Saturday, February 25, 2012

Week in review (2/19 to 2/25)

The loss of four Hurlburt Field airmen, more progress with the F-35, VIP visits to NAS Pensacola and Stennis Space Center, the elimination of a flying unit in New Orleans, the first flight of a Rolls-Royce XWB engine and plans for an unmanned version of the A-10 were just some of the aerospace stories during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast region.

Not forgotten
Four airmen from Hurlburt Field, Fla., with a combined 18 deployments, 3,100 combat hours and 20 years of service, died last weekend when their U-28A crashed near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. It was at the end of what the Air Force called a routine mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Killed were Capt. Ryan P. Hall of Colorado Springs, Colo., with the 319th Special Operations Squadron; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock of Newnan, Ga., and 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens of Bend, Ore., both with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten of Upper Marlboro, Md., with the 25th Intelligence Squadron.

There were no other personnel aboard the single-engine aircraft.

Hall, 30, was a pilot and on his seventh deployment, and had more than 1,300 combat flight hours. He's joined the Air Force in 2004. Whitlock,29, also was a pilot and was on his fifth deployment. He had more than 800 combat flight hours and joined the Air Force in 2006. Wilkens, 26, was on his third deployment and had more than 400 combat hours. Scholten, 26, was on his third deployment and had more than 600 combat hours. Both joined the Air Force in 2009.

The Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field will hold a memorial service for the four airmen Tuesday.

In addition to those four airmen, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported Saturday that one of the two soldiers killed in protest over the burning of the Koran was Army Sgt. Joshua A. Born, of Niceville, Fla. Born and Cpl. Timothy J. Conrad Jr., of Roanoke, Va., both were shot in Afghanistan.

Unless you receive casualty reports from DoD on a regular basis, it's easy to forget that we have men and women who place their lives in danger every day in "routine" missions. As a veteran myself who comes from a family of veterans, I make it a point to read every one of these reports as my way of giving thanks. They deserve our deepest respect.

The Marine Corps during the week hosted a rollout ceremony to celebrate the January arrival of the F-35B, the short takeoff-vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. Hundreds attended the event at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida.

Eglin, which will train F-35 pilots and maintainers for all branches of the military and foreign allies, is home to the largest contingent of F-35s. There are six Air Force F-35A conventional landing and takoff versions and there F-35Bs, the vertical takeoff and landing variant. The planes started arriving at Eglin last year. Eventually, there will be 59 at the base.

For the Marines, the F-35 will replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.

Officials at Eglin said Friday that military training flights could be approved by late March or early April, underscoring comments made earlier by Gen. Edward Rice, head of the Air Education and Training Command. He said at an Orland, Fla., conference that the F-35s could be flying in a matter of weeks.

- The first external weapons test mission was flown by an F-35A this month during a mission at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Feb. 16 test involved an Air Force F-35 carrying two air-to-air AIM-9X missiles on the outboard wings stations, two GBU-31 guided bombs and two AIM-120 air-to-air missiles carried inside the weapons bays. The jet also had mounted four external pylons that can carry 2,000-pound air-to-ground weapons. No weapons were fired in the test. (Post)

- A Royal Air Force squadron leader became United Kingdom's first military test pilot to fly the F-35C carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. Jim Schofield said the F-35 is the best handling of any jet he's flown. His Feb. 21 flight at Patuxent River, Md., is the latest in a series of milestones for the UK's program, which included the first F-35C launch from an electromagnetic aircraft launch system. That system will be used in the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier now under construction. (Post)

- Lockheed Martin opened a new 57,000 square-foot facility in Pinellas Park, Fla., to produce canopy components for the F-35. The facility is an annex to Lockheed Martin's existing 197,000 square-foot building that's been making structural components for more than 10 aircraft since 1997. (Post)

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid a visit to several commands at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., during the week. He visited the Naval Education and Training Command, Training Air Wing 6, the Air Force 479th Flying Training Group and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Dempsey also held a town hall meeting in the museum atrium. Topics included military transition, the defense budget, leadership, training and building the force of the future. (Post)

