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Northrop Wins Pentagon Battle-System Contract

September 11, 2004|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

Northrop Grumman Corp. won a major Pentagon contract Friday to develop an airborne computer system that can identify and track enemy targets and then instantly relay the information to U.S. forces on the ground and in the air.

The contract is initially valued at $308 million but is potentially worth several billion dollars. It calls for the Century City defense contractor to develop the information system for a new fleet of planes that will serve as flying battle operation centers.

Northrop beat out Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., the nation's two largest defense contractors, in one of the more hotly contested Pentagon contracts this year.

"This is a key win for Northrop Grumman," said Ronald D. Sugar, the company's chairman and chief executive.

Under the contract, Northrop will design and develop a battle-management command-and-control system for the E-10A aircraft that would be able to detect and track moving targets on the ground. The aircraft also would be able to detect and track low-flying cruise missiles.

The U.S. Air Force envisions buying 55 such planes to form the cornerstone of a system that the Pentagon hopes will allow U.S. forces to find targets quickly and destroy them within minutes. At present the process involves a myriad of spy planes, ground command-and-control centers and weapons, and can take hours or sometimes days.

Northrop's Integrated Systems unit in El Segundo is the prime contractor on the development of the E-10A aircraft. With about 27,000 workers in the region, Northrop is one of the largest private employers in Southern California.

Northrop shares were down 25 cents at $50.22 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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