Saturday, June 29, 2013

Week in review (6/23 to 6/29)

More F-35s arrive at Eglin Air Force Base; the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition wins an international competition; a company is chose for the Airbus powerhouse in Mobile; a candidate is picked to head up Okaloosa County airports; and command changes at area bases were among the items of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Less than a week after getting its first Navy variant of the F-35, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 received its second F-35C. The fighter arrived after a 90-minute flight from the Lockheed Martin production line in Fort Worth, Texas. VFA 101 will serve as the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, training both aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the F-35C. (Post)

That F-35C was in the same formation that brought the U.K.'s third F-35 to Eglin. Flown by U.S. Marine pilot Lt. Col. Roger Hardy, the plane is designated BK-3. For the UK, the F-35 program involves more 500 British suppliers who are building 15 percent of each F-35 produced. (Post)

There was some good news for Luke Air Force Base in Arizona during the week. It will get three more squadrons of the F-35A. The 72 additional jets will give the base in Glendale six squadrons totaling 144 F-35As, more than any other Air Force installation.

All F-35A pilots will train at either Luke or Eglin, the location of the current schoolhouse for instructor pilots. The first three F-35A squadrons are scheduled to begin arriving at Luke next year. (Post)

A group of airmen at Eglin won a national award from the Air Force for work maintaining the new state-of-the-art equipment for F-35 pilots. The 10-person 33rd Operations Support Squadron's Aircrew Flight Equipment group received the Air Force's Outstanding Aircrew Flight Small Equipment Program award for their work in 2012. The crew maintains the helmet, flight jacket and g-suit for instructor pilots and students learning to fly the Air Force’s variant of the F-35. (Post)

A team from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., took first place in the initial stage of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, coming out on top of a roster of 26 of the top robotics research groups in the world.

IHMC's team scored 52 out of a possible 60 points in the DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge, a computer simulation using software that will power a real-life humanoid robot in the future. The robot had to get into a vehicle, drive to a disaster site, walk over difficult terrain and attach a hose to a spigot.

Members of the top nine teams, which includes MIT and the Jet Propulsion Lab, move on to the next competition, with the top six getting funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and a humanoid robot built by Boston Dynamics.

The next competition, using the robots, is scheduled for December 2013. The final challenge is set for December 2014, with $2 million in prize money at stake. IHMC has worked with NASA for years on multiple projects, including creating the algorithms to provide locomotion for a walking version of Robonaut2, the humanoid aboard the International Space Station. (Post)

Airbus awarded Honeywell a $37 million powerhouse operation contract for the A320 final assembly line being built at Brookley Aeroplex. The project will begin in the fall and completed in mid-2014. It will be managed from the Birmingham branch of Minnesota’s Honeywell Building Solutions.

Honeywell will design and build, and through a 10-year service agreement operate and maintain the facility that will supply utilities to the assembly line. Ground was broken in April on the $600 million plant that will employ 1,000. (Post)

NASA selected Healtheon Inc. of New Orleans to provide a high pressure industrial water line at Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. The firm-fixed price task order has a total value of $29.8 million and a performance period of 530 days. Work is scheduled to begin in July. The water line provides cooling water and acoustic suppression to Stennis' B Test Complex, which will be used to test the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System in 2016. (Post)

Okaloosa County Administrator Ernie Padgett has recommended hiring Tallahassee aviation director Sunil Harman as the county’s next airports director. Padgett will present the recommendation to county commissioners at their Tuesday meeting in Crestview, Fla. Harman, who has worked as Tallahassee’s aviation director since 2011, was selected from an original pool of more than 100 applicants. Harman has spent more than 26 years in the industry. (Post)

Okaloosa County officials again are pursuing legal action against Vision Airlines, this time to recover almost $40,000 in unpaid fees. That’s for unpaid rent, fuel and utility charges that accrued while the discount carrier was flying out of Northwest Florida Regional Airport. In February, Vision paid the county $117,000 in overdue passenger facility charges. (Post)

A training center for Air Force security forces will be built in Fort Bliss, Texas. The Security Forces Ground Combat Training Center will train 8,500 students per year by October 2014 by consolidating regional training centers. One of the regional training center’s that’s closing is at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The final decision will be made after an environmental study is completed this summer. (Post)

Two maintenance squadrons, one at Eglin Air Force Base and the other at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., have been deactivated. The 33d Maintenance Operations Squadron (MOS) was inactivated June 13. The unit was the only military maintenance organization to house airmen, Marines and sailors in the Department of Defense's first of its kind for the F-35 program.

