Updates on satellites with ties to Stennis Space Center; Eglin Air Force Base's search for an unmanned underwater robot; 50-year-old weapons parts that will save the Air Force $14 million; Top Guns in Pensacola; and reassignments effecting Eglin were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.
Lockheed Martin completed system testing on the second satellite in the Navy's Mobile User Objective System, MUOS-2. It's now in storage awaiting launch in July 2013. The MUOS system is designed to provide simultaneous voice, video and data services for on-the-move warfighters. The five-satellite global constellation is expected to achieve full operational capability in 2015. Work on the core propulsion system for MUOS, an A2100 satellite-based spacecraft, is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)
Another satellite with ties to SSC has been delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla. The Air Force and Lockheed Martin delivered the second Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, GEO-2, Space Based Infrared System spacecraft during the week. It's slated for a March liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. The satellites in geosynchronous orbit will provide improved missile warning capabilities. The team has also begun work on the fifth and sixth GEO satellites. Lockheed Martin at Stennis Space Center works on the satellite’s propulsion subsystem, used to maneuver the satellite in orbit. (Post)
Maybe Mobile, Ala., should count its blessings that it will be building commercial jetliners instead of Air Force tankers. The Air Force's aerial tanker program faces potential budget issues that could force a renegotiation of the Pentagon’s contract with Boeing.
Defense News reports that the program is being squeezed by current funding levels and a potential sequester. DoD planned to spend $1.8 billion on the program in fiscal year 2013, but Congress has failed to pass a new budget, leaving financial support at 2012 levels under a continuing resolution. The tanker is still in the development stage, where budgets are slated to ramp up year-to-year. (Story)
-- Boeing has taken over the number one spot from Airbus after a decade of trailing its European rival. Boeing ended 2012 with 1,203 net orders, while Airbus had 833. Still, Airbus delivered record numbers of airliners last year, 588 aircraft to 89 customers, 17 of them new customers. Boeing delivered 601 planes. Anything involving Airbus is of high interest to the Gulf Coast region. Airbus will break ground on its A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala., in April. (Post)
-- BOC Aviation, the Singapore-based aircraft leasing subsidiary of Bank of China, placed a new firm order, signed in December 2012, for the purchase of 50 A320 Family aircraft including 25 NEOs. In addition, Citilink, a subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, placed a firm order for 25 A320neo aircraft. The contract, signed in December 2012, follows an order placed in 2011 by Garuda Indonesia for 15 A320ceo and 10 A320neo aircraft for operation by Citilink. (Post)
-- OK, here's another story with an Airbus/Mobile connection. The president of the Fairhope, Ala., council wants the return of a Festival of Flight, which has not been held for five years. One of the reasons for a return of the event at the H.L. "Sonny" Callahan Airport is Airbus’ decision to build an A320 assembly line in Mobile. The feeling is a return of the festival and perhaps a trade show and job fair will help attract more aerospace business to the airport. (Post)
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is looking for companies able to provide unmanned underwater vehicles and sensor payloads to help recover air-delivered test weapons and provide other support to the Air Force 96th Test Wing and its ocean test range near Eglin.
The Air Force Test Center at Eglin issued a sources-sought notice for the Small Unmanned Marine Vehicle Systems Services program. Systems should be self-contained and portable for remote operations; deployable from the coastline or from a 40-foot work boat; have a range of 420 nautical miles; and be capable of 24/7 operations. (Post)
Airport scanners with revealing body images will be going away by June. Congress ordered the scanners either produce a more generic image or be removed by June. On Thursday, California-based Rapiscan, the maker of the X-ray, or backscatter, scanner, said it wouldn't be able to meet the June deadline. The Transportation Security Administration said Friday that it ended its contract for the software with Rapiscan. The company manufactures parts of the scanners at its facility in Ocean Springs, Miss. (Story)
-- The Air Force saved more than $14 million recently when it retrieved a supply of weapons parts given to Greece years ago under the Marshall Plan. The modified 40 mm M2 A1 gun parts can be used in AC-130 gunship, and the Air Force Special Operations Command now has enough barrels to last the remainder of the gun’s lifecycle on the gunship.
The Greek army retired the weapons in 2005 and they were sitting in a warehouse. The Air Force reclaimed 139 barrels, five breech rings and miscellaneous parts. The parts arrived at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in December. (Post)
-- Speaking of parts, the Air Force awarded BAE Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a $25 million contract to help manage obsolete parts for aircraft, weapon systems, and a range of electronics and equipment. The work will be managed at the BAE Systems facility in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Additional work will be performed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.; and Robins Air Force Base, Ga. (Post)
-- The Navy’s Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, popularly called "Top Gun," are at Naval Air Station Pensacola practicing air-to-air combat. The detachment, with 15 F/A-18 and F-16 aircraft and 140 military and civilian personnel, will operate out of NAS Pensacola through Jan. 24. They usually operate out of Fallon, Nev., but the Navy said Fallon’s winter weather is often unsupportive of air-to-air training. (Post)
-- An attorney representing Okaloosa County planned to file a lawsuit against Vision Airlines to recoup more than $146,000 in unpaid fees. The Okaloosa County Commission voted last month to sue Vision if the discount carrier did not pay its debt, or at least develop a new payment schedule, before the end of the year. Vision Airlines began serving Northwest Florida Regional in December 2010, but is no longer serving the airport. (Post)
Brig. Gen. Scott W. Jansson, commander, DLA Aviation, Defense Logistics Agency, Richmond, Va., will replace Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant as program executive officer for weapons, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Merchant will become director, global reach programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. (Post)
-- Brig. Gen. Michael J. Kingsley, vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., will become director of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-Afghanistan Transformation Task Force, Headquarters, International Security Assistance Force, Kabul, Afghanistan. Kingsley has been selected for the rank of major general. (Post)
-- One more item on the personnel front. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama named Neal Wade as chairman, succeeding former Gov. Albert Brewer, who led the Birmingham-based research group since its founding in 1988. Wade continues his work as head of the Bay County Economic Development Agency in Panama City, Fla. (Story)
University of Southern Mississippi Department of Marine Science researchers are
studying turning marine micro-algae into fuel. Under the direction of Dr. Donald Redalje, the school's Marine Science lab at Stennis Space Center, Miss., is studying algae grown from Mississippi coastal waters.
While biofuel blends have already found their way to naval war ships and test flights on commercial airliners, Redalje and his team are looking for ways to streamline the process. (Post)
Center: The need for a comprehensive understanding of the waters and resources of the Gulf of Mexico has prompted the University of Southern Mississippi to take the lead in formation of the new Center for Gulf Studies. (Post)
Austal: Austal Hull 130 Chartering, LLC, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $7 million modification under a previously awarded firm, fixed-price contract to exercise a six-month option period for the worldwide charter of one U.S.-flagged passenger/cargo ferry. (Post)
Rescue: The U.S. Coast Guard helped saved 12 sailors after their 170-foot research ship, Seaprobe, capsized about 141 miles south of Pensacola. (Post)