Sunday, February 27, 2011

First production F-35 takes to air

FORT WORTH, Texas - The first production model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 made its inaugural flight Friday in preparation for delivery to the Air Force this spring. The jet will head to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to support developmental testing shortly after the Air Force takes delivery. During the flight, the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A variant underwent basic flight maneuvering and engine tests. The jet will continue flight tests in Fort Worth for about a month before it is accepted by the Air Force. (Source: Lockheed Martin, 02/25/11) Gulf Coast note: Eglin Air Force Base is home to the F-35 training center.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Debriefing will determine next step

EADS will decide after a debriefing on Monday whether it will appeal a decision by the Air Force to buy aerial tankers from rival Boeing. EADS has 10 days after that meeting to appeal with the Government Accountability Office, and GAO has to rule within 100 days. EADS had said before the announcement that it will appeal only if it found "egregious" problems. The $35 billion contract to build 179 tankers for the Air Force was seen by EADS as a chance to increase its share of the lucrative U.S. defense market. EADS would have built a $600 million plant in Mobile, Ala., to assemble not only tankers, but Airbus freighters. EADS is also the world's largest manufacturer of helicopters, and has a plant in Columbus, Miss., that builds helicopters for the U.S. military. (Source: Tcp, 02/25/11)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Boeing wins tanker contract

Boeing beat out EADS North America for the $35 billion contract to build 179 aerial tankers for the U.S. Air Force, officials said Thursday. Michael Donley, secretary of the Air Force, made the formal announcement at the Pentagon. He said the first 18 aircraft, designated KC-46A, will be delivered by 2017. "This is a sad day," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told a gathering in Mobile, Ala., which would have assembled the tankers had EADS won. The modified Boeing 767s will be built in Washington State and Kansas and create 50,000 jobs in the United States. The decision was based on price. Boeing's was more than 1 percent below EADS' price, so non-mandatory capabilities were not taken into consideration. In 2008 Boeing lost the competition to EADS, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., but a protest was upheld by the General Accountability Office. The Air Force has been trying to replace its fleet of Eisenhower-era KC-135s for more than a decade. (Source: Tcp, 02/24/11)

Event marks mentor-protege agreement

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. - A ceremony is scheduled for Friday marking the mentor-protégé agreement between Lockheed Martin and Fort Walton Machining. Under the Defense Department program, mentor companies help prepare small businesses with capabilities and know-how to perform as prime or subcontractors to the federal government. Fort Walton Machining is a supplier for Lockheed Martin's F-35, F-16, F-22 and C-130J programs. (Source: Lockheed Martin, 02/24/11)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tanker announcement Thursday

The Air Force will announce a decision Thursday on the $35 billion tanker contract, according to multiple media reports. The Puget Sound Business Journal attributes confirmation to a spokesman for Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash; the Mobile Press-Register attributes it to industry and military officials; and WALA-TV cites the Mobile Chamber of Commerce. Boeing, which plans to build planes in Washington and Kansas, and EADS North America, which plans to assemble them in Mobile, Ala., are competing to build the 179 planes. (Sources: Multiple, 02/22/11)

Brookley eyes improvements

MOBILE, Ala. - The Mobile Airport Authority is considering borrowing $8 million to improve streets, drainage, signs and landscaping at Brookley Aeroplex. If EADS wins the contract to build tankers for the Air Force, the industrial park will see increased traffic and demand for industrial space. But even if EADS doesn't get the contract the work needs to be done, said Bill Sisson, executive director of the authority. (Source: Mobile Press-Register, 02/22/11)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Contract: BAE Systems, $7.7M

BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Inc., Rockville, Md., is being awarded a $7,745,712 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to exercise an option for the procurement of maintenance, logistics, and life cycle services in support of communication-electronic equipment/systems and subsystems for various Navy, Army, Air Force, Special Operations Forces and other federal agencies. Two percent of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Source: DoD, 02/18/11)

IG: AF acted properly in bid mix-up

The Pentagon's inspector general's office said Friday that it finished a review of an Air Force mix-up that sent details of Boeing's tanker bid to EADS and vice versa, and found no reason to further investigate. The IG said in a letter to seven U.S. senators, all Boeing backers who requested the probe, saying the Air Force handled the mistake appropriately and in compliance with federal law. Boeing and EADS are competing for the $35 billion contract to build new tankers for the Air Force. If EADS wins, it plans to assemble its planes in Mobile, Ala. (Source: Mobile Press-Register, 02/18/11)

