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February 21. 2013 7:05PM

BAE in Nashua to share in $6.9 billion contract for fighter fleet

NASHUA - With the threat of $46 billion in budget cuts just around the corner, the Department of Defense is pushing contracts out the door, including a $6.9 billion award to Lockheed Martin for modernizing the F-22 fighter fleet, with some of that work destined for BAE Systems in Nashua.

BAE provides many of the electrical and radar detection systems for military aircraft.

The F-22, with 187 stealth fighter jets now in service, was initially designed in the 1980s and is now well into its third decade. Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the upgrade, with work also scheduled in El Segundo, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; San Diego, Calif.; Wayne, N.J., and Nashua, according to the Department of Defense contract announcement.

The work is expected to be completed by Feb. 20, 2023.

The White House and Congress have until March 1 to reach a deal on deficit reduction or automatic spending cuts kick in, including $46 billion in Defense Department cuts between March 1 and Oct. 1. Several large contracts have been awarded in the past two months, in what Pentagon analysts say is an attempt to get as much work into the pipeline as possible before the cuts could take effect.

One of the Pentagon programs likely to be affected by the cuts is the F-35, intended to create a new generation of fighter jets to replace the F-22, which went into production in 1991. Only 30 of the F-35 fighters have been delivered and none have been deployed.

The F-22 was the costliest weapons program ever, until the F-35 came along. According to the New York Times, "Although the (F-22) is a technological wonder that can fly higher, faster and with more maneuvers than any other, it has never been used in combat. A squadron of F-22s is deployed to a base in the Persian Gulf as a deterrent to Iran. The plane sat out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflict in Libya because it was not needed."

In 2011, the Air Force awarded Lockheed-Martin and its subcontractors a $7.4 billion contract for upgrades to the F-22 weapon systems and "other enhancements."

The contract announced on Thursday with Lockheed is a indefinite-delivery and indefinite-quantity contract, meaning the Pentagon estimates it will cost $6.9 billion to upgrade the F-22 fleet between now and 2023, and will work out the details with its contractors over time.

"There is a long list of things that the government has asked for in modernizing the F-22 and pieces of that work will at some point be done in Nashua," said Kristin L. Gossel, director of external engagement at BAE Electronic Systems U.S. headquarters in Virginia, "but as of now there is no specific order, no specific time and no specific number attached to it."



dsolomon@unionleader.com


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