At Tyndall, the 325th MOS was inactivated June 20. The squadron provided key maintenance analysis data, flying and maintenance scheduling management and flight line operations oversight. The deactivations resulted from the Air Force's decision last year to reorganize maintenance support in part because of a lack of field-grade officers in the maintenance career field. (Post)

Area bases also had multiple change of command ceremonies. At Tyndall Air Force Base, Col. Charles Corcoran relinquished command of the 325th Operations Group to Col. Max Marosko. The 325th Operations Group is responsible for directing the flying and support operations for an F-22 Raptor fighter squadron, a training and support squadron, and an operations support squadron. (Post)

In addition, Col. Chris Weaver took over from Col. Paul Skala as commander of the 325th Medical Group. Skala leaves Tyndall to be the command administrator and director of medical support at U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The 325th Medical Group staff operates as an outpatient medical facility with family practice, pediatrics, dental, flight medicine and women’s health clinics. (Post)

Further to the west at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Maj. Jeffrey Johns took over the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Lt. Col. Felix Johnfinn. The 801st SOAMXS performs all equipment maintenance in support of worldwide special operations missions. It supports the CV-22B Osprey hybrid aircraft and MC-130H Talon II aircraft.

Also at Hurlburt, Lt. Col. David Byer took command of the 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron from Lt. Col. Christopher Patrick. The 1st SOMDOS promotes and maintains the health of 8,000 active-duty, reserve, civilian personnel, and 22,000 beneficiaries.

Finally, Maj. James Cooper took over the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron from Maj. Michael Campos. The 1st SOMXS conducts special operations airlift, helicopter air refueling and psychological operations throughout the United States, South America, Africa and Middle East. (Post)

It cost between $88,000 and $97,000 for Alabama officials to participate in the Paris Air Show, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. That includes travel costs for seven officials, but most of the money was for the Alabama booth, graphics and set-up.

The Alabama delegation numbered about 90, and most participants were from cities, counties and companies who did not travel at state expense. Nineteen communities, economic development groups, and chambers attended. At least 20 other states had a significant presence at the air show, the department said, including Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. (Post)

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide will continue to operate programs at two local schools. The Okaloosa County School Board approved an agreement with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Institutes at Choctawhatchee and Crestview high schools.

Ron Garriga, who will serve as the director of local program, said that for the upcoming school year Embry-Riddle expects to have 200 students enrolled and hopes the program's popularity will increase with more on hands-on learning. Under the new contract, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders at Choctaw and Crestview can enroll in a variety of college level courses in the aviation field as long as they have a 2.5 GPA and two teacher recommendations. (Post)

of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $39.5 million modification to the contract for Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded an $11.4 million contract for travel and relocation for 15 contractor engineering and technical services representatives for Air National Guard (ANG) (5); Navy (1), and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) (9) in support of the F100 engines on the F-15/F-16 (U.S. Air Force and FMS); and the JT9D and J52 engines on the C-9 (Navy) aircraft. One of the five ANG locations where work will be performed is in New Orleans. … Raytheon Technical Services Co. LLC, Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded a $10 million contract for the Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBMK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Keel laying: Austal USA held a keel laying ceremony during the week to mark the start of construction on a new Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Montgomery. (Post)

Contract: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Bethpage, N.Y., was awarded a $19.4 million modification to previously awarded contract to provide engineering and production planning services for mission packages that will deploy from and integrate with the littoral combat ship. Ten percent of the work will be performed in Panama City, Fla. (Post)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Week in review (6/16 to 6/22)

