Reeling from the cancellation of the A-12 and other defense cuts Monday, Westinghouse and Martin Marietta Corp. rebounded powerfully yesterday with an Army contract that could add more than $2.5 billion in new business to their books.
The contract is for the full-scale development of the Longbow targeting and missile system that is to be used on the Army's Apache attack helicopters.
Bethesda-based Martin and the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum have combined their resources on the development of the Longbow system, which is designed to detect enemy targets more quickly than current systems in use, identify them and automatically advise the crew on the appropriate missile to fire to destroy the target.
"It's a fire and forget missile system," said Charles Manor, a spokesman for Martin, explaining that as part of the contract the two companies are producing "seeker," or small radar, units that go into the nose of the missiles that guide them to their targets.
"The technology is dazzling," he said, "and it increases the combat effectiveness of the Apache by a factor of 10."
The new electronic system, part of which is shaped something like a doughnut and fits on top of the helicopter's main rotor blades, helps safeguard the craft and its crew by allowing the Apache to play hide and seek on the battlefield.
Mr. Manor explained that the Apache can rise just high enough above a tree line for the radar to "see" over the trees and pick up its target. Once the crew has fired the appropriate missile, the Apache can either leave the area or again duck below the trees for cover. The missile locks on to its target and guides itself the remainder of the way.
The weapon system is designed for both air-to-air missiles for use against other aircraft or air-to-ground for destroying enemy tanks or other land targets.
Yesterday's award of $334.9 million is for full-scale development of Longbow, the final phase before production. Mr. Manor said that over the next 51 months, the two companies are to produce a system ready for production and have it installed on four Apaches, the Army's front-line attack helicopter.
Under terms of the Army contract, the two partners eventually will be divided and will compete against each other for the biggest share of the production contract.
Under the Defense Department's second-source bidding method, the company with the lowest bid will get the larger slice of the business during each phase of the production contract awards.
Both companies are required to have the capability to building both portions of the system.
Under current plans, Mr. Manor said, the Army expects to equip 227 Apache helicopters with the Longbow system. The procurement would amount to $2.5 billion, according to Paul H. Nisbet, a stock analyst who follows Martin Marietta for Prudential-Bache Securities.
He said the program has the potential of bringing in $200 million to $300 million a year in revenues for each of the team members by 1997.
"We are pleased that the Westinghouse/Martin Marietta joint venture was selected for the full-scale development of Longbow," said Westinghouse spokeswoman Ann E. Grizzel. "Longbow is an important new product for Westinghouse."
The first production contract is expected to be awarded in 1995, and if things go as planned Longbow will be deployed on the Apaches beginning in 1996.
Mr. Nisbet said the Army began working on Longbow in 1981 but that its existence was not revealed until 1988.
Before yesterday's award, the Army had invested $342 million in the Longbow system, which was shared between Westinghouse and Martin.