Saturday, July 25, 2015

Week in review (7/19 to 7/25)

Gunship conversion work, a forecast about the growing need for aircraft maintenance technicians, the departure of the last QF-4 from Tyndall, and the establishment of a machinist union office in Mobile were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast I-10 region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Economic development
Lockheed Martin will perform a series of modifications to an MC-130J to convert it to an AC-130J. The work, which will cost around $20 million, will be done at Bob Sikes Airport near Crestview. Right now, two aircraft are scheduled to be converted, but the Air Force Special Operations Command plans to modify 33 of in the coming years.

The AC-130J is designed to provide close air support for ground troops and air interdiction roles such as strike coordination and reconnaissance. It’s being developed to replace the AC-130H, AC-130U and AC-130W gunships. (Post)

While on the subject of Lockheed Martin, that company is buying Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies for $9 billion. Lockheed Martin, already the largest military contractor, builds the F-35 and other military aircraft. This will also give the company the Black Hawk helicopter. It's Lockheed Martin's largest acquisition since it bought Martin Marietta Corp two decades ago. (Post).

All three companies have operations in the Gulf Coast region. Lockheed Martin has space-related activities at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss. It also has an operation in Fort Walton Beach that works, among other things, with the F-35. United Technologies has an operation in Foley, Ala., and Sikorsky has been involved in aircraft maintenance activities in Milton and Pensacola, Fla.

Boeing released a new forecast showing continued strong demand for commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians as the world's airlines add 38,000 airplanes to the global fleet over the next 20 years. Boeing's 2015 Pilot and Technician Outlook projects that between 2015 and 2034 the world will require 558,000 new commercial airline pilots and 609,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians. (Post)

Speaking of workers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has opened an organizing office in Mobile for Airbus workers interested in forming a union at the company's assembly line.

The office will be staffed by full-time IAM organizers and supported by community allies and volunteers from IAM and AFL-CIO-affiliated unions in the Mobile and Gulf Coast area.

The $600 million A320 assembly line will employ about 1,000 workers and produce four to five passenger jets each month when in fully operational. The first plane, an A321, will be delivered to JetBlue in 2016. (Post)

The last QF-4 from the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron left Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base Friday. It's now at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., where it will remain for its final missions. The F-4 originally was used as a fighter during the Vietnam War, but it began serving Tyndall as a QF-4 aerial target in 1997. The departure of the QF-4 marks the full transition for the 82nd ATS to the QF-16, which, like the QF-4, can be flown manned or unmanned. (Post)

-- In Okaloosa County, county commissioners agreed to ask the Air Force to grant the county ownership of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport property, which is located within Eglin Air Force Base. The county said it can no longer afford the $400,000 lease payment it makes to Eglin each year and still hold on to its three major airline carriers, United, American and Delta.

County Airports Director Sunil Harman said owning the airport land would allow the county to develop new streams of revenue such as hotels, gas stations and convenience stores. (Story)

-- Navy Cmdr. Abaxes Williams, a pilot with the Navy Reserve’s Strike Fighter Squadron 204, was awarded the Air Medal earlier this month for an incident that occurred last year over the Gulf of Mexico. He was flying an F/A-18s out of Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base when it was hit by lightning at 23,000 feet. He struggled for 25 minutes to wear off the effect and control the fighter until he could return to the Belle Chasse base. (Post)

PAE Aviation and Technical Services LLC, Marlton, N.J., was awarded an $115.9 million contract for aerial targets operations and maintenance services. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2022. Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Week in review (7/12 to 7/18)

The expansion of Fort Walton Machining, progress in getting an MRO in Pensacola, another test of the RS-25 rocket engine and contracts for the F-35 were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Economic development
Fort Walton Machining is expanding, a move that will mean 30 new positions and more than $1.5 million in new manufacturing equipment. It was the first company to apply for the city of Fort Walton Beach's Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption, an incentive for new and expanding businesses approved by voters in August. Greg Britton, CEO of Fort Walton Machining, said the equipment will give the Northwest Florida company greater capabilities in aerospace manufacturing. (Post)

Meanwhile, over in Pensacola, Fla., the project to bring an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility to Pensacola International Airport is inching ahead. An $8 million contract was awarded during the week to Phoenix Construction Services to expand the cargo apron. The apron is needed as part of the VT MAE project.

