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)