Saturday, December 27, 2014

Week in review (12/21 to 12/27)

News of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week included Lockheed Martin meeting its target delivery number for F-35s; Airbus delivering its first A350 XWB; certification of a Pratt and Whitney engine for the A320neo; launch of an Air Force study of test ranges; and the MQ-8C Fire Scout getting its sea legs.

Here's your week in review:

Lockheed Martin met its 2014 target of delivering 36 F-35 fighters, according to DoD's F-35 program office. The U.S. accepted the last of the 36 jets early in the week. It was the first carrier-variant built for the Marine Corps.

Lockheed Martin, which is building three F-35 variants, has delivered 109 operational F-35s to the U.S. and partner-nations since 2001. Eight other countries that helped fund its development are Canada, Britain, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark. Israel, South Korea and Japan have also placed orders.

The first Marine F-35C will be assigned to the Navy's VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" squadron of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. After delivery, it will be used for maintenance and pilot training at Eglin. (Post)

The first A350 XWB has been delivered to Qatar Airways. The jetliner is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. More than 1,500 engines have already been sold to 40 customers. Trent engines, including the XWB, are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney's engine for the Airbus A320neo family of jetliners, scheduled to enter service in late 2015, has been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. The engine powered the A320neo when it took its maiden test flight in September. Airbus has more than 3,300 orders for the A320neo family as of November, according to the company. The newest A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., will open in 2015. (Post)

The Air Force has launched a major study into the future of its test ranges. Steven Pennington, director of Bases, Ranges, and Airspace for the Air Force, said the focus of the review is finding how much operational infrastructure is needed to enable current and future readiness.

Pennington made clear that big ranges, such as Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Eglin Air Force Bases, Fla., won't be going anywhere and remain vital for composite force training and testing of high-tech jets such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Part of the need for the new infrastructure is the increasingly advanced technology being fielded by the service, like the F-35. Eglin is where the Air Force develops and tests air-delivered weapons systems and it’s also home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

While on the subject of Eglin, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Dec. 16, the Defense Department doesn't know whether its hundreds of testing and training ranges in the U.S. are vulnerable to spying by foreign entities doing business near those properties.

According to Stars and Stripes, the report says the Pentagon hasn't done a risk assessment, nor has it determined which ranges are the most critical to protect. The Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy operate 450 test and training ranges on U.S. soil, used for air-to-air and ground-to-air missile launches, live-fire artillery, armor and small-arms training, and ship and submarine maneuvers.

For its report, GAO interviewed officials from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Nellis AFB, Nev., Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev.; and the Army’s White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The sites were chosen because they represent three of the services and are located near federally managed lands on which foreign encroachment has been a concern. GAO recommended DoD determine vulnerability, critical need and threat exposure of each of the ranges. (Story)

The Gulf Coast region has multiple test and training ranges, including the vast ranges of the Gulf of Mexico. Naval aviators are trained in this region, along with F-35 and F-22 pilots. It’s also home of the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Miss., and Navy and NASA test and training activities at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

-- At Hurlburt Field, Fla., an AC-130H Spectre gunship named "Wicked Wanda" took her last flight Dec. 19 and is scheduled to officially retire in 2015. The gunship, Tail Number 6575, has deployed in nearly every conflict the U.S. has been involved in, officially and unofficially, since the end of the Vietnam War. Eventually the plane with a 43-year combat history will be displayed in the Hurlburt Field Air Park. (Post)

For the first time ever, Northrop Grumman's MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter flew off a Navy ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109). It happened this month off the Virginia coast.

After more than a year of land-based testing at Point Mugu, Calif., the MQ-8C performed 22 takeoffs and 22 landings while being controlled from the ship's ground control station. The MQ-8C, which uses a Bell 407 airframe, is a larger version of the MQ-8B Fire Scout, which uses a Schweizer helicopter airframe. The B variant has tested aboard ships on numerous occasions.

Final assembly for both variants is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

United Technologies Aerospace Systems was recognized as a Gold Tier supplier for the Defense Department's Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) as part of DoD’s Superior Supplier Incentive Program.

