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Northrop Grumman IT to Test, Evaluate Army Lasers

By William Welsh
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 7, 2005; Page E04

Northrop Grumman Information Technology of McLean has won a five-year, $46.9 million contract from the U.S. Army to support the testing and evaluation of lasers and the laser test facilities.

Some of the lasers are being tested to see if they can be used to knock out missiles and mortars on the battlefield.

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Northrop Grumman will provide engineering and technical support at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The contract extends work the company has been doing at the range.

About 75 employees are assigned to the project. In addition, the company will provide support for laboratory services, laser experiment setup, and design and documentation for test facility users.

The company has more than 25 years of experience developing airborne, ground-based and space-based lasers, which helped the company win the contract, said Rick Graber, business development manager for Northrop Grumman IT's Advanced Technology Division.

Northrop Grumman IT's team for the contract includes Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass.; Anteon International Corp. of Fairfax; Schafer Corp. of Chelmsford, Mass.; and Denco Inc. of Las Cruces, N.M.

The development of "directed-energy" weapons systems, both lethal and non-lethal, are a key transformation initiative for the Defense Department and are a major growth area for the company, Graber said. The work includes both high-power microwave and high-energy laser systems.

The Army uses the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility to test the effects of lasers against long-range air defense threats, such as ballistic missiles, and short-range, ground-combat threats such as mortars.

The equipment includes a vacuum test system, which tests lasers and space systems in a vacuum chamber. The systems are in various stages of development, from early to advanced. Those in the advanced stages could appear on the battlefield in several years if funding is sufficient, Graber said.

In addition to the work for the Army, the company supports the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Missile Defense Agency.

The company announced in February that it had won a $142 million contract with the Missile Defense Agency to provide systems engineering, planning and logistics support for the airborne laser boost phase of its missile defense program. The airborne laser system, which is carried in a Boeing 747 aircraft, is designed to detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles using a high-power laser beam.

William Welsh is a senior writer with Washington Technology magazine. For more details on this and other contracts, go to www.washingtontechnology.com.

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