A lot of international attention has been focused on this region because of the Airbus A320 plant that will open this year in Mobile, Ala. But another group has folks from overseas has also been paying close attention for another reason. They'll be making investments in this region of a different sort - they'll be putting money into reprogramming labs.
We had a story this week in the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor/Gulf Coast Reporters League newsletter about the two new F-35 reprogramming labs that will be built at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. They'll join the reprogramming lab that has been at the base for about five years now.
The two new labs will be for five countries that are partners in the F-35 project. Groundbreaking for the Australia, Canada, United Kingdom Reprogramming Lab (ACURL) will be this year, then next year ground will be broken for the Norway Italy Reprogramming Lab (NIRL). How many folks they’ll have and what they'll cost hasn't been detailed because it involves foreign dollars.
These labs are crucial to the success of the F-35 program. The labs are used to create mission data, packages that hold terrain and enemy threat information, including radar, surface-to-air missiles and fighters, along with data on friendly forces, non-beligerants and commercial aircraft. All of that goes into providing the pilot with battle space awareness.
Partner nations for some time now have complained that they need to customize their F-35s to suit their own needs. These labs will allow that. (Post)
In a related matter, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $150.6 million contract to provide an integrated reprogramming capability to build, test, modify, and field F-35 mission data files for Australia and the United Kingdom. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas and is expected to be completed in December 2018. (Post)
The newsletter also had a story during the week about SpaceX at Stennis Space Center. South Mississippi is playing a major role in development of SpaceX's next generation rocket engine that will make the company’s plans for trips to Mars -- and the eventual colonization -- possible.
It was a year ago that SpaceX cut the ribbon on its test stand at the NASA facility. Since then SpaceX has been testing components for its Raptor rocket engine, specifically injectors and combustion chambers, with additional components ready for testing in the near future. In a typical week, SpaceX conducts multiple tests, according to a company spokesman. (Post)
With more than 1,300 acres acquired around Whiting Field Naval Air Station since 2001, on Thursday Santa Rosa County approved adding about 330 acres of conservation easements adjacent to the base. Another 2,000 or so acres are also being sought pending negotiations with landowners. The land purchase is designed to protect the base from encroachment. The base has a $1.1 billion annual economic impact. (Post)
-- After a four-year absence, the Gulf Coast Salute Air Show is being held this weekend at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The last show was in 2011, and was dropped because of budget issues. The Air Force Thunderbirds and the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, as well as the Army Golden Knights jump team, are performing. (Post)
-- Speaking of bases, the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., was highlighted in one of our newsletter stories. The base is where Coast Guard aviators learn how to fly various aircraft, and it also sets the standards for the service's aviators. It's also gotten some international attention thanks to a full-motion simulator developed for the HC-144 Ocean Sentry. (Post)
Two other bases, Florida's Naval Air Station Pensacola and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, were also highlighted in a story about the folks who maintain their training aircraft. It's a big job making sure those aircraft are airworthy, and that responsibility falls to some 800 workers for several different companies. (Post)
Gulf Coast State College plans to offer a two-year degree in unmanned vehicle systems. The Gulf Coast Unmanned Vehicle Systems Program launches this summer with student enrollment planned for the 2015-2016 school year. The two-year degree would be credited toward a four-year degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which offers classes at Tyndall Air Force Base. (Post)
Silver Airways has launched new service between Florida's Pensacola International Airport and Jacksonville International Airport. The non-stop flights will operate Monday through Friday. With the addition of the Jacksonville service, Pensacola International Airport now offers non-stop service to 12 international hubs. (Post)
Also, Southwest Airlines, which in early March started offering Saturday service between Florida's Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Dallas Love Field, is now offering daily flights to that destination. The more frequent schedule began Wednesday. The airport is in West Bay, northwest of Panama City. (Post)
Northwest Florida will be represented at the upcoming MRO Americas 2015 event taking
place at the Miami Beach Convention Center April 14-16. The aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul conference attracts airlines, manufacturers and service providers who are involved in a range of MRO activities. Florida's Great Northwest is coordinating a regional marketing effort at the three-day event. (Post)
Crew MW LLC, Goldsboro, N.C., was awarded a $9.2 million contract for Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by April 6, 2016. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.