Saturday, June 30, 2012

Week in review (6/23 to 6/30)

There was a lot of aerospace activity in this region during the week, as usual. But it was all overshadowed by the reports that Europe's Airbus will announce Monday that it plans to build a multimillion-dollar aircraft assembly plant in Mobile, Ala.

A quote from Calvin Coolidge came to mind: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Officials in Mobile might have that quote hanging up on the wall somewhere. If not, they should. It's the old pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in there approach to life. And Mobile, which initially thought it would get a tanker assembly plant in 2008 only to have the rug pulled out, showed precisely that quality.

At least one of Mobile's neighbors recognized that determination. Robert Ingram, who heads up the economic development group in Baldwin County, said he was proud of his frequent partners for their "never-say-die attitudes."

While everyone has been mum since the New York Times broke the story during the week, some additional information has leaked out. A report from Reuters said 2,500 construction jobs will be created and it will be a $600 million investment in an assembly line that will make four of the 150-seat A320s a month beginning in 2017. The Mobile Press-Register has reported the line will eventually build the fuel-efficient A320neo.

Local television station news teams were all over the story.

The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce has been mum, but on Friday sent out invitations for Monday's "exciting" 10 a.m. economic development announcement "that will significantly impact the Mobile area, state of Alabama and the entire Gulf Coast region." The announcement doesn’t say what it is, of course. Published reports have said Fabrice Bregier, Airbus' president and CEO, will be in Mobile for the Mobile Convention Center announcement.

For those who follow aerospace activities, it was well-known that Airbus has wanted an aircraft assembly plant in the United States for some time now. It's a huge market, and Airbus parent EADS has been sending out signals for some time now that it intended to come to the home turf of its biggest rival, Boeing.

There's little doubt the addition of an airliner assembly plant will provide a major boost to the economy of Mobile. And for Alabama, already known for the significant aerospace activities in Huntsville, it will give the state yet another claim to aerospace fame. Along the coastal area, the assembly plant will add a new capability to an already active Gulf Coast aerospace region. For all three, it promises to be a watershed event. (Post)

-- No doubt the Airbus decision will be a major topic of discussion during the July 9-15 Farnborough air show. When officials from Mobile and Pensacola are at the show talking up the Gulf Coast region, they'll no doubt put on a great show of unity. But relations may be a bit strained between Mobile and Pensacola, Fla.

The Mobile Press-Register broke a story during the week saying that this past spring, officials from Pensacola traveled to Mobile courting ST Aerospace Mobile, a 1,000-employee aerospace company that's called Mobile home for many years. How this should be read depends entirely on how the meeting came about.

If Pensacola went behind Mobile's back trying to lure a company, then it's an unseemly move to make against a neighbor. But it's also possible ST Aerospace initiated the contact. Then you could argue Pensacola did the right thing trying to keep a major aerospace employer in the region. Better here than in, say, Wichita.

But neither the company nor Pensacola's mayor commented to the Press-Register.

Leaders across the Gulf Coast talk glowingly about regional cooperation, and attempts have been made to work together through formal groups. But when push comes to shove, it's your own back yard that's a priority, and understandably so.

Regionalism works when all parties are working together toward a common goal, like bringing in a major new project that increases the assets of the region, or cooperating to protect what's already here, like military bases. It falls apart if you covet or appear to covet what's in your neighbor's yard. (Post)

Unmanned aerial vehicles
Florida is among the states interested in landing one of six unmanned aerial system test sites that will have the goal of finding ways to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the nation’s airspace.

Space Florida's board recently approved spending up to $1.4 million to try to win one of the sites Congress has directed the Federal Aviation Administration to establish by the end of the year. Right now, drones can only fly in military airspace and locations that have received FAA Certificates of Authorization. (Post)

-- Here's an item that shows precisely why the FAA is looking for test sites before the wholesale incorportion of drones into the nation's airspace.

With about $1,000 of equipment, students from the University of Texas in Austin hijacked a small drone. With Department of Homeland Security officials watching, students from the Radionavigation Laboratory created a GPS controller, aimed it at the small drone and took it over.

It's a process called spoofing, where a signal from a hacker imitates the one sent to the drone's on-board GPS. People who are leery about drones have cited by privacy and safety concerns. Tests like this are crucial so we can resolve these issues now. (Toronto Sun, Daily Mail)

-- While on the subject of controlling drones, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., held an industry day during the week in advance of a pending Request for Proposals for systems engineering and software engineering support for custom software to operate unmanned aircraft.