- While we’re on the topic of visits, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver was at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans during the week. She said the proposed NASA budget "will keep us on the cutting edge of the space program." She said the $17.7 billion budget allows NASA to continue to utilize the International Space Station and develop the space vehicles that will allow NASA to explore further into space than ever before. Stennis Space Center tests rocket engines for the Space Launch System and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans is involved in building the Orion crew vehicle and portions of the SLS. (Post)

While on the topic of SSC, here's another one with an SSC tie.
The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine took to the skies for the first time, powering an Airbus A380 test aircraft in Toulouse, France. The aircraft flew with one of its four Trent 900 engines replaced by a Trent XWB. The Trent XWB will power the new Airbus A350 XWB.

The Trent XWB engine is tested at Stennis Space Center. (Post)

The Navy proposes to decommission a squadron at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, eliminating a flying unit that focuses on stemming the flow of drugs to the United States, according to the Times Picayune. Under the 2013 spending plan released this week, the Navy Reserve’s Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77 would cease to exist Sept. 30. VAW-77 has about 100 active duty and reserve Navy personnel and about 55 civilian contractors. (Post)

Raytheon picked Aurora Flight Sciences to join the team that will create an unmanned version of the battle-tested A-10. The Persistent Close Air Support program is funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Other members of the team include Rockwell Collins and GE Aviation.

Aurora Flight Sciences has a UAV manufacturing center in Columbus, Miss.; Raytheon has multiple activities along the Gulf Coast; GE Aviation is building engine parts plants near Hattiesburg, Miss., and Auburn, Ala., and also operates a parts plant in Batesville, Miss. (Post)

- There was an interesting bit of news posted by DoD Buzz during the week about what may become of the Block 30 Global Hawks the Pentagon no longer wants. Those UAVs, along with the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft, may be sold.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley at a press conference at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference in Orlando, said potential buyers are being contacted. The Air Force retired the relatively small fleet of brand new C-27Js and Block 30 Global Hawks as part of its efforts save billions of dollars in the coming years. (Story)

Composite Engineering Inc., Sacramento, Calif., was awarded a $32.7 million contract to procure a quantity of 35 BQM-167As, also known as the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target. The location of the performances is Sacramento, Calif. AAC/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, Fla., is expanding west into Gulf County. The company will lease 20 acres at a Port of St. Joe paper mill site to expand its shipbuilding and repair business. ESG is currently in the process of filling 500 new positions needed to meet current and future contract needs, according to The Star and Panama City News Herald. (Post)

- The proposed 2013 budget for the Coast Guard includes money for a sixth National Security Cutter, but nothing for a seventh and eighth vessel. The ships are built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

- Three areas of the Gulf Coast region will benefit after Austal USA of Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $321.7 million modification to previously awarded contract for the exercise of construction options for Joint High Speed Vessels 8 and 9. Mobile will do 48 percent of the work, while 2 percent is done in Gulfport, Miss., and 1 percent in Slidell, La. Work is expected to be completed by April 2016. (Post)

- A contract was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss. It's a $70 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a previously awarded contract for advance procurement of long-lead-time materials in support of LPD 27, the 11th ship in the San Antonio (LPD 17) class. Work will be done in Pascagoula and is expected to be completed by April 2012. (Post)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Week in review (2/12 to 2/18)

Intriguing indications that Mobile may eventually get a major aircraft assembly plant; a two-state push to create an industrial megasite between Panama City and Dothan; a new research lab at Eglin Air Force Base; and the first in a new series of rocket engine tests at Stennis Space Center were just some of the news items during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

It was at an aerospace suppliers' conference near Seattle that talk turned to Airbus' continuing interest in establishing a production line in this country. No surprise there. EADS/Airbus has made clear that ongoing interest.

But a column by Dominic Gates of the Seattle Times had some intriguing details, including word that an announcement could be made this summer, and that 10 A320 jets will be build every month. He also said the favored site is Mobile, Ala. (Post)

If you follow the daily news feed, you know there have been plenty of stories indicating EADS/Airbus' interest in the United States. In January Hans Peter Ring, chief financial officer of EADS, said in an interview with Bloomberg that Airbus may add a final assembly line in the United States to increase visibility.

