Plentiful defense dollars are flying into Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Ryan Aeronautical Center, helping the once-troubled defense contractor get off the ground again.
As part of the Defense Department’s fiscal 2000 budget, finalized last week, San Diego-based Ryan Aeronautical will receive $40 million for its Global Hawk program, $15 million more than anticipated.
The Clinton administration had originally budgeted $25 million for the Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle used by the U.S. Air Force for surveillance and targeting.
The fifth Global Hawk prototype is expected to be completed by the end of the month. The extra $15 million will go toward building two more prototypes early next year in order to keep the program going.
Production of the Global Hawk is expected to begin within the next year to 1 & #733; years.
The Defense Department’s improved focus on dollars for UAVs represents a major cultural shift, said Mark Day, spokesman for Ryan Aeronautical.
“Our Defense Department has traditionally not put a great deal of effort and dollars into UAVS,” he said. “But as the defense budget downsizes, one of the areas that has continued to grow is the development of UAVs.”
Day said a number of foreign wars in the last couple years have demonstrated the need for and value of UAVs, the most recent being the Kosovo conflict.
Kosovo was the first war where UAVs were used extensively by all NATO forces, he said.
General Dynamic’s UAV, the Predator, was used during the Kosovo conflict.
“You get more for your money through the investment in UAVs,” Day said.
He pointed out that a manned aircraft would cost four times as much as the Global Hawk, which will become a multibillion-dollar project when it is completed.
So far the federal government has invested about $400 million on the Global Hawk program. The UAV, which is operated through satellite communications, provides high resolution near real-time intelligence imagery.
The 44-foot-long aircraft, which has a wing span of 116 feet, has 41 hours of flight endurance. The Global Hawk’s all-weather, high-resolution sensors can conduct surveillance from an altitude of 65,000 feet over an area the size of the state of Illinois in just 24 hours.
For protection against the enemy, the Global Hawk carries decoys and threat detectors.
The Global Hawk is not Ryan Aeronautical’s only current defense project. The company recently received a $14 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the development of a new miniature air launch decoy.
The aircraft is designed to fly autonomously to simulate the mission profiles of typical fighter aircraft. Its purpose is to stimulate and deceive the enemy’s integrated air defense systems.
Another $20 million from the Air Force will pay to restart production of the Firebee, a high performance aerial target system designed for defense readiness training and air-to-air combat training. The Firebee simulates tactical threats by enemy aircraft and missiles.
The bright orange air vehicle, first designed by Ryan Aeronautical in the late 1940s, is the most widely used jet target in the world, with more than 7,000 built.
“There’s a great deal happening here,” Day said about Ryan Aeronautical.
Indeed, these are heady days for the company. Before being purchased by Northrop Grumman this summer, the former Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical had shaved 50 percent of its work force. Things are already beginning to turn around for the company, Day said.
“Our strategy is to strengthen our position as the world leader of high performance unmanned aerial vehicles,” he said.
National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. has its sights on two critical shipbuilding contracts. The fiscal 2000 defense budget includes $350 million for a Large Medium-Speed Roll-on, Roll-off Sea Lift Ship and $440 million for an Auxiliary Drive Cargo Ship (ADC/X). NASSCO, owned by General Dynamics, is competing for both military contracts.
A contract for the Sea Lift ship, built for the U.S. Army, is expected by the end of the year.
“We’re confident we can win this,” said Dick Vortmann, president of NASSCO and a vice president for GD.
NASSCO, which is working its fourth, fifth and sixth Sea Lift ships, has a contract for seven.
Other local shipyards will also benefit from the 2000 defense budget, which also calls for $55 million for ship depot maintenance. It marks the third straight year Congress has increased the overall ship repair and maintenance budget.
“It’s a recognition that the fleet is continuing to age. As it ages, it requires more maintenance and modernization,” said Frank Collins, senior vice president of Southwest Marine, Inc. and its parent company United States Marine Repair.
Ship Repair Work
Collins said the $55 million will help alleviate some backlog work at Southwest Marine for repair and maintenance of Navy ships.
He said the maintenance money isn’t just good news for ship repair yards.
“You’re talking about basic maintenance that is good for the sailor. The sailors have to go to sea and then come back and do maintenance. They have to sit there and chip paint. This is in addition to the hours they are spending doing their normal training. These are things that the private sector should be doing.”
Collins added the American ship repair and ship building industry is the healthiest it has been in at least 15 years. It can only get better, he said.
“We’re very upbeat for the year 2000.”