Score a win for the local Westinghouse Electric Corp. division in the latest round of the fight over its production of a multibillion-dollar electronic radar jammer designed to protect fighter planes and their pilots.
Westinghouse held a lunchtime rally yesterday at its Linthicum complex to allow company executives and about 500 workers to express their appreciation to U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski for warding off legislation that would have spiked about $400 million of impending orders for the system, thus preserving 200 jobs.
The two Maryland Democrats led a floor battle early this month to defeat an amendment by Sen. David Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat and one of the system's chief opponents, to the defense authorization bill that would have prohibited sales of the airborne self-protection jammer (ASPJ) to foreign military governments. Westinghouse is negotiating orders for about 200 jammers with Switzerland, Finland and South Korea.
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 68 to 14 July 1.
Westinghouse, which produces the jammers in conjunction with ITT Avionics of Nutley, N.J., is counting on foreign orders to encourage the Defense Department to reconsider the use of jammers on its own fighter planes.
During the rally, held in front of a giant American flag hanging from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar, Westinghouse Electronic Systems President Richard A. Linder said he hopes that the Capitol Hill victory will clear the way for the Defense Department to resume the jammer program.
"I'm sure that if the amendment had prevailed," Mr. Linder said, "it would have been the death of ASPJ."
The Pentagon has spent $1.5 billion over 16 years on efforts to develop the jammer, which was designed for use on the F-16, F-14 and FA-18 fighter planes. At one time, the Air Force and the Navy had planned to purchase up to 2,200 of the units at a cost of $9 billion.
But former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney killed the program in December 1992 after Pentagon tests concluded the system was ineffective.
Westinghouse laid off 460 workers at its complex next to Baltimore-Washington International Airport after the contract was canceled but continued to pursue foreign sales.
Westinghouse and ITT have argued that the tests were flawed.
Yesterday's rally featured short film clips of the floor flight by Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski. As the lawmakers were leaving, Westinghouse workers shook their hands and hugged them.