Saturday, April 22, 2017

Week in review (4/16 to 4/22)

NASA on Tuesday will show off to the media the first completed core stage structural test article of the Space Launch System rocket built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

This test article will be shipped on the barge Pegasus from Michoud to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where it will undergo structural testing.

The engine section, the bottom of the 212-foot-long core stage, has to be strong because all four RS-25 engines and the SLS's two solid rocket motors are attached to it and produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at lift-off.

After the structural tests at Marshall, Pegasus will transport the entire flight core stage to NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., for testing, and then on to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration into the SLS vehicle and launch. (Post)


Bases
At Hurlburt Field, Fla., two Special Tactics airmen received the Air Force's highest combat medal at the same time for separate missions in Afghanistan. One Air Force Cross was given to retired MSgt. Keary Miller, and the other was given to SSgt. Chris Baradat.

Miller in 2002 helped care for critically wounded service members during a 17-hour battle against Al Qaeda forces. In 2013 Baradat, serving as a combat controller, directed air strikes during three hours of fighting against the Taliban.

Both were originally awarded a Silver Star, but during a review of awards they were upgraded to the Air Force Cross. The Air Force Thunderbirds kicked off a special ceremony at Hurlburt Field with a flyover. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein presided over the ceremony. (Post)

-- A Boeing 747 VC-25A, one of two VC-25As assigned to the Presidential Airlift Group, 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., was on the flightline April 19 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. It’s known as "Air Force One" whenever it’s used by the president, though any U.S. Air Force plane he’s aboard receives that radio call sign. The aircraft was completing a maintenance cycle and is undergoing an operational test regimen before being certified to return to presidential service. (Post)

-- At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the youth center hosted the opening of its new Boys’ & Girls’ Club Center for Innovation.

The center will provide members access to advanced technologies and focus on STEM-related subjects and activities, including a robotics kit, 3D printers, a makerspace with a giant tool wall, invention- and computer- building kits that will offer hands-on learning opportunities to explore and advance understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts.

The program is made possible by a grant from Raytheon to cultivate interest in the STEM fields, which are expected to grow nearly twice as fast as any other field by 2018 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Eglin is the third Air Force youth center to benefit from the grant. (Post)

-- The Navy resumed T-45 training flights at Naval Air Station Pensacola and two other bases after halting the flights because of concerns about the oxygen system. Training can continue as long as pilots remain below an altitude of 10,000 feet to avoid using the onboard oxygen generator system. Normally, training is done at altitudes of 14,000 feet.

Pilots at NAS Pensacola, Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., and Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, had complained about experiencing episodes of hypoxia and training was temporarily suspended. The investigation is continuing. (Post)


Unmanned
Mississippi State University in Starkville was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security as a base of operations for drone research. Much of the work on how to best to use the devices will be done in South Mississippi.

Operations are expected to begin in the fall. Sites that will be used are Camp Shelby, which is the Army National Guard’s national drone-training center; buffer zone areas at Stennis Space Center, which is used for Department of Defense special-operations training; and the maritime environment accessible from the U.S. Coast Guard facilities on Singing River Island in Jackson County. (Post)

-- An autonomous helicopter designed to boost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for ship crews at sea has completed a successful first flight from the deck of a littoral combat ship underway.

Earlier this month, the MQ-8C Fire Scout took off from the Independence-Class LCS Montgomery during a two-week series of tests off the coast of California. The flight came two years after the Fire Scout was first delivered to the Navy in December 2014 and marked a milestone in proving out the reliability and safety of the small drone.

A Fire Scout had previously conducted an at-sea flight off an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the Jason Dunham, in December 2015. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)


Contracts
L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $202.2 million contract for depot level maintenance, logistics, and sustaining engineering services in support of the C-12 utility lift aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps. Three percent of the work will be done in Belle Chasse, La.. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $100 million contract for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) production support. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Jacobs Technology Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for services in support of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. … Longbow LLC, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $10.8 million modification to a contract to exercise options for Hellfire engineering services. Work will be performed in Orlando, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Huntsville, Ala. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $64.6 million option to a previously awarded contract for the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) program. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Linthicum Heights, Md., was awarded a $7.5 million contract for logistic support of the AN/ASQ-236 aircraft pod. One of the work sites is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Week in review (4/9 to 4/15)

A massive bomb developed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the Iraq war was used for the first time in combat this week against a target in Afghanistan. It reportedly destroyed three underground tunnels, weapons and ammunition, and by Saturday reports indicated more than 90 ISIS fighters perished.

The GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb is 21,600 pounds and is nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” an appropriate nickname given that Saddam Hussein, a week before the first Gulf War in 1991, promised the fight against the United States and its allies would be the "mother of all battles."

Well the GBU-43 was never dropped on Iraq, but it was dropped during the week by an Air Force Special Operations C-130 in the Achin district of the Nangarhar Province. Guided to its target by GPS, it's considered a "smart bomb."

The GBU-43 is one of the bombs from a family of massive bombs first developed during the Vietnam War to clear landing zones. During its development, the GBU-43 was dropped twice at the Eglin Air Force Base bombing range.

While the GBU-43 is the most powerful of the lineup, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal is the 30,000-pound GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator. That bomb, also developed by the Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate at Eglin, is designed to blow up after penetrating the hardened target. (Post)

The GBU-43 and GBU-57 have different blast profiles. The air blast or air burst bomb is designed to detonate before impact, which sends a good deal of its explosive energy out to the sides. A penetrator bomb's energy is sent upward and downward.

Nangarhar is the same province where a soldier assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin Air Force Base died earlier in the week. Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, 37, of Edgewood, Md., died April 8 of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations. (Post)


Jobs
One hundred thirty defense contractors at L3 Crestview Aerospace have been laid off. The aviation firm assembles, fabricates, and repairs aircraft parts. The layoffs are the result of cyclical work-contracts. The workers will receive severance packages and information on job opportunities within L3 Aerospace. (Post)


F-35
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Italian government and the Okaloosa County School district. As part of the the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program at Eglin Air Force Base, the Italian air force is establishing a permanent presence in the area and will enroll Italian students into Okaloosa County schools. The Italians will establish the Italian Cooperative Program into select districts schools. The program will offer Italian education taught by its natives. In all, 600 American and Italian students will participate in the program next year. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded two contracts during the week in connection with the F-35. It was awarded $372.9 million for a modification to a previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract. It provides the procurement of F-35A and F-35B variants including deficiency corrections for non-U.S. Department of Defense (non-U.S. DoD) participants. Work is expected to be completed in March 2020. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. In the other contract, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. was awarded a $9.5 million modification to a previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 9 F-35 advanced acquisition contract. This modification provides for the delivery of hardware and engineering services for the government of Japan. Work is expected to be completed in October 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Vectrus Systems Corp., Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded a $97.3 million contract for the acquisition of base operations support services. Contractor will provide base operations support for 11 functional areas to include, installation and mission operations management, installation and facility engineering, emergency response management, grounds maintenance, supply services, community services, vertical transportation equipment, human resources support, and weather services for Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Work will be performed at Keesler and is expected to be complete May 31, 2018. The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency/338th Specialized Contracting Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Week in review (4/2 to 4/8)

The April edition of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Newsletter will be published Tuesday. In this issue, we fill you in on the two economic development projects that were announced since our last issue: GKN Aerospace setting up shop in Panama City, Fla., and Continental Motors, consolidating its sprawling operation at the Mobile Aeroplex into a single building.

