Saturday, August 6, 2011

Week in review (7/31 to 8/6)

Northwest Florida's Hurlburt Field is on its way to getting a squadron that will operate Predator unmanned aircraft. Late in the week the Air Force announced that Hurlburt is the preferred site for the Air Force Reserve Command MQ-1 remote split-operations squadron. If the environmental assessment goes well, the decision will bring 140 personnel and associated equipment to the base.

The Air Force announced in May 2011 that the Eglin Complex was the candidate location for the squadron. The Eglin complex includes Eglin Air Force Base itself, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field, Camp Rudder and Choctaw Field.

Site survey teams evaluated the base for feasibility, timing, cost and planning purposes to meet initial operational capability requirements. Hurlburt, home of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, ended up being the preferred location within the complex.

But don’t bother looking around for a Predator, an unmanned system designed to provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and precision-strike capability. Predator flight operations are split between launch and recovery element aircrews overseas and mission-control element crews based in the United States.

LRE crews launch and recover the aircraft within the area of responsibility, while MCE crews operate the aircraft via satellite data links from locations within the United States.

- In another unmanned aerial system-related item during the week, the USS Halyburton and its Fire Scout unmanned helicopters returned to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., after a seven-month deployment.

The ship and its crew conducted numerous counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in support of Operation Unified Protector, employing the MQ-8B Fire Scouts. MQ-8B operators set records for maximum altitude, range, and endurance, with 438 hours flown by Fire Scout.

One of the drones was lost over Libya in June and later replaced. The Libyan government claimed its forces downed the remotely operated vehicle, and late in the week the Pentagon said it appeared to be enemy action that brought down the Fire Scout.

Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center.

Flight and ground operations for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were suspended after the secondary power system of F-35A AF-4, an Air Force variant test aircraft, failed on Aug. 2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., during a ground maintenance engine run.

The problem was in the F-35's integrated power package, an F-35-unique system that combines the functions of engine starter, emergency and auxiliary power unit, environmental control system and back-up generator.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center. It currently has two F-35s.

A helicopter that served as Marine One is the newest display at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The green and white Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King was one of several similar models used by the White House beginning in 1962 to transport the president. It was acquired two years ago and went through months of restoration and is on display in Hangar Bay One.

The Fokker AIRINC parts repair facility in Fairhope, Ala., will close by October, shifting operations to a larger facility in LaGrange, Ga. Fokker Technologies said that some of the 55 Fairhope employees could be offered transfers. The parent company continues to wait for its business to recover from the recession. Fokker Services mainly repairs parts for U.S. airlines and other parts suppliers.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: In Mobile, Ala., Austal USA workers rejected union representation for a third time, voting 613-367 against representation by the Sheet Metal Workers International Association union, according to company officials. The election was held Thursday and Friday. Earlier in the week, Austal cut the first piece of aluminum on LCS 6, the first littoral combat ship in a projected 10-vessel, $3.5 billion deal. The latest ship, which will be christened the Jackson, is the first that Austal USA will build as a prime contractor for the U.S. Navy.… The Navy awarded Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a $110.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for long-lead construction for DDG 1001, procurement of long-lead-time material for DDG 1002 and engineering, production and support services. Ingalls Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss., is building the composite deckhouses and hangars for the DDG 1000 ships. … The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Mississippi will be commissioned in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor in Gulfport, Miss., May 2012. Mayor George Schloegel made the announcement during a meeting of the Gulfport Business Club. The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Conn., is the prime contractor for the 377-foot-long USS Mississippi. A Gulfport business, Seemann Composites, provided key composite parts for the Virginia-class sub.
Marine science: Scientists at a meeting in New Orleans early in the week warned the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will create more problems unless fewer fertilizers are dumped into the Mississippi River. Also, researchers who mapped the dead zone, where oxygen levels are too low to support most marine life, found the size this year above average, 6,765 square miles, but not nearly the 9,400 square miles some had predicted due to spring flooding in the Midwest. … Jeffrey Lotz, chairman of the University of Southern Mississippi Department of Coast Sciences, was named interim director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss. He succeeds Bill Hawkins, who retired as lab director in June.