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Defense Fighter contract boosts local TRW unit



Defense: Rancho Bernardo Division Was An Assured Winner in Contract Contest

A stealthy and versatile fighter plane that will be deployed by decade’s end promises to bring hundreds of jobs to a single San Diego company.

TRW Radio Systems, an operating unit of Cleveland-based TRW Inc., announced it will hire up to 300 employees over the next two years to work on electronics for the Joint Strike Fighter.

The contract will bring the company $4 billion to $5 billion, excluding foreign market sales, said Tim Hannemann, president and CEO of TRW Space & Electronics.

To accommodate the new staff, TRW plans to expand into additional building space near its current Rancho Bernardo campus. The company is looking at three or four buildings, said David Vandervoet, vice president and general manager of TRW Radio Systems.

Vandervoet said 80 percent of the new hires will be engineers. The company needs those who are fresh from school as well as those with more experience, he said.

TRW’s San Diego unit specializes in software-defined radio , where common hardware carries out multiple functions simultaneously.

The radio equipment handles communications, navigation and friend-or-foe identification, and can take on 20 different tasks at once.

That is in contrast to the “federated” model, where separate boxes of electronics are each dedicated to a specific function.

TRW is working on a similar system for the F-22 Raptor, which is now going from the development to the production phase.

TRW must make its electronics light and compact for its defense customers.

“The functionality always gets greater and the size they give you always gets smaller,” Vandervoet said.

The Pentagon announced in mid-October that Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. would be the prime contractor for the $200 billion Joint Strike Fighter project. The aircraft is also called the X-35.

The Navy, Marines and Air Force will all use the same core design, with slight variations. The Navy craft will be built for carrier operations while the Marine craft will be equipped for short takeoffs and vertical landings. Great Britain’s air force and navy will also use the Joint Strike Fighter.

TRW’s Radio Systems unit employs 600 people in San Diego and has 825 employees altogether. So far this year, its San Diego operation has hired more than 150 employees.

The local unit is also working with Nokia offices in Dallas and Finland on designs for third-generation wireless telephone base stations. The engineering problems here are similar to the ones in avionics, Vandervoet said.

Civilian projects count for about 25 percent of the local office’s work.

TRW is in a “very enviable position,” enjoying growth in commercial and military work, said Vandervoet.

The company was in an enviable position before the Joint Strike Fighter announcement was made; it stood to win no matter which way the Pentagon decided. TRW was a member of both the competing Lockheed Martin and Boeing prime contractor teams. If the Pentagon had gone with Boeing, TRW would have gotten the same work.

TRW is a $19 billion global company with 117,000 employees. Roughly two-thirds of the company’s work is in the auto industry.

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