The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Tanker Sideshow. Northrop Grumman last week beat out rival Boeing for a nine-year, $3.8-billion Air Force contract to provide logistics services for its fleet of KC-10 aerial refueling tankers, the Defense Department announced Oct. 1. Boeing is the KC-10 manufacturer and holds the current service contract for the airplane, which expires in January. It has been providing the service since 1998. Boeing officials expressed disappointment and said they would review the details before deciding whether or not to formally protest the government’s decision. Boeing, meanwhile, was awarded a $270.8 million contract to provide C-17 Globemaster III sustainment.

On Target. The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $153 million contract to provide LITENING G4 targeting and sensor systems and related equipment. Under the terms of the agreement, Northrop Grumman will deliver LITENING G4 targeting and sensor pods to the active-duty Air Force as well as kits for the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard to enable the upgrade of existing LITENING AT pods to the G4 configuration. The contract also includes the supply of additional datalinks for the Air National Guard and active-duty Air Force. LITENING Gen 4 is a self-contained, multi-sensor laser target-designating, surveillance and navigation system. The pods are also equipped with “plug- and-play” technology that enables them to accept a variety of data links without further modifications to the pod or aircraft. The LITENING G4 also forms the baseline for the company’s offering in the current Air Force Advance Targeting Pod/Sensor Enhancement competition to supply the Air Force with new pods, according to an Oct. 1 Northrop Grumman press release.

What’s in that Bottle? The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has awarded Smiths Detection a $22 million contract for 500 Bottled Liquid Scanners to be able to detect explosives, flammable liquids, chemicals and even white powders inside sealed containers. The award initiates the first widespread deployment by TSA of BLS devices to detect potentially dangerous liquids. The agency has previously pilot tested BLS devices from both Smiths and ICx Technologies. Smiths will be supplying a modified version of its RespondeR RCI, which was modified to meet TSA requirements. The Raman spectroscopy device is hand carried in a Pelican case. The award was made using funds from the Recovery Act, which mandates “Buy American” contracts. While Smiths Detection is part of Britain’s Smiths Group, the BLS devices will be made by the company’s business unit in Danbury, Conn.

RT’s Return. A private investment group is attempting to purchase assets and liabilities from Verified Identity Pass–which up until this past summer was the nation’s leading provider of Registered Traveler (RT) services at around 20 airports–in order to resurrect and continue moving forward with the Clear brand RT program. Alison Townley, a principal with the investment firm Henry Inc., tells a House panel, “My partners and I strongly believe that the new Clear will become a successful business, because our marketing and technology expertise and ideas will effectively build on the progress made by Clear to date to meet a very real and often expressed consumer need for air-travel convenience. There is a large and vocal population of travelers who are seeking this kind of opportunity right now. Among them are Clear members who are asking for the service to come back.” Clear, which had nearly 200,000 members, was discontinued in June by Verified when its investors withdrew their financial support for the service. That move essentially knocked out two other RT service providers, FLO Corp. and Vigilant, which directly provided services at two other airports although their members could freely use RT services at airports where Clear was also a direct service provider.

Fuel efficiency. A new underwater hull coating applied to the USS Port Royal (CG-73) is being tested to validate the projected saving of more than $180,000 in fuel costs per year, the Navy reports last week. Testing will assess fuel cost savings for the ship while underway. The special coating is part of NAVSEA’s Fleet Readiness Research & Development Program (FRR&DP) Underwater Hull Coatings initiative to apply new anti-fouling hull coatings on Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the Navy adds. Marine fouling causes hydrodynamic drag, significantly impairing fuel efficiency, and coatings to prevent or inhibit this growth are constantly evolving. The Port Royal is the Navy’s first guided-missile cruiser, and second ship overall, to receive the new hull coatings. The USS Cole (DDG-67) was the first ship to receive. Once fully implemented, on the 70-plus active ships across the two classes, the program could potentially deliver fuel consumption cost avoidances of more than $12.6 million per year, based on fuel oil prices of $100 per barrel, the Navy says.

Can You Hear Me Now? The Navy’s new Transducer Test and Calibration Facility open last month at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY), the Navy says. This state-of-the-art facility provides the Navy with a first-class acoustic test and calibration facility for sonar systems. Connecting the Transducer Test and Calibration Facility with the Transducer Repair Facility supports the shipyard’s mission of providing a unique acoustic test platform capable of performing complex underwater acoustic testing with added quality, reliability and flexibility, the Navy adds. In 2005, PNSY awarded a military construction contract for the Acoustic Test and Calibration Facility to replace the aging facility which dated back to the mid 1970s. The building houses a 1 million gallon acoustic test tank and attaches directly to the Transducer Repair Facility, combining the production areas with the engineering and testing facilities.

Special Delivery. The first LCS Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP) successfully completed end-to-end testing during at-sea operations off of Panama City, Fla., in August, the Navy says. The test conducted at NSWC Panama City Division validated the ability of the MCM MP Application Software to establish command and control, as well as enable operation of the Remote Minehunting System (RMS) and the MCM Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). The August testing focused on two of the four MCM Mission Modules: the Remote Minehunting Module and Unmanned Influence Sweep Module. The Coastal Mine Reconnaissance and the Organic Airborne MCM Modules will be part of future testing. The next phase of MCM MP end-to-end testing is tentatively scheduled for summer 2010, the Navy adds.

Big Bang Theory. PEO IWS’ Naval Gunnery Project Office is reviewing results from the Advanced Gun Barrel Technology (AGBT) Rapid Fire Test conducted last month at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The test firing was the final demonstration of a new refractory metal coating for large caliber naval gun barrels. During the demonstration, 48 high- propellant rounds were expelled in rapid-fire mode from the Navy’s 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) Engineering Development Model gun mount for eventual installation on the Navy’s new Zumwalt-class destroyer (DDG-1000). PEO IWS’ Naval Gunnery Project Office is examining results from the firing to determine if the technology performed as anticipated, and also if the technology might be leveraged for use by other naval guns.