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Navy Awards Prototype Production Contract for LCAC Replacement

The Farnborough Air Show in the U.K. is ongoing and normally one expects companies to announce large, aviation contracts. Even so one of the more interesting contracts awarded recently was by the U.S. Navy. This was to Textron, Inc. (TXT) and will begin initial production of the new hovercraft based landing craft for fast delivery of men and equipment from amphibious ships.

In the Eighties the Navy developed the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) for this mission. The advantage of the hovercraft based system was that it was much faster then traditional landing crafts, could drive further onto the beach and also traverse other types of terrains. The LCAC have seen heavy use in humanitarian operations as the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have not done an amphibious assault in many years.

The close to $213 million contract is to build the first prototypes of the new Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) as well as design efforts and training material. Textron was the original designer and manufacturer of the LCAC.

The SSC is an improved version of the LCAC able to carry heavier loads as well as be easier to maintain. Many of the requirements have been driven by the need to transport heavier, more armored vehicles now used by the Marine Corps. This heavier weight has been caused by the IED and mine threat most common in Iraq and Afghanistan

If things go well Textron will receive follow-on contracts to begin larger scale production of more SSC to replace the aging LCAC fleet.

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The New Obama Doctrine: Doing Less with Less

The Obama Administration announced its new strategy for the U.S. armed forces yesterday that will reflect future budget reality for the Defense Department. While no nation ever wants to state that its military size and missions are backed into a total budget number rather they claim to be buying the necessary capability at a certain price. The Obama defense team stood there yesterday and made that claim.

It really is though a combination of the two. The U.S. is under severe budgetary pressure. The Supercommittee failed which mandates a series of cuts to all spending including defense over the next several years. The DoD and Armed Services will have less money to buy things so our capability will be reduced. Similar to the Nineties with the ending of the Cold War but worse due to the current economic state and the overall size of the military.

The core change enunciated is the ending of the “Two War” plan which supposedly drove U.S. strategy since WW II. The U.S. had to have the ability to deal with a major war in Europe and a regional one. The new plan limits our ability to fighting one war and containing another. Conventional forces especially will be reduced to mean troops, aircraft, ships and heavy equipment.

That does not mean there are not opportunities as the hope is to use new systems such as UAV’s and better intelligence to make up for the lack of firepower. Special Forces will be used for regional conflicts rather then heavy brigades deploying such as they did to Iraq and Afghanistan. They will need equipment and force multipliers from across the spectrum.

The defense industry will also have to contract and adjust. There may not be any new heavy programs for several years. Aircraft will be limited to the F-35, the KC-46A and a new bomber of some sort. Carriers, destroyers and submarines along with amphibious ships will be cut and construction of new ones reduced. The Army and Marines will lose boots on the ground and the need to train, equip and support them. Big contracts will be fewer and competition for them much greater until the industry right sizes.

We will probably see many companies exiting the business. Either through M&A or just testing other markets to just disappearing. This will be hardware and support contractors. The DoD workforce will also shrink. Some communities will be hit hard as Wichita, KS is learning this week.

Congress will fight for some programs with each other and the Administration. The budget may not shrink as fast as planned and individual efforts may be saved.

All-in-all the next ten years will see a major adjustment to what the U.S. invests in its military and to the defense economy as a whole. Long term a path similar to the United Kingdom where conventional forces have shrunk precipitously over the last thirty years may be the best case. No matter what the U.S. defense budget will go down for a few years with a magnifying effect on the U.S. economy.

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General Dynamics Team to Demonstrate Sensor Data Subsystem Capabilities to the U.S. Marine Corps — Press Release

General Dynamics Team to Demonstrate Sensor Data Subsystem Capabilities to the U.S. Marine Corps

Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) delivers airspace management, close air support and air defense operations to standardize aviation command and control capabilities for the Marine Corps.

Scottsdale, Ariz. – A General Dynamics C4 Systems-led team has received a $5 million U.S. Marine Corps contract to develop an integrated technology demonstrator of the Sensor Data Subsystem (SDS). The subsystem is the last of three major subsystems that comprise Increment 1 of the Marine Corps’ Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S). The system will enable unprecedented coordination between aviation assault and close air support for Marines on the ground.

SDS processes and combines real-time sensor input from expeditionary radars and other weapon systems sources to form a common operational picture for commanders and their staffs at the Marine Air Control Group level.

Once the other two subsystems, the Processing and Display Subsystem and the Communications Subsystem, are integrated with the Sensor Data Subsystem, CAC2S will become a scalable, modular and flexible command and control system capable of rapid deployment.

CAC2S is High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV)-based and transportable using helicopters, aircraft and amphibious ships, significantly increasing Marine Corps’ battlefield mobility. It also is smaller, lighter and more power-efficient than previous generations of Marine aviation command and control systems.

Manny Mora, vice president and general manager of Battle Management Systems for General Dynamics C4 Systems, said, “Once the Sensor Data Subsystem is combined with the other two subsystems, CAC2S will provide airspace management, close air support and air defense operations in one standardized system for Marine aviation command and control operations.”

The General Dynamics team includes Fulton, Maryland-based Raytheon Solipsys. Raytheon Solipsys is responsible for providing the Multi-Source Correlator Tracker, which tracks real-time radar inputs, and the Tactical Display Framework, a high-performance, real-time tactical display of air operations. Smartonix, Stafford, Va.; Ternion, Huntsville, Ala.; and L-3 Communications, San Diego, Calif., are also members of the team.

In 2009, General Dynamics was selected by the Marine Corps to provide nine Combat Operations Center (COC) Capability Set III systems as part of the government’s CAC2S initial integration of the Processing and Display Subsystem.

For more information about General Dynamics C4 Systems, please visit www.gdc4s.com.

More information about General Dynamics is available at www.generaldynamics.com.

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Coast Guard Orders fourth National Security Cutter from Northrop Grumman

Despite their potential plans to exit the shipbuilding business as well as moving ahead with closing some of their existing shipyards Northrop Grumman (NOC) still is receiving contracts for new ships. This is on top of their existing work refitting U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and other ships as well as participating in the building of amphibious ships and destroyers.

The latest contract they received was from the U.S. Coast Guard who ordered the fourth National Security Cutter (NSC) from the company. This contract is worth almost five hundred million dollars. So far two of the ships have been delivered with a third under construction.

The National Security or Legend class cutter is one of the new ships, aircraft and other systems that the U.S.C.G. included in their Deepwater System program to provide major upgrades to their capability. They are large ships with comprehensive electronic systems and have high speed and long range to enable them to patrol a larger area more efficiently.

Northrop has used the NSC hull and design as the basis for a rapidly available frigate design offered to the U.S. Navy. This would be used to support the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) under construction by General Dynamics (GD) and Lockheed Martin (LMT).

The U.S. demand for combat ships is being reduced and further budget pressure may reduce them even more. This has led Northrop to discuss exiting the shipbuilding business completely. There have already been companies offering to buy the capability but the large defense contractor has yet to move on the sale.

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