Saturday, December 25, 2010

Week in review (12/19 to 12/25)

More political maneuvering surrounding the Air Force aerial tanker issue, a milestone for a rocket engine that will be tested at Stennis Space Center, a lost service at one airport, and a decision of an aircraft manufacturer to stay put rather than move to Louisiana highlighted the aerospace activity for the Gulf Coast during the week.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings next month on the release of  proprietary data in the $40 billion aerial tanker contest. The Air Force mistakenly sent material intended for Boeing to EADS North America and material for EADS to Boeing. Sen. Carl Levin also plans to hold hearings Feb. 1 to review the procurement process.

- An 11th hour insertion of a provision that would force the Air Force to consider subsidies probably won't remain when the bill goes to the Senate. But it caused a clash between Boeing and EADS backers. Boeing backers want it to improve the chances for the company in the competition to build tankers for the Air Force. EADS backers say it's an underhanded attempt to tilt the contest. EADS plans to assemble the tankers in Mobile, Ala., if the company wins.

Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne completed another major subassembly for NASA's first J-2X rocket engine. The turbopump assembly follows the successful assembly of the oxidizer turbopump, which delivers high-pressure liquid oxygen to the main injector. The engine's first hot-fire tests are planned for early 2011 at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne is headquartered in Canoga Park, Calif., and has facilities in Huntsville, Ala., Kennedy Space Center, Fla., West Palm Beach, Fla., and Stennis Space

AirTran next year will stop serving Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, the company announced. The service ends March 6, according to an AirTran spokesman. The airline offers flights from Gulfport to Atlanta and Tampa three times a week. The director of air service and business development at the airport said there are a couple of prospects looking to step in and fill the void.

- Rolls-Royce was awarded an $89 million contract by the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md., to provide support for the F405 engines that power the Navy's T-45 training aircraft. The contract provides services to more than 200 aircraft operating at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

Hawker Beechcraft will be remaining in Kansas rather than moving to Louisiana after accepting a $45 million incentives package from the state, city and county. The deal requires Hawker to maintain its current product lines, which includes propeller planes and jets, along with 4,000 jobs in Wichita over the next 10 years.

- A company that hopes to maintain C-130 military aircraft plans to hire 50 people at South Alabama Regional Airport near Andalusia, Ala. Support Systems Associates Inc. of Melbourne, Fla., announced this month the opening of Support Systems Andalusia Alabama. The company also has an operation in Mary Esther, Fla.

Universal Technology Corp., Dayton, Ohio, was awarded a $9.9 million contract to provide research and development of on-site support in the Airbase Sciences Branch at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. 325 Contracting Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

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

Another test firing of the AJ26 rocket engine in Mississippi, the sale of a Mobile, Ala., aerospace company to the Chinese, a name change at a major aerospace parks and a controversy over the success of a new airport were just some of the Gulf Coast aerospace stories during the past week.

At Stennis Space Center, Miss., NASA conducted a 55-second test fire of the liquid-fuel AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences' Taurus II space launch vehicle. Taurus II uses a pair Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines to provide first stage propulsion.

The test late in the week on the E-1 test stand involved a team of Orbital, Aerojet, and Stennis. The test was the second in a series of verification tests. A third hot-fire test also is planned to verify tuning of engine control valves.

The AJ26 engine is designed to power the Taurus II space vehicle on flights to low Earth orbit. NASA's partnership with Orbital was formed under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services joint research and development project to enable commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station. The company is under contract with NASA to provide eight cargo missions to the space station through 2015.

Teledyne Continental Motors, headquartered in Mobile, Ala., is being sold to Technify Motors for $186 million. The sale was announced early in the week by California-based Teledyne Technologies Inc. and China-based AVIC International.

Teledyne Continental Motors makes piston engines, spare parts and components for small propeller-driven general aviation aircraft. It has about 400 workers in Mobile, as well as service centers in Fairhope, Ala. and Mattituck, N.Y.

The companies say the sale will enhance Continental Motors' ability to compete in growing overseas markets like China. AVIC plans to retain Continental Motors' senior management and headquarters in Mobile. It also sets the stage for new hires in Mobile as international demand for piston-powered aircraft would result in increased engine manufacturing at Continental Motors.

- The Brookley Industrial Complex has changed its name to Brookley Aeroplex. Bill Sisson, the executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said the Brookley name was retained as a reminder of the former Air Force base that was closed in the 1960s. Aeroplex was used because it relects the multi-modal nature of Brookley. The complex is also called the downtown airport. Brookley is where EADS wants to assemble tankers for the Air Force if it wins a contest against Boeing.

- North American Airlines, which operates charter airplanes for the military and others, signed a letter of intent with the U.S. holding company for Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd., to convert 757s to carry 45 passengers and 10 cargo pallets. Holding company Vision Technologies Systems said the work would be done in Mobile by ST Aerospace Mobile. The company has 1,200 employees at the Brookley Aeroplex.

- The total economic impact of Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in 2009 was $291.7 million, according to the report released during the week. The impact is a combination of the direct impact from commercial and military flights, the indirect impact that comes from the money spent in the local economy by tourists and other passengers and the induced impact from airport employees and suppliers who use wages to buy local goods and services.

- In the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., area, Northwest Florida Regional Airport's newest airline started offering service Friday. Vision Airlines is offering direct flights to and from New York's Niagara Falls International Airport and Miami International Airport on Fridays and Sundays.

- So is the new airport in Panama City a success or a failure? Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport officials were a bit upset about an Associated Press story questioning the new airport's success. The AP story questioned the future viability of the airport because of low passenger count. Flights in October on average were only 60 percent full, compared to a national average of 83 percent.

But officials from the airport prefer pointing out that the new airport is drawing nearly three times more passengers than the old Panama City airport. From the grand opening at the end of May through November, the airport has provided service to more than 446,000 travelers.

Airport Director Randy Curtis said the real gauge is growth year to year. This October the airport had 74,372 passengers. Last October it had 26,000. He also said the airport is serving more passengers than either the Fort Walton Beach airport or the Tallahassee airport.

Okaloosa County commissioners got a preview of nation's first military Joint Strike Fighter integrated training center at the 33rd Fighter Wing's campus at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Dec. 14. Since the wing transitioned from its combat heritage to Air Education and Training Command, many visitors have asked to get a glimpse into the future DoD aviation and all things related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from ground operations, to generating sorties to certifying pilots for flight.

Unmanned systems
In preparation for deployment early next year, Northrop Grumman and the Navy verified that the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter is functionally compatible with communications systems on board the USS Halyburton.

Known as integration verification, this process cleared the way for Fire Scout to conduct bluewater, unrestricted, operations from the Halyburton. In April 2010, Fire Scout concluded a military utility assessment on board the USS McInerney, a frigate similar to the Halyburton.

While the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ships are Fire Scout's intended home, the system is being integrated with other ships to expand its utility. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

- The unmanned Northrop Grumman/Bell Helicopter Fire-X demonstrator had its first flight Dec. 10 in Yuma, Ariz., according to the program team. Fire-X is designed to compete in the potentially lucrative market for unmanned rotorcraft to move cargo or gather intelligence.

The aircraft, which retains the ability to be piloted, was ferried to Yuma from Bell's Xworx facility in Arlington, Texas. Fire-X, built on the commercial Bell 407 platform, was modified at Xworx with computers, actuators and other systems from Northrop's MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

- Euro Hawk, the version of Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk unmanned aerial system built for the German air force, passed an endurance milestone with a 30.3-hour flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Northrop Grumman is partnered with EADS Deutschland GmbH, operating through Cassidian, the defense and security division of EADS. The test was Dec. 1 and 2, and the Euro Hawk flew at 60,000 feet. It has logged nearly 100 total flight hours since its maiden flight five months ago. Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., did fuselage work on the Euro Hawk.

Raytheon's SLAMRAAM (Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) system successfully participated in a second ballistic test vehicle firing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. SLAMRAAM can defeat current and emerging cruise missile threats, and this was the second test firing from a medium tactical vehicle. The vehicle was chosen as the new platform to provide improved crew and system survivability, particularly in light of lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom. The new platform provides additional armored capability and is more ruggedized to support the SLAMRAAM mission.

