For the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor, the week was dominated by news items concerning the F-35, including the start of training for the first pilot from the Royal Australian Air Force and extreme weather testing of an F-35B from Maryland. But Pensacola also got on the radar with something out of this world.
Here's your week in review:
At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., an F-35B is continuing testing under extreme weather conditions at the base’s McKinley Climatic Laboratory. The F-35B is from the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force in Maryland, and the tests are being done by the 96th Test Wing.
The testing, which began four months ago and won’t end until March, is designed to validate the capability of the plane to operate in weather conditions anywhere in the world. The laboratory supports all-weather testing of weapon systems to ensure they function regardless of climatic conditions. (Post)
Meanwhile, the first Royal Australian Air Force pilot has begun training at Eglin to fly the F-35A. Eglin is home of the F-35 integrated training center, which trains all branches and all foreign partners in all three variants of the Lockheed Martin fifth generation fighter.
Squadron leader Andrew Jackson’s first flight will be months from now, and may not be in either of Australia’s two F-35A jets. Australia’s second F-35A pilot, David Bell, will start training in mid-2015. Australia plans to buy 72 of the planes, with the first arriving in Australia in late 2018. The first jet rolled off the production line in 2014. (Post)
Over in Fort Worth, Texas, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. was awarded a $10.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract in support of the F-35 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot VI for the government of Italy.
This modification provides for the F-35 Italian National Database, including a Database Generation System to support delivery of the first Italian full mission simulator. Work will be performed in Turin, Italy (80 percent) and Orlando, Fla. (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in April 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
In another contract, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics was awarded a $10 million ceiling priced modification to a previously awarded contract to redesign, test and certify the F-35 Ground Based Data Security Assembly Receptacle. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (51 percent) and Orlando, Fla. (49 percent), and is expected to be completed in April 2016. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
Navy Outlying Field Choctaw in Navarre, Fla., hosted a short-notice Naval Special Warfare Group training exercise Jan. 23 when weather conditions left the East Coast SEAL team without a drop zone.
After coordination with the Naval Air Station Whiting Field Air Operations, NOLF Choctaw, used primarily for naval aviation training, was transformed for four multiple air drops from a Dobbins, Ga., Air Reserve Base C-130 that circled the field at about 10,000 feet. Whiting Field has 13 outlying fields used for training. (Post)
-- The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform at an air show at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., March 28-29. It will be Keesler’s first air show and open house in four years. This year's air show also features the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team and is expected to draw between 180,000 and 200,000 spectators. (Post)
-- Pensacola International Airport during the week unveiled a campaign designed to welcome sci-fi convention participants to town next month. The airport has put up signs that call the facility "Pensacola Intergalactic Airport" in advance of the Feb. 27 to March 1 Pensacon 2015.
The welcoming campaign, which will last until March 3, was done in partnership with Pensacon. The convention includes fans of multiple comic genres, including anime, sci-fi, fantasy and more. Last year’s convention drew 17,000 participants. (Post)
By the way, there are two airports in this country that actually use intergalactic in their names. According to a search of the internet, both are in Wyoming. One is Bunch Grass Intergalactic Airport in Powell, and the other is Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport in Green River.
If anyone had asked me, I would have suggested "The Upside of Florida Interstellar Airport/Spaceport." Has a nice ring, don't you think?
While I'm on the subject of space, Orbital Sciences Corp. stockholders during the week approved the proposed merger with the Aerospace and Defense Groups of Alliant Techsystems Inc. About 99 percent of the votes cast at a special meeting voted in favor, representing some 85 percent of the total of outstanding shares of Orbital common stock. The merger is expected to close Feb. 9. ATK will be renamed Orbital ATK Inc. Orbital Sciences tests rocket engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)
Xator Corp. of Destin, Fla., along with InDyne Inc. and L-3 National Security Solutions Inc., both of Reston, Va., Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., and Herndon, Va., have each been awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for force protection site security systems. The total not-to-exceed combined amount for these multiple contracts is $486,000,000. … Crane Electronics Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a maximum $9.8 million contract for high voltage power supplies. The contract has a five-year base with no option periods. The location of performance is Florida, with a Jan. 28, 2020 performance completion date. … Airbus Defense and Space Inc., Herndon, Va., was awarded a $25 million contract modification to procure program year 10 contractor logistic support for the UH-72A Lakota Helicopters. The work will be performed in Columbus, Miss. … PAE Applied Technologies LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $31 million modification to exercise the option to a previously awarded contract for base operations support services. Work will be performed at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2015. The 81st Contracting Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. ... L-3 Communications Corp., Madison, Miss., was awarded a $52 million contract modification to acquire maintenance/modifications for the Army's fleet of C-12/RC-12/UC-35 fixed wing aircraft. The work will be performed in Madison.