The pre-solicitation notice said the software will be for the automated control of full-scale and sub-scale aerial targets as part of the Gulf Range Drone Control System. The contractor will do the work at the Central Control Facility at Eglin, but support may be required at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., White Sands Missile Range, N.M., or the Utah Test and Training Range or other locations. (Post)

-- The guided missile frigate USS Klakring left Mayport, Fla., on Friday with a record four Fire Scout unmanned helicopters for a six-month deployment. The drones, built in part in Moss Point, Miss., will operate up to 12 hours daily, testing their ability to linger in the air for long periods to provide real-time surveillance. (Post)

Strike ends
Machinists voted during the week to end the 10-week strike at Lockheed Martin. It was thumbs up by a wide margin: 1,873 to 447, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The strike involved workers at a fighter jet plant in Fort Worth, along with sites at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

About 3,600 workers went on strike over proposed changes in health benefits and a Lockheed plan to stop offering a traditional pension to newly hired workers. The plant builds F-35s and F-16s. The strike was of interest to this region because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Story)

At Eglin Air Force Base, a weapons flight commander with the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for action May 2, 2011 in Afghanistan. Maj. John Caldwell, at the time a captain piloting an F-16, responded to an ambush on a special operations team that was taking casualties. The DFC narration said the presence of Caldwell prevented a catastrophic loss of American lives and directly turned the tide of this engagement. (Post)

-- Questions have been raised about whether the developer of a hotel on land owned by Eglin Air Force Base will have to pay property taxes. The Emerald Breeze Resort Group signed a 50-year deal with the Air Force under the enhanced use leasing program to build and manage a resort on Okaloosa Island, home to a number of hotels that pay the tax since they are not on Air Force land. Hotels that pay the tax are afraid they’ll be at a disadvantage. (Post)

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $34 million contract to procure electronic protection improvement program. The company also was awarded an $8.8 million contract to procure hardware in the loop facility upgrade and study. AAC/EBAD, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity for both contracts. … Sierra Nevada Corp., Sparks, Nev., was awarded a $45 million contract to procure products and services in support of the Precision Strike Package Program. AAC/PKES, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Austal: Changes are taking place at shipbuilder Austal USA. Joe Rella resigned as president of Austal USA, and the company may be talking to General Dynamics to sell at least part of its Mobile shipyard. (Post)

Acceptance trials: Amphibious transport dock Anchorage successfully completed acceptance trials last week. LPD 23, under construction at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Avondale, La., is the seventh in the LPD 17 class to be built by the company. (Post)

Contracts: Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $9.3 million modification to previously awarded contract for government furnished equipment workshare transportation efforts in support of the Zumwalt class destroyer. (Post) Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., was awarded a $17.4 million modification to previously awarded contract for DDG 51 class and CG 47 class Aegis Combat System installation, integration and test in support. (Post)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Week in review (6/17 to 6/23)

The groundbreaking for a new Rolls-Royce jet engine test stand, a milestone for the Space Launch System, finishing welds on the first space-bound Orion crew vehicle, the dismissal of a commander in the wake of a CV-22 crash, and Air Force moves impacting Eglin were among stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

But first, here’s an item I feel certain escaped your attention.

Does the Gulf Coast have what it takes to become the next Austin, the high-tech hotspot and capital city of Texas? Yes, according to the thinking of some folks who attended the Gulf Coast Patent Association summer meeting Friday at Pensacola Beach, Fla.

The two-year-old regional group’s summer meeting was held for the first time in Florida to explore "the economic development wheel." It focused on innovation and getting new ideas and services to the marketplace.

The meeting attracted about 30 participants from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, including patent attorneys, technology transfer professionals, angel investors and others. While the meeting provided a lot of details on technology transfer, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and more, the strongest message that came through was that the Gulf Coast region has a lot of the pieces that could make it boom, including universities, relatively inexpensive land, research and development and more.

At least two speakers pointed out that Austin, once somewhat sleepy, changed over the years to become a booming technology center. While Austin wasn't exactly a technology backwater in the 1980s, neither was it a high-tech mecca.

