updated 1/4/2010 5:49:25 PM ET 2010-01-04T22:49:25

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. said Monday it's moving its corporate office from Los Angeles to the Washington, D.C., area to be closer to key government customers.

The company said it expects to make the move by 2011.

Northrop said it was looking for a location in the Washington area, including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. It plans to pick a site by this spring and open the office in summer 2011.

The corporate office will house only 300 of Northrop's 120,000 employees worldwide but give it a symbolic and physical tie to the nation's capital. Other defense contractors are located near Washington, including Lockheed Martin Corp., which is based in the suburb of Bethesda, Maryland.

Northrop said about 30,000 employees would remain in California to perform research, development and manufacturing. The company's aerospace systems sector is based in Redondo Beach, California.

Jack Northrop founded Northrop Aircraft Inc. in California in 1939. The company built jet fighters for the U.S. and other militaries, then expanded to make guided missiles, the B-2 stealth bomber and other defense systems. Northrop also provides electronics, shipbuilding and technical services to government customers and other companies.

Northrop acquired Grumman Corp., another military aircraft maker, in 1994.

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