Pentagon will reconsider Westinghouse radar-jammer

April 16, 1993|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Giving the Westinghouse Electric Corp. a glimmer of hope, the Pentagon has decided to take a new look at an airborne radar-jamming system it had scrapped at the end of 1991, prompting the defense firm to lay off 460 Baltimore-area workers in February.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland, the 6th District Republican, said Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Perry told him yesterday that a Pentagon task force will be convened at the end of April to review the matter. Later, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said the Pentagon had decided to reopen the issue in response to her lobbying.

Westinghouse welcomed the news that the project would be reviewed again. But a spokesman, Jack Martin, said, "It is too early to tell what impact, if any, there would be on our work force."

On Dec. 15, the Navy canceled an $835 million contract with Westinghouse and its partner in the project, ITT Corp., for production of the Airborne Self-Protection Jammer. The system, developed to protect F-14 and F-18 fighter planes from ground-launched missiles that home in on radar signals, had never passed flight tests.

Members of Maryland's congressional delegation and some military officials have questioned the validity of the testing and have been pressing Defense Secretary Les Aspin and other Pentagon officials "to give the system another chance to prove itself," as Ms. Mikulski and fellow Democrat Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes put it in a letter to the Pentagon the day before the cancellation was announced.

They and other members of the delegation have been urging the Pentagon to renew testing, using $7.8 million already appropriated. The Pentagon task force will decide by June whether to approve new testing, a Mikulski spokesman said.

The decision to review the matter dismayed Sen. William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., a longtime critic of the radar-jammer system, saying it could not even pass operational tests in which the criteria were lowered. He and Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., had pressed the Pentagon for several years to cancel the contract.

"There is no way that I am going to support another test with lower criteria," Mr. Roth said through a spokesman yesterday. He expressed fears that the Pentagon would accept the Maryland delegation's argument that the criteria should be changed.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.