Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week in review (1/22 to 1/28)

In the Gulf Coast region, anything that comes down the pike about defense issues gets attention. That was the case Thursday when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave an outline of cuts to come, and it will be the case next month when we get more details.

Panetta said the proposal will impact all 50 states and many congressional districts across America. And let's face it. We have a lot of potential targets in this region. There are 21 military installations between New Orleans and Panama City, Fla., along with military activities at non-DoD locations. We also have a lot of contractors, both traditional defense contractors and companies that provide services for the bases. We're talking a multibillion-dollar economic impact on this region.

And each of the states with a piece of this I-10 corridor also has military operations and defense contractors that account for billions in spending in other parts of the state. Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi all have bases and contractors that dependon the military budget. The Pentagon wants $525 billion for the military in 2013, $6 billion less than the current budget, and wants Congress to approve a new round of base closures. (Post)

Several bases in this region have already announced personnel cuts, and Northwest Florida sees a realignment of the materiel command announced in November as a threat to Eglin Air Force Base's research and development. Work is underway to protect that activity, which is crucial for attracting and retaining high-tech operations.

One company in this region that will feel an impact of the cuts announced Thursday is Austal USA of Mobile, Ala. The 15 Littoral Combat Ships that were to be purchased from 2013 to 2017 will be trimmed to 13, and eight of nine planned Joint High Speed Vessels will be cut. The proposal also delays by a year the start of construction for the Ingalls-built LHA-8 large-deck amphibious vessel, but the proposal doesn’t slow the Navy plans to buy additional Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers built by both General Dynamics and Ingalls. (Post)

Another casualty of the budget cut is the Air Force's Block 30 variant of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane. The central fuselage work for the Global Hawk is done in Moss Point, Miss., at a 101,000 square-foot facility that opened in 2006.

The Air Force has decided to keep using the U-2 spy plane, which the Global Hawk was supposed to replace. Plans were to buy 31 of the Block 30 variant. Northrop has delivered 14 and has a contract for seven more. The remaining 10 will be canceled.

Northrop, not surprisingly, said it's disappointed with the decision, but will work with the Pentagon to assess alternatives to the program's termination. Northrop pointed out that just a few months ago the Pentagon published an acquisition decision memorandum that said continuation of the program is essential to national security. (Post)

But the Block 40 variant of the Global Hawk is alive and well. In fact, the proposed fiscal 2013 budget includes $1.2 billion for three additional Block 40 variants, according to Bloomberg. (Post) The Air Force already has 11 of the latest models delivered or on contract. In addition, the Pentagon wants to continue an $11 billion Navy Global Hawk program, which involves 68 Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Global Hawk drones.

NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance capability is also moving forward. A 13-nation deal should be signed before the next NATO summit in Chicago in May. That pending acquisition is valued at about $1.3 billion for five Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned air vehicles, each equipped with a Northrop/Raytheon surveillance payload. (Post)

Also untouched was the Fire Scout program. The Navy plans to buy 168 of the unmanned helicopters, which are also made in part in Moss Point. And the models now in service have been busy. Two MQ-8B Fire Scouts are in a third operational deployment, this time aboard the USS Simpson. The Fire Scouts are providing the ship's sole aviation capability. (Post)

EADS named Tom Enders to take over as chief executive officer when Louis Gallois retires in May. Enders, nominated to a five-year term, was a strong advocate for Mobile, Ala., during the competition between EADS and Boeing to build Air Force tankers.

EADS planned to build a 1,500-worker assembly plant at Brookley Aeroplex to build tankers and freighters if it won the competition. Although EADS lost, it has continued to express interest in establishing an assembly facility in the United States because of a backlog of orders from airlines. (Post)

New programs
There was a grand opening during the week for the new 325th Air Control Squadron building at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Brig. The 36,000 square-foot building will be used to train air battle managers, who provide critical information about enemy activities to both air and ground forces. It's the only schoolhouse that will teach air battle managers in the country. (Post)

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is opening a Crestview, Fla., campus to meet a growing need for students in the north end of Okaloosa County. The school decided to open the campus because of the increase in aviation related jobs around the Crestview Airport and aviation related contracts in the area. The new campus is on the second floor of a building at the corner of South Ferdon Boulevard and Southview Drive. (Post)

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $17.4 million contract to provide test integration of software to enhance the system performance of the AIM 120D missile. AAC/EBAK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Corp., Systems Field Support, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $69.2 million contract to provide for the support of the worldwide fleet of C12/RC12/UC35 aircraft. Work will be performed in Madison, Miss. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week in review (1/15 to 1/21)

More rumblings about a possible Airbus assembly plant in the United States, the arrival of another F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, AirTran switching to Southwest Airlines in Pensacola and plans by Stennis Space Center to show off its J-2X rocket engine program highlighted the aerospace news for the Gulf Coast during the week.