Air show performer list growing

BILOXI, Miss. - The lineup of performers and aircraft is growing for the Angels Over the Bay Air Show at Keesler Air Force Base. The March 19-20 show will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Keesler. Headlining the show is the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The Army Golden Knights parachute team, which opened the Thunder on the Bay air show at Keesler in 2009, will be back again. (Source: Sun Herald, 02/16/11)

Navy wants Fire-X

The Navy is requesting funds in fiscal year 2012 to buy the first 12 Fire-X unmanned helicopters. Called MQ-8C, Fire-X is based on the Bell 407, a larger version of the Fire Scout, MQ-8B, which uses the Schweizer S-333 airframe. In December, Northrop and Bell flew the Fire-X demonstrator to show that a new airframe could be integrated into the unmanned architecture developed for the Fire Scout. The MQ-8C is to be an engineering change proposal to the existing system, using the existing avionics, payloads, command-and-control links and ground control station. (Source: Aviation Week, 02/17/11) Gulf Coast note: Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

House says no to second engine

The House on Wednesday approved an amendment that would eliminate funding for a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a move that would contribute an additional $450 million to the estimated $61 billion in federal spending cuts that House Republicans have proposed for the rest of the current fiscal year. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates criticized the alternative engine as unnecessary and wasteful. The second F-35 engine was to be built by General Electric and Rolls Royce. The primary engine is built by Pratt & Whitney. (Sources: Multiple, including Washington Post, AFP, 02/16/11) Gulf Coast note: Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

EADS cut tanker price

EADS North America Chairman Ralph Crosby on Wednesday said the company had lowered its bid price for a $35 billion Air Force aerial refueling tanker contract. EADS is offering a version of the A330 against Boeing's 767. Both companies sent their best proposals last week to build 179 tankers. Boeing last week described its bid as "aggressive." A decision is expected next month. (Source: AFP, 02/16/11) Gulf Coast note: If EADS wins it would assemble its tankers in Mobile, Ala.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DRS reduces workforce

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. - Defense contractor DRS Technologies has laid off 38 people from its Fort Walton Beach location in the wake of a staff reassessment. Like with other defense companies, the size of the workforce ebbs and flows based on contracts. The Fort Walton Beach operation specializes in communications, unmanned aircraft and border security products. DRS, based in New Jersey, still has 850 workers in Fort Walton Beach. (Source: Northwest Florida Daily News, 02/14/11)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Navy wants more Fire Scouts

The Navy Department's fiscal 2012 budget calls for 12 Fire Scout unmanned helicopters, nine more than originally planned. By 2016 the Navy plans to purchase 57, up from the 31 included in earlier budgets, according to Navy Times. The Navy on Monday requested a baseline of $161.4 billion for fiscal 2012, up $800 million from last year's proposal. (Source: Navy Times, 02/14/11) Gulf Coast note: Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Scheuermann: Budget reflects commitment

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The president's proposed $18.7 billion budget for NASA in fiscal year 2012 reflects a commitment to long-term job growth, said Stennis Space Center Director Patrick Scheuermann. "As in the past, the unique test facilities and technical expertise at the John C. Stennis Space Center will continue to play a key role in the development and certification of new rocket propulsion systems," said Scheuermann. He added that the center's Applied Science and Technology Project Office will support essential scientific research while managing the Gulf of Mexico Initiative for NASA's Applied Sciences Program. (Source: NASA, 02/14/11)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week in review column

The final bids from Boeing and EADS to build aerial tankers for the Air Force have been submitted as the Pentagon ponders looking into the November bid data mix-up. Also during the week, an AJ26 rocket engine was tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and the Orion crew vehicle shipped out from New Orleans' Michoud Assembly Facility. (Source: Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, 02/12/11)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Contract: BAE, $15.7M

BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services Inc. of Rockville, Md. was awarded a $15,713,984 contract modification to exercise the Lot 17 option to procure a quantity of 9-QF-4 full scale aerial targets. At this time, $15,713,984 has been obligated. AAC/EBYK at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. is the contracting activity. (Source: DoD, 02/11/11)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lockheed ships out Orion

