BIDDEFORD, Maine — A Biddeford manufacturer is expected to benefit from a nearly $1 billion defense contract to build remote weapon stations for the U.S. Army.
VingTech is a little-known manufacturer in Biddeford that employs 35 people, but for the past five years it’s been working on the production of the M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS II.
The new contract from the U.S. Army is for the continued production of the CROWS II system. It is potentially worth $970 million over five years.
The contract was awarded to a Norwegian company, Kongsberg Protech Systems, but as a sub-contractor VingTech will complete most of the production work at its Biddeford plant. VingTech is owned by German giant Rheinmetall Defence.
What portion of that $970 million will flow into VingTech is unclear, according to Torgrim Jorgensen, VingTech’s vice president of programs and sales.
This is not the first time VingTech will be working with Kongsberg. In fact, the company’s existence in Biddeford is as a direct result of the CROWS II system, Jorgensen told the Bangor Daily News.
Kongsberg received the first five-year contract for the CROWS II system in 2007. That same year, VingTech was established in Biddeford to service the contract and to give its owner a foothold in the U.S. market, Jorgensen said.
The CROWS II is “the majority of what we do,” Jorgensen said, but the company does have other clients.
The new $970 million contract is good news for VingTech, Jorgensen said. When Kongsberg’s initial five-year contract from 2007 was over, the Army put it back out to bid. Kongsberg won the contract again.
“For us it was significant that Kongsberg got the contract,” Jorgensen said. “The main thing for us is we are able to continue with business as before.”
He said the contract will allow the company to keep its 35 employees.
Defense contracts can be confusing, so it’s important to point out that Kongsberg’s contract is only a “framework agreement,” Jorgensen said. A framework contract doesn’t ensure work, it only means that when the Army does place an order, the company with the framework contract gets the work, Jorgensen said. To place an order, the Army needs funding.
“So now we hope to get Congress to fund the defense budget so the Army could buy under the contract,” he said.
The Administration’s Department of Defense budget request for Fiscal Year 2013 includes $56.7 million for 240 CROWS II systems, according to Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office.
In a statement, Sen. Snowe said the contract to Kongsberg is “welcome news” for Maine. “I am confident [VingTech’s] hard work in completing this project will continue to demonstrate the talent of our state’s world-class workforce,” Snowe said. “Additionally, I will continue to work to ensure that Congress supports this vital and combat-proven program with sufficient annual funding.”
In the past, Kongsberg also has used other Maine companies as subcontractors, including Maine Machine Products Co. in South Paris.