Northrop to work on mine detector Design competition is for successor to device it makes now


November 12, 1997|By Greg Schneider | Greg Schneider,SUN STAFF

Not that it's bad-mouthing its own products, but Northrop Grumman Corp. won a design contract yesterday for a Navy mine hunter that it says will be far superior to the system now being developed -- which also happens to be a Northrop Grumman device.

The company's Oceanic Systems unit, in Annapolis, won a $9.5 million contract to spend two years designing the Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System, or LMRS. A unit of Boeing Co. won a similar contract and will compete for a job that ultimately could be worth $300 million.

The LMRS will replace a mine detection system that isn't even in service yet: the Near-term Mine Reconnaissance System, or NMRS, which Oceanic Systems is building under about $60 million in Navy contracts.

"The next-generation LMRS will be a significantly more robust and capable system than NMRS, providing the Navy's submarine force with much greater performance in the areas of sensors, energy and processing," said Ken Jones, vice president of Oceanic Systems, which is a unit of the California company's Electronic Sensors and Systems Division in Linthicum.

Both systems are unmanned drones that use sonars to scan the ocean for hostile mines. The mine hunter being developed will be towed by a submarine, and Northrop Grumman plans to have it in Navy service by next year.

The newer system would be free-roaming drone -- no tethers -- that could be launched and recovered through a submarine's torpedo tubes. It is scheduled to enter the fleet in 2004.

It was the Pentagon that put Northrop Grumman in the position of outdating itself. Deciding that it couldn't wait for the more futuristic device, the Navy designated the towed mine hunter as its No. 1 unmanned vehicle priority. The cordless version is ranked No. 2.

Pub Date: 11/12/97

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