The Pentagon's proposal of a nearly half-trillion dollar defense budget had some fairly positive news for the Gulf Coast region's military. While it does call for a smaller Army, it wants to strengthen Special Operations forces and the nation's cyberwarfare capabilities. Both are important focus areas of the military along the Gulf Coast.
We have U.S. Air Force Special Operations headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and the Army's 7th Special Forces Group is at Eglin Air Force Base's Duke Field. Over at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., Naval Special Warfare has two operations: Special Boat Team 22, which specializes in riverine warfare, and the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School. The Pearl River is used by Navy SEALS for training.
And cyberwarfare? Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., is the home of Air Force electronics training, including cybersecurity, and training in cybersecurity is also done to the east at Hurlburt Field. In Pensacola, Fla., Corry Station is the Navy's Center for Information Dominance.
The Pentagon's proposed budget also provides money for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. The budget also retires the U-2 spy plane in favor of the unmanned Global Hawks, which are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.
The Pentagon proposal is subject to Congressional approval. (Post)
The construction of the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., is moving forward pretty quickly. In the latest, Birmingham-based Brasfield and Gorrie LLC was awarded the first of four general contractor packages for the $600 million plant.
The contractor will be responsible for the outfitting and completion of the final assembly line hangar and construction of the service building and logistics center. The contract was awarded by Hoar Program Management. The plant will open in 2015 and the first jetliner will be produced in 2016. (Post)
No doubt that plant will help Airbus meet demand for the popular plane. During the week Airbus said it will increase production of its best-selling single-aisle aircraft family to 46 a month in Q2 2016, up from the current rate 42. The new higher production rate will be achieved gradually, with an intermediate step at 44 aircraft per month in Q1 2016.
Over the past five years, Airbus has steadily increased A320 family production, going from rate 36 at the end of 2010 to rate 38 in August 2011, then up to rate 40 in Q1 2012 to reach 42 per month in Q4 of the same year. (Post)
While we're on the subject of jetliner production, the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Tianjin, China, delivered 46 aircraft last year, an increase of about 25 percent over 2012. The plant's general manager said the company is evaluating the possibility of producing two more aircraft this year. Tianjin, the third Airbus final assembly line in the world after Toulouse in France and Hamburg in Germany, assembled its first aircraft in May 2009. It makes the A319 and A320 for the Chinese market. (Post)
As if to underscore just how popular that plane is, China Eastern Airlines Corp. during the week ordered $6.4 billion single-aisle planes from Airbus Group to meet demand in a country set to become the world's biggest aircraft market. The 70 planes will be delivered between 2018 and 2020. The airline is buying A320neos, the most fuel-efficient version of the single-aisle planes. (Post)
In another purchase, Kuwait Airways ordered 25 aircraft including 10 A350-900 and 15 A320neo family aircraft as part of the airlines’ fleet renewal strategy. It already operates three A320, three A310, five A300 and four A340 family aircraft. (Post)
-- The Airbus Puerto Real plant in Cádiz, Spain, is leading a project to expand the automation of its assembly processes with the use of two-arm humanoid robots to perform repetitive tasks. The project could be used across other Airbus sites. One of the research areas is called the “Collaborative Robots” project, which explores the use of two-arm “humanoid” robots designed to work in the same environment as human operators, sharing tools and production resources. (Post)
The first full joint testing between NASA and the Navy of Orion recovery procedures off the coast of California was suspended recently after the team experienced issues with handling lines securing a test version of Orion inside the well deck of the USS San Diego. Orion, part of NASA's ambitious Space Launch System project, will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before. An unmanned test from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., is set for September 2014.
Orion is built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and rocket engines for the Space Launch System, the primary launch vehicle, will be tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The launch vehicle for Exploration Flight Test-1 will be a Delta IV, built by United Launch Alliance, which uses Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68 engines tested at Stennis Space Center. (Post)
-- The U.S. Air Force Space Command awarded BAE Systems in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a three-year contract extension to continue maintaining space radars used for missile warning and space surveillance operations. The award is a continuation of work that BAE Systems has been done since 2007.
