By: Andy McKeever On: 09:31AM / Sunday January 16, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Guidance systems for nuclear missiles deployed on new and old Navy submarines will come from the hands of local workers.
Nearly 300 employees of local defense contractors received job security with a $494 million government contract released in December to modernize the country's Trident II missiles' guidance systems.
"Work on the MK 6 guidance system operations contract is performed in Pittsfield by 244 General Dynamic employees, 32 Raytheon Company employees and eight Draper Laboratory employees. This award is a continuation of our existing work and will sustain current employment levels over the next three years," said Kathleen Granchelli, direct of media relations and communications at Draper, in an e-mail. That information was provided by General Dynamics, she said.
The Department of Defense announced the contract last month to Cambridge-based Draper Laboratories to build guidance systems for the missiles deployed on Ohio-class submarines. Local employees at General Dynamics, Raytheon and Draper will be responsible for 11 percent of the project.
The system is an inertial guidance that sends steering commands to the missile during launch. Pittsfield's contingent will be providing technical engineering.
"Draper and its subcontractors' current efforts are to the ensure that the MK 6 can reliably operate its critical function through the year 2042. This includes replacing 1980s electronics with new technology," Granchelli said.
The system is for Trident II missiles that were developed in the late 1980s with a long-range and highly precise guidance system that allows for first-strike capability. The missile is considered one of the most important part of the country's nuclear arsenal.
The $494 million is a base contract with unexercised options that can be funded annually.
Draper is a nonprofit organization that provides research and development for multiple government agencies including NASA, the Air Force and the Navy. The laboratory has a satellite location on Merrill Road.
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For anyone who wants to better understand why we shouldn't be cheering contracts for work on *FIRST-STRIKE* nuclear weapons in our community -- or anywhere, for that matter -- watch the documentary "Countdown to Zero."