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'Star Wars' Job Lost, Hughes to Lay Off 220

July 09, 1987|GREGORY CROUCH | Times Staff Writer

Hughes Aircraft has begun to lay off up to 220 engineers and support personnel in Canoga Park after losing a "Star Wars" defense contract to a competitor, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Layoffs will continue through December. "We have laid off 20 employees to date," a spokesman said. "We expect further reductions of up to 200 over the next six months." All 220 work in the company's Missile Systems Group in Canoga Park.

The main reason for the layoffs was the Air Force's decision in mid-June to award a $209-million contract to Rockwell International in Downey for a space-based anti-missile weapon, a part of President Reagan's strategic defense initiative known as "Star Wars."

"The employment level was predicated on the expectation that we would receive additional contracts," a spokesman said. Efforts are under way, the spokesman said, to find positions in other Hughes divisions for those being laid off. Hughes employs about 3,400 workers at its Canoga Park facility.

Acquired by GM

News of the layoffs were a shock to employees. Frank H. Beckett, manager of advanced product development for the missile group, said he was unaware of any plans for layoffs in his division.

Hughes Aircraft was acquired by General Motors in January, 1986. In May of that year, Hughes terminated 4,000 of its estimated 82,000 jobs, many of them in Southern California. Hughes, based in El Segundo, had an estimated $7 billion in sales last year, about $1 billion of which came from the missile group.

Analysts believe that Hughes' Canoga Park operation may experience more layoffs early next year. The division's main project is Amraam, the advanced medium range air-to-air missile. Production of the missiles is scheduled to begin by the end of this year. That will likely eliminate jobs of employees who worked during the experimental stage of the program.

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