Saturday, September 11, 2010

Week in review (9/5 to 9/11)

The week ended with an interesting item being reported by both Reuters and the Los Angeles Times: they raised the possibility of Boeing merging with Northrop Grumman. It made for a fascinating read, but likelihood? That's another matter.

Both news organizations said the possibility of such a combination came in the wake of comments by a Boeing executive during a Reuters summit. Dennis Muilenburg said the Chicago-based company is actively looking at potential acquisition opportunities amid prospects of sharp cuts in defense spending.

Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing's defense, space and security division, said the company is targeting purchases of such businesses as unmanned aircraft, cyber security and intelligence and surveillance systems. Northrop already is a key player in those markets.

Northrop Grumman is exploring shedding its shipbuilding sector, and the company has really carved a major niche in high tech unmanned systems as well as systems integration. Such a merger would make Boeing a major player in UAVs, and would also give it a stake in the F-35.

But will regulators let that happen? Stay tuned. To read the Times story, click here. For the Reuters version, click here.

The target date to award the U.S. Air Force tanker contract may be slipping, according to military officials. An Air Force spokesman said the decision will be announced in the fall, possibly as late as Dec. 20. The Air Force previously said it expected to announce a winner by mid-November. Boeing and EADS are competing for the contract. EADS plans to assemble its tankers in Mobile, Ala.

In another tanker item, L-3 Communications said it's open to joining the rematch to build aerial tankers, despite halting talks in April with EADS. Chief Executive Michael Strianese said conditions had not been right at that time. "The door is still open if EADS wants to talk in the future, or Boeing for that matter," Strianese said at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington.

The first Orion capsule passed a structural proof pressure test at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility on Aug. 30. The proof test article will be used for ground and flight evaluations, which will correlate test data with analytical models to validate Orion’s flight design engineering. Lockheed Martin is outfitting the test unit with its final configuration of interior and exterior mass and volume simulators.

Officials in Plaquemines Parish, La., say the Army is considering building a missile test site at Port Eads. The Army told parish officials that it needs a site from which to launch missiles over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico for "target practice." The Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala., said it received money for a feasibility study "to consider locations within the Gulf Coast region as potential sites for test and evaluation assets." The study is expected by the end of the month.

- Raytheon's Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile system (SLAMRAAM) successfully participated in a ballistic test vehicle firing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The test included the firing of multiple AMRAAM missiles from the new family of medium tactical vehicle platform.

The new Federal Aviation Administration control tower at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi was topped off during the week with a 50-foot-tall metal superstructure. That along with the existing concrete structure creates a 148-foot-tall tower that will replace the existing 90-foot-tall tower built in the 1970s.

Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $25.8 million contract modification which will procure Radome Phase II Advanced medium range air to air missile. 695 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Rehabilitation Services Mississippi, Madison, Miss., was awarded an $8 million contract modification which will procure full food services at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. 81 CONS, Keesler Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $6.9 million contract modification which will procure the study for the replacement for the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) transponder module used in the AMRAAM telemetry section. AAC/EBAK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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