Northrop Grumman Amherst Systems plans to increase its work force by more than 10 percent this year, as it produces more training systems to help U.S. military pilots survive ground-based threats.
The company on March 1 will expand into leased space at 65 Lawrence Bell Drive in Amherst, and expects to add 45 to 55 jobs this year, said Jeffrey Palombo, Amherst Systems' president. The defense contractor already has more than 400 employees.
Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, visited Amherst Systems on Monday to mark the awarding of $12.5 million in federal funds to the company to build what are known as advanced threat simulator systems. The funds, secured with Reynolds' help, were included in the federal budget for the 2006 fiscal year.
Amherst Systems is developing even more sophisticated systems designed to improve pilot training, Palombo said.
"It's the next generation for threat training for all our pilots," he said. "It really is a leap ahead of current technology."
The systems simulate combat conditions for pilots involving surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery.
The newer systems, Palombo said, are reprogrammable, so that pilots can experience different kinds of simulated threats each time they fly through a test range.
Another feature of the newer systems: they have a "reactive" capability. If a pilot uses a jamming signal to try to thwart a simulated missile, the system can read that signal and detect if it would have succeeded in disrupting the attack.
The new systems will gradually replace existing training systems now in the field, Palombo said. "We're looking at this as a long-term production contract for the next 10 years."
It could also generate work overseas: Palombo said some NATO allies, whom he declined to name, have expressed interest in the systems. That could serve a dual purpose: helping NATO countries' pilots obtain the same training as Americans, as well as giving American pilots an opportunity to train when they are overseas.