A joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. won a contract yesterday to begin production of radar systems for Apache attack helicopters, a major military program that is expected to bring $2.5 billion in future sales for the two companies.
The contract awarded by the Army yesterday is for the first 10 units of the so-called Longbow system and is worth $139 million to the companies, Maryland's biggest defense contractors.
"This award means the full Longbow system has now transitioned from development to production," said George Minto, president of the joint venture. "That alone is a giant accomplishment in these days of reduced defense spending."
"Longbow represents one of our biggest programs," said Tom Delaney, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems division in Linthicum, which was formerly a part of Westinghouse Electric Corp.
Longbow looks something like a giant doughnut and fits above the helicopter's main rotor blades.
Northrop Grumman makes the electronics that go inside the doughnut. The device is used in conjunction with the Hellfire air-to-ground missile produced by Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Fla.
"The technology is dazzling," said Lockheed Martin spokesman, Charles P. Manor. "It's a fire and forget system."
The radar takes a 360-degree reading of the battlefield in less than a half minute," said Al Kamhi, another Lockheed Martin spokesman.
"It can identify targets as friend or foe, track them, lock onto a target and destroy it with little danger to the crew of the Apache," he said.
Mr. Kamhi said the Apache could rise just above a hill to get a fast reading of the battlefield before it attacks and takes cover.
"It can fire a missile to destroy a tank, or whatever, even while it is ducking for cover," he said.
Mr. Kamhi said the work is about evenly distributed between the two companies and about 350 workers are assigned to the program.
The Longbow system will be installed on the Army's Apache helicopters, and it is slated for the Army's Comanche advanced reconnaissance helicopters, which are expected to go into service early in the next century.
Production of the Longbow system is expected to continue at least through 2003 with 227 radars and 13,000 missiles needed.
The system also is attracting foreign buyers. The United Kingdom has ordered 67 Apache helicopters with the Longbow radar.
Mr. Kamhi said the Netherlands has ordered about 20 Apaches that are prewired for Longbow radars.
"They have a budget problem," he said. "They can't afford Longbow at this time, but they can buy it later and just plug it in, he said.
The Army awarded the two companies a contract to develop Longbow in January 1991.
Pub Date: 3/28/96