Northrop unveils radar test site

State-of-the-art, hangar-like facility in Linthicum gives company a leg up on refining technology

October 31, 2007|By Allison Connolly | Allison Connolly,Sun reporter

Northrop Grumman Corp. is expanding ship-based radar systems and manufacturing new land-based radar types, both of which will mean more business for the company's largest sector, Electronic Systems of Linthicum.

The company's top brass traveled from the Los Angeles headquarters to the subsidiary's headquarters next to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport yesterday to cut the ribbon on a $13.7 million radar antenna testing facility.

Officials say the 60-foot by 40-foot scanner, housed in a five-story, 16,000-square-foot building, is the only one of its kind.

"For this kind of investment, we think it is a solid business case going forward," said Chief Executive Officer Ronald D. Sugar.

The hangar-like room houses a scanner that tests the accuracy of radar and can record 300,000 measurements per second.

`The key thing about this room is having a controlled environment," said Robert Royer, director of engineering project management at Linthicum. "This gives us repeatable, consistent results."

The Electronic Systems' Linthicum campus manufactures radar for the Navy's workhorse E-2C Hawkeye surveillance planes as well as the latest jet fighters, including the Air Force's F-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter currently in development. Last year the electronics subsidiary contributed $6.5 billion of the company's $30.1 billion in revenue.

The new scanner will be used to test radar being developed for the Marines under a contract worth $256.6 million. The Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar or G/ATOR, is the equivalent of several types of radar in one.

The G/ATOR system can detect and track missiles, hostile aircraft and drones as well as provide air traffic control for Marine operations, and it can be mounted on a Humvee.

It is the first land-based radar built by Northrop Grumman in 25 years, said James F. Pitts, president of Electronic Systems.

Pitts said the new facility won't immediately create new jobs, but could if the company experiences an upsurge in orders. He said the Linthicum campus already has 500 job openings requiring a variety of skills. Statewide, Northrop Grumman employs 10,500 at 16 sites.

Paul Nisbet, an analyst who covers Northrop Grumman for JSA Research Inc. in Newport, R.I., said radar is a fiercely competitive market, but Northrop Grumman's experience with airborne systems should give it leverage.

"They have a lot of technology they can bring to the forefront," Nisbet said.

Northrop Grumman acquired the electronics division of Westinghouse Electric Corp. in 1996, adding a portfolio of radar and electronic systems used in defense and civil aviation.

Yesterday was Sugar's first visit to the Linthicum facility and was part of a national tour of Northrop Grumman sites. He spoke to 1,500 employees in the morning and met with managers in the afternoon.

Sugar was scheduled to host a reception last night for community leaders at the company-financed Historical Electronics Museum in Linthicum, which features technology produced by Northrop Grumman and Westinghouse among others. Today, he is scheduled to visit the company's oceanic division in Annapolis and meet with 1,000 employees.

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