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.