In September 2011, Sen. Richard Shelby told the Birmingham News that EADS is looking into whether it's feasible to build commercial planes in Mobile. That was after previous reports that both Boeing and Airbus had record orders, including American Airlines ordering 460 new single-aisle planes, 260 of them from Airbus, with options for more planes.

One intriguing announcements out of Singapore during the just-ended air show was that Airbus, ST Aerospace and EADS EFW will work together on a program to convert A330 passenger jets into cargo freighters. ST Aerospace will lead the engineering development and Germany's EADS EFW, which will become the European center for ST Aerospace's global maintenance, repair and overhaul operations, will carry out "most" of the conversions in Dresden. (Post)

About 900 conversions will be required over the next 20 years. Dresden will be able to convert 15-18 A330s a year, not enough to handle all the conversions. With ST Aerospace and Airbus in Mobile, is it possible some of this conversion work could come here?

- While on the topic of growth, GE Aviation's production rates are expected to grow from about 3,000 commercial and military engine deliveries in 2011 to 3,400 in 2012 and 3,800 in 2013, according to the company. By the end of the year GE Aviation will complete construction of a 300,000-square-foot factory in Ellisville, Miss., to make composite components for jet engines, and another 300,000 square-foot facility in Auburn, Ala., that will make machined parts for commercial and military engines. (Post)

Team work
Four economic development groups in two states are working together on a megasite along the Interstate 10 corridor on a road linking Dothan, Ala., to Panama City, Fla. The organizations are the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, Alabama Development Office, Enterprise Florida and the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, according to the Panama City News Herald. Neal Wade, executive director of the Bay EDA, said representatives from the organizations have been meeting for more than six months to prepare for the project along State 77 and I-10. (Post)

The Pentagon's 2013 budget calls for two rounds of base closings. One would be in 2013 and the other in 2015. The last Base Realignment and Closure round was in 2005, a round that brought additional activities to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

That could well be why the commander of the 96th Air Base Wing said Eglin said he isn't worried about hits from any upcoming BRAC. In fact, Col. Sal Nodjomian wants to base to take steps to ensure it can take in new missions.

Nodjomian made the comment while speaking during the week at the Leaders in Business Lunch organized by the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce. He also played down the decision announced in November to close the Air Armament Center and merge the 96th mission into the 46th Test Wing. He said the only impact for Eglin was the elimination of management positions, and that the combined 46th and 96th will be a "super wing" reporting to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Post)

But I doubt his words were enough to convince a task force not to worry. Yes, it may be true that the only initial impact of putting the 46th under a two-star in California is minimal. But the first step when walking the plank is never bad.

The new High Pressure Particulate Physics Facility officially opened this month at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The facility was built to enhance the role of science and technology in smart munitions development, and contains a 60-mm smooth bore gun, complemented with high-resolution, high-precision, time-resolved diagnostics for use with various imaging technologies. The gun will be able to launch a few kilogram mass at high speed and will address basic questions on material behavior, as it relates to munition weapon systems and weapon effects. (Post)

The Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft successfully fired laser-guided rockets during tests last month at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., making the AT-6 the first fixed-wing aircraft to launch a laser-guided rocket. The 2.75” laser-guided rocket testing included BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System and Raytheon’s TALON. The weapons were fired from about three nautical miles and guided to their targets using either an airborne laser from the AT-6 or a ground laser from the Eglin range. Hawker is fighting a decision by the Air Force to award a contract for light attach aircraft to Sierra Nevada and Embraer. A stop work order on the contract as issued after Hawker took the matter to federal court. (Post)

The Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command successfully completed a test flight of the new Economical Target-1, Feb. 15 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Economical Target-1 missile was launched from the Santa Rosa Test Site with the support of the 46th Test Wing on Eglin into the ocean area within the test range. (Post)