In another story, we fill you in on the replacement value of every base and military property in the region. And it’s huge – more than $22 billion. We also have a story about the new budget for NASA, and what it means for NASA projects in the Gulf Coast region.

Finally, we have an analysis about some of the key aerospace stories for our region that occurred since the last issue. If you’re not signed up to get a copy, reach out and let me know and I’ll add you to our list of subscribers. And you can’t beat the price, it’s free thanks to our underwriters: Santa Rosa Economic Development, Gulf Power, Mobile Airport Authority, and FloridaWest.

Now for your week in review:

T-45C
The Navy has extended the operational pause for T-45C flights. The pause was initiated after pilots expressed concern about physiological episodes blamed on possible oxygen issues while flying. The extension will allow the Navy to review engineering data and develop a path forward for the fleet that will ensure the safety of its aircrew.

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of Naval Air Forces, has visited T-45C training commands to address recent concerns. He went to Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, NAS Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Meridian, Miss., to talk with instructor and student pilots.

On March 31 roughly 40 percent of flights in the T-45C training commands in Meridian, Pensacola and Kingsville were canceled because of the operational risk management issues raised by instructor pilots. (Post)

The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 based at Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola. (Post)

Fox News first reported the issue last week. (Post)


Assignments, promotions
The Blue Angels during the week announced Cmdr. Eric Doyle as the next leader of the flight demonstration squadron, which is headquartered in Pensacola, Fla. He will join the team for his two-year tour in November, taking over from current flight leader, Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi. (Post)

-- Air Force Brig. Gen. Shaun Q. Morris has been nominated to the grade of major general. Morris is currently serving as the Air Force program executive officer for weapons and director, Armament Directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- Col. Evan C. Dertien, selected to the grade of brigadier general, has been assigned as commander, 96th Test Wing, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base. He’s currently vice commander, Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (Post)

-- Col. Lance R. Pilch, selected to the grade of brigadier general, has been assigned as vice commander, 7th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces and Chief of Staff, Air Component Command, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. He’s currently commander, 33rd Fighter Wing, Air Education and Training Command, Eglin Air Force Base. (Post)


Contracts
Security Walls, Knoxville, Tenn., was awarded a potential five-year, $45.3 million contract to provide a range of protective services at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. … Siemens Industry Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill., was awarded a $48 million contract for the Switchgear Replacement Effort program. Contractor will provide supply and installation of gas insulated switchgear. Some of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by April 5, 2022. Air Force Test Center, Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., is the contracting activity. … Rockwell Collins Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was awarded a $21.3 million modification to exercise the option on a previously awarded contract to support the Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS). Contractor will provide the second production lot of the CRIIS for upgrading the test and evaluation instrumentation at Air Force, Navy and Army test ranges. This second production lot will help complete range installations and activations at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., and Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $129.4 million modification to a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order provides for additional work on the TR-3 integrated core processor and related subsystems to alleviate diminishing manufacturing sources constraints projected under F-35 production Lot 15 for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in March
2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … NWF Contractors Inc., Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $9.2 million contract to construct concrete targets. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by April 2, 2022. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Week in review (3/26 to 4/1)

An expansion for Continental Motors, a historic first for SpaceX, drones at the Dauphin Island's airport, F-35 and military aircraft maintenance contracts, and a possible jet trainer plant in Alabama were some of the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your aerospace week in review:

Economic development
Continental Motors will spend more than $60 million on a new facility at Alabama's Mobile Aeroplex in an expansion that's not expected to add jobs, but will ensure the company stays put in Mobile and Fairhope.

Officials hope to break ground this summer on a 225,000-square foot facility at the intersection of Broad Street and Michigan Avenue. The building design will be finalized by fall and manufacturing equipment installed in 2018, with full operational by the end of 2019.

Continental and parent company AVIC International Holding Corp., of China, will spend up to $30 million developing the new site, and about $40 million on new manufacturing equipment for the building, which also will house their global business headquarters. The company builds engines for small aircraft. (Post)

-- If Leonardo wins the T-X competition with its T-100 trainer, the company will build the aircraft in Alabama at Moton Field in Tuskegee. Upward of $200 million will be spent on construction including buildings, infrastructure and equipment, according to a joint news release from the governor's office and Leonardo.

The Italian company, when it was partnered with Raytheon, had planned to assemble the trainers, based on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346, in Meridian, Miss. But the partnership ended and Meridian was out of the picture.

The Alabama plant will perform structural sub-assembly, integration, final assembly and conduct research and testing at the site, according to the release. Leonardo would lease a new facility built by a public-private partnership. Plans call for creating 750 jobs over 10 years. (Post)


Space
SpaceX successfully launched and then retrieved its first recycled rocket late in the week. It was the first time SpaceX tried to fly a booster that had been used in a previous mission.

The Falcon 9 core landed on the bull's-eye of the ocean platform following liftoff with a broadcasting satellite for the SES company of Luxembourg. Founder Elon Musk foresees dozens if not hundreds of repeat flights for a booster and rocket turnarounds of as little as 24 hours, perhaps by next year.

SpaceX is developing Raptor, its next-generation engine, at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Delays in the development of Orion's European-built service module, and damage to NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans from a February tornado are the key schedule risks for the first Space Launch System mission, agency officials said.

The schedule for the launch of Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), currently planned for late 2018, remains uncertain regardless of the technical issues as NASA studies the possibility of putting a crew on the flight, which would likely delay it by up to a year. (Post)

-- From its final orbit location 22,000 miles above the equator, the third Lockheed Martin-built Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite recently sent its first images back to Earth.

The satellite was launched on Jan. 20 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and is the third in a series of Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites that the U.S. Air Force uses to provide faster and more accurate missile warning data to the nation and its allies.

