Saturday, November 30, 2013

Week in review (11/24 to 11/30)

With the Airbus A320 final assembly line taking shape in Mobile, Ala., economic development officials are pushing hard to lure suppliers to the Gulf Coast region. And December promises to be a big month.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield will lead a delegation to Hamburg, Germany, this week for the Aviation Forum 2013, a Dec. 4-5 conference that attracts aviation suppliers looking to work with aerospace giant Airbus.

"The Aviation Forum gives Alabama the opportunity to get in front of dozens of companies who will be looking to support the Airbus final assembly line in Mobile," Canfield said. "Our goal is to make sure each and every one of those companies know about the development sites, infrastructure and opportunities in Alabama should they consider a location in our state in support of the Airbus Mobile operations."

The Alabama group includes a South Alabama contingent that will be led by Sandy Stimpson, the new mayor of Mobile, who's making his first trip to Germany since taking office Nov. 4. Joining Stimpson, who will be one of the speakers at the forum, will be representatives from the Mobile County Commission, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Mobile Airport Authority, Alabama State Docks, Alabama Power Co., and the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.

"This is an incredible opportunity to showcase Mobile on the international stage before many Airbus partners and suppliers," Stimpson said in a news release. "Our mission is to make them aware of what we have available in our region and recruit these jobs to Mobile."

During their stay the Alabama group will meet with Airbus company leaders and tour the Airbus Hamburg plant. They'll also meet individually with several supplier companies during the conference. (Post)

The Alabama group won't be the only ones from this region in Germany. The Gulf Coast Aerospace Coalition, formed in September by Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties, will also attend the Aviation Forum.

The coalition is also hosting the first International Aerospace Industry Forum for Northwest Florida Leadership in Hamburg Dec. 8-11. The primary purpose is to educate the group about Airbus' impact on the region, as well as elevate the visibility of Northwest Florida.

Among other things, those attending the leadership forum will hear from European speakers about education and skilled training expectations from Airbus and its subcontractors, and what they will be looking for in expansion opportunities.

-- Because the groups will be in Hamburg, one topic likely to come up may be the protests that took place in Hamburg and 29 other locations during the week. More than 20,000 EADS workers, including those who work for Airbus, took to the streets in Germany to protest restructuring plans they fear could cost thousands of jobs.

EADS is planning to combine its defense and space subsidiaries next year and might sell some operations. EADS, which has some 140,000 workers worldwide, including 50,000 in Germany, wants to streamline the collection of German, French and Spanish businesses that created the company in 2000.

The reorganization follows the company's decision this year to scrap a decades-old Franco-German ownership pact to reduce government interference and give management more freedom to reshape the group. The name EADS is being dropped in favor of Airbus Group, after its best-known product. (Post)

-- Another topic likely to come up in the German trip will be Boeing's decision to look at locations outside of Washington State to build the 777X. It's an improved version of the Boeing plane, and among other improvements will have longer, composite wings that will fold up on the ends so it can still be handled at current airports. Boeing said it was looking elsewhere after machinists rejected a contract extension that included labor concessions. One site being considered is Huntsville, Ala.

Boeing is the largest aerospace company in Alabama, where it's had a presence for more than 50 years. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Canfield recently met with Boeing officials to discuss building the 777X in Alabama. Boeing has already said some engineering work on the 777X will be done in Huntsville.

But it's also possible Boeing will reach an accord with its union and keep the 777X at the same location where the current 777 is built.

-- One final Airbus-related item: Spring Airlines Co., China's biggest non state-controlled carrier, agreed to buy 30 additional A320 jets and may buy more as government policy shifts to favor discount airlines. The Shanghai-based airline signed an agreement on Nov. 22 for the A320 single-aisle jets due from 2015, pending government approval. The purchase has a list price of about $2.75 billion. (Post)

The Air Force is eliminating the selective reenlistment bonus (SRB) for 45 career fields,
officials said during the week. Airmen in fields with canceled bonuses have until Wednesday, Dec. 4, to reenlist and still receive the bonus.

Ten career fields still in high demand with low manning, such as battlefield airmen and cyberspace specialties, remain on the SRB list. The changes are being blamed on sequestration and the push for a smaller Air Force.

Tyndall AFB, Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field and Keesler Air Force Base are all in the Gulf Coast region. (Post)

-- The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., has a new motion simulator ride: the Blue Angels 4D simulator. The simulator gives the rider a feeling of what it’s like to fly with the Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornets. The ride opened Nov. 8, and while getting into the museum is free, it costs $7 to go on the simulator. (Post)

The Mississippi Research Consortium has been awarded a $10 million contract to provide engineering and scientific research to NASA, other government agencies and various tenants at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The period of performance will be a one-year base period with four one-year options through Nov. 30, 2018.

Areas of work include rocket propulsion testing research and development, project formulation, new business development, remote sensing applications, ecosystem integration and analysis, coastal community resiliency and sustainable development, water quality, climate change and variability effects on regional ecosystems, acoustics, image analysis, geographic information systems, computational fluid dynamics, polymers/ceramics, electron microscopy, micro-electromechanical systems, magneto hydrodynamics, diagnostics instrumentation, and other associated scientific, computational and engineering areas.

The consortium includes Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, University of Southern Mississippi and University of Mississippi. (Post)

-- An Aerojet AJ26 engine had a successful hot fire test at Stennis Space Center, Miss., Nov. 21. The test was on the E1 test stand and lasted the full duration 54 seconds. The AJ26 provides the power for the first stage of 133-foot tall Antares launch vehicle, built by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Orbital is one of the companies under contract to NASA to provide supply missions to the International Space Station. In October, the Antares launched the company’s Cygnus spacecraft on a successful mission to the ISS.

