Saturday, January 1, 2011

Week in review (12/26 to 1/1)

While this column highlights aerospace-related news from the Gulf Coast region, it's hard not to discuss a significant non-aerospace related story that occurred during the week. I'm talking about the awarding of major contracts to Austal USA of Mobile, Ala., and Lockheed Martin to build littoral combat ships.

The contracts are significant on several levels: First, the Austal contract affirms the key role of the Gulf Coast in building the nation's warships. Second, the split contract not only points out that a major contract can be shared by two competitors - think aerial tanker - but it also underscores the significant role being played by companies with roots overseas. In this case, the companies have roots in Australia and Italy.

OK, here are the details. The two contracts are to build a total of 20 littoral combat ships. Each company uses a design unique to its vessel, but the missions are the same and each sports a modular capability. That means it can be fitted to suit the needs of the mission. Ten of the ships will be built by Lockheed Martin and 10 by Austal USA.

For Austal, the fiscal 2010 amount is $432 million, with additional line items totaling $33.4 million for a total of $465.4 million. The contract includes line items for nine additional ships and options for post delivery support and more that would bring the cumulative value of the contract to $4.4 billion. The Lockheed ships will be built at the U.S. shipyard owned by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.

Austal's long-term contract reinforces the importance of shipbuilding in the Gulf Coast region. In Mississippi, there's Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula making military vessels, and Trinity Yachts making pleasure boats in Gulfport. Also in Gulfport, there’s United States Marine Inc. making boats for special operations, and Seemann Composites making composite parts for Navy subs.

What’s fascinating at Austal USA is that it's a relative newcomer, yet it's already one of the largest employers in Mobile. All of this goes to show how important it is to ensure the Gulf Coast region continues to supply the workers to fill these positions. The nation's defense depends on it.

As if to underscore the importance of Gulf Coast shipbuilding, Northrop Grumman in Pascagoula was awarded during the week a $12 million modification to previously awarded contract related to the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer. The modification provides government-furnished workshare transportation efforts for the procurement of material required for the fabrication of cradles, fixtures, and other equipment necessary to transport class products from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula and Gulfport to Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.

OK. Enough about ships. Back to aerospace.

During the week, a training jet out of Florida's Naval Air Station Pensacola crashed during a training flight, but both people aboard safely ejected. The T-45 Goshawk jet from Training Squadron 86 went down in a swamp about 20 miles east of Tallahassee, Fla. The Navy is investigating the cause of the crash.

Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd., said that Guggenheim Aviation Partners LLC selected the firm's aerospace division to convert a Boeing 757-200 from a passenger plane to a passenger-cargo combination in Singapore. As part of the work, ST Aerospace will acquire new certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union that would clear the way for ST Aerospace to do similar work for other airlines at any of its facilities, including the 1,200-employee Mobile operation.

NASA awarded a 10-year contract to HP Enterprise Services of Herndon, Va., for agency consolidated end-user services, or ACES, with a maximum value of $2.5 billion and four-year base period with two three-year option periods. The contract will be managed at the NASA Shared Services Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The ACES contract will develop a long-term outsourcing arrangement with the commercial sector to provide and manage most of NASA's personal computing hardware, software, mobile information technology services, peripherals and accessories, associated end-user services, and supporting infrastructure. HP Enterprise Services will provide, manage, secure and maintain these essential IT services for the agency.

The NSSC is a partnership among NASA, Computer Sciences Corp. and the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. The NSSC performs selected business activities for all 10 NASA centers.

Unmanned systems
Reports out of Japan indicate that government is considering using Global Hawks for surveillance. Japan reportedly will send a team to the United States to see how they are used and what might be involved. That could potentially be good news for workers in Moss Point, Miss. Workers there do fuselage work on Global Hawks.

There were at least two reports during the week highlighting questionable spending. Both were based on an inspector general's Dec. 23 audit report. In one, Bloomberg reported that Northrop Grumman was paid at least $206,000 by Navy contracts officials for questionable travel billings to a golf outing and international air shows. The company subsequently reduced billing by that amount. In the other, NextGov reported that the Navy did not validate invoices that Northrop Grumman submitted for development of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance aircraft. The Navy and Air Force both use the same Global Hawk airframe, but the report said that Navy did not establish with the Air Force a complete property-sharing agreement.

Raytheon Co., Goleta, Calif., was awarded a $7.8 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the retrofit and testing of 33 countermeasure receivers to digital countermeasure receivers in support of the F/A-18 E/F. Work will be performed in Forest, Miss. (65 percent), and Goleta, Calif. (35 percent), and is expected to be completed in February 2013.