Saturday, August 29, 2009

Week in review (8/23 to 8/29)

One of the more fascinating aerospace issues playing out right now – one that has implications for the Gulf Coast region – is the controversy over where F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will be based. On the one side you have bases just begging to get some of the fighters, and on the other you have people who are afraid the jets will be too noisy and disrupt their lives.

One base that already knows its getting the F-35s is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which will be the location of the Joint Strike Fighter Training Center. The base will be the initial training location for Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots, and it’s scheduled to get 59 of the planes in the spring of 2010.

But the city of Valparaiso, right outside the gate, is concerned that the planes are too loud and will have a negative impact on the Valparaiso economy, in part through lowering the value of properties. The Air Force has been looking at ways to mitigate the impact.

The Air Force has held a series of meeting with communities, and the last one was held in Valparaiso last week to discuss alternatives. There are 18 options under consideration, including using Eglin Main, Duke Field or Choctaw Field – all part of Eglin – as the main operating base for the new aircraft. Earlier in the week, Eglin officials hosted a meeting in Navarre to discuss the Choctaw Field option.

Valparaiso is not alone in its concern over noise. Folks around Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia are not sure they want F-35s. The Navy was expected to release last week an environmental impact statement related to plans to build a new outlying field in Virginia or North Carolina for practice carrier landings.

But the statement is being delayed because the Navy figured the first step really has to be determining whether it will even base F-35C aircraft at Oceana. And it’s not at all certain that they will because locals have complained plenty over the noise from the current crop of jets.

Plans for the Oceana outlying landing field include five potential sites, but local residents surrounding those sites have opposed the facility as a noise hazard with few economic benefits, according to the Navy Times. The Navy’s original plan in 2002 called for a new landing field in Washington County in eastern North Carolina, but that was blocked by a lawsuit filed by local opponents. (Story)

But there are plenty of locations just drooling for the F-35s, including bases in Arizona and Idaho. The folks around Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle are also making a pitch to get F-35s. Bay County supporters of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., plan a new Web site that promotes the base’s capabilities in a bid to get F-35s and other missions. At the request of the Bay Defense Alliance, Applied Research Associates is donating its services to develop the site.

Speaking of Eglin Air Force Base, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons says he does not expect major changes in the air-launched weapons portfolio as a result of the Quadrennial Defense Review, but some programs in production could see fewer units procured.

According to Aviation Week, Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, who also serves as commander of the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., said there’s some pressure about the quantities of weapons being bought that are not regularly used in Afghanistan and Iraq. He declined to specify any weapons.

Air-launched weapons in production include Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Raytheon’s AIM-120 C7 and D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and AIM-9X short-range air combat missile, and Boeing’s 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb and Joint Direct Attack Munition.

The QDR, a bottom-up review of defense strategy and force structure requirements, is ongoing and results aren’t yet out. (Story)

The test firing of the Ares I solid rocket motor was canceled last week just 20 seconds before the test at contractor ATK’s facility in Utah. A broken valve of an auxiliar power unit appears to have been at fault. Ares I, part of NASA’s Constellation Program, faces an uncertain future. A commission named to review the manned space program is supposed to present its findings Monday, but has already indicated NASA does not have ample funding to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are both involved in the Constellation Program.

Two new T-6B Texan II training aircraft arrived at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, in Milton, Fla., during the week. They are the first of 156 aircraft that will be phased in over the next few years to replace the T-34C Turbo Mentors that have been used at Whiting since 1978. The new plane is bigger, faster and has a digital cockpit, like the advanced aircraft now used by the military.

- The 81st Training Wing and 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., dedicated the Colonel Lawrence E. Roberts Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Facility at the end of the week. The 140,000 square-foot complex was named in honor of Roberts, who flew with the Tuskegee Airmen and made Biloxi his home until his death in 2004. The two-story, $22.6 million facility will be used to maintain the new C-130J six bladed composite propeller, and many other significant aircraft maintenance capabilities.

- In another naming ceremony earlier in the week, this one in Florida, Eglin Air Force Base’s hospital inpatient tower was named for Col. Adanto D’Amore. D’Amore served as the 96th Medical Group commander from the hospital’s inception to its completion.