- The Thunderbirds, the Air Force precision flying team, will perform at more than 70 shows across the United States and abroad in 2011. The team will kick off the season with a Feb. 20 flyover for the Daytona 500. Two shows are scheduled for Northwest Florida. One is March 26-27 at Tyndall Air Force Base and the other is April 14-15 at Eglin Air Force Base.

All Native Service Co., Bellevue, Neb., is being awarded a $22.7 million contract for technology advancement support services to the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Va. Eleven percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. … CC Distributors, Corpus Christi, Texas, was awarded a $9 million contract to provide for authorized civil engineer personnel and self-help customers to purchase materials, equipment and supplies. AAAC/PKOB, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … EADS North American Defense, Arlington, Va., was awarded a $9.9 million contract to provide for the retrofitting 28 ARC-231 airborne communication systems. Work will be completed in Columbus, Miss. … Broadmoor Pittman, JV, Metairie, La., was awarded a $20 million contract to provide for the construction of Building 449 redundant pump station at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility at New Orleans. … Signal Technology Corp., Keltec Operations, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is being awarded a maximum $14 million contract for high voltage modules. … Jacobs Technology Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded $10 million under a previously awarded contract to provide technical support to the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. … Wyle of El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a $318 million five-year task order to provide engineering and integration support services to the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office. Most of the work will be done in Arlington, Va. with field support at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Week in review (12/5 to 12/11)

You might think from a couple of stories during the week that Mobile, Ala., is on its way to becoming the home of an EADS North America aircraft assembly plant. First there was word from an analyst that Boeing officials think they're losing, and then there was news that EADS North America is soliciting bids to build the Mobile center.

But you would be better off taking a wait-and-see approach. If you've followed the tanker saga, you already know to expect the unexpected. The fat lady has yet to sing.

The Mobile Press-Register reported on Monday that Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., said EADS will beat Boeing in the competition to build tankers for the Air Force. Thompson said Boeing executives concluded EADS is ahead after getting a look at the Air Force's internal analysis of the two competing bids.

The Seattle Times, Seattle PI and The Herald did stories as well. And Thompson, who has been an advocate for Boeing, wrote a piece later explaining in great detail why he thinks it all looks so grim for Boeing.

Then on Wednesday EADS North America issued a press release saying it's soliciting bids for design and construction of the Mobile Conversion Center, where KC-45 aerial refueling tanker aircraft will be militarized for the Air Force.

The conversion center is part of an aircraft production facility that EADS North America will build in Mobile at the downtown Brookley Industrial Complex if it wins the tanker contest. EADS has also committed to build commercial A330 freighter aircraft at the same site. Earlier this year, the company began its transfer of the KC-45 program management team, nearly 200 employees, to new offices in Mobile.

The Air Force expects to announce a winner for the $40 billion competition early next year. I’m still thinking the only way out of this mess is to split the contract. We'll have to wait and see.

During the week there was also a fascinating first for commercial space travel. A commercial company, SpaceX, launched a space capsule into orbit and brought it back safely. It was praised as a milestone in the future of space travel.

The unmanned Dragon spacecraft left Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday atop a Falcon 9 rocket and entered orbit 10 minutes later. It circled Earth twice before splash-down in the Pacific. NASA heaped praise on the effort.

The next step is a fly-by of the International Space Station, then a cargo and crew mission to the ISS, both in 2011. NASA signed a contract with SpaceX in December 2008 under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program to provide 12 spacecraft to resupply the ISS through 2016. It also signed a contract with Orbital Space Corp. for eight launches of its Taurus II rocket starting in 2011.

Wednesday's flight was important for the Obama administration's hopes to expand commercial space efforts as a way to free up NASA funds for missions to send astronauts much deeper into space and ultimately to Mars.

This is all pretty important to Stennis Space Center, Miss., which is testing the AJ26 propulsion systems for the Orbital Space Corp. program and expects to be heavily involved in testing engines for commercial ventures.

In another space-related story of interest to Stennis Space Center, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed assembly of the oxidizer turbopump on NASA's J-2X rocket engine, moving the next-generation, human-rated rocket engine a step closer to testing at Stennis Space Center in 2011.

The J-2X engine was developed with heavy-lift capabilities in mind, and could play an important role as a powerful upper-stage engine for future missions to low-Earth orbit, Mars or an asteroid.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to give the Marines two additional years to develop its version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to correct technical and manufacturing glitches. That's good news for those who want the Marines to have their own version of the fighter. The president's debt commission has proposed terminating the Marine Corps version to save money.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is scheduled to become home of the JSF training center - with or without a Marine version of the aircraft.

In another F-35 news story during the week, Pratt & Whitney reported it's delivered the first production F135 Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) engine. That’s the one used in the Marine Corps version.

The F135 engine has completed more than 20,000 hours of testing, 3,600 test hours during the concept demonstration phase, 15,800 test hours during development and more than 700 hours powering the F-35 flight test program.

The conventional takeoff and landing and carrier variant engine received Initial Service Release in February 2010, and the STOVL version is on track to receive ISR certification before the end of the year, according to Pratt & Whitney.

Textron Systems Corp., Wilmington, Mass., was awarded a $258 million contract which will provide for 512 sensor-fuzed weapons CBU-105 production units and 44 training units. This contract supports foreign military sales to India. AAC/EBJK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $76 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract activity providing additional funding for long lead efforts and materials associated with the production and delivery of 42 low rate initial production Lot V F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and the Navy. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Week in review (11/28 to 12/4)

Another delay in the launch of Discovery, the F-35 cost controversy, a new Boeing operation in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., praise for the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and a super secret Air Force unmanned space vehicle were all a part of the aerospace news of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

First, an item of interest to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which is scheduled to become the home of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Training Center. The Pentagon is drawing a line on the cost of the Lockheed Martin plane. The cost has almost doubled to $92 million a jet since 2002, Ashton Carter, the defense acquisition chief said during the week.

The Pentagon has maintained an option to buy more Boeing F- 18s if development of the F-35 falters. Boeing has said it can supply more F-18 Super Hornets or F-15 Strike Eagles if needed. The Super Hornet costs less than $50 million per unit. (Story)

Lockheed Martin said it shares Pentagon concerns about cost increases and testing delays, but said changes are being made to ensure the fighter remained affordable. But the eventual fate of the short takeoff version of the F-35 could impact the cost.

Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright said during the week that officials were considering whether it would still be economical to build the Marine Corps version now that Britain has opted for a different variant. That could affect Lockheed's ability to produce the plane economically since the sole remaining customers would be the Marines and Italy. (Story)

Meanwhile, engine-supplier Pratt & Whitney hopes to sign for a fourth batch of F-35 engines within weeks. It accepted a government request to negotiate a fixed-price incentive contract instead of the originally planned cost-plus deal. This covers 31 F-35s powered by Pratt F135 engines. The company wants to get the F135 down to the same cost as the F-22s F119 engine by the 250th delivery. (Story)

Boeing jobs
Boeing's Defense, Space and Security division plans to open a technical publication organization in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., according to a story in the Wichita Eagle during the week.

It's not yet known how the change will impact the 700 employees who work in technical publications for Boeing's defense business, said Boeing Wichita spokesman Jarrod Bartlett. According to the newspaper, the site is scheduled to open in 2012, he said.

Boeing already has a Fort Walton Beach facility whose primary focus is engineering work for the Air Force Special Operations Command.

When the Air Force mistakenly sent data to Boeing that was intended for EADS and vice versa, Boeing didn't open the computer files but EADS did. To rectify that situation, the Air Force took the unusual step of deliberately re-sending the data to ensure neither could claims of bias.

The odd step was taken to ensure a level playing field, according to an Air Force spokesman. EADS North America hopes to assemble the planes in Mobile, Ala., if it wins the $40 billion competition.

More and more it looks like a split contract may be the only way out of this mess.

Fire Scout
During the course of one day last month, the Navy's Fire Scout unmanned helicopter operated in four different locations across the United States and took off for the first time from a Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom.

The Navy and industry partner Northrop Grumman tested the aircraft at Webster Field, Md., Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., aboard the USS Halyburton off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., and USS Freedom at the sea range in Point Mugu, Calif.

Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said it "sets the stage for the introduction of a game-changing capability to our warfighters."

Fire Scout has surpassed more than 1,000 flight hours since the test program began in December 2006. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers recently released a new and improved system designed to more efficiently find software glitches during the development process, according to an article in Signal Online. It's called the Advanced Combinatorial Testing System.

