Saturday, March 3, 2012

Week in review (2/26 to 3/3)

The loss of four Coast Guard crewmen; the death of a Hurlburt officer in Afghanistan; approval of F-35 flights at Eglin Air Force Base; a new UAV center at Camp Shelby; F/A-18s training in Pensacola; and delivery of a satellite built in part at Stennis Space Center were just some of the news items of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the past week.

Here's the week in review:

The bodies of three crewmembers of a Coast Guard MH-65C helicopter that crashed during the week into Mobile Bay have been recovered. Dead are pilot Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, co-pilot Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron, rescue swimmer Fernando Jorge and flight mechanic Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Knight, whose body has yet to be recovered. The helicopter was on a training mission out of the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

- During the week we also learned that one of the two U.S. officers shot in the head at a ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, was from Hurlburt Field, Fla. It was Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis, with the 866th Air Expeditionary Squadron. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said the killings were in retaliation for the burning of Korans. (Post)

Unmanned systems
Add another piece to the region's unmanned aerial vehicle activities. Camp Shelby, south of Hattiesburg, was selected as the site for a new $48 million regional flight center for the Army National Guard. It was chosen from 19 sites nationwide. The base has been used for tactical UAV training for deploying troops, but now it will have a permanent center. (Post)

- Flight tests are underway for the first developmental multifunction active sensor (MFAS) radar destined for the Navy's MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System, or BAMS. In addition, the wings and landing gear were installed on the first BAMS, a variant of the Global Hawk, at the company's Palmdale Manufacturing Center. BAMS central fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

- Keep your eye on the Fire Scout line of unmanned aerial systems. The Navy's decision to cancel the Medium-Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System program was bad news for Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which planned to propose the Hummingbird and K-MAX, respectively.

But a third player that was expected to compete for the MRMUAS program, Northrop Grumman, probably isn't too unhappy. That's because the Navy figured the MQ-8C, the larger version of the Fire Scout that uses a Bell 407 airframe, could fill the MRMUAS requirements just fine. (Flight Global, AOL Defense)

The savings are significant: $200 million cut from the FY13 budget and $1.3 billion over the next five years. You could almost see this coming. Back in December in the omnibus spending legislation, Congress set aside $191 million for the Navy to buy 12 C models. And that’s likely just the start. (Previous related post)

Motley Fool took up the issue and pointed out that Northrop Grumman's dominance in the UAV industry just keeps growing and growing (Motley Fool)

F-35As at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., are cleared to fly by both the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and the Air Education and Training Command in Texas. It's a crucial step towards the startup of training at Eglin's Joint Strike Fighter training center. In addition to six Air Force variants, Eglin is also home to three F-35B aircraft, the Marine Corps variant. (Post)

Sources tell Air Force Times that the F-35As will begin flight operations Tuesday, weather permitting. The base has two qualified test pilots, Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Smith and Marine Maj. Joseph Bachmann, who will serve as instructors for the rest of the wing's aviators. (Story)

- In another F-35 matter, the Air Force plans to reduce the number of bases where the F-35s will be based. It's a way to reduce the life-cycle cost. The Pentagon plans to reduce the number of operating bases for the F-35A from 40 to the low 30s. (Story)

Other aircraft
F/A-18 Hornets from Carrier Air Wing Seven are temporarily at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., while repairs are made to a landing field at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. The Hornets will do field carrier landing practice at the Navy's Outlying Field Choctaw in nearby Santa Rosa County through March 10. (Post)

- The Air Force canceled a $355 million contract to Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev., and Brazil's Embraer to build 20 Super Tucano A-29 light support aircraft, citing problems with documentation. Hawker Beechcraft of Wichita, Kansas, filed suit when its AT-6 was kept out of the competition. (Post)

- EADS North America delivered the 200th UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to the U.S. Army during a ceremony at the American Eurocopter production facility in Columbus, Miss. It's the first production aircraft to be delivered with the new Security and Support Battalion Mission Equipment Package. (Post)

NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi hosted a breakfast during the week for community leaders from Mississippi and Louisiana. Patrick Scheuermann, director SSC, said the center where rocket engines are tested has a $1 billion impact on the region. The center also hosts activities from other federal and state agencies and commercial companies. The facilities engineering manager for the Rolls-Royce North America Outdoor Test Facility said it was the 125,000-acre acoustical buffer zone surrounding Stennis Space Center that prompted the company to pick South Mississippi to test airliner engines. (Post)