The second A330 tanker transport aircraft for Australia during the week completed its mission equipment outfitting with a successful “power on” and is being readied for pre-delivery flight testing. The power on test was to check the operation of more than 400 installed wiring harnesses. The aircraft is the same basic configurate as the KC-45 Northrop Grumman and EADS are offering to the United States for its tanker.

- In another Boeing story during the week, the company said it is ready to take the first steps to make it easier to build a second 787 final assembly line in North Charleston, S.C., should it chose to do so. The former Vought plant already makes part of the airplane's fuselage. The company said no decision has been made, and that Boeing simply intends to take the procedural step of filing the necessary permits.

There were at least three DoD contracts during the week that have a Gulf Coast connection. Atlantic Electric of North Charleston, S.C.,was awarded a $14.9 million contract to repair and replace airfield lighting at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. … Anderson Drace Joint Venture, Gulfport, Miss., was awarded a $14.5 million construction contract for a dormitory at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. … Northrop Grumman, San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $13.4 million modified contract for Global Hawk engineering, manufacturing and development activities to develop replacement of the current engine turbine with its commercial variant. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Week in review (8/16 to 8/22)

With Boeing and the Northrop Grumman locked in battle over the Air Force tanker project, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much the two giants – and other defense contractors - cooperate on major military projects.

Case in point: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s airborne laser project. Just this past week the agency and its industry team successfully fired in flight for the first time the high-energy laser aboard the ABL, Airborne Laser aircraft.

The project’s prime contractor is Boeing, which uses a modified Boeing 747-400F as the test platform. Boeing also provides the battle management system. Northrop Grumman designed and built the ABL's high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser, or COIL, the most powerful laser ever developed for an airborne environment, and Lockheed Martin developed the weapon system's beam control/fire control system.

The back half of the 747-400F holds the high-energy laser and front section contains the beam control/fire control and battle management systems. Maintaining precise alignment of optical components within the laser while in flight ranks among the program's notable accomplishments. The aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and fired its high-energy laser while flying over the California High Desert. The laser was fired into an onboard calorimeter, which captured the beam and measured its power.

ABL is designed to provide speed-of-light capability to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight. The beam is designed to exit the aircraft through a nose-mounted turret. The project is on track to shoot down a boosting ballistic missile later this year. (Releases: Globe Newswire, Boeing)

- Speaking of contracts, changes are ahead in the acquisitions community as Defense Department officials reshape the acquisition work force to support the reforms of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Barack Obama.

The Defense Department will increase the number of federal civilian workers involved in acquistion-related jobs by 20,000, while cutting the contractor work force by about 10,000. That will expand the acquisition work force from its current 127,000 federal employees and 52,000 contractors to 147,000 feds and about 42,000 contractors by fiscal 2015.(Release: American Forces Press Service)

During the past week, the A-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss., was put on “standby” status now that the last space shuttle main engine test has been done. Engine No. 0525 was tested July 29, and the shuttle program is set to end in 2010.

The new A-3 test stand is still being built and will be used for high-altitude testing of the J-2X engine that will be used in Ares I and Ares V rockets. Activation on the A-3 stand is scheduled to begin in early 2011.

- Two Stennis Space Center engineers were among the inaugural class of graduates from NASA's Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program. Dawn Davis of New Orleans and Bryon Maynard of Lacombe, La., were among 15 program participants recognized during a leadership workshop and graduation ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

- Lockheed Martin plans to cut about 800 jobs at its space systems division by the end of the year due to anticipated flat space program budgets. The company will offer a voluntary buyout plan this month to space systems employees. The cuts will include technical, managerial and administrative positions at facilities in Denver and Sunnyvale, Calif. Lockheed Martin has a space and technology operation at Stennis Space Center.

This and that
- The Jackson County Aviation Technology Park was designated as “shovel-ready” during a certification ceremony Thursday. The designation means all the work to prepare a site for construction has already been done by the time a potential tenant comes calling. The 300-acre park already has one tenant, the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center, which builds portions of the Global Hawk and Fire Scout.

- Add John Lehman to the list of defense experts who see buying tankers from both Boeing and Northrop Grumman as a solution to the Air Force's dilemma over replacing refueling tankers. Lehman, an investment banker and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, has long been an advocate of "competitive acquisition" in government contracting. It's good business, he told the Mobile Press-Register.

