Firms join to seek FAA radar contract Northrop, Lockheed ** propose secondary systems at airports


October 03, 1997|By Greg Schneider | Greg Schneider,SUN STAFF

Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., which have already announced their intentions to merge, are working together to seek a big airport radar contract from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors & Systems Division in Linthicum is teaming with Lockheed Martin to propose a new generation of secondary radar systems at airports around the country.

The job could be worth several hundred million dollars, said Steve Winchell, ESSD's marketing manager for air traffic control systems.

The joint approach to the contract has nothing to do with Lockheed Martin's pending $12 billion purchase of Northrop Grumman, and the two companies have worked together on a similar radar system since 1983, Winchell said.

Airports use two basic types of surveillance radar for tracking planes. The primary system tells air traffic controllers where planes are located. The secondary system, also called a beacon interrogator, triggers airplanes to report their altitude and identification.

The Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman partnership is already installing 150 units of an advanced type of secondary radar at airports in this country and overseas. That system allows air traffic controllers to monitor individual planes, instead of all planes at once, and allows the tower and each aircraft to exchange certain types of information without talking over the radio.

The contract they're pursuing now is for 127 units of a slightly less sophisticated radar that performs the same basic function. It's part of an overall FAA system upgrade, replacing units built 25 years ago.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman tout the fact that their entry can be upgraded to the more sophisticated version, a quality that has allowed them to market the system to foreign countries that are not yet ready to invest in the top-of-the-line product.

The companies announced the venture during this week's Air Traffic Control Association Exhibition in Washington. ESSD took the occasion to make several other announcements related to air traffic control:

ARINC of Annapolis has decided to buy digital radios from an ESSD subsidiary to use in a ground-to-air data link network. The radios, made by a British subsidiary called Park Air Electronics, can be programmed remotely to transmit data for various types of communications systems. The companies did not disclose the terms of the sale.

The division has finished testing a primary surveillance radar for Peru's Ministry of Transport and Communications and has shipped the equipment to Lima. ESSD has built a whole system for Jorge Chavez International Airport, including primary and secondary radars, a display system and a simulator for training controllers. It will be installed by the end of the year.

The FAA is paying the division $4.2 million to produce 134 kits for updating existing airport primary radar systems. The kits will let older systems handle new software for greater processing power.

John Moynes, vice president of Airspace Management Systems at ESSD, said the upgrade kits are the first step in a series of modifications "that will allow the radar to satisfy new requirements while maintaining a longer service life."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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