As the Pentagon winds down two foreign wars and defense priorities change, the defense industry is undergoing a drastic shift that is seeing some areas lose funding while other areas thrive.
Such is the case in a three county coastal area of Southern California that includes Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties,reports the Pacific Coast Business Times. Raytheon, who has a significant presense in Goleta, CA, is laying off about 160 people, which lowers the Massachusetts-based defense contractor’s employee count South Coast down to about 1,400.
Yet firms in the regions who work on space-based communications and small drones say they are seeing growth and adding jobs. Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense Co. invested in the region last year when it bought Special Devices, a manufacturer of pyrotechnics for space and missile systems. The former Special Devices complex is 265 acres and has 166,628 square feet of warehouse, manufacturing and office buildings.
The fighter drone industry is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years and because of it, a bidding war for Camarillo-based defense electronics firm AML Communications surfaced last month. Irvine-based Microsemi Corp. won the bid and now owns AML, which creates electronics used in unmanned aerial vehicles and signal-jamming equipment.
AeroVironment, which is designing and building small, hand-launched drones, is another area company that is seeing sales improve. AeroVironment also has a commercial division that is creating charging stations for the Nissan Leaf and other electric vehicle technologies. A company spokesperson told the Pacific Coast Business Times that the company is working to apply its drone know-how to commercial markets.
“We don’t think the market opportunity for small unmanned aerial vehicle systems is limited to military customers,” said Steven Gitlin, a spokesman for AeroVironment. “Law enforcement, first responders, even companies that have to inspect widely distributed assets like pipelines and wire lines could use our system to great effect.”
Camarillo-based Lucix Corp. is having substantial sales growth due to a contract with Boeing for a major NASA project, as well as a military-based satellite communications contract. Lucix creates components that will help the military replace its AWACS planes.
The growing base of developing warfare-related technologies is a bright spot of news as the defense industry readjusts to tightening budgets.