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January 04. 2013 10:47PM

GE Aviation in Hooksett gets Defense Dept. boost

HOOKSETT - The U.S. Defense Department has modified its contract with GE Aviation for an additional $67 million work order, 18 percent of which will go to the plant in Hooksett.

The Department of Defense has again expanded a manufacturing contract with General Electric, this time by a little over $67 million.

The GE Aviation factory in Hooksett will get about $12 million of the contracted work.

The order is a $67,141,518 modification to a fixed-price contract previously awarded to GE Aviation by Naval Air Systems Command. The modification provides money for the manufacture of 18 F414-GE-400 turbofan jet engines and 24 devices for EA-18G "Growler" electronic warfare aircraft.

Previous modifications to the contract with GE Aviation announced in September and November for $327 million and $197 million respectively provided funding for a total of 134 F414-GE-400 turbofan jet engines and other devices.

"It's a firm, fixed-price contract that gets updated about every three years," said Hooksett GE Aviation Plant Manager Doug Folsom. "We're in the middle of a three-year contract, about one year into it. This is an upgrade to that contract. Essentially, they're saying 'we know we asked for X-amount of engines, but we now need 18 more.'"

The Hooksett plant will manufacture compressor blisks, compressor stators and tubes for the engines. It is the only site in the world certified by the military and GE to make the parts for the F-414.

"You have to be certified by the military to produce that hardware, and obviously we have our own internal certifications within GE," said Folsom. "Whenever (GE) sells any F-414 engines or parts, they have to get made in Hooksett. No one else is certified."

Folsom is aware that if the plant wants to keep such a distinction, it must remain nimble.

"We have to continue to be cost-competitive and quality-competitive in order to not give them any incentive to qualify another source," he said. "We continually take productivity out of the costs of those engines. Last year, our compressor blisk costs were 6 percent lower than the prior year. We're continually innovating and looking for ways to take costs out."

The F414-GE-400 engines are to be installed in Navy Boeing F/A-18 "Hornet" multi-role fighter jets. GE is the sole designer and manufacturer of the F414-GE-400 engine.

The production lot is scheduled to be completed in March 2015. The work from the September modification is scheduled to be completed June 2014.

Along with Hooksett, 59 percent of the work order will be performed in Lynn, Mass., 12 percent in Rutland, Vt., and 11 percent in Madisonville, Ky.

GE Aviation is one of the state's largest employers, with more than 720 workers. While GE Aviation does manufacture components for commercial aircraft, defense contracts are a major source of revenue, particularly for the Hooksett plant.

"Military projects make up over half our volume here in Hooksett," said Folsom. "They're a major customer of ours. ... We've been building components for the F-414 since its inception back in the 90s. We're doing somewhere on an average yearly basis of upwards of $30 million a year in terms of F-414 hardware."

F-414 work alone makes up about 15 percent percent of the plant's work, with about 100 of 750 workers dedicated to manufacturing the components.


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Brendan Clogston may be reached at bclogston@newstote.com.


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