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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Defence giants in spying battle
Atlas rocket
The Atlas rocket was at the heart of the disputed programme
Lockheed Martin has sued rival defence contractor Boeing, alleging industrial espionage in the race for US Air Force contracts.

According to the lawsuit, Boeing misappropriated secret Lockheed documents relating to its bid for a $2bn (1.2bn) rocket programme in 1998.

This information, Lockheed said, helped Boeing win 21 of the 28 tendered military satellite launches, part of the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programme.

A former Lockheed engineer, Kenneth Branch, who went to work for McDonnell Douglas, passed the information on when his firm was acquired by Boeing, the complaint alleges.

Lockheed is seeking damages, the return of all proprietary information, and an injunction banning Boeing from profiting from illicitly-acquired knowledge in the future.

'Commitment to ethics'

Mr Branch's activities have already come under scrutiny from the Air Force and the Justice Department.

Mr Branch sued Lockheed for wrongful dismissal in 1999, but his case was dismissed in 2002.

Earlier this week, Boeing acknowledged that some of its staff had behaved improperly, but stressed that it had dealt with the matter, sacking two workers and disciplining a third.

The firm published full-page advertisements in five US newspapers on Monday, stressing its commitment to ethical business.

It said it would deal with the Lockheed lawsuit through "the appropriate legal venues".

Francis Tusa, defence analyst
"Is the Pentagon going to be willing to hang Boeing out to dry?"

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