Saturday, July 10, 2010

Week in review (7/4 to 7/10)

Three bids have been submitted in the $35 billion contest to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. The Pentagon will decide the winner in November. Mobile, Ala., which hopes to get a tanker assembly plant, is of course pulling for an EADS win.

Chicago-based Boeing submitted its 8,000-page proposal Friday, a day after its European competitor EADS, parent of Airbus, submitted its 8,800-page bid. Also on Friday, dark horse candidate US Aerospace and partner Antonov submitted a bid.

The contract is to build 179 planes to replace Eisenhower-era KC-135s. The Air Force has a tanker fleet of over 400, so long term the contract means a lot more money than this initial $35 billion.

Boeing wants to build tankers in Washington and Kansas. EADS wants to assemble its modified A330 in Mobile. The US Aerospace-Antonov planes, AN-112KC jets, would be built in the Ukraine and modified at an unspecified site in the United States.

Boeing was awarded a contract in 2003, but that was killed by a scandal. EADS and its then-partner Northrop Grumman won in February 2008, but that was killed by a Boeing protest upheld by the Government Accountability Office. Northrop dropped out of this round, saying the request for proposals favors the smaller tanker offered by Boeing.

A Boeing win would continue a tradition of building tankers in Washington state, while an EADS win would give Mobile and the Gulf Coast a major boost to its considerable aerospace corridor.

- We learned last week that the World Trade Organization will delay until mid-September a ruling on a complaint accusing the U.S. of providing illegal public subsidies to Boeing. The WTO ruled the week before that EADS-owned Airbus had received billions of dollars in illegal government aid.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is moving toward an authorization bill that would reverse much of the president's proposed changes to NASA's human space flight program.

The bill lays out the direction of the space program for the next three years. It would add another space shuttle flight, speed development of a heavy-lift rocket and move ahead with building a spacecraft to venture beyond low-Earth orbit. It would also require companies to demonstrate their capabilities before receiving large contracts for delivering astronauts to the International Space Station.

- Over 1,000 people were on hand Thursday at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to send off the last external fuel tank for the space shuttle program. The ceremony offered plant workers a chance to celebrate their involvement in the space program even as fears loom about the facility's future.

The last space shuttle flight is scheduled for February of next year, leaving many workers at Michoud fearing for their jobs. A spare tank is still in production. But the move by the Senate panel may give the workers reason for hope.

Ground has been broken on a new general aviation building at Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. The building on the southwest side of the airport is scheduled to be finished in December. Fixed-base operator Million Air will provide general airport services, including aircraft refueling and airplane rentals. The new building will have more than 52,000 square feet of combined terminal, office and hangar space, executive conference rooms and a business center along with a U.S. Customs facility.

United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $57.6 million modification to convert a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to an undefinitized contract action. This modification further provides for the procurement of 32 low-rate initial production F-135 propulsion systems for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded an advance acquisition contract with an estimated value of $522.2 million to provide 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. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home to the F-35 joint training center.

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