The local Westinghouse division has teamed up with two other large electronics companies in an effort to land one of the few new big defense contracts coming out of the Pentagon -- a multibillion dollar pact to develop a radar for an advanced missile defense system similar to the Patriot.
Although the THAAD missile system is a classified project, military officials have said it is being designed to protect a much wider area than the Patriot by intercepting and destroying incoming missiles at a higher altitude.
The radar to be developed would be used to detect an incoming missile and then guide the THAAD to intercept it.
"It's a big program compared to others here," said Kelly C. Overman, an executive with the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum.
"Over the next 10 years," Mr. Overman said, the THAAD program "has a potential value that is measured in the billions."
Mr. Overman described the THAAD program as "a very, very nice, long-term program that could be helpful in stabilizing employment" at Westinghouse for years to come.
Other key members of the Westinghouse team include Control Data Corp. of Minneapolis and Texas Instruments Inc. of Dallas. They are assisted by Delta Research Co. of Huntsville, Ala.; Electromagnetic Sciences of Norcross, Ga.; and Varian Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif.
In support of development of the THAAD system, military officials have expressed concern in recent years over the proliferation of tactical ballistic missiles, such as the Scuds used by Iraq in the Persian Gulf war, in the Third World.
THAAD is expected to be put into the field early in the next decade, said Pat Skinner, a spokeswoman for the Army Strategic Defense Command in Arlington, Va., which is acquiring the system for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization program, known popularly as "star wars."