A top EADS official said Airbus, which already has final assembly lines in France, Germany and China, may add one in the United States to increase visibility in the largest market for single-aisle planes. The comment came from Hans Peter Ring, chief financial officer of EADS, in an interview with Bloomberg. (Post)

Of course, EADS/Airbus would have had an assembly line in Mobile, Ala., had it not lost the Air Force aerial refueling tanker competition to Boeing. But the loss of the tanker project never killed the belief that Mobile would eventually get an aircraft assembly plant.

Last September Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told the Birmingham News that EADS was looking into whether it was feasible to build commercial airplanes in Mobile. During the tanker competition, the company had said it also would build freighters in Mobile if it won the tanker contract.

Both Airbus and Boeing have been saying for a while now that the demand for airliners is increasing. That's one reason GE Aviation is building new facilities in Hattiesburg, Miss., and Auburn, Ala. And the increasing activity likely is one reason Rolls-Royce is building a second engine test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. More planes means more engines.

Aviation Week, in an article called "12 for '12," focused on a dozen big developments that will occur in the aerospace and defense industry in 2012. Two of them are linked to the uptick of orders from airliners.

The article pointed out that Airbus and Boeing won an estimated 2,150 net orders for new jets in 2011, with Airbus alone booking three orders for every jet it produces. The challenge will be fulfilling all of those sales, particularly among suppliers. The related big development is aerospace consolidations. United Technologies Corp.'s $18.4 billion purchase of Goodrich, which has a service center in Foley, Ala., is likely will pass regulatory muster and close by May. The question is whether Honeywell, General Electric or other aerospace giants will move to counter UTC's new "super supplier." (Article)

If you follow the aerospace industry, you can see the activity increasing. Even though Boeing is shutting down its plant in Wichita, Kan., in 2013, the Wichita Eagle reports that Boeing plans to increase the amount it spends with Kansas suppliers by 50 percent over the next three years, from $3.2 billion to $4.8 billion. (Article)

In addition, Airbus said it will add A350-1000 fuselage work to the wing engineering work it does at Wichita’s Airbus North American Engineering center. The Wichita Business Journal reports that it will mean 30 engineering jobs. (Article)

So buckle up. We're in for a pretty active 2012.

There was plenty of news during the week for anyone following the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. People along the Gulf Coast are interested because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the Integrated Training Center, the primary location to train pilots and maintainers for the plane.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta by the end of the week lifted the probation on the Marine Corps version of the F-35. The probation of the F-35B was put in place last year by then-Secretary Robert Gates because of technical issues of the most complex version of the single-seat jet fighter. (Post)

Coincidentally, a ninth F-35, this one the Marine Corps variant just mentioned, arrived at Eglin on Thursday after a flight from Texas. B-7, piloted Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Bachmann, is assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501. (Post)

Lockheed Martin is building three versions of the plane, the F-35A for the Air Force, the F-35C for the Navy and the F-35B for the Marines. Eglin now has three F-35B and six F-35As.

- The Air Force filed a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the establishment of a second F-35 pilot training center, and as expected Luke Air Force Base outside Phoenix, Ariz., is the preferred site. Plans are for 72 new F-35s at the base. The draft statement opened a 45-day public comment period ending March 14. A final decision is expected in July. (Article)

- Lockheed Martin is working on a solution to a problem with the tailhook on the Navy version of the F-35, the F-35C. Published reports said F-35C can't land on a carrier because the tailhook is too short, too close to the landing gear and can't grab arresting cables. Lockheed Martin said the problem is the design of the tailhook and a fix is underway. Tests will be done in the second quarter of the year. (Post)

The media has been invited to NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. to take a look Wednesday at the facilities used to test the J-2X engines that will be used with the Space Launch System. They'll see the test control center, the A-1 Test Stand and the facility where the final assembly is done on the J-2X. (Post)