Rick Kuhn, a NIST computer scientist who helped develop ACTS, says the 46th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has used ACTS in test and evaluation work and is now rolling out the methods to other Air Force organizations.

NIST reported in 2002 that software bugs cost the economy nearly $60 billion even though 50 percent of software development budgets are devoted to testing. Testing every possible variable is not practical. NIST first released the ACTS in 2008 and distributed it freely to 465 organizations and individuals in government, industry and academia.

- An Eglin Air Force Base team emerged victorious in the 2010 Air Force Research Laboratory Commander's Challenge, a competition where each team designs, develops and demonstrates a solution to an urgent warfighter need.

The challenge for this year's competition involved developing a perimeter surveillance and detection system for a forward operating base and combat outposts, primarily in the Afghanistan theatre of operations.

The Shuttle Discovery won't launch on its space station resupply mission until at least Feb. 3. That will give engineers more time to carry out tests to help figure out what caused cracks in the ship's external tank and what might need to be done before Discovery can be cleared for flight.

The external tanks were constructed at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. All shuttle engine testing was done at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

- An unmanned spacecraft, the X-37B, landed early Friday after more than 7 months in orbit. The winged autonomous vehicle, built by Boeing originally for NASA before it became an Air Force project, landed at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

It launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on April 22. While it looks like the Space Shuttle, it's much smaller and can be launched from atop a Delta V rocket. The Gulf Coast region has interests in unmanned systems and space-related activities.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Melbourne, Fla., was awarded a $9.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for continued post-delivery technical support for Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System units, a helicopter-mounted anti-mine system, deployed from surface ships and aircraft carriers in a carrier strike group or amphibious strike group. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Week in review (11/21 to 11/27)

Chalk it up as the protest that never quite took off.

There was a lot of concern prior to Thanksgiving that lines in the nation's airports would be long on Wednesday because of travelers protesting full-body scanners. For days activists waged a campaign on the Internet to encourage airline passengers to refuse full-body scans and insist on the even more intrusive pat-down.

But people, not surprisingly, were apparently more interested in making it to their destination than a symbolic protest.

Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport found that about as many passengers going through that terminal say they appreciate the enhanced safety of full body scanners as they do from those who feel it's intrusive.

The airport in New Orleans also has full-body scanners.

Rapiscan Systems of California is one of two companies making the systems. It has a production center in Ocean Springs, Miss.

The Air Force's blunder of sending information to Boeing that was intended for EADS North America and vice versa in the hotly contested aerial tankers contest led to the firing of two officials during the week.

That's really not that surprising, considering the mistake was an embarrassment for the already troubled attempt to replace the aging fleet of Air Force tankers. Heads had to roll. But Gen. Norton Schwartz dismissed reports that the release included confidential pricing information.

Does the mistake improve chances that the $40 billion contract will be split? Will we eventually see Boeing building its version of the tanker in Washington state and EADS North America assembling its version in Mobile, Ala?

The Mobile Press-Register’s George Talbot considered that issue in his column Wednesday. He found at least two analysts who think a split buy may be the only way out. But he also found two others who disagree with that assessment.

- In another Airbus/EADS-related story during the week, this one of interest to Stennis Space Center, Miss., Goodrich Corp. delivered its first thrust reversers for the Airbus A350 XWB twinjet. The thrust reversers will be installed on a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine to be used in the engine ground test program, scheduled to begin later this year.

The thrust reversers were shipped from Chula Vista, Calif., to the Rolls-Royce facility in Derby, England, where it will undergo initial testing before being shipped to a Rolls-Royce ground testing site at John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss.

DRS Training and Combat Control Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a business unit of DRS Defense Solutions of Bethesda, Md., has delivered its 1,000th airborne pod for the P5 Combat Training System/Tactical Combat Training System.

The P5 CTS/TCTS allows the Navy, Marines, and Air Force and allies to train together using a common air combat training platform. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., awarded the prime contract in 2003 to Cubic Defense Applications of San Diego, Calif., with DRS TCS as a principal contractor. DRS has received orders of more than $210 million for P5 pods.

Unmanned systems
Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Va., rolled out the first of three planned Orion five-day-endurance unmanned aircraft demonstrators at its Columbus, Miss., plant Nov. 22. That's three months after being picked by the Air Force Research Laboratory for the first phase of the Medium-Altitude Global ISR and Communications (Magic) program.

Aurora is in talks with potential system integrators to help put Orion into production if a U.S. Air Force-funded technology demonstration proves successful. Orion is designed to fly for 120 hours at 20,000 feet with a 1,000-pound multi-sensor payload. This compares with 24 hours for the MQ-1B Predator and its 450-pound payload.

Along the Gulf Coast, two UAVs, Global Hawk and Fire Scout, are built in part at a Northrop Grumman plant in Moss Point, Miss.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week in review (11/14 to 11/20)

Two huge projects of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor continue to face problems. One is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the other is the Air Force tanker project. The F-35 is important to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which will be the home of the JSF training center. The tanker is an obsession of Mobile, Ala., which hopes to become the home of the tanker manufacturing facility.

First, the F-35. The project, already running behind schedule and costing far more than originally projected, hit another problem during the week when Lockheed Martin engineers in Fort Worth, Texas, found cracks in the rear bulkhead of an F-35B joint strike fighter jet undergoing fatigue testing.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the cracks were found after the plane had been subjected to the equivalent of 1,500 hours of flight time. The B version of the F-35 is the Marine Corps variant. That's the version that the Pentagon is reportedly considering dropping. A draft recommendation from the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, in fact, recommends dropping the Marine variant and speeding up development of the Navy and Air Force versions.

That aside, DoD late in the week awarded a $3.5 billion contract modification to Lockheed Martin to build 31 F-35s in Lot 4 low-rate initial production. Including the long-lead funding previously received, the total contract value for LRIP 4 is $3.9 billion. The planes are being built in Fort Worth.

The contract calls for Lockheed Martin to build 10 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants for the Air Force, 16 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants for the Marines, four F-35C carrier variants for the Navy and one F-35B for the United Kingdom.

Lockheed Martin is developing the plane with subcontractors Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. More than 30 F-35s were purchased in the previous low-rate production batches. The U.S., Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway plan to buy more than 3,100 F-35s. Israel recently announced plans to purchase 20.

And at Eglin? The base continues its work towards setting up the center. The two planes that were to be delivered this year now won't get there until next year. The Pentagon decided to fit those planes with more test equipment and send them to California.

The other project that continues to face problems is the battle between Boeing and EADS to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. This week the Air Force, which has been so careful with this competition because of how badly the contest has been bungled in the past, managed to shoot itself in the foot.

The Air Force earlier this month sent internal assessements of the bids to each of the competitors, but mistakenly sent EADS' technical assessment to Boeing and Boeing's technical assessment to EADS.

Air Force spokesman Col. Les Kodlick said the service is analyzing the information that was inadvertently disclosed and has taken steps to ensure that both competitors have had equal access to the same information. Neither company has issued any comments or statements about the mix-up.

The Air Force expects to award the contract early next year. If EADS wins, the company plans to assemble the tankers, based on an Airbus A330, in Mobile.

- Speaking of EADS North America, that company and Airbus Americas will open a joint U.S. Sourcing Office at Airbus Americas' headquarters in Herndon, Va., in January 2011. EADS and Airbus have spent over $11 billion annually in the U.S. and support more than 200,000 American jobs.

The office will be responsible for mapping out a U.S. sourcing strategy and implementing an active procurement marketing effort. The office is part of the Global Sourcing Network, an EADS-wide organization dedicated to promote the globalization of the EADS procurement activities. It has offices in China and India.

EADS and Airbus have operations in Mobile, and EADS’ makes Lakota helicopters in Columbus, Miss.

Mobile Airport Authority members are considering removing the name "Brookley" from the industrial complex in downtown Mobile. That's the complex where EADS would assemble tankers should it win an Air Force contract.

Authority members Matt Metcalfe and Bert Meisler said they would prefer to see the word "Brookley" replaced by "Mobile." The discussion came up during a meeting when airport staff suggested rebranding the Brookley Field Industrial Complex as Brookley Aeroplex. Metcalfe said he would like the complex to be renamed Mobile Aeroplex. Authority members tabled the issue for a future meeting.