Airbus racks up orders at the Paris Air Show and picks two people for its Mobile, Ala., operation; NASA shows the media its three-story, 165-ton vertical weld system in New Orleans; the first Navy F-35 arrives at Eglin Air Force Base; and the release of the final draft of a report analyzing the impact of F-35 training at Eglin were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Aviation companies at the 50th Paris Air Show announced deals for about 1,460 aircraft over the show's four business days. The show's top aircraft sales performer was Airbus, but South American aircraft maker Embraer also racked up a lot of sales in the first two days of the show. Both companies are of interest to this region. Airbus broke ground in April on an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., while Embraer in March 2013 had a ribbon-cutting for its Super Tucano assembly plant in Jacksonville, Fla. (Post)

During the show, EasyJet said it will buy 135 Airbus single-aisle A320 jetliners, including 100 new engine option aircraft for $11.9 billion. EasyJet will acquire 35 current generation A320 aircraft for delivery between 2015 and 2017 under an existing option agreement, and 100 A320neo planes for delivery between 2017 and 2022 under a new deal. (Post)

The Lufthansa Group, meanwhile, firmed up a previous decision from March this year and signed for 35 A320neo, 35 A321neo and 30 A320ceo with sharklets. Lufthansa is the largest Airbus airline customer and operator in Europe. (Post)

International Lease Finance Corp. exercised options to purchase 50 incremental A320neo aircraft that were part of the agreement signed in April 2011 for 100 firm A320neo family aircraft. Deliveries of ILFC's neo aircraft are expected to begin in 2015. (Post)

With all that in mind, Airbus may increase A320 production by 19 percent by 2020 from 42 a month now to satisfy rising demand. That's according to Tom Williams, the Airbus executive vice president for programs. He said during the week that suppliers need to start thinking about a rate of 50 aircraft a month. (Post)

-- During the Paris Air Show, Honeywell and Safran publicly demonstrated the electric green taxiing system (EGTS) for the first time on an Airbus A320. The technology enables aircraft to taxi autonomously using its own electrical power, avoiding the use of the main engines during taxiing. (Post)

-- Meanwhile, in Mobile, Ala., Airbus chose two more people for its management team for the company’s new A320 final assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex. Mark Smith was named manager of health, safety and environment, and Darren Gates was named facilities manager. The company broke ground in April on its $600 million assembly line that will eventually have 1,000 workers. (Post)

A machine for manufacturing the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System was shown to the media during the week at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The three story tall, 165-ton vertical weld center, where friction-stir weld tooling will be used to assemble the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System. The 200 foot-tall core stage will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to feed the rocket's RS-25 engines. Engines for the SLS are tested at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Aerojet Rocketdyne, the company formed with GenCorp's purchase of Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, promised the U.S. government $1 billion in savings over the next decade as a result of the deal. Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren Boley told Reuters that the new company expected to double its revenues over the next five years from a current combined estimate of $1.7 billion. Aerojet Rocketdyne has an operation at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center. (Post)

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 welcomed the Navy's first F-35C from Lockheed Martin Saturday at the squadron's home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. VFA 101 will serve as the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, training both aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the F-35C. The F-35C is a fifth generation fighter outfitted to land on a carrier. Once in the fleet, it will complement the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, currently the Navy's premier strike fighter. (Post)

 -- The final draft of a report analyzing the impact of the F-35 program on the communities surrounding Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has been released. The report recommends that restrictions on flights that send air traffic over Valparaiso be lifted. The report also points out that the noise impact estimates across the board dropped by 2 to 3 decibels from the 2010 assessment. (Post)

ITT Exelis has been awarded a multimillion-dollar contract from Lockheed Martin to fabricate composite blade seal components for all variants of the F-35. This award will support production for LRIP 6 and 7 through 2015. Exelis has an operation in Panama City, Fla., that works with the Navy. (Post)

