Martin to lay off 100 at plant in Glen Burnie

January 08, 1991|By Ted Shelsby

About 100 assembly workers and inspectors at Martin Marietta Corp.'s Aero & Naval Systems operations plant in Glen Burnie have been given layoff notices, the defense contractor revealed yesterday.

The workers are involved in the production of towed arrays, sophisticated underwater electronic eavesdropping devices used by the Navy to detect and track enemy submarines and surface ships.

Buzz Bartlett, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County complex, said the furloughs are a result of "a gap in the production schedule" as work on one contract has finished and the plant waits for a new order to come through.

The company has not given an exact date when the workers will be recalled, but Mr. Bartlett said that "it would probably be near the third quarter or in late summer."

The layoff is effective in two weeks, he said.

The pink slips came as no surprise when workers were notified of the layoffs Friday. Company officials had notified employees in early December that a layoff was coming and urged them not to overextend their finances during the Christmas holidays. Earlier speculation was that as many as 300 or more employees would be furloughed.

The Glen Burnie plant, in the Baymeadow Industrial Park, usually has a work force of 1,200 and is among the county's largest private employers.

The plant went through a series of layoffs in the mid-1980s, when its work force was trimmed from about 1,400 workers to the current level.

Towed arrays are essentially long hoses about an inch to 3 1/2 inches in diameter that are filled with hydrophones about the size of small spools of sewing thread and other electronic equipment used to pick up sounds of submarines and surface ships.

The arrays vary in length from about 300 feet to about 5,000 feet. They are attached to cables that can be several miles long.

In an operation similar to trolling the Chesapeake Bay for bluefish, the arrays are reeled into the water by a powerful winch mounted on the backs of destroyers or frigates. They also can be deployed from submarines.

The equipment was featured in the "The Hunt for Red October," a movie about the Navy's hunt for an elusive Soviet submarine.

Martin Marietta acquired the Glen Burnie plant from Gould Inc. in 1988 after Gould, which is based in the Cleveland area, announced that it was getting out of the defense business. Martin estimates that it controls 85 percent to 90 percent of the Navy's towed-array business.

Engineers at the company have developed a new airborne low-frequency sonar that is dipped into the ocean from a hovering helicopter.

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