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Local firm to modify aircraft for Coast Guard

April 19, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

California Microwave Systems has landed a $33 million contract with the U.S. Coast Guard that company officials hope will provide stability for a Hagerstown plant that has laid off workers this year.

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California Microwave, which is owned by Northrop Grumman, said Tuesday that the company will modify 15 HU-25A/C Falcon aircraft over the next two years.

California Microwave reconfigures civilian airplanes for surveillance and reconnaissance missions at its plant in Top Flight Air Park near Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The Coast Guard uses the Falcon jet aircraft for medium-range search and surveillance missions, safety-related operations and maritime security and national defense, according to company officials.

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"CMS has a unique opportunity to provide the Coast Guard with our expertise in aircraft modification and sensor integration for a total system solution which maximizes current state-of-the-art technologies," Bill Weaver, vice president for airborne systems, said in a prepared statement.

Jim Reinhard, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector, said the contract will help keep the Hagerstown factory's 73 workers busy.

"Certainly, this is good news for California Microwave and Hagerstown," he said. "This is certainly an important contract to help to stabilize our existing work force."

Reinhard, however, said it is too soon to tell whether any of the 45 employees idled in February will be called back to work.

"The scope of that impact has yet to be determined," he said.

Reinhard said the first plane will be delivered to the plant in September for testing. Production will begin during the first quarter of next year, with the first modified aircraft to be delivered to the Coast Guard in March.

The work will last two years, with options worth $58 million to upgrade an additional 15 planes and provide logistics support, the company said.

The plant has just completed a project for a U.S. government agency and is working on two other jobs for the Army, Reinhard said.

John C. Howard, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, expressed delight at the news and the fact that employment at the plant has climbed a bit from its low point of 61 workers after the February layoffs.

"We are extremely pleased that this contract will help stabilize the Hagerstown work force at the CMS facility, and will create future positive employment," he said in a statement.

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