Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Orlando missiles unit has received two new contracts worth a combined $449 million to produce next-generation stealth cruise missiles for the U.S. Air Force, the company said Thursday.
The latest deals for the advanced cruise missile work will sustain at least 135 high-tech defense jobs in Orlando, not including an unspecified number of jobs at vendors and suppliers, officials said. About two dozen people also work on the program at Lockheed's electronics plant in Ocala.
Final assembly takes place in Troy, Ala.
It was the first time Lockheed received two contracts simultaneously for production of the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile, the company said. Lockheed Martin's missile unit on Sand Lake Road employs more than 4,000 and is the Bethesda, Md.-based company's oldest and largest operation in Florida.
The awards come at a time when the military is still facing a new round of spending cuts in 2014, though much less than the earlier deficit-reduction mandate known as sequestration. Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal in late 2013 that reduced the planned defense budget cuts by 40 percent to about $31 billion this year.
"These contracts underscore the Air Force's and Lockheed Martin's commitment to this program," said Jason Denney, director of long-range missiles for Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Orlando.
Terms of the deal call for Lockheed to make 340 baseline missiles and 100 extended-range missiles, which brings the total number of missiles now under production contract to more than 2,100, Denney said.
With a powerful warhead, radar-evading stealthiness and GPS-guided precision technology, the JASSM system is considered a key weapon against highly fortified fixed and mobile targets. From the B-1B bomber to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a half dozen military aircraft are equipped to carry them.
JASSM is among a stable of weapons programs that guarantees Lockheed "a steady inflow of follow-on orders from a leveraged presence in the Army, Air Force, Navy and intelligence programs," Zacks Investment Research said in a previous report.
The stock research firm said it expected Lockheed to have "big upside potential" despite the looming defense cuts.
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