-- GE Intelligent Platforms of Huntsville, Ala., will supply Ethernet switches for the Navy's MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopters. The sole-source contract is for 15 RES-210 Ethernet switches for the Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout. The Fire Scout can operate from land bases or a variety of surface ships. The GE RES-210 Ethernet switch is designed for harsh environments, such as on military platforms that are subject to high altitudes, vibration, shock, temperature extremes, humidity, and salt fog. Fire Scouts are assembled in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- Raytheon Co. continues to exceed renegotiated delivery schedule requirements of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) to the U.S. Air Force following the renewal of contract payments in December 2012, a successful live-fire test and certification of a second rocket motor source. Nammo Group, the second AMRAAM rocket motor source based in Raufoss, Norway, was officially certified by the Nonnuclear Munitions Safety Board earlier this year. In 2010, Raytheon and Nammo began development and qualification of an alternative rocket motor for the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The live-fire test was performed in January 2013 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

At least 2,100 civilian employees at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base and Naval Support Activity Panama City will be impacted when furloughs begin July 8. About 700 U.S. Department of Defense civilians work at Tyndall, with furloughs scheduled through Sept. 30. There are about 1,474 people at the Navy base who will be furloughed. According to the DoD, the cuts would reduce pay about 20 percent over the furlough period. (Post)

-- An explosion at UTC Aerospace Systems in Foley, Ala., Friday morning injured two workers, one seriously. The plant is the former Goodrich facility, which became part of United Technologies last year. The plant is on the north side of Foley, near the municipal airport. Reports indicated the injured worker was cutting metal or welding when the explosion occurred. (Story)

The Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $29 million multi-year contract for full food services, including providing personnel, supervision, and any items and services necessary to operate three full dining facilities, one flight kitchen, and one central preparation kitchen in support of organizational missions as needed. Work will be at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The 81st Contracting Squadron/LGCB, Keesler AFB, is the contracting activity. (Post)

SCMF: The newly-founded Science Center for Marine Fisheries held its first meeting at the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center in Ocean Springs, Miss., Friday. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the University Cooperative Research Center, the SCMF utilizes academic, recreational and commercial fisheries resources to address urgent scientific problems limiting sustainable fisheries. (Post)

Contract: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, Moorestown, N.J., was awarded a $9.9 million modification to previously awarded contract for DDG Modernization testing efforts associated with the Aegis Combat System and MK 59 Decoy Launcher System shipcheck studies onboard DDG 62. Two percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Week in review (6/9 to 6/15)

For this region and the rest of the aerospace world, much of the focus in the coming week will be on the 50th International Paris Air Show. It begins Monday, and the first four days are exclusively for trade visitors. The last three days are open to the public.

Airbus got the headlines rolling when its A350 had its maiden flight Friday, guaranteeing headlines just as air show participants arrive. The plane, which like the Boeing 787 uses a lot of lightweight composite materials, took off from Toulouse-Blagnac airport for a four-hour flight that included flying over the Pyrenees.

The wide-body A350 is expected to show up at the Paris air show, possibly Friday. It has A350 and XWB written on its belly so folks on the ground will have no doubt what it is. The Gulf Coast has ties to the A350. It's powered by twin Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, tested at the Rolls-Royce outdoor facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The A350 competes with Boeing's 787 and 777, and so far there are over 600 orders for the A350. Airbus hopes to have the plane certified for commercial flight in 12 to 13 months. (Post)

On the eve of the show, Boeing raised its estimate of global demand for aircraft in the next 20 years by 3.8 percent to 35,280 planes. It also upped the value by 7 percent to $4.8 trillion. Pushing the numbers up are demand in the Asia-Pacific region and low-cost carriers.

Airbus estimated in its last forecast in September that from 2012-2031, demand for new airliners would total 28,200 worth $4 trillion. Boeing says that from 2013-2032, demand in the segment for medium-range airliners with a single aisle, typically supplied by the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, would total 24,670 aircraft worth $2.29 billion.

