Lockheed joins IBM, Dassault in bid to upgrade computer-aided designs Collaboration is aimed at winning contract for Strike Fighter

February 26, 1997|By Greg Schneider | Greg Schneider,SUN STAFF

Locked in a ferocious race to win the heftiest warplane contract ever, Lockheed Martin Corp. said yesterday that it would team with IBM and Dassault Systems of France to pump up its computerized aircraft design system.

The Bethesda company also landed a handful of government contracts yesterday, including a $93.8 million award from the Army for Longbow radar units for the Apache attack helicopter.

That contract goes to a joint venture with the Linthicum division of Northrop Grumman Corp., which will perform half the work.

The computer-design effort is aimed initially at Lockheed Martin's bid to build the Joint Strike Fighter, a multipurpose 21st century warplane that could be worth more than $200 billion.

Lockheed Martin is competing against Boeing Co. of Seattle, which won accolades for the groundbreaking paperless design of its new 777 jetliner.

"This will leapfrog what has been done on that program," said Kathryn Hayden, communications manager for Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Fort Worth, Texas.

Under the "long-term alliance," Lockheed Martin will pay both partners for exclusive access to the companies' services for a year, Hayden said. After that period, the companies can market their related software and hardware to others, but Lockheed Martin will retain rights to specific processes developed in the aircraft design effort, she said.

Improving computer-assisted design and simulation will allow aircraft engineers to skip the costly and time-consuming construction of metal mock-ups, she said.

Instead, they can test new design elements instantly on the computer, even projecting what consequences a particular change would have for future maintenance workers.

Hayden said the company eventually plans to use the system on all aircraft design efforts, and to improve teamwork among its aeronautics businesses -- including the Aerostructures unit at Middle River in Baltimore.

Teaming with prestigious companies such as International Business Machines and Dassault is part of Lockheed Martin's "credibility confrontation game" with Boeing, said defense analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group.

Each Joint Strike Fighter candidate is trying to appear most capable, Aboulafia said. And with good reason, given that the plane must play a variety of roles for three branches of the military and the British Royal Navy.

"There are so many different requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter that it's just unprecedented. So it's imperative to have absolutely the latest in paperless design technology," Aboulafia said.

In addition to the Longbow contract won jointly with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin also was part of a team led by Hughes Aircraft that landed a $500 million contract yesterday for upgrading Air Force computer and telecommunications systems.

The team also includes CTA Inc. of Rockville; Intermetrics of Cambridge, Mass.; and the Avant Guarde Computer Services unit of Boole & Babbage Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

Finally, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Science Applications International Corp. won $17.1 million yesterday to develop a computer system to track deadbeat parents for the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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