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.

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