Saturday, November 26, 2016

Week in review (11/20 to 11/26)

We know we have a lot of entrepreneurs in the Gulf Coast region. We had a cover story about entrepreneurship in the October issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Business Quarterly, so I know there are plenty of innovators.

So for all you idea folks, here's one you might find interesting: It's the "Space Poop Challenge." NASA has launched the contest to come up with the best solution to get rid of waste while astronauts are stuck in a space suit for days on end.

Here's the deal. When those high-flying adventurers are in the International Space Station, there are specially designed waste collection systems. But when they are stuck in their space suits, they are fitted with absorbent diapers. That's fine for short-duration stays in the suit, but they sometimes have to be there for 10 hours at a time. And once they start venturing into deep space, they can expect to be in them even longer. Thus the NASA challenge.

NASA vowed to award up to three $30,000 prizes for the most promising in-suit waste management systems. The goal is to test them within a year and start using them within three years. Inventors have until Dec. 20 to submit designs for a personalized, hands-free system that routes and collects waste and takes it away from the astronaut’s body for up to six days.

You can see the details at the contest website. Take a look. I promise it won't be a waste of time.

An A321 built in Mobile, Ala., for Delta Air Lines was scheduled to perform a flyover Saturday at the Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The A321 flyover was scheduled to be after the National Anthem and before kickoff. The plane had its first flight Nov. 12 and will be delivered to the customer in December. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $7.2 billion modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The Lot 10 modification provides for the procurement of 90 aircraft, including planes for the Air Force, Navy, Marines and foreign customers.

Work will be done in Texas, California, Florida, New Hampshire, Maryland, the United Kingdom and Japan and is expected to be completed March 2020. 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 and reprogramming labs. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $93.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for F119 engine sustainment. The engine is used in the F-22 Raptor fighter. The contractor will provide engine sustainment labor, data and combined test force operations and support.

Work will be done in Connecticut, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Virginia, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma and at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the contracting activity. (Post)

Other contracts
Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $267.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional joint performance-based logistics support for the Marine Corps MV-22, and the Air Force and Special Operations Command CV-22 aircraft. Work will be performed at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and sites in Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Mexico, Virginia, California, Arizona, Hawaii, and various locations outside the continental U.S., and is expected to be completed in November 2018. … Raytheon Co., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a $9 million modification to an order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to manufacture and deliver three AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radars in support of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18 aircraft. Work will be done in Forest, Miss., Dallas, El Segundo, Calif., and Andover Mass. (8 percent), and is expected to be completed in August 2018.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Week in revew (11/13 to 11/19)

For any journalist, it's easy to recall the tragedies you've covered, whether you were at the scene or in a newsroom working the phones. In my more than 40 years working for newspapers and what at the time was called the wire service, there were plenty. And all of them are memorialized in my mind.

But sometimes, the memorial ends up being a physical reflection of the loss.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, about 200 people were in Navarre, Fla., Friday morning for the unveiling of a memorial at Navarre Park. It’s for the crew of the Army UH-60 Black Hawk that went down in Navarre Sound March 10, 2015.

Eleven servicemen died, including the four-man National Guard flight crew and seven Marines. It happened during a night-time training mission when thick fog turned a routine training mission into a tragedy. Responders worked 10 days to locate all of the fallen soldiers and Marines.

The initiative to create the memorial was led by the 35 members of Leadership Santa Rosa Class 29, and businesses, organizations and individuals donated time and money to make the memorial a reality. It is on permanent display at Navarre Park, 8543 Navarre Parkway. (Story)

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter during the week joined in a training exercise at Northwest Florida's Eglin Air Force Base with special tactics airmen and Army Green Berets. He also toured the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Headquarters at Hurlburt Field and met with base commanders before taking part in the hour-long exercise.

Carter joined a special forces assault team in a simulated hostage rescue that included special operations teams landing in two CV 22 Ospreys and assaulting a mock target. During the exercise Carter called in an air strike involving an F-35, AC-130 gunship and a U28 surveillance aircraft. (Post)

- The Trust for Public Land says 626 acres of Northwest Florida’s Wolfe Creek Forest has been acquired and added to the Blackwater River State Forest. The property, which includes frontage on Big Coldwater Creek, will help protect Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s base operations from encroachment that could jeopardize its mission.

The purchase will also protect water sources, public recreational activities, bird migration, and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife. TPL bought the land last month from CF Florida LLC for $1.5 million and sold it to the state for the same amount. (Post)

The first Airbus A321 aircraft built for Delta Air Lines at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., took to the air for the first time last weekend for a three and a half-hour flight. The jetliner will go through a couple more weeks of final production before being delivered to Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. This is the fourth customer’s aircraft to have their first flight in Mobile in 2016, and this will be the 15th aircraft to be delivered in 2016. (Post)

Raytheon Co. - Missile Systems Div., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $17.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for depot repairs and sustainment activities. Contractor will provide High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile targeting system contractor logistics support services. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Week in review (11/6 to 11/13)

With the presidential election now behind us and the future administration starting to put the pieces in place, the question comes to mind, what will a Trump administration mean for the aerospace industry, and particularly in the Gulf Coast region, which has military, commercial and NASA operations?

