Saturday, August 31, 2013

Week in review (8/25 to 8/31)

Progress on Mobile's Airbus assembly line; some more firsts for the F-35 fighter, including night shipboard landings and refueling firsts; an upcoming forum for companies that would like to do business with NASA; and formation of a manufacturing council in Northwest Florida were among the news items during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast region.

Here's your week in review:

A report on a global manufacturing trend pointed to the decision by Airbus to expand production into the United States as a prime example. The CNBC report focused on the Boston Consulting Group's recent report indicating the United States is rapidly becoming a low-cost leader for manufacturing. Part of the reason is that exports have been growing more than seven times faster than GDP since 2005. (Post)

That manufacturing trend will sound familiar if you read a copy of Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2013-2014, an annual book that was published in June. It had a chapter on foreign investments that suggested a new foreign investments wave was near. It, too, pointed to Airbus as a part of that trend. You can read the chapter by clicking here. If you want to look at the entire book, you can click here. I recommend it, but then again, I am part of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League, the team of reporters/editors who produced it.

Speaking of that Airbus plant, the company says 85 percent of the more than 2,100 pilings for the final assembly line hangar and service building have been driven at the Brookley Aeroplex site. Steelwork is slated to begin in September. The $600 million plant is scheduled to come online in 2015. (Post)

Meanwhile, an architectural firm in Fairhope was picked o work on portions of the Airbus A320 final assembly line campus being built at Brookley Aeroplex. Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects will be lead architectural firm for design of the transshipment hangar, main entry gate building and renovation of Brookley’s existing warehouse and receiving facility. (Post)

In Alabama's Baldwin County, school officials have moved the opening date to fall 2014 for their $2.7 million aviation training facility at the H.L. "Sonny" Callahan Airport in Fairhope. The school board approved an operating lease for the training center, which will be built as part of a partnership with Faulkner State Community College, Enterprise State Community College and the Fairhope Airport Authority. School officials had originally planned to start classes in January. (Post)

While on the topic of future workers, manufacturers in 12 Panhandle counties have formed the Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council. It's goal is development of a manufacturing workforce. The council estimates that 3,400 new skilled workers will be needed in the next five years, but regional education and workforce development programs forecast producing only 860 in that time. The council is working with schools, technical centers and state colleges develop curricula to provide students with the skills they need to work at a high-tech manufacturing business. (Post)

NASA is the focal point of a business-to-business forum Wednesday at the Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, Ala. NASA and an entourage of its agencies and prime contractors will give presentation and participate in a trade show to meet with small- and medium-sized companies interested in doing business with NASA. In the Gulf Coast region NASA operates Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The event, hosted by the Mobile Area Chamber, is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Post)

-- A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base during the week. The rocket’s common booster cores are powered by RS-68 engines assembled and tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Sierra Nevada of Colorado successfully completed a captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft Aug. 22 at Dryden Flight Research Center in California. Lockheed Martin is assembling the composite structure for the first space-bound Dream Chaser at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

Two F-35B fighters completed dozens of test flights from the deck of the USS Wasp over the past month. Marine Corps officials said the jets had made more than 90 successful vertical landings, including many at night. Marines plan to use their version – one of three variants – in mid-2015. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- An F-35 carrier variant refueled from an Air Force KC-135 for the first time Aug. 20. With the completion of this test, the F-35C joins the A and B models in proving that all three variants of the F-35 can be refueled from a common tanker platform, despite different methods. The Strike Fighter Squadron 101, the Navy's first F-35C carrier variant aircraft squadron, completed its first flight at Eglin Air Force Base in early August. (Post)

-- The weapons troop Standardization Load Crew from the 33rd Maintenance Group performed the first munitions load verification during the week on the F-35A. It involves loading and unloading laser-guided and GPS-guided bombs, and air-to-air missiles into the weapons bays of the aircraft. Ultimately, this is the work that is performed down range. Eglin is laying the foundation. (Post)

-- Pratt and Whitney of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded an advance acquisition contract valued at $69.6 million for long-lead components, parts and materials associated with the low rate initial production Lot VIII of 19 F135 engines for the Air Force; six for the Marines and four for the Navy. It also provides for long lead components, parts and materials associated with Lot VII of four F135 engines for Italy; four for the United Kingdom and two for Norway. (Post)