The next satellite in the series will undergo final assembly, integration and test at Lockheed Martin's satellite production facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., prior to its launch planned for later this year. The satellite’s core propulsion system and thermal blankets are integrated by Lockheed Martin at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)


Military
The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., is paying tribute to the Doolittle Raiders by refurbishing a B-25 B Mitchell bomber as a replica of the one flown by Lt. Col. James "Jimmy" Doolittle.

Sixteen Army bombers with 80 airmen flew off the carrier to hit Japan four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They trained at nearby Eglin Air Force Base. The bomber will go on display outside the museum's Blue Angels Atrium on April 18 to mark the 75th anniversary of the raid. (Post)

-- Dauphin Island's airport will be used by the Navy for a project to demonstrate the use of drones to survey littoral areas. The Mobile County Commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory of Mississippi State University, which is working with the Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Command at Stennis Space Center, Miss., on the project.

The demonstration will use an Outlaw SeaHunter equipped with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system to measure water depth in coastal areas that are too shallow for survey vessels. The demonstration will be held from mid-May to early June. Manned aircraft equipped with LIDAR are currently used to survey coastal areas. (Post)

-- Navy Lt. Ryan Rankin, a Naval Air Station Pensacola instructor pilot, has set out to fly a different plane for every week of 2017. "I feel drawn to it. It is a feeling that I cannot describe. When I don't fly for a while, I miss it," said Rankin, 33, who is taking advantage of shore duty and using his military leave time to reach his goal of flying 52 different planes before the end of the year. A network of vintage aircraft enthusiasts is helping him find the various aircraft. (Post)


F-35 Three contracts were awarded during the week in connection with the F-35 program. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming labs.

In one, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $581.8 million delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for air vehicle initial spares to include F-35 common spares; F-35A, F-35B and F-35C unique spares, and aloft spares packages/deployment spares packages and reprogramming lab spares required to support the air vehicle delivery schedule for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants, and foreign military sales customers.

In another contract Lockheed Martin was awarded $95.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide technical and logistics services, training, maintenance and repair services, and supply chain management in support of F-35 joint strike fighter for a non-Department of Defense participant.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity for both contracts.

In addition, SOLPAC Construction, San Diego, Calif., was awarded $15.6 million for a task order under a previously awarded contract for construction of an F-35C engine repair facility at Naval Air Station Lemoore.

The project includes reinforced concrete masonry unit walls, built-up roof, and pile foundation. Built-in equipment includes bridge cranes and support rails, stacker storage system, and elevator. The project also includes facility paving and site improvements, utilities, and environmental mitigation features.

Work will be performed in Lemoore, Calif., and is expected to be completed by June 2018. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, is the contracting activity.


Aircraft maintenance
Two contracts were awarded during the week in connection with aircraft maintenance at military bases in the region.

Rolls-Royce Corp., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded $106.9 million for modification to a previously awarded contract to provide intermediate, depot-level maintenance and related logistics support for about 209 in-service T-45 F405-RR-401 Adour engines.

Work will be performed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas (46 percent); NAS Meridian, Miss. (42 percent); NAS Pensacola, Fla. (11 percent); and NAS Patuxent River, Md. (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2018.

In another contract, L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $16.1 million contract for maintenance, repair, and logistics support for the Chief of Naval Air Training aircraft’s intermediate maintenance.

Work will be performed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (60 percent); and Corpus Christi, Texas (40 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2022.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity for both contracts.


Other contracts
Electronic Metrology Laboratory LLC, Franklin, Tenn., was awarded a $10.5 million modification under a previously awarded contract to exercise Option 3 for base operations support services at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., and outlying fields. Work will be performed in Milton, Fla. (80 percent); and outlying fields (20 percent), and work is expected to be completed March 2018. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity. … QuantaDyn Corp., Ashburn, Va., was awarded a $27 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the Joint Terminal Control Training and Rehearsal System (JTC TRS). Some of the work will be done at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the contracting activity. … United Launch Services LLC, Centennial, Colo., was awarded a $270.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for launch vehicle production services involving a Delta IV Heavy and transportation. Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity. The Delta IV uses RS-68 engines assembled and tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) technical support and aircraft integration. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Reliance Test & Technology, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded an $11.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Eglin operation and maintenance support service. This modification increases government provided values of cost reimbursable items supporting the National Radar Test Facility. Work will be performed at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2026. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was awarded a $142.4 million contract for procurement of the Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS Inc II) environment improvement of the air combat training with rangeless air combat and secure air-to-air and air-to-ground data link. This contract will include participant subsystems; ground subsystems; remote range units; peculiar support equipment; enhanced threats; platform interfaces; an internal rack-mounted subsystem capability for fixed wing and rotary aircraft; and an internal subsystem for the Joint Strike Fighter. Work will be done in Cedar Rapids (65 percent); Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (20 percent); Richardson, Texas (10 percent); and various locations within the continental U.S. (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in November 2022. Fiscal 2017 research, development, testing and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $8,318,444 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Week in review (3/19 to 3/25)

Get prepared for additional growth in the aerospace industry. The United States will see a "competitive and profitable aviation industry characterized by increasing demand for air travel [with] airfares growing more slowly than inflation" over the next two decades.

That's according to the FAA's annual Aerospace Forecast for fiscal years 2017-2037. "Looking ahead, there is confidence that the industry has been transformed from that of a boom-to-bust cycle to one of sustainable profits," FAA said in the report.

And airports in the region should take note. The FAA projected that "traffic growth by US mainline and regional carriers will increase at an average rate of 2.4 percent per year," while "passenger growth on US carriers will increase at an average 1.9 percent per year." (Post)

One of the companies that will be supplying jetliners for that growing industry is, of course, the Airbus manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala. Made in Alabama, produced by the Alabama Department of Commerce, had a feature story during the week about the employees at the plant.

As you know, the first Alabama-made A321 jetliner took to the skies on its maiden flight a year ago, and the company is ramping up to eventually produce 40 to 50 jetliners each year. In the article, Gov. Robert Bentley noted that the plant is not only producing planes, but also creating opportunities that enrich the lives of the workforce. The story focuses on several of the plant's workers. (Post)


Space
The first RS-25 engine controller that will be used on the first flight of the new Space Launch System (SLS) was tested late in the week at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The new controller or "brain" has the electronics that operate the engine and communicate with the SLS vehicle.

Engine Controller Unit-2 was installed on RS-25 development engine No. 0528 and test fired for 500 seconds on the A-1 Test Stand. The engine controller will be installed on one of four flight engines that will help power the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft.