Earlier this month, J-2X engine E10003 had a successful 50-second test at SSC. (Post)

Rolls-Royce was awarded a $215 million contract to produce and support LiftSystems for the F-35B, the Marine Corps variant that can take off and land vertically. The new agreement with Pratt and Whitney for the sixth production lot includes six LiftSystems, plus sustainment, program management, engineering and field support.

Pratt and Whitney's F135 engine powers all three variants of the F35. Rolls-Royce has delivered 42 LiftSystems and has expanded field support to include five locations where F-35B aircraft are flown, including Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., center for F-35 training. (Post)

-- Will the cost of an F-35 drop? Some think that's possible if South Korea ends up buying 40 of the Lockheed Martin-built planes. The thinking is it could save the U.S. military about $2 billion by driving down the per-plane cost.

The buy would offset any move by the U.S. military to deal with mandatory budget cuts by postponing orders for more than 50 jets over the next five years. One analyst said Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand might follow suit and order F-35s. (Post)

A second of the larger-version Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has been delivered to the Navy. Final assembly of the MQ-8C was done at Northrop Grumman’s unmanned systems center at the Jackson County Aviation Technology Park in Moss Point, Miss., adjacent to the Trent Lott International Airport.

The 101,000 square-foot Moss Point facility opened in 2006 and has been the final assembly location for the MQ-8B Fire Scout, the smaller version of the UAV. It also does center fuselage work on all variants of the Global Hawk.

Doing the final assembly of the larger version of the Fire Scout, which uses a Bell 407 airframe, makes sense. According to George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems for Northrop Grumman, the company has a lot of confidence in the manufacturing experience of the Moss Point plant. It's been doing finishing work on the smaller B model from the beginning.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout can fly twice as long and carry three times more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads than the existing variant. In addition to the two test aircraft, 14 new Fire Scouts are under contract to be built. The Navy's current plan is to buy 30 MQ-8C Fire Scouts. (Post)

-- Speaking of Fire Scouts, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $13.9 million contract for logistics services in support of both the MQ-8B and MQ-8C. This work will be done in Patuxent River, Md., and Pt. Mugu, Calif., and is expected to be completed in November 2014. (Post)

-- Over in Panama City, Fla., at Tyndall Air Force Base, the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron got the last of the QF-4 aerial targets on Nov. 19. The Phantom had been in the “Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., for more than 20 years before being called on for a new role.

The QF-4 serves as a full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing. More than 300 of the Vietnam-era planes were repurposed to serve as drones that can be flown remotely.

Over the years, 250 of the Phantoms have been destroyed over the Gulf of Mexico and the ranges near Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The QF-4s will eventually be replaced by QF-16s, a remotely piloted version of the venerable Fighting Falcon. (Post)

If you want to learn more about the Tyndall Air Force Base drones, take a look at the September issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor newsletter: New drones a quantum leap. For even more detail on unmanned systems and robotics, take a look at Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2013-2014, Chapter V, Unmanned systems/robotics.

Submersible: Lockheed Martin won a $10 million contract to lease the S301i, a commercial dry submersible vessel, to support risk mitigation research for the U.S. Special Operations Command. Work will be done primarily at government facilities in Panama City, Fla. (Post)
Container ships: VT Halter Marine has secured a $350 million contract with Crowley Maritime Corp. to build two container roll-on/roll-off ships in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week in review (11/17 to 11/23)

During the week, Airbus Americas President Allan McArtor was in Montgomery, Ala., for a few days and told the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce that suppliers who want to be close to Mobile's A320 assembly line might opt to set up shop in Montgomery. He said suppliers, including those in Europe, will want to gravitate toward the assembly facility over time. (Story)

That's in keeping with what McArtor has said before. He's pointed out multiple times that the "halo" of suppliers would extend several hundred miles from the plant at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, as far north as Tennessee. And Montgomery is certainly within that halo. It's 170 miles away from where the A320 assembly line is being built – a straight shot up Interstate 65.

But there are plenty of cities that know they are possible locations for suppliers, and each has its own unique pluses. Some have universities, some have aerospace parks, some are near other aerospace operations. Just take a look at the Interstate 10 corridor. To the east of Mobile Pensacola is 60 miles away and Crestview is 100. Head west from Mobile along I-10 and you’ll find Gulfport 75 miles away and New Orleans 145.

Stray a bit north or south of I-10 and you'll hit Hattiesburg, Miss., 97 miles from Mobile, Panama City, Fla., 186 miles, or Dothan, Ala., 197. Mobile is also relatively close to four state capitals. In addition to Montgomery 170 miles away, Mobile is 188 miles from Jackson, Miss., 200 miles from Baton Rouge, La., and 245 miles from Tallahassee.

Proximity is nice, but some Airbus officials have also pointed out that it's not necessary to be close to the assembly line. The numbers back that up. Even before establishing the plant in Mobile, Airbus had plenty of U.S. suppliers. David L. Williams, vice president of procurement for Airbus Americas, said during a visit to Seattle this summer that Washington State suppliers who want to do business with Airbus don't have to open new shops in Alabama or elsewhere globally to support the European company. (Story)

-- If there was ever any doubt that Airbus needs the Mobile assembly line, consider this: Airbus is thinking about an increase in the production rate of its A320 single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft that would take it beyond 42 planes per month.

That word came from sales chief John Leahy in a talk with Reuters during the Dubai Airshow. But Leahy didn't say when a decision would be made. Boeing recently raised its production target for the single-aisle 737 to 47 per month from a previous target of 42. Right now, the Mobile Airbus plant is slated to produce four aircraft per month. (Post)

The competing production rates of the two companies is just an indication of how intense their fight for single-aisle dominance has become. The Airbus-Boeing battle continued on the opening day of 2013 Dubai Airshow, with both companies announcing sales.