Airliner sales, particularly for single-aisle planes like the A320, are of high interest to this region of the country. Airbus broke ground in April on a $600 million final assembly line for A320s at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

This region and the states with a piece of this region are well-represented at the Paris Air Show. A four-member delegation from Northwest Florida is led by Florida’s Great Northwest. They have meetings scheduled with 14 aviation companies to discuss the benefits of operating in Northwest Florida. The group is coordinating efforts with Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, which has meetings with more than 40 companies. (Post)

Alabama leaders, economic development specialists and local officials from around the state are also attending the show in hopes of expanding Alabama’s aerospace footprint. The delegation from Alabama will meet with more than 20 companies, some who already have a presence in the state and others they hope to recruit. The Department of Commerce says more than 300 aerospace and aviation companies and organizations operate across Alabama. One of the most high profile is the Airbus assembly plant that is being built in Mobile. (Post)

Mississippi also will have a delegation at the show. The seven-member group includes Gov. Phil Bryant and the Mississippi Development Authority. The delegation has meetings set up with dozens of companies to discuss expansion opportunities, including some suppliers for the Airbus jetliner assembly line. (Post)

One of the events at the Paris Air Show that’s bound to get attention – it has in the past – is the Sunday reception on the Seine hosted by the Aerospace Alliance, an organization that helps market Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi’s aerospace activities.

In Alabama, the Mobile Airport Authority has launched discussions with two firms to develop as many as 215 acres at Brookley Aeroplex, where Airbus is building its $600 million final assembly line. The two firms are Baltimore-based Cordish and teammate Mobile-based JMG Realty. Brookley, a former Air Force base, now hosts aerospace and other companies. The authority envisions a total build-out of the aerospace hub that nearly doubles commercial space to 6 million square feet, creates a net increase of more than 4,000 jobs and houses as many as 10,000 employees. (Post)

- Year-over-year passenger traffic at the Mobile Regional Airport increased five percent to more than 191,000 by the close of April. Bill Sisson, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said several economic development successes, including the Airbus final assembly line project, have raised the regional airport's profile but are not solely responsible for the uptick in traffic. According to the authority's data, traffic has increased incrementally each month in 2013, and the airport is on track to record a landmark year for enplanements. (Post)

GenCorp, owner of rocket engine maker Aerojet, has been given the thumbs up from the Federal Trade Commission to buy Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies. The FTC ended its 10-month look into the matter after the Defense Department urged the $550 million purchase be OKd.

Both companies make rocket engines for spacecraft and components for military missile defense systems. They are also the only main suppliers of a high-performance liquid rocket propulsion system that the military uses for missile defense.

Rocketdyne has an operation at Stennis Space Center, Miss., where Aerojet tests its AJ-26 engines that power Orbital Science's Antares launch vehicle. The Rocketdyne operation has had different owners in the past. It was once owned by Boeing. (Post)

- NASA's Orion crew module, which will sit atop the launch vehicle in NASA's Space Launch System program, has passed its static loads tests. Engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., built a 20-foot-tall static loads test fixture for the crew module with hydraulic cylinders that slowly push or pull on the vehicle.

The fixture produced 110 percent of the load caused by eight different types of stress Orion will experience its test flight in September 2014. Orion also was pressurized to simulate the effect of the vacuum in space, allowing engineers verify repairs made to cracks in the vehicle's rear bulkhead found during pressure testing in November.

Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, builds Orion and the core stage of the Space Launch System, and Stennis Space Center, Miss., tests the AJ-26 and RS-25 engines that will be used to boost the SLS rockets. (Post)

- J-2X engine No. 10002 was tested during the week on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. The 60-second test signals the start of a series of firings to collect data on performance of the engine that will power a stage of the launch vehicle in NASA's Space Launch System. (Post)

Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury assumed command of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from Col. Andrew Toth as the week drew to a close. Canterbury, a former Thunderbird demonstration pilot, was executive officer for the Deputy Commander United States Forces Korea, United Nations Command, Seoul, South Korea, prior to his arrival at Eglin.

