Saturday, May 25, 2013

Week in review (5/19 to 5/25)

First flight of Triton.
Navy photo courtesy Northrop Grumman
Aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week included the Navy Triton's first flight; more orders for A320 jetliners; the selection of a general contractor to build a facility in Mobile, Ala., that will train Airbus workers; hiring of an Airbus customs manager; a subcommittee's rejection of another BRAC round in 2015; the selection of three Gulf Coast bases for installation awards; the move of two Air Force squadrons from Eglin to Hurlburt Field; and the selection of a company to do renovations at the B-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

And here's one more aerospace item I want to tell you about. Next week the Gulf Coast Reporters' League, of which I'm a member, will publish the third edition of "Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2013-2014." The annual highlights aerospace activities in the region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida. The digital version is free.

This year, the printed version of the book will be provided to a group of STEM teachers in a pilot program, thanks to a benefactor in Pensacola, Fla. The authors, who all have children and grandchildren, want to make sure students in the region understand the opportunities here. We also want to thank our underwriters – more than a dozen this year – for making this book possible. I'll provide more details next week.

Now for your week in review:

The Navy's MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft completed its first flight during the week. It was at Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif., facility. During the 80-minute flight, the Triton reached an altitude of 20,000 feet.

Triton will provide maritime and littoral data collection in the Navy's Asia and Pacific regions. An adjunct to the manned P-8A Poseidon, it will fly missions for 24 hours at altitudes greater than 10 miles.

Flight tests will continue in California for the next several months before the team transitions the aircraft to Patuxent River, Md., in the fall. Central fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss., on all the Navy's Tritons. (Post)

-- Earlier this month I told you that Germany pulled the plug on the Euro Hawk surveillance aircraft. The concern was over flight clearance issues. Now Deutsche Welle during the week reports that Germany's decision won't have an impact on NATO's surveillance program.

NATO plans to use five Global Hawks Block 40 type for its Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. Both Euro Hawk and the AGS drones use the Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk airframe.

The AGS aircraft are scheduled to be used by 2017 and stationed in Sicily. Fourteen NATO states are involved: Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the U.S. (Story)

Air China has ordered 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft worth $8.8 billion at list price, 60 for the airline itself and 40 for subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines. In addition, AirAsia could buy another 50 planes as it targets expansion in India. Five months ago the Malaysian carrier added 100 jets to its order book to lift total purchases to 475 planes. Airbus broke ground last month on an A320 assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Meanwhile, Airbus Americas named Christopher Johnson customs manager for that $600 million plant. He joined the company May 20. Johnson will be responsible for securing and improving the Toulouse, France-based planemaker’s customs activities in the United States. (Post)

A lot of folks will eventually work at that assembly line, 1,000, in fact. And they have to be trained. Mobile's Rod Cooke Construction was chosen as general contractor for the Alabama Aviation Training Center at Brookley. The $6 million, 35,600-square-foot facility is for the Alabama Industrial Development Training program. It will train potential Airbus employees. The project is slated for completion by March 2014. (Post)

While on the subject of workers, the vice president of operations for ST Aerospace Mobile spoke to members of the Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Council Thursday. They were holding their quarterly meeting at the STA Mobile site.

Bill Hafner told them that collaboration with the Alabama Industrial Development Training program and aggressive development of diversified career paths will be the key to STA Mobile's longevity as it grapples with an aging workforce.

The council was formed to identify and address skills gaps and working to meet the needs of the state's growing aerospace sector. (Post)

In one final Airbus-related item -- well, kind of Airbus-related -- Alabama's aerospace, automotive, health care and financial industries are the focus of a 44-page section in Delta's Sky magazine in June. It will reach the millions who fly the airliner. Sky's "Profile" section highlights a state or city each month, and this is the first time Alabama has been featured. The section has 22 pages of ads and 22 pages of editorial. Gov. Robert Bentley said the timing is ideal since aerospace leaders from around the world will be flying to Paris in June for the 50th annual International Paris Air Show. (Post)

