Textron Systems is a leading company in the aerospace, defense, homeland security, and infrastructure protection industries. It specializes in the design, development, and manufacture of unmanned systems (aerial, land, and water); armored vehicles; geospatial information management and analysis systems; marine craft; electronic warfare and cyber warfare systems; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.
Despite this expansive portfolio, the leadership of Textron Systems don’t rest on their laurels. The company continually seeks to expand its portfolio and capabilities. In January, for example, Textron announced the acquisition of Howe & Howe Technologies, a Maine-based firm that specializes in the design, development, and production of unmanned land vehicles. During the acquisition announcement, Lisa Atherton, the company’s chief executive officer (CEO), stated, “Textron Systems is now positioned to be a global provider of unmanned capabilities across all three domains. We are clear on the U.S. military’s vision and their future technology needs for autonomy, robotics, and unmanned systems. Bringing together Textron Systems’ and Howe & Howe’s talent, capabilities, and proven products will join two of the best, and we are excited at the idea of advancing the industry even further as one team.”
During the year, the company will have four separate opportunities to prove its technological expertise. The U.S. military has an ambitious and densely packed acquisition schedule for 2019. Textron Systems will be focusing on four acquisition projects that are already underway and seeking to find a manufacturer. More specifically, the Army is looking to equip its infantry elements with a next-generation squad weapon (NGSW); searching for a replacement for its RQ-7 Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which is manufactured by Textron Systems; seeking to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV), ideally with a high-tech, next-generation combat vehicle (NGCV); and scouting (alongside the Marine Corps) for a robotic vehicle that will be capable of ferrying the equipment of soldiers for the Squad Mobility Equipment Transport competition.
Squad mobility equipment transport
With regard to this contest, Textron Systems is a strong competitor with its RS2-H1 Robot, manufactured by Howe & Howe Technologies, which was recently incorporated into the company. Earlier in the project’s cycle, the company sent a number of prototypes to Marine Corps mechanized units and to two Army combat brigade teams. After rigorous testing, the prototypes were returned with important feedback and accepted for the next round of testing. During the final assessment evolution, the RS2-H1 completed a 60-mile movement through Georgia’s jungle carrying more than 1,000 pounds of equipment; the Textron Systems vehicle managed this feat in little more than 29 minutes. Because of its performance, the Army designated the RS2-H1 as ready for immediate service. The competition, however, continues.
Robotic combat vehicle
The acquisition of Howe & Howe Technologies offers another advantage to Textron Systems when it comes to the next-generation combat vehicle. The company will enter the competition with the Ripsaw vehicle, an agile and extremely fast (65 mph) unmanned tracked vehicle. The Ripsaw comes in a number of variants, ranging from a smaller reconnaissance version to a larger and heavily armed version (among other weapons, it can be outfitted with Javelin anti-tank missiles and .50-caliber machine guns). One of the more intriguing features of the Ripsaw, however, is its ability to be easily disassembled in the field. For instance, if a Ripsaw is taken out by the enemy, its functioning parts can easily be cannibalized for use in other vehicles. The vehicle has shown so much promise that a limited series of civilian versions are available for purchase.
The future tactical unmanned aerial system
Regarding the Army’s new tactical UAV, Textron Systems also has a strong case. During the initial trials, the company submitted its chosen project, the Aerosonde HQ. The UAV, which is capable of land and maritime operations, comes with a comprehensive array of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) sensors, to include full-motion day and night infrared video. Equally important is the Aerosonde HQ’s capability to launch and land vertically.
Next-generation squad weapons
Finally, with regard to the next-generation squad weapons competition, which intends to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), Textron Systems is entering with a 6.5mm caseless rifle and a 5.56mm light machine gun. “We believe we are the leaders in the case-telescoped prototypes for the Army’s next-generation squad weapon with our lightweight small-arms technologies,” said Atherton during a media briefing.
The company’s stock is currently orbiting at the $50 mark, with a $72 year high and $43 year low.
The Pentagon is investing greatly in the sort of projects in which Textron Systems specializes. For the 2019 fiscal year, the Department of Defense (DoD) has apportioned almost half a billion dollars, nearly double the $212 million of the 2017 fiscal year. This is yet another testament to Textron Systems’ potential for growth in the near future.
Established in 1955, Textron Systems is based in Wilmington, Massachusetts, and operates offices around the globe, to include Australia, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.