Saturday, December 24, 2011

Week in review (12/18 to 12/24)

If you're a regular reader of this column, you know that in addition to providing a summary of aerospace activities of interest to the Gulf Coast region, I've added over the past few months information about the considerable shipbuilding activities in this region.

Over the coming year I'll continue that approach, but will also begin adding information about the other science, technology and defense activities in this region. There's a lot going on in the I-10 corridor that needs to be highlighted. I hope you'll find the additional information helpful.

Now here's the week in review:

NASA provided a year-end wrap-up of the work that's been done on the J-2X engine, which will power the heavy-lift Space Launch System's second stage. It's the first human-rated rocket engine to be developed in 40 years, and NASA and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne are setting new development records with the first J-2X engine unit, E10001.

During the year the engine went through its first 10 tests designed to check engine performance, and it accumulated a total hot-fire test run time of 1,040 seconds at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. The J-2X engine test program will need only five percent the number of tests required to develop the original J-2 engine. (Post)

- Raytheon Co. has successfully tested with the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite that will provide secure communications for the military. The test was with Raytheon's Navy Multiband Terminal, and it was the second operationally fielded terminal to interoperate with an on-orbit AEHF satellite. The first one to run through the test was Raytheon's Army Secure Mobile Anti-jam Reliable Tactical Terminal.

The first AEHF satellite was launched in August 2010. The joint service satellites are designed to replace the Milstar system for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets. The Lockheed Martin AEHF satellite's core propulsion module is built at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The Japan Ministry of Defense chose the Lockheed Martin F-35 as the Japan Air Self Defense Force's next generation fighter aircraft. The initial contract will be for four F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants.

The F-35 program is comprised of nine partner nations: the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. The U.K. and Netherlands have ordered test aircraft, and Italy and Australia have committed long-lead funding for their initial operational aircraft. In October 2010, Israel selected the F-35A as the Israel Air Force's next generation fighter. (Post)

- The first group of military maintainers at the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., recently qualified in numerous F-35A flight inspections by a uniformed certifier, a task only civilian certifiers initially were contracted to support. Eglin is home of the F-35 training center, and will train aviators and maintainers for all branches of the military as well as foreign aviators.

With hundreds of verifications on joint technical data on how to maintain the aircraft left to be accomplished for each of the three F-35 variants in 2012 and beyond, the military maintainers are not ready to take over, but are moving forward. (Post)

The airport is in a city known for its restaurants and cuisine, but you wouldn't know that from what's available in the concourses at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. Officials hope to change that and provide passengers with world class concessions by the time the city hosts the Super Bowl in February 2013, according to the Times-Picayune. (Post)

- For Vision Airlines, there were some ups and downs during the year for the newest commercial carrier at Northwest Florida Regional Airport. The company started with a single direct route from Niagara Falls, N.Y., to Miami. But in January 2011 it announced it would add direct flights to nearly 20 more cities. Since then, some routes were dropped, others added, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. (Post)

Vision Technologies Aerospace Inc. entered into an agreement with Pratt & Whitney to invest in a 50.1 percent stake in EcoServices LLC. Pratt & Whitney will retain the remaining 49.9 percent stake. EcoServices will provide EcoPower Engine Wash services to customers around the world, and will become a subsidiary of VT Aerospace. VT Aerospace owns three aerospace operating companies in Mobile, Ala., and San Antonio, Texas, specializing in aircraft engineering design, maintenance and modification. (Post)

EADS North America Inc., Arlington, Va., was awarded a $212.7 million contract to provide for the modification of an existing contract to procure 39 production aircraft in support of the Army's Light Utility Helicopter Program. Work will be done in Columbus, Miss. … GeoEnvironmental Resources, Virginia Beach, Va., was awarded a maximum $7.5 million contract for geotechnical engineering services to support the construction and maintenance of facilities required primarily for Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia, and various activities within the NAVFAC Atlantic area of responsibility. Task order 0001 is being awarded at $67,077 for A-E services to support the fiscal 2011 Airfield Pavement Condition Assessment Program at Whiting Field North, Fla.; Whiting Field South, Fla.; Naval Outlying Field (NOLF) Evergreen, Ala.; NOLF Brewton, Ala.; and NOLF Choctaw, Fla. … Equilon Enterprises was awarded a contract with a maximum $99.8 million for JP8 aviation turbine fuel. One place of performance is Mobile, Ala. … Placid Refining Co. LLC, Baton Rouge, La., was awarded a contract with a maximum $41.6 million for JP8 and JP5 aviation turbine fuel. … Cubic Defense Applications Inc., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $15 million contract for airborne subsystems, parallel umbilical, ground subsystems and more, and well as technical and program management. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is one of the places of performance. AAC/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $10.9 million contract for five major subassemblies required to build-up six AC-130U 25mm ammunition storage handling systems assemblies. The location of the activity is Fort Walton Beach and is expected to be completed Jan. 31, 2014.

All the littoral combat ships being built in Alabama and Wisconsin will eventually be homeported in San Diego. The first LCS built in Wisconsin, the USS Freedom, has been there since 2010. But for the time being USS Independence, built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., is in Florida undergoing testing, according to DefenseNews.

The Independence is splitting its time between Mayport near Jacksonville on the Atlantic Coast and Panama City, home of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, on the Gulf Coast. The ship has been carrying out an extensive series of tests and trials of gear associated with the mine warfare mission module. (Story)

One example is the testing of the Navy's Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV). Lockheed Martin this month completed 500 hours of reliability testing. The system will provide mine reconnaissance capabilities to the LCS.

RMMV is an unmanned, semi-submersible, semi-autonomous vehicle that tows a variable-depth sensor that can detect and identify undersea threats. The testing, completed ahead of schedule, was conducted offshore near Palm Beach, Fla., and concludes the first of three planned development and testing cycles aimed to improve system reliability and operational availability for the Remote Minehunting System (RMS). (Story)

- The Navy received an OK to spend up to $35 million to buy both Austal USA-built super ferries from the Maritime Administration, reports the Mobile Press-Register. The Huakai and Alakia, both built in Mobile, Ala., will be transferred to the Navy if the bill is signed by the president. The ferries were originally built to transport people and goods around the Hawaiian islands. (Post)

- Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Fla., is adding 500 jobs to fill two new contracts, according to the Panama City News Herald. The contracts are for 13 supply vessels. One is for Boldini S.A., and the other for Hornbeck Offshore. The company is one of the largest employers in Bay County. (Post)

- Huntington Ingalls Industries delivered the company's sixth amphibious transport dock, San Diego, to the Navy at a brief ceremony at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., early in the week. The 684-foot long ship, LPD 22 is scheduled to be commissioned in the spring of 2012 in San Diego. The principal mission is to deploy the combat and support elements of Marine Expeditionary Units and Brigades. (Post)

- Shipbuilding contracts: Austal Hull 130 Chartering LLC, Mobile, Ala., was awarded an $8.2 million contract for the worldwide charter of one U.S.-flagged passenger/cargo ferry. The ferry will support the Marine Corps Third Marine Expeditionary Force. … Alion Science and Technology, Burr Ridge, Ill, was awarded a $73.2 million not-to-exceed letter contract for professional support services in support of surface warfare fleet support. Some of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. … Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $7.9 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for core Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class services for the LCS program. Austal USA will assess engineering, baseline, and configuration management services in support of the basic construction, post delivery, test and trials phases of the LCS class. Thirty percent of the work will be done in Mobile.