Etihad Airways, national airline of the United Arab Emirates, announced a firm order for 36 A320neo aircraft, 50 A350 XWBs and one A330-200F as part of its fleet modernization strategy. And Boeing and flydubai announced a commitment for up to 100 737 MAX 8 airplanes and 11 next-generation 737-800s. (Post)

Later at the air show, newly launched Libyan Wings signed a memorandum of understanding to buy four A320neo jetliners and three A350-900s. Libyan Wings will start operations for passenger charter and freight from the beginning of 2014. (Post)

-- This from our “oops” file. A group encouraging Washington state to keep up its fight to secure work on the new version of the Boeing 777 jetliner ran a full-page ad in the Seattle Times with a headline that said "The Future of Washington."

But instead of showing a Boeing jet it had an A320 built by Boeing rival Airbus. Washington state supporters are concerned that Boeing may place production of the plane in another state after a union earlier this month rejected a contract with significant labor concessions. (Post)

CFM International, the General Electric engine venture with Safran SA, will up output more than 10 percent by 2019 to meet growing demand from Airbus, Boeing and China's Comac. Production will hit 1,700 in six years, CFM Executive Vice President Chaker Chahrour said at the Dubai Air Show.

CFM International is the exclusive engine provider for Boeing 737 and Comac C919 and competes for orders with the Pratt and Whitney-led International Aero Engines joint venture on the Airbus A320. Boeing announced plans to boost 737 output 24 percent to 47 jets per month by 2017, with Airbus considering a move beyond a build rate of 42 planes.

In addition to the Airbus A320 assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala., Safran has an operation in Mobile and GE Aviation has engine parts plants in Ellisville, Miss., Batesville, Miss., and Auburn, Ala. (Post)

-- Rolls-Royce won a $5 billion order from Etihad Airways for Trent XWB engines to power 50 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft. The national airline of the United Arab Emirates ordered 24 A350-900 Regional, 16 A350-900 and 10 A350-1000 aircraft. The order takes the total number of Etihad A350 aircraft on order to 62, all powered by the Trent XWB.

The Trent XWB, specifically designed for the Airbus A350 XWB, powered the first test flight of the A350 XWB at Toulouse on 14 June this year. Etihad has also ordered Trent 700 engines to power one Airbus A330 freighter aircraft.

Rolls-Royce tests XWB and other Trent series engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

There were a lot of stories marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But one that we noticed was a story pointing out that Kennedy's commitment in the '60s to space exploration ended up turning parts of the rural South into science hotspots.

Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas all benefited when the federal government established NASA centers in Dixie with the task of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Areas like Huntsville, Ala., and Bay St. Louis, Miss., changed forever by being part of the "space crescent."

Add to that the earlier decisions by the military to place a lot of aviation-related military bases in the South and you understand a bit better why the Southeast is such a major player in aerospace and aviation. (Post)

-- NASA requested proposals from U.S. companies to complete development of crew transportation systems. The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program is designed to ensure a company's crew transportation system is safe, reliable and cost-effective.

Requirements under CCtCap will include at least one crewed flight test to the space station before certification. NASA has not been able to launch astronauts in space from U.S. soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program. The crew program is part of the Space Launch System program.

Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, both are involved in NASA's SLS program, designed to take astronauts deeper in space than ever before. (Post)

-- NASA completed the first tests with an F/A-18 research jet to evaluate the autonomous flight control system for the Space Launch System rocket. The Adaptive Augmenting Controller will allow SLS to respond to vehicle and environmental variations such as winds or vehicle flexibility after it leaves the launch pad. It's the first time a flight control system for a NASA rocket is being designed to adjust autonomously to unexpected conditions during actual flight rather than pre-flight predictions. More than 40 tests were conducted this month at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Post)

With passenger traffic projected to double in 20 years, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla., examined a growth concepts at a workshop during the week. The project manager presented six layout concepts for terminal expansion that would remedy expected deficiencies in concession space, public space, passenger screening areas and baggage areas. The concepts also map out two new terminal gates and reconfigure the seven existing gates to accommodate new airlines. Only four of the gates are currently utilized. (Post)

-- In Alabama, Enterprise Municipal Airport will be getting 200 helicopter maintenance jobs in the next year-and a-half, thanks to a resolution approved by the city council for a new facility. Brightwater Aviation Lender LLC of Chicago, parent company of Alabama Aircraft Support, was authorized a loan of $3.5 million from the city council for infrastructure of a $12 million project that would include a 60,000 square foot hangar.

The city passed a bond issue in 2011 for $12 million, $7.5 million of which was allotted for economic development. The $3.5 million loan will come out of those funds. The airport is not far from Fort Rucker, home of Army helicopter training. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney, which builds the F135 engine that powers the Lockheed Martin's F-35, said it's seeing strong interest in the radar-evading warplane, but it would likely be several years before exports to the Gulf region are approved.

Carrol Chandler, a retired Air Force general who now serves as vice president of business development for PW, said the U.S. government would evaluate any requests from Gulf countries to buy the F-35, and then decide on a case-by-case basis.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

Raytheon received the 1,000th AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-To-Air Missile
rocket motor from Nammo Group of Raufoss, Norway. The motor is scheduled to be installed in a production AIM-120C7 missile later this month.