This year, two more engine controllers for the first SLS mission will be tested on this development engine at Stennis and installed on flight engines. The fourth controller will be tested when NASA tests the entire core stage during a green run on the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis. That testing will involve installing the core stage on the stand and firing its four RS-25 flight engines simultaneously, as during a mission launch. (Post)


Bases
The Department of Defense announced during the week the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Sgt. 1st Class Robert R. Boniface, 34, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., died March 19 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., is the recipient of a new weather training technology. The 355th Training Squadron’s Weather Training Complex is where you'll find a 48-inch carbon fiber globe suspended from the ceiling that comes to life thanks to the projectors that point at it from each corner of the room.

The Science on a Sphere uses computers with high-end graphic cards and video projectors to display data onto the globe. It was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an education tool to help illustrate earth weather science through animations of atmospheric storms, climate change and ocean temperatures.

The globe doesn't move, but gives that illusion. Instructors for Weather Initial Skills and Weather Officer Courses will use the system as a tool to help students gain an enhanced understanding of fundamental atmospheric and oceanographic processes. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $10.5 million delivery order against a previously awarded basic ordering agreement to complete a Selective Precision Effects At Range Capability 3 risk reduction and integration study of the F-35 air system for the government of the United Kingdom. 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. … Engineering Research and Consulting Inc., Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $99 million contract for Seek Eagle modeling, analysis, and tools support. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 22, 2022. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $24.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for QF-16 full-scale aerial target (FSAT) Lot 5A production. Contractor will provide 18 QF-16 FSATs and 18 associated four-year warranties for the QF-16 drone-peculiar equipment program. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Week in review (3/12 to 3/18)

NASA selected 133 proposals from U.S. companies to conduct research and develop technologies to help NASA's future deep-space missions. They include four projects with a combined value of $3 million that are tied to Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The proposals were selected under Phase II of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. SBIR Phase II projects will expand on the results of recently-completed Phase I projects. Phase I projects received six-month contracts of as much as $125,000. Phase II contracts are awarded up to $750,000 and the period of performance is no more than two years.

Successful Phase II projects may go on to Phase III of the program, which is commercialization. The proposals were selected according to technical merit and feasibility, in addition to the experience, qualifications and facilities of the companies, and their work plans and commercial potential. (Post)

In another space-related item outside this region, OneWeb Satellites LLC broke ground on an $85 million high-volume satellite manufacturing factory in Exploration Park, Fla., near NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It's set to begin production, integration and satellite testing later this year.

OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a satellite-based internet provider, and Airbus.

The factory is being built in partnership with the state of Florida and Space Florida. The initiative is anticipated to create nearly 250 direct, highly skilled manufacturing and engineering jobs, as well as thousands more throughout a broad supplier base across the nation that will support production.

"This new American-built manufacturing facility is the latest example of Airbus' commitment to expanding our manufacturing footprint in the U.S.," said Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas. "We already build civil and military helicopters in Texas and Mississippi, as well as commercial aircraft in Alabama. So, building satellites in Florida with our partner OneWeb continues the Airbus trend of growing U.S.-based manufacturing and jobs and staying close to our American supply chain, within which we invest $17 billion annually.” (Press release)


Corporate
MAAS Aviation named Geoffrey Myrick as the chief operating officer in Mobile, Ala. Myrick will serve as operations officer for both the existing OEM (original equipment manufacturing) hangar that supports Airbus Americas and the new twin bay MRO hangar that provides services to commercial aircraft carriers as well as lease companies, military and corporate jet markets.

Prior to joining MAAS, Myrick served as vice president of sales for Certified Aviation Services, LLC, where his focus was the creation and execution of sales strategies in the MRO market. In previous roles, Myrick spent about five years at VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering in various capacities centered around marketing, sales, and management. (Post)


Bases
Two Eglin Air Force Base officers have been nominated for general rank appointments. In one appointment, Brig. Gen. Shaun Morris, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons and Armament Directorate director, was nominated to the grade of major general. In the other, Col. Lansing R. Pilch, commander 33rd Fighter Wing, Air Education and Training Command, has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. (Post)

-- Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson announced that Rear Adm. (lower half) Kyle J. Cozad, selected for promotion to rear admiral, will be assigned as commander, Naval Education and Training Command, Pensacola, Fla. Cozad is currently serving as commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, Norfolk, Va. (Post)


Contracts
HX5 LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $95 million contract for personnel, supervision, and services necessary to provide services for research and development and related activities for the Engineer Research and Development Center Information Technology Laboratory. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of March 14, 2022. … Kratos Defense and Security Solutions’ subsidiary Composite Engineering Inc. (CEi) received the Lot 13 production of a previous awarded contract for Lots 11-13 of the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target. The $22.3 million contract will be performed by the Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, comprised of CEi and Micro Systems Inc. (MSI). CEi’s Sacramento, Calif., facility will lead the effort and provide 25 high performance BQM-167A aerial targets and associated technical support. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based MSI will supply the majority of the high performance avionics utilized on the aircraft, including critical command, control and flight computer systems. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. received a task order to support the U.S. Air Force 53rd Wing operations. The task order was awarded with a value of $204.9 million over four years and nine months if all options are exercised, and focuses on the provision of information technology support for weapons and computer systems related to systems development and operational activities. Work sites are primarily located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., but some work will also be done at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and other locations. … Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) engineering, manufacture and development. Work will be performed at Sunnyvale and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2019. Work on the propulsion module for the SBIRS is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … URS Federal Services Inc., Germantown, Md., was awarded a $35.1 million contract to provide maintenance services, including integrated support equipment (SE) maintenance repair and overhaul services to reduce repair cycle time and the availability of ready for use SE in the fleet and the Fleet Readiness Center Aviation Support Equipment sites. New Orleans will be the location for 5 percent of the work.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Week in review (3/5 to 3/11)

The House passed a $578 billion fiscal 2017 defense spending bill during the week. It allocates $8.2 billion to buy 74 additional F-35 fighters and funds 28 Lakota helicopters. Not in the bill is the expected supplemental budget request from the administration.

Any spending on the F-35 is welcomed in this region. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming labs. There are also companies, like Fort Walton Machining, that make parts for the fifth-generation fighter.

The bill also includes $187 million for the Lakota helicopters built by Airbus in Columbus, Miss., and in this region they are used by the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. It now has to make its way to the Senate. (Post)

On another front, Trump's plan to cut the Coast Guard budget to help fund his proposed wall along the border with Mexico is facing rough waters. One group that is highly critical is one of the oldest advocacy groups in the nation, the Navy League.