The House Armed Services' Readiness Subcommittee opposes the Pentagon's request for a base realignment and closure round in 2015. The panel approved language in its portion of the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill precluding the Defense Department from using FY 2014 appropriations for a BRAC round. Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman, R-Va., said further review would be required before the committee could consider endorsing a new BRAC round. (Post)

-- Three bases in this region are among five that won the Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. The 2013 award winners are the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Rucker, Ala.; Naval Support Activity Panama City, Panama City, Fla.; and Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss. The other winners are Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., and Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime, Columbus, Ohio. (Post)

-- Two Air Force squadrons moved to a new hangar by running about 15 miles. More than 50 people from the 9th Special Operations and the 1st Special Operations Maintenance squadrons ran a relay to carry their official flags from their hangar at Eglin Air Force Base to their new home at Hurlburt Field. The move reunites all 1st Special Operations Wing squadrons under one roof. About 400 people and eight MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft relocated. (Post)

-- Changes to local military flight procedures at Eglin Air Force Base may mean less noise on the ground. The changes include raising minimum flight altitudes over populated areas. The commander of the 96th Operations Group at Eglin said his primary concern was safety and carrying out the Air Force’s mission, but added that the new policies also should help make things quieter. (Post)

Sauer Inc., of Jacksonville, Fla., won a $6.5 million NASA task order to renovate the B-2
rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The project should be finished in 10 months. The B-2 stand, originally built to test Saturn rocket stages, is being renovated to test NASA’s new Space Launch System core stage in late 2016 and early 2017. (Post)

-- Sierra Nevada, a Colorado company developing the Dream Chaser spaceship to take astronauts to the International Space Station, is testing landing-related elements at NASA facilities. A flight simulator at the Langley, Va., facility is being used to simulate what it would be like to land Dream Chaser.

The company has also delivered a Dream Chaser engineering test craft to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California to test the craft's nose strut, brakes and tires. Lockheed Martin will assemble the composite structure for the first space-bound Dream Chaser at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

L-3 Communications, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $53 million contract for logistics services support of the TH-57 aircraft fleet. Services to be provided include repair and/or overhaul of aircraft, engines, avionics and related components. Work will be performed at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in June 2014. (Post)

Workers: About 33 Indian guest workers filed a lawsuit against Mobile, Ala.-based Signal International claiming they were tricked out of money and forced to work in barbaric conditions at the Pascagoula, Miss. facility. (Post)

JHSV: USNS Choctaw County, the Navy's second Joint High Speed Vessel, completed acceptance trials earlier this month in the Gulf of Mexico. The Austal USA-built JHSV is an all-aluminum, non-combat catamaran transport ship. (Post)

Contract: L-3 Global Communications Solutions, Victor, N.Y., was awarded an $8 million delivery order to acquire Hawkeye III Lite tri-band antennas and Hawkeye diplexer kits. Work will be performed in Panama City, Fla., and is expected to complete by September 2013. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City is the contracting activity. (Post)

Academy: Classes should be underway at Ingalls Shipbuilding's Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy by the end of summer. The academy is meant to provide a skilled workforce and will help Ingalls expand its 2- to 4-year apprentice program to about 1,000 students. (Post)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Week in review (5/12 to 5/18)

X-47B marks historic firsts. Navy photo
It's hard to overstate the significance of what occurred in the Atlantic Ocean during the past week. An unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft bult by Northrop Grumman was catapulted from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush, and later in the week the robot aircraft did touch and go landings.

The technology for all of that is mind-boggling. Ship relative navigation and precision touchdown of the X-47B are critical technology elements for all future unmanned carrier aviation aircraft. It's yet another attempt to have robots master skills that are difficult enough for humans to master.

The launch from CVN 77 was Tuesday, while the carrier was off the coast of Maryland. The UAV safely landed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., after a 65-minute flight. The UCAS-D program plans to conducted shore-based arrested landings of the X-47B at NAS Patuxent River in the coming months before final carrier-baswed arrestments later this year.

A lot of eyes in this region have been watching this, and for good reason. This is where all the naval aviators get their initial training, and you know those students are keeping their eyes on developments in this field. The men and women learning to be Navy and Marine pilots will one day be working side-by-side with these drones, perhaps leading a formation of them. This is also where Northrop Grumman does some of the work on two other UAVs - the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and the Global Hawk fixed-wing surveillance UAV.