Unmanned systems
Two members of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., became the first RQ-4 Global Hawk pilots in the new 18X career field during a winging Jan. 13. The new career field is designated for RPA pilots coming from non-rated career fields as well as newly commissioned officers. Portions of Global Hawks are built in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Pensacola International Airport's Air Tran will be converting to Southwest Airlines, which bought AirTran in May. The change will occur over the next several months. That will give the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor three airports served by Southwest. The other locations are in Panama City, Fla., and New Orleans. (Post)

- Emerald Coast Aviation has closed its operations at Florida's Destin Airport. It subleased services for Miracle Strip Aviation, one of two fixed-base operators at the airport. Emerald Coast Aviation handled aircraft maintenance and repairs and flight instructions for Miracle Strip Aviation. It's still operating in Crestview and at the airport in Valparaiso. (Post)

- The National Transportation Safety Board found a near-midair collision at Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in June was likely caused by errors made by an air-traffic controller. The controller cleared a Cessna for takeoff and 16 seconds later cleared a Continental Express jet to take off on a different runway. While both aircraft were about 300 feet above the airfield the jet passed in front of the Cessna, coming as close as about 300 feet. (Post)

- The commander of the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., issued a commentary during the week about the base's accomplishments in 2011. Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant listed the arrival of the first F-35 fighter, bed down of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group, and the base's multiple excellence awards. (Post)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week in review (1/8 to 1/14)

If you follow aerospace activities in this region, you might do well to keep an eye on NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. It was just last month that Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., said it would test its rocket engines at SSC. Now Rolls-Royce North America has decided to build a second stand to test its large airliner engines.

Rolls-Royce, which also operates a ship propeller foundry in Pascagoula, Miss., as part of its marine activities, plans to invest some $50 million on a second stand at SSC. That will add another 35 jobs to the 45 employees already working at the Outdoor Jet Engine Testing Facility that opened in 2007. That stand was the first outside the UK for Rolls-Royce. (Post)

In addition to the increased activity at SSC, the new Rolls-Royce stand will also mean more activity at Stennis International Airport, to the east of SSC. Rolls-Royces uses huge transport plans to ship those engines to and from Stennis Space Center.

So what's going on that’s caused all this new activity? Truth is, there's always been a lot going on at the 14,000-acre federal city, which is surrounded by a 125,000 acre acoustical buffer zone. But in recent years some steps have been taken that appear to put it on a growth track.

In November 2009, NASA identified some 3,900 acres at land that's ready for development. There's more land available, but this is the acreage near roads and utilities. Then the Army last year turned over a 1.6 million square-foot former munitions plant and surrounding acreage to NASA, increasing the space agency's building space by a third.

Not long after that, NASA sent out feelers to companies interested in taking over the under-utilized E-4 test facility, and made it a point to stress that the test stand can be modified for larger engines. Stennis Space Center Director Patrick Scheuermann said word is getting out about the test stands, the land available for development and the expertise at SSC, and commercial companies are showing interest.

"We had been hearing on sort of an infrequent basis," Scheuermann said in the January issue of the Alliance Insight, about companies interested in working with SSC, "but in the last couple of years the frequency has picked up quite a bit." (Post)

SSC is home not only to NASA and its propulsion testing capabilities, but 30 other federal and state agencies with science and technology operations. It's the home of the Navy's oceanographic operations, the National Data Buoy Center, the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage, a Naval Research Lab detachment and more.

Hundreds of scientists and technicians are working in fields as varied as rocket propulsion, geospatial technologies, underwater research and more. Universities from two states have activities there, and SSC has one of the world's largest supercomputers there. It also has tight security and room to grow.

SSC hasn't developed like the area around Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and there are a lot of reasons behind that. But it does appear the time might have arrived for SSC. And having NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in nearby New Orleans certainly adds to the appeal.

So, as they say, stay tuned.

There were other SSC-related stories during the week. The relocation of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine inventory from Kennedy Space Center's Engine Shop in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to SSC is under way. Those engines will be used in NASA's Space Launch System, the new heavy-lift launch vehicle. SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, its crew, cargo, equipment and experiments to destinations in deep space.

