Hughes Aircraft Co. said Thursday that it has joined an international consortium of companies developing plans for a sweeping, $10-billion modernization of the Soviet Union's air traffic control system.
The consortium, Global Air Transportation Systems and Services, was formed in April by Westinghouse Electric Corp. and includes American Telephone & Telegraph Co., International Business Machines Corp., Deutsche Aerospace Co. in Germany and C-Itoh in Japan.
In deciding to join the consortium, Hughes is abandoning an effort begun last fall to go after the Soviet project on its own. Hughes' decision came after the Soviet aviation agency asked that the company work with the consortium.
"It didn't make sense to compete against the consortium," said Walter Bender, a marketing executive at Hughes headquarters in Westchester. "What we bring to the table is experience in air traffic control and satellite technology."
Using $3 million in seed money supplied by its members, the consortium will develop plans to modernize the 1960s-era Soviet air traffic control system.
Hughes' Ground Systems Group in Fullerton, which is building a $370-million air-traffic system for Canada, will lead the company's research effort. Hughes' satellite division in El Segundo and its network technology division in Germantown, Md., will also be involved in the project.
The Soviet Union plans to modernize its air traffic control system by 2015. The consortium's plan proposes to complete the system a decade earlier, by 2005.
The $10-billion project is even larger than a $5-billion contract awarded to an IBM-led contracting team in 1987 to revamp the U.S. system. Hughes was an unsuccessful bidder on that project.
The consortium will present its initial study to the Soviet Ministry of Civil Aviation in September, Bender said. The study will include plans for the system's design, technology, financing options and other aspects.
Because of the troubled state of the Soviet economy, the method of payment is expected to be a difficult issue, Bender said. He said he could not predict how many jobs the project might create because of its long-term nature.
Bender said the plan's economic benefits would include improving access to Soviet markets, making airports less expensive to build in the Soviet Union and reducing the costs of global air travel by opening routes across the vast country.
The Soviet system, Bender said, will take advantage of new technologies such as satellite-based navigation and communications systems, which would be cheaper than a network of ground-based radars used in the United States.