Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week in review (10/22 to 10/29)

The arrival of a sixth F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., a drone-in-a-drone weapons program involving Eglin, the opening of a new fixed base operation at Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi airport and a concourse expansion in New Orleans, as well as a military technology conference in Panama City, Fla., were some of the aerospace and defense related news stories of interest to the Gulf Coast during the week.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where pilots of all the variants of the F-35 will be trained, received its sixth F-35 during the week. AF-13, a conventional takeoff and landing variant, arrived after a 90-minute flight from Fort Worth, Texas.

The jet, piloted by Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Bachmann, was delivered to the 33d Fighter Wing and will be used for pilot and maintainer training at the base's F-35 Integrated Training Center. The week before the base's fifth F-35 was delivered to the base.

- Marine Corps F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-landing variants of the jet will begin to arrive at the base in the late half of November and early part of December, according to Air Force Times. (Story)

- In another F-35 related item, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp returned to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia just over a week ago after spending three weeks at sea hosting the initial sea trials of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

The first F-35B landed on WASP's flight deck early this month, beginning an 18-day test period. During the testing, two F-35B Marine Corps test jets performed vertical landings and short take-offs under various conditions. The STOVL variant logged more than 28 hours of flight time and completed 72 short take-offs and 72 vertical landings, according to the Navy.

Researchers from the Naval Air Systems Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Navmar Applied Science Corp. are working on a micro-UAV designed to be carried in another drone. That's according to a report by InsideDefense.

The armed, electric drone would detach from a 13-foot TigerShark and relay real-time video to ground support as it heads for the target. Researchers at Eglin were working on the micro-UAV as part of the Precision Acquisition and Weaponized System when the U.S. Special Operations Command said it needed a weapon that would minimize collateral damage.

NAVAIR started working on the effort to integrate the micro-UAV with the TigerShark surveillance drone. A $12 million design and assembly effort is supposed to be done in the spring of 2012. After that comes testing at Eglin and at the Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. (Story)

- Aircrews from the 37th Bomb Squadron employed two Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles from a pair of B-1 bombers at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., as part of the Air Force's air to ground Weapon System Evaluation Program known as Combat Hammer.

The goal of the Oct. 25 exercise, managed by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is to evaluate the effectiveness, maintainability, suitability, and accuracy of precision guided munitions and other advanced air to ground weapons.

According to Aviation Week, NASA will store some rocket engines, slow work on others and study still more as it tries to fit the Space Launch System into a $3 billion annual budget for development.

Early flights of the SLS will use surplus space shuttle main engines and, as side-mounted strap-ons, the five-segment solid-fuel motors developed for the terminated Ares I crew launch vehicle's first stage.

The J-2X upper-stage engine will be slowed as managers try to maintain enough development momentum to avoid a costly stop and restart in engine development as the big new rocket evolves. (Story)

- NASA says its industry partners continue to meet established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities that will ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That's according to NASA's third status report.

NASA will rely on private industry to transport cargo and crew to the International Space Station, while NASA focuses on deep space exploration. NASA has posted the third status report on its Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) program to the agency's Commercial Space Transportation website.

Stennis Space Center, Miss., is where space shuttle main engines were tested and where the J-2X is being assembled and tested. Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, is where portions of the SLS will be built.

- The U.S. Senate earlier this month approved a resolution sponsored by senators from Mississippi and Louisiana honoring the 50th anniversary of the John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and its economic impact on the region.

The testing facility in Hancock County was established in 1961 and today is home to more than 30 federal organizations, including the biggest tenant, the Navy. It will continue to play a role as the test site for NASA programs and commercial ventures.

- CSC has received a $41 million modification that exercises the second option period for the NASA Shared Services Center contract at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The contract modification applies to the contract NASA awarded CSC in 2005.

CSC will continue to provide financial management, human resources, procurement and information technology support services to NASA. The NSSC is a cooperative partnership between NASA, CSC and the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. The NSSC performs selected business activities for all 10 NASA centers.

