Raytheon Co. said Tuesday it won a $1.3-billion-US army contract to develop and test a new radar system designed to protect troops from cruise missile attacks.
The agreement is the second large contract this year for Raytheon's Tewksbury-based Integrated Defence Systems business, which won a $3-billion contract in May to develop radar and communications for an advanced navy destroyer.
The new contract is part of the U.S. military's seven-year-old program called JLENS - "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System."
In the system, a high-flying blimp, called an Aerostat, is connected by cable to a power station. From thousands of metres off the ground, its radar and sensors can monitor hundreds of kilometres of battleground territory.
The goal is for the blimp to detect incoming missiles and alert air defence systems that can knock them down.
"What this does is provide a broad sensor umbrella, if you will, that allows for early detection of incoming threats," Col. Ray Nulk, the JLENS product director at the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space in Huntsville, Ala., told the Boston Globe.
"It pumps that information into a network and provides the information to the defence firing platforms."
Raytheon had been working on small-scale models for the system under a $70-million contract. The Waltham-based company was selected as JLENS contractor in 1998, beating out Northrop Grumman Corp.
"This is going to be one of our foundational programs over the next 10 to 20 years," said Timothy Carey, vice-president for integrated air defence at Raytheon's Integrated Defence Systems.
"As we try to grow the business here in New England, it's important to have these programs that play out over a long period."
Two-thirds of the JLENS work will be done at Raytheon sites in Andover and Tewksbury, Carey said. Other portions of the work will be done in California, Texas and Maryland.
System testing is scheduled to begin in 2009, with the program's completion expected in 2011.
Shares of Raytheon rose 13 cents to $37.74 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
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