Following a lengthy qualification process in October 2012, Nammo was certified as an AMRAAM rocket motor supplier for Raytheon and has been delivering motors at the rate of about 90 motors per month. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is where aerial weapons systems are developed and tested. (Post)

Killed in action
A soldier from the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., died when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. He is the second soldier from the same unit to die in a four-day period. Staff Sgt. Alex A. Viola, 29, of Keller, Texas, died Nov. 17, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when his unit was attacked while on dismounted patrol. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $300 million contract for development and production of multiple foreign military sales test vehicles and equipment, mission planning, mission operational flight program, test support, logistics support, sustainment, and non-recurring engineering. Work will be performed at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Troy, Ala., with an expected completion date of Nov. 19, 2018. This contract involves foreign military sales with Finland and Australia. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Silver Ships: Silver Ships Inc., Theodore, Ala., and Gravois Aluminum Boats LLC, doing business as Metal Shark Aluminum Boats LLC, Jeanerette, La., are each being awarded separate firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contracts for the construction of high speed maneuverable surface targets. (Post)
Port: Amy Miller, the Port of Pensacola’s former chief financial and human resources officer, has been named director by Mayor Ashton Hayward. She's the first female director since the port's inception in the mid-1700s, and the only woman currently serving as port director in Florida. (Post)
NRL: The Naval Research Laboratory's Acoustics Division, with Bluefin Robotics, set a record 315-mile long-endurance autonomous research mission using Reliant, its heavyweight-class mine countermeasures underwater vehicle. (Post)
Signal: Signal International of Mobile, Ala., announced it's been awarded a contract to repair two oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. All the rig repair work will be done at its yard in Mississippi. (Post)
Errant drone: Two sailors were injured when the guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville was struck by an errant BQM-74 target drone. (Post)
Survey ship: The USNS Bowditch oceanographic survey ship was first on scene off the coast of Tacloban, Republic of the Philippines, ensuring safe sea lanes in order for the George Washington Strike Group in support of Operation Damayan. (Post)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week in review (11/10 to 11/16)

It could be argued that a union vote in Washington State was one of the most significant stories for the aerospace industry. Perhaps it was the airline merger that is bound to have an impact on five of six commercial airports in the Gulf Coast I-10 region.

But the saddest was the death in Afghanistan of a 7th Special Forces Group soldier from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Here's your week in review:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during the week hailed the success of the agency's public-private partnership with American companies to resupply the International Space Station. He also announced the next phase of contracting with U.S. companies to transport astronauts is set to begin this week.

The U.S. now has two space transportation systems capable of delivering science experiments and supplies from U.S. soil to the ISS. Commercial companies could begin ferrying NASA astronauts to ISS as soon as 2017.

On Tuesday NASA will issue a final Request for Proposals for the new Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in commercial space programs. (Post)

-- If you're a federal government worker, you're most satisfied if you work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. That's according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

In this year's survey, 376,577 federal employees provided their opinions on all aspects of their employment. The 2013 responses demonstrate a significant drop in employee satisfaction and continue last year's declines across the majority of questions. (Post)

-- NASA's Infinity Science Center just outside Stennis Space Center, Miss., is among five NASA centers that will host events and activities Monday for the public to view the launch of the agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft and learn about its mission. MAVEN, which launches 1:28 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., will help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history. (Post)

-- Speaking of Mars, a scientist from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., won an aerospace history literature award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dr. William J. Clancey will receive the 2014 Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award in January for his book, "Working on Mars: Voyages of Scientific Discovery with the Mars Exploration Rovers."

The award honors the best original contribution to the field of aeronautical or astronautical historical non-fiction literature. The book is being hailed as giving a new perspective on remote planetary exploration. (Post)

Despite warnings from Boeing and pleas from politicians, members of the Machinists union mid-week voted 67 percent to reject a contract offer that would have assured the company builds the new 777X jet in Washington state. They said no to the proposed eight-year contract extension because it was laced with cuts to benefits.

Many members said they refused to be forced into a hasty and radical decision under a management threat that they would lose future work. The vote leaves in limbo an incentive package, including $8.7 billion in new tax breaks over 16 years that was passed in a special session of the Legislature.

Boeing, which also has operations along the Gulf Coast I-10 corridor, has said that if the IAM vote went against it, the company would seek other sites for the 777X project. Looking for other locations for the 777 plant doesn’t preclude further negotiation with the state and the union. (Post)

OK, here's my two cents. The planes will be built in Washington State, where it has the expertise, the workforce and plenty of incentives from the state.

-- Airbus received FAA certification of its Runway Overrun Prevention System for the Airbus A320 family, allowing for last week’s delivery of the first A320 family member featuring ROPS – an A319 to American Airlines.

American has elected to equip all of its A320 family fleet with the on-board cockpit technology that increases pilots’ situational awareness during landing, reduces exposure to runway excursion risk, and, if necessary, provides active protection. The European Aviation Safety Agency certified the system on the A320ceo family in August.

Airbus is building an A320 family final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., which is to build A319, A320 and A321 jetliners beginning in 2015. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin will close and consolidate several U.S. facilities and reduce its workforce by 4,000 to cut costs in response to declines in U.S. government spending. Operations will be closed in Newtown, Pa.; Akron, Ohio; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Horizon City, Texas; and four buildings on the Sunnyvale, Calif., campus, also will be closed by mid-2015.

Lockheed Martin has operations across the Gulf Coast, including Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans; Stennis Space Center, Miss.; and multiple offices of Lockheed Martin's Northwest Florida Operations, tied to the F-35, F-22 and other defense programs. (Post)

-- Raytheon will increase the size of its Forest, Miss., manufacturing facility by more than 20,000 square feet and hire more than 150 new workers. The expansion is to support anticipated growth in airborne radar and electronic warfare markets.

At 340,000 square feet, the plant already is one of the largest defense manufacturing plants in Mississippi. This year, the Forest plant ramped up its fighter jet radar production rates 10-fold. It also delivered more than 500 Active Electronically Scanned Array aircraft radars. In addition to fighter jet radars, the facility makes the Sentinel air defense radar, with 57 additional ones in production for the U.S. Army. (Post)

You'll have to get use to a new name for Brookley Aeroplex, the site where Airbus is building its A320 final assembly line. It’s going to happen slowly, but eventually the name will be Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley.

