Saturday, May 21, 2011

Week in review (5/15 to 5/21)

Those Army Fire Scouts that were sitting idle at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., after the Army dropped the Fire Scout program are finally going to be used - by the Navy.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Aerospace Systems Unmanned Systems, San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $42 million modification to a previously awarded contract to convert eight Army Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Navy configuration.

Nearly all the work, 71 percent, will be done in Moss Point, with the rest being done in San Diego, Calif. The project will be finished in February 2013. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

The Navy apparently really likes its Fire Scouts, and other unmanned systems as well.

According to National Defense magazine, Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, earlier this month has expressed satisfaction with the initial tests and deployments of several unmanned prototypes. The goal is to field a squadron of drones to operate aboard aircraft carriers later this decade.

Roughead was "extraordinarily pleased" with the initial flights of the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat system demonstrator. Importantly, the aircraft executed "dead-on" landings, crucial for operating on carrier flight decks, according to the article.

And the Fire Scout? The UAV, in trial deployments, is operating aboard a frigate in support of special operations forces and accumulating hours at a steady rate. The Navy also has deployed several Fire Scouts into Afghanistan to support ground troops.

This has just got to be gratifying for the workers in Moss Point who have been participating in the building of Fire Scouts right from the start. The company has said in the past that the team in Moss Point beat expectations of their learning curve.

All this is going on at the same time Northrop Grumman and Bell are working on the Fire-X, a larger version of the Fire Scout based on a Bell helicopter.

EADS North America delivered the first of six UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters to the South Dakota Army National Guard during a delivery ceremony at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota's Black Hills.

The UH-72A Lakota is produced by American Eurocopter in its Columbus, Miss., manufacturing facility at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. The South Dakota Army National Guard will ultimately receive six Lakota helicopters, four in the Medical Evacuation configuration and two in the Security and Support Battalion configuration.

System Studies and Simulation Inc., Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $10.3 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide advanced aircraft flight training services at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, Ala. Work will be performed in Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of May 22, 2012. The U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Center, Fort Rucker, Ala., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $9.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide 389 MK-82 SAASM/AJ Joint Direct Attack Munitions under production Lot 15. AAC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: The Navy's latest Aegis guided missile destroyer, the William P. Lawrence, left Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., Thursday and headed out for several days in the Gulf of Mexico. It will later arrive in Mobile, Ala., for its June 4 commissioning before heading to its home port in San Diego.

Marine science: As record amounts of freshwater headed down the Mississippi River toward the Mississippi Sound, the oyster industry can expect to face extreme losses, an official with the Department of Marine Resources said Tuesday in Biloxi, Miss. … Alabama researchers fishing within 15 miles of Dauphin Island, Ala., caught more than 300 red snapper and found no sign of infection. That appears to contradict a team from Louisiana State University who earlier reported catching some fish in the same area that showed signs of disease. Concern over marine life increased in the wake of last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.