WASHINGTON — The Army announced Monday that a team headed by Martin Marietta Corp. beat three other defense contractors for the right to build a $1.7-billion weapon to protect troops from enemy planes and helicopters.
The decision was the Army's latest step in a five-part plan called the Forward Area Air Defense System, a complex system that replaces the ill-fated Sgt. York air-defense gun.
Martin Marietta built the Air Defense Anti-Tank Systems in conjunction with Oerlikon Buhrle, a Swiss firm. The weapon, which uses commercially available technology, is a combination of missiles and guns mounted atop a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the tank-like machine that will carry troops into battle.
The ADTS won a competition that has been conducted for the past five months near White Sands, N.M., the Army said.
$97-Million Contract First
Monday's announcement doesn't actually mean the awarding of a contract, since Congress has yet to pass a bill appropriating money for the service in the current fiscal year.
But when the money is available, the Army said, Martin Marietta will be given a $97-million contract to produce four units for testing and evaluation, along with parts of 166 other ADTS weapons. The total value of the system could be $1.7 billion, according to Maj. Phil Soucy, an Army spokesman.
The service is trying to develop a defensive shield against helicopters and low-flying planes that could be used against U.S. troops in combat.
The ADTS system defeated three other weapons, including the Liberty, produced by a team headed by LTV and Thompson-CSF, a French firm; Advanced Rapier, built by a consortium that included United Technologies, FMC and British Aerospace; and Paladin, produced by a group that include Hughes Aircraft, SNI Aerospatiale of France and Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm of West Germany.
During the tests, soldiers operated each of the four systems in hundreds of tests of the weapons' electronic tracking capability. Each weapon was also used to fire 10 missiles against unmanned jet planes and helicopters.
All four competitors used available technology, combining existing weapons at the Army's direction in an effort to hold down costs and speed delivery.
Weinberger Canceled York
The ADTS weapons will undergo extensive testing at Ft. Hunter Liggett, in Northern California, before a final decision is made on whether to go ahead with production, according to Army officials.
The ADTS is part of the replacement for the Sgt. York, which was canceled in August, 1985, even though it had been in development for seven years.