But Austin had a lot going for it, including a university, relatively cheap land, and the trees and hills that most of Texas lacks. The big change for Austin came in 1983 when the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp., a consortium of 12 companies, picked the city for a research center.

Austin was picked over nearly 60 cities that vied for MCC, according to a 2004 article in the Austin Business Journal. Although MCC dissolved in 2004, its impact was dramatic. MCC spun off about a dozen businesses and put Austin on the high-tech radar. Some call it "Silicon Hills."

At least one patent attorney and a deal-maker, both with experience in Austin, think the same thing can happen in this region. The Gulf Coast has R&D activities in a host of fields, including aerospace, marine science, advanced materials and more, and it's hard to match the beaches and recreational opportunities in this region.

The non-profit Gulf Coast Patent Association was launched at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and now includes members from across the region. Its mission is to foster the creation of an environment that promotes economic development through technological innovation. It hopes to enable match-making opportunities among businesses, technology providers and IP practitioners along the Gulf Coast.

Previous meetings were held in New Orleans, Stennis Space Center and Mobile. But what's striking is, despite the creative mission of this group and the stated goal of job creation, these meetings have flown pretty much under the radar of local news organizations. Why I'm not sure.

Efforts like this may not have immediate rewards, but this group is building a foundation for the future. The broader public, inundated with bad news about the economy, should know efforts like this are under way and offer some hope for the future.

Propulsion systems
Rolls-Royce broke ground on a new $50 million jet engine test facility at the companyls outdoor testing site at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi during the week.

The test facility will be used to conduct research, development, crosswind, thrust reverse, cyclic and endurance tests on all Rolls-Royce civil aerospace engines. It will provide high-tech jobs for about 35 people.

The Rolls-Royce Outdoor Jet Engine Testing Facility at SSC opened in October 2007 and is the exclusive outdoor test site for Rolls-Royce. It's one of only three of its kind in the world. (Post)

The decision to open a second facility at SSC is a strong indication of Rolls-Royce’s commitment to this region. In addition to the test stands, Rolls-Royce Naval Marine has a foundry in Pascagoula, Miss., that makes huge propellers for ships, primarily U.S. Navy.

By the way, Rolls-Royce isn't the only airline engine maker that's come into the South Mississippi region. GE Aviation is building a plant near Hattiesburg, Miss., to build parts for GE Aviation engines.

The 200-foot tall core stage of the Space Launch System passed a major technical review during the week. Engineers from NASA and Boeing of Huntsville presented a full set of system requirements, design concepts and production approaches to technical reviewers and the independent review board.

The core stage is being designed and developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and it will be built at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

Michoud Assembly Facility is also where the Saturn V was built, and where the external tanks were built for the Space Shuttle. It's also been busy building the Orion crew vehicle.

While on that subject, the Orion team in New Orleans during the week was putting the finishing weld on the first space-bound capsule. Orion's next will move to Florida's Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final assembly and checkout. Media representatives have been invited to attend the event marking the arrival of Orion on July 2 at Kennedy's Operations and Checkout Building.

NASA's unmanned Exploration Flight Test-1 is scheduled for 2014. The Orion will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. The mission will take Orion to an altitude of more than 3,600 miles, more than 15 times farther away from Earth than the International Space Station. (Post)

As you likely know, Michoud is not the only place in this region involved in the SLS. Stennis Space Center, Miss., tests the engines that will be used to power the heavy-lift rocket that will be used in future Orion missions.

-- It's no longer government-run space programs that will be sending supplies and people into space. With that in mind, the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA signed an agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. The agencies will collaborate to provide a framework for the U.S. space industry, avoid conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards, and advance both public and crew safety. (Post)

The commander of the Osprey squadron that lost one of its aircraft in a crash last week in Florida has been dismissed. Lt. Col. Matt Glover headed Hurlburt Field’s 8th Special Operations Squadron since May 2011.