According to Breaking Defense, the group points out the number of search-and-rescue missions conducted each day the the Coast Guard, and the lives saved, as well as its role in stopping undocumented migrants and illegal drugs. A single National Security Cutter of the type Trump wants to cancel conducted 12 drug interdictions, confiscated more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine and detained 32 suspected smugglers in a single month, according to the League. (Story)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, says Trump would be "foolish" to cut the Coast Guard's budget to help fund a wall, saying such a move would make the nation less safe and kill jobs in states like Virginia. (Story) Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says 40 percent of all Coast Guard activity is in Florida, and it makes no sense to build a wall along the border and remove the maritime wall. (Story)

In addition to Nelson’s point about the level of activity in Florida, the rest of the Gulf Coast also has a lot at risk. We have Coast Guard stations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala.

If my guess is right, this proposal is a no-go.

In other aerospace news of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week:


Aircraft
Italy's Leonardo is flying solo in the competition to build the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer. The company plans to establish final assembly for the M-346 trainer derivative in the United States, but where is still up in the air. When Raytheon was a partner, the plan was to build the trainers in Meridian, Miss., if the team won the contract. But that went away when Raytheon dropped out in January.

The proposed T-100 will use two Honeywell F124 engines made in Arizona, and its CAE simulators will be built in Florida. DRS will represent the American face of Leonardo, which did not select a separate US partner when it re-entered the competition. (Post)

-- Germany's defense ministry has decided to buy MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance planes built by Northrop Grumman for deliveries after 2025. The new drones will replace the Euro Hawk program, which Berlin canceled in May 2013 after it became clear that it could cost up to 600 million euros to get the system approved for use in civil airspace.

The plan, which must still be approved by parliament, calls for Germany to buy the Tritons from the Navy. Sensors for the Triton are to be built by Airbus. Fuselage work on the Triton variants of the Global Hawk are built in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)


Airports
In Alabama, the 79,000-square-foot CAE Dothan Training Center is now officially opened at Dothan Regional Airport. It’s designed to provide fixed-wing flight training to the Army, Air Force and other customers.

The CAE center provides classroom, simulator training and live flight training. CAE is responsible for providing all the training required for experienced rotary-wing aviators transitioning to fly the services fleet of more than 350 fixed-wing aircraft. More than 600 Army and Air Force pilots will be trained annually. The center is 10 miles from Fort Rucker. (Post)

-- A record 11.1 million passengers traveled through Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in 2016, with more than a third using Southwest Airlines. The Dallas-based airline continued to dominate domestic flights in and out of New Orleans, shuttling more than 4.1 million travelers in 2016. That was double the number who flew Delta Airlines. (Post)

-- Alaska Airlines, the parent company of Virgin America, will launch daily nonstop flights from Louis Armstrong International Airport to San Francisco starting Sept. 21. The daily Virgin America flight will depart New Orleans at 4 p.m. and arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 p.m. local time. The return connection will depart San Francisco at 8:48 a.m. and arrive in New Orleans at 3:03 p.m. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $64.7 million for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order procures work on the integrated core processor in order to alleviate diminishing manufacturing sources constraints projected under F-35 production Lot 15 for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners (20 percent). Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in March 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Applied Systems Engineering Corp., Niceville, Fla., was awarded an $11.7 million contract to provide essential hardware, upgrades, and repairs for the Battle Management Systems program, specifically Advanced Tactical Navigator units. The work will be performed in Niceville and is expected to be completed by March 2022. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity. … ViON Corp., Herndon, Calif., was awarded a $34.8 million contract to provide Capacity as a Service support to Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Headquarters, SPAWAR System Center Pacific and SPAWAR System Center Atlantic. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C. (63 percent); San Diego, Calif. (30 percent); New Orleans, La. (5 percent); and Norfolk, Va. (2 percent). Work is expected to be completed March 2022. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Week in review (2/26 to 3/4)

Northwest Florida as a region must commit to economic diversification if it wants to create the change its business leaders envision. That was the message from Jon Roberts for more than 100 people who showed up at Northwest Florida State College recently for a preview of the "blueprint" for successful regional diversification.

The plan is called Northwest Florida Forward. Key points are training a workforce capable of filling positions as new industry locates in the area, and taking advantage of existing regional industry clusters such as aerospace and defense.

"We designed this regional strategy to be a framework for prioritizing projects so everyone in Northwest Florida benefits," said Rick Byars, the chairman of the board of Florida's Great Northwest. (Post)

This is something that clearly needs to be done. I've always said the entire region, from Southeast Louisiana to Northwest Florida, has huge potential if the various organizations would work together. Doing something like this in one part of that region - Northwest Florida- certainly makes sense.

-- On another economic development front over in Mobile, Ala., Roger Wehner resigned as executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority. The authority said Mark McVay, director of finance, will serve as interim executive director while the board of directors conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

It was in 2013 that Wehner became executive director of MAA, which oversees operations of the Mobile Aeroplex and Mobile Regional Airport. He was involved in activities at MAA even before that, on loan to the agency from Alabama Power. During his tenure the Mobile Aeroplex saw considerable growth as aerospace companies came to the aeroplex to be close to the Airbus A320 final assembly line. (Post)

I just hope Wehner ends up staying in this region working in economic development in some capacity. His experience is crucial to our region.


Military
It looks like the Air Force Special Operations Command will be installing and testing lasers on AC-130 gunships this year. That’s what Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, head of AFSOC, told Breaking Defense.

Webb said AFSOC, based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., hasn’t decided where the laser would go. The tests will help determine that, as well as which mix of weapons is most effective. Webb’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, had previously said the laser would probably go on the left side of the plane. (Post)


-- Speaking of Hurlburt Field, AFSOC is currently hosting Emerald Warrior, a joint military exercise involving 1,500 military personnel from the Air Force, Army and Marines, along with three partner nations.

It began Feb. 27 and ends March 11. Scenarios include operations involving inserting and removing troops from combat situations, direct assaults, military freefall, and live-fire events. In addition to the activities in Northwest Florida, training will be conducted at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, Melrose Range, N.M., and Fort Knox, Ky. (Post)

-- Halfway through their winter training in El Centro, Calif., the Blue Angels are getting ready to begin their 2017 season March 11 with their annual start-of-season performance at Naval Air Facility El Centro. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)


Space
The 20th Space Control Squadron's Charlie Crew at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., successfully tracked India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle Feb. 15. Loaded with 104 satellites, the Indian PSLV set the record for the most spacecraft launched by a single rocket.

Using the world's most powerful phased-array radar, the space surveillance squadron uses an integrated team of military and civilian airmen to track an estimated 23,000 near-Earth and deep-space objects each day. The AN/FPS-85 is the only phased array radar capable of tracking objects 40,000 kilometers away. (Post)


Airports
The Northwest Florida International Beaches Airport Authority is set to begin exit terminal security improvements. The board approved GAC Contractors to install glass-walled security corridors and a video-enabled exit lane breach control system from Tyco Integrated Security.

