Saturday, November 10, 2012

Week in review (11/4 to 11/10)

Production begins on the maritime version of Global Hawk; the first ad for a job at Airbus' plant in Mobile; word from Boeing that its sales are ahead of Airbus; the 500-sortie milestone for the F-35; positive reports from pilots and maintainers about the F-35; a memorial service at Eglin; and a change of command for the Blue Angels were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., this week will begin production of the Triton unmanned system, a variant of the Global Hawk being built for the Navy for maritime surveillance. That's according to the Sun Herald. The 101,000 square-foot plant will work on the central fuselages of the first three of what will eventually be 68 Navy Tritons.

The MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance aircraft has a different sensor payload than the Air Force, German or NASA versions of the Global Hawk. The Moss Point plant does central fuselage work for all variants of the Global Hawk. It also does finishing work on the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. (Post)

Speaking of unmanned aerial systems, Camp Shelby, a 137,000-acre training center south of Hattiesburg, Miss., is a key training center for the smaller unmanned systems like Puma, Raven and Shadow. National Guard, reserve and active duty soldiers come to the flight center, which opened in the spring, for training with those systems.

Camp Shelby Joint Training Center is the nation's largest state-owned mobilization center. Earlier this year it was selected as the site of the new $48 million regional flight center for the Army National Guard's Unmanned Aircraft System. It was chosen from 19 sites, and has been used by many tactical unmanned air system units for training prior to overseas deployment.

The Hattiesburg American had a feature story about the training. (Post)

The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in unmanned systems. As mentioned above, Fire Scout and Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and the military trains with UAVs not only at Camp Shelby, but at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

And more is to come to the region. Over in Okaloosa County, Fla., economic development leaders hope to develop a 45,000-square-foot Autonomous Vehicle Center that will be used to test small unmanned air and ground vehicles. Plans are to build the $4.5 million Autonomous Vehicle Center at the University of Florida's Research and Engineering Education Facility near Eglin Air Force Base.

Airbus posted its first ad for a job at the plant it will build at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. It's for a director of human resources, according to the Mobile Press-Register. The $600 million plant that will assemble the A320 family of jetliners will eventually employ 1,000 people.

The announcement was released in cooperation with Alabama Industrial Development Training, Airbus' Alabama-based recruiting partner. Construction will begin in summer 2013, with aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2015. The first delivery will be in 2016. (Post)

That assembly line in Mobile will have an impact across Alabama and the Southeast through new suppliers, new jobs and new business for the state's existing industrial base. That's according to Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas Inc., who was keynote speaker Friday at a Birmingham Business Alliance luncheon.

McArtor, who said Birmingham is well within the supply-chain radius for the plant, also pointed out that Airbus is an innovative company and said there's potential for Airbus to collaborate with Alabama's universities. (Post)

No doubt if Birmingham is in that supply-chain radius, a lot of areas along the coast are as well.

-- The fuel-efficient version of the A320, the A320neo, will be shown off at the 9th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition Nov. 13-18 in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai. A scale cutaway of the neo will be displayed at the EADS stand. It's the first time for Airbus to showcase an A320neo model in China. (Post)

-- Meanwhile, Airbus rival Boeing reported it has secured more than 1,000 net new orders so far this year, putting it on course to sell more aircraft than Airbus for the first time since 2006. The orders are primarily driven by airliner demand for 737 narrow-body jets. Boeing sales are running at more than double those of Airbus. (Post)

-- Boeing is restructuring its defense, space and security businesses with plans to reduce
management positions 30 percent and close and consolidate several facilities in California. The company says the change is not directly related to sequestration or the presidential election. Boeing has operations along the Gulf Coast. (Post)

The F-35 surpassed its 500th sortie 16 days after reaching the 400 mark and only 238 days from the beginning of the program. Maj. Matthew Johnston of the 58th Fighter Squadron completed the 500th combined sortie for both the F-35A and F-35B at the 33rd Fighter Wing Nov. 2. The wing started flight operations March 6. (Post)
-- Initial feedback about the F-35 from Air Force pilots and maintainers at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., indicate it performs better than its predecessors did at a similar stage of development. The F-35 is proving to be relatively stable from a maintenance standpoint, said Col Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing. (Post)

A memorial service was held Monday for Maj. Garrett Knowlan at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Knowlan died Oct. 11 while participating in survival training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. At the time of his death, Knowlan was serving as the executive officer for Brig. Gen. David Harris, the 96th Test Wing commander. (Post)

-- Capt. Greg McWherter, who has led the Blue Angels for the past four years, turned over command during a ceremony the day after the team's final show of the season last weekend. The new leader is Cmdr. Tom Frosch, who’s been in the Navy for 20 years. The team is based at Naval Air Station Pensacola. (Post)

Economic development
Larry Sassano is leaving Okaloosa County's economic development group Nov. 30 to take the top spot at Florida's Great Northwest. Kay Rasmussen, vice president of community and economic development for the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, was named interim director of the Okaloosa EDC. (Post)

L-3 Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a  $28.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for organizational, selected intermediate and limited depot level maintenance for F-16, F-18, H-60 and E-2C aircraft operated by the adversary squadrons based at Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nev. … Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $12.3 million contract modification for the delivery of modified control sections for the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (AGM-88). The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBAS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

LPD 24: The amphibious transport dock Arlington (LPD 24) returned from successful Navy acceptance sea trials. While in the Gulf of Mexico, there were more than 200 test events. (Post)

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