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2 Northrop Contracts May Yield Thousands of Jobs for the Region

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s recent good fortune looks like good news for the San Diego economy.

The Los Angeles-based company received a $1.16 billion research and development contract on April 22 to produce a Navy version of its Global Hawk surveillance plane.

The contract lasts through 2014, and 25 percent of the work will go to San Diego, according to the Pentagon.

Northrop spokeswoman Cynthia Curiel said the contract will create 1,700 jobs in San Diego, at Northrop Grumman’s Rancho Bernardo and Kearny Mesa campuses, as well as with its suppliers. Northrop held a job fair in Rancho Bernardo May 3 to start filling jobs for the Navy drone.

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A second recent contract win, for an aerial refueling tanker, may bring 2,000 more jobs to San Diego County, Curiel said.

Spy in the Sky

Under the newly won Broad Area Maritime Surveillance contract (known in defense circles as BAMS), Northorp will provide the Navy with two aircraft, two mission control systems and a systems integration laboratory.

The long-winged and knobby-nosed Global Hawk is an unmanned spy aircraft that the Air Force rushed into service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Navy version will be able to fly at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet and stay on station for as long as 24 hours, using sophisticated electronics to keep an eye on targets and threats.

Local subcontractors on the project are ATK, L-3 Linkabit, Curtiss-Wright Corp. and Q Microwave.

If the planes go into production, the newly inked Navy deal may turn into $3.74 billion worth of work.

Air Tanker Anticipated

The drone contract followed another high-profile contract win on Feb. 29, when the Air Force chose Northrop Grumman to provide a new generation of aerial-refueling tankers.

The KC-45 tanker will use an Airbus jet, provided by major subcontractor European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., as a starting point.

But it may not be time to celebrate just yet. The federal government is giving competing contractors time to make the case for their products. And Chicago-based Boeing, which lost the tanker deal, is pushing hard for the Pentagon to give it a second look.

“Boeing is making a lot of persuasive sounding arguments in their KC-X ad campaign, and the Northrop Grumman ad (campaign) today did not have too much to say in response,” said John Pike, director of Alexandria, Va.-based Globalsecurity.org.

Northrop has made the case that its tanker project will create 48,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, nationwide.

In a December press release, the company said it will support 7,500 jobs in California, including work at the following San Diego County subcontractors: GKN Aerospace Chemtronics, Goodrich Aerostructures Group, Stillman Seal, Synergy Microsystems and ViaSat.

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