Raytheon wins radar pact over Northrop Grumman; Upgraded array unit for Navy fighter jet may bring $1 billion


Raytheon Co. beat the local unit of Northrop Grumman Corp. last night in a contest to create new radars for the Navy's F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter plane.

The contract could be worth about $1 billion, sources said.

"Both companies submitted extremely strong proposals," said Jerry Daniels, a vice president of Boeing Co., which builds the Super Hornet and made the selection. "In the final analysis, the decision was one of best overall value to the F/A-18 program."

Raytheon makes a conventional radar for the older Hornet fighter and the new Super Hornet. But when the Navy decided to upgrade to a new type of electronic radar system, Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors & Systems Sector in Linthicum pounced at the chance to win a lucrative new line of work.

"We are disappointed," ESSS spokesman Jack Martin said last night after the contract announcement. "We sincerely believe that our offering, which had been flight-tested, would have provided Boeing the best value."

The Northrop Grumman sector currently builds the only such radars in the world for military aircraft, and had hoped to use its experience on the Air Force's F-16 and F-22 fighters to muscle Raytheon out of its long-standing relationship with the Navy.

The type of radar involved in this contract is called an Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA. Unlike traditional radar antennae, which turn to sweep their signals across the sky, an AESA has dozens of small electronic sensors that don't move. Such a radar has better range and sensitivity than the conventional type, and is harder to detect.

Northrop Grumman drew attention in the defense industry with its bold bid for the job. Boeing had planned to stick with Massachusetts-based Raytheon for the upgraded radar, but ESSS sparked a competition for the contract.

Raytheon will build the radars at its 6,000-employee Electronic Systems facility in El Segundo, Calif.

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