NEW ORLEANS - Lockheed Martin shipped out the first Orion crew module Thursday from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. It's bound for Lockheed's Denver, Colo., facilities, where it will be integrated with a heat shield and thermal protection backshell, then tested to confirm Orion's ability to safely fly astronauts through deep space missions. It will later undergo simulated water landings at Langley's Hydro Impact Basin in Hampton, Va. This Orion ground test vehicle has already validated advanced production processes, equipment and tools required to manufacture the Orion crew module space flight hardware. (Source: Lockheed Martin, 02/10/11)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fire Scouts to hunt pirates, gather intel

The Navy's Fire Scout unmanned helicopter this year will look for pirates in the Middle East and gather intelligence for troops in Afghanistan, according to a report in Aviation Week. Three aircraft and two ground control stations will participate in the Afghanistan deployment. Builder Northrop Grumman will operate and maintain the system under the guidance of Navy officers. Two Fire Scouts are also aboard the U.S. frigate Halyburton, which sailed to Southwest Asia in early January. A Fire Scout was credited with a humanitarian save last week, when it spotted a wayward boat and hovered until help arrived. The Navy will determine Fire Scout's suitability after operational evaluation in October. A full-rate production decisions would follow. The Navy plans to buy 168 Fire Scouts. (Source: Aviation Week, 02/09/11) Gulf Coast note: Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Contract: Boeing, $15.1M

Boeing Co. of St Louis, Mo., was awarded a contract modification not-to-exceed $15,150,000 for additional Massive Ordnance Penetrator Integration to include flight test support, three additional test assets, an alternative/modified fuse design and sixteen fuses. At this time $5,984,488 has been obligated. AAC/EBDK/EBDJ – MOP Tiger Team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. is the contracting activity. (Source: DoD, 02/08/11)

IG asked to probe tanker bid mixup

The Pentagon's watchdog agency will respond "as soon as possible" to a request by seven senators to investigate whether a data mix-up could mar the aerial tanker competition. Boeing and EADS are competing for a $40 billion contract to build 179 tankers for the Air Force. The Air Force insists the mix-up last November involved no pricing data that could comprise the process. Meanwhile, Air Force Gen. Duncan McNabb, who heads the Pentagon's Transportation Command, on Monday said new tankers would help cut the military's fuel bills sharply. (Source: Reuters, 02/07/11) Gulf Coast note: EADS North America plans to assemble the aircraft in Mobile, Ala., if it wins all or part of the contract.

Eglin expansion will clog roads

Added missions for Eglin Air Force Base will significantly congest Florida 85 and could disrupt travel along U.S. 98, a report by the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board warns. The report looked at Eglin and five other large bases that are expanding as a result of the base realignment plan. Eglin was chosen as the new home of the Army 7th Special Forces Group and the Joint Strike Fighter training center. The 7th SF will bring more than 6,000 people and the JSF center about 4,900. The report urges Congress to consider a special appropriation of federal stimulus money to pay for near-term improvements. (Source: Northwest Florida Daily News, 02/07/11)

Airport seeks fee increase

GULFPORT, Miss. - Officials with Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport are asking Congress to increase a passenger fee and are seeking support from Gulfport, Biloxi and Harrison County. The airport authority wants to increase the Passenger Facility Charge from $4.50 to $7 per passenger in order to pay its debt. The fee hasn’t been raised since 2000. (Source: Sun Herald, 02/07/11)

Engine tested without a hitch

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. - A 52-second test of an Aerojet AJ26 rocket engine Monday went without a hitch. Executives from NASA, Aerojet and Orbital Sciences Corp. were on hand for the flight acceptance test of the AJ26, which will be the Stage 1 engine for Orbital's Taurus II space launch vehicle. NASA formed a $1.9 billion contract with Orbital to launch eight cargo missions to the International Space Station through 2015. The Aerojet AJ26, originally made in Russia 50 years ago, was tested at the E-1 test stand at Stennis, which had to be adapted to fire the engine in the vertical position. (Source: Sun Herald, 02/07/11)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Contract: Boeing, $23.1M

The Boeing Co. was awarded a $23,127,911 contract modification which will procure various test assets and hardware for aircraft integration efforts for the F-16 Block 40/50, F-22, F-35, and the Small Diameter Bomb Increment I programs. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. AAC/EBMK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. is the contracting activity. (Source: DoD, 02/07/11)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Week in review column

By Friday, Boeing and EADS North America will have to submit their best and final proposals to the Air Force in the contest to build 179 aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. Under normal circumstances, one might say the contest is drawing to a close. But this contest has been anything but normal. (Source: Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, 02/05/11)