While on the subject of testing, engineers at Stennis Space Center, Miss., conducted an initial test of the J-2X engine powerpack during the week, marking the first of a series of tests in development of the rocket engine that will help power the Space Launch System. The powerpack is on the top portion of the J-2X and includes the gas generator, oxygen and fuel turbopumps along with related ducts and valves. (Post)

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 will host the Marine Corps' official F-35B Lightning II rollout ceremony this week at its hangar at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-35B is slated to replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler. Eglin Air Force Base is home to the F-35 training center for all branches of the military and allied nations that will be using the F-35. (Post)

A new direct flight will be offered between Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and the Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Fla., beginning in June. The Sun Herald reports that the 90-minute flight will be offered three times a week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. A special promotional fare of $99 is being offered through Feb. 22. (Post)

Unmanned systems
Mississippi is a key player in the growing unmanned aerial systems field. In addition to the Global Hawks and Fire Scouts built in Moss Point, Mississippi has two other companies building four types of UAVs, as well as airspace where UAV flights are permitted and companies that work on sensors and advanced materials, both important to the industry. (Post)

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded an $111.4 million contract for procurement of 4,844 joint direct attack munitions. The location of the performance is St. Charles, Mo. Work is expected to be completed by May 2014. AAC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Jacobs Technology, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $36 million contract to provide for the technical and administrative services in support of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle. Work will be performed in Kuwait and Afghanistan, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Texas and Georgia, and Indiana. … Jacobs Technology, Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $157.2 million contract to provide for the systems engineering and technical assistance support services. Work will be performed in Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Kentucky, and Georgia.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the names of the next five Navy ships. Three Arleigh Burke class destroyers will be named the USS John Finn, the USS Ralph Johnson, and the USS Rafael Peralta, named after heroes in three different conflicts. The two littoral combat ships will be named after two American communities, the USS Sioux City and the USS Omaha. (Post)

Contracts: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Bethpage, N.Y., was awarded an $18.8 million modification to previously awarded contract to provide engineering and production planning services for mission packages that will deploy from and integrate with the Littoral Combat Ship. Twenty percent of the work will be done in Panama City, Fla. ... Signal Ship Repair LLC, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $14.5 million contract to provide for the services in support of engine replacements, engine auxiliary systems modification and repair of dredge wheeler. Work will be performed in Mobile, Ala.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week in review (2/5 to 2/11)

Moves to speed up the process of allowing unmanned aerial systems in the nation's airspace, rumblings that United Technologies is looking for a buyer for Rocketdyne, and fence-mending at a task force created to protect Florida bases were just some of the key stories during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

But first, for months now we've been flooded with stories about the Pentagon reductions. One of the more highly publicized cuts is the Air Force's decision to ax the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk Block 30 variant of the unmanned aerial surveillance system.

What I think escapes a lot of attention is the ripple effect from the loss of a particular program. The Block 30 is a case in point. Yes, it impacts Northrop Grumman and its operation in Moss Point, Miss., which builds the central fuselage. And certainly California, where it's all put together.

But that's not where it ends.

For the Air Force Global Hawk variant, there are 248 suppliers -- half of them small businesses -- in 36 states that employ more than 12,000 people and a total $3 billion economic impact. Add the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program to the mix, which is not being cut, and the supplier count rises to 312 in 42 states.

The biggest suppliers for the Global Hawk are Triumph Aerostructures, building wings; Aurora Flight Science, building the tail and other structures; and Rolls-Royce, which supplies the engines. The sensors for the various versions are built by Northrop Grumman in Sacramento, Calif. and Norwalk, Conn. and Raytheon in El Segundo, Calif.

The biggest supplier states, starting with the largest, are California, Indiana, Virginia, Utah, Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arizona, and 21 others.

Keep that in mind the next time a particular weapon system is dropped.

- Robotic vehicles sharing the nation's airspace with passenger planes? Well it's bound to happen one day. Congress sent a bill to the president that, among other things, speeds up the process of allowing drones in the national airspace with airliners, business and private planes.

