiso all of the noise data within 30 days of the settlement’s signing. But another suit, one that seeks to derail work on the center, is ongoing.

The conflict between Valparaiso and the Air Force has been dragging on for some time now. At issue is concern over the noise level of the F-35s. The aircraft will be used by all branches of the service as well as foreign nations. Eglin is the initial joint center for training, though other bases will eventually be used as well.

Many areas interested in bringing the F-35 to their area are keeping a close eye on this Air Force-Valparaiso conflict.

- In another F-35-related item during the week, Pratt & Whitney was awarded a $571.1 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 engine contract. The engine is designated F-135. The contract is for low rate initial production. It’s notable because it sets the final price and fully funds the purchase of engines for seven Air Force and one Royal Netherlands Air Force conventional take off and landing engines, seven Marine Corps and two United Kingdom short take off and vertical landing engines, as well as associated items.

Unmanned systems
Air Force leaders last month approved the Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan, which outlines a coordinated strategy for UAV integration across all Air Force functions. The plan highlights capabilities that will revolutionize UAV operations, including multi-aircraft control.

This is of high interest to this region because the Gulf Coast is deeply involved in UAVs. Northrop Grumman builds Global Hawk and Fire Scout, in Moss Point, Miss., and UAV-maker AeroVironment has a training operation in Navarre, Fla.

- On the topic of Global Hawk, Northrop Grumman during the week was awarded a $26.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for additional operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program. That's the project the Navy is using to explore the uses of the aircraft, which will play a crucial role in the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system.

- Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout showed off its capabilities in an unusual way last month. Northrop Grumman said this past week that a Fire Scout unmanned helicopter testing in the United States provided real-time video feed of electro-optical/ infrared sensor imagery to participants at the Paris Air Show.

Work on a pair of transfer docks for the new rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss., has been completed. The docks allow barges to deliver fuels to the A-3 Test Stand via Stennis’ seven-and-one-half-mile canal system that connects the site to the Pearl River. From the docks, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen will be loaded into run tanks and used to conduct engine tests. The A-3 stand will be used to test the J-2X engine for the Constellation Program.

- Two Stennis Space Center projects are among the 20 selected for NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program. The NASA Innovation Fund was established to advance work from NASA innovators on novel technologies and concepts that have the potential to revolutionize the way NASA performs its missions. More than 230 proposals were submitted. Each project is funded for a maximum of $50,000, with work to be completed by the end of September.

- The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration is providing a $24,000 grant to Waveland, Miss., to develop a feasibility study on establishing a business incubator. The grant will determine the viability of a business incubator to nurture technology and engineering-based businesses and help Waveland capitalize on its proximity to Stennis Space Center.

Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., was chosen as the site for the new Undergraduate Cyberspace Training Unit, a program that will teach its students how to protect communications networks. The first class begins in the fall of 2010.

The training will include how to design, secure, assess, exploit, attack and defend various communication networks, including telephones, Internet protocol, satellite, land mobile radio, industrial control systems, integrated air defense and tactical data link.

Meanwhile, a course that’s been taught for six decades at Keesler is ending and being merged with other career fields. The last radio communications operations class in the 336th Training Squadron graduates this week.

- At Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base and Valparaiso, Fla., an upcoming project will improve the electrical system, security and parking. Construction is expected to begin in November on a number of improvements, including a realignment of the road leading to the airport’s terminal.

Meanwhile, an F-15 from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin is going on permanent display at the airport. It was brought over during the week and the display is expected to be completed in August. Another Eglin F-15 was sent to Mobile, Ala., where it will be part of the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.

The first Airbus A330 slated for the United Kingdom’s strategic tanker program has arrived ahead of schedule at the Airbus facility in Madrid, Spain, to begin its conversion into a multi-role tanker transport. The Royal Air Force tanker uses the same airframe as Northrop Grumman’s KC-45, which is proposed for the U.S. Air Force’s tanker fleet. If EADS and partner Northrop Grumman win the Air Force contract, the KC-45 will be assembled in Mobile, Ala. If Boeing wins it will be assembled in Washington.

L-3 Crestview Aerospace cut 28 jobs during the week – the same number of positions that were cut in May. The company blamed the cuts on the decrease in demand in the commercial aviation sector. The company, one of the largest employers in Okaloosa County, is a subsidiary of L-3 Integrated Systems and does aircraft modification and aerostructure fabrication.

In addition to the two contracts mentioned above, there were two other contracts of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region. Bell Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $24.5 million contract for the development and delivery of safety corrective actions, reliability and aintainability improvements, and quick reaction capability improvements in support of V-22 Osprey missions for the Air Force Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps. Ospreys are used by the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. … McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $12.1 million contract to provide massive ordnance penetrator on B-2 platform. AAC/708th, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

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