UTC Aerospace Systems currently has spare parts contracts with the DLA that span across all of UTC Aerospace Systems' segments, including actuation and propeller systems, nacelle systems, air management systems, electric systems, ejection seats, sensing systems, landing gear, engine systems, sensor systems, and wheels and brakes.

UTC's Aerospace System's aerostructures business unit at Foley, Ala., designs, builds and supports nacelle systems for commercial and military aircraft. The Foley site houses original equipment work as well as the Alabama Service Center, a maintenance, repair and overhaul site for nacelle components. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $270.5 million contract modification for F119 engine sustainment. Some of the work will be done at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2015. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $491.5 million contract for Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) production Lot 28. Contractor will provide AMRAAM missiles and other AMRAAM system items. This contract involves foreign military sales to Korea, Oman, Singapore, and Thailand. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $21.9 million contract for advanced medium range air to air missile (AMRAAM) technical support. Contractor will provide technical services and analysis supporting the AMRAAM weapon system. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week in review (12/14 to 12/20)

It's amusing to watch everyone fall over themselves to criticize NASA and Congress over the A-3 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. When it comes to government spending, this isn't much money. And besides, a valid argument can be made that the true waste would have been if it hadn't been finished.

Let me recap. It was in January of 2014 that Bloomberg News first reported that the $350 million A-3 test stand would be completed then mothballed for lack of a mission. The stand was designed to test the J-2X engine's performance at high altitudes, but that need ended when the Bush Administration's Constellation program was killed by the Obama Administration in 2010.

At the time of the Bloomberg story, $292 million had already been spent to build the stand at NASA's primary rocket engine test facility, and it would take another $57 million to finish it up. At that time, the Bloomberg story said it would cost some $850,000 per year to keep it mothballed. The thinking was it made sense to finish it since a new administration or a private company planning missions beyond supplying the International Space Station might eventually use it.

Nearly a year later, as part of a series, the Washington Post wrote about the stand as an example of NASA's "drift," or what happens when a government entity has no clear mission. ABC News also had a story about it in its nightly newscast (Post). Not surprisingly, some newspapers wrote editorials criticizing the wasted tax dollars.

But in the bigger picture of government spending, the $350 million price tag for the stand and $700,000 maintenance cost (yes, it's lower than the original figure cited by Bloomberg) is not much for something that could be used in the future. The federal government spends something like $400 million an hour or $10 billion a day on a wide range of programs. Need a specific? In September the government spent $10 million a day in the air war against ISIS. And that's small compared to the $212 million per day spent in fiscal 2013 in Operation Enduring Freedom. I'm not at all saying that money was wasted, just pointing out how much money this government burns through on a regular basis.

I'm sure some of you still think that this is a clear waste, and that waste should be stopped whereever we see it. But you could also look at this as an investment in the future. With so many private companies getting into space exploration, this is a one-of-a-kind asset that could eventually be used by one of them. And there's also a chance a new administration might launch a program that would require testing an engine in the vacuum of space.

I'd rather see my tax dollars used that way than to see money go down the drain.

The Netherlands will sign a contract in April 2015 for an initial eight F-35 fighters of the total of 37 it’s planning to buy. The first aircraft is expected to enter service in 2019, with full operational capability expected in 2024. The Dutch Ministry of Defence said the intended contract will stay within the stated total budget of $5.6 billion. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $34.9 million contract modification for management of deployable spares packages for F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI aircraft. The modification combines purchases for the Air Force, Marines, Navy and the international partners. Four percent of the work will be done in Valparaiso, Fla., just outside Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Other work sites are Texas, Utah, South Carolina, Arizona, North Carolina, California and Nevada and is expected to be completed in March 2016. (Post)

-- Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $47.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract. The modification is for sustainment efforts and operations and maintenance services in support of Low Rate Initial Production Lot VIII F135 propulsion systems, including repair of repairables and replenishment spares. Work will be done in Connecticut, Indiana and Oklahoma and is expected to be completed in November 2015. The contract combines purchase for the Air Force, Navvy and international partners. (Post)