Another contract for $2.5 million was awarded to Atkins North America for architectural and engineering design for the VT MAE maintenance, repair and overhaul facility. Local company Greenhut Construction was awarded construction manager privileges when it comes time to build the facility, slated for January 2016.

VT MAE, which has a 1,000-employee MRO operation in Mobile, Ala., chose Pensacola for an expansion project. The two-hangar facility will employ some 300 workers when it opens. (Post)

A Space Launch System RS-25 engine had a 535-second test Friday at NASA's Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. During the test, operators ran the engine through a series of power levels, including firing at 109 percent of the engine's rated power.

Data collected at various power levels will aid in adapting the former space shuttle engines to the new SLS vehicle, including development of an all-new engine controller and software. Four RS-25s will power the SLS core stage. (Post)

The Gulf Coast is heavily involved in NASA's SLS program. In addition to engines being tested at Stennis Space Center, the core stage is being built by Boeing at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. That's also where Lockheed Martin does work on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Lockheed Martin demonstrated its Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), engaging two laser-designated stationary targets during recent tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. In the first test, the missile flew four kilometers, engaged its precision-strike, semi-active laser and hit the stationary target. During the second flight, the missile flew four kilometers, acquired the target using its precision strike, semi-active laser while simultaneously tracking the target with its millimeter wave radar, and hit the stationary target. (Post)

The 177th Combined Arms Training Brigade had a change of command ceremony during the week at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center parade field. Col. William Chlebowski relinquished command to Col. Brandon Robbins during the ceremony. Robbins previously served as operations officer for the U.S. Army 101st Air Assault Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. Chlebowski has commanded the 177th CATB since July 2013. Camp Shelby, Miss., is the nation's largest state-owned training site. (Post)

-- At Fort Rucker, Ala., Shannon Miller became the garrison commander in a change of command ceremony earlier this month. Miller now has responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day operations at the base in South Alabama. She replaced Col. Stuart McRae, who becomes deputy of the Installation Management Command Pacific Region at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Fort Rucker, near Dothan, is the home of Army aviation training. (Post)

Also at Fort Rucker, the base will lose 186 soldiers and an unspecified number of civilians by Sept. 30, 2018 due to an Army-wide reduction of 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians. The Aviation Center of Excellence itself is expected to lose about 68 percent of the 186 soldiers, according to a Fort Rucker news release. (Post)

Lockheed Martin of Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded two contracts during the week in connection with the F-35. The contracting activity in both cases is the Naval Air Systems Comand, Patuxent River, Md.

In one contract, the company was awarded a $718.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for non-air vehicle spares, support equipment, Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and software upgrades, supply chain management, full mission simulators and non-recurring engineering services in support of low-rate initial production Lot 8 F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, international partner, and foreign military sales customers.

Work will be done in Orlando, Fla. (70 percent); Fort Worth (17 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (7 percent); Owego, N.Y. (4 percent); Greenville, S.C. (1 percent); and Samlesbury, U.K. (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in April 2020. This contract combines purchases for the Air Force (12 percent); Navy (5 percent); Marine Corps (16 percent); international partners (39 percent); and FMS customers (28 percent). (Post)

In the second contract, Lockheed was awarded a $101.3 million modification to the previously awarded Lot IX F-35 advance acquisition contract for the procurement of helmet mounted display systems for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, international partners and the governments of Japan and Israel under the Foreign Military Sales program. Yhe HMDS is a helmet display system that provides the pilot with aircraft/mission data on the visor display. Data consists of flight, navigation, and weapons symbology and video from onboard sensors.

Work will be done in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (65 percent) and Fort Worth (35 percent) and is expected to be completed in June 2018. This modification combines purchase for the Air Force (46.5 percent); Marine Corps (22.4 percent); Navy (14.9 percent); international partners (12 percent); and the governments of Japan (0.45 percent) and Israel (3.75 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales program. (Post)

Onvoi LLC, Newbury Park, Calif., was awarded a $9.2 million contract for training flight services in support of the Air Force Undergraduate Air Battle Manager Training Course. Training services will include ground-controlled intercept target training, basic airmanship training, live-fire training, weapons system evaluations, and major command-directed development test and evaluations. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2019. The 325th Contracting Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. (Post)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Week in review (7/5 to 7/11)

When the Blue Angels perform before the hometown crowd in Pensacola, Fla., you can guarantee there will be a lot of stories on television, in the newspaper and online. But I don't think I've seen any of them mention that there once was a television series about the team.