The 15 RS-25D engines are being transported on the 700-mile journey using existing transportation and processing procedures that were used to move engines between Kennedy and Stennis during the Space Shuttle Program. Each engine, built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, is 14 feet long and more than 7 feet in diameter at the end of the nozzle. (Post)

- Work is ramping up at the Orion spacecraft facility at Kennedy Space Center, expanding the spaceport's role beyond launch operations to include final assembly. About 260 people already work on Orion at KSC, and that will increase to about 400 by June in preparations for the first flight test of Orion. Meanwhile, technicians at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are putting the finishing touches on the second Orion capsule, and will also be doing work on portions of the Space Launch System. "Orion will use MAF for construction of the crew module and other portions. KSC will be used for final assembly of the entire spacecraft," said Jennifer Morcone Stanfield, public affairs officer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Post)

- Applications close at the end of the month for a new group of astronauts to fly NASA's Orion capsule to points still to be decided. So far more than 1,300 people have applied, comparable to the response NASA received from its calls for space shuttle crews, according to Aviation Week. The first Orion flight on an Space Launch System is tentatively set for 2017. Orion and portions of the SLS are being built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans; the propulsion systems for SLS are being tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- Science Applications International Corp. was awarded a contract to build out the Facilities Management Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Work will be done at MSFC and NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. (Post)

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., now has eight F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even though they still haven't been given the go-ahead to begin flight training. Two Marine Corps versions of the Lockheed Martin F-35 short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft were delivered during the week. They landed after a 90-minute flight from Texas. Both fighters will be used for pilot and maintainer training at the new F-35 Integrated Training Center. (Post)

- Last September at an aerospace conference in Sandestin, Fla., speakers said the commercial aircraft sector is growing. During the week Reuters reported that Boeing and Airbus both had a record year for aircraft deliveries in 2011. The two rivals, both with operations in the Gulf Coast region, increased deliveries to airlines by around 3 percent versus 2010, and have set out plans for record production of short-haul passenger jets to meet demand from emerging markets. (Post)

Speaking of EADS, the Army awarded EADS North America a $212.7 million contract for 39 UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters. Thirty-two of them will be produced in the Army's Security and Support Battalion configuration and will be used by the National Guard nationwide. The Lakotas are built at EADS North America's American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss. EADS also has its Airbus Engineering Center and a maintenance operation in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

And at some point, Mobile could wind up with more EADS operations. Mobile is still considered the prime location should EADS eventually opt to put a wide-body aircraft manufacturing facility in the United States. If that should happen - and I'm betting it will - Mobile and the surrounding area will be as big a hotbed of active as Stennis Space Center.

Unmanned systems
Two speakers at the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council's symposium said the field of unmanned aerial systems is a target area for the state and Northwest Florida. Gray Swoope, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida said the development and operation of unmanned vehicles is one of the fastest growing fields in the country.

Mark Bontrager, vice president of Space Florida, said the federal government soon will designate six areas around the country for unmanned air flights, and he hopes one or more will be in Florida. The EDC already has made unmanned vehicles a priority and created a group last year focused on bringing more development to the area. (Post)

South Mississippi already has two areas approved for unmanned aerial system flights. One is at Stennis Space Center, the other in Jackson County, Miss., where Northrop Grumman builds portions of the Global Hawk and Fire Scout systems.

Military cuts
The Florida Defense Support Task Force, formed to protect Florida's military bases, in particular its role in research, development, test and evaluation, met for the first time during the week in Tallahassee, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

The group decided it needs to move quickly in light of streamlining of the Air Force Material Command announced in November. The group is concerned the changes could pave the way towards moving Eglin's RDT&E mission to California. (Post) That R&D activity is significant. The base spends between $600 million and $700 million every year on weapons-related RDT&E.

- Job cuts were announced for several Gulf Coast bases back in November, but some additional cuts are coming to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Officials say 38 additional civilian positions will be eliminated along with the 68 previously announced, according to the Sun Herald and WLOX-TV. Keesler is a major technical training center for the Air Force. (Post)

The Austal USA-built Littoral Combat Ship Coronado was slated to be christened Saturday in Mobile, Ala. Designated LCS 4, Coronado is designed to operate in littoral seas and shallow water to counter mines, submarines and fast surface craft threats in coastal regions. Coronado is the second of the Independence-variant in the LCS class. (Post)

- The Navy is working with Huntington Ingalls to drive down costs on the CVN 78 aircraft carrier and Pascagoula, Miss.-built LPD amphibious ships under construction. Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley discussed the topic at the Surface Navy Association's annual conference during the week, and said there has been some improvements. (Post)

- For NASA and the Navy, ensuring there's a pool of talent versed in science, technology, engineering and math is crucial, and both agencies have programs in place to pique the interest of students. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with a center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and the Navy, a tenant at SSC, are reaching Mississippi students through several programs. (Post)

