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BAE awarded $81 million for defense missile components

NASHUA - BAE Systems has been awarded an $81 million contract to produce components for weapon systems designed to protect the United States and its allies against missile attacks.

The contract from Lockheed Martin, announced on Thursday, will enable BAE to begin production on the targeting and detection components for 143 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missiles (THAAD).

"If an adversary launches a hostile missile at the United States or one of our allies, this type of weapon is designed to fly up and intercept it, either in the atmosphere or outside the atmosphere in space," said John Watkins, vice president of business development for BAE's Electronic Systems in Nashua. "It's a missile hitting a missile."

The THAAD system is the middle tier of a three-tiered missile defense system that grew out of the "Star Wars" program in the 1980s. Watkins explained that the THADD missile goes higher than the Patriot missile, but not as high as Aegis missile systems that operate outside Earth's atmosphere.

Lockheed Martin manufactures the missile, while BAE developed and builds the seeker on the tip, using infrared heat-seeking technology. "The seeker opens its eyes and looks for the target, and then uses that information to fly the missile into the attacking missile."

The system generates video that guides the interceptor to the target, said Barry Yeadon, THADD program manager at BAE.

Development on the THADD missiles began at BAE in the early 1990s, with production starting in the earlier part of the last decade. The $81 million contract announced Thursday is the fourth order or "lot production," in this case for the U.S. Army and the United Arab Emirates. BAE has delivered 100 of the targeting systems so far.

"THADD has a spotless flight test record of nine-for-nine intercepts," Yeadon said. "During the most recent test, two interceptors destroyed two separate targets - a challenging feat."

Lockheed Martin also awarded BAE Systems a $5.3 million contract for tooling and test equipment to increase the monthly production rate of the infrared seekers.

The assembly and testing will be done at BAE in Nashua and Lexington, Mass.

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