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.
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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.