Northrop urges warplane funding, cites jobs
WASHINGTON Feb 6 (Reuters) - Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), citing job-loss and global-security concerns, urged lawmakers Friday to restore more than $200 million in budget cuts to a U.S. Navy command-and-control aircraft program.
In an unusual public appeal, the Pentagon's No. 3 supplier by sales said the cut would boost unit costs of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye about 20 percent and erode a highly skilled workforce, possibly delaying the aircraft's planned 2011 introduction to the fleet.
It also would eliminate 350 jobs across the 280-member supply team in 38 U.S. states by March 31, said Jim Culmo, who manages the program for Northrop Grumman.
"Getting these skills back once they are gone is going to be extremely challenging," he added in a statement that asserted "global security" would be at greater risk as a result.
Congress, in the fiscal 2009 National Defense Authorization Act last year, chopped one of three planned aircraft from the initial, low-rate production batch along with funds for parts that must be pre-ordered for the next lot. The cuts totaled more than $200 million.
Lawmakers slowed the program after the twin-engine, carrier-based battle-management aircraft -- a kind of digital quarterback -- hit technical problems last spring related to high radar power levels.
A subsequent design change to insulating material in the radar system's rotodome antenna, developed by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc (LLL.N), had proven "highly effective" at withstanding sustained high power levels, the Navy said.
"We have not experienced the problem since," Lt. Clay Doss, a Navy spokesman, said Friday. "These types of developments early in the flight testing phase are not uncommon. It is the reason why the Navy tests aircraft prior to Fleet introduction."
Tom Vice, a Northrop Grumman vice president, said in the statement: "I can't understand this draconian cut now to what is widely recognized as a model major defense acquisition program."
"There is a great sense of urgency today to restore production procurement dollars," he added. "In today's environment we need to reduce the risk to our troops, not add to it."
The Navy plans to buy a total of 75 E-2Ds, which use an advanced Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) radar to pick up smaller targets at a greater range than currently deployed systems. (Reporting by Jim Wolf; Editing by Gary Hill)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this