Saturday, March 14, 2015

Week in review (3/8 to 3/14)

The crash of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a training mission in Northwest Florida on Tuesday took the lives of 11 servicemen, and reminds us again of how risky the military life can be, even without being in a combat zone.

The helicopter from the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Hammond, La., was with another UH-60 on the training mission at Eglin Range A-17 when thick fog enveloped the area. One helicopter returned to base, but the other went down hard in Santa Rosa Sound, separating the mainland from the nearby barrier island. The UH-60 crashed into 25 feet of water around 8:30 p.m.

Seven Marines and four Army helicopter crew members died. (Post) The Marines were all from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The names of the four Louisiana National Guard soldiers who also died in the crash have not yet been released. (Post)

We're a military-friendly region, in part because of all our bases, in part because of all our veterans, in part because of our patriotism. So a tragedy like the UH-60 crash grabs our attention and we mourn along with their friends and families.

The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron will conduct flight and boat operations in the Gulf of Mexico eight to 20 miles south of Destin and in Choctawhatchee Bay March 16-19. The operations are part of the 53rd Wing's weapon system evaluation program. Fighter aircraft will release munitions in the morning between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. about eight to 20 nautical miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. Then around 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the bay, about 30 boats will be used as visual targets by fighter aircraft and helicopters flying mid to low level. Eglin held a similar exercise in early February. (Post)

The first F-35 assembled outside the United States rolled off an assembly line in Italy on Thursday. The F-35A designated AL-1 is being assembled at the final assembly and check out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base in northern Italy. The FACO will assemble F-35s for Italy and the Netherlands.

Owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense, Cameri also builds wing sets for the F-35 that will be shipped to Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, assembly line. The plant, operated by Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi and Lockheed Martin, has 750 staff now at the 101-acre facility. Last December, it was chosen by the DoD as Europe's F-35 airframe maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade center.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home to the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

-- Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $33.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract. The modification provides for retrofit modifications to the production thrust recovery, lift systems, and controller systems for low rate initial production VII F135/600 and F135/100 propulsion systems.

Work will be performed in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is expected to be completed in December 2016. The contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps (89.22 percent); the U.S. Air Force (24 percent); and the international partners (10.54 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Speaking of engines, Turkish Airlines selected Rolls-Royce to supply Trent 700 engines and long-term service support, worth $300 million, to power four Airbus A330 freighter aircraft. The airline already operates 11 A330ceo passenger and five A330 freighter aircraft powered by the Trent 700.

In the A330 freighter market, the Trent 700 now accounts for 90 per cent of aircraft in service and on order. More than 1,500 Trent 700s are now in service or on firm order. Rolls-Royce tests the Trent engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Airbus could commit to a new hike in production of its A320 family of jetliners before the end of the year. A final decision depends in large part on the health of the supply chain. Sales chief John Leahy made the prediction days after the plane maker announced plans to raise production from 42 planes a month now to 50 a month in 2017, almost matching a monthly rate of 52 targeted by Boeing for the following year. Airbus this year will open an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system has seen a significant
decrease in cost per flight hour coupled with a sharp increase in flight hours, officials said. Global Hawk variants have flown more than 140,000 flight hours in support of diverse surveillance missions.

Meanwhile, an RQ-4B Global Hawk, A2019, embarked on a mission March 7 that sent the aircraft past the 10,000 flying-hour milestone at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The aircraft has been providing support to warfighters by relaying communications between people and aircraft as well as enabling airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Fuselage work for all Global Hawk variants is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

The Air Force's F-16s used for homeland protection need radar upgrades urgently, according to the commander of the First Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. These are upgrades the service put off due to funding restrictions.

The First Air Force, the numbered Air Force with sole responsibility of ensuring air superiority and air sovereignty of the U.S., recently filed the urgent operational need request with the Air Force Requirements Council for fiscal 2015 funding for its Aerospace Control Alert mission.

The request now being considered, specifically for Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Block 30 F-16s, seeks the installation of the Northrop Grumman APG-83 SABR active electronically scanned array radar. The radar was part of the combat avionics program extension suite that the Air Force dropped from its fiscal 2015 and 2016 budget requests because of budget shortfalls. (Post)

Airbus Defense and Space Inc., Herndon, Va., was awarded a $24 million contract modification to exercise an option to procure Program Year 10 contractor logistics support for UH-72A Lakota Helicopters. Work will be performed at in Columbus, Miss. … Atlas North America LLC, Virginia Beach, Va., was awarded a $14 million contract for depot level repair, maintenance, modifications, engineering services and spare parts for the AN/SLQ-60 Surface Mine Neutralization System. Sixty percent of the work will be done in Panama City Beach, Fla. Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, is the contracting activity.

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