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Martin Marietta Program Shows Importance of Navy Bases

A little-known operation of giant Martin Marietta Corp. provides an example of the kind of business that could go elsewhere if Ventura County’s Navy bases at Point Mugu and Port Hueneme are closed.

The unit is an engineering and maintenance facility based at Hueneme’s Naval Surface Warfare Center. Actually, it’s been active at both Hueneme and Mugu.

From Hueneme, Martin Marietta maintains and updates an important part of the Aegis missile-defense system, a computerized radar-tracking weapons-control unit used heavily by the navies of the United States, Japan, Turkey and other nations. The Aegis system is designed to intercept and destroy aircraft and missiles that are attacking a ship.

In addition, the company’s Ventura County unit also has a hand in the operations of a decommissioned destroyer, the Decatur, that is testing various shipboard-defense systems against simulated attacks off the coast.

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The vessel, called a self-defense test ship, was launched at Hueneme but is unmanned and is actually piloted remotely by the weapons division at Mugu’s Naval Air Warfare Center. The ship’s combat systems are controlled from Hueneme. The ship tows a decoy barge that will be the target of simulated attacks, and the shipboard-defense systems will try to intercept these attacks, much along the lines of the Aegis system.

This is all part of an $81.2-million, five-year contract the U.S. Navy just awarded Martin Marietta, based in Bethesda, Md., to provide engineering and repair support for Aegis at half a dozen military bases across the country. Some of that work will be done by Martin Marietta’s Port Hueneme operation, which currently employs 80 engineers and technicians.

The number of workers isn’t large, but they’re well-paid. And their work provides an example of the economic and military importance of the two bases, which between them employ 20,000 civilians and service personnel, contributing an estimated $1.5 billion annually to the local economy.

Neal Linkon, a spokesman for Martin Marietta’s services group, says the Navy contract will increase in value to $132.5 million if all options are exercised.

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“Our experience has been that the Navy usually keeps these programs going,” he notes. “It’s much more economical than interrupting them and starting all over again later.”

Thanks to the important new contract, the jobs of Martin Marietta’s Port Hueneme employees seem relatively secure. There will be changes, however.

It’s expected that Martin Marietta’s pending merger with Calabasas-based Lockheed Corp. will be completed soon. When that happens, the local workers will be working for a new company, to be called Lockheed Martin Corp., within the next few months.

And depending on decisions that will soon be made by the government’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission, the Martin Marietta employees and thousands like them could continue working in Ventura County--or be moved to a Navy facility in China Lake or some other faraway place.

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