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Supplied Components Used in Air Attack : South Bay Firms Make Mark in Libya

April 17, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

Some of the high-tech military equipment used this week in U. S. operations against Libya, ranging from small components to complex guidance systems, was made in the South Bay.

The equipment is installed on several types of Navy aircraft launched from the carriers Coral Sea and America either to join in bombing runs on Libya or to provide air cover.

President Reagan said he ordered the strikes early Tuesday to deter Col. Moammar Kadafi from supporting terrorist attacks on American citizens and facilities.

Among South Bay companies that designed and manufactured Navy equipment used in the raids are Hughes Aircraft Co., Northrop Corp. and Garrett AiResearch, along with hundreds of smaller contractors and suppliers in the area.

Weapons Control Equipment

Hughes Radar Systems Group in El Segundo makes the weapons control equipment installed in the Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters and F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bombers that provided air cover for the Air Force F-111 fighter-bombers sent from Great Britain to Libya, company spokesman Lee Levitt said. The F-111s are made by General Dynamics Corp. in Fort Worth, Tex.

The F-14, Levitt said, employs Hughes radar and computers to direct missiles and 20 mm. cannon fire at aircraft. The company's contribution to the Hornet's avionics, or airborne electronics, is a package of sensors and digital computers that locates air or ground targets and fires missiles at them, he said.

The all-weather Hornet system can track 10 hostile aircraft simultaneously and automatically lock onto a designated target, Levitt said. To convert the system from air combat to ground attack, he said, the pilot merely flips a switch.

The Hughes Electro-Optics and Data Systems Group in El Segundo makes a combination laser and infrared detection and ranging device for the Navy's A-6E Corsair, which reportedly was among the aircraft launched from the carriers.

Used in Night Battles

The infrared device enables pilots to see a ground target at night on a videoscreen and direct a laser beam at it, group spokesman Jim Knotts said. "Smart" bombs released by the aircraft detect reflected laser energy and home in on the target, he said.

However, Knotts said he does not know whether Hughes infrared devices were used in the attack because U. S. military authorities have not released a list of equipment employed in the operation.

A large part of the Hornet's fuselage, along with its twin vertical stabilizers and various subsystems, are made at Northrop Corp. plants in Hawthorne and El Segundo, company spokesman Tom Kaminski said. He said Northrop is scheduled to deliver its 500th Hornet fuselage to McDonnell Douglas, the prime contractor, in July.

Garrett AiResearch in Torrance makes a variety of control systems for military aircraft, such as the F-14, F/A-18, A-6E and A-7, company spokesman Ralph Wortman said. He said the devices control the cockpit environment, regulate air pressure and computerize flight data, among other functions.

Spokesmen for two other major defense contractors, TRW Inc. and Rockwell International, said they did not know of any equipment produced by their plants in the South Bay that was used in the attack.

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