Friday, October 21, 2011

Week in review (10/16 to 10/21)

The past week was highlighted by news about the F-35, including the arrival of another F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and installation of a weapons loading training device, news that two Gulf Coast bases are now competing for the best in the Air Force honors, the decision by Northrop Grumman to opt out of next year's Farnborough air show, the formal opening of a Lockheed Martin tech center in Mississippi and more.

A fifth F-35 has arrived at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to be used to train pilots and maintainers at the Joint Strike Fighter training center. The plane, an Air Force variant, arrived on Thursday after a 90-minute flight from Fort Worth, Texas.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin also delivered and installed the first weapons load training device at the F-35 Integrated Pilot-and-Maintenance Training Center at Eglin. Configured in all three variants of the F-35, the system allows maintenance students to hone their skills loading munitions, fuel tanks and missile systems onto the aircraft.

The simulators enable training to take place without removing aircraft from the flight schedule. Earlier this year the first two F-35 full mission simulators were installed. The ITC at Eglin will be home to the latest courseware, electronic classrooms, simulators and flight events.

- The F-35B, the Marine Corps variant of the F-35, conducted short take-off and vertical landing tests aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp during the week. The demonstration was conducted by the JSF program office and Marine Corps. According to press reports, BF-04 flew a series of short take-off and vertical landings off the Virginia coast in front of a group of reporters.

Fifteen Space Shuttle Main Engines at NASA's Engine Shop at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are being prepped for shipment to Stennis Space Center, Miss. At SSC, they'll become part of the propulsion used on NASA's next generation heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.

The engines are built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and each is 14 feet long and more than 7 feet in diameter at the end of its nozzle. In addition to testing the SLS engines at SSC, NASA will have portions of the SLS fabricated at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

In a move that underscores tight budgets, aerospace powerhouse Northrop Grumman Corp. had decided not to participate in the 2012 international air show in Farnborough, England, according to Reuters.

Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said pulling out completely will save millions of dollars. Northrop Grumman is just one of the big defense contractors with operations along the Gulf Coast. Among other things, it builds portions of the Fire Scout and Global Hawk at the Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss.

Lockheed Martin held a ceremonial opening during the week for its new 33,000 square-foot technology support center at South Pointe Business Park in Clinton, near Jackson, Miss. Lockheed Martin announced in April that it planned to create 350 new jobs at the center.

The mission support center will serve several of Lockheed Martin's federal customers. The center is in part of the former corporate headquarters of WorldCom, the telecommunications company that went into bankruptcy in 2002. In this region, Lockheed Martin assembles satellite components at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Two bases in the Gulf Coast region will be among those competing for the Air Force 2011 Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award. The Air Education and Training Command selected Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., as its nominee. Earlier, the Air Force Material Command picked Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is its nominee.

The winner, chosen in January, will get a $1 million prize and the runner-up $500,000 for quality of life improvements. Each of the 10 finalists from Air Force major commands will be visited by an inspection team.

- Two dozen helicopters during the week visited Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., for the base's annual Naval Helicopter Association Fleet Fly-in. The event is designed to let student aviators learn about potential career paths.

- The Air Force says three bases, Davis Monthan in Arizona., Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Shaw in South Carolina, are candidate bases for one active duty Air Force MQ-1/9 remote split operations squadron.

They are candidates for a single active duty MQ-1/9 RSO squadron of 280 personnel and associated equipment. No remotely piloted aircraft will be assigned to the base, only a ground control station. Hurlburt Field, Fla., in August was chosen as the preferred alternative for the Air Force Reserve Command MQ-1 remote split-operations squadron, consisting of 140 personnel and associated equipment.

Jacobs Technology Inc., Tullahoma, Tenn., was awarded an estimated $135.5 million contract for the Technical and Engineering Acquisition Support Program, providing a wide range of engineering, technical, and acquisition support required for development, production, and sustainment of various munitions systems within the Air Armament Center and other organizations at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. This effort supports Foreign Military Sales programs to 19 foreign governmens. Air Armament Center/PKES, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Tidbits from other fields
: The Mobile Press-Register reported during the week that a Congressional Research Service report indicates that the Navy plans to reduce by more than half – from 21 to 10 – the number of joint high-speed vessels it buys. The transport vessels are built at Austal USA's Mobile River shipyard in Alabama. … Also during the week, the Press-Register reported that Rear Adm. James Murdoch, head of the Littoral Combat Ship program office, said he's "very confident" in the designs of the two ships built for the Navy. The ships are being slightly reconfigured to avoid corrosion problems that have arisen in recent months, but the cost of making these changes will be insignificant, he said. Austal USA is being 10 aluminum, tri-hull versions of the ship. … House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., toured Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., during the week. The Mississippi Press reports that McKeon said that it's difficult to conceive what the military will look like if the defense budget is slashed beyond the $465 billion in cuts already in the works.
Education: The curriculum for the Navy-sponsored academic outreach, "Mission Ocean," will be presented at the 2011 Mississippi Science Teacher's Association Conference at the Marriott Hotel in Jackson, Miss., Oct. 23-25. The curriculum is being offered in association with the December 2011 christening of the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Mississippi, which is scheduled for commissioning in Gulfport, Miss., in 2012. The submarine-related science curriculum for 6th and 7th grade students will be available beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. The curriculum focuses on science activities and missions in a simulated submarine control room.
Science centers: Proposals are being sought to operate a full-service restaurant at the Infinity Science Center at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. Written proposals are due by Nov. 9, and a selection will be made Dec. 8, 2011. Proposals must have the requisite demonstrated competence and experience and a knowledge of restaurant, baker, deli and catering operations, including financing, marketing, design, leasing, management and oversight. Infinity is located next to the Welcome Center on Interstate 10, near the Mississippi and Louisiana state line.