By Matt Joyce | Staff Writer
Dallas Business Journal
firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-706-7124
For the soldiers at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, every moment of warning before an incoming rocket strike can make the difference between life and death.
The technology behind the radar system that detect incoming mortar rounds is the subject of a new U.S. Army contract that Raytheon Co. is working on in North Texas.
Raytheon recently won a $45.5 million job to build the prototype of the Ku Band Multi-Function Radio Frequency Sense and Warn radars.
The Waltham, Mass.-based company said about half of the work is being conducted at its facilities in McKinney and Richardson. The prototype is meant to extend the warning time provided by radar systems already in place, which Raytheon also developed, said J.C. Hudson, the McKinney-based director for business development for combat and sensing systems.
Hudson declined to comment on the range of the sensor systems.
Raytheon got involved in the project when the Army found that its previous radar system - not a Raytheon product - rang too many false alarms.
"The soldiers, and everybody that was in the (forward operating base), after a while said, "It's just a false alarm. Don't worry about it," and they started to ignore it," Hudson said.
About 150 to 200 of Raytheon's 12,000 North Texas employees are working on the project, Hudson said.
Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems location in Richardson is helping to build the radars, and Raytheon Network Centric Systems, based in McKinney, is assembling the systems, Hudson said.
He said it's possible Raytheon will add employees when it advances past the prototype stage to full-scale production.
The defense industry and related fields account for about 10 percent of the regional economy, said Terry Clower, director of the University of North Texas Center for Economic Development and Research.
"Ten percent doesn't sound like a lot, but for one industry it represents a lot," Clower said. 'That's a broad spectrum of industries that you could think of as a defense cluster of activities."
Contracts like Raytheon's Army radar work are particularly important because they support high-wage jobs, including at a subcontractor level.
"All of that winds up helping boost other parts of the regional economy," Clower said.
One of the subcontractors on the Raytheon project is Hillsboro, Ore.-based TriQuint Semiconductor, a Raytheon spokesman said. TriQuint employs 750 people at its Richardson semiconductor plant.
TriQuint spokesman Mark Andrews declined to comment on the specific Raytheon project but said the company works with Raytheon on a number of projects.
"Typically we provide what's called active power devices that will go into systems such as communications and radar," Andrews said. "Sometimes we sell them what we call standard products and sometimes we fabricate their circuits for them. It varies from program to program."
Hudson said the radar project is especially important to Raytheon because of the advanced technology involved, as well as its relevance to the armed forces.
"We have a lot of people who work for us that are either in the Guard Reserve, that have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, that have children, relatives and family members that are over there now," he said. "When we take on a job like this, not just for numbers, it takes a little bit deeper meaning for us."