Although there was plenty of aerospace news during the week, I can't write this weekly wrap-up without acknowledging one of the biggest stories in the Gulf Coast region during the week had nothing to do with aerospace, but with a potential environmental catastrophe.
The drilling well that exploded April 20 is still releasing thousands of barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico - and perhaps more. The oil slick that's resulted is invading the Gulf Coast's fragile coastline, already coming ashore at some locations in southeast Louisiana. The whole areas between Louisiana and Northwest Florida is scurrying to protect the coastline and sensitive beach and marsh lands.
The spill promises to alter the debate about additional drilling wells.
Joint Strike Fighter
The squadron serving as the sole Department of Defense provider of electronic warfare support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter activated last month in a ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. It's the 513th Electronic Warfare Squadron, which will provide EW support for all three variants on the F-35. The squadron has more than 30 technicians and engineers, but will grow to 130 and operate a $300 million reprogramming lab. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is scheduled to become home of the F-35 training center.
- Lockheed Martin, Magestic Systems Inc. and Nikon Metrology jointly won a first-place JEC Innovation Award in composites manufacturing for technology used in the production of the F-35. The 2010 JEC Innovation Award was presented in Paris last month in recognition of the cured laminate compensation process, a composite manufacturing process for achieving precision, as-built laminate thickness without post-cure machining.
- Representatives from the Italian air force and navy visited the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base to check on progress of the first F-35 integrated training. "A lot of work has been done. A lot of work has to be done," said Rear Adm. Paolo Treu, director of Naval Aviation Department and commander of the Italian Fleet Air Arm. Italy is one of the partner nations that will be training Joint Strike Fighter pilots and maintainers at the 33rd FW.
EADS North America, which plans to compete against Boeing to build tankers for the Air Force, now has a new Web site for information on its offering. The site is www.kc-45now.com, and it features video and photography of the KC-45 tanker in flight conducting refueling operations, as well as facts and information about the aerial refueling system. Boeing, which is offering the 767, has its site at www.unitedstatestanker.com, and it, too, provides video and photography of its offering. Boeing plans to build the planes in Washington State, while EADS wants to build them in Mobile, Ala.
- EADS' former partner in the tanker competition, Northrop Grumman, has chosen Virginia as the site for its new corporate office. The company also looked at Maryland and the District of Columbia before deciding on Virginia. The company expects to initiate operations in the new corporate office in the summer of 2011 with about 300 people. The move of corporate headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington area is designed to let the company be closer to its primary customer, the Pentagon. Northrop Grumman has a major presence on the Gulf Coast, including shipyards and an unmanned systems center.
- Speaking of tankers, a new tanker aircraft designed and engineered at the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Boeing office has been delivered to the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces. Boeing Fort Walton Beach partnered with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Cobham Mission Systems to convert a C-130H into a flying refueling station. The project got its start with work Boeing Fort Walton Beach completed for the Air Force Special Operations Command, converting 20 C-130Hs into tankers. That caught the eye of the Japan, which needed tankers for UH-60 rescue helicopters.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., says he's "gained assurances" that NASA's Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi will have a robust future as a testing facility whether or not Congress agrees to the sweeping changes proposed for NASA by the Obama administration. Cochran questioned NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. about Stennis during a hearing to review the FY2011 budget request for the space agency. Bolden stressed the need for a "robust testing program," and and pointed to $312 million for commercial space testing, some of which will take place at Stennis. "Stennis is critical," Bolden testified.
During the week, Brig. Gen. Dan Wyman passed leadership of the 81st Medical Group to Brig. Gen. Kory Cornum during a change of command ceremony at Keesler Medical Center, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Cornum had been Air Combat Command command surgeon since 2007.
- Craig Fugate, who was appointed last year to head up the Federal Emergency Management Agency, visited the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., during the week. He saw the C-130Js and got an update of the squadron's missions. The hurricane season begins June 1.
- The Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team, based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., announced the commanding officer for the 2011 and 2012 teams will be Cmdr. David E. Koss. He's commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 14, the "Tophatters."
Several contracts of interest to the Gulf Coast were awarded during the week. Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $6.8 million contract which will provide fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 option year sustaining support to the Lot 6 production contract. 681 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $53.1 million contract which will provide for the engineering and manufacturing development for the Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer. 692 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $10.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide specialized technical services in support of depot level maintenance work performed at the Fleet Readiness Center, Southwest on aircraft and rework of associated components and materials. … Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc., Houston, Texas, was awarded a $22.5 million contract for construction of a 202-room combat systems officer bachelor housing at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.