Stennis Space Center
NASA has awarded the test operations contract at Stennis Space Center, Miss., to Lockheed Martin Services Inc. of Houston. The test operations contract is valued at $95.7 million. As the test operations contractor, Lockheed Martin will be responsible for providing test operations, core operations and maintenance activities to support test projects at Stennis.

- NASA chose Air Products and Chemicals Inc. of Allentown, Pa., for the follow-on contract for the agency-wide acquisition of liquid hydrogen. It has a one-year base performance period with a one-year option period. Air Products will supply about 10,860,000 pounds of liquid hydrogen to Stennis Space Center, Miss., Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala, and Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

- NASA is teaming with students at 17 high schools in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee to design and develop hardware and software products for use in America’s space program.

Students will work with NASA engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Stennis Space Center, Miss., on eight projects identified by the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) initiative.

The HUNCH teams include faculty leads and 10-15 student team members who will work with NASA mentors. Projects this year include hardware mockup for use on the International Space Station, heavy lift space vehicle subsystems and a portable rocket engine test stand.

One goal of the HUNCH initiative, which was launched in 2003 at Marshall, is to inspire high school students to pursue careers in science, technology or engineering fields.

Unmanned systems
Northrop Grumman launched an advertising campaign urging the public to lobby Congress not to cut budgets for Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. It comes as the government considers cutting the defense budget by about $100 billion over the next five years. The campaign includes ads in newspapers and a website that makes it easy for people to email comments to members of Congress. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $10 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for non-recurring efforts required to complete the fuel jettison mission management restriction removal engineering change proposal (ECP) for the Air Force CV-22. This ECP will remove the fuel jettison restriction allowing the aircrew to rapidly manage CV-22 aircraft mission gross weight. Two percent of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. … DTS Aviation Services Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $6.7 million contract modification which will provide aircraft backshop maintenance, munitions, and equipment support services for the Air Armament Center and for Air Armament command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems testing for a 12-month period. AAC/PKOB, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Week in review (11/7 to 11/13)

Will the Marine version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter be dropped? The co-chairmen of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform think it should be, and apparently the Pentagon is looking at that possibility.

The commission, which can only make recommendations, issued a draft proposals to cut government spending, and in the long list is the suggestion to buy fewer F-35s for the Air Force and Navy, along with the elimination of the Marine Corps’ variant.

It remains to be seen how much of the draft proposal gets into the final recommendations due Dec. 1. But InsideDefense said during the week that senior defense leaders are considering revamping the F-35 program again, and possibly eliminating the Marine variant while speeding up development of the Air Force and Navy variants of the Joint Strike Fighter.

What all that might mean for Eglin Air Force Base., Fla., which is scheduled to be home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center, is a bit too early to tell. We said last week that the arrival of the first two F-35As, originally scheduled before the end of the year, has been delayed six months so further testing of the first models off the assembly line can be done.

Meanwhile, the first F-35C, the Navy's version designed for carriers, arrived last weekend at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The aircraft will conduct air-to-air refueling and performance testing at the Virginia base.

NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi conducted a successful test firing during the week of the liquid-fuel AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus II space launch vehicle.

The engine built by Aerojet was test-fired on Stennis' E-1 test stand. The test firing lasted 10 seconds and served as a short-duration readiness firing to verify AJ26 engine start and shutdown sequences, E-1 test stand operations, and ground-test engine controls.

The Taurus II space launch vehicle will take cargo to the International Space Station.

- Rolls-Royce has located the problem in older Trent 900 engines, like the one that blew apart last week and forced a Qantas A380 to make an emergency landing. The failure was the bearing box, which caused an oil fire and the release of the pressure turbine disc. Plans are to replace the part in the older Trent 900 engines. Rolls-Royce engines are now tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The outdoor facility, the H-1 test site, opened in 2008.

Beginning next month, Vision Airlines will offer service out of Northwest Florida Regional Airport, located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The company, started in 1994 primarily as a charter service, is based in Suwanee, Ga., and will offer non-stop service to Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Miami.

- A life-size bronze bust of Mississippi aviator John C. Robinson was unveiled and dedicated during the week at Mississippi’s Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. The bust was commissioned by the John C. Robinson Brown Condor Association in honor of the Gulfport aviation pioneer. The unveiling is the kick-off of an effort to build the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum on the grounds of the airport.

New owners
LSI Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., plans to acquire the assets of Aviation Systems Inc. of Northwest Florida next month. Founded in 1994, ASI of Pensacola provides training device design, engineering, manufacturing and repair services. ASI’s facility is 20,000 square feet and has 50 workers. LSI is an employee-owned training company and has more than 450 workers.

Blue Angels
The Blue Angels closed out the 2010 season with the annual Homecoming Air Show at Naval Air Station Pensacola Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Along with the flying, more than 50 military and civilian aircraft were on display.

Cubic Defense Applications of San Diego, Calif., won a $35 million contract as part of an industry team developing the Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS) for U.S. military test ranges. CRIIS, which will be operational at eight ranges, including Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., provides data to support weapon system testing for a variety of platforms, including aircraft, ships, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, ground vehicles and soldiers. Cubic is a subcontractor for Rockwell Collins, which was awarded a $140 million contract to develop the first phase of CRIIS. … Diligent Consulting Inc., San Antonio, Texas, was awarded a $24 million contract which will provide for Air Education and Training Command Department of Defense information assurance certification and accreditation process support services. AAC/PKO, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $16.2 million contract modification which will exercise the high-speed anti-radiation missile targeting system fiscal 2011 contractor logistics support option. AAC/IBAS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week in review (10/31 to 11/6)

With the mid-term elections now behind us, the analyses of what it all means are coming fast and furious. Some predict that the new House Republicans are likely to advocate a more muscular approach towards China, some are saying Republican gains may be bad news for Boeing and good news for EADS in the fight over the tanker project.

That's all to be seen, but one thing for certain for the Gulf Coast is that Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., long associated with his support for the military, is on his way out. The chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and expeditionary forces has served since 1989. Taylor carried all three of the populous coastal Mississippi counties, but he lost the more rural counties and was unseated by Republican Steven Palazzo.

- With all the focus on the elections in this country, you may have missed this item from across the pond in Europe that's bound to have a major impact on the defense industry. During the week Britain and France announced a far-reaching defense partnership that includes setting up a joint force and sharing equipment and nuclear missile research centers.

The treaties mark an unprecedented degree of military cooperation between the two NATO allies, Western Europe's biggest defense spenders and only nuclear powers. It was prompted by a desire to maintain cutting-edge military capabilities in an age of reduced defense spending. How that will work out when the two nation's disagree, as they did with the war in Iraq, is yet to be seen. (Story) In a related item, Britain's BAE Systems and France's Dassault Aviation are in talks about joining forces to develop unmanned aircraft. (Story)

Lockheed Martin planned to deliver two F-35As to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., before the end of the year to begin training pilots. But according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram's airline, travel and aerospace blog, InsideDefense reported that the Pentagon wants the first low initial rate production F-35s off the assembly line outfitted with extra testing equipment for an additional six months of testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. That will delay pilot training until at least the late summer of 2011. Eglin will be home to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training center.

- There were also reports during the week that the price of the F-35 continues to increase. The nation’s most expensive arms program could face additional costs and delays beyond those that prompted the Pentagon to overhaul the effort earlier this year. (Story)

- Meanwhile, three Northwest Florida counties and the Air Force have taken the first step to study ways to reduce the impact of noise from F-35s. Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties agreed to find a consultant to conduct a noise reduction study of homes, businesses and public buildings within areas that will be exposed to high noise levels from the 59 F-35s. The commander of the 96th Air Base Wing and other Air Force officials also will participate.

Science center
A "topping out" ceremony has been scheduled for Nov. 17 for the Infinity Science Center being built near NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. The ceremony marks a milestone in construction of the multimillion-dollar education center, set to open in 2012. In addition to the placing of a tree at the highest part of the structure, there will be remarks by key officials.

Infinity, located near the Mississippi-Louisiana state line and the Mississippi Welcome Center along Interstate 10, is designed to interest young people in science, technology, engineering and math, and to increase the public’s understanding of the earth, space and ocean science work done at Stennis Space Center.

Florida's Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport marked 75 years of service early in the week at an event attended by about 100 people. The airport started as a private development before being sold to the city of Pensacola in 1935. The city has spent $50 million over the past several years on renovations. Federal funds paid for $45 million in runway improvements. Other Central Gulf Coast cities served by commercial airports include New Orleans, Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., Mobile, Ala., Fort Walton Beach-Valparaiso-Crestview, Fla., and Panama City, Fla.