In fact, the Fire Scout is a veteran at working off a ship. The surveillance helicopter has been taking off and returning to Navy ships for a few years now. That program has been successful enough that Northrop is building a larger, more capable variant of the Fire Scout. In fact, Fire Scouts are now part of a new hybrid squadron the Navy introduced earlier this month.

-- Germany's defense ministry plans to abandon the $1.3 billion Euro Hawk reconnaissance program. Flight clearance issues in European airspace were key factors, according to reports.

One Euro Hawk demonstrator, a variant of the unmanned Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk, has already been purchased. But plans to buy three more will now be canceled, officials said. (Post)

While Germany is retreating from its UAV purchase, Australia is again considering buying a variant of the Global Hawk called Triton, a long-range maritime surveillance drone. Australia could buy six or seven Triton MQ-4C aircraft. The United States plans to buy 68.(Post)

While drones were marking some firsts in the Atlantic, piloted F-35 marked their own first over Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in the Gulf Coast region. Air Force F-35 instructor pilots at the Integrated Training Center began qualifying during the week in aerial refueling. An Air Force Reserve KC-135 Stratotanker provided the fuel to formations of the F-35A aircraft over the Eglin training ranges. (Post)

We're not quite done with "firsts." For the first time in almost a decade, a full engine is in the A-1 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The J-2X engine E10002 will undergo a series of tests where it will be gimbaled, or pivoted, during test firings. That's important, because when this engine is used in space it will need to be able to move to steer NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), the heavy-lift launch vehicle that will carry humans in deep space.

It's the first time gimbal tests will be done since testing on the space shuttle main engines.

Once these tests are done, preparations will be made to begin testing the RS-25 engine on the A-1 stand in 2014. RS-25 engines from the shuttle inventory will power the core stage of SLS, while the J-2X engine will power the upper stage. (Post)

-- Another part of the SLS program is also moving forward. Engineers at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are putting NASA's first space-bound Orion capsule through tests to stress the capsule's structural shell and check repairs to cracks in the pressurized module's aluminum bulkhead.

The static loads testing began May 3 and will run through June inside the Operations and Checkout Building at KSC. The aluminum alloy core of the Orion was built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. The 16.5-foot-diameter spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., was delivered to KSC in June 2012.

Engineers put the capsule through its first test at KSC in November, when they pressurized the Orion crew module to check its integrity. That's when three cracks developed in the aft bulkhead on the lower half of the Orion's pressure shell. Engineers designed structural braces to resolve the problem, and those repairs are being tested now. (Post)

Kuwait Airways will buy 25 Airbus jets and aims to lease a further 13 to upgrade its fleet. The deal is for 10 wide-bodied A350-900 jets and 15 of the A320neo. The deal is worth some $3.1 billion. Deliveries would start in 2019. Airbus broke ground last month in Mobile, Ala., on an A320 final assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

-- Speaking of Airbus, the newly chosen executive director of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council thinks that county can attract Airbus subcontractors. Nathan Sparks, formerly with St. Joe Company, was hired replace Kay Rasumssen, vice president of the EDC who served as the interim president after Larry Sassano left and joined Florida's Great Northwest. Sparks plans to meet early on with stakeholders to get a sense of their expectations, and to do some vision planning to develop long-term strategies. (Story)

The Air Force was just three years old when this squadron was formed, and now it's gone. The 728th Air Control Squadron, activated in 1950 at Turner Air Force Base in Albany, Ga., was inactivated Friday at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as part of budget cuts in the Department of Defense. The 728th moved to Duke Field in 1977 then Eglin in 1994. (Post)

-- The Army 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., opened its doors during the week to show the public what they do. About 2,000 people showed up at the cantonment south of Crestview. Visitors Day featured about 15 displays for the public to inspect the weapons, vehicles and technologies soldiers use and to let them explain their day-to-day duties. (Post)