The dismissal comes in the wake the Osprey crash June 13 on Eglin Air Force Base’s reservation that injured five airmen and destroyed the CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft. (Post) A Hurlburt Field airman was released from the hospital during the week and two others remain hospitalized for injuries received in the crash north of Navarre, Fla. (Post)

The House and Senate Armed Services committees have produced spending bills that deny Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's request to set up a Base Realignment and Closure Commission next year. Panetta has said he needs to close bases and small installations to help him achieve $487 billion in congressionally mandated spending cuts over 10 years. (Post)

-- The reduction of the Air Force Materiel Command from 12 to five centers is moving forward. Centers will be activated in Ohio and Oklahoma in the coming weeks, and the Air Force Test Center will be established at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Changes are scheduled to come to Eglin Air Force Base next month. (Post)

Lockheed Martin was awarded a $20.1 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, material and components required for the delivery of two low rate initial production Lot VII F-35 conventional takeoff and landing aircraft for Norway. Work will be done in Texas, California, the United Kingdom, Florida, New Hampshire and Maryland. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

The 33d Fighter Wing community is hosting the annual Khobar Towers Memorial Ceremony Monday at the Nomad Memorial. Members of the tri-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter team will honor the 12 Nomads and seven other airmen killed in the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996. (Post)

Vision Technologies Aerospace Inc. received approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Court to acquire the Tampa aerospace maintenance facility and certain assets of Pemco World Air Services Inc. It will be held under a newly incorporated entity owned by VT Aerospace, which operates ST Aerospace Mobile. (Post)

Alfab Inc., Enterprise, Ala., was awarded a contract with a maximum $96.5 million for pallets and matting. Using services are Air Force and Army. The date of performance completion is June 19, 2017. … Raytheon Technical Services Co., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded $40.3 million under a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the repair of 35 weapons repairable assemblies and shop replaceable assemblies of the APG 65/73 Radar System used in support of the F/A-18 aircraft. Some of the work will be done in Forest, Miss.

Tax break: The city of Pascagoula, Miss., passed a resolution waiving property tax for nine years on $18.8 million worth of machinery, equipment and furniture at  Ingalls Shipbuilding. (Post)

Award: Austal USA of Mobile, Ala., was the winner in the large manufacturing category of the 2012 Manufacturer of the Year Awards at a luncheon in Montgomery, Ala. The awards was presented by the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Technology Network. (Post)

Contract:Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., was awarded an $11.8 million modification to previously awarded contract for DDG 51 class and CG 47 class Aegis Combat System installation, integration and test, and fleet life cycle engineering support. Twenty-two percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Week in review (6/9 to 6/16)

The crash of a CV-22 at Eglin and another one involving a Global Hawk in Maryland, the unveiling of the Navy Triton unmanned surveillance system, a possible answer to the oxygen problem of the F-22, activation of a new wing at Hurlburt Field and Rolls-Royce buying Goodrich's interest in a joint venture were among the news stories during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

Here's the week in review:

Unmanned systems
First there was the Global Hawk, simple enough. Then came all the variants, the EuroHawk, then the NATO AGS and more recently there's been talk about a Polar Hawk. During the week we were given another Global Hawk name to remember: Triton.

Triton is the name the Navy gave to the MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned surveillance aircraft. The Navy's version has been known for years as BAMS, the abbreviation for its full name. It was unveiled at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., plant Thursday.

The Triton Global Hawk is configured for the Navy's maritime needs. Its most prominent new feature is the AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor radar system, the primary sensor on the Triton. The aircraft will be teamed with the manned P-8A Poseidon as part of the Navy's Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems. (Post)

By the way, NASA also has its own Global Hawks, but as far as I know, they are called, well, NASA Global Hawks. And to confuse the matter further, we also have Northrop Grumman's designations for the aircraft: Block 30, Block 40, and so on.

The unveiling was overshadowed earlier in the week by the crash of a Navy Global Hawk BAMS demonstrator in a marsh in southern Maryland on Monday. There were no injuries and no property damage at the site near Salisbury. Designated RQ-4A Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator (BAMS-D), it was on a test mission from Naval Air Station Patuxent River when the ground pilot lost control. (Post)

It isn’t the first time controllers on the ground lost contact with a UAV. One of the most publicized incidents was in 2010, when a Fire Scout unmanned helicopters was heading towards restricted airspace in Washington D.C. The military was prepared to knock it from the sky but controllers got back the link and brought it home. (Post)

That control issue remains on everybody's mind as the nation considers allowing drones in the national airspace. Speaking of control issues, the Navy awarded a $27.9 million contract to Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, Dulles, Va., to complete the installation of Linux ground control software for its fleet of unmanned helicopters.

