Radar team snares a deal

Linthicum plant is subcontractor for AWACS upgrade

Northrop shares up $4.45

Area shop to do 75% of work on Boeing's $98 million contract

November 20, 2001|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-area manufacturing plant will build 13 upgraded radar systems for the Air Force's fleet of AWACS surveillance planes, a contract worth as much as $73.5 million over the next three years.

The Air Force awarded a $98 million contract for the work to Boeing Co. yesterday, but Northrop Grum- man's Electronic Systems sector in Linthicum will do three-fourths of the work as a subcontractor.

"This is the first significant upgrade made for the AWACS since its deployment in the 1970s," said Teri Marconi, marketing manager for Northrop Grumman Corp.'s airborne surveillance systems. "And it's a very significant operational improvement."

AWACS is an acronym for Airborne Warning and Control Systems.The converted Boeing 707s operate as airborne surveillance and command-and-control centers, tracking targets and funneling information to fighter planes, ships and ground forces.

Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-area radar shop designed and built the AWACS radar system in the 1970s, when the plant was owned by Westinghouse Electric Corp. It has participated in maintenance and upgrades ever since.

When the contract announced yesterday is completed in 2004, Northrop Grumman will have upgraded the Air Force's entire fleet of 33 AWACS planes, as well as seven for the United Kingdom and 17 for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Negotiations with other foreign owners are under way, Marconi said.

Also called the E-3 Sentry, AWACS carry a distinctive radar saucer mounted near the aircraft's tail.

The latest upgrade calls for Northrop Grumman to build new computer systems, maintenance panels and software, and for Boeing to build the components needed to install them.

The upgrade increases the sensitivity of the plane's radar so it can detect and track smaller targets. It also enables the system to spot cruise missiles.

Northrop Grumman has a team of roughly 100 people at its Baltimore-area plant - where about 7,000 are employed - devoted specifically to the AWACS program, Marconi said. No workers will be added as a result of yesterday's award. Development of the upgraded radar began in 1989.

Shares of Northrop spurted $4.45, or 4.9 percent, to $95.95 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

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