Also on Friday, Marine Col. Arthur Tomassetti retired during a ceremony in the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron -501 F-35B Hangar. Tomassetti has been with the F-35 program for almost 15 years and flew all three variants of the F-35. (Post)

- Israel's Elbit Systems-Cyclone delivered its first advanced composite component for the F-35 center fuselage made by Northrop Grumman. The component delivered is one of 16 parts to be manufactured by Elbit Systems-Cyclone under a seven-year agreement with Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman is a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team. (Post)

- There were two contracts awarded during the week in connection with the F-35 program. Pratt and Whitney Military Engines of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $648.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to extend the F135 System Development and Demonstration contract period of performance. The modification includes the procurement of two spare flight test engines and additional spare parts to support the F-35 Flight Test Program. (Post)

In addition, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $104.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the procurement and delivery of 83,169 Xilinx field programmable gate arrays for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and the governments of Italy, Turkey, Australia, Norway, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark. These FPGAs are required for the manufacture of the low rate initial production Lot VII through full rate production Lot III Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. (Post)

ATK and Finmeccanica's Alenia Aermacchi successfully completed the first phase of ground and flight tests of the MC-27J multi-mission aircraft. A roll-on/roll-off gun system pallet was installed and tested on the Spartan airlifter.

The tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., demonstrated the ability of the C-27J to host the self-contained, modular pallet utilizing ATK's GAU-23 30mm cannon in a side-firing configuration. The tests were designed and certified by the U.S. Air Force and deemed successful by Air Force Special Operations Command. (Post)

- Lt. Col. Patrick Godfrey assumed command of the 325th Communications Squadron from Lt. Col. Wayne Wisneski during a change of command ceremony Thursday at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The 325th Communications Squadron provides the 325th Fighter Wing and 29 associate units with advanced communications, computer and information management systems, air traffic control maintenance systems, postal and visual information support and communications security. (Post)

Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract to support the Navy's integration onto an unmanned surface vehicle the AQS-24A Side Look Sonar System. The AQS-24A and its predecessors airborne minehunting search systems have been used by the Navy for 28 years.

The AQS-24A is primarily towed from the MH-53E helicopter, but has been tested from USVs since 2002. The Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Fla., is among the Navy bases that have jointly developed an 11-meter USV that launched, recovered and towed the AQS-24A. (Post)

Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $534.8 million contract for AMRAAM Production Lot 27. Fifty one percent of the production effort is Foreign Military Sales (AIM-120 C7s for Oman and Saudi Arabia). Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBA, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $9.9 million delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for JASSM Common Unique Planning Component software. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBJK, Eglin, is the contracting activity.

NSC: Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss., received a $76.8 million contract from the U.S. Coast Guard to purchase long-lead materials for Kimball (WMSL 756), the company's seventh National Security Cutter (NSC). (Post)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Week in review (6/2 to 6/8)

There were a lot of stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week. Among them: Airbus may build even more A320s each month after the fuel-efficient A320neo is introduced; an F-35 in California notched a first by firing an air-to-air missile, and Eglin Air Force got two more F-35s during the week for a total of 25; additional acreage was purchased as a buffer around Eglin Air Force Base; Stennis Space Center is fabricating a huge part to allow it to begin testing the RS-25 that will power the first stage of the Space Launch System; the Mobile Airport Authority gets a new chief by the end of this month.

Here's the week in review:

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 training center, now has a fleet of 25 F-35s with the arrival during the week of two F-35A variants. The Air Force now has 12 F-35As, the Marine Corps has 11 and the United Kingdom embedded with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron-501 has two F-35Bs. The Navy will get its first two F-35C variants in the coming weeks. (Post)

Out in California at Edwards Air Force Base, an F-35A completed the first in-flight missile launch of an AIM-120, paving the way for targeted launches in support of the Block 2 capability later this year. The F-35A is designed to carry a payload of up to 18,000 pounds using 10 weapon stations. It features four internal weapon stations in two weapon bays, and can also utilize an additional three external weapon stations per wing if required. (Post)