- A short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter has become the first F-35 to complete an aerial refueling test using the Navy- and Marine Corps-style probe-and-drogue refueling system. It’s the first in a series of tests that will clear the STOVL F-35B variant for extended-range flights, particularly to its primary test site at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be the home of the F-35 training center.

Five defense contracts to four companies were awarded during the week with a Gulf Coast connection. All five list Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $21 million contract for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile system improvement program. …
McDonnell Douglass Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $12.5 million contract to provide for three Massive Ordnance Penetrator separation test vehicles, aircraft and handling equipment and technical support for one single and one dual release separation and de-conflict test on the B-52. In a separate contract, the company was awarded a $98 million contract to provide integration and production of the laser joint direct attack munitions system on various Foreign Military Sales aircraft platforms throughout the life of the contract.… Business Technology and Solutions, Beavercreek, Ohio, was awarded a $13.3 million contract and Colsa Corp., Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $10.8 million contract, each for the technical and acquisition management support program that provides non-engineering, technical and acquisition management support required in the acquisition, development, production, and support of various equipment and weapon systems within the Air Armament Center and other organizations at Eglin Air Force Base.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Week in review (8/9 to 8/15)

If you follow the space program, then you know that the upcoming report from the Augustine Committee could have a major impact on NASA’s Constellation Program. And that’s significant for the Gulf Coast region. Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, are both key facilities for Constellation.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the committee’s findings “could turn the entire space program upside down.” The panel, created to take another look at NASA and its programs, has been meeting for months. One big finding: NASA doesn't have nearly enough money to meet its goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 - and it may be the wrong place to go anyway.

The Human Space Flight Plans Committee is just an advisory panel, but its findings are expected to have a big impact on the Obama administration. The group’s report is expected by the end of this month. (Story)

Michoud is one of the locations where portions of the space vehicles are being built, and Stennis is where the propulsion systems are being tested. A lot of money has already been spent on the Constellation Program, including construction of a new test stand at Stennis.

The possibility of a second Boeing assembly site for the 787 outside the state of Washington has spread concern in that state's aerospace industry. Boeing is looking at sites in Washington and South Carolina to house a new final assembly plant for its 787 because the aircraft is two years behind schedule. Industry observers say the company is also looking at sites in Texas and elsewhere in the South.

For the Gulf Coast region, Boeing’s moves are of particular interest. Boeing is locked in battle with the Northrop Grumman/EADS team to build tankers for the Air Force. EADS and Northrop want to build them in Mobile, Ala., and Boeing plans to build them in Washington State. Of course, any interest Boeing has in setting up assembly lines in the South are of high interest to economic development officials in this region.

Unmanned systems
The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter recently completed flight tests aboard the USS McInerney, part of a series of evaluations leading to operational evaluation this fall. The tests took place last month off the coast of Mayport, Fla. The Fire Scout is slated to deploy aboard McInerney during its next counter-narcotics trafficking deployment later this year. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center.

- Speaking of the Fire Scout, that unmanned helicopter is featured in the latest version of the U.S. Army's America's Army 3 computer game. America's Army 3 includes Fire Scout as part of an introduction to the game's Unmanned Aircraft Systems integration. America's Army is one of the most popular computer game franchises.

- Navy enlisted men and women may get an opportunity to become Fire Scout pilots. The Navy is launching an experimental program using two enlisted men. All those trained to fly the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter have so far been rated helicopter pilots. The Navy is trying to determine if this is a cost-effective option.

Training a winged pilot costs $500,000 to $1 million. Training a sailor to pilot a UAV would be a fraction of the cost.

The Naval Education and Training Command, headquartered in Pensacola, Fla., has a new commander. Rear Adm. Joseph F. Kilkenny took over from retiring Rear Adm. Gary R. Jones during a change of command ceremony at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Thursday. The training command is the largest in the Navy.

- The Air Force got a new surgeon general during the past week. It’s Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Charles B. Green, the 20th Air Force surgeon general. Green completed residency training in family practice in 1981 at Eglin Regional Hospital at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

US Airways plans to begin nonstop service to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. early next year from Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport in Florida. The proposed new service is the result of a US Airways deal with Delta to swap slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport and Reagan National.