-- The New Orleans Aviation Board, which governs Louis Armstrong International Airport, picked New Orleans lawyer Cheryl Teamer to be its first female chairperson. She'll oversee the launch of an $826 million overhaul the airfield that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has dictated must be done in five years. (Post)

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $555.6 million contract for Global Hawk modernization. Work will be performed in San Diego, and is expected to be completed by May 14, 2015. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. … Jacobs Technology was awarded an $8.5 million contract for interim support of services to provide engineering and technology acquisition support services. One of the locations where work will be done is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Cutter: Ingalls Shipbuilding during the week authenticated the keel of the company's fifth U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter, James (WMSL 754). Ingalls in Pascagoula, Miss., has delivered three National Security Cutters. The fourth one will be christened in October. (Post)

DDG 51: Huntington Ingalls of Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $8.9 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise options for DDG 51 class follow yard services. Nearly all the work will be done in Pascagoula. (Post)

Dry dock: A floating dry dock arrived at VT Halter Marine's Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard from the Philippines as part of the company's multimillion-dollar south yard expansion. (Post)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Week in review (5/5 to 5/11)

Eglin gets a brand-new version of the F-35; two more Alabama contractors tapped for the Airbus project in Mobile; a UAV makes history with a carrier-type arrested landing; small airport towers slated to shut down in June get another three-month reprieve; plans for the former site of the Panama City airport have been unveiled; Pensacola announces more Southwest Airlines flights; and Orbital Science's decision to delay the next flight to International Space Station were among the news items of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

The brand-new Block 2 version of the F-35 arrived at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week. The 58th Fighter Squadron will get 13 more of the F-35s with the upgraded software by the end of the year.

For the first time, pilots will be able to use a series of six sensors embedded in the skin of the F-35 that provide a complete spherical view around the jet, day or night – as if the walls of the plane did not exist.

The addition of at least 16 aircraft this year will add more permanent personnel to the 33rd Fighter Wing, which oversees the school that will train personnel from all military branches and international students. The wing now has more than 1,300 people. (Post)

Hoar Program Management tapped two Alabama contractors for the $600 million Airbus final assembly line at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. Birmingham's Brasfield and Gorrie will construct the piles and foundations for the hangar and service building. Dothan's Covenant Steel will be responsible for the building steel. (Post)

Airbus broke ground April 8 on the plant that will build A320 jetliners. Airbus is empowering plant managers to make decisions to assure that its supply chain for Mobile assembly line runs like clockwork. That's what Airbus North America President and CEO Barry Eccleston said May 8 during Aviation Week's Civil Aircraft Manufacturing Conference in Charlotte, N.C.

The first concrete footings are to be poured this week for the plant, the fifth Airbus facility in the U.S. but the first to assemble aircraft. It will be a carbon-copy of the A320 factory in Hamburg, Germany, mirroring the process used when the Tianjin, China, plant was built. (Post)

-- In another Airbus-related story, officials said Air China will add 100 Airbus jetliners to help meet rising travel demand. Analysts believe the order is mainly A320 for short-haul routes. Carriers in China will need 5,260 new planes worth $670 billion through 2031, Boeing forecast in September. China has become the world's biggest source of tourists, overtaking Germany and the United States. (Post)

Here's something of historic significance, and while it's not directly related to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor, it's certainly of high interest because of the region's involvement in unmanned systems.

Northrop Grumman and the Navy marked the first arrested landing of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator. The May 4 test was at the Navy's shore-based catapult and arresting gear complex at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

Carrier-based trials are planned for later this month. Why should this interest the region? First of all, Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and that facility, who knows, may one day build portions of the X-47B. On top of that, Northwest Florida is a major training location for future naval aviators. (Post)

-- On another UAV front, Mississippi confirmed what we all figured to be the case – it put in a bid to land one of those six FAA unmanned aerial system test sites. Several types of drones are built in the state, including Fire Scout and Global Hawks in South Mississippi. It also has a flight lab at Mississippi State University in Starkville.