We'll go into a lot more in the upcoming December issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter, but speaking very broadly, it appears to be good for the defense industry based on the Trump promise to enlarge the military. We have plenty of defense contractors in the I-10 region, and plenty of bases that would benefit from more defense dollars.

But the commercial aerospace side is a big question mark, since so much of it depends on trade agreements. Trump's anti-trade rhetoric during the campaign raises real concerns about the expansion of global trade. He wasn't shy about blasting globalization, which is at the heart of the steady expansion of the aerospace sector over the past 20 years, an expansion that included Airbus setting up an A320 final assembly plant in Mobile, Ala.

But by and large the industry is making nice with the Trump administration – as is to be expected when there are so many questions on the table. Boeing, which is finalizing a deal to sell 100 jetliners to Iran, congratulated Trump and Congress and said it looked forward to working with them to promote global economic growth and protect workers. But Trump has strongly criticized an Iran nuclear deal that made the sale of those planes possible. (Story)

Some of the key questions at this early stage include who will be Secretary of Defense? While we don't yet know, some defense stocks rose after the election based on Trump comments that he wants to enlarge the military.

But a lot of questions remain, like what will happens to the Pentagon's initiatives to reach out beyond the traditional industry to harness innovation and technology in places like Silicon Valley? We've seen that initiative here through Fort Walton Beach's Doolittle Institute. It acts as a go-between for Eglin Air Force Base and private businesses.

According to the Washington Post, under Obama, the Pentagon reached out to non-traditional sources to harness innovation to help the U.S. military hold on to its technological advantage over potential adversaries. But under Trump those initiatives could be imperiled, according to Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said Trump would likely bring in "a totally new team of civilian leaders with completely new priorities."

But Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, who briefed the Trump campaign several times, said that those programs are a relatively small portion of the budget, and that it is vital to invest in technology at a time when it is moving so fast. "We have lost our technological supremacy," she said. "He would be crazy to abandon that." (Story)

According to Flightglobal, the Trump call for a retreat from globalization has to be viewed with some concern by the industry. It seeks to reverse a nearly 20-year trend that has transformed the geography of aerospace and enabled its expansion. In the last five years alone, the industry has benefited from global trade. Airbus now assembles A320s in China and the United States, as well as in Europe. Boeing is also planning a completion and delivery center for 737s in China. Major structures for the F-35 are assembled outside the United States. (Story)

And what will the Trump administration mean for NASA? At this point, it's not clear what the administration's priorities will be. What programs will be continued and which will be dropped? Both NASA programs and commercial space programs are important for this region, which has two major NASA operations.

I don't know if we can say at this point what a Trump administration will mean in the long run for aerospace and defense - certainly not on any specific level. It does appear that once a political candidate wins an office and learns more about the intricacies, there's a tendency to make adjustments to stated goals. As I've heard some put it, they tend to grow into the office. We'll have to see how this all goes.

Test centers
The Air Force has approved the realignment of selected Air Force Test Center operations 
and facilities from several separate locations under one commander at Arnold Engineering Development Complex, Tenn.

The change consolidates the current capabilities of the AEDC at Arnold; the Hypersonic Combined Test Force, currently part of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; and all the current capabilities of the 96th Test Group, headquartered at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; and the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., both currently part of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin.

Also part of the consolidation are the Federal Research Center at White Oak, Md., and operating locations at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif.; Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and the Army's White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

As part of this action the 96th Test Group and 796th Test Support Squadron at Holloman will be inactivated and will then be activated as the 704th Test Group and 704th Test Support Squadron, respectively. The duty locations, manpower authorizations and resources of the 704th TG and 704th TSS will be exactly the same as the inactivated 96th TG and 796th TSS.

Only the parent unit will change from the 96th TW to AEDC. This realignment will only impact the administrative reporting chain of the affected organizations and will not require the transfer of personnel or any change in missions at those locations. (Post)

When F-35 fighters flew simulated combat missions around Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., their pilots couldn’t see the “enemy” radars on their screens. That’s because the F-35s’ on-board computers analyzed data from the fighters’ various sensors, compared the readings to known threats, and figured out the radars on the training range weren’t real, so the software didn’t even display them.