In anothe engine-related item, the Pentagon and Pratt & Whitney reached an agreement on a contract to build 39 engines for the sixth batch of F-35 fighters. In July, DoD agreed on a contract with Lockheed Martin for a sixth and seventh order of the F-35s. DoD buys the jet engines directly with Pratt and Whitney. (Post)

Air Force officials held a meeting in Apalachicola, Fla., to discuss making Tate's Hell State Forest a site for some Eglin Air Force Base training. Dozens of residents showed up to express concern about the land north of the coast in Franklin County. An Air Force official said the land has unique features, including abandoned logging roads that make good runways for small aircraft. (Post)

-- Cesar Pelli has joined the team redesigning the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The $826 million project will result in a new 30-gate terminal, complete with hotel, parking garage, highway access and other amenities. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $7 million contract modification for upgrade of the Visual and Joint Precision Airdrop systems on the C-130J maintenance and aircrew training system devices. Work will be done in Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., with completion by Dec. 31, 2014. … InDyne Inc., Reston, Va., was awarded a $250.3 million contract modification for Eglin Test & Training Complex range operations and maintenance services. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be completed by March 31, 2016. Air Force Test Center/PZZB, Eglin AFB, Fla., is the contracting activity. … A&D GC Inc., Santee, Calif., was awarded $9 million for firm-fixed-price task order under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract for Triton Maintenance Training Facility PM50 renovation at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif. Triton UAVs are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Workforce: Ingalls Shipbuilding President Irwin F. Edenzon spoke with the Pascagoula Rotary Club about the long-term future of the shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. Edenzon said the shipyard is ramping up to a workforce of about 13,000. (Post)
LCS 4: In Pascagoula, Miss., the future USS Coronado successfully concluded acceptance trials after completing a series of graded in-port and underway demonstrations for the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey. (Post)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Week in review (8/18 to 8/24)

A somewhat unsettling scenario is developing in the nation's space debris surveillance effort. With the next generation space surveillance system, Space Fence, now five years away and the current Air Force Space Surveillance System slated to be mothballed soon, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will have an increasingly important role tracking space debris.

Here's some background from a recent story in Space News:

The budget crunch is hitting the U.S. military space program, and the Air Force is delaying and revising plans for its next-generation space-object tracking system. The full-scale development contract for its next-generation Space Fence won't be awarded until next March, later than previously planned.

At the same time the Air Force expects to save about $14 million a year by shutting down the current space fence, which consists of a line of radars stretching across the southern United States. It's a key component of the overall U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which includes other ground- and space-based sensor assets.

Space Command is looking at modified operating modes for the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System (PARCS) at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., and the space surveillance radar at Eglin. While this points out the high value of the Eglin operation, T.S. Kelso, senior research astrodynamicist at the Center for Space Standards & Innovation, a research arm of orbit-modeling software provider AGI, is worried about depending too heavily on Eglin. Kelso said that with Eglin being the only remaining dedicated space surveillance radar, any outages there would effectively leave us blind. (Story)

We'll keep on an eye on this one. But if you want more background stories, tries these:
Space Fence shutting down?
AF begins using SBSS
Group tackling space debris
Feature: 20th Space Control Squadron
Here's an interesting video on space debris accumulation over the years.

-- By the summer of 2016 the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans will complete
construction of a tank for NASA's new Space Launch System. Gordon Bergstue, production director for Boeing, said the company is on schedule and in budget with the core stage of SLS.

The core stage is more than 200 feet tall and will store liquid hydrogen and oxygen to power four RS-25 engines that will lift SLS. The RS-25 engines will be tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss., some 35 miles from Michoud. (Post)

-- NASA during the week released new video animation showing how an asteroid capture mission might look. The images show crew operations including the Orion spacecraft’s trip to and rendezvous with the asteroid and astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in the SLS program. (Post)

The July/August 2013 issue of Business Facilities magazine has two Gulf Coast cities as No. 1 and 2 in a list of U.S. metro areas with the highest economic growth potential. Baton Rouge, La., was ranked at the top and Mobile, Ala., was No. 2. Mobile's ranking was for landing what the magazine called the “crown jewel” of aerospace manufacturing, the $600 million Airbus final assembly line.

Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers said Airbus will "be a powerful engine for growth in the Mobile region for decades to come." (Post)

Airbus is building a plant at the Brookley Aeroplex to assemble its A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. The plant will have up to 1,000 employees when it reaches full capacity. It will also mean over 3,000 construction jobs over next few years.

A supplier network is taking shape. A subsidiary of Labinal, Safran Engineering Services, announced in December that it will operate an engineering supporting facility in Mobile. Labinal is part of the French aerospace conglomerate, Safran Group.

Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Russell Clift recently performed the first F-35B night-time vertical landing aboard the USS Wasp. At the conclusion of Developmental Test Phase II, it is expected the Navy and Marine Corps will have sufficient data to support certification for future F-35B shipboard operations in anticipation of initial operating capability in 2015. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $34.5 million modification to the previously awarded Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6 Advance Acquisition contract for the F-35. This modification provides for the procurement of Autonomic Logistics Information System equipment, training devices and sustainment and logistics support for non-recurring engineering activities for the government of Italy. (Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet approved the purchase of a conservation easement on a 21,000-acre tract on the east side of Eglin Air Force Base. The $12.5 million purchase is being accomplished through a partnership with DOD's Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, with the department contributing $1.75 million and the Air Force $550,000. The Trust for Public Land also is a project partner. (Post)

One reason the state is interested in acquiring lands around bases is financial. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., just this week released its latest economic impact statement. The base, where F-22 pilots are trained, has a $617.8 million economic impact on Bay County and the surrounding area.

There are some 3,395 active duty military personnel at the base, and the economic impact considers payrolls, expenditures for contracts, materials, equipment, services, construction and other procurements. According to the latest figures from DoD, Tyndall's plant replacement value is set at $1.46 billion. (Post)

-- The Air Force's 96th Operations Group is doing some munitions testing in the Gulf of Mexico about 20 nautical miles south of Destin from through to Sept. 13. The morning tests, Mondays through Thursdays, are part of the 53rd Wing's Maritime Strike Program. (Post)

-- The 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., has a new commander. Brig. Gen. Patrick C. Higby replaced Brig. Gen. Brad Spacy during a change of command Friday. (Post)

-- The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., is back to operating seven days a week. It started closing on Mondays in early July to cut costs during sequestration. But earlier this month the Pentagon found other alternatives to save money and reduced the number of furlough days from 11 to six. (Post)

Weapon systems
There were some news stories during the week on three weapons systems of interest to the Gulf Coast region. One is an aircraft, the other two are munitions.

Xinhau, citing local media reports, said Japan plans to add the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance duties in 2015. The Global Hawk is likely to be deployed at the United States' Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, although other locations are also being considered. The Global Hawk will be jointly operated by the U.S. Air Force and Japan's Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Story)

On the weapons front, Boeing marked production of the 250,000th Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance kit, which converts unguided munitions into near-precision weapons. Maj. Gen. Scott W. Jansson, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., said JDAM remains a valuable asset to warfighters. With a range of more than 15 nautical miles, JDAM is an all-weather day or night weapon. (Post)

In another munitions-related item, Air Force researchers are asking industry to supply a high-power laser system. It should have output power of 1 to 1.5 Watts, operate at a wavelength of 2.95 microns and should be rugged enough to withstand shock of about six Gs. The Air Force Material Command AFTC/PZIO Operational Contracting Division at Eglin issued the solicitation. (Post)

LPD 25: The future USS Somerset, LPD 25, successfully completed builder's trials at Ingalls Shipbuilding's Avondale, La., yard. It's the ninth ship of the LPD 17-class of amphibious transport dock ships. (Post)

Contract: Lockheed Martin of Moorestown, N.J., was awarded an $18.2 million modification to previously awarded contract for cruiser and destroyer modernization testing efforts associated with the Aegis Combat System. Fifteen percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week in review (8/11 to 8/17)

