Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week in review (9/16 to 9/22)

A Boeing executive questions the proposed EADS-BAE merger; a first for the F-35 and F-22; a state grant for military communities in Florida; foreign attaches touring NAS Pensacola; and NASA selecting 26 proposals for the SLS program were among the news items during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast.

Here’s your week in review:

Shortly after it was reported that EADS and BAE Systems were in talks about a merger, Boeing's chief executive said his company doesn't feel threatened. Now another Boeing executive is sounding just a bit different about the $48 billion merger.

Dennis Muilenburg, head of Boeing's defense operations, told Reuters there are national security and industrial questions that would be raised by a merger of EADS and BAE Systems. He said it must be reviewed carefully by regulators.

A merger of Europe's EADS and the UK's BAE Systems would be of high interest to the Gulf Coast. BAE Systems' North American operation is a major defense contractor with operations along the Gulf Coast, and EADS has operations in the region as well, including Mobile, Ala., and an American Eurocopter plant in Columbus, Miss. (Post)

Two top-of-the-line combat aircraft, the F-35 Lightning and F-22 Raptor, flew together for the first time during the week in a 90-minute sortie over Northwest Florida. One took off from Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, the other from Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City. The two planes, tailed by an F-16, flew within 35 feet of one another. Eglin has 19 F-35s of 59 it will eventually get.

It certainly made sense to see the two fly together. Eglin and Tyndall have close ties. A test unit at Tyndall is part of a larger group at Eglin, and both bases train pilots to fly the two fifth-generation jets train. Eglin is setting up shop to train aviators handle the F-35, and Tyndall is where pilots learn to fly the F-22. (Post)

-- While on the topic of firsts, for the first time the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System will be integrated onto an unmanned aerial vehicle. BAE Systems, which designed and manufactures the guidance section of the laser-guided rocket, was recently awarded a Navy contract to add the APKWS onto the MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV.

The system is being integrated onto the Fire Scout in response to an urgent operational need and is being prepared for rapid deployment. You’ll likely recall that a Fire Scout was shot down over Libya. That made it clear the system needs to defend itself.

Northrop Grumman Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- Technicians are working on a fix for a key air-to-air weapon. Raytheon's Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is used by the U.S. and allies, but some of the solid-fuel rocket motors, built by ATK, have failed tests at high altitudes.

ATK is working the problem, and a supplier from Norway, NAMMO, is providing an alternate motor. The manager of the AMRAAM program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., said that with the AMRAAM’s fire-and-forget capability, it’s the main air-superiority weapon for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and 35 allied nations. (Post)

-- Phase III assessment testing of the AT-6 light attack aircraft's weapons systems was
successfully completed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., according to Hawker Beechcraft Defense. Phases I and II assessments included computer-aided deliveries of general purpose and laser-guided bombs. All weapons testing was accomplished with oversight from the Air Force Air Armament Center and the Air National Guard and Air Reserve Command Test Center. (Post)

NASA selected 26 proposals from academia and industry for advanced development activities for the nation's next heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System. Proposals from universities in the four-state Aerospace Alliance region were among the programs selected: Auburn University, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Florida.

Proposals selected under this NASA Research Announcement seek innovative and affordable solutions to evolve the launch vehicle from its initial configuration to its full lift capacity capable of sending humans farther into deep space than ever before.

NASA sought proposals in a variety of areas, including concept development, trades and analyses, propulsion, structures, materials, manufacturing, avionics and software.

SLS is a key program for this region. Stennis Space Center, Miss., will be testing the engines and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, is fabricating Orion crew capsules and will be building the core stage for the SLS. (Post)

-- The Space Shuttle Endeavour, riding piggyback on a 747, flew low over Stennis Space
Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans Wednesday during its ferry trip to Los Angeles. Endeavour, the youngest aircraft in the space shuttle fleet, completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, and orbited Earth 4,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles. (Post)

Eleven Florida communities with military bases are getting $850,000 in grants from the state. The grants are designed to protect the bases and diversity economies.

In Northwest Florida, Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties will get a combined $335,000. The Bay Defense Alliance will get $100,000, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce will receive $70,000, the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County will get $125,000 and Santa Rosa County will receive $40,000.

The Northwest Florida counties are home to Eglin and Tyndall Air Force bases, Hurlburt and Duke fields, Naval Air Station Pensacola and Whiting Field, the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Corry Station. (Post)

-- A surrogate semi-submersible engineered to mimic the design of drug-running vessels is
helping the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate
develop better devices to detect them.

Called "Pluto," it's homeported at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and being kept operational by the 46th Test Squadron. The vessels are popularly called "narco subs," build by South American drug cartels.

They are actually low-riders, barely visible on the surface of the ocean. The Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and other federal agencies are using Pluto to test remote sensing capabilities on the 45-foot long vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific. (Post)

-- The 345th Airlift Squadron returned home to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., last weekend after a four-month deployment in Afghanistan. The 30-member squadron, an active duty member Keesler's 815th Airlift Squadron, deployed May 9 and performed 261 airdrops in the battle zone. The 815th is part of the 403rd Reserve Wing at Keesler. (Post)

-- Twenty foreign naval attaches visited Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., last week as part of the group's tour of U.S. Navy installations. The got an overview of Navy training, including aviation, flight physiology, enlisted aviation technical schools, and water survival training.

The attaches were from Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Many of those countries send students to train at NAS Pensacola. (Post)

-- The 325th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment (AGE) shop is one of nine shops in the squadron making the transition from contracted personnel to active duty. The swap is to accommodate the Oct. 1 mission change from Air Education and Training Command to Air Combat Command. With a combat-coded F-22 Raptor squadron coming, the shop must be ready to deploy.

The shop will also be making the switch to a 24/7 operations. The other eight shops making the transition are Egress, Fuels, Wheel and Tire, Low Observable, Non-Destructive Inspection, Metals Technology, Crash Recovery and Armament. (Post)

Del-Jen Inc., Clarksville, Tenn., was $25.4 million modification to a contract exercising option 1 for base operations support services at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and surrounding areas including Saufley Field, Corry Station and Bronson Field. Work is expected to be completed by September 2013. … Rolls-Royce Defense Services Inc., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded a $103.3 million modification to a previously awarded  contract to exercise an option for intermediate and depot level maintenance and related support for in-service T-45 F405-RR-401 Adour engines. Work will be done at the Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas (48 percent); NAS Meridian, Miss. (47 percent); NAS Pensacola, Fla. (4 percent); and NAS Patuxent River, Md. (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2013.

NAVSCIATTS: Unidentified boats that worried some residents along the Santa Rosa Sound on Tuesday evening were part of a training exercise from a Navy team based at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The exercise was part of a training course run by the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS). (Post)

Cutters: Lockport-based Bollinger Shipyards Inc. will receive $250 million to build six Fast Response Cutters for the Coast Guard. They’ll be homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Post)

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