Meanwhile, up in Maryland at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Squadron Leader Jim Schofield became the first Royal Air Force pilot to complete a vertical landing of an F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing late last month. Schofield said the F-35 has revolutionized STOVL flying. He said that with the press of a button, the aircraft transforms to STOVL mode and the plane can take off or hover hands-off. (Post)

The F-35 will reach operational milestones in 2015 for the Marine Corps, 2016 for the Air Force and 2019 for the Navy, according to details formally provided to Congress. Those are the dates that F-35 will achieve initial operational capability, the point when the services have enough planes on hand to go to war if needed. (Post)

The state of Florida bought a 20,850-acre buffer zone to help protect Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from any development that could interfere with its missions. The land, on the eastern side of Eglin in Walton County, was bought for $12.5 million. Florida committed $10.2 million, the federal government $1.75 million and Eglin $550,000. Bases across the country face encroachment issues as developments spring up and threaten military missions. (Post)

U.S. Air Force weapons experts will brief industry June 25 and 26 on fuze technology research efforts. The Fuze Technology Days event near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will enable government and industry to discuss research and development efforts in fuzing technology. The event is at the University of Florida Research and Engineering Education Facility adjacent to Eglin. (Post)

A sergeant with the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was awarded the Bronze Star during the week for his service during his nearly year-long deployment in Southwest Asia. Senior Master Sgt. Jamie Jordan oversaw maintenance for the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates from March 10, 2012, to Feb. 28, 2013. (Post)

Airbus could increase narrow body aircraft production once a revamped version of its A320 medium-haul jet enters service in late 2015. That’s according to Tom Williams, a senior executive, who said at a media briefing that Airbus could wind up building 44 planes per month. Airbus and rival Boeing are both expected to unveil orders at this month's Paris Air show. Airbus is building a $600 million final assembly line for the A320 family of jets in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas, was in Mobile to talk about the opportunities presented by the new Airbus assembly line being built at Brookley Aeroplex. He visited B.C. Rain High School, site of the county’s new Aviation and Aerospace Academy, then later was at a dinner for 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile. Airbus announced postings for its first manufacturing related positions. (Post)

Stennis Space Center, Miss., is building a new 7,755-pound thrust frame adapter for the A-1 Test Stand to enable testing of the RS-25 engines that will provide core-stage power for NASA's Space Launch System. NASA will begin testing the engines that were used to power the Space Shuttle in the fall of 2014.

Each rocket engine type requires a thrust frame adapter unique to its specifications. On the test stand, the adapter is attached to the thrust measurement system. A rocket engine then is attached to the adapter, which must hold the engine in place and absorb the thrust produced during a test, while allowing accurate measurement of the engine performance.

NASA and the Lockheed Martin Test Operations Contract Group team worked together in designing the new adapter, and communicated closely with Jacobs Technology welding and machine shop teams to make sure what was being designed actually could be built. The adapter is slated to be finished and installed on the stand in November 2013. (Post)

A former Diamondhead, Miss., business admitted making false statements on concrete-stress tests on jobs at Stennis Space Center. Robert C. Miller, doing business as Gulf Cities Testing Laboratories LLC, pleaded guilty in behalf of the company in U.S. District Court. (Post)

Veteran economic developer Roger Wehner will take over as executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority later this month. Wehner replaces Bill Sisson, who in April was named president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. (Post)

A United Airlines flight bound for Houston made an emergency landing Friday at Mississippi’s Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport after a tire blew out as it took off from the airport. No injuries were reported to the 50 passengers and three crew members. (Post)

Groundbreaking is expected before the end of the month on a $2.5 million aviation training center at H.L. “Sonny” Callahan airport in Fairhope. Faulkner State Community College, Enterprise State, Baldwin County Public Schools and the Fairhope Airport Authority announced plans for the 15,000-square-foot aviation center in February. (Post)

Contract: Huntington Ingalls of Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $3.3 billion contract for construction of five DDG 51 class ships, one in each of fiscal 2013-2017. (Post)

Ship names: Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the next three joint high speed vessels will be named USNS Yuma, USNS Bismarck and USNS Burlington, and two littoral combat ships will be named USS Billings and USS Tulsa. The JHSVs will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., and so will Tulsa. (Post)

Launch: Austal USA launched its third Joint High Speed Vessel, USNS Millinrocket, a 338--foot aluminum catamaran. (Post)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Week in review (5/26 to 6/1)

The latest edition of the annual Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor book is now available. You can download the PDF for free, or if you want a printed version you can order one at cost from a print-on-demand service.