- In Mobile, Ala., a new charter air service is now available. Springdale Travel and Charter Services launched their “Mobile Direct” with a demonstration flight during the week from Mobile Regional Airport to Birmingham. An eight-seat Cessna Citation jet will serve airports within 1,500 miles of Mobile.

There were at least two contracts awarded during the past week with a Gulf Coast connection. Jacobs Technology Inc., Tullahoma, Tenn., was awarded a $98.1 million contract to provide technical, engineering and acquisition support program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and various other tenant organizations. AAC/PKES, Eglin is the contracting activity. … Utilis USA LLC of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded $6.2 million under a previously awarded contract for general purpose medium shelters. Work will be performed in Fort Walton Beach and Destin, Fla., and Celina, Ohio.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Week in review (8/2 to 8/8)

If you’re interested in the space program, you might want to take advantage of an opportunity coming this week to the Gulf Coast region. A full scale mockup of NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle will be moved from Florida to Texas to continue testing. But on the way to Houston the mockup will make several stops so the public can take a look.

After a stop in Tallahassee Monday, the mockup will be at Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Tuesday. It will be there from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., then it will be at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The mockup is used to study the environment for astronauts and recovery crews after an Orion ocean splashdown. The Gulf Coast region is involved in the space program primarily through the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which will be involved in building Orion as well as portions of the launch vehicles, Ares I and Ares V. Stennis is the location where all the propulsion systems will be tested.

Unmanned systems
Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system recently reached the milestone of 25,000 combat hours during a sortie in July from a deployed location. It was first flown in 1998 and has logged 1,229 missions, many of them non-combat. It can reach more than 60,000 feet in altitude for more than 32 hours. Global Hawk central fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss., at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center.

- Last week officials from the Air Force and the academic community gathered in Grand Forks, N.D., at the University of North Dakota for a symposium on unmanned aerial systems. The goal of the three-day symposium was to identify opportunities for training, development and research, and to introduce the Air Force unmanned aircraft systems flight plan for 2009 to 2047.

A particularly interesting fact that came out of the symposium: The Air Force will train more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots this year because of the immediate demand. That's according to Gen. Stephen Lorenz. And he should know. He's commander of the Texas-based Air Education and Training Command.

North Dakota’s Gov. John Hoeven said his region is a premier location for UAV development. He said that due to the cold climate and the need to train in all types of weather, Grand Forks gives the Air Force an undeniable advantage. (Story)

It appears to this columnist that the Gulf Coast region needs to start making a big push to grab more of the military’s UAV action. Portions of two highly capable UAVs – Global Hawk and Fire Scout – are already being build in South Mississippi by Northrop Grumman, and AeroVironment has an operation in Northwest Florida.

This region is known for its military training activities, including pilot training. If the future means the training of more pilots to fly unmanned systems, then it seems appropriate to make a big push to ensure a large part of that training is done here. If not, this will be the one that years from now economic development officials bemoan as the one that got away.

The Pentagon wants to speed deployment of its 30,000-pound "bunker-buster" bomb to place on radar-evading Northrop Grumman B-2s soon as July 2010. The non-nuclear Massive Ordnance Penetrator, still being tested, is designed to destroy deeply buried bunkers beyond the reach of existing bombs.

The 20-foot long bomb built by Boeing is a third heavier than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Burst Bomb, which was tested twice at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in 2003. The MOP program is also handled by Eglin.

- Speaking of bases, the Air Force is re-evaluating secondary bases that will be used for F-35 training, adding more criteria. That means all Air Force bases are again in the running again. The Arizona Republic reported last weekend that the Air Force secretary and the Air Force chief of staff asked that additional factors, such as housing, medical access and child care, be considered. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the primary training site, and Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho were top runners for the secondary location. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., has been lobbying to become a site for the F-35s, so this may give it another shot. The base is scheduled to lose its F-15s earlier than local officials had originally thought.

- Five Air Force Reserve WC-130Js from Mississippi arrived at Hickam Air Force Base Friday to track Hurricane Felicia. The planes are with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, and are known as Hurricane Hunters. The planes fly into the eye of a hurricane to make critical measurements about the storm.