Fifty sites in 37 states have shown interest in the test sites, which will work to ease drones into the national airspace. Popular Science has ranked what it sees as the seven strongest prospective sites: San Diego, North Dakota, Hancock Field in New York, Sierra Vista in Arizona, Huntsville, Ala., Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and Dayton, Ohio.

The Mississippi Development Authority points out that the FAA won't provide funding, but Mississippi can use existing assets, including Camp Shelby, Stennis Space Center and Gulf of Mexico test ranges. Mississippi State University would collect data from tests and conduct research, according to the university. Today, Mississippi has about 250 jobs in the sector, but officials hope testing would allow them to multiply that figure. (AP story, Mississippi Business Journal story)

The towers at small airports in Dothan, Ala., and Kiln, Miss., slated to shut down in June, will remain open at least through the end of the fiscal year – September 30. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the recent passage of a bill to free up funds and avoid sequester-related furloughs of some 47,000 FAA employees also provided the money to keep 149 airport towers open. The airport in Kiln is near NASA's Stennis Space Center. (Post)

-- The St. Andrew Bay Land Co. unveiled plans for a large development, including homes, commercial space, a school and marina, on the old airport property. The 704-acre development called SweetBay will include 3,200 homes, 700,000 square feet of commercial space and the University Academy, parks, ponds and green space. The land became available when the airport moved to West Bay. The Airport Authority sold the property to St. Andrew Bay Land Co. for $51.4 million in February 2011. (Post)

-- Southwest Airlines will offer daily nonstop flights to and from Nashville, Tenn., and Houston from Florida's Pensacola International Airport, beginning Nov. 3. Bob Montgomery, vice president of airport affairs for Southwest, said customers will be able to reach 65 destinations from Nashville and Houston. (Post)

-- A month after Commercial Jet announced plans to open a $12 million facility at Dothan Regional Airport, it landed its first big contract. Aeronautical Engineers Inc. of Miami selection of the 400,000-square-foot facility as its fourth authorized conversion center. Commercial Jet provides aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services. (Post)

Orbital Sciences said the first full-up test flight of its Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station will likely slip to September due to a variety of factors, including an engine replacement on the mission's Antares rocket.

The first flight of Orbital's Cygnus resupply freighter, a cargo carrier developed in partnership with NASA, was expected this summer. But Orbital officials decided to swap out one of the AJ26 first stage engines on the spacecraft, adding up to four weeks of prep time. Those engines are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., met with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and key members of the state Legislature Wednesday as part of "NASA Day in Baton Rouge." NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility is in New Orleans. MAF workers are making hardware for the Space Launch System heavy-lift launch vehicle and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. (Post)

Col. Jim Slife will be leaving his post as commander of the Air Force's 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., this summer and will be replaced by Col. William West, who commands the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. (Post)

-- Capt. Joseph Polanin relinquished command of the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal school at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to Capt. William Noel during the week. The change of command ceremony was at the EOD Memorial across from the school attended by every military bomb technician. More than 1,000 students go through the program each year. (Post)

That school, which trains bomb technicians from all branches of the military, held a ceremony last weekend to mark the deaths of 11 graduates killed in the line of duty last year. Since World War II 298 military bomb technicians have been killed in the line of duty. The 11 men killed last year ranged from 22 to 39 years old. They came from all across the country, serving with the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force. (Post)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Week in review (4/28 to 5/4)

It was a busy week for aerospace news of interest to the Gulf Coast region. Headlines included GE Aviation opening plants in Mississippi and Alabama; Vector Aerospace announcing an expansion in Andalusia, Ala.; a magazine listing the Airbus project in Mobile, Ala., as one of the top 10 deals for 2012; the Navy launching its first squadron combining manned and unmanned helicopters; an OK for plans to sell four Global Hawks to South Korea; and a NASA executive’s visit to Michoud and Stennis.

Here's the week in review:

GE Aviation had two grand openings during the week, both just outside the Interstate 10 region but significant to the region nonetheless.

GE Aviation officially opened on Monday a new jet engine components facility in Auburn, Ala., that will create hundreds of jobs at the Auburn Technology Park West. The 300,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing plant will produce precision, super-alloy machined parts for GE jet engines that will power future commercial and military aircraft, and also support the fleet of GE jet engines already in service.

