Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) Thursday said it was selected as the preferred bidder on a $1.19 billion contract to maintain and support Britain's AWACS (search) fleet, a significant win for the No. 3 U.S. defense contractor.

The Los Angeles company said the 21-year agreement covers the Royal Air Force's (search) fleet of E-3D Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft.

"This positions us extremely well within the U.K. Ministry of Defense," said Northrop spokesman Randy Belote, noting that the company hoped to play a larger role in helping Britain update its overall intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

Northrop said it would discuss program details with the British Ministry of Defence, with an anticipated contract award date of January 2005. About 165 people will be employed under the contract, including about 145 in the United Kingdom.

Separately, Northrop said it won a $400 million five-year award from the U.S. Army (search) as prime contractor for the Command Post Platform Development and Integration Program.

Northrop said the award includes an initial $26 million contract for design and construction of 10 prototype Army command posts.

Under the contract, Northrop Grumman will develop and field Army command posts, where commanders direct operations and control forces. The program provides common command centers with advanced command-and-control hardware and technology to give commanders improved control over their digital forces.