It was back in 1960 and filmed in black and white, and like most shows during that time was only a half hour. It ran for one season, but I do remember watching it. I couldn't swear to it since my memory is a bit foggy, but I probably had a model of a Blue Angels plane.

You can still see one of the shows on YouTube. This particular episode shows the team, which was flying F9F-2 Panther jets during that era, being assigned to the carrier USS Princeton during the Korean War. The team, in fact, was disbanded and the pilots sent into combat for a time, so this episode is based on something that really happened to the team.

Back to today, the team performed at Pensacola Beach over the weekend, one of two shows during the season that's before the hometown crowd. The second show is at the end of the season and done at Naval Air Station Pensacola. In addition to the show, the team during the week announced the officers selected for the 2016 team, the team's 70th anniversary. (Post)

By the way, the Blue Angels television series wasn't the only show that highlighted Pensacola-based Navy pilots. Beginning in 1997 there was a television series called "Pensacola: Wings of Gold" that ran for three seasons. Despite the name, it was all filmed in California, obvious from the sight of mountains in the background.

But while I'm on the subject of the Navy and Pensacola, Naval Air Station Pensacola was among the winners of the 2015 Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative efforts to operate and maintain U.S. military installations.

Other bases that won were the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Joint Base Andrews, Md.; and DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pa. (Post)

Airbus completed its first flight of an electric plane across the English Channel on Friday. The plane was a two-seat E-Fan demonstrator, powered by lithium batteries. It took 36 minutes to fly from Lydd in southern England to Calais, France.

Airbus subsidiary VoltAir SAS plans to have two-seat E-Fan 2.0 planes flying in 2017. Construction of a new factory in Pau in southwest France begins in 2016. A four-seat hybrid model with a range extender powered by traditional fuel will follow in 2019. (Post).

Maybe Airbus will decide to make these for the U.S. market in Mobile, Ala., where it has an A320 assembly line. After all, it does have room to expand. Just saying.

Pensacola International Airport and OHM Concessions Group during the week held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the airport's renovated and expanded food and beverage concession areas. The city's contract with OHM is expected to generate more than $1 million over ten years in additional non-airline revenue for airport. (Post)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Week in review (6/28 to 7/4)

Funds for Northwest Florida to protect bases, a Boeing expansion in Fort Walton Beach, Airbus tapping another subcontractor for its Mobile plant, and more contracts for the F-35 were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week leading up to Independence Day.

Here's your week in review:

Northwest Florida is getting more than $900,000 in defense grants to enhance the region's military bases. Santa Rosa County, home of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, will get $360,000 through Florida's Defense Reinvestment and Infrastructure Grant Programs and $41,310 from the Florida Defense Support Task Force.

Okaloosa County, home of Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, will get $300,000 through the reinvestment and infrastructure program, and Escambia County, home of Naval Air Station Pensacola, will get $170,000, also through the reinvestment and infrastructure grant program. In addition, Walton County, which has a portion of Eglin, will get $38,000 through the reinvestment grant program. (Post)

The biggest name in aerospace and defense has increased its footprint in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Boeing has taken over the 83,000 square-foot former Edwin Watts Golf facility, where it will have laboratories and an expanded repair center.

Boeing's Fort Walton Beach location is home to the Boeing Special Operations Forces Programs group that modifies, tests, repairs and services aircraft used by U.S. Air Force Special Operations, as well as foreign military modifications to partner nations. (Post)

In the Gulf Coast I-10 region, Boeing also has an operation in New Orleans at Michoud Assembly Facility, where it's building the core stage of NASA's powerful Space Launch System.