The Navy currently has Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8B Fire Scout in the fleet, but it's also acquiring the larger MQ-8C variant, which uses a Bell 407 airframe. Work on the ground control system will be done at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and is expected to be completed in February 2014. (Post)

OK, I'm sure you all know this, but for any new reader, portions of the work on Global Hawks and Fire Scouts are done in Moss Point, Miss., at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center.

-- The Fire Scout is the Navy's primary drone, but one days it will likely have more. One of those is the Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System. The first major phase of flight tests of the tail-less demonstrator aircraft wrapped up May 15 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The airworthiness test phase included 23 flights by two air vehicles.

Flights of the pilotless plane included tests of maneuvers required in the carrier environment, including the extending and retracting of tail hooks and completing an autonomous touch-and-go landing. The second of the two X-47Bs was moved to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where carrier suitability testing will begin later this summer. (Post)

Fortunately, none of the five aircrew members injured when a CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft crashed at Northwest Florida's Eglin Air Force Base Range has life-threatening injuries, and in fact, two have been released from the hospital.

The 1st Special Operations Wing CV-22, which can hover like a helicopter, crashed north of Navarre near Eglin’s A-78 gunnery range while on a routine training mission. A board will investigate the accident. The crew members are with the 8th Operations Squadron. (Post)

The Bell Boeing V-22 is designed to combine the vertical takeoff and landing capability of a helicopter with the high-speed cruise capability of a fixed-wing turboprop. The key feature is the ability of a portion of the wings to tilt. But it has had its share of mishaps over the years. The Marine Corps version is the MV-22, and the Air Force version the CV-22.

The 24th Special Operations Wing was activated during a ceremony Tuesday at Hurlburt Field's Freedom Hangar. The wing's missions will include airfield reconnaissance and personnel recovery. It's the third active duty special operations wing presently headquartered at Hurlburt Field. In addition, Col. Kurt W. Buller took over the 720th Special Tactics Group during a change of command. The 720th is the major operational unit under the 24th wing. (Post)

-- For the past four years, Eglin's Fire Department was the best large department in Air Force Materiel Command. Now it's the best in Air Force. The next step is for Eglin's fire department is to compete at the Department of Defense level. That award will be announced Aug. 3 at the fire chiefs' convention in Denver, Colo. (Post)

-- Okaloosa County may take legal action against Vision Airlines to collect passenger facilities charges owed to Northwest Florida Regional Airport. The airline owes some $144,000, and agreed to a payment plan, but has reportedly failed to make consistent payments. (Post)

F-35 and F-22
Published reports say a potentially faulty pressure vest is the latest clue in the mystery over why pilots of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors get dizzy and disoriented. The vest may make it hard for pilots to breath under some circumstances. F-22s are located at six bases, including Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., near Panama City in Northwest Florida. The base also trains F-22 pilots. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $489.5 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, material and components required for the delivery of 35 low rate initial production Lot VII F-35s.

It includes 19 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force; three for Italy; two for Turkey; six for the Marine Corps; one for the United Kingdom; and four for the Navy. (Post) Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

Propulsion systems
Rolls-Royce is buying out Goodrich's interest in their engine controls joint venture. The two companies formed Aero Engine Controls in 2009. United Technologies, which is in the process of buying Goodrich, agreed to the deal. Rolls-Royce, Goodrich and UT all have operations in the Gulf Coast aerospace region. (Post)

New director: Dr. Eric Powell will become the new director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in September. He replaces Dr. Bill Hawkins, who retired June 2011. (Post)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Week in review (6/3 to 6/8)

The Air Force's decision to keep a two-star at Eglin Air Force Base, a record-setting test at Stennis Space Center, a contract to purchase a fix for the oxygen issue with F-22s and three bases that are interested in hosting aerial tankers are among the aerospace activities during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast region.

But first, if you want to learn all about aerospace activities in this region, you may want to download a free copy of Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2012-2013, the newest edition of the annual book that highlights aerospace activities between New Orleans and Panama City, Fla.

There's are chapters on foreign investments, space activities, research and development, unmanned aerial systems, military aviation activities and STEM education. There's also an executive summary and a chapter on the different lifestyles available in this region. The electronic versions are free thanks to this year's underwriters, the Aerospace Alliance and the Mobile Airport Authority.

If you're someone who still likes to hold a book in your hand, you can purchase a printed edition with glossy cover at cost, plus shipping, of course. To grab any version of the book, or even individual chapters, click here.