The name Brookley Aeroplex isn't that old. It was back in December 2010 that the name was changed from Brookley Industrial Complex to Brookley Aeroplex. A brand new logo was introduced at the time.

Bill Sisson, the current head of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce who was executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority at the time, said the Brookley name was retained as a reminder of the former Air Force base that was closed in the 1960s. And Aeroplex was used because it reflects the multi-modal nature of Brookley.

About a month before the name was changed, when airport staff suggested Brookley Aeroplex, board members Matt Metcalfe and Bert Meisler said they would prefer to see the word "Brookley" replaced by "Mobile." But the issue was tabled.

The two board members apparently were right on target. Use the actual location as part of the name, the thinking goes, so folks know where it's located. That's what's done with the airport authority's name, and with the commercial airport run by the authority.

The airport has been known by a lot of names. It was, of course, Brookley Air Force Base, then folks referred to it either as Brookley Field, the industrial complex or the downtown airport. That one always made a lot of sense to me.

Name changes are simply not that uncommon. It’s all done in the name of marketing. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., better known by its abbreviation, EADS, decided in July to change its name to Airbus Group. That made sense because the company’s commercial airliner subsidiary has been highly successful. People know what an Airbus is. The changes begin in January and will be completed over the year.

-- The merger of American Airlines and US Airways will no doubt have an impact on the Gulf Coast region, but exactly how is still unclear. Airports in New Orleans, Gulfport, Miss., Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., all have both American and US Airways. The only one that doesn't is Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla.

American and US Airways reached an antitrust settlement with the federal government to allow their $17 billion merger with limited concessions. The merged airline plans to use the American name. (Post)

-- A program to expedite screening of U.S. service members at some domestic airports is being expanded to include the Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard, beginning Dec. 20. The list of airports, which started with 10 when the Transportation Security Administration’s Precheck was launched in October 2011, has already been expanded once to 40 airports and is now being expanded to 100.

TSA Precheck allows service members to keep their footwear on as well as light outerwear, belts, laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry on in select screening lanes. Pensacola International Airport, Pensacola, Fla., and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport are among the airports with TSA Precheck. (Post)

-- Okaloosa County commissioners approved building a new parking area at Northwest Florida Regional Airport where visitors can park while they wait for arriving parties. County Airports Director Sunil Harman said the lot, which will be free and have 40 spaces, will ease congestion and improve customer service. It should be finished by March 2014. (Post)

The National Defense Industrial Association selected the F-35 communications, navigation and identification team from Northrop Grumman for the 2013 Ferguson Systems Engineering Excellence Group Award.

The award is given for outstanding achievement in the practical application of systems engineering principles. Northrop Grumman's integrated CNI system provides F-35 pilots with the capability of more than 27 avionics functions.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

A third aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, has now conducted flight operations of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator, the tail-less robotic aircraft built by Northrop Grumman.

The aircraft performed touch-and-go maneuvers, flight deck handling drills, arrested landings and catapult launches. The X-47B has also been tested on the USS Harry S. Truman and USS George H.W. Bush.

Two other Northrop Grumman unmanned aerial systems, Fire Scout and Global Hawk, are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Soldier dies
A soldier from the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was killed in action after his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. The Department of Defense said Staff Sgt. Richard L. Vazquez, 28, of Seguin, Texas, died Nov. 13 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His unit was attacked while on dismounted patrol in Panjwai, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin. (Post)

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Hurst, Texas, was awarded an $8.3 million contract for the manufacturing and delivery of three Bell 407 helicopters for the MQ-8C Fire Scout program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas; Mirabel, Canada; and Ozark, Ala., and is expected to be completed in June 2014. Portions of the work on the larger Fire Scouts will eventually be done in Moss Point, Miss. … Raytheon Missile Systems Division, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $18.8 million modification on an existing contract for High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile Targeting System contractor logistics support services. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBAS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

LHA 6: Ingalls Shipbuilding's multipurpose amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) returned to Pascagoula, Miss., last weekend from successful builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. (Post)
Austal: Austal USA is building some of the most cutting-edge ships in the Navy inventory, and it's become the largest private sector employer in Mobile County. A feature story. (Post)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week in review (11/3 to 11/9)

A "roadmap" to integrate robotic aircraft into the national airspace; additional Global Hawk sales; a major land sell-off by St. Joe; the first live-fire test of an air-to-air missile by an F-35; the removal of an officer from the F-35 program; and a grant to Pensacola to create a cyberwarfare center of excellence were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

The Federal Aviation Administration released its "roadmap" for allowing widespread use of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace, but it will take longer than Congress wants. The FAA said that for the next several years access of robotic aircraft will be limited to permits the FAA grants on a case-by-case basis.

Congress last year directed the FAA to grant drones widespread access by September 2015. Six sites nationwide will be chosen by FAA as test sites for the integration process. The I-10 region is already heavily involved in unmanned systems.

Fire Scout and Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., by Northrop Grumman, and the military thoughout this region uses drones in training, from hand-held types to full-scale target drones. And there's also the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, an internationally known research facility for robotics. (Post)

One of the unmanned systems built in part in Moss Point is the MQ-4C Triton, a Navy version of the unmanned Global Hawk surveillance system. It just passed an important milestone.

The wings on the Triton are made by Triumph Aerostructures - Vought Aircraft Division. Each wing, made of a single piece of composite material, was tested in Dallas by bending the wing to the point that it breaks.