The Solid State Phased Array Radar System (SSPARS) is a network of radars that tracks more than 16,000 objects orbiting Earth. The radar system identifies various man-made objects in space, and also tracks objects that may enter the atmosphere, information vital to air missile defense operations and to protecting against submarine-launched ballistic missiles. SSPARS is capable of about 40,000 space observations daily. (Post)
In the past decade it appeared the future of aerospace original equipment manufacturing would be in low-cost countries. But then the real world stepped in. Labor costs increased in those countries, and new technologies made it all less labor-intensive.
Today the hottest new aerospace cluster is not in China, but the U.S. Southeast, according to an opinion piece in Aviation Week. Boeing, Embraer, Airbus Rolls-Royce and Airbus Helicopters have or will have established final assembly facilities in the region, and dozens of sub-tier suppliers are following suit. (Post)
-- Lockheed Martin has broken ground on its Pike County Operations' Long Range Strike Systems cruise missile production annex in Troy, Ala. The planned 62,000 square-foot annex will expand the existing 92,000-square-foot manufacturing facility where the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) is produced. The facility employs some 300 full-time employees and over 100 contractors. (Post)
-- The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County got a $195,000 grant from the Florida Defense Support Task Force to research, support and expand innovative community partnerships between Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and local governments. The grant's 12-month scope of work will be overseen by the Community Partnership Initiative committee.
As military installations continue to plan for the fiscal impact of a declining Department of Defense budget, bases are being encouraged to engage in innovative community partnerships designed to lessen operational costs while also benefiting the installation’s host community. (Post)
-- In Pensacola, Fla., despite some mild concerns about noise or air pollution, for the most part the conversations at a public meeting Tuesday were all about jobs and the positive economic impact ST Aerospace would have on the local economy. Joseph Ng, president of ST Aerospace's aircraft maintenance and repair operation in Mobile, Ala., said he hoped ST could begin servicing commercial jet liners by the first quarter of 2016. He said most jobs would be paying in a range between $30,000 and $58,000 annually. (Post)
The Air Force has released a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that analyzes the environmental impacts associated with where the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will beddown on the Eglin Reservation and how they might be operated. The Final SEIS contains analyses of operational alternatives and presents mitigations for the F-35 aircraft at Eglin under the February 2009 Record of Decision. (Post)
-- Col. David Tabor took over as commander of the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center during a ceremony at Duke Field, Fla., Thursday. The center, which has about 1,000 employees, trains and equips all special operations airmen. The center is headquartered at Hurlburt Field, but has units at Duke, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., and Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jon Weeks, the previous commander, was fired last month amid allegations that he had an inappropriate personal relationship. (Post)
Exelis received a more than $13 million contract to provide the Naval Surface Warfare Center with depot level repair, maintenance and modifications for two mine defense systems currently fielded with the U.S. Navy. The Exelis MK-105 Minesweeping System and Airborne Mine Neutralization System is used for high-speed airborne mine countermeasures. The MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter tows the MK-105 through the water to detonate mines. Work under this contract will be performed in Panama City, Fla., and is expected to be completed by December 2014. … PRIDE Industries, Roseville, Calif., was awarded a $13.8 million modification to multi-year contract for the Department of Public Works-Base Operations, Fort Rucker, Ala. Work will be performed at Fort Rucker. Army Contracting Command, Fort Rucker, is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $10.2 million modification for an existing contract for Joint Air-to-Surface Strategic Missile anti-jam GPS receiver. Work will be performed at Orlando, Fla., and Troy, Ala., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2016. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBJK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co. Missile Systems, Tucson Ariz., was awarded a $20 million contract for support of requirements associated with performance of the AMRAAM Aircraft Integration, aircraft operational testing related activities and flight test support. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is one of the work sites. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBA, Eglin AFB is the contracting activity.
Austal: Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $7.1 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for post-delivery support for the USS Jackson. Seventy percent of the work will be performed in Mobile. (Post)
LCS: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his considerable reservations about the Littoral Combat Ship led him to bar planning for any more than 32 ships, 20 fewer than the Navy's $34 billion program. One version of the ship is made in Mobile, Ala. (Post)