This shouldn't really be much of a surprise. Just look at the growth of the UAV industry. A bit more than a decade ago you could count on your hand the number of UAVs operated by the military. Today they’re commonplace in the military, and folks outside the military are interested in getting drones airborne. Right now the process of getting permission is long and drawn out. The idea behind all this is to make the process faster.

One of the deadlines in the bill is to establish six test sites within the next six months to work on the issue. We already have a few locations in this region where UAVs are permitted to fly, notably military airspace. (Post)

- Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon proposes in its new budget spending $1.2 billion for the first three NATO variant Global Hawk unmanned aircraft and three more Navy variants. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said this month it planned to buy five Alliance Ground System through 2017. The Navy already has two demonstration versions of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance System. (Post) AOL Defense also reported during the week that there are informal talks involving Australia and Japan to buy Global Hawks. (Post)

Base cuts
Seems like everything may be patched up with the Defense Support Task Force, the group created to help protect Florida's bases from cuts. The task force made as its first priority preventing the Air Force from placing Eglin Air Force Base's 46th Test Wing under the command of a two-star general at California's Edwards Air Force Base. They fear it's a first step toward moving the wing's research, development, test and evaluation function to California.

Early in the week State Sen. Don Gaetz was critical of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, and how she's handling her role as the state's advocate for the task force. By the end of the week Carroll told fellow task force members that she is, in fact, committed to preserve the Air Armament Center and 46th Test Wing at Eglin. Gaetz, who sponsored the bill creating the task force, said he welcomed her "change of view" on the Eglin issue, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. (Post)

- The Santa Rosa County Commission got an update on local plans to protect area bases from a possible Base Realignment and Closure round and other military cuts. A consultant praised the work that Santa Rosa County commissioners have done for nearly 10 years to purchase and preserve the land around Naval Air Station Whiting Field, which trains military aviators. A five-county delegation will go to Washington this month to meet with congressional leaders to discuss issues facing Northwest Florida military bases, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. (Post)

Bloomberg, citing people with knowledge in the matter, reported that United Technologies is studying the sale of a pump- and compressor-making division to raise money for the purchase of Goodrich Corp. But more interesting is UT is also looking for a buyer for Pratt and Whiteny Rocketdyne, which makes engines for civilian and military rockets. Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne has an operation at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Goodrich owns the Alabama Service Center in Foley, Ala. (Post)

The old airport in Panama City was to be transferred to its new owners during the week. The sale will help the airport pay off a number of debts and eliminate monthly costs at the old site, according to the Panama City News Herald. St. Andrew Bay Land Co. plans a village-type development at the 700-acre site. Air operations transferred to the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near West Bay on May 23, 2010. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $14.8 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to procure long lead items for F-35 low rate initial production Lot 6 short take-off vertical landing aircraft for the Marine Corps. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. … 2020 Co. LLC, Falls Church, Va.; Oasis Systems LLC, Lexington, Mass.; and COLSA Corp., Huntsville, Ala., each were awarded a $53.5 million contract for the Technical and Acquisition Management Support Program, which provides a wide range of diverse non-engineering, technical, and acquisition management support within the Air Armament Center and other organizations at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. AAC/PKES, Eglin, is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded an $18.3 million contract for an acceleration effort, regression testing, and a fuze risk reduction effort. AAC/EDBK/EDBJ, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Sikorsky Support Services Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $26 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot-level maintenance to support 161 T-34, 54 T-44, and 172 T-6 aircraft based primarily at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas; NAS Whiting Field, Fla.; and NAS Pensacola, Fla. Work is expected to be completed in April 2012.

- The next Independence variant of the littoral combat ship will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords. The former Congresswoman survived a shooting at an event in Arizona in which several other people died. The 419-foot long ship, LCS 10, will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

- The Navy has moved the June 2 commissioning of the USS Mississippi attack submarine from Gulfport, Miss., to nearby Pascagoula. The Navy had concerns about the channel depth in Gulfport. The sub was christened in Connecticut in December. (Post)

- Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $9 million modification to previously awarded contract for additional long lead time material in support of the LHA Replacement Flight 0 amphibious assault ship, LHA 7. Work will be done in Pascagoula and completed by May 2013.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Week in review (1/29 to 2/4)

Plans to reduce the number of aircraft at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., the promised addition an F-22 squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., NATO's decision to buy Global Hawk unmanned systems, another snag with the F-35, moves to create an even more powerful penetrator bomb and the final days of StenniSphere are some of the news items during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor.

