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)