Lott: multibillion dollar aircraft contract to bring jobs to Miss.

Published 3:33 pm Thursday, June 14, 2007

A multibillion military contract for the construction of cargo aircraft could bring as many as 100 jobs to Mississippi, U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran said Wednesday.

The Pentagon on Wednesday selected L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and its partners to supply C-27J cargo aircraft to the military, said Lott and Cochran, both R-Miss.

The New York-based L-3, leading a team that includes Alenia Aeronautica and Boeing Co., was selected over a rival bid from Raytheon Corp. and EADS CASA, which together were offering the C-295 cargo plane.

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The L-3 development team includes Global Military Aircraft Systems, which will place its C-27J program headquarters near Jackson and will work closely with another Mississippi company in the partnership, Madison’s Vertex Aerospace.

Vertex Aerospace will perform aircraft maintenance and logistics services for the C-27J.

“This is yet another win for Mississippi’s effort to attract the world’s best aerospace jobs. Vertex has long been one of Mississippi’s outstanding companies, performing quality logistics work at military bases across the globe,” Lott said.

Cochran agreed.

“The Department of Defense has recognized the quality work being done in Mississippi,” he said. “I am pleased this important part of our state will experience economic growth while supporting the men and women serving around the world to protect our freedoms.”

A senior advisory panel at the Pentagon picked the team led by L-3 to build 78 C-27J Spartan cargo planes by 2013, replacing the military’s aging light cargo aircraft, senior Army and Air Force officials said.

The L-3 plane costs slightly more than the cargo plane Raytheon offered but it has performed better on short runways, flying longer distances without refueling and is able to hold more weight.

The new planes will replace the C-23 Sherpa, a 23-year-old cargo plane built by Short Brothers plc, the C-36 and some of the C-12s, as well as other transport aircraft, such as Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook, which the Army has been using for battlefield support operations.

The Army’s initial plans to purchase up to 145 planes that support tactical missions, such as delivering supplies and deploying soldiers in combat, sparked a turf battle with the Air Force.

Maj. Gen. Marshall K. Sabol, the Air Force director for manpower, organization and resources, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing late Wednesday, that more aircraft are likely to be ordered in the future, but that funding for only 78 planes had been approved now.

Shares of L-3 jumped $2.13, or 2.3 percent, in late Wednesday trading while shares of Raytheon rose 36 cents to $56.18