Updated Bombs An Opportunity For Small Firm

Staff Reporter

The munitions industry has faded in Los Angeles since its heyday during World War II, but Sensor Systems Inc., is poised to grab a piece of the action as the military develops the next generation of "smart bombs."

The Chatsworth-based company, which makes anti-jamming systems for the satellite-guided bombs, is in negotiations with defense electronics units of Boeing Co. and Raytheon Co. to sell thousands of its devices for use on combat planes.

In addition to six prototypes, the company just completed a limited production run of 20 devices.

The military has been transforming so-called "dumb bombs" into precision guided "smart bombs" and missiles by attaching to each a navigation system that receives flight instructions from a Global Position Satellite System.

Combat aircraft already have dropped more than 1,000 satellite-guided munitions on Afghanistan. But hand-held radio transmitters can alter the course of these weapons by intercepting the transmission of the navigation instructions from a satellite. Anti-jamming devices, which are attached to navigation hardware on the bombs, create a shield around the receiver to ensure that the weapon receives only the intended navigation signals.

Sensor Systems' devices can be used on smaller munitions, such as the Small Diameter Bomb under development and favored by the military. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are vying for a contract to be awarded by the Air Force next year to build the bombs.

Sensor Systems developed its system over the last six months using technology from a variety of navigation antennas it has been making for commercial and military aircraft since the early 1980s.

With 80,000 square feet of manufacturing and engineering space at its facility, officials of the privately held company said they want to begin manufacturing as many as 5,000 anti-jamming packages annually. That would require increasing the 250-person staff by 10 to 20 percent and create overall sales growth of 30 percent in two to three years, company officials projected.

Sensors' anti-jamming devices will be sold for $500 to $5,000 each, depending largely on the number ordered and the complexity of the application, according to Frank Webb, Sensor Systems' operations manager.

"There's going to be thousands of new precision-guided munitions that are bought," said Philip Coyle, a senior analyst with the Center for Defense Information, a Washington military planning and policy group.

The U.S. Census Bureau lists only four companies countywide making munitions components a far cry from the major bomb-making industry that existed during World War II with L.A. being on the edge of the Pacific Theater.

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