- Lockheed Martin delivered the second Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., where it will be readied for an April 2012 liftoff aboard an Atlas V. The AEHF system will replace the five-satellite Milstar constellation. Core propulsion work for the AEHF is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- The Orion Parachute Test Vehicle has a successful parachute drop test in Yuma, Ariz., at the Army proving grounds. The vehicle was dropped from a C-17 aircraft for the test of the parachute system. (Story) The Orion crew vehicle is built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Military cuts
The Air Force is not migrating anything from Eglin Air Force Base, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Plans to merge Eglin's 96th Wing and 46th Test Wing and put the new super wing under the command of a general at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., has caused concerns that the wing will eventually be moved to California. But Schwartz told the House Armed Services Committee, in response to a question by Rep. Jeff Miller, that "Nothing is migrating from Eglin with respect to the proposal for the Air Force Materiel Command reorganization." (Post)

Well something is changing for Eglin. Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II was nominated to lead a new center that will be created in October as part of the Air Force Materiel Command’s restructuring. He'll command the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The center consolidates the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson, Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and Air Armament Center at Eglin. (Post)

American Airlines soon will more than double flights between Northwest Florida Regional Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. American Eagle now flies to and from Dallas/Fort Worth three times a day during the week and twice a day on the weekend. Starting April 3, the airline will add four round-trip flights a day. (Post)

- Mobile Regional Airport is getting a $2.9 million facelift. The Airport Authority plans to install canopies along the front of the building made from the same pipe-and-plastic covering material used in front of the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile. The facelift should take about seven months to complete. (Post)

Economic development
Alabama's governor says his administration is in constant contact with Airbus about establishing an assembly plant Mobile, but Gov. Robert Bentley said no active project exists and no formal negotiations have been conducted. Airbus parent, EADS, had hoped to build an aerial tanker assembly plant in Mobile, but those plans vanished when Boeing won the Air Force contract last year. Airbus has an engineering center and a service center for military aircraft in Mobile, and has expressed interest in establishing a plant in the United States. (Post)

- Four years after Northrop Grumman and EADS won a contract to build tankers for the Air Force – a contract canceled 11 days later – a termination fee is still in the works, according to Air Force Times. Under the 2008 award, EADS planned to assemble the planes in Mobile, Ala. Work began on the airframes, but the contract was overturned and Boeing won the new competition. The Air Force still partly owns two Airbus A330 airframes built as part of the original contract. One is in storage in Spain and the other in France. Air Force officials said they expect the contract termination issues to be settled soon. (Post)

- Site Selection magazine ranked Baldwin County as the eighth most successful micropolitan area in the United States in 2011. The March online edition listed the county for expanding or attracting corporate entities. Among the projects that led to the listing was Aero-Mark MRO, a maintenance and repair aerospace company that located in the existing Fokker Airinc facility. (Post)

Boeing was awarded an $11.4 million contract from the Air Force, with the first delivery order worth $4.6 million to provide parts to be used to complete installation of 25mm Ammunition Storage and Handling Systems on four AC-130U gunships. The Boeing Fort Walton Beach facility will build the components for delivery to Robins Air Force Base, Ga. … Industria Paschen Group J.V., Chicago, Ill., was awarded a $48 million contract for simplified acquisition of base engineering requirements, such as minor, noncomplex construction projects, maintenance, alternation, or repair of real property at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and its associated sites. The 325th CONS/LGCC, Tyndall Air Force Base is the contracting activity.

The March 2012 issue of Seapower Magazine has a feature story on the work towards maintenance-free hulls. The Gulf Coast's Ingalls Shipbuilding, Austal USA and the University of New Orleans School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering are prominently featured in the story. Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss., builds large composite structures for Navy ships, including the deckhouse and hangar for the DDG 1000. In Mobile, Ala., the second Littoral Combat Ship, USS Independence, features all-aluminum construction, as does the Joint High Speed Vessel. And at UNO's Welded Structures Laboratory, work is being done to find a better way for welding titanium. (Story)

- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant will be in Pascagoula Monday for a news conference to
formally announce details of the commissioning of the USS Mississippi in Pascagoula in
June. About 5,000 people are expected to attend the June 2 event. (Post)

- The Naval Oceanographic Office Fleet Survey Team from Stennis Space Center, Miss., completed survey operations in the coastal waters of Cartagena, Colombia, late last month. The FST conducts about 14 surveys a year worldwide. (Post)