Saturday, December 31, 2011

Week in review (12/25 to 12/31)

More F-35 Joint Strike Fighter contracts, another test of the Orion crew capsule and a couple of news items from airports in the region highlighted the aviation news of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

But first, a housekeeping matter. This column, as well as the aerospace news feed and new shipbuilding feed, can now be read in any of 53 languages. The international audience for information about the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor is growing, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible to translate the content. The tool to pick a language appears at the top left hand column of each blog. I hope you find it helpful.

Now for the week in review:

Three contracts were awarded during the week related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That's of interest to Eglin Air Force Base, which is the initial training site for F-35 pilots and maintainers from all branches of the military.

The largest contract was for Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, a $1.1 billion modification to a previously awarded advanced acquisition contract for F-35 power plants. It provides for the Lot V Low Rate Initial Production of 21 F135 conventional take off and landing propulsion systems for the Air Force, three short take-off and vertical landing systems for the Marine Corps, and six carrier variant systems for the Navy.

Work will be done in Connecticut, the United Kingdom and Indiana and completed in February 2014. The contract combines purchases for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and the Cooperative Partner Participants. (Post)

Two other contracts were for Lockheed Martin. One was a $485 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot V, inclusive of special tooling/special test equipment and subcontractor technical assistance for the Air Force, Navy, and the Cooperative Partner participants.

Work will be done in Texas, California, the United Kingdom, Italy, New Hampshire and Maryland, and is expected to be completed in December 2013. The contract combines purchases for the Air Force, Navy and the Cooperative Partner participants. (Post)

The other Lockheed Martin contract was for $253 million, a modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production IV contract. The modification provides for recurring and non-recurring sustainment for the Navy, Air Force, and Cooperative Program participants.

Work will be done in Texas, California, United Kingdom, Florida, New Hampshire and Maryland, and is expected to be completed in May 2014. The contract combines purchases for the Navy, Air Force and Cooperative Program participants. (Post)

- The Air Force Times during the week had a feature story about the $20 million simulators for pilots who will learn to fly the Lockheed Martin F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. It points out that the simulators are so advanced they can be used to replicated aerial refueling with a KC-10 and KC-135, officials said. Air Force Times reports that 10 of the full mission simulators, built by Lockheed Martin, have been ordered so far. The refueling capability is just one of the advances. (Post)

Unmanned systems
Here's another item about a contract. Northrop Grumman was awarded a $47 million contract for the purchase and integration of two battlefield airborne communications node payloads on two Global Hawk Block 20 aircraft.

Global Hawks AF-11 and AF-13 will be provided to Northrop Grumman to integrate the BACN payload in Palmdale, Calif. Work is expected to be completed Aug. 22, 2012, for AF-11 and Dec. 15, 2012, for AF-13.

Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

- Hurlburt Field in Northwest Florida was mentioned several times in a recent story by the Los Angeles Times about the role played by contractors in analyzing video feeds from drones. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, headquartered at Hurlburt, employs 165 civilians to analyze video and other intelligence acquired from drone flights over Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere. Those civilians work alongside uniformed military personnel in a vast facility at command headquarters. (Story)

NASA conducted a drop test of the Orion crew vehicle's parachutes over the Arizona desert in December in preparation for its orbital flight test in 2014. Orion will carry astronauts deep into space, and will include an emergency abort capability.

A C-130 dropped the Orion test article from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the Yuma Proving Grounds. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, followed by the pilot parachutes, which then deployed two main landing parachutes.

Lockheed Martin builds Orion at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

- Sometimes, a news item isn't directly related to the Gulf Coast region, but is interesting enough in light of the other activities here. That's the case with Northrop Grumman expanding its commercial space portfolio.

Northrop Grumman subsidiary, Scaled Composites, will build an air-launch system for Stratolaunch. It will be the largest aircraft ever built with a wingspan of 385 feet, more than the length of a football field. Powered by six 747 engines, it will take off and land from a runway that's at least 12,000 feet long.

It will carry payloads like satellites that will have their own propulsion systems to boost them into orbit. The development work will take place in Mojave, Calif.

That item should be of interest to this region. We have space activities at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and there's an operation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., that tracks space objects. Northrop Grumman is a major player in this region, and builds portions of unmanned aerial systems at Moss Point, Miss. (Story)

It's still unclear if a commercial carrier will come in to serve Mississippi's Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport once Delta Airlines ends service. According to the Hattiesburg American, in July the airline said it was discontinuing service to 24 smaller markets, including Hattiesburg.

Under federal guidelines the airliner was required to provide service for at least 90 days, but it's remained in place while a replacement is found, and there's no word how much longer that will be. The Department of Transportation currently is accepting bids for air service. (Post)

- The Crestview News Bulletins says a new 20,000 square-foot hangar is now officially opened at the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Fla. The $1.7 million hangar is used by Qwest Air Parts of Memphis, Tenn., which dismantles airplanes for spare parts. The company has already dismantled an A310 and is now working on a DC-10 and MD-88. (Post)

In addition to the contracts mentioned above, Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $33.3 million delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the Joint and Allied Threat Awareness System and Radar Warning Receiver (APR-39D(V)X) integration in support of the MV-22B Osprey aircraft. Three percent of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (Post)

Aviation Week had a story about the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer, raising the question, is it a science project testbed or a much-needed advanced destroyer? The publication points out that the answer depends on who is asked.

The ship being built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine is using a lot of new technologies, including a hybrid drive, composite deckhouse and new guns. Ingalls Shipbuilding's Composites Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss., is building the ship’s integrated composite deckhouse, helicopter hangars and parts of the ship’s peripheral vertical launch systems. (Post)

- Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., and five subcontractors have been cited by the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 50 safety and health violations. OSHA proposed a penalty of $176,444. Violations included blocked exits, tripping and fall hazards and more. (Post)