Now for the week in review:

The two-star who heads up the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant, will remain at Eglin as its Program Executive Officer for Weapons.

Last fall the Air Force announced changes for the Materiel Command, which included shrinking the command from 12 to five centers. Under the consolidation, Merchant’s job would have been eliminated along with the Air Armament Center. Merchant said he’s pleased to remain in charge of the weapons programs. (Post)

-- Florida’s Eglin, Hurlburt Field and Tyndall Air Force Base are among nearly 60 installations being considered as operating bases for the Boeing-built KC-46A tanker. Three bases will be selected initially by December, but 10 will eventually get the planes. (Post)

-- The Army 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin will stand up a fourth combat battalion this fall. The new battalion will have 400 soldiers, and bring to 2,200 the total number of soldiers at the cantonment south of Crestview. (Post)

The military is looking into a "ground incident" a couple of weeks ago involving an F-22 Raptor. The plane was in a touch and go session when it was put out of commission. The plane was sidelined and the pilot benched. (Post)

If you follow the industry, you know that there have been problems with the oxygen system of the F-22. Well Lockheed Martin was awarded a $19.1 million contract for automatic backup oxygen supply in the F-22 Life Support System, including 40 retrofit kits, plus non-recurring engineering and 10 spares. Tyndall Air Force Base is home of an F-22 squadron and the location where aviators train to fly the aircraft. (Post)

The Northwest Florida Daily News had a feature story during the week about some of the technology being used to prepare pilots to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Among the cutting-edge items is a scanner that reads the contour of a pilot's face and skull to come up with a custom-designed helmet. (Post)

-- The first non-test pilot of the F-35 in the armed services was approved during the week after flying his sixth and final checkout. Air Force Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, commander of the 58th Fighter Squadron at the 33rd Fighter Wing, also earned certification as a flight instructor for the Joint Strike Fighter program. Kloos has been certified for the Air Force "A" variant. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $111.6 million modification to a previously awarded advanced acquisition contract for recurring support activities for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Sixty percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

NASA's Stennis Space Center conducted a test on the new J-2X powerpack that lasted for 1,150 seconds, surpassing the previous record by more than a minute. For NASA the test marked a milestone in development of a next-generation rocket engine to carry humans deeper into space than ever before. For SSC, it represented the longest duration firing ever conducted in the center's A Test Complex. (Post)

Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd., parent company of Mobile's ST Aerospace, said that Vision Technologies Aerospace Inc., ST Engineering's aerospace arm, has made a $49.7 million bid for the Tampa aerospace maintenance facility and some assets of Pemco World Air Services Inc., at a bankruptcy auction. (Post)

-- Northrop Grumman's Moss Point, Miss., plant is among nine of the company's facilities to receive the Aerospace Industries Association Excellence in Aircraft Manufacturing 2012 Worker Safety Award. This is the second such award for the company in as many years, and the third in the past five years. (Post)

Drydock launch: The Navy's next amphibious assault ship, America, was launched from Ingalls Shipbuilding’s floating drydock during the week. The ship will be capable of carrying a Marine Expeditionary Unit, helicopters, tiltrotors and F‐35B. (Post)

Keel ceremony: Ingalls Shipbuilding held a ceremony to authenticate the keel for its 10th amphibious transport-dock ship, the John P. Murtha. The keel-laying for the LPD 26 vessel was completed in February. Ingalls has delivered six San Antonio class ships to the Navy. (Post)

Hopper dredge project: BAE Systems has begun construction on the MV Magdalen, a trailing suction hopper dredge. The vessel will be the first designed by Netherlands-based IHC Merwede to be built in the United States. (Post)

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $17.3 million contract for DDG 51-class follow yard services. Some 98 percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula. (Post)

Training: New maritime training academies in Pascagoula, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., will help ensure that area shipyards have a steady supply of workers. Pilings on the Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy north of Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula are about 90 percent driven. In Mobile, the Maritime Training Center near Austal USA opened in January 2011. (Post)

New commander: Cmdr. Mark Walsh took over command of the 210-foot cutter
Decisive from Cmdr. Teri Jordan during a ceremony at the Coast Guard Station at Singing River Island in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship has been in Pascagoula since 1998. (Post)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Week in review (5/27 to 6/2)

Reports were again swirling during the week about whether Mobile, Ala., will get an Airbus assembly plant. Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex, as you know, was the site where EADS planned to put a tanker assembly plant until Boeing won that project last year.

