Saturday, April 25, 2015

Week in review (4/19 to 4/25)

A new ranking of aerospace manufacturing attractiveness, a radar test on a Triton maritime surveillance drone, the aerial refueling of an X-47B drone, a contract for metrology services at the Airbus plant in Mobile, problems with the F-35 maintenance software, and an upcoming Navy test of a railgun were some of the stories during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor.

Here's the week in review:

Economic development
Florida is No. 1 when it comes to aerospace manufacturing attractiveness. That's according to the latest study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The 2015 Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness Rankings has the United States ranked No. 1 of 142 countries, and within the United States Florida tops the list. Alabama is No. 22, Mississippi No. 30 and Louisiana 36.

The analysis looks at how countries and states in the U.S. compare in terms of their attractiveness as locations for commercial aircraft manufacturing. The 2015 report ranked states on tax rates, industry size, operating cost and education. The study used a weighted average of variables such as costs, workforce and number of aerospace companies in each state.

Florida is home to more than 2,000 aerospace and aviation companies that employ more than 82,000 workers. (Post) The state is part of the Aerospace Alliance, which also includes Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. That group had its spring summit at the Embry-Riddle campus in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday and Friday.

The non-profit was created in 2009 and had its first summit in Sandestin, Fla. The next one was in New Orleans, followed by a summit in Huntsville, Ala. The focus this year was on workforce training and the future workforce.

The Navy has launched flight tests on the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton of one of the first active electronically scanned array radars with 360-degree coverage developed exclusively for the maritime patrol mission. The multifunction active sensor (MFAS) completed first flight onboard the unmanned MQ-4C on April 18 following risk reduction phase testing on a Gulfstream GII.

The tests on the MQ-4C are critical to a Navy decision at the end of this year on whether to launch low-rate initial production of a Triton fleet, expected to number 70 aircraft. The unmanned Triton, the Navy's variant of a Global Hawk, is designed to augment the Navy's manned fleet of P-8A maritime patrol aircraft in broad area maritime surveillance missions.

Triton fuselage work is done by Northrop Grumman in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Another Northrop Grumman-built unmanned system, the X-47B, successfully conducted the first Autonomous Aerial Refueling of an unmanned aircraft April 22. It happened off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, and was the final test objective under the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System demonstration program.

The X-47B, which in earlier Navy tests showed it could catapult off a carrier deck and make arrested landings, connected to a tanker aircraft and received over 4,000 pounds of fuel. Earlier in the month, the X-47B successfully hooked up with the tanker but no fuel transferred. (Post)

ATT Metrology Services Inc., of Issaquah, Wash., was awarded a contract by Airbus for metrology services at Airbus' $600 million facility being built in Mobile, Ala. The company provides precision measurement and alignment services. It will build out an existing structure to house a 5,000-square-foot lab that should be operational when the aircraft manufacturer begins production this year.

The company's clients in the aerospace sector include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Bombardier, Bell Helicopters and others. The Mobile Aeroplex facility represents a capital investment of between $200,000 and $300,000, and will have four to eight workers, according to the Mobile Register. (Post)

The F-35 logistics information system has drawn the attention of key lawmakers who got an earful from F-35 maintenance crews during a visit to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The autonomic logistics information system, or ALIS, monitors every component of the aircraft and alerts operators of any breakdowns. At least that's what it's supposed to do.

The complaints heard by members of Congress range from the user-unfriendliness and slow response to queries to the high frequency of false alarms. Military aviation experts said some of these issues are temporary and should be expected in new programs. Other shortcomings might take years to fix. Program Executive Officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan visited Eglin this week to personally look into the issues raised by the committee. (Post)

The first at-sea test of the Electromagnetic Railgun will be done in the summer of 2016 near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The BAE Systems designed test gun will be mounted on the USNS Trenton, built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., and taken to Eglin’s maritime test range.

It will fire a series of hypervelocity projectiles fitted with GPS electronics at a barge floating in the Gulf of Mexico. The rail gun uses high powered electromagnetic pulses instead of chemical propellants to fire projectiles that can move at seven times the speed of sound. The kinetic energy can accelerate a 45-pound projectile from zero to 5,000 mph in less than a second. (Post)

HX5, Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $24.2 million cost reimbursable contract for advisory and assistance services. Contractor will provide A&AS for the Munitions Division and the Range Systems Branch to support of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Work will be performed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and is expected to be complete by May 30, 2020. … Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $14 million modification to a previously awarded contract for F-22 sustainment. Contractor will provide trainer hardware modifications, training system development, and distributed mission operations federation and integration. Work will be performed at Langley Air Force Base, Va.; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; and St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2017.

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