Northrop now running new Linthicum division

Satellite-borne defense-tech unit bought from Aerojet

October 23, 2001|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Northrop Grumman Corp. completed the $315 million purchase of Aerojet-General Corp.'s space electronics division yesterday, forming the core of a new Linthicum-based division that will focus on satellite-borne defense technology.

The all-cash acquisition boosts Northrop Grumman's stake in the business of developing and manufacturing sensors for missile defense and "battlefield management" systems in space.

The division already has been developing early-warning sensors for a Department of Defense satellite network that is expected to form the core of the nation's proposed missile defense shield.

That same technology could be used for battlefield surveillance, gathering information that is in demand during the nation's current conflict. The company is also designing ground-based monitoring systems to transmit "instant insight" from surveillance satellites to military commanders.

"It was an excellent business before the events of Sept. 11. It's an even better business now," said Carl Fischer, a former Aerojet-General president who will head the new division at Northrop Grumman.

"All of the services believe that exploitation of intelligence is key to success on the battlefield."

The space electronics business accounted for more than half of California-based Aerojet-General's revenue in 2000 - $323 million.

Northrop Grumman has merged Aerojet's 1,200- employee space electronics business with its own units engaged in space-related projects, forming a new Space Systems Division. Most of the employees will work at the former Aerojet facilities in California and Colorado, but the new division will be based in Linthicum as part of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector. Fischer will relocate to the Baltimore area.

Aerojet-General designed and built infrared sensors for the satellite network that was used to detect Scud missile launches from Iraq during the Persian Gulf war. Northrop Grumman will continue to build sensors for those satellites.

And Northrop Grumman's new division will likely play a role in developing the Pentagon's new Space-Based Infrared System satellite network, designed as an upgraded replacement for the older satellites.

Both Northrop Grumman and Aerojet-General were developing sensors for that network before yesterday's acquisition.

Aerojet-General, based in Sacramento, Calif., will continue to make liquid-fuel engines and solid-fuel rocket motors for various space-launch systems, including the Space Shuttle.

Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-area operation, formerly called the Electronics Sensors and Systems Sector, was renamed in August, after the company's acquisition of Litton Industries earlier in the year.

Once owned by Westinghouse Electric Corp., the Linthicum electronics business is the largest of Northrop Grumman's five sectors.

Shares of Northrop Grumman fell $2.08 to $105.50 yesterday.

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