Company wins contract to equip 2 spy planes

December 15, 1997

Company wins contract to equip 2 spy planes


Staff Writer

A Hagerstown area company recently inked a $12 million military contract that secures about 100 jobs, company officials said.

California Microwave won its bid to equip two surveillance planes for the U.S. Army, said Chuck Angelo, vice president and general manager of the plant.

The company already is in the process of retrofitting the commercial planes for military use.

The company had been counting on the $12 million contract to give it another 18 months of work, Angelo said.

"It's a thriving business. We plan on being here well into the future," he said.

The Belcamp, Md.-based company has been leasing space at Top Flight Airpark hangar at Washington County Regional Airport since February 1996.


Part of its 100-member work force is made up of contract workers, Angelo said.

But the company has been in the process of replacing some contract employees with regular full-time jobs, Angelo said.

California Microwave found its niche turning standard four-engine, 55-seat commuter planes into an important military intelligence tool.

The company modifies the innocent-looking de Havilland DHC-7 aircraft into an Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) aircraft.

The last one made in Hagerstown is now being used to monitor activity in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.

It is capable of tracking the movement of a person from an altitude of 10,000 feet and sending the information back to the ground in real time.

Each plane costs about $27 million, he said.

But that's still a bargain compared to the sophisticated and fast aircraft used by the Air Force and Navy, according to an article in the November issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

It's also less expensive to run - about $1,500 per hour compared to up to $10,000, the article said.

Although building surveillance planes is California Microwave's primary job, the company also does other work.

The firm modifies other military helicopters and planes and leases equipment for aerial mapping and surveying.

California Microwave is bidding on other military jobs which would begin when the federal budget year starts in October.

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