A land swap deal in Pensacola, a huge purchase of Airbus A320s, a Navy F-35C makes its first flight at Eglin, a large F-35 order; a thruster is sent to SSC; a recovery test of the Orion space vehicle; the move of C-130Js from Keesler is delayed; four companies are awarded contracts to continue work on carrier-based UAVs; Fire Scouts wrap up their deployment in Afghanistan were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Land swap
In Florida, Escambia County is moving forward on a project to acquire 640 acres of Navy land in the county's Beulah community and turning it into a commerce park. In exchange, Escambia County would provide the Navy with 640 acres land in neighboring Santa Rosa County not far from Naval Air Station Whiting Field.

During the week the Escambia County Commission unanimously agreed to take the lead on the $16 million to $25 million deal to obtain Outlying Field 8, used by the Navy for helicopter training.

The hope is to provide a home for aerospace companies tied to the Airbus' final assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala. The land in question is adjacent to the 308-acre Navy Federal Credit Union campus and close to Interstate 10.

The commission set aside $200,000 to find and pay for a consultant to help conduct due diligence and to cover the cost of taking over other responsibilities on the agreement from the Greater Pensacola Chamber, which initiated the land swap that will take about two years to complete. Congress must also agree to the deal. (Post)

London-based International Airlines Group secured orders and options for up to 220 of Airbus A320 family short-haul aircraft, a deal worth to some $20 billion. The airlines group, which is the parent of British Airways and Iberia, said up to 120 of these orders will be for Spanish subsidiary Vueling, which joined IAG in April.

The Vueling agreement comprises 62 firm orders and 58 options. The firm orders will be delivered to Vueling between 2015 and 2020. IAG also has secured 100 A320neo options, which could be used for any of its airlines for aircraft replacements. (Post)

-- Airbus sent a team of specialists to Alabama in the wake of the crash during the week of a twin-engine A300-600F UPS cargo plane near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The crash killed the pilot and co-pilot of Flight 1354 from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham. The plane has been in service with UPS since 2003, and accumulated some 11,000 flight hours in about 6,800 flights, according to Airbus. (Post)

-- The first blue-collar job postings are expected as early as October for the final assembly line being built at Brookley Aeroplex. Lee Hammett, Alabama Industrial Development Training program’s assistant director for South Alabama, said his organization is working with Airbus to finalize guidelines and protocol for pre-employment training.

If Airbus OKs AIDT's hiring guidelines, orientations could begin in November followed by interviews in December and pre-employment training as early as January. The blue-collar workers will be the hourly employees who assemble the aircraft. The plant will open in 2015 and deliver its first A320 in 2016. (Post)

An F-35C, the Navy variant of the stealth fighter, completed its first training flight
during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 1.3-hour flight was made by Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 naval aviator Chris Tabert.

The squadron received the Navy's first F-35C from Lockheed Martin June 22. The flight was the first in the new Navy aircraft flown by a VFA-101 pilot at Eglin. VFA-101 will now begin to schedule and perform sorties under their own charter from their facilities at Eglin. (Post)

-- Military and community leaders in Beaufort, S.C., will get a chance to see F-35 fighters during an invitation-only event this week. Two F-35B fighters, flown up from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be on display during the showcase Tuesday.

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will eventually be home to three combat squadrons and two training squadrons of the next-generation jets. The air station is expected to get its first group of the fifth-generation fighters in January 2014, when its first training squadron will arrive. Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, now at Eglin, will relocate to MCAS Beaufort as part of the air station's new role. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a not-to-exceed $852.3 million modification to the previously awarded Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6 Advance Acquisition contract. This modification provides for the procurement of special tooling and special test equipment for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and the international partners, which is critical to preserving the current F-35 delivery schedules and meeting future production rates. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

Aerojet Rocketdyne shipped to NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., the first set of four Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) thrusters for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R).

At SSC, Lockheed Martin will integrate the thrusters and associated power conditioning units and electrical cabling with the GOES-R spacecraft. It will then be shipped to Lockheed Martin's facility near Denver, Colo. where it will undergo final integration and testing.