- Two oceanographers from NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., will chair a conference on ocean sensing and monitoring April 23-27 in Baltimore, Md. The International Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Defense Security and Sensing's fourth Ocean Sensing and Monitoring conference will be chaired by Weilin "Will" Hou and Bob Arnone, both oceanographers in the Oceanography Division at Naval Research Lab at SSC. The conference will focus on R&D efforts in the open and coastal ocean with respect to defense and security interests. (Post)

Science Applications International Corp.
, Mclean, Va., was awarded a $10.6 million modification to a previously awarded, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Deep Sea Operations Program to introduce surveillance that operates at extreme ocean depths to detect quiet submarines. Twenty-seven percent of the work will be done in Long Beach, Miss. Other work will be done in Virginia, California, Texas, Maryland and Florida. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Baltimore, Md., was awarded a $20.6 million modification to previously awarded contract for MK 41 Vertical Launching System production support material, interim support parts, and equipment in support of DDG 51 class construction. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., will perform 18.8 percent of the work. Other locations of performance are in Maryland, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Michigan and Clearwater, Fla.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week in review (1/1 to 1/7)

The story out of Wichita, Kan., this past week had nothing to do with the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor per se, but in the long run it will. Less than a year after Kansas, along with Washington state, celebrated Boeing winning the contract to built tankers, Wichita learned it will play no role in the tanker, and in fact, will be losing its Boeing plant.

Boeing has been a part of the Wichita landscape for more than 80 years, and Kansas politicians stood with Boeing when it was competing against EADS to build Air Force tankers. That was understandable. Kansas wanted the more than 7,000 jobs expected to come to Kansas with a Boeing win.

But today the folks in Kansas are likely wondering how things can change so much in less than a year. Boeing, which began studying the 2 million square-foot, 97-building facility in mid-2011, blames it on cuts to the nation's defense budget and high overhead costs at the Wichita plant, where it has more than 2,000 workers. The Boeing study found Wichita's costs are 70 percent higher than San Antonio's, according to the Kansas City Star.

Certainly Mobile, Ala., can understand the feelings of the folks from Kansas. It knows all too well what it's like to have felt something was won, only to turn around and have it taken away. Mobile in 2008 celebrated when the Air Force announced EADS would build its tankers. Visions of a new aircraft assembly facility danced in their head. But Boeing protested and the contest was redone. The winner of the next fight was Boeing.

One of the ironies in all this is that while Boeing is leaving Wichita, the company it fought so long for the tanker contract is staying. EADS has an engineering operation in Wichita, like it does in Mobile. Guy Hicks, EADS North America communications and government-relations chief, told The Hill his firm has no intention of leaving Wichita.

No doubt the folks in Wichita would love to see another aerospace company come in and take over the Boeing plant. That happened in 2005 when Boeing sold its commercial aircraft division in Wichita. The buyer renamed it Spirit AeroSystems. The Kansas City Star wrote that Brazilian jet maker Embraer could be a buyer, according to Chris Kuehl, a managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence in Kansas City, Kan.

If Kuehl is right about Embraer, that would add another weird twist. Embraer was recently chosen to supply A-29 Super Tucano turboprops for a U.S. partnership program with Afghanistan and other nations. The 20 light attack aircraft will be built in Jacksonville, Fla., but that contract is now on hold because of a suit filed by, you guessed it, Hawker Beechcraft of Wichita. Its AT-6 was excluded from the competition. That's the same Hawker Beechcraft that flirted with moving to Louisiana.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is promising aggressive attempts to attract new commercial aviation work, even mentioning Boeing rival Airbus, according to one story. For the folks on the Gulf Coast, who established a relationship with EADS/Airbus during the tanker competition, it may be a bit of a concern knowing that the Boeing facility will go on the market. But the cost of doing business will always remain a major factor.

One lesson that should come out of this is that loyalty for a past job well done is not a factor in a global environment where competitive advantage is crucial and the bottom line is paramount. Publicly traded companies like Boeing have to answer to shareholders.

During the week the new U.S. military strategy was announced. It calls for a leaner military, reducing lower-priority forces and duplicative operations and ending the practice of maintaining a force that can fight and win on two fronts.

The new strategy streamlines the military in an era of tighter budgets and reassesses defense priorities in light of China's rise and other global changes. The report calls for investments in special forces and technological innovation, including cyber defense.