The 96-page book by four current and former reporters - I'm one of them - highlights aerospace activities in the region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida along the Interstate 10 corridor. There are chapters on the region's role as an aerospace showcase, space activities, unmanned systems, military aviation and more.

More than a dozen underwriters supported the project, making it possible to provide the PDF free of charge and the printed version at cost. Also this year, a benefactor will be providing printed books to the Okaloosa County STEMM Center for teachers with aviation-related programs. We hope to get additional books to more teachers throughout the region during the year.

To dowload the book, visit the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor website and click on the link. You can either get the entire book or individual chapters.

Now for the week in review:

The chief executive of Airbus parent EADS says the company will sell more than 800 aircraft in 2013, beating its initial target by more than 100 units. That’s what Tom Enders told shareholders. His words come less than three weeks before the Paris Air Show, traditionally a robust ordering period for Airbus, which broke ground in April on a $600 million final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Mobile's Airbus plant is spurring some activity in Pensacola, Fla. The Florida Department of Transportation is offering Pensacola International Airport a three-year, $11 million grant for infrastructure improvements. Mayor Ashton Hayward said the airport needs apron space to draw the aerospace sector to the airport. (Post)

Huntsville, Ala.'s Cummings Aerospace now has an office in Niceville, Fla., to leverage opportunities at Eglin Air Force Base. Cummings Aerospace was established in 2009 as a defense contractor specializing in missiles. It has about 45 employees in Huntsville and Orlando and now one in Niceville. The company founder expects to have at least a dozen workers in Niceville by this time next year. (Post)

3-D printing is getting a lot of attention. In a story in Armed Forces Journal, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Llenza says 3-D printing, where items are printed layer by layer from powdered ingredients, could mean ships will be able to make their own parts insteaad of pulling into ports.

Last week NASA said it's given a grant to a company working on a 3-D food printer. It could transform the way astronauts eat in space. Next year, a 3-D printer is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station. It will produce the first parts ever made off planet Earth.

Earlier this year a J-2X engine with a 3-D part was tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Pratt & Whitney crafted the part with a 3-D print method called Selective Laser Melting to make the exhaust port cover. (Post)

NASA and Northrop Grumman will continue a partnership that involves using Global Hawks to track hurricanes. The unmanned aircraft, typically associated with the military, have been used on missions to investigate how hurricanes develop and to monitor their progress. Northrop's renewed agreement will run through April 30, 2018, and requires NASA to share the cost of operating the drones with Northrop, in exchange for being allowed to use the drones jointly. NASA this year is using a second Global Hawk in the program. Global Hawks, by the way, are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Col. Alexus Grynkewich assumed command of the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from Col. David Hicks during the week. Grynkewich was the vice commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., prior to his arrival at Eglin. Hicks will transfer to North American Aerospace Defense Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (Post)

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded a $435.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to procure four CH-53K System Demonstration Test Article aircraft. Two percent of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (Post)

Sea lions: Four young sea lions stranded on California beaches have a new home at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss. More than 1,000 sea lion pups have been abandoned on California beaches since January, more than three times the usual number. (Post)

Shipyard: Private equity firm Littlejohn & Co. of Greenwich, Conn., now has an ownership stake in Gulf Coast Shipyard Group, which owns Trinity Yachts and TY Offshore shipyards in Gulfport, Miss., and New Orleans. (Post)

Research lab: The first new building at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Miss., since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has opened. It’s the $1.2 million Field Studies Building. (Post)