Northrop Grumman Corp. laid off 45 employees -- nearly half the staff -- of an aircraft electronics plant in Hagerstown yesterday, noting a lack of business prospects.
The layoffs coincided with the completion of one of two U.S. Army airplanes that the plant had been upgrading, company officials said.
The second airplane is scheduled to be completed this summer, and, while officials could not say whether more layoffs will ensue, a spokesman said Northrop Grumman will "continue to assess the business forecasts and manage our work force accordingly."
The layoffs at the California Microwave Systems facility in Hagerstown come less than a year after Northrop Grumman bought the division from a West Coast technology company. The division employs 410 people at three facilities in Maryland and one in California. Besides the layoffs in Hagerstown, four jobs were cut from the division's headquarters in Belcamp.
Northrop Grumman spokesman Jim Reinhard called the layoffs "unfortunate" and said all of the employees will be eligible for severance pay. News of the layoffs comes on the heels of an unrelated announcement that company officials herald as a boon for Northrop Grumman's Maryland work force.
The company was recently chosen to work with Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop an integrated computer system that will link the weapons, communications, aircraft and other systems on the U.S. Navy's next aircraft carrier, to be delivered in 2008. The ship, being constructed by Newport News Shipbuilding, will be the last of the Navy's Nimitz-class carriers, and it is considered a transitional ship for exploring technology that will be used in a future class of vessels.
All of Northrop Grumman's divisions will participate in the project, but the leader will be the Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector, based in Linthicum.
"This is a big win for us," said Lew Proudfoot, Northrop Grumman's program manager for the project. "We're in at the early stages of a whole new method of acquiring aircraft carriers, with the opportunity to play a continuing role in the future."
Northrop Grumman, based in Los Angeles, employs about 7,400 in Maryland -- most of them at the facility in Linthicum, near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It also has operations in Annapolis and Sykesville.
Before yesterday's layoffs, the Hagerstown plant employed 106, including mechanics, electrical workers, sheet-metal workers and others. The California Microwave Systems division specializes in airborne surveillance and satellite communications systems for the military.
The unit has been upgrading two U.S. Army Airborne Reconnaissance-Low aircraft, or ARL -- modified DeHavilland Dash-7s equipped with radar and other intelligence systems.