LCS modules
Northrop Grumman won a $29 million Navy contract to begin production of three mission module packages for littoral combat ships, including an anti-mine warfare package that includes the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. The project also includes two surface warfare packages.

The LCS modular design means the ship can go to the port where mission packages are staged, off load its current package and replace it with a new one in a few days. The first package is scheduled for early 2012 delivery and the others later that year. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., is one of two companies building LCS ships for the Navy.

Lockheed Martin won a $230,000 contract from the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to define requirements for an airborne weapon using high-power microwave energy beams instead to take out enemy electronic systems.

The Non-Kinetic Counter Electronics Capability contract will lead to development of a new weapon to destroy electronic equipment without explosives. Lockheed Martin will deliver its findings in the first quarter of 2011. The system would be aimed at structures containing electronic equipment that high-power microwave bursts would render useless.

C5 work
Goodrich received a contract from Lockheed Martin to supply 160 pylons for the Air Force C-5 airlifter Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program. Work on the pylons, which attach engines to the wings, will be done in Foley, Ala., and Chula Vista, Calif., the company said.

The contract extends an earlier deal between the two companies to provide pylons and nacelles for three test aircraft as well as nine airplanes in the initial phases of the enhancement program. Pylons are scheduled for delivery beginning in early 2011 through the end of 2015, the company said. Goodrich has 700 workers in Foley.

Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $106.4 million contract modification which provides for the exercise of the Lot 7 option for small diameter bomb production for munitions, carriages and technical support. AAC/EBMK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $23.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for organizational, selected intermediate and limited depot-level maintenance for F-16, F-18, H-60, and E-2C aircraft operated by the adversary squadrons based at Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nev.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week in review (10/24 to 10/30)

In an age of global competition with so many players seeking to attract and maintain jobs, an interesting question was raised by the Wichita Eagle last weekend: "What is the worth of a well-trained work force?"

The headline posing the question was atop a story about the opening last week of Wichita's brand new $52 million, 230,000 square-foot National Center for Aviation Training, designed to help the city maintain its position in the aerospace industry. (Story)

Wichita has been an aerospace power for a long time. It was the top-ranked metro area for aerospace and defense manufacturing in Business Facilities magazine’s 2010 Rankings Report, ahead of Huntsville, Ala., Seattle, Wash., Charleston, S.C., and Fort Worth, Texas. (Story)

But there are some concerns about the future. Jobs have been lost over time due to a variety of factors, including outsourcing and automation. The latest concern is Hawker Beechcraft, which reportedly is looking at Louisiana for a new home.

The question: Can other states easily create a cheaper work force from scratch?

Well, "easily," perhaps not. But yes, it can be done. The paper points out that North Carolina did it for a Spirit AeroSystems plant that opened this year. And while the newspaper didn't point out this example, we have one right here on the Gulf Coast. South Mississippi creating an aerospace work force from scratch for the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss. (Story)

As the Wichita newspaper reported, expertise is worth a lot, but can be replaced if another location is willing to spend the money to train workers. It takes years to get the depth of expertise found in a place like Wichita – or Washington State, California or Huntsville for that matter – but given enough time, that eventually happens.

If anything, the fact that others can grow expertise underscores the point that the key is to find those combination of elements that set you apart from the crowd. And that's no small feat in an age when everyone seems focused on finding competitive advantage.

During the week, more than a dozen NASA and university scientists visited schools in the New Orleans area to encourage students to learn more about our Earth system and the importance of the view from space.

The scientists were in New Orleans for the "A-Train Symposium," named after a fleet of NASA satellites orbiting the planet to collect data on a variety of aspects of the Earth system, including the atmosphere, land surface and oceans. The conference began Monday and ended Thursday.

Efforts to interest students in careers in math and science are encouraging. The recently released "Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited," a follow-up to a report first issued in 2005, warns of the nation's slip in science and technology. And if you want one "factoid" that should make you shake your head, how about this: The U.S. graduates more visual arts and performing arts majors than engineers.

Ground was broken in Gulf Breeze, Fla., for a $10 million headquarters building for Avalex Technologies, which specializes in aerial surveillance equipment for the military and law enforcement. The company currently uses two buildings in downtown Pensacola, just across the bay from Gulf Breeze. It has 55 technicians and researchers and needed room to grow. The 9.2-acre site in Gulf Breeze was once was occupied by a new car dealership.

It’s clear Pensacola doesn’t see it as a loss. Gulf Breeze has long been a bedroom community for the Pensacola area, and workers go back and forth in a relatively short commute. The groundbreaking didn't have just Gulf Breeze officials, but Pensacola officials as well who see the new facility as a potential magnet for other high-tech businesses.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducted its second aircraft performance evaluation using a biomass-derived fuel, this time with an F-15 Eagle. The jet flew at a variety of flight conditions, achieved supersonic speeds, and landed with no issues.

The biofuel blend used for the Eagle flight was comprised of fifty percent Hydro-Processed Renewable Jet blend mixed with 50 percent JP-8. The HRJ was derived from extracted animal fats and oils, and then refined into a kerosene using conventional processes.

In March of this year, an A-10 flew on a 50/50 JP-8/HRJ blend derived from oil extracted from camelina seeds, a weed-like non-food source plant.

- The two millionth visitor to the Air Force Armament Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of Air Force armament, passed through the doors Oct. 21. The 28,000 square-foot museum opened to the public in the spring of 1976. The museum gets about 400 visitors per day, and during fiscal year 2010, some 123,000 people walked through the front doors.

- A full body scanner was shown at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport during the week. The airport brought in the Transportation Safety Administration's regional director to vouch for the new system and the privacy protections that are in place. Ray White showed reporters how the images are captured and the measures TSA takes to ensure no one can ever see what a specific traveler looks like.

The UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter built by EADS North America in Mississippi has surpassed the 40,000-flight hour milestone in operational service with the Army and Army National Guard. Built at the company’s American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, a total of 138 Lakotas have been delivered to date for fielding to Army, Army National Guard and Navy. The production plant is adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. EADS North America also has operations in Mobile, Ala.

Cubic Defense Applications of San Diego has received more than $16 million in new orders this year for air combat training systems and spares. The new bookings provide P5CTS/TCTS training equipment for Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Eielson AFB, Alaska, Nellis AFB, Nev., Naval Air Station China Lake, Calif., NAS Fallon, Nev., and NAS Oceana, Va. … L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded an $8.6 million contract which will acquire aircraft maintenance support services for wing and site training devices, ground instructional training aircraft, historical/static display aircraft, and maintenance of the 80th Flying Training Wing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week in review (10/17 to 10/23)

A mini remotely piloted aircraft with attack capabilities makes its debut next month during evaluation flights at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The evaluation is being conducted by the Air Force Air Armament Center and U.S. Special Operations Command.

Specifications call for the aircraft of 3 to 5.5 pounds and fly up to 30 minutes. Besides a warhead, the payload will include a video camera and transmitter to relay images to ground forces.

Troops will fly the bomber using a laptop-size console. How much of a punch the RPA will pack is still under wraps. In December the Air Force will select up to three firms to compete for the contract.

- The Navy successfully conducted the first flight test of the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis Block I system at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Oct. 13 on an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

The system allows the Northrop Grumman Fire Scout to conduct reconnaissance in littoral areas, detecting minefields and obstacles to prepare for amphibious assaults. The COBRA Block I system will now enter low-rate initial production with the first production unit scheduled for delivery in fiscal year 2012.

Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., at the Unmanned Systems Center.

- Stars and Stripes reported during the week that unmanned helicopters will deliver cargo to remote outposts in Afghanistan next year as part of a Navy trial to reduce exposure to roadside bombs during supply missions.

The Navy plans to select a contractor later this year to conduct the trial in 2011, according to the chief of the Navy's Cargo UAS Integrated Product Team. Boeing, with its A160T Hummingbird helicopter, and Kaman/Lockheed Martin, with its K-MAX helicopter, are vying for the contract. (Story)

Aerial tanker
Months after leaving the competition to build tankers for the Air Force, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush has no regrets. Bush made the comment during a forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The company backed out of a partnership with EADS North America because it felt the contest favored the smaller Boeing offering.

