Saturday, September 10, 2016

Week in review (9/4 to 9/10)

Over the next couple of weeks, Northwest Florida's Eglin Air Force Base will be the site of some crucial testing for the U.S. military. The sprawling base will host the 2016 edition of Black Dart, a formerly classified counter-drone program.

It gets under way Sunday and will continue until September 23, according to Breaking Defense. The purpose it to test technologies to detect, identify, track and defeat unmanned systems, a growing concern for the military and the public at large.

It's hard to overstate just how important this is. Everyone who pays attention understands the incredible capabilities of drones. We've used them to take out terrorists, but the flip side is that our enemies can use them as well. And what's particularly frightening is that the field of drones includes not only the large ones, like Predators and Global Hawks, but small ones the size of birds or bugs.

Black Dart is being conducted at Eglin this year because of the size of the base and the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, where testers will have access to ships. Two Aegis destroyers will participate in Black Dart, according to reports. The program is run by the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization.

Fifty-five systems were tested and there were more than 100 sorties during last year's Black Dart in California, the 14th iteration of the program, according to National Defense Magazine. It was classified until its 2014 demonstration, when it was opened to the media because organizers wanted the public to know the government is not only aware of the growing threat, but actively working to mitigate it. (Post)

-- Black Dart is not the only drone-related story of interest to the region. Eglin and Tyndall Air Force Base are among four sites being considered to host unmanned MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, a hunter-killer system. The other bases are Vandenberg in California and Shaw in South Carolina.

The Air Force is looking for a base to host a wing of 24 Reapers, built by General Atomics and capable of remote controlled or autonomous operations. The Air Force also is looking at five bases to host mission control operations.

The Air Combat Command is to conduct on-site surveys at the bases, and could selected preferred locations as early as the winter of 2016. Currently the Air Force flies about 60 drone missions per day, but that figure is expected to increase.

More than two years ago the 919th Special Operations Wing welcomed the 2nd Special Operations Squadron, its remotely piloted aircraft unit. The 2nd SOS was formerly located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The unit is at Hurlburt, but none of the aircraft are located here. The move to Hurlburt completed the process of placing AFSOC RPA operations on AFSOC bases. (Post)

Economic development
Eglin is looking for developers with ideas for a 50-acre property in Fort Walton Beach near the Okaloosa County Courthouse. An appraisal found it would be a good location for mixed-use development. Eglin is hosting an Industry Day at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 at the Holiday Inn Resort on Okaloosa Island to provide information about the property with developers, realtors, builders, architects and others.

The project follows the successful development of the 152-room, beachfront Holiday Inn Resort by Gulf Breeze-based Innisfree Hotels on Eglin-owned property in 2014. Innisfree shares some of the revenue with the military. The Holiday Inn Resort was the base's first attempt to partner with private business for development of the unused land and was so successful, Innisfree is building a 175-room Hilton Garden Inn next door. (Post)

The first Airbus A321 aircraft built for Spirit Airlines at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility flew for the first time last week. The jetliner took off from the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley and had a 3.5-hour test flight. The aircraft will go through a couple more weeks of final production before being delivered to Spirit Airlines. It’s the 10th Airbus jetliner built at the new Mobile assembly line. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $10 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option to procure additional diminishing manufacturing sources electronic components in support of the F-35. Work will be done in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in December 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming center. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $49.2 million contract to exercise an option on a previously awarded contract for Small Diameter Bomb Increment II Lot 2 production. Contractor will provide SDB II weapons and containers. Work will be done in Tucson and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2018. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. .. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $8 million contract for field team support services for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile development test mission support including test planning, test operations, test reporting, and telemetry analysis. Contractor will provide ground tests, captive flight tests, and live fire tests conducted for developmental purposes up to and including operational test readiness reviews. It also includes management and maintenance of AMRAAM separation test vehicles and other assets used for the test programs. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Utah Test and Training Range, Utah, White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.; Edward Air Force Base, Calif., Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev.; and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 8, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $13 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for maintenance, repair, and logistics support for the Chief of Naval Air Training aircraft’s intermediate maintenance departments located at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. Support to be provided includes labor, equipment, tools, services, and direct and indirect material. Work will be performed at NAS Pensacola (60 percent); and NAS Corpus Christi (40 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

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