The completed satellite will ultimately be shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., for a planned late 2015 or early 2016 launch on an Atlas V 541 expendable launch vehicle. Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp company, also has an operation at SSC. (Post)

-- In Norfolk, Va., NASA conducted a stationary recovery test of the spacecraft Orion in the well deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington, while berthed at Naval Station Norfolk's Pier 12 on Aug. 15, 2013.

This successful test of the four-man, 16-foot capsule paves the way for future testing of NASA's Orion Program, including a West Coast underway recovery test in January, and the recovery of a low-orbit module following splashdown in the fall of 2014. NASA plans its first unmanned Orion voyage to take place in 2017, and a manned expedition in 2021.

The Navy has worked with NASA with space craft recoveries for programs including Mercury (1959-1963), Gemini (1961-1966) and Apollo (1961-1972). The last recovery done by the U.S. Navy was in 1975.

Orion was built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Story)

The Air Force Reserve will delay the move of C-130Js from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to Pope Field, N.C. The movement of planes from the 815th and 345th airlift squadrons was set for Oct. 1, but has been delayed until at least April 2014.

In addition to the loss of aircraft, the 815th and its active duty partners, the 345th, are also slated to shut down. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the Hurricane Hunters, will not lose aircraft or personnel. (Post)

-- A federal judge ruled in favor of Bay County over a water and sewer rate dispute with Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Tyndall refused to pay at higher levels for sewer and water service when the county increased rates, saying system upgrades did not directly benefit the base.

The county said Tyndall owes $850,000 dating to the first rate increase in 2007. While the ruling sided with the county, it said Tyndall is obligated to pay the higher rate back to March 14, 2011, when the lawsuit was filed. (Post)

-- After two years as the 81st Training Wing's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Angie Johnson is leaving Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to become the command chief for Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Johnson's successor will be Chief Master Sgt. Farrell Thomas, who has served for the past three years as the special assistant to the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force at the Pentagon. (Post)

Four defense companies each have been awarded $15 million to continue work on a new
unmanned combat plane for the Navy. Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomic each won awards for preliminary design review assessment for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) Air Vehicle. Work runs through June 2014.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. Under a separate contract, Northrop Grumman's X-47B has already logged a catapult launch and arrested landing from the deck of a carrier. (Post)

-- The Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter wrapped up its Afghanistan mission earlier this month after more than 5,000 flight hours, the program's top officer said during the week at an unmanned-vehicle symposium.

Since deploying to Afghanistan in 2011, the MQ-8 Fire Scout system has provided real-time airborne surveillance and targeting supporting counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), provided targeting support and delivered real-time video to military forces on the ground.

Northrop Grumman is under contract to the Navy to build the first eight of 30 planned MQ-8C versions of the Fire Scout, which will have twice the endurance, three times the payload capability, and will be ready for operation next year. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Whitesell-Green Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $15.9 million contract for construction of a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Mission Control Complex at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

NSC: Ingalls Shipbuilding launched Hamilton (WMSL 753), the company's fourth Legend-class national security cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard. (Post)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Week in review (8/4 to 8/10)

Many of you are aware of the annual aerospace book "Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor," which published for the third year in June. And you're likely also aware of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor daily news feed, as well as this weekly column.

Well beginning in September you'll also be able to get a quarterly update of Gulf Coast aerospace activities through a brand new newsletter produced by the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League, the team behind the annual book.

The quarterly will be a free, downloadable PDF and will provide in-depth stories about this region’s aerospace activities. The newsletter will be available on the website, and we'll also send out a news brief on the RSS feed letting you know when it's published.

What's becoming increasingly clear is that we're focusing on the right topic at the right time. Our first annual was published in 2011, and the aerospace news digest goes back to 2008 with a news archive dating to 2005. The news feed gets thousands of page views each month, with many of the readers from foreign countries.

Economic development groups in the Gulf Coast have shown a strong belief in this region's aerospace future. Many of them are underwriters for our news and information efforts. But they also have their own programs.