Rebecca Grant, an industry consultant, said the tanker program is being miscast as a choice between buying a U.S.-made Boeing 767 versus a foreign-made Airbus 330. She said that ignores a fact of life in the aerospace industry: There are no purely American-made airliners.

Grant, who said either company will create about the same number of jobs in the United States, also said it's possible the number of tankers built will be well below original projections.

EADS wants to assemble the tankers in Mobile, Ala.

- Australia’s third mission-equipped A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport completed a four-hour maiden flight and performed a series of preplanned tests. It reached an altitude of 41,000 feet.

Airbus Military will begin deliveries of A330 MRTTs this year to its first operator, the Royal Australian Air Force. A total of 28 A330 MRTT are being produced for Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

EADS North America is offering an A330 MRTT-based tanker to the U.S. Air Force as the KC-45 in the competition with Boeing.

The Department of Defense is ready to add cyberspace to sea, land, air and space as the latest domain for warfighters. The U.S. Cyber Command was established in May and this month came the cybersecurity agreement between DoD and Homeland Security.

"Information technology provides us with critical advantages in all of our warfighting domains, so we need to protect cyberspace to enable those advantages," said Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III. Adversaries may be able to undermine the military's advantages in conventional areas by attacking the nation's military and commercial information technology infrastructure, he said.

This threat has "opened up a whole new asymmetry in future warfare," Lynn said.

The Air Force trains cyberspace personnel at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Other cyberspace training is done at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and at the Navy’s Corry Station in Pensacola, Fla.

That 860-mile walk that began at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, earlier this month ended during the week at Hurlburt Field, Fla. It was the second year for the walk, which honors special tactics airmen that have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Six teams of two to three walkers started from San Antonio carrying 50-pound packs and batons engraved with the names of the fallen airmen. The walk took them through five states. Last year's walk honored 12 special tactics airmen, but this year it's 14. The most recent deaths were in September.

- The Naval Helicopter Association's Gulf Coast Fleet Fly-In was held during the week at Naval Air Station Whiting Field near Milton, Fla. The event gave members of the naval helicopter community a chance to network with one another and with industry officials. Students at Whiting got a chance to see some of the aircraft they'll be flying.

Whiting Field's Training Wing 5 trains about 1,300 pilots a year.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne won the 2010 Large Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The award recognizes excellence in support of the work of the Marshall Center and in sustaining NASA's mission.

The company was recognized for exemplary support of the center's subcontracting programs under the J-2X upper-stage engine and Space Shuttle Main Engine contracts.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne also has an operation at John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Joint Strike Fighter
The Pratt & Whitney F135 short takeoff/vertical landing variant propulsion system for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter successfully completed one of the most demanding tests in the qualification program.

The high temperature margin test which took place at Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee and involves intentionally running the engine to turbine temperatures beyond design conditions while simultaneously operating the turbomachinery at or above 100 percent of design conditions.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be home of the F-35 training center.

Job satisfaction
Want a satisfying career? Try the military, notably the Air Force.

The Air Force ranks fifth in job satisfaction, according to a new report by CareerBliss, a company and salary review online site. In fact, military careers rank higher than a lot of private sector companies. The Army National Guard is ranked seventh, the Marines eighth, the Navy ninth and the Army eleventh.

Google is No. 1 in employee satisfaction. Also ranking high on the list is 3M, ABN AMRO and DTE Energy. But military careers beat such well-known names as General Electric, Disney, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft in overall happiness. (Story)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week in review (10/10 to 10/16)

It was in 2005 that a warning was issued that if we don't do something to improve our investments in science and technology, the United States would continue to slip against global competitors. Five years later, the National Academies revisited the issue and found we're still slipping.

The study, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited," lists several pages of disturbing “factoids” about the United States in the world stage. One really struck me: The U.S. graduates more visual arts and performing arts majors than engineers.

Should that really be a surprise? We’re fed a steady stream of information on the lavish lifestyles of those in the entertainment industry. It's the age of celebrity, where "reality" shows can rocket even the most untalented into fame and fortune. I'd guess my grandchildren and yours know who Snooki is, but not Nobel Prize winner Robert Edwards.

But there are some encouraging efforts in the Gulf Coast region to highlight science, technology, engineering and math as exciting fields to enter. These efforts recognize the value of making it as entertaining and engaging as possible.

In Mississippi, the Infinity Science Center, an interactive facility begin built near Stennis Space Center along Interstate 10, is beginning to take shape. Work began May 3 near the Welcome Center in South Mississippi not far from the state line with Louisiana.

About 90 percent of the steelwork is up and 80 percent of the concrete is done. A "topping off" will be celebrated in the next few weeks. The building is scheduled to be finished in August.

Backers are still raising some $2 million for the $12 million interactive exhibits. Infinity will highlight ocean, space and earth science through fun exhibits at the center. It's expected to open in the spring of 2012.

Infinity will add another piece to what's already available in this region to try to get young people interested in science and technology. We already have two museums that focus on aerospace: Pensacola's National Naval Aviation Museum and Eglin's Air Armament Museum. And in Mobile, there's the Gulf Coast Exploreum.

Pensacola is also creating a national flight academy. During the summer St. Joe, a Florida real estate development company, provided a $1.25 million donation. The academy, which will provide week-long sessions to students in 7th through 12th grades, is set to open in 2012. Its purpose is to motivate students to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math in what's called a "learning adventure."

What makes sense is for the various museums, learning centers and academies to work together at some point in the future to provide a package of learning experience for the nation's youth. It will be our part in helping to turn around the slide.

Helicopter repair firm Vector Aerospace will add 100 jobs to its Andalusia, Ala., operation. Mayor Earl Johnson said local governments will spend around $3 million to build a 42,000-square-foot building for Vector at the South Alabama Regional Airport.

Vector, of Canada, opened in Andalusia in 2008. The location is not far from two major bases that are heavy users of helicopters: Fort Rucker near Dothan, Ala., and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, near Milton, Fla.

But in another Vector development, the company plans to shed 30 jobs at its Almondbank facility in Scotland in a restructuring.

Unmanned Systems
Navy researchers want Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, Nev., to develop an aircraft collision-avoidance system to enable unmanned aerial vehicles to operate in civil airspace without the risk of crashing into other aircraft. Military and Aerospace Electronics reports that the Office of Naval Research awarded the company a $6.2 million contract for the work.

The idea is to have the UAVs be able to sense and avoid other manned or unmanned aircraft while operating in the national air space, whether or not the other aircraft has its own collision-avoidance system. Sierra Nevada's initial work will focus on the MQ-8B Fire Scout, built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and Army Tier 2 RQ-7A/B Shadow 200.

Air Force researchers are pursuing a similar initiative called the Multi-Vehicle Unmanned Aircraft Systems Sense and Avoid program. The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a contract in September to Barron Associates Inc. in Charlottesville, Va., and AeroMech Engineering Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Mississippi's Harrison County Development Commission has released its second annual report on the military in South Mississippi, and much of it aviation related.

The report highlights military activities at Harrison County's Keesler Air Force Base, Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, the National Guard at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and the Coast Guard.

The publication also has stories about the Navy's activities at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., and Hattiesburg's Camp Shelby.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was involved in compiling the study. If you're interested in a copy of the report, visit the Harrison County Development Commission Web site and you can download a PDF of the 20-page report.

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $20.1 million contract which will provide for the next generation guidance section to design and build a new guidance section test position. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. AAC/EBAC, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week in review (10/3 to 10/9)

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program continues to make headlines. In Northwest Florida, where the Air Force is establishing a training center at Eglin Air Force Base, the noise issue hasn't gone away. On the broader front, cost issue continue to come up.

Aviation Week reported during the week that the Defense Department's decision to decertify Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth fighter assembly facility for poor auditing caught company officials off guard. The plant is where F-35s are built.

The company said a corrective action plan was accepted by the Defense Contract Management Agency in late June, and it's in place. But that didn't stop the Pentagon from forcing the issue through the decertification. At issue is Lockheed's adherence to Earned Value Management System standards, used by contractors to provide data to the Defense Department to audit the progress of programs. (Aviation Week story)

If you're not familiar with the Earned Value Management System, you're not alone. As National Defense magazine points out, EVMS is something familiar only to government procurement folks. But it's being blamed for the cost overruns with the F-35 program. The magazine details some of the issues, and steps being taken to address the problems. (National Defense story)

But there was some positive news as well for the F-35 during the week. Flight tests were resumed after fixes were made to a software flaw with the jet's fuel pumps. Test aircraft of the three variants were grounded Oct. 1 after lab tests revealed a fault in software that controls three fuel-boost pumps, raising concern they could shut down during flight and stall the engine. But as officials said, the testing is designed to find these problems before an aircraft becomes operational.