The plant represents a GE investment of $75 million in the state of Alabama. By the end of 2013, GE expects to hire 50 employees. Based on current demand for its jet engines, GE expects to hire 300 to 400 people when the plant is at full ramp-up later this decade.

The Auburn plant will make high-pressure turbine airfoils, delivering its first part later this year. As the facility continues to ramp up production, it is expected that the Auburn facility will contribute to every commercial jet engine family produced by GE Aviation.

The next day the company opened a 340,000-square-foot aviation components plant in Ellisville, northeast of Hattiesburg, Miss. The plant at the Howard Technology Park is the second composites factory in Mississippi. The other is in Batesville in northwest Mississippi, which employs 450 workers and opened in 2008.

In Ellisville the company expects to hire 250 workers within five years to make composite parts for aircraft engines and systems. The new Ellisville Composites facility will make and assemble new composite components that are unique in the aviation industry. The new facilities underscore the growth of GE Aviation, where production rates are expected to grow from 3,600 commercial and military engine deliveries in 2013 to more than 3,800 deliveries in 2014. (Post)

- In another major aerospace development in Alabama, Vector Aerospace announced a $3 million expansion of its Andalusia operation, creating as many as 75 jobs. The company, which opened in Andalusia in 2008, maintains Army TH-67 helicopters from Fort Rucker near Dothan and repairs Navy TH-57 helicopters from Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla. Toronto-based Vector was purchased in March 2011 by Eurocopter, a subsidiary of Airbus parent EADS. American Eurocopter builds Lakota helicopters in Columbus, Miss. (Post)

Site Selection magazine named the Airbus final assembly line being built at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex among its top 10 U.S. deals for 2012. Top deals were selected based upon the level of capital investment, degree of high-value jobs, creativity in negotiations and incentives, regional economic impact, competition for the project and speed to market. Meanwhile, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce is listed by Site Selection as among its "Best to Invest" U.S. economic development groups for 2012. (Post)

- Nepal Airlines signed a deal with Airbus to buy two A320 aircraft equipped with sharklet fuel-saving wing tips. The deal is valued at $183 million at catalogue prices. Nepal Airlines currently flies to four international destinations and 25 domestic airports in he heart of the Himalayas. (Post)

The Navy has its first squadron combining manned and unmanned helicopters. Helicopter Maritime Strike 35, "the Magicians," combines eight manned MH-60R Seahawks with 10 unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scouts and will work off coastal combat ships.

The first deployment of two Fire Scouts and one Seahawk will be early next year on the littoral combat ship Fort Worth, a Freedom-class LCS. The Navy has been testing the Fire Scout since 2007 and deploying it since 2009. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.; Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., builds the Independence –class version of the littoral combat ships. (Post)

- The United States approved the sale of four Global Hawks to South Korea, Seoul's acquisition agency said. But the purchase may be reconsidered due to the cost. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration said it has received the letter of offer and acceptance for Global Hawks made by Northrop Grumman from the Pentagon in mid-April after it won congressional approval. Global Hawks are made in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans Friday. Both facilities are critical to the construction and testing of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Commercial Crew Program. Michoud and Stennis also are important to partnerships with private industry, which is helping maximize the use of NASA facilities.

Garver first visited Michoud to see progress being made to support the SLS and Orion spacecraft programs, then SSC to tour facilities where commercial engines and engines for the NASA program are tested. One key test facility she visited was the B-2 test stand, which is being restored in preparation for testing of the SLS core stage. (Post)

The B-2 Test Stand, originally built to test the Saturn rocket stages that propelled humans to the Moon, will test the SLS core stage in late 2016 and early 2017. When ready, the SLS stage, with four RS-25 rocket engines, will be installed on the stand for propellant fill and drain testing and two hot fire tests.

The site's engineers spent 18 months assessing the cost of the work needed to upgrade the B-2 Test Stand from Apollo-and space shuttle-era testing specifications. After NASA made the decision to proceed, engineers began the first of three project phases.