The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce recently created an online survey to attract and recruit experienced workers interested in pursuing aviation/aerospace careers. Further to the east, Florida's Great Northwest recently launched a website about aerospace activities in Northwest Florida. FGNW is working with counterparts to the east to extend its area of aerospace interest all the way to Jacksonville, Fla., and up the coast to Charleston, S.C.

To the west, South Mississippi has been interested in aerospace and other science and technology fields for a very long time. I once worked with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Alliance for Economic Development, a multi-county organization, to create materials on their sci-tech activities, including aerospace.

And Mobile is continuing to make the most of Airbus' decision more than a year ago to build an A320 final assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex. The new head of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce is Bill Sisson, who until recently was head of the Mobile Airport Authority. And the person who replaced Sisson at MAA, Roger Wehner, is also quite familiar with efforts to make Mobile a center for aircraft manufacturing.

So keep your eyes on this region. A lot of aerospace activity is going on and will continue to do so, and we'll do our best to keep you up to date. Now here's the week in review:

At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the F-35s are continuing to ramp up training and have started to simulate some combat-type missions. For the first time last month, the F-35 was controlled by an air battle management squadron on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

"It's what we would do in the real world," said Col. Stephen Jost, commander of the 33rd Operations Group at Eglin AFB. As more F-35s arrive, more sorties are flown and more students put through the F-35 training program.

The air battle managers are with the 337th Air Control Squadron, which falls under the 33rd Operations Group but is stationed at Tyndall AFB in Panama City. The 337th trains about 130 students a year to become air battle managers.

Their radar equipment provides a much broader view than the radars inside the F-35. The equipment can pick up anything flying over the Gulf of Mexico from Houston to down and around the Florida peninsula and then up the East Coast to Virginia. (Post)

-- A Lockheed Martin short takeoff/vertical landing F-35B, designated BF-1, completed its 500th vertical landing August 3. It's the same plane that marked the variant's first vertical landing in March 2010 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

This week Developmental Test 2 sea trials are scheduled to begin onboard the USS Wasp. DT-2 is the second of three planned tests aimed at defining and expanding the F-35B's shipboard operating envelope for the U.S. Marine Corps.

The first shipboard testing phase was successfully completed in October 2011, when an F-35 successfully completed an at-sea landing. The successful completion of the upcoming Sea Trials is key to declaring F-35 Initial Operating Capability for the Marines in 2015. (Post)

The Air Force is closing part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris. It could happen as soon as Oct. 1. Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System, known as Space Fence and a component of the U.S. space surveillance network, be closed and all sites vacated.

A memo obtained by SpaceNews to Five Rivers Services of Colorado Springs, Colo., operator of the Space Fence, said the Air Force was not exercising its option for a fifth year of a contract for the nine field stations. And that's a big deal since Space Fence is responsible for about 40 percent of all observations of the space surveillance network.

Shelton said in July that engineers at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the 20th Space Control Squadron, were looking for ways to improve the current Space Fence should funding not come down the pike for the next-generation system. (Post)

-- Space Florida during the week moved forward with plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars. The board approved spending up to $4 million to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center.

The future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously the Air Force confirmed studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape. (Post)

The Navy plans to fly its two Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrators into 2014. The service had earlier said that the prototypes would be retired after demonstrating the ability to make carrier arrested landings at sea. That was accomplished July 10.

The two X-47Bs will stay at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., while the program continues to assess potential opportunities for additional tests at Pax River and at-sea, according to the Navy. Critics said the Navy was prematurely retiring the two testbeds.

The X-47B isn't built in the Gulf Coast region, but Northrop Grumman Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. The X-47B is also of interest to the Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., which eventually will get one of the X-47Bs to put on display. (Post)

-- The Federal Aviation Administration's recent certification of ScanEagle and Puma unmanned aircraft for commercial use further opens up the U.S. market for drones. The agency in late July gave the green light to Boeing's Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment's Puma.

Congress called on the FAA to write rules by 2015 that would govern the commercial operation of drones in the national airspace. The Teal Group has estimated that annual spending on drones around the world will almost double to $11.4 billion by 2022.