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $657.4 million contract for four RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aircraft for the Republic of Korea. The contract includes two spare engines, and the applicable Ground Control Environment elements. Work will be performed at San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be complete by June 28, 2019. Center fuselage work on Global Hawks is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Rolls-Royce was selected by AirAsia X to power 10 Airbus A330ceo and 55 Airbus
A330neo aircraft with engines. The A330ceos will be powered by the Trent 700 and the A330neos will be powered by the Trent 7000 engine. It's the largest order for the Trent 7000 engine since it was launched earlier this year. Trent engines are tested at the Rolls-Royce outdoor test facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Three Frenchmen have created a titanium seat that could save airlines millions and cram
more seats into jetliners. The seat, which consists of 30 parts and is "pre-reclined" by 18
degrees, is designed for use in the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family of aircraft. The new seat is three times lighter than the light-weight Recaro seat. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., that will open in 2015. (Post)

Col. William West, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing and the installation commander at Hurlburt, will hand over command of the wing to Col. Sean Farrell, current commander of the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The change of command is Jan. 6. (Post)

Utilis USA, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a maximum $200 million contract for commercial shelters. This is a one-year base contract with three one-year option periods. Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Type of appropriation is fiscal year 2015 defense working capital funds.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Week in review (12/7 to 12/13)

News items about the F-35 during the past week showed just how much the Lockheed Martin fighter is the product of an international effort. Not only is the jet important to Northwest Florida, where Eglin Air Force Base is home to the F-35 integrated training center, but to allies who invested money in the project.

First, Congress agreed during the week to provide $554.2 billion in funding for the military in fiscal 2015 that includes $224 million for two additional F-35A fighters for the Air Force and $255 million for two additional Navy F-35Cs. The measure funds a total of 38 F-35 fighters, nine more than in FY-14. (Post)

-- Italy and Turkey were chosen by the Pentagon to provide initial heavy maintenance of F-35 fighters in Europe starting in 2018. That paves the way for billions of dollars of work by companies in those countries and several others in coming years. Italy will provide initial heavy maintenance, with Britain providing backup airframe maintenance. Heavy maintenance on the F135 engine will be done in Turkey, but Norway and the Netherlands will also set up sites in a few years. (Post)

Meanwhile, Italy is preparing for the rollout of its first F-35A from the final assembly and checkout facility at Cameri Air Base in northern Italy. The first aircraft is scheduled to come off the line by March 2015. Italy invested about $1 billion in building the facility, which began operations last year. The original plan called for about 250 planes, 113 for Italy and 85 for the Netherlands, to be built at the plant. But the final number is up in the air. Cameri is also the site of Italy’s hub for Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado work. (Post)

-- Northrop Grumman earlier this month completed the center fuselage for the first F-35 to be ordered by Norway, a conventional takeoff and landing variant designated AM-1. Northrop Grumman designed and produces the center fuselage for all three F-35 variants. The AM-1 center fuselage is the first of 52 fuselages that will be produce for Norway. Lockheed Martin will perform final assembly and checkout of the Norwegian F-35s in Fort Worth, Texas. (Post)

-- In a story out of Canada, a report says the F-35 has no clear edge over three other jet fighters Canada is considering to replace its fleet. The F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Boeing Super Hornet are all able of accomplish missions envisioned by Canadian military leaders. The only exception would be going to war with another state. Canada is one of the original nine partner nation in the F-35 program and for now still intends to buy 65 F-35s beginning in 2020. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $169.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide Depot Phase I-IV services to support Low Rate Initial Production Lot VII F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and international partners. Work will be done in New York, Texas, New Hampshire, California, Iowa, Florida, Michigan and the United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed in June 2018. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Air Force (47 percent), the U.S. Navy (33 percent); U.S. Marine Corps (14 percent); and international partners (6 percent). (Post)

Capt. Todd Bahlau will take over next week as commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. He takes over from Capt. Matthew Coughlin, who is retiring. Bahlau is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and aviator who comes to Northwest Florida from duty with the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. (Post)

