Army’s $14.8 million weapons order to benefit Biddeford manufacturer

Posted Aug. 15, 2013, at 1:18 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — A Biddeford defense contractor will benefit from a $14.8 million contract to build remote weapon stations for the U.S. Army.

For the past several years, Biddeford manufacturer VingTech has been working on the production of the M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS, which provides soldiers the capability to identify and engage enemy targets from the inside a protected armored vehicle.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office announced Thursday that the U.S. Army has placed a $14.8 million order for CROWS systems.

The contract is actually awarded to a Norwegian company, Kongsberg Protech Systems, but as a subcontractor VingTech will complete most of the production work at its Biddeford plant, according to Torgrim Jorgensen, VingTech’s vice president of programs and sales.

“At this stage, we don’t know any more than that,” Jorgensen told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday. “The only thing I can say is it will secure the work we do at VingTech.”

The “majority” of the work VingTech does in Biddeford is on the CROWS systems for Kongsberg, though it does have other clients, Jorgensen said.

VingTech is the U.S. subsidiary of a Norwegian company called Simrad Optronics ASA, which in turn is owned by German giant Rheinmetall Defence. Simrad Optronics established VingTech in Biddeford in January 2007. The Biddeford manufacturer currently employs approximately 35 people, Jorgensen said.

The contract from the U.S. Army is part of a larger “framework agreement” Kongsberg received from the federal government in August 2012. That agreement could potentially be worth $970 million over the next five years, but it doesn’t ensure work. It only means that when the Army does place an order, such as the current $14.8 million deal, the company with the framework contract gets the work, Jorgensen said.

Funding for the CROWS weapon system was authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 and the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, both of which Collins supported, according to a news release from the senator’s office.

“I have seen the CROWS in operation firsthand, and it is one of the most requested weapons systems by soldiers serving overseas,” Collins said in a statement. “This contract will make more of these systems available throughout the Army and also provide significant work for VingTech.”

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