Bath Iron Works is seen in this May 18, 2017, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

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Bath Iron Works has signed a contract with a Guilford company to deliver machines needed to ramp up its production of testing swabs used to detect the new coronavirus.

The Bath shipyard will deliver 30 machines to provide sterile packaging for Puritan Medical Products’ testing swabs, according to a company statement.

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The U.S. Air Force, which is coordinating the contracts under the Defense Production Act, identified the shipyard as “uniquely capable” of delivering the machines within the necessary timeframe, the shipyard’s parent company, General Dynamics, said in a Wednesday statement. The Defense Production Act, which dates back to the Korean War, gives the president the authority to require businesses to produce materials deemed necessary for national defense.

“BIW is able to devote engineering, design and production expertise to this important humanitarian project while remaining focused on our critical mission of building ships for the U.S. Navy,” Bath Iron Works President Dirk Lesko said in the statement. “We are also leveraging a wide network of supplier relationships to quickly meet this acute need.”

Puritan Medical Products is one of the top two makers in the world of the testing swabs needed to detect the coronavirus. Owned by Hardwood Products Co. LP, it has about 550 workers, and in response to the spike in demand for the testing swabs, Puritan plans to open a new facility in Pittsfield and hire another 140 workers. Last week, the federal government awarded Puritan $75.5 million to boost its production of the testing swabs.

Puritan is teaming up with Pittsfield-based Cianbro and Bath Iron Works as part of that effort.

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