Saturday, July 20, 2013

Week in review (7/14 to 7/20)

A possible name change for EADS; an upward revision of numbers for Airbus; the crash of a second target drone in a week at Tyndall Air Force Base; delivery of an upgraded version of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the Navy; kudos for an F-35 flight equipment team; the launch of the Navy’s second MUOS satellite; a target date to launch Orbital Sciences' cargo spacecraft; an update on a resort being built on Air Force property near Fort Walton Beach; and a change of command were some of the aerospace stories of interest for the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., or EADS, is considering changing the company's name to the Airbus Group. That's according to Reuters. The change would reflect the success of the company's commercial aircraft sales, two thirds of EADS revenue. The value of the commercial jet sales is expected to increase as airlines move towards more fuel-efficient models. Some of those jetliners will eventually be build along the Gulf Coast. Airbus broke ground in April on an A320 assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Airbus, by the way, has raised its order target for 2013 to more than 1,000 aircraft, compared with a previous goal of over 800, sales chief John Leahy told Reuters. That puts Airbus on course to beat its 2012 gross order tally of 914 aircraft. Airbus is trying to regain leadership of the $100 billion annual jet market after Boeing grabbed the top spot in both orders and deliveries last year. So far Boeing is winning this year's order race. (Post)

-- Why did Airbus opt to put that assembly line in Mobile? Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor wrote that it all boils down to the relationship Airbus and Mobile had built over the years. McArtor wrote in a guest column for CNBC that Airbus felt Mobile and Alabama would be the ones to stand with the company and meet its needs.

The relationship goes back to the years when EADS, Airbus' parent company, was competing to build tankers for the Air Force. That contract eventually went to Boeing, but it started a relationship that eventually resulted in the A320 assembly line. The first Mobile-assembled A320 will be delivered in 2016. (Post)

Northrop Grumman delivered the first upgraded version of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the U.S. Navy earlier this month. The new MQ-8C uses a larger airframe than the MQ-8B Fire Scout. But both aircraft share proven software, avionics, payloads and ship ancillary equipment.

The upgraded Fire Scout responds to an urgent need to provide the Navy with increased endurance, range and payload. It has three times the payload and double the endurance of the MQ-8B, which currently operates on Navy frigates and in Afghanistan. The first deployment of the upgraded MQ-8 system with the MQ-8C Fire Scout aircraft will be in 2014. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- An unmanned Air Force QF-4 target drone assigned to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group crashed on the drone runway during take-off during the week, forcing the closing of U.S. 98 for a day. Target drones are equipped with a self-destruct charge powered by a short-life battery that takes 24 hours to fully deplete, and it was a matter of safety to close the road.

The crash occurred while a second drone was in the air. That drone, as planned, was destroyed by a missile over the Gulf of Mexico. The drones assigned to the 53rd WEG run about 100 missions each year and are used as targets for manned aircraft. Just a week earlier another QF-4, which will ultimately be replaced by QF-16s, was destroyed near Port St. Joe after it veered from its planned flight path. (Post)

Lockheed Martin was awarded a $70.4 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, material and components required for the delivery of seven conventional take off and landing F-35 aircraft and one short take-off vertical landing F-35 for the government of Italy. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin recently delivered the 100th Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) for the F-35. It combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track functionality to provide pilots with situational awareness and air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting from a safe distance.

Lockheed Martin is producing EOTS under the seventh low-rate initial production contract. Components are made at the company's Ocala, Fla., and Santa Barbara, Calif., facilities. Lockheed Martin also makes the low observable window for the aircraft at the company's Orlando, Fla., facility. (Post)

-- One of the Air Force's newest aircrew flight equipment teams is now the Air Force's best. The 33rd Fighter Wing's aircrew flight equipment flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was chosen the best in the Air Force in the small program category for 2012. The wing is the only unit to fly and train on the F-35A fifth generation fighter. (Post)

-- The first F-35B is now at Cherry Point Fleet Readiness Center East in North Carolina to undergo modifications. Workers will reinforce hinges on doors that allow the F-35B to take off and land vertically as part of the first modification to the jets. Such modifications are common once an aircraft joins the fleet. Lt. Col. Steve C. Gillette, of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, flew the F-35 unescorted from Elgin Air Force Base, Fla., to Cherry Point on July 9. (Post)

The Navy's second Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite was launched Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., atop an Atlas V. The system is a key step in providing enhanced satellite communications for the Navy and Department of Defense. MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed to improve beyond-line-of-sight communications for U.S. forces.

MUOS will provide military users 10 times more communications capacity over the existing system by leveraging 3G mobile technology, including simultaneous voice and data capability. Work on the core propulsion system for the MUOS, an A2100 satellite-based spacecraft, is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- A measure to create a commission to look at consolidating Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center and Mississippi's Stennis Space Center was withdrawn at the last minute Thursday. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., who represents an area where Goddard Space Flight Center is located, was reportedly upset over cuts in programs managed by Goddard.

Her amendment would have directed the BRAC-like panel to study MSFC and SSC "to determine if their rocket-related activities should be combined in one location." The measure also directed the panel to look at moving Marshall's work to Stennis or Houston's Johnson Space Center. (Post)

-- Orbital Sciences' cargo spacecraft is set to make its first flight to the International Space Station in September. The Dulles, Va., company has a launch window between Sept. 14 and 19 for the Cygnus cargo ship. It will be launched atop an Orbital Science Antares rocket. Orbital was awarded a NASA contract to provide at least eight resupply flights to the ISS. The first stage Antares is powered by twin Aerojet AJ26 engines tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Construction crews are less than a year away from completing a resort in Northwest Florida being developed under an enhanced use lease (EUL) with the Air Force. The Holiday Inn Resort, slated to open in the spring of 2014, is being built on 17 acres of land on Santa Rosa Island owned by Eglin Air Force Base.

The land is used to perform telemetry testing by the 96th Test Wing. The developer will provide infrastructure for Eglin’s 96th Test Wing to install test monitoring equipment on the hotel’s roof that previously sat at ground level. The construction team is getting ready to pour the fifth floor sometime before August. (Post)

-- Col. Daniel J. Orcutt, former Strategy Division chief of the 609th Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia, received the guidon and command of the 505th Command and Control Wing during a change of command ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 9. He took over from Col. Mustafa Koprucu. Maj. Gen. Jeffery Lofgren, the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, presided over the ceremony. (Post)

Contract: Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va., was awarded a $10.2 million modification under a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for services supporting Military Sealift Command's information technology ashore operations. Some of the work, 2.4 percent, will be done in Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

Workers: Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss., has applied for a $1.3 million Hurricane Katrina-related community development block grant to add a basic skills training annex to the nearly complete Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy. (Post)

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