Saturday, August 23, 2014

Week in review (8/17 to 8/23)

You could put this under the category of the growing Airbus Group footprint in the Gulf Coast region.

Lawmakers during the week approved the Army's request to reprogram $111 million to pay for 21 more UH-72A Lakota helicopters for training at Fort Rucker, Ala.. That's according to sources cited by InsideDefense.

Those twin-engine helicopters with a four-blade main rotor are made by Airbus Helicopters in Columbus, Miss., which earlier this month signed a contract to lease office space in Daleville, Ala., not far from Fort Rucker. The space will be occupied Sept. 1.

As part of the Army's plan to reduce costs, it's restructuring its helicopter fleet. That includes divesting OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and using AH-64 Apaches to meet the armed aerial scout mission. In addition, Lakotas are replacing the Bell TH-67 as the Army's primary training helicopter at Fort Rucker. (Post)

Add that to Airbus' growing presence in this region.

In Mobile, Ala., Airbus is building a $600 million final assembly line for A320 jetliner at the Mobile Aeroplex. It will begin production in 2015 and roll out its first jetliner in 2016, and eventually produce 40 to 50 aircraft each year. Airbus also has an engineering center at the Aeroplex, which pre-dates the assembly line.

Across town at the Mobile Regional Airport you'll find Airbus Military North America's MRO delivery center. And lest we forget, about two hours away from Mobile in Andalusia there's an operation of Vector Aerospace, which in 2011 was bought by what's now Airbus Helicopters.

Think Airbus Group likes it here?

-- In another Airbus story this week, Information Transport Solutions Inc., of Wetumpka, Ala., was awarded the networking contract for the A320 final assembly line in Mobile. ITS will provide Airbus with network components for its local area network, fixed port and wireless, IP telephony and video teleconferencing. ITS will conduct the Airbus project from its Mobile offices and provide backup redundancy from the Wetumpka headquarters near Montgomery. (Post)

Enterprise State Community College's Alabama Aviation Center wants to expand its footprint at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. It offers the state's only aviation maintenance program, provides both airframe and powerplant training as well as dual-enrollment programs in both Mobile and Baldwin counties for high school students. It's wants to secure space in the Aeroplex's warehouse area. (Post)

-- Over in Northwest Florida, the Santa Rosa County got a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to resurface and expand the tarmac at Peter Prince Airport. One business at the airport, Trident Aviation, expects to benefit from that expansion. It broke ground during the week on a new hanger and office building. Trident provides aviation students with their first training in the cockpit before they start flying in military aircraft. (Post)

Orbital Sciences successfully completed its third cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft was launched July 13 atop the company's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in east Virginia. The Antares rocket is powered by AJ-26 engines tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

But for SpaceX things didn't go so well during the week. The company, the first commercial company to successfully bring supplies to the ISS, suffered a setback Friday when an unmanned test flight of a rocket exploded over Texas. The test was of a three-engine version of the F9R test vehicle. There were no injuries. SpaceX also has ties to Stennis Space Center, which it plans to use to help it develop its Raptor engine.

Northrop Grumman is talking to Britain, Germany and Norway about its Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance plane, according to a company executive. The Global Hawks are all built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Andrew Tyler, Northrop’s UK and European chief, thinks a $1.7 billion contract the company signed with NATO for a five-drone surveillance and intelligence system in 2012 will help boost European sales.

Germany is already familiar with the Global Hawk. Northrop remains in long-running talks with the country about a stalled $1.6 billion purchase of four Euro Hawks. (Post)

Another of Northrop Grumman’s unmanned aircraft, the X-47B combat plane, returned to carrier operations aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Aug. 17. It completed a series of tests, operating safely with manned aircraft.

The first series of manned/unmanned operations began when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B, then after an eight-minute flight the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The F/A-18 landed right after the X-47B. (Post) You can bet the naval aviators who begin their training in Northwest Florida are keeping close tabs on this.

Honolulu-based Navatek Boat Builders has delivered its “Bladerunner 35” high-speed vessel to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for use as a military target support boat. The 35-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat was built in 2006. It has a top speed of more than 50 knots and will be used in simulated missions and military exercises. (Post)

OroconCarothers, JV1, Oxford, Miss., was awarded $28.4 million task order under a multiple award construction contract for renovation and repairs of Building 603, Saufley Field at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Work will be done in Pensacola and is expected to be completed by August 2016. … L-3 Communications Corp., Link Simulation and Training Division, Arlington, Texas, was awarded $15.5 million delivery order against a previously issued agreement for the procurement of 25 system configuration sets, Navy Aviation Simulation Master Plans, Next Generation Threat System upgrades and 25 liquid crystal display spare kits in support of the F/A-18 Tactical Operational Flight Trainer Suites. Ten percent of the work will be performed at Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. … Nova Technologies, Panama City, Fla., was awarded a $55 million modification to a contract for modification of the fire training system for simulated battlefield training of fire support specialists, joint fire observers and soldiers at the institutional and unit level. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $13.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide logistics services for aircraft availability of 96 TH-57 aircraft. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in May 2015.

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