BOULDER - Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has been awarded a $23.9 million contract to build the Stalker, a sensor system that will help the U.S. Navy protect its ships from hostile threats.

The contract is through the NATO Seasparrow Project Office in Washington, D.C., and includes options for up to $10 million of additional work that could include spare system components, field support and engineering.

Technically, Stalker is a long-range electro-optical infrared laser sensor system.

Boulder-based Ball Aerospace will be building the system based on a prototype it has developed. It will test the system and install it on certain ships.

The system will improve the Navy’s ability to detect, classify, identify and determine hostile intent of potential threats to its ships, including the intent of small boats and other surface contacts to give ships additional time to respond. Ball’s support to the NATO Seasparrow Project Office spans more than four decades and is the longest continuously running project at Ball Aerospace.

"Stalker provides an important capability to the NATO Seasparrow missile system," said Rob Freedman, vice president and general manager for Ball's Tactical Solutions business unit. "Ball's improved technology and independent mount application will provide increased ship self-defense capability across more of the U.S. Naval fleet – providing protection against new threats at sea.”