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.

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