The F-35 and the F-22 fifth-generation fighters are overturning how the Air Force operates. In its simplest terms, it could be that a pilot closer to the battle has an even better picture of the battle than senior officers further away in an AWACs or operations center. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $167.5 million advance acquisition contract for long lead components, parts and materials associated with the low-rate initial production Lot XI of 48 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Air Force; 14 F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the Marine Corps; and 4 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Navy. In addition, this contract provides for the long lead components, parts and materials associated with 41 F135-PW-100 and 3 F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for international partners and foreign military sales customers. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co. - Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $76 million option 
to a previously awarded contract for Lot 10 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer (MALD-J) vehicles and support equipment. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2020. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Week in review (10/30 to 11/5)

While the movers and shakers of the region were gathering in Gulfport, Miss., Thursday and Friday for the fifth annual Aerospace Alliance Summit, there was another fifth annual that was going on in South Mississippi.

It was the two-week long Southern Strike training exercise that involved more than 2,000 special warfare operators from all branches of the U.S. services, along with some foreign units. It was noteworthy, in part because it illustrated just how important this region is to the nation's defense. More on that later.

The Aerospace Alliance summit was held at the Island View, and about 130 people attended. The impressive list of participants included economic development leaders, academic officials and officials from a host of companies that are involved in aerospace activities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, the member states of the Aerospace Alliance.

This is the third one I've attended, starting with the inaugural event at the Sandestin Resort at Miramar Beach, Fla. I also attended the summit in Huntsville, Ala., a few years ago in part because I have family who live in that area, so it was a great opportunity to visit as well as cover the summit.

The 2016 iteration of the summit kicked off with a dinner Thursday evening. In his introduction, Neal Wade, chairman of the 8-year-old Aerospace Alliance, said the four states rank as the third largest aerospace corridor in the world. He said that says a lot about the depth the breadth of the aerospace and defense industry in the four states.

But with the election coming up Tuesday, politics was the focus of the dinner speaker, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. He was the state’s two-term Republican governor from 2004 to 2012, and he spoke about the uncertainties and concerns over the presidential election.

Barbour, the 63rd governor of Mississippi, is also the former chairman of the Republican Governor's Association and former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He was widely praised for his leadership during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Gulf oil spill of 2010, and today is a respected observer of the political system.

"Nobody's ever seen anything like this," he said about the contentious race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. He said two-thirds of the American people think the nation is going the wrong way, and that people are mad and scared.

Barbour brought up the decision of the British to leave the European Union, where many people were mad and tired of having decisions made in Brussels rather than London. They wanted to tell Brussels "something vivid," he said. Then he shifted to the United States election.

"In America, Washington is not in another country, but a lot of Americans feel like it's in another country. And they wanted to shoot Washington the bird and they couldn't think of a better, more magnificent jackass middle finger than Donald Trump," he said.

He ran through a litany of problems the country faces, including the weak recovery, terrorism, crime and the balkanization of the media. Barbour said that historically when there’s parity between the two parties, "we're bunched up in the middle. Today there is no middle."

He said that in this environment, we are stuck with the two most negatively perceived nominees of the two greatest political parties in the world, he said, and for many the choice is "which one I want to vote against more?"

The next day the focus shifted back to aerospace. Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis with The Teal Group, discussed the growth of the aerospace industry, still the strongest industry on the planet. But he also warned that a correction looms in the future. There were also several panel discussions, including one on commercial applications of unmanned aircraft systems.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant in his welcoming address spoke about the significance of aerospace for Mississippi. He said virtually every commercial plane in the world has at least one part made in Mississippi, which has 120 aerospace sector companies, including some of the biggest names in the industry. He also said the four-state region is where the growth of the industry is going to be.

When the summit was over, Glenn McCullough Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the event highlighted that there are great opportunities for the four states. Don Pierson, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, said the region is building an important corridor, noting that among other things the shared “NASA DNA” provides unique advantages. (Post)

We'll have a more detailed story and analysis about the summit in the December issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor/Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Aerospace Newsletter.

Meanwhile, while the summit was going on, special operators and conventional units were wrapping up their two weeks of training in South Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

The nerve centers for the training were the Mississippi National Guard at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, just south of Hattiesburg.

The training included three, large-war games, multiple bilateral events, and a final culmination exercise. (Post) The Sun Herald had a story about the training Friday. (Story)

HX5 LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $7.3 million modification to a contract for a six-month extension providing for the entire spectrum of mission planning support for 98 Army National Guard flying units. Work will be performed in Arlington, Va.,, with an estimated completion date of April 30, 2017. … DCS Corp., Alexandria, Va., was awarded $59.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for weapons and systems integration support services for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s (NAWCWD’s) aircraft integrated product teams. Aircraft include the F/A-18, EA-18G, F-35, AV-8B, AHN-1/UH-1, and unmanned aerial systems. Work will be performed at NAWCWD China Lake, Calif. (87 percent); Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (8 percent); and at various locations within the U.S. (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in October 2017.