But EADS has remained interested in a U.S. assembly plant, and every few months there seem to be stories that pop up in the Gulf Coast and Seattle media. In the latest, WKRG-TV in Mobile reported the other day that Alabama officials made a revised offer to EADS Airbus.

Then King 5 News in Seattle and the Business Journal in Puget Sound had reports citing analysts, bloggers and others. One West Coast analyst said the two sides are talking but nothing is imminent and he doesn't think the French government would move so quickly after an election. He thinks there may be more clarity during the Farnborough International Air Show in the U.K. next month.

Mobile already has an Airbus engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex and an Airbus military support complex at Mobile Regional Airport, and city leaders have maintained relations with the European aerospace giant. If it happens, this new facility would, reports indicate, be an assembly line for the Airbus 320.

It's quite clear that a lot of factors are pushing EADS Airbus to build in the United States, including the favorable exchange rates and the buy-U.S. mindset in this country, not to mention heavy sales of airliners. EADS has already seen from its Eurocopter plant in Columbus, Miss., that having an operation here makes a big difference when it comes to defense dollars.

And lest you forget, Kansas is still very interested in finding a new occupant for the Boeing facility that the company is closing. Just something to keep in mind.

-- Speaking of EADS, Tom Enders during the week was elected chief executive officer of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. at a meeting of the company's board of directors in Amsterdam. He replaces Louis Gallois, who held the position for the past five years and is retiring. (Post)

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down during the week in the Pacific off Baja California after a successful cargo mission to the International Space Station. The nine-day mission was the first by a privately owned and operated spacecraft to dock with the ISS. (Post)

That mission launched what promises to be a highly competitive field of private space flight, and SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif., is the leading the pack right now.

Stennis Space Center, Miss., is testing rocket engines for two other companies involved in commercial space flights, Orbital Science Corp. and Blue Origin.

-- Lockheed Martin received the core structure for the Air Force's fourth Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous satellite early warning system. The structure was delivered to Lockheed Martin's Mississippi Space and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

At SSC, technicians will integrate the spacecraft's propulsion subsystem, essential for maneuvering the satellite during transfer orbit to its final location and conducting on-orbit repositioning maneuvers throughout its mission life. The integrated core propulsion module will then be shipped to Sunnyvale, Calif., for final assembly, integration and test. (Post)

Unmanned systems
OK, there’s the Global Hawk, the Euro Hawk and now we can add another one: Polar Hawk. Canada is considering a variant of the Northrop Grumman Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft, as many as three, to patrol Canada’s northern regions.

Northrop Grumman is teaming up with L-3 MAS in the effort. The aircraft's satellite communications system will be modified to cope with spotty coverage in the arctic. Global Hawk fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the 46th Test Wing's Air Force SEEK EAGLE Office bought a 3-D laser scanner system six months ago, and it’s been a pleasant surprise how good it is.

The $150,000 Leica HDS 7000 3-D laser scanner and Rapidform reverse engineering software program was purchased to build digital models of Air Force aircraft and weapons for use in aircraft-weapon compatibility analyses.

The lead contract engineer said that four years ago it took six people two weeks to manually collect 3-D data for an A-10 aircraft, but with this scanner two people can collect the same data in two days. Now other branches are contacting Eglin, which a couple of weeks ago scanned 13 Navy aircraft in eight days. (Post)

ASRC Primus, Greenbelt, Md., was awarded a $10 million contract to provide for the services in support of aircraft refuel/defuel at Fort Rucker, Ala. Estimated completion date is Dec. 16, 2013. … EADS - NA, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $26 million contract in support of the Light Utility Helicopter Program. Work will be done in Columbus, Miss., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012.

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $2.4 billion modification to previously awarded contract for detail design and construction of the Navy's next large-deck amphibious assault ship, LHA 7. Most of the work, 92.5 percent, will be done in Pascagoula and 1.4 percent in Ocean Springs, Miss. Work is expected to be completed by June 2018. (Post)

Command change: Capt. Brian B. Brown, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Stennis Space Center, Miss. Brown in the past headed the Naval Oceanographic Office at SSC. (Post)

Sea life: Nearly four times as many fish, shrimp and crabs were in Alabama waters in
the fall of 2011 as there were before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That’s according to
data collected by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. (Post)