A big purchase of F-35 jet fighters and the decision to pick Airbus to provide a service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft were just two of the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $4.1 billion modification to a previously awarded contract for the production of 43 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot VIII F-35 aircraft.
The deal includes 29 jets for the United States and 14 for five other countries. Broken down another way, that's 19 F-35A models for the U. S. Air Force, four for Japan and two each for Italy, Norway and Israel; six F-35B models for the U.S. Marine Corps and four for the United Kingdom; and three F-35C jets for the U.S. Navy and one for the Marines.
The contract combines purchases for the Air Force (41 percent); Marines (14 percent); Navy (12 percent); international partners (19 percent); and foreign military sales (14 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. (Post)
The new contract reduces the cost of the A-model airframe without the engine to $94.8 million, the cost of the B-model would be $102 million without an engine while the Navy's C-model would be $115.7 million, also not counting the engine.
The Pentagon last month signed a separate contract for an eighth batch of engines built by Pratt and Whitney. The company said the contract would lower the cost of the engines between 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent.
-- Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy's first F-35C carrier variant squadron, reached a milestone in November by surpassing 1,000 mishap-free flight hours. As the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, VFA-101 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., trains Navy aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the aircraft. The unit became the Navy's first F-35C squadron after receiving the aircraft June 22, 2013, from Lockheed Martin, and completed the first check flight, Aug. 14. (Post)
-- Four F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., were deployed to Eglin Air Force Base earlier this month for the unit's first operational integration training mission with the F-35A jets of the 33rd Fighter Wing. The training was to improve integrated employment of fifth-generation assets and tactics. The F-35s and F-22s flew offensive counter air, defensive counter air and interdiction missions together, exploring ways to maximize their fifth-generation capabilities. (Post)
There was a major first during the week for Airbus, and it involves a program important to the Gulf Coast region. Airbus Group will build a service module for the U.S. space capsule, Orion. It's the first time a European firm will provide system-critical elements for a U.S. space project. Airbus Defense and Space said the contract is worth around $488 million.
The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the capsule designed for deep space missions. It’s based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) developed and constructed by Airbus on behalf of ESA as a supply craft for the International Space Station.
The first space-bound Orion, slated to launch next month atop a Delta IV, was built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. The Delta IV's RS-68 engines were tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Future Orion launches will be aboard NASA's massive Space Launch System, being built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility. The SLS's RS-25 engines will be tested at Stennis Space Center. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., where it also has an engineering center and an Airbus Military operation. (Post)
Speaking of that final assembly line, four classifications of hourly manufacturing positions at the Airbus final assembly line were posted Monday, and more were posted as the week drew to a close. To keep up to date on jobs at the plant, visit the Alabama Industrial Development Training website. (Post)
In Alabama, the Baldwin County Commission during the week endorsed vacating a portion of a county owned road near Barin Field so the Navy can extend the east-west runway for a new, more capable Navy training aircraft. In return, the federal government will build a new road for residences and businesses located nearby. The Navy believes the nearly $30 million project can be finished by summer. (Post)
Meanwhile near Panama City, Fla., a beachfront neighborhood of up to 195 homes could be allowed in the flight path of Tyndall Air Force Base after the Bay County Commission OK’d a land-use plan amendment. The request from developers to amendment its comprehensive land-use plan for 165 acres would increase the maximum number of units from the current 16 residential units. Base officials said the best protection for the base's mission would be leaving the zoning as it is, but recommended several changes if the amendment is approved, including height restrictions and buildings with enhanced noise and vibration restriction standards. (Post)
Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $32.2 million modification to previously awarded contract for Enhanced Paveway II guided bomb unit kits and a 10-year warranty for each kit. Contractor will provide 500 Enhanced Paveway II guided bomb units 49 and 50 kits (each kit includes an enhanced computer control group and an air foil group) and a 10-year warranty for each kit to be supplied to the Royal Saudi Air Force. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Kaman Precision Products Inc., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $28.9 million modification to exercise the option for Lot 11 production of joint
programmable fuze systems. Contractor will provide an additional quantity of 7,846 state-of-the-art fuze systems being produced under the basic contract. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2016. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $64.4 million contract for research and development leading to the procurement of 60 long delay fuzes and development of an embedded fuze system. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Airbus Defense and Space Inc., Herndon, Va., was awarded an $18.5 million contract modification for logistic support to include flying hours, mission equipment packages and direct labor support. Work will be performed in Columbus, Miss.