The process revealed that the wing is 22 percent stronger than the Navy's requirement. The entire airframe will be fatigue tested in 2017. The Navy plans to buy 68 Tritons, plus two demonstrators. (Post)

-- A contract will be signed next year for South Korea to buy four Global Hawks for about $848 million. The U.S. Congress approved the export of Global Hawks to South Korea earlier this year. (Post) Meanwhile, the Air Force late in the week awarded Northrop Grumman a $114 million advance procurement contract in preparation to build three more Block 30 RQ-4 Global Hawks and associated sensors.Work under this contract is expected to be completed in 2015. (Post)

While we're on the subject of building aircraft, Airbus chalked up 153 order bookings and 59 deliveries in October, bringing its backlog to nearly 5,400 aircraft. That’s eight years of output at full production rates.

The Airbus jetliner of highest interest to this region is the A320 family. That’s because Mobile, Ala., is where Airbus is building a final assembly line that will eventually have 1,000 employees.

For the single-aisle A320 family, October included Latin America's biggest Airbus aircraft order: VivaAerobus Group's booking for 40 new engine option A320neo aircraft and 12 A320 current engine option jetliners.

In the United States, JetBlue Airways’ acquisition of 15 A321ceo and 20 A321neo aircraft brought total A320 family bookings past the 10,000 order mark. The volume reached 10,025 as of Oct. 31. The 59 deliveries during the month were composed of 47 A320 Family aircraft, eight A330s and four A380s. (Company release)

-- In Mobile, Ala., Airbus is seeking its second human resources employee for the final assembly line that’s still under construction at Brookley Aeroplex. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in business, human resources or a related field plus at least five years’ experience in human resources. The successful candidate will manage all recruitment activities and new employee orientation. (Post)

-- Airbus rival Boeing said it will re-examine alternative sites to build the 777X if assembly workers and local politicians don't ratify plans to build it in the Seattle area. That came after senior members of the machinists union voiced opposition to a labor contract due to go to membership this week.

The deal reached by Boeing and representatives of the main union calls for wings and fuselage of the 777X to be built in the Puget Sound area. It also calls for lower healthcare benefits and a new retirement plan, along with a separate draft agreement with the state for tax and other incentives. (Story)

An F-35 fired its first guided air-to-air missile over a military test range off the California coast late last month. The AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile was fired from an F-35A, the conventional take-off and landing version operating from the F-35 Integrated Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The pilot employed the AIM-120 radar-seeking missile from the internal weapons bay against an aerial drone target. Before the missile was about to destroy the target, a self-destruct signal was sent to the AIM-120 to preserve the drone for use in future use. The test was the day after an F-35B variant successfully dropped and air-to-ground GBU-12 Paveway II over a test range. (Post)

-- Over at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 pilot and maintenance training center, the maintenance commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing was removed from the post early in the week and put on staff duty for allegedly engaging in inappropriate behavior with subordinate female officers on his staff.

Navy Capt. Lance Massey II, who held the position since January, oversaw about 400 maintainers who work on the F-35s. An initial investigation determined Massey engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behaviors. (Post)

Economic development
The St. Joe Co. announced an agreement Thursday to sell more than two-thirds of its Northwest Florida landholdings to Utah-based AgReserves Inc. The 382,834 acres of rural timberland is being sold for $565 million. That leaves St. Joe with about 184,000 acres of land primarily between Tallahassee and Destin.

The acreage being sold is in Bay, Calhoun, Frankly, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties. AgReserves intends to maintain timber and agricultural uses of the lands. St. Joe, originally a paper company and second largest landowner in Florida, in recent years became a real estate developer. It donated land to establish Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City. (Post)

-- A National Science Foundation study shows state government expenditures for research and development hit $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2011, up 11 percent from the previous year. Individual state government expenditures on R&D in FY 2011 varied widely, with New York, Ohio, Florida, California and Pennsylvania accounting for 51 percent of all state government R&D. For this region, Florida spent $150.8 million, Texas spent $47.4 million, Alabama spent $19.7 million, Louisiana $9.2 million and Mississippi $7.4 million. (Post)

Pensacola threw out the red carpet Monday to mark the start of Southwest Airlines service to Houston and Nashville. About 200 people showed up at Pensacola International Airport for the official welcoming, highlighted by the arrival of a Southwest jet from Nashville.

OK, it was actually the second plane to arrive from Nashville. The first one came in the day before. But passengers who got off the Monday morning arrival were greeted by a crowd that included city movers and shakers and others who just wanted to see what was going on. While the passengers got off the plane, a band played music on one side of the concourse.

A story in USA Today pointed out that Southwest is now flying its own aircraft to the last of the AirTran cities that Southwest did not serve when it bought Airtran in 2011. Southwest-branded service began last weekend not only in Pensacola, but Memphis and Richmond - the last of the former AirTran cities now getting Southwest branded planes. Southwest dropped more than a dozen of the AirTran cities it inherited after it bought the low-cost carrier. But it kept Pensacola and others, and kept both brands flying during the transition.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, Southwest has plans to launch international flights to Central America and Mexico sometime in the next year from Pensacola International Airport.

-- The Greater Pensacola Chamber was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Florida Defense Support Task Force to establish a center of excellence for information dominance. “The Center of Excellence is the culmination of our on-going relationship and collaboration with our federal partners at Corry Station,” said Craig Dalton, the chamber's vice president of armed services. (Post)

In another grant from the task force, the city of Niceville was awarded $25,000 to prevent future development from impeding missions at Eglin Air Force Base. Niceville will use it to upgrade mapping software to track data on where the city should regulate development so as not to interfere with any base mission. (Post)

Statewide, the task force awarded more than $2 million in grant initiatives to local community organizations supporting Florida military installations, according to a press release from Gov. Rick Scott's office. The grants are designed to protect Florida's military bases ahead of any potential realignment or closure actions. The bases have a $73 billion economic impact. Nearly 760,000 jobs in the state are due to the defense industry.