Tyco's system uses video analytics technology to immediately identify if an individual attempts to enter an airport exit lane from the wrong direction. It alerts security personnel and records the incident for instant playback. (Post)


Airbus
The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility will be making more than A320 series jetliners next week. The production team will be making pink paper planes March 8 as part of the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week’s Guinness World Record Attempt. It’s designed to show Airbus’ support of women in the aviation industry. The plane throw will be at 11 a.m. CST. A minimum of 40 and up to 200 paper planes are expected to be thrown. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded three contracts related to the F-35 program. It was awarded a $1 billion contract for recurring logistics support and sustainment services for F-35 aircraft in support of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants; and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. It also was awarded a $20.6 million modification to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract. The modification provides for airworthiness requirements, technical reviews, deficiency corrections, and chase maintenance for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-U.S. Department of Defense (Non-U.S. DoD) participants, and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. The company also was awarded an $11.6 million contract action against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order provides for initial operational test and evaluation configuration support efforts in support of the F-35 aircraft for the Air Force and Navy, and international partner countries. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity for all three contracts. … ECSC LLC, Panama City, Fla., was awarded a not-to-exceed $40,000,000 contract for paving requirements at Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada. The 99th Contracting Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for aircraft maintenance and logistical life cycle support for the C-12 utility lift aircraft. New Orleans will be one of the work locations (4 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity. … Pride Industries, Roseville, Calif., was awarded an $18.4 million contract for base operations. Work will be performed in Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2018. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Fort Rucker, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Week in review (2/19 to 2/25)

At the request of the Trump administration, a team has been formed to study a possible manned mission around the moon as early as next year, which would make a major speed-up of current plans for NASA's Space Launch System.

Preliminary results of the panel's review should be ready in about a month. That will determine whether it would be feasible, or even advisable, to put two astronauts inside the Orion capsule on the first test flight of the 322-foot tall Space Launch System (SLS).

Under current plans, the first unmanned orbit around the moon is slated for 2018, with a crewed flight three years later. One of the issues that will have to be addressed is that Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion crew capsule, didn't plan to install life-support systems until the second flight.

William Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters, said major technical challenges will need to be resolved, and the agency will need more money to make it happen.

No doubt all of this will have an impact on the Gulf Coast region, where we have Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center. Both are heavily involved in NASA's SLS program.

To read more about this, take a look at Bloomberg or CBS News.

-- NASA engineers conducted their first RS-25 test of 2017 on the A-1 Test Stand late in the week. The test of development engine No. 0528 ran the scheduled 380 seconds, allowing engineers to monitor various engine operating conditions.

Four RS-25 engines will be used to launch the first stage of the Space Launch System on its deep-space missions. The engines for the first four SLS flights are former space shuttle main engines, which were tested extensively at Stennis Space Center.

Engineers are conducting an ongoing series of tests this year for SLS on both development and flight engines for future flights to ensure the engine, outfitted with a new controller, can perform at the higher level under a variety of conditions and situations.

Stennis is also preparing its B-2 Test Stand to test the core stage for the first SLS flight with Orion, known as Exploration Mission-1. (Post)

Also at SSC, Aerojet Rocketdyne recently demonstrated the highest chamber pressure of any United States produced liquid oxygen and kerosene main combustion system. That occurred during a series of successful test firings of the AR1's staged combustion system at SSC.

Preparations for the staged-combustion testing began at Stennis last summer. During this testing, Aerojet Rocketdyne combined the engine's preburner with the main injector in order to validate injector design parameters and performance.

The AR1 engine is being developed as a replacement for Russian-made engines currently used on domestic rockets. (Post)

Meanwhile, at Cape Canaveral, Fla., SpaceX last weekend launched the first private rocket from the same historic site that saw some of NASA's greatest space missions, then landed a booster nearby in a resounding success.

The company's Falcon 9 launched a Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The pad was used for Apollo and space shuttle missions. SpaceX uses Stennis Space Center to develop its next generation Raptor engine. (Post)

Dragon arrive at the space station Thursday with some 5,500 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments.


Economic development
The Bay County Commission during the week gave a thumbs up to $750,000 in incentives for GKN Aerospace Florida, which plans to open a parts manufacturing facility at Venture Crossings near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The incentive funds would come from tax dollars the company would be paying into Bay County in the coming years, county officials said.

The company will be required to create at least 170 jobs at an annual wage of $63,156 in Bay County by Dec. 31, 2020, or a mutually agreeable date, and maintain each of those jobs for at least three years from the date of their creation. (Post)

For a deeper look at how this project all came about, take a look at a feature story that appeared in the News Herald. (Post)


Bases
In a move to save money, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group teamed up with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Naval Support Activity Panama City, to utilize the Navy's recently-built communications tower to replace the 53rd WEG's unserviceable, outdated Gulf Range Drone Control System tower.

These towers are essential for triangulating communications for controlling unmanned drones over the Gulf of Mexico. This innovative investment took about a year to accomplish and will save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Constructing a new tower would have cost an estimated $700,000, and leasing a commercial tower would cost approximately $9,000 annually. (Post)

-- With nearly 1.2 million takeoffs, landings and other operations a year, the airspace surrounding Whiting Field Naval Air Station in Northwest Florida is busier than the airspace above the airport in Atlanta. It all happens under the watchful eyes of veteran flight instructors and experienced military air traffic controllers. A feature story. (Post)

-- The chief of staff, Air Force announced the assignment of Brig. Gen. Christopher P. Azzano, commander, 96th Test Wing, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to director, air, space and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (Post)


Contract
Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, McKinney, Texas, was awarded an estimated $45.5 million modification for low-rate initial production and full-rate production of the Silent Knight Radar system in support of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The work will be performed in McKinney and Forest, Miss., and is expected to be completed by June 2019. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, part of USSOCOM, is headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Week in review (2/12 to 2/18)

The latest edition of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Newsletter was published Tuesday, and if you didn't get a copy, you can download the 8-page PDF here.

The newsletter has a story about one of the region’s technology goldmines, NASA’s Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi, and a redesigned portion of its website. The change is intended to make it easier for companies and individuals to find the technologies that can be developed for the public – and that’s something that can mean big bucks. (Story)

We also had a story out of Northwest Florida about Santa Rosa County's new pitch to aerospace and aviation companies. The county sits in the middle of a highly active aerospace neighborhood, and the new pitch, which includes a brochure and eventually an addition to the Santa Rosa Economic Development website, tells why it's a good choice as a home for aviation-focused companies. (Story)

The newsletter also has a story out of Mobile, Ala., about one of the aerospace companies that found Mobile County to be a great place to call home. Late last month there was a celebration at the Airbus Engineering Center marking 10 years at the Mobile Aeroplex. Airbus, in fact, has had an operation in Mobile going back a dozen years. Airbus now has some 650 workers at three separate facilities in Mobile. (Story)

We hope you enjoy our bimonthly. The next one is scheduled for April.