-- The Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team announced updates to its 2015 Air Show season and the release of the 2016 schedule. The team will perform 65 shows at 35 locations in 2015, and 69 shows at 36 locations in 2016. The team is based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

-- The Boeing 747 that's known as Air Force One when it's carrying the president spent a portion of last weekend at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., undergoing recertification testing. The plane recently completed a year-long maintenance cycle and is being tested before its return to service. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Regional Airport is considering changing its name to Destin-Fort Walton Beach International Airport. The Department of Airports plans to ask Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners to consider the name change during a January meeting. (Post)

-- A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and aircrew rescued a man from a life raft 30 miles south of Venice, La., during the week. His vessel hit an unknown object and he had to use his life raft. (Post)

For the first time Fire Scouts unmanned helicopters will be at sea on four ships at the same time. Two East Coast-based frigates are deployed, each with four MQ-8B models. The LCS Forth Worth recently left San Diego for a planned 16-month deployment with a hybrid aviation detachment of one MQ-8B and one MH-60R Seahawk manned helicopter. Early this month the California-based Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf got underway carrying two Fire Scouts, a first for an NSC. Finishing work on Fire Scouts is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

I hope you had a chance to download the recent aerospace newsletter. We had four feature stories about aerospace activities in this region. One article was about aerospace activities in Northwest Florida's smaller, rural counties (Post), and another story about Continental Motors of Mobile, Ala. (Post) We also had an article about Marianna Airmotive, in Cantonment north of Pensacola, (Post), and a story about a new FAA-approved asphalt that’s more durable, stronger and fuel resistant is making some inroads at airports. (Post)

Reliable Contracting Group LLC
, Louisville, Ky., was awarded an $8.4 million contract with options for replacing the fuel pipeline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., with an estimated completion date of March 21, 2014. The Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $12.5 million modification to previously awarded contract for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency system. Contractor will provide protected key management architecture (KMA) for installation, integration and factory test of the replacement KMA system with the existing AEHF control and space segments. Lockheed Martin does a portion of the work on the AEHF system at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … Composite Engineering Inc., Sacramento, Calif., was awarded a $72.4 million contract for Air Force Subscale Aerial Target Lots 11-13 production. Contractor will produce the AFSAT BQM-167A that will be used by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group to test and evaluate air-to-air and surface-to-air weapons systems. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Week in review (11/30 to 12/6)

For those of us old enough to remember the excitement during the early years of the nation's space program, Friday's successful Orion mission test gave us something to applaud, and brought back fond memories. It even looked something like those early years with the splashdown and recovery by a Navy ship in the Pacific.

But the images of the capsule's descent and splashdown show just how far we've come. Not only were the pictures higher quality than in the past, but one of the photographers was a NASA Predator drone flying in the area.

The unmanned Orion space capsule, designed to eventually carry astronauts into deep space, was initially scheduled to launch Thursday but that was delayed until Friday. After lifting off from Cape Canaveral on Florida's East Coast, the unmanned capsule took two laps around the Earth, 3,600 miles up, before making a picture-perfect landing in the Pacific Ocean some 600 miles from San Diego, about 270 miles west of Baja California.

One of the most important tests for the spacecraft was the heat shield, which was subjected to 4,000 degree temperatures as it plunged through the atmosphere at 20,000 mph. It passed with flying colors.

The 11-foot tall capsule was slowed by three orange-and-white parachutes, and was traveling at just 20 mph when it hit the water. The capsule was recovered by the crew of the San Diego-based amphibious vessel, USS Anchorage. The capsule will arrive in San Diego Sunday or Monday.

The Gulf Coast has reason to be proud of its role. Lockheed Martin built about 75 percent of the Orion space capsule at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in east New Orleans. That facility is also working on the first stage of the Space Launch System that will be used to launch future Orions.

In addition, the rocket that stood in for the Space Launch System in this test flight, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV built in Decatur, Ala., is powered by Rocketdyne RS-68 engines tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. And the San Antonio-class LPD that retrieved the space capsule was built at Louisiana's Avondale Shipyard when it was part of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. That company is now Huntington Ingalls Industries.