Crestview airport upgrading

CRESTVIEW, Fla. - Planned upgrades at Bob Sikes Airport will help boost the economy, local officials and business representatives said. Improvements include widening the taxiways up to 75 feet to accommodate any size aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration provided $5.1 million, the Florida Department of Transportation put up $3.6 million and $3 million came from a state infrastructure bank loan. The weather Friday forced the groundbreaking into the BAE Aerospace Solutions hangar. (Source: Northwest Florida Daily News, 02/04/11)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Competing tanker ads appear

With the competition to build tankers for the Air Force heating up, competitors Boeing and EADS have launched ad campaigns. Boeing's newspaper ad defends itself against EADS' claims that a World Trade Organization report found that the company received at least $5 billion in illegal subsidies, while EADS's radio ad criticizes Boeing's ads as being "misleading." A decision is expected early this year, and a protest by the losing side is possible. At least one analyst said the only solution may be buying tankers from both companies. (Source: Reuters, 02/03/11) Gulf Coast note: EADS North America wants to assemble its tankers in Mobile, Ala.

AJ26 test scheduled

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and executives from Orbital Science Corp. and Aerojet will be on hand Feb. 7 for a flight acceptance test of an Aerojet AJ26 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center. Members of the media have been invited to see the 4 p.m. test. The engine will be used in Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus II space launch vehicle. Once flight acceptance testing on the engine is complete, it will be delivered to Orbital at the Wallops Flight Facility launch site in Virginia for integration with the rocket's first stage core power. NASA has partnered with Orbital to provide eight cargo missions to the International Space Station, with the first scheduled for early 2012. (Source: NASA, 02/04/11)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sats examined for contamination

Lockheed Martin has been conducting exoneration exercises for A2100-based satellites in various stages of manufacturing to ensure that foreign object debris (FOD) wasn't introduced during manufacturing, according to Aviation Week. FOD in the oxidizer line is thought to have caused the failure of the liquid apogee engine on the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite. The propulsion system for AEHF-1 was built at Lockheed Martin's facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss., in 2006. (Source: Aviation Week, 02/02/11)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

1,000th 767 rolled out

EVERETT, Wash. - Boeing marked the rollout of the 1,000th 767 Wednesday at the company's Everett factory. Hundreds were on hand for the event. The 1,000th plane is a 767-300ER passenger model for All Nippon Airways, and was the final 767 to finish assembly on the current production line. The next 767 is being built in a new, smaller and more efficient bay. Boeing is offering the 767s as its entry in the tanker competition. (Source: Boeing via PRNewswire, 02/02/11) Gulf Coast note: Boeing's competition in the tanker contest is EADS North America, which plans to assemble planes in Mobile, Ala., if it wins the competition.

NG signs up Aussie F-35 supplier

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Northrop Grumman signed a long-term agreement with advanced materials company Quickstep Technologies, North Coogee, Australia, to produce composite subassemblies that include F-35 lower side skins, maintenance access panels and fuel tank covers. Northrop Grumman is a principal subcontractor on the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team. Australia is one of nine countries, including the United States, contributing to the funding and production of the F-35 aircraft. (Source: Northrop Grumman via Globe Newswire, 02/02/11) Gulf Coast note: Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 training center.

AETC commander visits 33rd FW

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The commander of Air Education and Training Command, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., visited the 33rd Fighter Wing last week. During his tour, the general received a status report on the wing and it's integrated Academic Training Center that is the school house for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilots and maintainers for the Air Force, Navy, Marines and future coalition partners. He said the 33rd "represents the first time we've engaged deeply in joint fighter training and could be a template for future endeavors." It will train fighter pilots for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, and affords "a great opportunity for us to demonstrate this concept can work. It's too early to tell whether joint training facilities like the 33rd will be the way of the future." (Source: Team Eglin Public Affairs, 02/01/11)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boeing to file final tanker bid Feb. 11

Boeing will submit a final proposal Feb. 11 in the contest to build 179 aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force, a company spokesman said. Members of Boeing's tanker team met with Air Force officials Monday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to discuss the interim evaluation. Boeing and EADS North America are competing for the $40 billion contract. If EADS wins, it plans to assemble the tankers in Mobile, Ala. (Source: Tcp, 02/01/11) Boeing post