The FAA said a major energy company plans to fly the ScanEagle off the Alaska coast to survey ice flows and whale migration, and the Puma will be used for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

Fire Scout and Global Hawk UAVs are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and Camp Shelby is home of a UAV regional flight center for the Army National Guard. The Puma is among the UAVs used at Camp Shelby. Special Forces also fly UAVs at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., also have drone activities. (Post)

A bulk order from easyJet in July allowed Airbus to overtake Boeing in orders for commercial aircraft in the first seven months of this year. Airbus booked new orders for 174 jetliners in July, thanks to a bulk order from easyJet for 135 A320 single-aisle planes.

July's orders brought to 892 the number of firm orders booked by Airbus over the first seven months of this year, and put it well over the net firm order total of 833 recorded in 2012. All but seven of July's new orders were for the A320 jets, a workhorse for low-cost airlines. Airbus is building an A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

A chafed electrical wire is being blamed for the crash of an F-22 in November at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The pilot ejected and nobody was injured on the ground. The 43rd Fighter Squadron jet was the lead of a two-ship training mission. According to the board's findings released Friday, the fire damaged the hydraulic system and caused the pilot to be unable to control the jet. (Story)

-- Hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilian employees who have had to take a weekly unpaid day off from work since July 8 are getting some relief, as the total number of furlough days was reduced from 11 to six. Civilian workers in the Gulf Coast’s multiple bases have been subjected to furloughs. (Post)

-- Newly promoted Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson received his second star during a pin-on ceremony Aug. 2 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Jansson, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons, Armament Directorate, pinned on the rank of major general in a ceremony officiated by Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II, commander, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. (Post)

Nova Group Inc., Napa, Calif., was awarded a contract with a maximum value of $14.9 million for the construction of a fuel storage facility at Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther, Fla. A combination of fiscal 2009, fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2013 military construction funds are being obligated on this award. The Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. … CACI-ISS Inc., Chantilly, Va., was awarded an $8.7 million contract for healthcare facilities support to support Air Force Medical Support Agency mission. The long list of bases where work will be performed includes Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Work is expected to be completed by Aug. 31, 2016.

Zumwalt: The Navy is switching to a steel deckhouse for the next Zumwalt-class destroyer, DDG-1002, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson. The Navy was reportedly unhappy with the costs of the composite structures for the first two Zumwalt ships. Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, Miss., built those structures. (Post)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Week in review (7/28 to 8/3)

The parent of Airbus is changing its name; another Mobile, Ala., firm is picked to work on the Airbus assembly line project at Brookley Aeroplex; a key segment of the Space Launch System is unveiled at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans; the comment period for plans to allow more F-35 flights over Valparaiso, Fla., ends; and an agreement to buy 71 more F-35s were some of the aerospace stories of interest for the Gulf Coast region during the week.

But before we go into the week in review, it's appropriate to mark a passing.

Last weekend retired Air Force Col. George "Bud" Day died at age 88. Day, who lived in Shalimar, Fla., was among the nation's most highly decorated servicemen with nearly 70 medals, including the Medal of Honor.

He served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and was a prisoner of war in Vietnam's Hanoi Hilton, where he shared a cell with John McCain. About 1,500 people attended his funeral Thursday, and several thousand more lined U.S. 98 as the funeral procession drove to Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Fla.

Now here's the week in review:

Airbus was a hot topic at the Economic Development Association of Alabama's summer conference this week in Point Clear, Ala.. According to the Mobile Press-Register, the prevailing belief at the gathering is that the $600 million A320 final assembly line being built at Brookley Aeroplex is just the beginning.

It's been said from the start that the plant, which had a groundbreaking in April, may expand beyond what's already in the works. When it's in production in 2015, the Mobile plant will be assembling 10 percent of the company's A320 jetliners. But there's room to grow at Brookley.

One of the interesting points brought up at the meeting is that the area between Mobile, Ala., and North Charleston, S.C., may become a hot spot for suppliers. Airbus will be building A320 jetliners in Mobile and Boeing is building 787 jetliners in North Charleston. Mark Williams, chief executive of Strategic Development Group Inc., in Columbia, S.C., said Alabama, George and South Carolina are well-positioned.

