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The Associated Press July 03, 2003

Congressional bill could allow GE to build new Navy ship engine

A proposed congressional spending bill could allow General Electric Co. to compete for a contract worth as much as $1 billion to build engines for a new Navy ship.

Ohio Republican Rep. Rob Portman's short addition to the $369 billion defense spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on June 26 would grant a company $20 million to build a prototype engine for the Navy's new DD(X).

GE's jet engine division, GE Aircraft Engines, based in this Cincinnati suburb, has a long history with the Navy, providing large gas marine turbine engines for decades with little competition.

The Senate must first write a defense spending bill of its own.

The prototype engine would compete against Rolls-Royce's version. Rolls-Royce was chosen earlier this year to build a test version of the new, 36-megawatt engine that will propel the DD(X).

Paula Kollstedt, a GE Aircraft Engines spokeswoman, said the contract for the new engine could be worth $1 billion.

"This keeps GE in the ballgame," said Portman's spokesman, Kyle Downing, adding that he thinks GE is the only company that can build a competing engine.

GE Aircraft Engines, which employs about 7,500 people in Evendale, and Rolls-Royce may convert their large aircraft engines for use in the DD(X).

The DD(X) will use the 36 megawatt engine and a small 4-megawatt one, which GE and Rolls-Royce are already competing to build.

Northrop Grumman is designing the DD(X) to help the Navy become more nimble. The ship, which is expected to be produced in 2007, is often referred to "the destroyer of the future" and will come in several sizes.

The DD(X)'s guns will fire 12 rounds per minute and hit targets 100 miles away. The proposed House defense spending bill contains $928 million for the ship this year.

An estimated 70 DD(X) ships worth $100 billion will be built, according to Globalsecurity.org, a defense think tank.

Competition between Rolls-Royce and GE to build ship engines could lower prices for the Navy and give it more options, defense industry experts said.

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press