High on everybody's list of important stories is anything related to the cuts being planned by the Pentagon. During the week the proposed 2013 military budget, designed to save the Air Force $8.7 billion over five years, was released.

In the Gulf Coast region, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., best known for its electronics training and home of the 403rd Reserve Wing, is scheduled to take a hit. It will lose 10 C-130Js in fiscal year 2014. The wing transports personnel and equipment and has been a major player in combat operations in Southwest Asia. There's no indication this will impact the Hurricane Hunters.

Further up state, Key Field Air National Guard in Meridian, will lose six C-27J in FY13 and one RC-26 in FY14. But those aircraft will be replaced by between nine and 11 MC-12s in FY14, which the Air Force said is a more capable plane.

As expected, the plan includes the retirement in FY13 of 18 Block 30 Global Hawks stationed at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. That's of interest to this region because fuselage work on the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

But on a positive note for the Global Hawk, NATO broke a nearly two decade logjam and agreed to jointly fund operations of an airborne ground- surveillance system. That means buying five Northrop Grumman Block 40 Global Hawks. The Alliance Ground Surveillance project will have its main base at Sigonella, Italy, and several associated command-and-control base stations. (Post)

- When the Air Force explains to Congress this month its rationale for a mission consolidation announced in November, the Florida delegation will be armed with questions supplied by two members of the Defense Support Initiative task force. The two men have worked for years with Okaloosa County Economic Development Council and were there when attempts were made to move the 46th Test Wing from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, they see the consolidation as a step towards moving Eglin's valuable research, development, test and evaluation functions to Edwards. (Post)

- While everyone is paying close attention to cuts, one interesting item during the week had to do with growth. A new combat F-22 squadron will be coming to Tyndall Air Force Base in Northwest Florida, according to the commander of the 325th Fighter Wing. He said the first personnel will begin arriving in July and aircraft in January 2013, according to the Panama City News Herald. (Post)

- In another Tyndall-related item, Air Force engineers and researchers are hoping to find out whether a ceramic coating can help the military reach energy savings goals. Engineers at the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency will test the coating in April using two nearly identical buildings, according to the Air Force. (Post)

- All this activity at Tyndall might not surprise the new executive director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance. Neal Wade told the Panama City News Herald that one of the reasons he took the job was his belief that Bay County is in a good position to be the next growth area in Northwest Florida.Wade, who said he hopes to snag a major aerospace company for a spot by the new airport in West Bay, said that with assets like the Air Force and Navy bases nearby and major defense contractors in the area, the West Bay area is ideal for an aerospace company to open up a new facility. (Post)

The force structure changes also affirms the Air Force's commitment to the F-35, despite the delays and cost issues. In the latest snag, F-35 fighters beginning Jan. 26 were grounded due to improper loading of parachutes in their ejection seats. It affects six aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., nine at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and three nearly completed planes at Lockheed's production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. (Post)

- Eglin is scheduled to get another 17 F-35 jets this year, according to a Lockheed Martin official who briefed the media in Northwest Florida during the week. Eglin, where pilots and maintainers from all branches of the military will be trained, already has three Marine Corps variants of the F-35 and six Air Force variants. Jets arriving this year will include the first Navy version, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. (Post)

- Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 had a change of command ceremony Friday. Lt. Col. David R. Berke took over command from Lt. Col. James B. Wellons. Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 is the first Marine Corps squadron to receive F-35B aircraft for pilot and maintainer training at the 33rd Fighter Wing F-35 Integrated Training Center. (Post)

- Here's one final item on the F-35. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products was awarded a $23.6 million contract by Lockheed Martin for production of more than two dozen GAU-22/A gun systems for the F-35. The GAU-22/A is a light-weight, four-barrel version of the GAU-12/U 25mm Gatling gun, which the company has made for more than 40 years. The GAU-22/A is mounted internally on the F-35A variant and externally on the B and C models. (Post)

OK, since we just talked about a weapon, here's another weapon-related item.