But it might also be appropriate to add North Florida to that mix. In addition to the aerospace activity in the Panhandle, Brazil's Embraer opened a plant in a hangar at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport to build the A-29 Super Tucano planes for the Air Force. Further up the coast in Savannah, Ga., is headquarters for business jet builder Gulfstream, a General Dynamics company.

-- The parent of Airbus is changing its name from EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.) to Airbus Group and putting its space and military units into one division. Airbus Group will consist of three divisions: Airbus, comprising all commercial operations; defense and space, which combines the company's Cassidian defense division with aerospace unit Astrium; and helicopters. The changes will begin in January. (Post)

-- Jean Botti, the chief technology officer from EADS, told an audience in Mobile, Ala., that cybersecurity, alternative fuels and aerodynamics are key research and development areas for the company. It wants to develop partnerships with the University of South Alabama and others to develop those areas in the coming decades. Botti was a speaker at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s Advisors and Directors Summer Meeting. EADS has more than 350 global partnerships that have led to products needed by the aerospace company. (Post)

-- Speaking of products needed by the aerospace industry, Airbus got initial EASA certification of its Runway Overrun Prevention System (ROPS) technology on A320 current engine option family aircraft. The on-board cockpit technology increases pilots’ situational awareness during landing, reduces exposure to runway excursion risk, and if necessary, provides active protection. European Aviation Safety Agency certification of ROPS on the A320ceo is a step on the way to making ROPS available for line-fit and retrofit to other Airbus models. (Post)

-- Mobile-based Thompson Engineering will provide engineering services for Package D of the Airbus final assembly line being built in Mobile. Birmingham-based Hoar Program Management announced the contract Thursday. It will include design for utilities, parking lots, airfield pavements, security, electrical, communications, infrastructure and landscaping. (Post)

-- Airbus America posted two more job openings for its assembly line at Brookley. The company is seeking one person to fill the role of Avionics/Electrical Installation Station Coordinator and another to fill the role of Mechanical Installation Station Coordinator. (Post)

The first liquid hydrogen tank barrel segment for the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System recently was completed at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The segment validates the vertical weld center, a friction-stir-weld tool for wet and dry structures on the SLS core stage, is working the way it should. NASA and Boeing engineers have been conducting friction-stir-welding tests at Michoud to ensure quality and safety of flight hardware. (Post)

The comments period on a proposal to allow more F-35 jets to fly over Valparaiso, Fla., has ended. Nearly 70 people lodged comments, according to a preliminary analysis. About 20 percent favored lifting restrictions on the runway that would send F-35 traffic over Valparaiso. The main concerns of those opposed to the plan are noise and impacts to property values. A final report is expected to be released to the public this fall. The F-35 Integrated Training Center is at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin reached agreement on orders for 71 more F-35s worth as much as $7 billion. The deal includes 36 jets in the sixth lot and 35 in the seventh, with 60 going to the U.S. military and 11 for Australia, Italy, Turkey and Britain. (Post)

-- Northrop Grumman delivered its 100th AN/ASQ-242 communications, navigation and identification (CNI) system to Lockheed Martin Corp. for integration into the F-35. CNI provides pilots with the capability of more than 27 avionics functions. It allows the simultaneous operation of multiple functions, including Identification Friend or Foe, navigation, and various voice and data communications. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions, Owego, N.Y., TYBRIN Corp., Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Harris IT Services Corp., Dulles, Va.; SRA International, Fairfax, Va.; Raytheon, Garland, Texas; and L-3 National Security Solutions, Reston, Va., were awarded a $960 million multiple award contract for Network-Centric Solutions-2 (NETCENTS-2) Application Services. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/HICK, Maxwell Air Force Base-Gunter Annex, Ala., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, Owego, N.Y., was awarded a $39.4 million contract to provide flight test, technical, management, and process support services necessary to update and maintain operational software, vendor software, maintenance-related software, and laboratory support software in support of the MH-60R/S and SH-60B aircraft. Pascagoula, Miss., will perform 1.5 percent of the work.

LPD 27: The keel of Ingalls Shipbuilding’s 11th amphibious transport dock ship Portland (LPD 27) was authenticated Friday at the company's shipyard. (Post)