-- Two Navy pilots were injured during the week when a T-45C Goshawk crashed on the runway at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Sherman Field. The T-45 training jet was attempting to land when something went wrong. The plane belongs to Training Squadron 86 of Training Air Wing 6. (Post)

The crash was the Navy's first training aircraft crash since May 30, 2012, when a student and instructor from Training Squadron 22 ejected safely from another T-45C during a training flight 45 miles southwest of Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

-- The 1st Special Operations Air Operations Squadron stood up during a squadron activation ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., during the week. The 1st SOAOS mission is to integrate 1st Special Operations Wing assets into Special Operations Forces training events, support U.S. Special Operations Command-direct missions, and execute tactical-level command and control of all U.S aircraft and deploying 1st SOW aircraft. (Post)

CTC Enterprise Ventures Corp., Johnstown, Pa., was awarded a $14.2 million modification to previously awarded contract for the production of 10 carriage, stream, tow and recovery system kits in support of the MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures program. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $19.8 million option exercise to an existing contract to retrofit fielded mission training centers with visual systems upgrade and night vision goggles capability. Effort includes upgrades for F-22 training systems at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and four other bases. … URS Group Inc., Mobile, Ala. was awarded a $13 million contract for architect-engineering services for the Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, to support the Air Force KC-46C aircraft beddown in the continental United States. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting agency.

Dry dock: VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., said its new floating dry dock is open for business and already has its first customers. The 546-foot long dock is part of an overall expansion plan at the south yard. (Post)
UNO: The University of New Orleans computer science department has been awarded a five-year, $663,000 research contract by the Naval Research Laboratory to develop next-generation defense mapping systems. (Post)
Ingalls: Pascagoula, Miss., Mayor Jim Blevins read a proclamation celebrating Ingalls Shipbuilding's 75th anniversary and voted to give the company a 10-year exemption on ad valorem taxes. (Post)
Training center: Ingalls Shipbuilding officially opened the 70,000 square-foot Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy in Pascagoula, Miss., during the week with a ribbon-cutting. (Post)
DDG 113: Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss., held a keel authentication ceremony early in the week for the destroyer John Finn (DDG 113), the 29th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built at Ingalls. (Post)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Week in review (10/27 to 11/2)

Boeing's decision to have much of the design work for the new 777X done outside Seattle has no direct impact on the Gulf Coast aerospace region, but could have an impact on aerospace in the broader Southeast. That, in turn, could impact the Gulf Coast.

Boeing engineering teams in Charleston, S.C., Huntsville, Ala., Long Beach, Calif., Philadelphia and St. Louis will be doing much of the design work of the next-generation 777, dubbed 777X. The Boeing Design Center in Moscow will also be tapped.

But no decision has been made about the role of Puget Sound, where Boeing designs and makes the current 777, in the new version of the plane. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee called Boeing's decision about the design work "disappointing." (Post)

Reuters reported that the decision was seen as a sign that the jobs building the 777X could migrate to lower-cost, nonunion states. The 777X is a twin-engine medium-sized wide-body jet that will feature extra long carbon-fiber composite wings and leverage technologies from the 787.

The concern is great enough that Inslee is considering proposing a package of tax incentives to persuade Boeing to put 777X design and assembly work at its giant factory in Everett.

It's understandable that the folks in Washington state are concerned. It was once the headquarters for Boeing, until the company moved those jobs to Chicago. And now the state is watching as economic development folks from the Southeast make a pitch for suppliers to set up shop in the South.

The wealth of suppliers in Washington intrigues states in the Southeast with a foot in the aerospace door. Washington state has 1,256 companies in the aerospace supply chain with 131,000 workers. Nearly 75 percent of them supply Boeing, 40 percent supply Airbus, and up to 25 percent supply Embraer. Airbus alone spends $12 billion a year with U.S. suppliers and expects to double that.

Alabama Secretary of State Greg Canfield has said that as the Southeast increases its aerospace footprint, it will become even more attractive to suppliers serving Airbus, Boeing and other companies. He makes a good point.

In addition to Boeing's 787 assembly line in Charleston, S.C., and Airbus' A320 assembly line in Mobile, Embraer has a plant in Jacksonville, Fla., and Gulfstream has one in Savannah, Ga. Even the latest iteration of aircraft assembly, unmanned aerial systems, have found homes in Moss Point and Columbus, Miss., among other locations.

If you’re a supplier, you may find opening a facility somewhere in that triangular region makes sense. It’s about 400 miles between Mobile and Jacksonville, and another 240 miles between Jacksonville and Charleston, S.C.

We'll keep an eye on this.

JetBlue Airways placed an order for 15 A321ceo and 20 A321neo aircraft. In addition, the airline has opted to upsize 8 A320ceo and 10 A320neo aircraft currently on backlog to 8 A321ceo and 10 A321neo, respectively. This order marks the 10,000th order for an Airbus A320 family aircraft.

JetBlue will be the first airline in the world to take delivery of an aircraft from Airbus’ newest assembly facility, currently under construction in Mobile, Ala. The facility will create 1,000 new jobs in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. Deliveries at the Mobile facility will begin in 2016. (Post)

Meanwhile, the first 10 manufacturing-related employees hired for the Mobile assembly line reported during the week for orientation. Classroom training will begin the first full week of this month. Local training will last two months before the group goes to the final assembly line in Hamburg, Germany, for hands-on training that could last as many as nine months. (Post)

-- Airbus plans to offer to retrofit fuel-saving wingtips on older versions of its A320 jets
beginning in 2015. Airbus says the wingtips cut fuel costs by up to 4 percent and increase range by up to 185 kilometers. Airbus is matching Boeing in making the wingtips available on older models as an option. (Post)

NASA's deep space craft, Orion, was powered on for the first time at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., recently. Preliminary data indicate Orion's vehicle management computer, as well as its innovative power and data distribution system performed as expected. All of Orion's avionics systems will be put to the test during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1, targeted to launch in the fall of 2014. Orion is built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. (Post)

NASA's commercial partners are also making progress on their efforts. SpaceX, which recently said it would test its new Raptor rocket engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss., plans to demonstrate next summer the Dragon spacecraft's ability to carry astronauts to safety in the event of an in-flight emergency.

