|What you might have missed
About 550 people turned out in early October for the 21st Gulf Power Economic
Symposium at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach, Fla.
I go every year even though it doesn’t focus on aerospace. But the symposium
brings up issues that ultimately have an impact on the growth of the aerospace
Stan Connally, chairman, president and CEO of Gulf Power, said in his opening
remarks that “we can create a future for 2030 now.”
That involves, among other things, addressing pressing issues like poverty and
education, and working together on solutions.
“The economic prosperity of this region, it can’t just happen in one community, it can’
t just happen in one county,” he said.
Go to just about any gathering about the economy and the common theme is
education. It’s not only a ticket out of poverty, but it’s something valued by every
company - those here and those we want to attract.
The importance was brought home in a talk by Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical strategist
and author of The Accidental Superpower and The Absent Superpower.
Using a wealth of data, he points out that no country has benefited more from its
geographic and demographic features than the United States. It will continue to be
the place where the world invests. The takeaway for me? Northwest Florida should
make itself as appealing as possible for the rest of the world for these future
In another gathering in late August, this one in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., the message
was that there are ample opportunities for businesses big and small to work with
other companies and the military. And the market is good right now.
The first TeCMEN Industry Day attracted 287 participants and 44 exhibitors, and it
was successful enough that it’s likely to be held again next year, said Linda Sumblin,
manager of TeCMEN.
Held at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, it was presented by the Technology
Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network (TeCMEN), the Economic
Development Council of Okaloosa County and Okaloosa County.
“Our objective was to create a meaningful forum for the region’s aerospace, defense,
manufacturing, and technology businesses to learn, share and network – both with
one another and with key educational partners,” said Sumblin.
“I was impressed with the professionalism and the level of interest in networking and
bringing together a variety of companies,” said John DiGiacomo of the Small
Business Development Center of Florida.
“Everyone I talked to was eager to develop new relations with the prime contractors,
their peers and even their competition,” he said.
“I think overall, the information flow was truly amazing in that we were able to provide
insight regarding a variety of different topics,” said Maynard Factor, TeCMEN
chairman and director of business development with Micro Systems of Fort Walton
“My takeaway was that, as a whole, the defense market appears to be positive. We
discussed topics that included the increased defense budget, current global threats,
and aging equipment which are all hot topics for many defense related organizations
in this area,” said Factor.
Products developed for the military often have commercial applications, and Factor’s
company has done just that. Micro Systems is part of Kratos, which recently
leveraged technology it developed for the military and turned it into a commercial
“We adapted our vehicle automation kit called the Multi-Platform Applique Kit (M-
PAK) to automate a road construction vehicle called the Autonomous Impact
Protection Vehicle (AIPV),” Factor said
The driverless truck, designed as a mobile crash barrier to absorb the impact of
errant vehicles to protect road crews, was used on a public road in Colorado in
August. It’s also being tested in the United Kingdom.
Officials marked the completion of the three largest combined solar facilities on
Defense Department property in August with the ceremonial flipping of the switch.
Executives of Gulf Power, Coronal Energy, the Air Force and Navy were on hand at
Naval Air Station Pensacola’s Naval Outlying Landing Field Saufley for the event.
Ground was broken in November 2016 for the project that spans 940 acres across
three Navy and Air Force sites in Northwest Florida. Saufley’s solar array site is a 50
megawatt solar-generating facility.
The other two sites are at Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s Outlying Landing Field
Holley, which is a 40 megawatt solar generating facility, and Eglin Air Force Base,
which has a solar generating facility of 30 megawatts.
Combined the three sites have about 1.5 million solar panels capable of generating
up to 120 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power nearly 18,000 homes
annually. The project became operational earlier this summer. Gulf Power will buy all
electricity generated from the sites from Coronal Energy and push it to the energy
One of the most unique assets in this region is the gunship of Air Force Special
Operations at Hurlburt Field, Fla. And the latest version of the modified C-130,
designated the AC-130J “Ghostrider,” will be declared combat operational this year.
But it won’t deploy to a war zone for a couple of more years, according to Lt. Gen.
Marshall “Brad” Webb, head of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt.
The delay is because of the high pace of operational missions abroad, which makes
it harder to train special operators on the new gunship’s weapons system.
The AC-130J used for close-air support is armed with a 30mm cannon and a suite of
precision-guided munitions that include the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-
176 Griffin missile. It also has a 105mm M102 howitzer system, which can fire 10 50-
pound shells a minute.
As of April 2017, AFSOC was exploring the possibility of a directed-energy laser
system designed to knock out enemy electronics and disable critical infrastructure.
Northrop Grumman said in September that it’s acquiring space-focused Orbital ATK
for about $7.8 billion, a deal that will give Northrop a major role in space and missiles.
Orbital, based in Dulles, Va., makes rocket motors and designs and produces launch
The deal comes as the Pentagon increasingly looks at space as a battle front. Orbital
and ATK merged in 2014.
Northrop Grumman is a major defense player in the region. Orbital’s Antares had
been powered by Aerojet AJ-26 engines it tested at Stennis Space Center, but it
dropped the engine after an explosion in 2014.
In September the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala. reached a
milestone when it received the 50th shipment of major component assemblies just
two years after taking delivery of the first shipset.
The components will eventually become the 50th Airbus aircraft produced in the U.S.,
this one for Delta Airlines. A shipset includes front and aft fuselage sections, a
vertical and horizontal tailplane, and wings. The components are made in various
facilities around Europe using parts and systems from around the world.
They are brought together and shipped from Hamburg, Germany, to the Port of
Mobile and transported by road to the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. Since
production began in 2015, Airbus has delivered aircraft from Mobile to four
customers: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and Spirit.
Also in September, Airbus said the number of in-service Airbus commercial aircraft in
North America reached a new high of 1,500 following the delivery of an A321 to
A celebration was held at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile with
delivery teams from American Airlines and Airbus marking the milestone.
After a series of tests on the RS-25 engine flight controller, NASA and Stennis Space
Center, Miss., are planning a public test of the engine during an open house Oct. 19.
At the end of August NASA closed a summer of successful hot fire tests of the flight
controller, the “brain” of RS-25 engine. on the A-1 Test Stand. The test involved
installing the controller on an RS-25 development engine and firing it in the same
manner, and for the same length of time, as needed during an actual SLS launch.
The tests are being done as NASA gets ready for Exploration Mission-1, which will be
an uncrewed mission into lunar orbit, designed to provide a final check-out test of
rocket and Orion capabilities before astronauts are returned to deep space.
The SLS rocket will be powered by four RS-25 engines, providing a combined 2
million pounds of thrust, and with a pair of solid rocket boosters, supplying more than
8 million pounds of total thrust.
That mission will be followed by EM-2, which will transport a crew of astronauts
aboard the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
Meanwhile, a full-scale model of a Space Launch System core stage was recently
completed at a plant in North Alabama and is now at NASA’s Michoud Assembly
Facility in east New Orleans.
The steel article was assembled at G&G Steel’s facility in Cordova, Ala. Radiance
Technologies and Dynetics were contracted by NASA to build the Pathfinder, and
G&G Steel performed the final welding and assembly.
It was delivered by barge.
NASA will use the Pathfinder at MAF, the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Kennedy
Space Center, Fla., to practice handling a fully assembled SLS Core Stage, including
transportation, before they have to start doing it with the real thing as early as next
- David Tortorano, October 2017