Northrop wins pact for missile defense

Linthicum, Elkton are likely to benefit

December 04, 2003|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

A team led by defense giant Northrop Grumman Corp. won a $4.5 billion, eight-year contract yesterday from the U.S. government to develop a new generation of missile defense that is expected to bring a significant number of high-tech jobs and investment to Maryland.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded the contract to design, develop and test the "kinetic energy interceptor" - a system designed to destroy a hostile missile shortly after it is launched, so that the missile and its destructive payload would remain over the launching country.

The award means work for the company's Linthicum campus, where 7,100 are employed in the Electronic Systems division, and to subcontractor Alliant Tech Systems, which operates a facility in Elkton.

Specific numbers were not available last night, but Ronald D. Sugar, Northrop Grumman's chairman, chief executive officer and president, said the contract will have "a significant contribution" from the Linthicum facility.

The interceptor will be land-based initially, but a sea-based version is also envisioned. It is expected to destroy missiles in the first three to five minutes, before the missiles can release decoys or countermeasures.

Development was made possible once the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in June 2002, the Missile Defense Agency said. The agency operates and is developing other systems to destroy hostile missiles.

The team Northrop Grumman put together to win the contract includes 14 subcontractors in 10 states, including Alliant.

The Elkton facility of Minneapolis-based Alliant employs about 380 and produces rocket motors. Its $150 million share of the contract is to develop and test a propulsion system for the kinetic energy interceptor.

"[Alliant] is a national leader in solid rocket motor propulsion and there is no more important role we can play than in defense of the nation," said Donald Shaffer, president of Alliant's Elkton operation. "KEI is a visible, deployable deterrent that we expect to generate approximately 150 new jobs at our Elkton facility."

Once developed by 2012, the system will become part of the Missile Defense Agency's layered missile defense system.

The agency chose the Northrop Grumman team over another led by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. Each had been awarded $10 million to develop a concept.

Northrop Grumman, and its chief partner, Raytheon Co., said the kinetic energy interceptor will be the fastest and most agile of the systems.

"We are proud of this contract win, which firmly establishes Northrop Grumman's position as a top-tier systems integrator for missile defense," Northrop Grumman's Sugar said.

"We have assembled a team of the nation's leading missile defense companies who are committed to delivering a quality system on time, on budget and with mission success assured."

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