In the test along Florida's space coast, a Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket and an abort command will be issued when it’s flying through the area of maximum dynamic pressure. The test spacecraft will be retrieved from splashdown and returned to Port Canaveral by barge so data can be incorporated into the system's design.

SpaceX is one of three companies working under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative to develop spaceflight capabilities that eventually could provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. SpaceX has already flown successful cargo missions to the ISS. (Post)

Another one of those companies, Sierra Nevada, recently marked up the first free-flight test of its prototype Dream Chaser spacecraft. The flight in California went well, but the spacecraft was damaged when its landing gear failed to deploy properly.

The spacecraft, a lifting body spacecraft that looks like a mini-Space Shuttle, was unmanned during the test. It was released from an air-crane helicopter at 12,000 feet and adhered to the design flight trajectory throughout the flight profile.

Sierra Nevada contracted with Lockheed Martin to assemble the composite structure for the first space-bound Dream Chaser at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron-501 recently completed its first short take-off and vertical landing mission in an F-35B at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 training center where pilots and maintainers train on all three variants of the F-35.

The flight happened late last month when Maj. Brendan M. Walsh flew the hour-long mission where the aircraft remained in the STOVL configuration the entire time. Walsh qualified in vertical landing operations six months ago at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

Walsh is the only pilot at Eglin qualified to fly in the STOVL configuration. But he said the flight paved the way to locally train F-35B instructors and new students in STOVL operations. (Post)

In another F-35 milestone, this one at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., an F-35B dropped a 500-pound guided bomb at a tank. The laser-guided GBU-12 Paveway II was dropped from its internal weapons bay while the plane flew at around 25,000 feet.

The Pentagon's top arms buyer recently said the F-35 program had made sufficient progress to budget for higher production in fiscal year 2015. (Post)

Along those lines, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $422 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for recurring sustainment support for F-35 aircraft. Support to be provided includes ground maintenance activities, action request resolution, depot activation activities and more.

Work will be done in Texas, California, Florida, New Hampshire, Maryland and the United Kingdom and is expected to be completed in October 2014. This contract combines purchases for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and the governments of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Canada, Norway and Denmark. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

A larger variant of the Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout unmanned helicopter completed its first day of flying late in the week at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, Calif. In the first flight, the MQ-8C flew for seven minutes to validate the autonomous control systems. The second flight was a pattern around the airfield, where the Fire Scout reached an altitude of 500 feet.

The MQ-8C upgrade, based on a Bell 407 airframe, will eventually replace the MQ-8B, based on a Schweizer airframe. The MQ-8B has seen a lot of service, both on ships and on land in Afghanistan. It's currently operating aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts.

The MQ-8C is larger, has a range of 150 nautical miles and a payload capacity of more than 700 pounds. The MQ-8B from the start has been built in part in Moss Point, Miss., where work also will be done on the MQ-8C. (Post)

In Florida, Pensacola International Airport on Monday will hold a party to mark Southwest Airlines’ new daily, nonstop service to Nashville, Tenn., and Houston. The first flight will arrive Sunday from Nashville. The airport had courted Southwest for years, and got the airline when Southwest bought AirTran, which had been serving the airport. Southwest chose to keep the Pensacola service. (Post)

Another much smaller airline, startup Southern Airways Express, is having enough success with flights to Florida's Destin Airport that the airport will become a cornerstone of the Memphis carrier’s service next year.

The airline in May started offering direct flights on nine-seat Cessna Caravans between Destin and Memphis, Oxford, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., and New Orleans. The chief operating officer says the Destin flights are doing better than expected. (Post)

At Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., an advanced conventional precision effects warhead, the Kinetic Energy Projectile, was successfully tested at hypersonic speed by the 846th Test Squadron. The squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

During the test, the sled train exceeded 3,500 feet-per-second greater than Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was responsible for the design and development of the warhead itself. (Post)

Meanwhile, back in Northwest Florida, the oldest CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft in the Air Force inventory conducted its last test flight with the 413th Flight Test Squadron on Thursday at Hurlburt Field. The plane has been used to test every major upgrade and modification of the CV-22 fleet.

The tilt-rotor will become a display piece at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The first operational CV-22 was delivered to the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt in January 2007. (Post)

-- Col. James Phillips was chosen to take command of the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Fla., on Dec. 7. He succeeds Col. Anthony Comtois, who left in September to become commander of the Joint Special Operations Air Component for Special Operations Command Africa. (Post)

Cubic Defense Applications Inc., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $25 million contract for foreign military sales P5Combat Training System (P5CTS) combined hardware buy. Work will be done in San Diego, Calif., and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and is expected to be complete by July 20, 2015. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

USMI: United States Marine Inc., Gulfport, Miss., was awarded a $15.8 million contract for post-production and contractor logistical support services for the combatant craft assault. The work will be performed in Gulfport, Miss., and is expected to be completed by November 2017. (Post)
Zumwalt: General Dynamics Bath Iron Works successfully launched the Navy's first Zumwalt-class destroyer during the week at Bath, Maine shipyard. The ship’s composite deck and hangar were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, Miss. (Post)
Station Pascagoula: Haskell Co. of Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded a $4.6 million U.S. Coast Guard design-build contract for infrastructure work needed to support Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) at Coast Guard Station Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)