Speaking of big names in aerospace, Airbus has chosen AAA Aerospace USA to provide various services for its plant at Mobile Aeroplex. The on-site manufacturing company, with an operation in Montgomery, Ala., offers subcontracting services for aircrafts and aircraft elements and is part of the larger AAA Group, servicing the United States, Asia and Europe. It will provide engine installation, wheel assembly, and test and battery management services among others for the A320 assembly line. (Post)

An F-35 was recently outperformed by an F-16 in a dogfight test, according to the military blog War Is Boring. The F-35 was bested in nearly all aerial maneuvering in a January test near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

But Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, director of the F-35 Integration Office of the Air Force, said the report was misleading since the F-35 involved in the test was a variation designed for flight sciences testing and was not equipped with newer features.

The general also points out that the F-35, which is designed to shoot down a foe without being pointed in that aircraft's direction, is designed to take out enemy aircraft before they even know an F-35 is in the area. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $14.4 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to provide the Reprogramming Center - West, at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif., with the primary mission equipment required for the lab to meet Partner and Foreign Military Sales Mission Data File requirements in support of the F-35.

This contract combines purchases for the governments of Japan (33.4 percent); South Korea (33.3 percent); and Israel (33.3 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and expected to be completed in October 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. (Post)

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the Reprogramming Center - East, and its reprogramming lab has been up and running since 2010. It provides mission data for the F-35, the brains behind the brawn, so to speak. It provides information on terrain and enemy threat information, including enemy radar, surface-to-air missiles and fighters, along with data on friendly forces, non-belligerents and commercial aircraft.

Eglin also will be the home of the Australia, Canada, United Kingdom Reprogramming Lab and the Norway, Italy Reprogramming Lab. The labs will permit those nations to customize mission data that will be loaded on their planes. If you're interested in learning more about the labs, take a look at the story “Putting the fight in the F-35,” which appeared in our April aerospace newsletter.

-- In another F-35-related contract, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $19.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for requirements development and maturation efforts for the F-35.

Work will be done in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in March 2016. This contract combines purchase for the U.S. Navy (28.7 percent); U.S. Air Force (27.54 percent); U.S. Marine Corps. (19.7 percent); and the governments of Australia (3.61 percent); Canada (1.7 percent); Italy (2.38 percent); Netherlands (1.1 percent); Norway (3.62 percent); Turkey (6.92 percent); and United Kingdom (4.73 percent) under a Cooperative Agreement.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Last weekend an unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station aboard a Dragon cargo ship broke apart after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla. More than 5,000 pounds of cargo was on board.

The failure was SpaceX's first by a Falcon 9 after seven previous supply mission. It's the 19th Falcon 9 launch since 2010. SpaceX's Falcon 9 is expected to eventually be used to launch crew missions. SpaceX is developing its next generation of rocket engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- NASA awarded Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of McLean, Va., a modification to the NASA Integrated Communications Services (NICS) contract, which provides and manages the vast majority of NASA’s information technology communications infrastructure services.

This $11.5 million contract modification adds telephone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) support for NASA’s Kennedy Space Flight Center, Fla. The NICS contract consists of a three-year base period, one two-year option, one three-year option and one two-year option.

The NICS contract is administered by the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The United States plans to export an advanced, tungsten-laden bomb designed to cause less collateral damage than its predecessors. The 500-pound BLU-129/B was originally produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne as a quick reaction capability for the war in Afghanistan as a way of reducing civilian deaths by using a carbon-fiber-wound composite shell casing to limit the blast radius.

The bomb entered service in 2011 but production ended earlier this year. Now, the Air Force says it's interested in restarting production for both domestic and international consumption, with the government approving exports to any nation that already purchases joint direct attack munition (JDAM) guidance assemblies. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $269.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for F119 Engine Sustainment. Some of the work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., but other work locations are in California, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Virginia, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missiles Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $36.8 million contract for System Improvement Program II- Engineering Manufacturing, Development. The contractor will provide an incremental software solution for AIM-120D to improve missile performance against rapidly advancing threats. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC, Rocket Center, W.Va., was awarded a $6.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Hard Target Void Sensing Fuze system. Contractor will provide 226 HTVSF systems, eight D-1 Inert Bomb Fuzes, 35 D-2 Dummy Load Trainer and Dummy Initiators, 13 D-5/B Classroom Trainers, and 325 Retaining Ring Torque Adapters (Spanner Wrenches) under the contract. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.