The latest edition of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League aerospace newsletter will publish Tuesday morning. Once it's published, you'll be able to find the free 8-page PDF at the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor website, or you can sign up to have it sent to your inbox.

In the latest edition, Charlotte Crane will fill you in on aerospace activities in the smaller, rural counties of Northwest Florida, where luring aviation may not be a top priority, but does represent an opportunity that's knocking. In this edition, you'll also find a story by Kaija Wilkinson about what the future holds for Mobile, Ala., aircraft engine-maker Continental Motors, which is owned by the Chinese aerospace giant AVIC.

The December issue also has an article by Mark O’Brien, who tells you about Marianna Airmotive, a Cantonment, Fla., company that plays a key role ensuring that the Air Force's monster C-5 transports stay airborne. Last but not least, writer Tom McLaughlin will tell you about P-601, a new, tougher, fuel-resistant asphalt that's starting to make headway at airports.

So make sure you grab a copy. If you miss it, each  story will also be highlighted in the Gulf Coast daily aerospace news feed, beginning Tuesday.

The National Training and Simulation Association selected the F-35 Training System for the 2014 Modeling and Simulation Award. The award recognizes the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin for delivering an effective, immersive training experience for F-35 pilots and maintainers.

As the first of its kind in the Department of Defense, the 33rd Fighter Wing is responsible for F-35 pilot and maintainer training for DoD and, in the future, at least eight coalition partners. To date, more than 140 pilots and 1,500 maintainers from the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have graduated from Eglin’s Integrated Training Center. (Post)

-- The Office of Naval Research's Manufacturing Technology program received one of the nation's top manufacturing awards for an innovative, cost-saving method for making advanced cockpit canopies for the F-35. The Department of Defense's Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award was given for developing an automated process will be used to make canopies for more than 2,000 aircraft, saving nearly $125 million over the life of the F-35 program. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $97.8 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for a financial arrangement implementing a Foreign Military Sales Letter of Offer for the government of Israel in support of the F-35 program. Work will be done in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in December 2022. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. (Post)

NASA research at Stennis Space Center, Miss., could help hospital MRI machines and fuel-cell cars of the future. Engineers are testing a technology that could yield new sources of both helium gas required for cooling MRI machines and purified, high-pressure hydrogen gas, the fuel for fuel-cells.

SSC produces a lot of hydrogen and helium gas mixture in its rocket tests. Right now it's burned off or vented into the air. But Sustainable Innovations of East Hartford, Conn., has developed an electrochemical Hydrogen Recovery System (HRS) that will allow NASA to extract hydrogen from rocket fuel line purge gas, leaving behind high-value helium, a purified stream compressed to commercial storage pressure.

The company developed HRS for NASA under a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer program. The same technology on which HRS is based will also be useful for separating hydrogen from CO2 and CO in the life support technologies now being tested and developed for its manned spaceflight missions. (Post)

Finnair firmed up an order for eight more Airbus A350 XWB aircraft, a decision that means additional Trent XWB engine business worth $450 million at list prices. The aircraft are in addition to 11 Airbus A350 XWBs that the airline already has on order, powered by the same engine.

The Trent XWB is the fastest-selling widebody engine ever with more than 1,500 engines already sold. It will power the first A350 XWB into service later this year. Trent engines are tested by Rolls-Royce at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Economic development
VentureCrossings in Florida's Bay County is the first industrial site to complete Gulf Power's Florida First Sites program. Fourteen sites were initially submitted, and nine are still working towards certification. Most expect to be certified by the end of February.

VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre, adjacent to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, has been determined to have proper zoning, service to utilities and also met numerous other qualifications that make it ready for development. St. Joe Co., Gulf Power and local, regional and state economic development agencies will now work to market the site to prospective companies. (Post)

Speegle Construction Inc., Niceville, Fla., was awarded a $7.7 million contract to construct a satellite dining facility at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., with an estimated completion date of May 8, 2016. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District, Albuquerque, N.M., is the contracting activity.