The huge Massive Ordnance Penetrator is not capable of destroying the most fortified underground facilities, so the military wants to make it even more powerful, according to the Wall Street Journal. The 13.6-ton bunker buster is the nation's largest conventional bomb, but the Pentagon wants funding to enhance the bomb's ability to penetrate deeper into rock, concrete and steel before exploding. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is involved in developing MOP. (Post)

More than 6,300 people applied to become a NASA astronaut, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency. The highest response occurred in 1978 with 8,000 applicants. Nine to 15 people will be chosen to become part of the 21st astronaut class. NASA expects to announce a final selection in the spring of 2013. This region is involved in space programs through NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

The ground work for the new GE Aviation in Ellisville is nearly complete and company officials will soon make a decision on a general contractor for the 300,000-square-foot plant in Ellisville, Miss., northeast of Hattiesburg. The $56 million project is in the Howard Technology Park, and is the second GE Aviation plant in Mississippi. The other, in Batesville, produces composite components for aircraft engines. Another GE Aviation plant is being built in Auburn, Ala. (Post)

- Aircraft company LSI, operating out of a 20,000 square-foot building in Pensacola, Fla., is weeks away from expanding into an adjacent 12,000 square-foot facility. The Pensacola News Journal reports that the operation has 40 employees and will add 20 or more over the next year. The operation converts Army helicopters that are no longer flight-worthy into ground-based platforms to train aviation technicians. (Post)

The National Flight Academy will have a test class in March followed by its first full class in May, according to the Pensacola News Journal. The academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., is designed to pique the interest of students in science, technology, engineering and math. The 102,000 square-foot academy is designed to look like the inside of an aircraft carrier. The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation raised $18.5 million for construction of the academy and $15 million to outfit it. (Post)

Meanwhile, the Infinity Science Center near the Mississippi-Louisiana state line, south of Stennis Space Center, is getting ready to open in the spring. One of the biggest indicators of the progress was word that StenniSphere, the museum and visitor center inside SSC itself that opened in 2000, will close for good Feb. 15. Various exhibits are being moved into Infinity. The Infinity center will provide visitors with an entertaining way to learn about the STEM activities at Stennis Space Center. (Post)

SRI International
, Menlo Park, Calif., was awarded a $13.2 million contract for the acquisition of a five-year research and development program. The Digital Video Laboratory (DVL) provides highly specialized hardware/software for data /video transmission, video compression, video data manipulation, image sensors, data/video storage, data/video retrieval and data/video searches. It will support the 46 Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base. AAC/PKET, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … EADS - NA, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $10.1 million contract to provide for the modification of an existing contract for contract logistic support services. Work will be performed in Columbus, Miss., with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2013. … Textron Defense Systems, Wilmington, Maine, was awarded a $13.6 million contract for 143 munition control units; 5 MCU test sets; 15 munitions application program cards; one wind corrected munitions dispenser dual system support simulator; one WCMD telemetry ground station; 10 WCMD telemetry kits; two instrumented measurement kits; and 1552 lanyard connectors. AAC/EBJK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Kaman Precision Products Inc., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $24.2 million contract to provide the Air Force with 6,067 of the Joint Programmable Fuze Systems to meet munitions requirements. AAC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … CSC Applied Technologies LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $26.9 million contract for the exercise of option for the base operating support service contract at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. 81 CONS, Keesler, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a  $24 million contract to exercise an option for contractor logistics support and Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department support for the T-39 Undergraduate Military Flight Officer Training Program. This effort includes support of the UMFO government-owned T-39N and T-39G aircraft and associated equipment, including organizational and depot level repair. In addition, this provides intermediate level maintenance and support for Chief of Naval Air Training aircraft, transient aircraft, tenant, and other services activities at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and surrounding areas through the AIMD. Work will be performed in Pensacola, Fla. (75 percent), and Corpus Christi, Texas (25 percent).