Lockheed team wins $70 billion fighter contract Md. firms will help in building jets

April 24, 1991|By Ted Shelsby

When the first production model of the Air Force's new Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) revs up its big engines and roars off into the clouds sometime near the end of the decade, a number of components made by Maryland companies will be going along for the ride.

Defense contractors in the stateare in line for billions of dollars in subcontract work on the new, high-performance "stealth" fighter.

The Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum was one of the big winners yesterday when the Pentagon picked the team of Lockheed Corp, Boeing Co. and General Dynamics Corp. to produce the jet fighter that the Air Force is counting on in the late 1990s and beyond.

Since 1987, Westinghouse has been in the enviable position of having been selected to supply the radar for both prime contracting teams competing for the ATF contract.

Although Westinghouse officials expressed joy yesterday over the potential of picking up more than $1.4 billion in new business for the development and production of radar units for the Lockheed plane, they conceded that the company would have benefited more if the Northrop Corp.-McDonnell Douglas Corp. team had won the contract.

James Reinhard, a Westinghouse spokesman, said that if the Northrop team had won, Westinghouse would have made the radar and been in line for the development and production of electronic countermeasures equipment and other advance avionics.

That would have meant more work for Westinghouse, "maybe several billion dollars more," he said.

But Mr. Reinhard said, "We arevery happy to be a part of the winning Lockheed team."

Bethesda-based Martin Marietta Corp. and Fairchild Defense Co. in Germantown also stand to benefit from the ATF program.

Fairchild will supply an electronic memory device that will go in the cockpit of the plane and store a wide variety of electronic data related to navigation, communications, maps, charts and weapons systems. The pilot would be able to call on the information as needed.

Richard W. Sherman, a Fairchild spokesman, said future contracts are expected to total $100 million and would represent a big chunk of new business for the Montgomery County company, which has about 1,800 workers and posted sales of about $200 million last year.

Martin Marietta is developing an infrared optics system that would be used by ATF pilots to detect enemy planes and missiles at greater ranges than is possible today.

Martin was not a part of either corporate team that vied for the ATF contract.

Last year, the Air Force decided that it would have separate competition for the infrared system.

It is expected to solicit proposals this summer and award a contract early next year.

Tom Duncan, a spokesman for Martin's operations in Orlando, Fla., where optics systems would be built, said, "Our competition is yet to come."

Mr. Duncan explained that the equipment would be able to pick out targets by measuring the difference in the temperature of an enemy plane or missile and the air surrounding it.

Assuming that the Air Force purchases the full order of about 650 planes, Mr. Duncan said that the contract would be worth about $1 billion to Martin over the life of the program and would involve about 1,000 workers.

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