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Thursday, Feb 2, 2023

Building a Technological Advantage

Building a Technological Advantage

Additions: TRW’s technological expertise is expected to vault Northrop into the top tier.


Staff Reporter

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s proposed $7.8 billion purchase of TRW Inc. would expand the defense electronics giant’s tentacles into the thriving military satellite industry, possibly boosting L.A.’s aerospace employment base along the way.

Additionally, the Century City-based firm would have a hand in virtually every piece of next-generation military hardware made locally, ranging from TRW’s missile defense satellites and laser weapons systems to Northrop’s existing work on jet fighters and unmanned surveillance planes.

“This makes Northrop a power in the military space area where they haven’t been,” said Paul Nisbet, a partner in JSA Research Inc., a Newport, R.I. defense analysis firm. “The selection of businesses they are in is very appropriate for the Department of Defense’s needs.”

Two of TRW’s properties considered potentially lucrative for Northrop are Redondo Beach-based TRW Space & Electronics and Reston, Va.-based TRW Systems, which generated $2 billion and $3.2 billion in revenues respectively in 2001. With TRW properties, Northrop’s new arsenal of space and electronics products would include:


The Space-Based Infrared System Low (SBIRS Low) is considered one of the most critical elements of the nation’s missile defense because it is the program’s only global tracking system, providing end-to-end infrared tracking of missiles. TRW is under a $665 million contract to build a yet-to-be-determined number of the missile tracking satellites.

The Missile Defense Agency’s budget requests $3.6 billion for fiscal years 2003 through 2007 for the program, although it will extend beyond that period.

Joint Strike Fighter

TRW is manufacturing and integrating communications, navigation and enemy ground and aircraft identification systems for 3,000 Joint Strike Fighters under an existing $800 million contract that TRW officials believe could ultimately be worth as much as $5 billion over the 30- to 40-year production life of the plane.

The JSF contract is the largest in military history and is designed to develop the next-generation of replacement jet aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Northrop currently has a 20 percent stake in a $200 billion contract to build and integrate the center fuselages, weapons bay doors, radars and radar-jamming systems in El Segundo.

Advanced High Frequency System

TRW has won a $1.3 billion contract to build and integrate communications payloads for the Advanced High Frequency (AEHF) system, which consists of two next-generation military communications satellites.

With the country’s fight against terrorism in the forefront, the AEHF is considered important because it is designed to track all ground and air forces together as well as help intercept enemy transmissions.

Airborne Laser

TRW has an unspecified share of a $1.1 billion multi-firm contract to develop the Air Force’s first airborne laser, which from a converted Boeing 747 plane would detect, track and destroy enemy ballistic missiles after launch.

The high-powered laser comes with an optical system capable of guiding a basketball-size spot of heat that can burn through the missile’s shell from hundreds of miles away. It is the only successfully tested vehicle to destroy missiles right after they have been launched.

Global Hawk

The Air Force has ordered 51 of Northrop’s unmanned Global Hawk surveillance plane, which is assembled in Palmdale. But it has ordered a 50 percent reduction in costs of the $48.3 million plane.

The Global Hawk is considered the most advanced unmanned airborne vehicle in use by the military, having flown more than 1,000 hours over Afghanistan.


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