- Here’s one you might not have heard about. It's a bit dated, but still interesting. The Information Protection directorate hosted a workshop at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in June to exchange ideas about guarding information. Attending were more than 130 IP team members from major commands and installations. Cyber attacks on government systems have gotten the attention of the Defense Department, and the directorate was established in 2007.

That Boeing plant in South Carolina, recently purchased from Vought, was a hot topic last week in Washington state. A reporter for the Seattle P-I wrote that the purchase was discussed at an aerospace summit in Washington state. Of particular interest was a report by the Charleston Regional Business Journal about a move to decertify the International Machinists Union local at the former Vought plant. The journal also reports that a Boeing executive said the company is likely to make a decision about the location of its second 787 assembly line in the next five months.

So what? So Boeing is competing against Northrop Grumman and EADS to build a tanker for the Air Force, and any manufacturing-related activities of any of those companies may be important to that competition. The Northrop/EADS team wants to build the tankers in Mobile, Ala., and Boeing wants to build them in Washington.

New push
Avalex Technologies of Pensacola, Fla.,, known for aircraft display systems, is getting more involved in supplying displays and digital recorders for military ground vehicles. Company officials, who say 92 percent of their work is in aerospace, see continued growth in the military ground vehicle market. It’s projected to reach 25 percent of Avalex’s gross sales. On another note, Avalex may be moving its offices from Pensacola to Gulf Breeze, Fla., a community just a few miles away. The move will allow Avalex to expand.

2Q reports
Singapore Technologies Engineering reported its profit fell 9 percent for the second quarter of 2009 to $75.91 million from the second quarter 2008. It is the parent company of ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering, which has about 1,200 workers at Brookley Field Industrial Complex in Mobile, Ala., and VT Halter Marine, which has 1,500 employees at shipyards in Pascagoula, Moss Point and Escatawpa, Miss.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Week in review (7/26 to 8/1)

If you needed any more proof that unmanned systems will play an increasing role in aerospace, consider this: The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado has integrated unmanned aircraft systems into the school's curriculum.

Two Viking 300 unmanned systems, made by L-3 BAI Aerospace in Maryland, are used for the training at Camp Red Devil at Fort Carson, Colo. The academy hopes to send 300 cadets through the basic program each year.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould said the service has made unmanned systems a priority. He said their value is evidenced every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gould said the program is designed in part to “light a fire” in many of the cadets, and get them involved in the field.

Unmanned systems – you’ll sometimes see the acronym UAV, sometimes UAS – are of high interest to the Gulf Coast region on several levels. Northrop Grumman does production work on both the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and the Global Hawk fixed-wing UAV in Moss Point, Miss. And California’s AeroVironment, which builds Dragon Eye, Raven and more, has a training operation in Navarre, Fla.

But there's another reason: the military’s future and current aviators train in this region. The Navy does initial pilot and flight officer training in Pensacola and Milton, Fla., and we have plenty of active duty pilots at Eglin, Tyndall, Hurlburt and Keesler, as well as Air National Guard pilots, who train in this region and no doubt are paying attention to the growing use of UAVs. Let's face it. UAVs are competing with these pilots now and will continue to do so in the future for missions. They’ve no doubt heard the talk that the F-35 may well end up being the last fighter designed to have a pilot. Perhaps, perhaps not.

One next generation UAV that will be competing with these pilots for air time is the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System. Built by Northrop Grumman, it recently passed a key milestone. It went through a series of static and dynamic proof load tests to validate its design and structural integrity. The testing was done under the UCAS Carrier Demonstration program.

Next for the X-47B, now designated with Navy Bureau Number 168063, will be engine integration and taxi tests through the fall in preparation for first flight and carrier trials. Little doubt our naval aviators here will be watching those tests very closely. One of the most fascinating aspects will be when the aircraft makes an arrested landing. Naval aviators pride themselves on their ability to land an aircraft on a moving platform. Can a machine do it? We’ll have to wait and see.

Folks in Moss Point will obviously be paying attention. The X-47B may one day mean more work for the Unmanned Systems Center. They already do production work on two of the stars of Northrop’s UAV lineup, so it’s not unrealistic to think some work on the X-47B may one day be done in the Gulf Coast.

