General Dynamics lands $13M Navy contract extension for Pittsfield work

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WASHINGTON — General Dynamics will continue to produce fire-control systems that go to sea aboard U.S. Navy submarines, securing jobs for a large Pittsfield workforce.

The company's division in Pittsfield received a $13 million extension this week to a Defense Department contract, the office of U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, announced.

On Thursday, Neal went to the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, which is poised to get $42.6 million from the Defense Department to build a massive new maintenance hangar.

The hangar will replace a 70-year-old structure used to inspect and service all of the 55 C-5M Super Galaxy jets operated by the U.S. Air Force, according to a Westover spokesman. The base itself operates eight of the big jets, the largest in the U.S. military.

Pittsfield work

The General Dynamics contract covers work to be done through December 2020, 97 percent of it in Pittsfield, home to one of the company's Missions Systems plants. The equipment will be used in the new Columbia class of submarines that are expected to go into service in 2031.

Neal said the extension will help keep more than 1,000 General Dynamics employees working in Pittsfield.

"The Navy is really poised for the new submarine series," he said. "This is a big, big employee prospect. You're talking about building, I think, 10 new submarines."

"General Dynamics is really in a good spot," Neal said of the company and its Pittsfield division. "Time and again they have mentioned to me that they can use more employees."

Laura Hooks, a vice president of General Dynamics Mission Systems, said the company expected the extension, which had been negotiated under the existing Navy contract.

"This this work has been anticipated and planned," Hooks said in a statement to The Eagle. "This modification will maintain our existing employment levels and shows the confidence the U.S. Navy has in General Dynamics."

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In 2017, General Dynamics landed a $5.1 billion design contract for the new Columbia submarines, according to the publication Defense News. The submarines are being designed by the company's Electric Boat division in Connecticut.

According to the Defense Department, the contract extension awarded Tuesday is worth $13,067,576.

Along with fire control, the contract covers work for launch control systems on guided missile submarines, along with research and development and training and support.

Most of the funding for the work — a little over $10 million — comes from the U.S. Navy. But $2.2 million will be provided by the United Kingdom.

The products coming out of Pittsfield will also be used in that country's Dreadnought-class submarines, according to an online description posted by the Defense Department.

In all, the cost of the new Columbia class submarines will run about $128 billion, according to Defense News.

The award to Westover represents just over half of the $84.8 million allocated to the Air Force Reserves in the funding round. Westover is the largest such base in the U.S. and employs about 3,000 people.

Neal said Thursday he has advocated for a more modern maintenance hangar at the Chicopee base since he went to Congress three decades ago. "It will better equip Westover to fulfill its mission now and into the future," he said in a statement.

Work on the hangar is expected to start in 2020 and take 18 months. The facility will be the size of two football fields.

The new building will be high enough inside to pull the jets inside. Their tail sections do not fit in the current World War II-era hangar, forcing maintenance crews to work outdoors.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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