In other aerospace news for the Gulf Coast region:

Economic development
GKN Aerospace is locating a new manufacturing facility in Venture Crossing Enterprise Centre in Bay County, investing $50 million and providing 170 jobs. GKN, a British multinational, will lease a building that will be developed and owned by a subsidiary of The St. Joe Company.

GKN Aerospace provides components and assemblies for aerostructures, engine products, landing gear, wiring systems and special products like ice protection systems, for civil and military fixed-wing and rotary-wing platforms, and is also involved in the space market. (Post)


Workers
Workers at a Boeing plant in South Carolina rejected a drive to unionize, with almost three-quarters of workers at the aircraft factory rejecting union representation. The vote at the North Charleston plant was a high-profile test for organized labor in a strongly anti-union state.

The National Labor Relations Board said 74 percent of the 2,828 workers who cast ballots Wednesday at locations throughout the plant voted against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The vote is of high interest to Mobile, where Airbus operates the plant that makes A320 series jetliners. It’s clear that at some point there will be an attempt to unionize there. (Post)


Bases/airports
Southwest Airlines will add two new non-stop flights from New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, beginning the weekend of April 30. The Raleigh-Durham connection will be available twice a week on Fridays and Sundays. The Columbus flight will depart once a week on Sundays. (Post)

-- The Air Force chief of staff announces the assignments of Maj. Gen. Michael T. Plehn, chief of staff, Headquarters U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla., to vice commander, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla. (Post)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Week in review (1/29 to 2/4)

As the saying goes, nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. I'd offer another: consequences.

The 90-day civilian hiring freeze that the new president imposed Jan. 23, which has no impact on military personnel, is having an impact on civilians who work at federal government activities across the region. It prevents vacancies from being filled, and that means more work for those who toil away.

The Defense Department late in the week announced 16 separate functions exempt from the freeze, allowing hiring to resume across broad categories of the workforce ranging from cybersecurity specialists to depot maintenance and shipyard personnel. The exemptions are for positions deemed critical to national security and public safety.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents Florida's 1st District, supports the freeze and reducing the size of the federal government. But he's concerned about how it could impact civilian employees here. He wrote a letter to the Defense Department asking for clarification. According to one report, at Eglin Air Force Base alone there are more than 360 vacant positions.

Welcome to Washington, congressman. It's pretty common to hear politicians say, yes, I'm in favor of this or that, only to realize there are consequences that might not be good for your own back yard. The devil is always in the details.

Here's your week in review:

Airbus
In Alabama, Airbus Engineering Center celebrated its 10th year at the Mobile Aeroplex with a tip of the hat to its 220 workers and the major contributions they've made to the community. Site Director Dave Trent said the workers are hardworking, dedicated, tenacious and diverse, representing 25 countries. Barry Eccleston, CEO of Airbus Americas, said the engineering center is probably one of the most successful endeavors he’s been involved in. He said it exceeded his expectation. (Post)

Bases
The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducted boat operations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay late this week and will continue during the upcoming week. Each morning, fighter aircraft release munitions about 20 nautical miles south of Destin in the Gulf of Mexico. In the afternoons  about 30 boats traveling in formation will transverse between the Mid-Bay Bridge and the Highway 331 Bridge, to include 10 to 20 miles south of Destin in the Gulf of Mexico. The boat formation will be used as visual targets by military aircraft flying over the area. No weapons or ammunition will be involved with this boat formation. (Post)

-- At Fort Rucker, Ala., the Air Traffic Services Command last month welcomed the newest addition to its fleet, a new C-12S aircraft. At the same time it bid goodbye to its predecessor, a JC-12D. Col. Michael E. Demirjian, ATSCOM commander, said the new C-12S is the only one in the Army’s inventory. C-12S is a twin-engine turboprop based on the Beechcraft Super King Air and Beechcraft 1900. (Post)

Education
High school students in Mississippi and Louisiana have been invited to participate in a pilot “swarmathon” competition to develop robotic swarms for use in space missions. The competition to develop algorithms for robotic swarms has openings for 20 area teams to compete. Teams have until Feb. 15 to enter the challenge, and their final algorithm code must be submitted by April 15. Teams must have a faculty mentor and
coach. (Post)

Contract
Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded an $18.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract exercising an option for supplies and services to implement engineering changes to the Rolls Royce lift fan systems, 3Bearing Swivel Module Conditioning Flow System, and production thrust recovery in support of the F-35 for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and international partners. Work will be performed in Indiana and Oklahoma and is expected to be complete in December 2018.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Week in review (1/22 to 1/28)

It didn't take long for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to order a complete review of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, as well as Air Force One. The fifth-generation F-35 is behind schedule, still has issues and is very costly. But it does represent a leap in technology.

The F-35 review is being done to "significantly" reduce costs, which have been dropping for several years now. A release from Mattis said the review, among other things, would compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent the Boeing jet improvements can be made in order to provide competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.

This is of high interest to our region because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has played and continues to play a big role in the development of the program. Elgin is home to the F-35 integrated training center, as well as reprogramming labs.

We'll have to keep an eye on this one for quite some time. Best hope is the cost comes down even more.

Meanwhile, Mississippi got some bad news this week on another aircraft program. Raytheon and Leonardo will no longer jointly pursue the U.S. Air Force's T-X trainer competition.

The two companies had planned to offer the T-100, based on the Leonardo M-346. Last year Raytheon had announced that the plane would be assembled in Meridian near the airport.

The withdrawal narrows the field of competitors to Boeing with Saab, Lockheed Martin and Korean Aerospace, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems; and Sierra Nevada and TAI. The Air Force last month released a request for proposals. (Post)

Contracts
Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a modification to exercise the option on a previously awarded contract for Small Diameter Bomb (SDB II). The contractor will provide, among other things, low-rate initial production for 312 SDB II Lot 3 munitions. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … General Dynamics - Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Lincoln, Neb., was awarded an $8 million contract for production of the BLU-129/B warhead case assemblies. Work will be performed at Lincoln and is expected to be complete by Jan. 27, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … PAE Applied Technologies LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $9.2 million modification to exercise an option on a previously awarded contract for base operations support services. Work will be performed at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and is expected to be complete by May 31, 2017. The 81st Contracting Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services Inc., Rockville, Md., was awarded a $24.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for about 568,551 hours of logistics services and incidental materials in support of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s Special Communications Mission Solutions Division to support command, control, communications, computers and intelligence projects. One of the work locations that will do 3 percent of the work is Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Week in review (1/15 to 1/21)

This is the first day of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States. Whether you love him or loathe him, he is the leader of the American team on the world stage.