The 96th Air Base Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., received good news about the  Operational Readiness Inspection. The ORI by the Air Force Material Command was the culmination of more than six months of preparation in four major graded areas.

The units were scored using a five-tier rating scale. The ratings in specific areas cannot be released, but the wing received overall results of excellent for positioning the force, employing the force, sustaining the force and the ability to survive and operate. Col. Sal Nodjomian, commander of the wing, said the inspectors reported they have never seen a wing sweep every graded category.

- The Air Force as a landlord? Perhaps that will be the case sometime next year.

Under an "enhanced lease program" designed to let the Air Force collect rent on an under-used portion of beachfront land, the military next year will become landlord of a hotel.

"This will be a new way of doing business for us," said Glenn Wagner, manager of Eglin Air Force Base's enhanced lease program, told the Northwest Florida Daily News. The $24 million hotel near Sheraton Four Points will be owned by the Department of Defense and managed by Emerald Breeze Resort Group.

Eglin's 46th Test Wing will be able to place a telemetric receiving dish and optical equipment on the top of the building so it can "see" further out into the Gulf of Mexico. (Story)

The $12 million, 52,500-square-foot Million Air facility officially opened at Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport during the week. It will serve as the fixed base operation at the airport, providing fuel, support services for charters and private planes and other services.

Company and airport officials expect the operation to boost the revenue base at the airport and the region by more than $10 million with fuel and activity fees and increase the casino customer base by up to 25 percent. (Story)

New Orleans' airport unveiled the expansion to Concourse D during the week. The $27 million expansion at Louis Armstrong International Airport includes six new gates and a pyramid-shaped central skylight. (Story)

With one exception, airports in Northwest Florida experienced higher passenger counts this September over the previous year. The busiest airport was Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport, with 121,409 passengers in September, up .73 percent, followed by Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, with 73,470 passengers in September, up 8.1 percent.

The airport in Okaloosa County, Northwest Florida Regional Airport, had 66,258 passengers in September, an increase of 10.4 percent. Tallahassee Regional Airport had 50,025, a 5.2 percent drop. (Story)

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC
, Madison, Miss., was awarded a  $26.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price 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. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Northrop Grumman Information Systems, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $119.7 million contract for the design, development, test, and deployment of Increment 10.2, modernization of the Air and Space Operations Center Weapon System. Increment 10.2 capabilities will be fielded to the Geographic Air and Space Operations Centers; a help desk at Langley Air Force Base, Va.; and the Formal Training Unit at Hurlburt Field, Fla. … L3 Communications Corp., Systems Field Support, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $21.3 million contract modification for contractor logistics support for the C-12 aircraft for Pacific Air Forces, Air Force Materiel Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Defense Security Cooperation Agency, consisting of maintenance, repair, and support functions for one year from Nov. 1, 2011, through Oct. 31, 2012. … Gulfport Aviation Partners LLC, Houston, Texas, was awarded a fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for a maximum $6.6 million for jet fuel. Other location of performance is Gulfport Biloxi International Airport, Gulfport, Miss. Using service is Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies. … The Boeing Co., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded an $11.1 million contract for spares and will provide five major subassemblies required to build-up six AC-130U 25 mm ammunition storage handling systems assemblies.

From other fields
Technology: The 16th annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference was held during the week in Panama City, Fla., at the Wyndham Bay Point Resort. The theme of the four-day conference was integrating future and present capabilities. The News Herald’s story focused on the Panama City mine roller developed by the Navy in Bay County. Brian Detter, the deputy assistant director of the Navy for Expeditionary Programs and Logistics Management, touted the mine roller as a piece of equipment that military personnel are using with great success in Afghanistan. (Story)
Shipbuilding: The biggest ship ever built in Alabama is in the water. BAE Systems Southeast Shipyard launched American Phoenix, a 616-foot-long chemical tanker, into Mobile River from the company's Pinto Island facility. Work is continuing on the tanker, which should be delivered to Mid-Ocean Tanker Co. of Connecticut in 2012. (Story)