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.