The Ukraine war and China concerns are fueling a growing U.S. demand for missiles and other munitions. The defense industrial base that makes propulsion systems for those weapons is attracting a surge of new investment to help boost its output.
Lockheed Martin Bringing a New Supplier to the Scene
The latest development in that trend came when Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO James Taiclet revealed on September 20 that his organization is in “late-stage negotiations” with an undisclosed company to create a new supplier of solid-propellant rocket motors (SRMs). Taiclet made his brief comment on the matter during a hearing on defense innovation before the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cyber, Information Technologies, and Innovation.
Taiclet testified before the congressional panel alongside Brian Schimpf, co-founder and CEO of Anduril Industries, which recently entered the propulsion business through an acquisition. Anduril announced in June that it purchased SRM manufacturer Adranos for an undisclosed sum and would provide “critical resources” to help the small company dramatically expand production at its factory in Stone County, Mississippi.
“We’re investing heavily to get that technology as ramped as possible, to add as much capacity to the industrial base as possible,” Schimpf told the House panel. “We’re looking to the government to help facilitate that investment as well.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne, one of two major U.S. producers of SRMs, is also getting a funding boost.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced in April that its Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization has agreed to provide $215.6 million to Aerojet Rocketdyne to expand and modernize the company’s factories in Camden, AR; Huntsville, AL; and Orange County, VA. The upgraded facilities will be able to speed up SRM production for Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) artillery rockets.
“The U.S. has provided Javelins, Stingers, and GMLRS rockets to the Ukrainian government, and the modernization of Aerojet Rocketdyne facilities will benefit DoD as it replenishes its ammunition supplies,” the department said. The DoD investment is also expected to create “technical and skilled labor jobs at multiple domestic facilities,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks added.
Acquisitions in propulsion Capabilities
L3Harris Technologies acquired Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.7 billion in July, giving the latter access to the expertise and resources of a much larger company. L3Harris chair and CEO Chris Kubasik said at the Jefferies Industrials Conference on September 7 that his company plans to help Aerojet Rocketdyne catch up on several programs in which it has experienced delays. “We’re identifying the root causes and are coming up with corrective actions,” he said.
The other major U.S. producer of SRMs is Northrop Grumman, which gained that role with its acquisition of Orbital ATK for $9.2 billion in 2018. Northrop Grumman’s propulsion work includes developing some of the large SRMs that will propel the new Sentinel Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), which will replace the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.