For our heavily militarized region, one key side show of the inauguration was the confirmation and swearing in of James N. Mattis as secretary of defense. The retired Marine general was approved with a 98-1 vote after the inauguration.

Mattis released a statement to U.S. troops afterward that credited not only them, but intelligence personnel as "sentinels and guardians of our nation." Mattis also pledged to work with the State Department to strengthen U.S. alliances abroad, some of which have been rattled by Trump questioning their worth.

Mattis retired in spring 2013 as the chief of U.S. Central Command after a career in which he became one of the most influential officers of his generation and commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the first senior military officer to serve as defense secretary since President Truman nominated Army Gen. George C. Marshall for the job in 1950. (Story)

Mattis has indicated his support of the F-35 program, which is good news for our region since Eglin is home of the F-35 integrated training center and two F-35 reprogramming labs. He's apparently an independent thinker willing to take a different approach from the boss, who has criticized the F-35.

It's time for everybody to take a deep breath and give the new administration a chance. Our country is far more resilient than some might think. All the things you see going on right now have happened in the past and will happen in the future.


F-35
The 33rd Fighter Wing on Jan. 17 loaded and released the Air Education and Training Command's first live bombs from an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Six aircraft were loaded with armed GBU-12s, and two bombs were released over the Eglin range.

The GBU-12 is a 500-pound laser guided bomb. The F-35 can carry a combined payload of 2.3K pounds of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions internally, with an extended capacity of munitions on each wing. While this is the first live bomb to be loaded into an F-35A here, weapons personnel also regularly load the 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition and the AIM-120 missile as part of their training and readiness. (Post)


Bases
The 96th Test Wing was scheduled to conduct testing on the Eglin range complex requiring the closure of State Roads 85, 123 and 285. Testing was to take place Jan. 25, and several backup dates were provided. But later in the week Eglin’s testing schedule for Jan. 25, along with backup dates, was canceled. (Post)

-- More than 300 aeromedical specialists attended a week-long conference at Naval Air Station Pensacola designed to provide participants with the latest information regarding aerospace medicine. Rear Adm. Rebecca J. McCormick-Boyle, commander of Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command, was among the featured speakers hosted by the Pensacola-based Navy Medicine Aerospace Medical Institute. Capt. Joseph LaVan, NAMI officer in charge, noted the event was a critical component in maintaining the continued excellence of Navy Medicine's aerospace community. (Post)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Week in review (1/1 to 1/7)

For those who follow the aerospace and defense industry, one of the biggest question marks with the incoming administration is what will happen to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program?

We care in this region in part because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and two reprogramming labs. And beyond that, we're pro-military for both political and economic reasons. So we care about keeping our nation second-to-none when it comes to the nation's defense.

Regarding the F-35, if you were to base your assessment of its future on tweets from the president-elect, you would see trouble ahead for the fifth-generation plane. Trump's clearly not a fan. Early on he said the plane was "not very good," then later, singled out the F-35 in another tweet where he said military costs are out of control, and he plans to save billions.

Then came this one: "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35 I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" That caused a lot of folks to scratch their heads and wonder if Trump understands the F/A-18 and F-35 are not in the same league. It's like hanging on to your old, trusty Nokia in an age dominated by smart phones (yes, I tried but finally succumbed).

It's simply not possible to take a late 1970-era plane and turn it into a 21st century stealthy aircraft. One is a Navy multi-role fighter that first saw combat in 1986 over Libya, the other an avionics-packed flying battle station that works with other assets as a holistic unit in a battle field against highly competent, tech-savvy opponents.

For those who think the F-35 is important and must be continued despite all its ongoing issues, there's reason to believe it will survive. Departing Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently said he believes all the work done to fix the troubled program is paying off.

He pointed out that in 2010 the program was in trouble, in danger of being canceled, after racking up $13.5 billion in cost overruns and a six-year delay. But after seven years of hard work on the government and industry sides, costs are coming down and the Marines and airmen beginning to operate the F-35B and F-35A say they are in awe of its capabilities. Carter said there are still challenges, but he said the F-35 is unequivocally the best fighter in the world. (Post)

Importantly, Carter's expected replacement, Retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, has recently indicated his support of the program despite the tweets from the man who will be his boss. That's according to a Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who recently met with Mattis. He told the Hartford Courant newspaper that Mattis gave a "clear commitment" to the continuation of the F-35 program. Connecticut cares because that's where the engines for the F-35 are made by Pratt and Whitney.

Of course, Mattis still has to get a waiver to serve as defense secretary. But it does show he's an independent thinker willing to take a different approach from the boss. Whether the boss will listen to the advice of those around him is another matter entirely. We'll just have to wait and see.

In a story we had in the December issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter, we noted Trump's concern over government spending and his concern with the F-35. That was before Trump's tweet about the F/A-18 as a possible alternative.

But if anything, that tweet underscores the significance of a comment made by aerospace expert Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group. He said in the article that he didn’t think the Trump team had a good handle on the F-35 program, and that once they got up to speed, they'll understand the unmatched role of the F-35. Aboulafia said that if Trump wants to spend money on top-of-the-line weapons systems, the F-35 is the only game in town. (Story)

I'm not blind to the real concerns raised about the costly program. A lot of critical issues still have to be addressed, but as has been said many times by many experts, any new program goes through development problems. In this case, procurement came before all the kinks were worked out.

It's also clear this program is far too entrenched – yes, too big to fail. It involves nearly every U.S. state and eight nations. Perhaps Trump might do well to do what he can to drive down the cost without jeopardizing the F-35's performance goals. Chalk this one up to lesson learned and focus on making sure we take care of getting the most bang for our bucks at the front end of any new program.


Airports
Southwest Airlines announced additional service to two airports in the region.

It will offer additional services and routes this summer at Pensacola International Airport (PNS). New, non-stop weekend service to Denver International Airport (DEN) will run June 3-August 14. Southwest is also renewing its seasonal service to both Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and Dallas Love Field (DAL) with an increase in frequency. (Post)

At Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) near Panama City, the company announced two new nonstop flights to Austin, Texas, and Chicago-Midway, bringing the number of nonstop and one-stop destinations available to more than a dozen. Enhanced nonstop service on Southwest begins in June with flights scheduled through the summer season. Southwest is also increasing flight frequency on routes to Nashville, Houston and Dallas throughout the summer season. (Post)