Some leaders on Capitol Hill were critical. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said it's not the strategy for a superpower but "more a menu for mediocrity." Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the announcement sends a signal to friend and foe alike about "America's diminished ability to project power on a global scale." The Gulf Coast region has multiple military bases, including those involved in cyber security and special operations. (Post)

- The Defense Department will be required to provide Congress two weeks notice before cutting by more than 1,000 the number of military personnel at an installation, under language in the final version of the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill approved by Congress last month. DoD also will need to submit a justification and evaluation of the local strategic and operational impact of the reduction in forces. The requirement will not apply during a BRAC round. (Post)

The Air Force postponed until 2013 where at the Eglin reservation F-35 training will take place and which runways will be used, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. The reassessment of the impact of flight training is due to changes in how aircraft will be used, including the number and types of takeoffs, landing and sorties. The first Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in 2010 listed Duke Field, Choctaw Field and Eglin main as possible locations. (Post)

- The Pentagon is set to restructure F-35 program for a third time in three years, sources told Reuters, with production of more than 120 planes delayed to save money and allow more development time. But international orders will help ease the impact on Lockheed Martin. Japan plans to buy 42 F-35s and Bloomberg reported that Turkey will  buy two. Israel also said it would buy F-35s. (Post)

Saudi Arabia's deal to buy 84 F-15SA fighters and upgrade its 70 F-15S aircraft will bring additional students to three bases in the Gulf Coast: Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The Saudi students also will train at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and will receive English language training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. This year the service expects to train more than 300 Saudi airmen under the agreement. (Post)

The Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., is celebrating 35 years of accreditation by the Council on Occupational Education. CNATT provides operational and maintenance training, ranging from avionics repair to flight deck operations and more. (Post)

The Blue Angels are back in El Centro, Calif., for winter training, according to the Imperial Valley Weekly. The flight demonstration squadron left their home base at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Tuesday and arrived at El Centro after a three-hour flight. The team will train in Southern California over the next couple of months. (Post)

Spaceflight during the week had a detailed story about the military' successful effort to save the more than $1 billion Advanced Extremely High Frequency 1 satellite after it failed to launch into geosynchronous orbit in 2010. Debris in the propellant line prevented the Liquid Apogee Engine from firing, keeping the satellite in the transfer orbit. But it was coaxed into orbit months later thanks to engineering creativity. he Lockheed Martin AEHF satellite's core propulsion module is built at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Florida-based Signature Flight Support Corp. acquired Azalea Aviation's operations at Mobile Regional Airport and Downtown Air Center at Brookley Aeroplex from Taylor and Harris Morrissette. The Mobile Press-Register reports that Taylor Morrissette will remain with Signature to oversee the two centers. Azalea Aviation has fueling infrastructure and more than 100,000 square feet of hangar space between its two locations. (Post)

- U.S. Airways is expanding jet service in Northwest Florida with three new flights beginning March 25. The airline will provide two daily nonstop flights from Pensacola International Airport and one daily flight from Fort Walton Beach's Northwest Florida Regional Airport to Washington Reagan National Airport. (Post)

Unmanned systems
Congress set aside $191 million for the Navy to buy a dozen long-range variants of the Northrop Grumman Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. Called the Fire-X during development, the Fire Scout MQ-8C uses a Bell 407 airframe in place of the smaller Schweizer 333 of the MQ-8B. The newer Fire Scout uses many of the systems of the smaller version, which is now a part of the Navy fleet. The MQ-8B version is built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

United Technologies
United Technologies made some bold business moves in 2011, analysts say. It acquired Goodrich, creating a "super-supplier" with a vast product line, and unveiled a joint venture between subsidiary Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce. One analyst said the Goodrich buy is a sizable bet on commercial aerospace. (Post) Goodrich operates the Alabama Service Center in Foley, Ala.; Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne assembles and tests rocket engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Rolls-Royce tests commercial aircraft engines at SSC.

United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $194 million advance acquisition contract for long lead components, parts, and materials required for the delivery of 37 propulsion systems for the Lot VI F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. It includes 18 conventional take-off and landing for the Air Force, six short take-off and vertical landing for the Marine Corps, seven carrier variant for the Navy; four CTOL for the Italian Air Force, two CTOL for the Royal Australian Air Force and associated spares. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. ... Raytheon Co., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded an $11 million contract for robust navigation technology. This contract supports anti-jamm Global Positioning system development for the High Velocity Penetrating Weapon Program. AFRL/RWK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.