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)

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