AAI Corp. has been awarded a military contract to develop an improved system for aligning weapons on fighter planes and helicopters and increasing pilots' chances of hitting targets, the Cockeysville company announced yesterday.
The development work gives AAI "a leg up on the competition" for a full-scale production contract for 500 or more electronic units that could total more than $100 million, said Frederick J. Jaklitsch, an operations manager at the Baltimore County defense contractor.
Like the sights of a rifle, the machine guns and missile systems on military helicopters and fighter planes need periodic alignment to ensure accuracy. With the bore-sighting equipment currently in use, that can take two workers a couple of days, Mr. Jaklitsch said.
Under terms of the $5.6 million contract from the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, a unit of the Army Aviation Systems Command, AAI is to develop a system that would reduce the alignment time to a couple of hours, he said.
The AAI system also is to be designed for use on virtually all aircraft used by the military, including the Army's Cobra and Apache helicopters, and the Air Force's F-14, F-16 and F-18 fighter planes and tank-killer A-10 attack plane.
Mr. Jaklitsch said most of the bore-sighting equipment now used by the military is designed for use on only a single craft. For example, the F-16 and the F-18 take different equipment.
Adam Fein, a spokesman for AAI, said the new contract will not result in any new hiring in the near future but that the award will help stabilize the company's work force and help avoid more layoffs.
AAI, a subsidiary of New York-based United Industrial Corp., was one of Maryland's fastest-growing companies during the defense build-up of the Reagan administration. Its work force grew from about 1,500 in 1979 to a high of about 3,500 in late 1987. It now has about 2,300 employees.