Linthicum plant wins antenna contract Westinghouse pact could mean billions in new business

February 16, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The Westinghouse Electric Corp. has been awarded a military contract to begin development of a fighter plane radar antenna that could bring billions of dollars in new business to the Linthicum plant over the next 20 years, a company official said yesterday.

The antenna would be used on the Joint Advanced Technology Program, an international effort to develop a new strike/fighter plane to be used by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines and the British Royal Navy.

It is being designed as a fighter against other aircraft as well as a strike plane to attack ground targets, such as the Scud missiles used by Iraq in the Persian Gulf war.

Westinghouse is not the only Maryland company in line to reap the benefits of JAST, as the new aircraft is commonly referred to in the industry.

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda heads one of the three industry teams vying to build the aircraft. If successful, it could lead to $1 trillion in U.S. and international sales, James A. Blackwell, president of Lockheed Martin aeronautical group, recently told Defense News, a defense industry publication.

Mr. Blackwell's estimate was based on a U.S. purchase of nearly 3,000 planes and about the same number of sales to other countries.

Lockheed Martin is teamed with Pratt & Whitney. Boeing Co. in Seattle is vying for the contract as well as a team composed of McDonnell Douglas Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and British

Aerospace.

The winner could emerge as the world's dominant fighter plane manufacturer.

Westinghouse, which has agreed to sell its Electronic Systems Group to Northrop Grumman in a $3.6 billion deal, has been awarded a $48.2 million contract to begin development of the antenna that would be used as part of the radar housed in the nose of the plane.

Westinghouse's design will compete against another being developed by Hughes Aircraft Co. in El Segundo, Calif.

Ciro Dinto-Coelho, program manager for the JAST antenna at Westinghouse, said winning the project would be comparable to the company's production of the radar used in the F-16 fighter plane.

The F-16 has been Westinghouse's biggest program in recent years. Since the mid-1970s, it has produced 6,500 radar units valued at $6 billion. During peak production, about 1,500 workers at the Linthicum plant worked on the program.

"It could easily mean billions of dollars [in business] with a production run of 20 years or more," said Mr. Dinto-Coelho.

Tom Delaney, a Westinghouse spokesman, said it is too soon to say what impact the contract would have on future employment.

Westinghouse has eliminated nearly 9,000 jobs in Maryland through layoffs and attrition in recent years as its employment dropped to about 8,500.

Northrop Grumman Corp. in Los Angeles is in the process of purchasing Westinghouse's defense operations, most of which

are in Maryland.

Kearney Bothwell, a spokesman for Hughes, said the antenna pact "is one of the largest programs we can see on the near horizon."

Hughes produced the radars used in the F-15, FA-18 and F-14 fighter planes.

Mr. Dinto-Coelho said the new antenna will represent a giant leap in technology over that used in the F-16.

He said the antenna would perform various missions. It will be designed to pick up attacking planes and guide missiles to shoot them down. It could also detect targets on the ground and aim weapons to destroy them.

It will be able to make a map of the ground showing such things as tanks, buildings and Scud launchers and transmit that information to other radar planes or to troop commanders on the ground. It will also be able to receive such information from ground stations or other planes.

Westinghouse is scheduled to have four antennas ready for testing in 1999. Once testing is completed, Westinghouse or Hughes will be selected for a production contract.

Before the end of the year, the Defense Department is scheduled to eliminate one of the teams vying to produce the JAST aircraft. The two remaining teams would each develop demonstration planes and eventually one would be selected for production early into the next century.

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