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Sypris to build military computer

Sypris Electronics has been awarded a federal contract valued at up to $43-million to produce a rugged and secure communications device that will be used by military troops and government agencies.

The base contract is for $20.2-million for two years. If the government exercises the contract's options by the end of the year, the Tampa company's revenue from the contract could reach the $43-million total.

"Demand for the product will dictate when the options are exercised and for how much, but we expect 100 percent to be exercised," said Sypris Electronics president Jim Cocke.

The device will be the primary interface for most of the secure communications equipment used by the armed services and the federal government. Designed to withstand a hostile or rugged environment, it is comprised of a handheld computer and an integrated security card that Sypris developed over five years under government contract.

There are no significant changes planned for the Tampa plant or its staff of about 700. Although the engineering work already is under way, production is expected to begin in October.

"We got the word last month, so it's something that we've been expecting," Cocke said. "We're pretty much prepared for it. We've already added engineering staff."

Company officials said they could not release other specifics about the conditions of the contract, who will use the device or what it does because that is classified. However, Cocke said in a statement that the products would play "a critical role in supporting our troops and the national defense effort."

Sypris was awarded a $6.2-million contract in February to design an encryption upgrade for a handheld computer used by field troops.

_ Benita D. Newton can be reached at or (727) 893-8318.