Navy picks 5 Md. firms Designs for new arsenal ship may bring big contract

'Floating missile pad'

A pact for Oceanic could help offset layoffs in Sykesville

July 23, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

At least five Maryland defense contractors, including two industry giants, have been selected for the early development work on a new Navy ship that could revolutionize the future of maritime combat, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda and the Oceanic Systems division of Northrop Grumman Corp. in Sykesville head two of five industry teams who will compete for up to $3 billion in work toward a remote-controlled ship armed with more than 500 missiles.

"Essentially, it is a floating missile pad," Dick Paquette, Lockheed Martin's arsenal ship program manager, said of the high-priority vessel the Navy is developing in conjunction with the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The craft would be designed to support Marines during amphibious landings by firing missiles at tanks and other land targets, enemy aircraft and ships at sea.

The ship would have characteristics of stealth aircraft: It would be difficult to detect with radar.

It would operate with a crew of no more than 50 sailors, and it might not be manned at all, Paquette said.

He said a production contract to the Lockheed Martin team "would be a large program" for the company's plant in Middle River, which has suffered from declining business in recent years and was on the verge of closing. The contract could result in the production of up to 2,500 missile launchers, he said.

The Baltimore County complex already produces rocket launchers used on Navy ships.

Jack Martin, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman, said a new ship contract could help stabilize employment at the company's Sykesville plant. Some workers face the possibility of layoffs next year because the plant lost a government contract to build submarine warfare equipment.

Lt. Col. Joan Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense, said the missile ship program is in the early-design stages. She said that in Phase One, which ends in December, each of the five team members has been awarded $1 million contracts for concept designs.

In Phase Two, which begins in February, the competition will be narrowed to two industry teams, said Donald Hairston, arsenal ship marketing manager for Northrop Grumman.

"That's when we get into the functional design," Hairston said. "That's when we take the outline and do a detailed design."

Members of the Northrop Grumman team include:

National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego, which would do the hull construction. It has built 100 military and commercial ships since 1960.

Solipsys in Columbia, which will work on a remote control system that will enable an airplane crew or a field headquarters to launch the ship's missiles.

Vitro Corp. in Rockville, which also will design electronics for the weapon system.

And Band Lavis & Associates Inc., an architectural and marine engineering company in Severna Park, which will be responsible for the early ship hull design.

David Lavis, president of Band Lavis, said a Northrop Grumman team production contract would likely double the size of his 25-employee company.

Hairston said the Sykesville plant, which has about 300 employees, will serve as program manager. It will be responsible for systems integration, the connecting of the components into a working system.

Assuming that the development timetable goes as planned, one of the industry teams will be picked to build a demonstration ship in February 1998. After a test period, a production contract for five arsenal ships is to be awarded at the end of 2001 or early 2002.

"This is a fast-track program," Hairston said.

"From Phase One to Phase Four, which will involve the construction of the demonstration ship, is only 4 1/2 years."

He compared that with the 13 years needed to design and build the Navy's latest destroyer.

Cost is also a factor.

"The Navy has stipulated that a sail-away ship can cost $450 million, but not exceed $500 million," Paquette said. This compares with roughly $4.5 billion for a new aircraft carrier.

Lockheed Martin is teamed with Litton Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding Co. of Pascagoula, Miss., and Newport News Shipbuilding Co. in Newport, Va.

The other industry teams are headed by General Dynamics Corp.'s Marine/Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine; Hughes Aircraft Co. in Fullerton, Calif.; and Metro Machine Corp., of Norfolk, Va.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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