And contracts are still coming in for the stealthy aircraft. Lockheed Martin was awarded a $13 million modification to a previously awarded contract to incorporate the shipborne rolling vertical landing capability into the F-35 for the United Kingdom. Work will be done in Texas, the United Kingdom, California and Florida.

And Israel during the week became the first buyer outside the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s nine-nation development group when it signed a $2.75 billion deal to buy 20 F-35s. Deliveries are slated for between 2015 and 2017.

The U.S. plans to buy 2,473 of the F-35s, and eight international partners may buy 700 more. Fifty-nine of the aircraft will be going to Florida's Eglin Air Force Base, where a JSF training center is being established. Precisely what runways will be used is still up in the air, so to speak.

The city of Valparaiso, adjacent to Eglin Air Force Base, has taken on the Air Force over the noise issue. It has again retained the services of a Tallahassee law firm as it seeks clarification of Eglin’s draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released last month. The law firm represented Valparaiso in both of its lawsuits against the Air Force that were settled earlier this year.

The Air Force has already said it will limit flights from the Eglin runway that would cause the most noise problems for Valparaiso. The supplemental environmental impact statement analyzed 19 alternatives for F-35 flight operations, and narrowed to seven the options that will be presented at scoping meetings. Runways at Duke Field and Choctaw Field are being considered as auxiliary fields for the school. (Northwest Florida Daily News story)

Unmanned systems
Japan is considering buying three Northrop Grumman Global Hawks to help monitor China and North Korea, according to Kyodo News, citing sources in the Defense Ministry and Self-Defense Forces.

The unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft can fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet for more than 30 hours. Although the ministry has been conducting basic research on unmanned surveillance aircraft since fiscal 2003, Japan is now tilted toward first importing the Global Hawk. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center.

A California company working with Ukrainian planemaker Antonov lost a protest over the U.S. Air Force's decision to reject its bid for the tanker program. The bid arrived five minutes late, but U.S. Aerospace claimed the Air Force conspired to prevent the bid from arriving in time.

A protest was filed with the Government Accountability Office in August, and in mid-September the GAO rejected part of the claim. Wednesday's decision fully denied U.S. Aerospace's claim. EADS, which hopes to assemble the tankers in Mobile, Ala., at Brookley Industrial Complex, and Boeing, which will build them in Washington, are the only competitors for the $40 billion contract.

Meanwhile, in California during the week, aerospace workers, city and state officials rallied as part of an effort by EADS North America to showcase its candidate for the Air Force tanker contract, the KC-45 tanker.

The rally counters similar efforts by Boeing, the other competitor in the tanker fight. This rally was hosted in Irvine by Parker Aerospace. Parker would be a major supplier on both the KC-45 and Boeing's proposed KC-767 program.

Members of the media were invited to Mississippi's John C. Stennis Space Center during the week for a roundtable discussion with the center's director, Patrick Scheuermann. He assured them that the future looks bright for Stennis, in part because of its diversity.

SSC is where rocket engines are tested, but it has more than 30 tenants, the largest being the U.S. Navy. The media also got a tour of the construction site of the new A-3 test stand, which will be able to test rocket engines at simulated altitudes up to 100,000 feet, and the E-1 test stand that will be used to test Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines.

SES Construction and Fuel Services LLC, Oak Ridge, Tenn., was awarded a $7 million contract for work at the 81st Medical Support Group, Arnold Annex and Main Clinic, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The estimated completion date is Aug. 1, 2011. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $91 million contract which will exercise fiscal 2010 options for logistics support of the T-1A aircraft at Vance, Columbus Randolph, and Laughlin Air Force Bases and Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Week in review (9/26 to 10/2)

It was a week where the aerospace news stories for the Gulf Coast region were all over the charts: Congress approved a blueprint for NASA, Michoud laid off workers, Southwest Airlines said it plans to buy AirTran, and a lot of contracts with Gulf Coast ties were awarded.

Congress has given the thumbs up to a plan for NASA that extends the space shuttle program for a year and backs the use commercial carriers for transporting humans into near-Earth space. The bill dismantles the Bush-era Constellation Program, which sought to return astronauts to the moon, and extends the life of the International Space Station to 2020.

At Stennis Space Center, Miss., where propulsion systems are tested and certified, center director Patrick Scheuermann said he'’s confident Stennis will be fully utilized for future space exploration. In addition to testing engines for NASA, the facility for years has also been used by commercial companies to test engines.

But at Michoud Assembly Facility in east New Orleans, about 300 workers were laid off as production of the space shuttle external fuel tank ended. Lockheed Martin had about 1,500 people at MAF at the start of the year, but the number has dropped as various stages of external fuel tank production have ended. It'’s down to about 600.

- In another space-related matter, NASA chose the Naval Research Laboratory's Wide-field Imager to be part of the Solar Probe Plus mission set for launch no later than 2018. The Solar Probe Plus will plunge directly into the sun's atmosphere about four million miles from our star's surface to explore a region no other spacecraft ever encountered in a bid to unlock the sun's biggest mysteries. The Naval Research Lab has a detachment at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Over $1 million in grants from the state of Florida will go to expand buffer zones around Naval Air Station Whiting Field near Milton, Fla., and Naval Air Station Pensacola. The Navy is also contributing $1.2 million to Santa Rosa County to buy land around Whiting, a key aviation training center. The Florida Defense Infrastructure grants are awarded annually to protect Florida's bases.

- At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant is scheduled to be the next Air Armament Center and Air Force program executive officer for weapons. Merchant will arrive from Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he's director of logistics. Maj. Gen. C. R. Davis, the current program executive officer for weapons and Air Armament Center commander, was nominated for appointment to lieutenant general, and will be reassigned to Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

- Also at Eglin, Dr. Mikel Miller was promoted to chief scientist and senior technologist for the Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate. In his new position, Miller will help lead the AFRL Munitions Directorate to the next generation of munitions systems. He wants to boost the number of AFRL scientists who have doctorate degrees from 17 percent to 30 to 35 percent by hiring new scientists and through internal academic growth.

- In another Eglin-related story, Boeing successfully completed the first flight tests of the MK-84 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition. The first two of seven planned tests at Eglin demonstrated the 2,000-pound weapon's capability against fixed, relocatable and moving targets. The test was in July, but only announced this past week. An existing JDAM can become a Laser JDAM with the installation of the Precision Laser Guidance Set.

Avalex Technologies, which makes aerial surveillance equipment, is moving its headquarters from Pensacola, Fla., to nearby Gulf Breeze. The 9.2-acre property is the former home of a car dealership. The new building will be some 53,000 square feet, way larger than the 17,000 square feet of two downtown Pensacola buildings Avalex now uses.

Southwest Airlines plans to buy AirTran for about $1.4 billion, a move that will give the combined airline operations in more than 100 different airports. In the Gulf Coast region, AirTran serves the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, New Orleans and Pensacola. Southwest Airlines serves New Orleans and the newly opened airport in Panama City Beach, Fla.

That announcement has accelerated a move in South Mississippi to establish an airline travel bank. Businesses and individuals are being asked to pledge support to keep AirTran flying and increase service at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council and Chamber of Commerce have been working for months to establish an Airline Travel Bank.

