The paint job on an A321 built in Mobile, the first bomb dropped by an F-35 combat wing and another huge chunk of defense dollars helping to develop rocket engines were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.
Here's your aerospace week in review.
The first U.S.-built A321 now has a new paint job. It's painted in the livery of JetBlue, the first customer for an Airbus jetliner built in this country. It will be delivered in the spring.
MAAS Aviation set up a paint shop at the Airbus campus at the Mobile Aeroplex, and will be responsible for painting all the aircraft being built at the final assembly line. (Post)
In another Airbus-related item during the week, the company said it may shift more of its narrrow-body jetliner production toward the largest member of the A320 series, the A321. That's according to sales chief John Leahy.
The 185-seat A321neo – neo stands for new engine option - has been winning more orders than the 178-seat Boeing MAX 9, according to Airbus. The A321 and A321neo – a more fuel-efficient engine type – make up 34 percent of Airbus' narrow-body order backlog, but production plans already call for 50 percent of the total to be in that size.
Leahy said that proportion could increase even further. All the first planes being built in Mobile are A321 models. (Post)
Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., was awarded a $115.3 million "other transaction agreement" for the development of the AR1 rocket propulsion system prototype for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.
This agreement requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of the Russian supplied RD-180 for national security space launches. This type of contract takes advantage of ongoing investment by industry, and provides DoD funds to help in the development. In this case, it's for a prototype of the AR1 engine, a booster stage engine intended for use on United Launch Alliance's Vulcan launch vehicle.
Some of the work will be done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Other locations of performance are Canoga Park, Sacramento and Los Angeles Air Force Base, all in California; Centennial, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.: and West Palm Beach, Fla. The work is expected to be completed no later than Dec. 31, 2019. (Post)
In January DoD provided a $33.6 million contract to California's SpaceX to help it develop the Raptor methane rocket engine. Much of that work is being done at Stennis Space Center. (Post)
Although the work will help the military for national security launches, the funding will also help these companies develop engines for commercial space launches.
You would think from some of the headlines that F-35s have never dropped bombs.
They have, as far back as 2013. But what's been happening in more recent weeks has been the first combat units – those that could be deployed – and training units have been using the bombs for the first time.
Two combat wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, recently dropped laser-guided GB sU-12 Paveways from F-35A fighters at a test range. It's the same type bomb dropped for the first time from an F-35 in October 2013. (Post) Training and development units from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in recent days also have dropped bombs from their F-35s.
The F-35 has used a variety of weapons in testing. The fifth-generation fighter conducted the first aerial release of an AIM 120, GBU-31 and BLU-109 back in October 2012. So watch out for the headlines that say something with the F-35 is a first.
-- In another F-35 item during the week, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $769.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for recurring logistics sustainment services support for delivered F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-Department of Defense participants, and foreign military sales customers.
Support to be provided includes ground maintenance activities; action request resolution; depot activation activities; Automatic Logistics Information System operations and maintenance; reliability, maintainability and health management implementation support; supply chain management; and activities to provide and support pilot and maintainer initial training.
Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, Texas; El Segundo, Calif.; Warton, United Kingdom; Orlando, Fla.; and Greenville, S.C. Work is expected to be completed in December 2016.. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $7.3 million task order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement in support of the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft systems.
This test support effort for the MQ-8C includes software verification; software regression; cybersecurity; dynamic interface; and other requirements in preparation for, but not including, initial operational test and evaluation.
The MQ-8B scope includes providing aircraft maintenance support for two government-owned MQ-8B test aircraft. Work will be performed in Point Mugu, Calif., and is expected to be completed in October 2016. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.
Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)
Lockheed Martin, Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $116.8 million modification to exercise the option on previously awarded contract for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) program. The contractor will provide JASSM production, system upgrades, integration, sustainment, management and logistical support. Work will be performed at Troy, Ala., and is expected to be complete by June 29, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.