In yet one more UAV item during the week, Northrop Grumman announced that it finished assembling the first Euro Hawk unmanned aircraft system for Germany. The Euro Hawk, a derivative of the Block 20 Global Hawk, will serve as the German Air Force's high-altitude, long-endurance signals intelligence system.

It would be a major surprise if there wasn’t something to report during the week on the aerial tanker. You no doubt know that Boeing and the Northrop Grumman/EADS team are competing to build the next generation of aerial tankers for the Air Force. Northrop and EADS want to build the tanker in Mobile, Ala. It’s a lucrative contract – one of the biggest, with the initial competition offering a $40 billion prize - and the spinoffs will mean a lot for the Gulf Coast region.

Well during the week the Mobile Press-Register wrote that the White House budget office complained about Congressional pressure to split the contract. A statement said the administration supports taking advantage of efficiencies associated with an award to a single contractor. Many in Congress still feel that awarding the contract to one company will invite protests, and that will delay replacing the fleet of old tankers.

Another tanker-related items during the week was an announcement by EADS that Saudi Arabia will buy three more of the company's A330 refueling tankers. The company said the Royal Saudi Air Force will take delivery of the first of six A330 tankers in 2011. It’s the same aircraft platform EADS and Northrop Grumman are proposing for the Air Force tanker. The EADS tanker has far outsold the Boeing tanker in the world marketplace.

Anyone interested in the tanker battle has no doubt been intrigued by Boeing’s takeover of the Vought Aircraft Industries’ South Carolina plant, where a structure for the 787 Dreamliner is built. The purchase, first announced July 7, was finalized during the week.

The plant in North Charleston will be called Boeing Charleston, which will be managed by the 787 program, and will continue to perform fabrication, assembly and systems installation for 787 aft fuselage sections.

It’s quite possible this plant will end up becoming a second final production line for the 787. The benefit for Boeing would be easing the oft-delayed Dreamliner schedule. It also makes some political points for the company having an assembly line in the Southeast.

The last Space Shuttle Main Engine test was conducted during the week at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The test marked the end of 34 years of testing space shuttle main engines at Stennis. The center’s new mission is helping NASA prepare for the next era of human spaceflight, the Constellation Program. Last year and the year before Stennis did component tests for the J-2X engine that will be used in the program. A new test stand is being built at Stennis for future J-2X testing.

At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Raytheon Co. completed a series of captive carry flight tests of its entry in the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II competition. Engineers tested the weapon's integration and guidance receiver navigator on an Air Force F-15E and also conducted seeker-performance evaluations on an Army UH-1 helicopter.

In another item during the week, Pratt & Whitney said the engine that will power the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter surpassed 12,000 engine test hours as part of the system development and demonstration phase. Added to hours during the concept demonstration program, the F135 engine has more than 15,600 test hours. Pratt & Whitney will deliver the first seven production engines later this year.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is scheduled to host the Joint Strike Fighter Training Center.

This and that
- A retired Air Force officer was convicted in Pensacola, Fla., of destroying records and lying to a grand jury in connection with contracts awarded by a research lab at Eglin Air Force Base. Richard Schaller was accused of helping another retired Air Force officer who worked at the Air Force Research Laboratory on Eglin steer contracts to Schaller's company.

- The National Naval Aviation Museum during the week got a new aircraft for display – an SH-60B Seahawk that has been in continuous duty with the Navy since 1986. It flew in Wednesday and was officially unveiled Thursday. The helicopter flew more than 8,700 hours. Missions included training, counter-submarine and counter-narcotics.

- The Community Based Outpatient Clinic in the first year has chalked up 15,982 visits from veterans. That's according to the facility’s chief medical officer. The clinic, near Eglin Air Force Base’s west gate, offers primary medical care, mental health services, lab work, a small pharmacy and nutrition assistance to about 4,500 veterans in Okaloosa County.

2Q reports
Two companies of interest to the Gulf Coast issued quarterly reports during the week. General Dynamics reported second-quarter 2009 earnings from continuing operations of $621 million compared to 2008 second-quarter earnings of $641 million. … EADS NV reported second-quarter net profit rose close to 70 percent. But the company warned it may take hits on future profits from the delayed A400M military transport program.