OK, if you're going to read this part of the column, grab a cup of coffee and relax. It will take some time to get through it all. It was an active week for DoD contracts with ties to the Gulf Coast aerospace region. L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, of Madison, Miss., was awarded two contracts during the week. The largest was a $125 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance to support 47 T-45A and 158 T-45C aircraft based at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., NAS Kingsville, Texas, NAS Pensacola, Fla., and Patuxent River, Md. Work is expected to be completed in September 2011. The other contract was an $18.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics support for TH-57B/TH-57C aircraft. Nearly all the work, 99 percent, will be done at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. Work is expected to be completed in March 2011. … Sikorsky Support Services Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $63.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for contractor logistics support services for the T-34, T-44 and T-6 aircraft. Forty-three percent of the work will be done at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., and 10 percent at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Work is expected to be completed in March 2011. … Rolls-Royce Defense Services Inc., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded an $89.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for intermediate and depot level maintenance and related support for in-service T-45 F405-RR-401 Adour engines. The modification provides for inventory control, sustaining engineering and configuration management, as well as integrated logistics support and required engineering elements necessary to support the F405-RR-401 engine at the organization level. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, NAS Meridian, Miss., NAS Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Patuxent River, Md., and is expected to be completed in September 2011. … Mississippi Aerospace Corp., Picayune, Miss., was awarded an $8.6 million contract which will acquire loadmaster scanner crashworthy seats for the Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130H/W and EC 130J aircraft, and Air Combat Command and Air Force Reserve Command HC-130P aircraft. Air Force Special Operations Command is based at Hurlburt Field, Fla. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Aerospace Battle Management and Engagement Systems Decision Support and Targeting, of Hollywood, Md., was awarded a $99 million contract to procure weapons planning software. AAC/EBSK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Kaman Precision Products Inc., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $36 million contract modification which will procure joint programmable fuze systems for four Foreign Military Sales countries at a total quantity of 10,518 units. AAC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $10.2 million contract modification to extend the period of performance of the Advanced Medium Range Air-to Air Missile (AMRAAM) aircraft integration support effort through Sept. 30, 2013. AAC/EBAK (AMRAAM Development Branch), Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week in review (9/19 to 9/25)

The dust may finally be settling on the issue of where NASA's space program is heading. The months of uncertainty no doubt has caused concern at two Gulf Coast facilities involved in the space program - NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

During the past week, the House Science and Technology committee just about surrendered to a Senate plan for NASA that cancels the Constellation Program and gives commercial rocket companies a greater role in space exploration.

The Senate version, supported by the White House, directs NASA to build a new spacecraft that one day could reach an asteroid while investing about $1.6 billion over three years in commercial rocket companies. I say "just about" because the House bill is slightly different. For one thing, it budgets $400 million less for commercial companies, according to reports in the press.

So while the House and Senate are close, no cigar yet. (Detailed story)

- In another Gulf Coast space-related item during the week, the external fuel tank that will power the last planned space shuttle left Michoud Assembly Facility and is expected to arrive Sunday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The tank has been restored to flight configuration at Michoud after sustaining damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The tank, ET-122, will support shuttle Endeavour's flight targeted for launch in February.

- Also during the week, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne said it successfully completed the latest round of tests on the gas generator for NASA's J-2X rocket engine. With the first NASA J-2X engine far along in development, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne said it's on track to begin testing in 2011 at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has an operation at the South Mississippi facility that's best known for rocket engine testing.

- In another Stennis Space Center item, NPD Resources Inc. of Brookhaven, Miss., was awarded a $12.46 million contract to expand Highway 607 at Stennis Space Center, Miss., from two lanes to fours. The project is expected to take 18 months. The roadway addition is part of a larger project to expand state Route 607 to four lanes all the way to I-59. The expanded road will provide service to Stennis Space Center and serve as a hurricane evacuation route.

Speaking of the dust settling, a bit more clarity came to another issue during the week, this one involving the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center.

The Air Force narrowed the primary airfields for the F-35 to Eglin Main and Duke Field. In a draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released during the week, the Air Force said the JSF will bed down, be maintained, launched and recovered at one of the two fields. A final decision will be made after public hearings and release of the final EIS.

- Meanwhile, the Pentagon during the week said it reached a fixed-price agreement with Lockheed Martin for a fourth batch of F-35s. The deal includes 30 jets for the United States and one for Britain, and an option for one for the Netherlands.

Information on the price per plane was not provided, but previous F-35 production contracts were on more traditional "cost-plus" contract terms, which make the government liable for cost overruns. (Detailed story)

Hawker and Baton Rouge
Is Hawker Beechcraft going to move from Wichita, Kansas, to Baton Rouge, La.?

It's apparently been no secret that Hawker has been exploring the possibility of moving to a more affordable area. This summer there were reports the company was looking at Mississippi and Louisiana. Then Southern Business & Development wrote that Hawker made a deal to move to Baton Rouge. A television station has reported "multiple sources" saying an announcement would be made in November.

For what it's worth, Hawker is currently in contract negotiations with the machinists. (Detailed story)

Maj. Gen. C. R. Davis, Air Armament Center commander at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has been nominated for appointment to lieutenant general. Davis arrived at Eglin in May 2009 and is responsible for the development, acquisition, testing, deployment and sustainment of all air-delivered weapons. Once confirmed, Davis will be reassigned to Hanscom AFB, Mass., as Commander, Electronic Systems Center.

- An F-15 Eagle engine at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., is undergoing performance testing using a unique blend of three different fuel types. The F100 engine is being tested with a combination of JP-8 conventional aviation fuel, a biofuel derived from an animal fat and a synthetic fuel derived from coal.

The fuels testing is being conducted to ensure the different fuels, in varying combinations, are suitable for an upcoming series of F-15 flight tests tentatively scheduled for October at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $21 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance of 14 T39N and 6 T-39G aircraft at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. … Marianna Airmotive Corp., Cantonment, Fla., was awarded a $20 million contract to procure 18 national stock numbers of structural components, i.e., spoilers, applicable to C-5 aircraft. … Del-Jen Inc., Clarksville, Tenn., was awarded a $23.4 million modification of a previously awarded contract to exercise Option 3 for base operations support services at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and surrounding areas. The work to be performed provides for public works administration including labor, management, supervision, materials, supplies, and tools for facilities management. … Aerojet General Corp., Cordova, Calif., was awarded an $8 million contract to manufacture empty warhead cases to support the precision lethality MK82 quick reaction capability program. AAC/EBSK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Roy Anderson Corp., Gulfport, Miss., is being awarded $14.4 million for firm-fixed-price task order #0002 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract for the addition to and alteration of Air Force Central Command Headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week in review (9/12 to 9/18)

Flights of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter the Navy is testing to operate from its warships will resume this week. The UAVs were grounded after operators lost control of one on Aug. 2 for about 20 minutes and it entered restricted airspace around Washington.

Operators regained control and it landed safely back at its base.

This time they'll be flying in Yuma, Ariz. The Navy had been flying Fire Scouts from a field near Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland. Testing will resume there after engineers validate updated software for the aircraft. New software is scheduled to be installed early next month.

Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

The World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel ruled during the week that Boeing received U.S. government subsidies to develop aircraft. The interim ruling is confidential and a final ruling is not expected for several months.

Three months ago the WTO found that European countries provided illegal subsidies to Boeing rival Airbus. The biggest impact of the ruling could be forcing the United States and European Union to come up with a negotiated settlement on subsidies.

Boeing and Airbus parent, EADS, are competing for a $40 billion contract to build tankers for the U.S. Air Force. EADS wants to assemble its tankers in Mobile, Ala.

Airports and bases
The new head of the New Orleans airport said Louis Armstrong International suffers from major management and staffing deficiencies and is headed for more problems if things don't change quickly. Iftikhar Ahmad said the airport is understaffed, lacks an overall business strategy and there are no performance measures.

- Col. Richard McBride Jr. took command of the 81st Diagnostics and Therapeutics Squadron Tuesday at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. He succeeds Col. Stephanie McCann, who retired Aug. 1. McBride's squadron consists of diagnostic imaging, nutritional medicine, pharmacy and pathology and clinical laboratory flights and is comprised of more than 300 military members and civilians.

It was snowing and temperatures reached 20 degrees inside the McKinley Climatic Lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in preparation for testing snow traction and ice braking capabilities on vehicle tires. While the lab is primarily used to test military equipment in extremes, commercial customers can also use it. This time it was Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

It took two days to fill the 55,000 foot chamber with snow and reach the conditions required. The lab is the largest climatic lab in the world. It was established back in 1947.

Jacobs Technology Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded $12 million for a task order under a previously awarded contract to provide support of the transition from the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet environment to the next Marine Corps Information Technology environment. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity. … EDO Communications & Countermeasures Systems Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., was awarded an $11.4 million contract modification to provide sustaining engineering services in support of the B-1 and B-52 mission data test laboratories and special test equipment. AAC/PKES, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … BAE Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $38 million contract modification which will manage, operate, maintain and logistically support the solid state phase array radar system at five bases. 21 CONS/LGCZB, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is the contracting activity.