NASA is developing the SLS to send humans to asteroids and Mars. The SLS, once operational, will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first test flight of SLS will be in 2017, when the rocket will send an unmanned Orion spacecraft around the Moon. (Post)

- The Orion spacecraft safely landed during a simulation of two types of parachute failures during the week in Yuma, Ariz. The capsule was traveling about 250 mph when the parachutes were deployed.

Engineers rigged one of the test capsule's two drogue parachutes not to deploy and one of its three main parachutes to skip its first stage of inflation after being extracted from a plane 25,000 feet above the Arizona desert.

Orion's next Earth-based parachute test is scheduled for July, when the test capsule will be released from 35,000 feet. The first test of the parachutes after traveling in space will be during Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, when an uncrewed Orion will be return from 3,600 miles above Earth's surface. Orion is built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

The head of Rolls-Royce's aerospace division resigned just four months after being promoted to lead the division that makes engines for commercial and military aircraft. Mark King, 48, will leave by the end of June. Rolls-Royce did not provide a reason for the departure.

King will be replaced by Tony Wood, head of the company's ship engine business. Aerospace is the biggest Rolls-Royce division, accounted for more than 70 percent of 2012 revenues. In December the company said it was cooperating with a probe by Britain's Serious Fraud Office into allegations of bribery in some of the company's Asian business operations. Rolls-Royce tests jetliner engines at its outdoor test facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- Lockheed Martin celebrated 50 years of space and defense work in Huntsville during the week. About 1,000 employees, retirees and dignitaries marked the event at the company's 57-acre, nine-building complex at Cummings Research Park. The company, one of the first tenants in the park, has about 800 employees. Lockheed Martin also has operations along the Gulf Coast, including the Mississippi Space and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Retired Air Force Col. Kim Wintner was named to head a tri-county committee that works to protect the military and defense industry in Northwest Florida. Wintner, of Destin, has served on the Defense Support Initiative committee for 10 years. The committee works to protect local military bases and their economic contributions to Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties. (Post)

- Col. James C. Slife, who has been selected for the rank of brigadier general, commander, 1st Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla., is being assigned as deputy director, Special Plans Working Group, Headquarters U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

- The Air Force's wide-area surveillance sensor, Gorgon Stare, is performing with at least a 90 percent availability rate in Afghanistan and has been well-received by commanders in the field. More than two years ago a leaked Department of Defense report said the sensor, made by Sierra Nevada, received a poor operational assessment from testers at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Lockheed Martin was awarded a $20.1 million advance acquisition contract for long lead parts, materials and components required for the delivery for two low rate initial production Lot II F-35 conventional takeoff and landing aircraft for the government of Israel. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in May 2014. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. … ITT Exelis was awarded a more than $10 million contract to provide one MK 105 Mod 4 airborne minesweeping system for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Fla. The MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter tows the system. The work will be done in Panama City.

NSC: The U.S. Coast Guard awarded a $487 million contract to its Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss., to build the sixth National Security Cutter. (Post)

Contract: Concurrent Technologies Corp., Johnstown, Pa., was awarded an $8.4 million modification to previously awarded contract to provide additional engineering and fabrication services in support of the ongoing development and testing for the carriage, stream, tow and recovery system. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Commissioning: The Navy commissioned the amphibious transport dock ship, Anchorage, in its namesake city in Alaska May 4 during a ceremony at the Port of Anchorage. The 24,900-ton Anchorage, LPD 23, was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries - Avondale Shipyard in Louisiana. (Post)

Christening: VT Halter Marine and Crowley Maritime celebrated a partnership with the christening of a tug and a barge. They were christened separately at a double ceremony at VT Halter's Bayou Casotte shipyard. (Post)

Ingalls: Huntington Ingalls Industries held a meeting with shareholders in Pascagoula, Miss., during the week. Thirty-two Huntington Ingalls Industries shareholders showed up. Ingalls has between 75,000 and 85,000 total shareholders, according to a company representative. (Post)

Award: Ingalls Shipbuilding received a Platinum Award in the American Heart Association's Fit-Friendly Worksite program for leadership in making the health and wellness of their employees a priority. (Post)