Contracts boost Maryland companies


Despite the best efforts of mankind, Peace on Earth has not yet been attained on this Christmas Day.

War and the continued threat of war have led to a recent flurry of defense contracts for Maryland companies, including two high-tech proposals to protect tanks and their crews from enemy rockets and cannon fire.

The Allied Signal Inc. plant on Joppa Road in Towson has won a $1.2 million research contract for development of an interceptor device to protect armored vehicles from anti-tank rockets.

Although details of Allied's proposal are cloaked in secrecy to keep competitors from learning too much about Allied's approach, company officials say it amounts to a small missile that can shoot down an incoming anti-tank rocket.

Allied is teamed with Defense Research Technologies Inc. in Rockville and Thermo Trex Corp. in San Diego on a development contract that could total more than $15 million.

The contract was awarded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's research and development arm.

Plans call for the competition to be narrowed to one team that will be awarded a substantially larger production contract.

Technically called a "small, low-cost interceptor device," the unit also can be used to protect armored vehicles in the battlefield against misguided "friendly fire," which accounted for nearly one-fourth of the deaths of all U.S. soldiers killed in the Persian Gulf war.

The interceptor system is to be designed so that it can be deployed on vehicles without additional armor and weight, so no major upgrades or redesign of the armored vehicles is necessary.

In another approach to the same problem, Martin Marietta Corp. has been awarded a $6 million Army contract to deliver reactive armor tiles to be used on armored vehicles to ward off missile attacks.

The tiles, used to cover a tank or a Bradley fighting vehicle, are designed to explode when struck by a missile. The force of the exploding tiles throws the attacking missile outward and keeps it from penetrating the interior of the armored vehicle.

The Army is scheduled to begin testing the tiles at Aberdeen Proving Ground in April.

Martin Marietta's Middle River complex has been awarded another Navy contract, valued at more than $9 million, for engineering and technical services related to improvements in a shipboard missile-launching system.

The vertical launching system is a cluster of canisters that fit below deck on ships. They store and launch a variety of missiles against aircraft, submarines or land-based targets.

Another missile-related contract went to Vitro Corp., the

Rockville-based subsidiary of Tracor Inc. Vitro received a contract valued at $16.2 million from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Seasparrow Project Office.

Vitro is to provide engineering and technical support for the surface-to-air missile that is issued as a self-defense weapon on 126 NATO ships worldwide.

As the systems-integration agent, Vitro is to provide hardware and software engineers, logisticians, program managers and support personnel for a consortium of 13 NATO countries using the Seasparrow missile system.

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