Lockheed gets $51 million pact

April 12, 2006|By ALLISON CONNOLLY | ALLISON CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Middle River facility has received a contract for $51 million to manufacture missile launchers for the Navy's last three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers now under construction.

The contract, which follows a $27 million award last summer to buy materials, marks the Navy's last order of MK 41 Vertical Launch Systems, which Lockheed has been making for the Navy since 1984. Each ship will get 12 modules that together can store and launch up to 96 missiles. Lockheed is to deliver the launchers by 2010, when the final three ships are expected to be delivered to the Navy.

The end of the Arleigh Burke class could have spelled trouble for the plant, as MK 41 is Middle River's main product. While the Navy is building a next-generation destroyer, DD(X), its missiles will be located around the periphery of the ship, rather than clustered in the center in a vertical launcher like the MK 41.

However, Lockheed officials say the facility will stay busy. Its 600 employees are making MK 41 launchers for at least 10 foreign navies, and they are designing a ground-based version for the Army.

Company officials say other countries have expressed interest in putting the MK 41 on an international version of the Navy's new high-speed littoral combat ship. Lockheed is building the first such ship for the Navy, with delivery slated for December.

"We're heavily involved with foreign navies and markets," said spokesman James Gring. "The life of the program will continue."

MK 41 is part of the powerful Aegis weapons system on Navy destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers. The integrated radar and missile system can identify and track up to 100 targets in the air, on land and under water and fire on them simultaneously. Located below deck, the MK 41 can store and launch a variety of missiles depending on the target and threat, including the long-range Tomahawk missile. The MK 41 has been installed on nearly 180 foreign vessels, including Korean destroyers and German frigates.

The missile launcher that Lockheed Martin is building for the Army is based on the same concept, said Tim Fouts, manager of business development at Middle River. Originally called "rockets in a box," the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System can fire missiles from a box-like structure with a 360-degree range. In 2004, the Army awarded a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corp. a $1.1 billion contract to develop the system.

allison.connolly@baltsun.com

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