Northrop Grumman wins $33 million contract

Pact to keep Hagerstown plant operating 2 years

Aircraft electronics

April 19, 2000|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Two months after laying off nearly half its work force because of lack of business, a Northrop Grumman Corp. aircraft electronics plant in Hagerstown has won a $33 million contract from the U.S. Coast Guard that should keep the plant operating for at least two years.

Northrop Grumman officials would not say yesterday whether the mechanics, electricians and sheet-metal workers who lost their jobs in February will be rehired because of the new business. But a company spokesman said, "We believe the latest award will have a positive impact on employment."

The California Microwave Systems facility in Hagerstown specializes in maintaining and upgrading airborne surveillance systems and ground-based satellite communications systems for the military. It is a unit of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector, based in Linthicum.

Northrop Grumman laid off 45 employees at the Hagerstown plant in February when it completed work on one of two Army airplanes it had been upgrading, saying future business prospects were dim.

The second aircraft will be completed this summer, and company officials had said they would "assess the business forecasts and manage our work force accordingly" upon its completion.

But the company announced yesterday that the plant has won a contract to install new radar and surveillance equipment on 15 HU-25 Falcon aircraft for the Coast Guard, with a $58 million option to upgrade an additional 15 planes after two years.

"Certainly, this is an important award, which will help us stabilize employment in Hagerstown," said company spokesman Jim Reinhard.

Northrop Grumman purchased California Microwave Systems last year from a West Coast technology company with the same name. Based in Belcamp in Harford County, the division employs about 370 workers at three Maryland sites and one in California. Before February's layoffs, the Hagerstown plant employed 106 workers.

The HU-25 Falcon is a medium-range jet used by the Coast Guard for surveillance, drug interdiction, search-and-rescue operations and other functions. The aircraft were built by Falcon Jet Corp. in Little Rock, Ark., then modified with special search windows and an equipment-drop hatch by the former Grumman Corp., which merged with Northrop Corp. in 1994. The contract calls for Northrop Grumman to install new infrared surveillance systems in all 15 aircraft, and new airborne radar systems for nine aircraft.

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