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We offer below a useful set of insights about the new new incoming CEO of Lockheed Martin by defense consultant Loren Thompson. Thompson, a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, plays a complex role in the defense community — sometimes a consultant, sometimes an analyst — but he is always someone with excellent access to senior industry and Pentagon officials. He offers his take on Marillyn Hewson (yes, there are two Ls in her first name), picked by Lockheed to replace errant Chris Kubasik, who was effectively sacked last week for having an affair with an employee. I had a long chat with Hewson during the Farnborough Air Show this year and Thompson’s comments sound right on target to me. This is reprinted in full from Thompson’s blog at the Lexington Institute. The Editor

There aren’t many people inside or outside Lockheed Martin who understand it better than Marillyn Hewson. She’s been with the company for so long that when she first joined the legacy Lockheed Corporation in 1983, its merger with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin still lay over ten years in the future. That’s an important feature of what she will bring to the table as Chief Executive Officer on January 1, because until current CEO and Chairman Bob Stevens took the helm eight years ago, the enterprise was little more than the sum of its previously independent parts. Stevens achieved major functional and financial synergies by integrating those legacy cultures, but you can’t really grasp what’s special about Lockheed Martin today unless you understand its heritage. Keep reading →

NATIONAL HARBOR: If Lockheed Martin harbored any hopes that the Pentagon might not be fully supportive of Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan’s critical comments about Lockheed Martin’s performance on the Joint Strike Fighter they were dashed this morning.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter referred to Bogdan as “Chris” and told the packed Air Force Association conference hall that: “I’m with him 100 percent.” Keep reading →

ST. LOUIS: Boeing renewed its campaign to bash Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and promote its F-18 fighters today, as the president of Boeing Military Aircraft slammed the Joint Strike Fighter while noting declining defense budgets here and abroad.

“The F-35 continues to delay and delay,” Christopher Chadwick told a group of reporters at Boeing’s defense headquarters here. “Yes, the F-35 has all-aspect stealth, but that is used in a relatively small part of the combat envelope.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: When then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Gen. James Amos that he was going to put the F-35B vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter on “probation” because of testing, structure and propulsion problems, the Marine Corps commandant didn’t argue; he just explained.

“I looked at him and said, ‘Sir, we need this airplane,'” Amos told me in his Pentagon office, recalling a conversation that took place two months before Gates publicly announced his decision last Jan. 6. Gates said that if the B variant couldn’t be put “back on track” within two years, “then I believe it should be canceled.” Keep reading →

Fort Worth: Lockheed Martin’s mile-long aircraft factory here sent the the twelfth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter produced this year to Eglin Air Force Base last Wednesday. Though no cause for champagne, the delivery marks an important milestone in the company’s efforts to ramp up production. The plane took less than half as many touch-labor hours to assemble as did the first two Air Force versions, both of which came off the production line on May 17 last year.

Company officials, about to enter negotiations for the fifth tranche of low rate initial production (LRIP 5), say the dramatic reduction over the past 18 months in the amount of time it takes Lockheed mechanics to put together one of the complex stealth fighters is a sign the program is recovering from the crisis it faced in February 2010. That’s when former Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the government’s F-35 program manager and withheld $614 million in payments to Lockheed because of cost overruns and schedule delays in the project, whose goal is to build more than 2,000 fighters for the United States and 10 other countries. Keep reading →

Washington: If you want proof that budgets are getting tighter and the Pentagon gets the message, just look at the last two days.

One system is dead and two are badly wounded, potentially totaling cuts of more than $22 billion.

The Army made it sort of official yesterday that the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) will vanish and the service instead will rely on what was originally an Air Force asset. The House Appropriations Committee had already moved to cut EMARSS’ $524 million funding from budget early this summer. The Air Force system, the MC-12 Liberty, is a modified two-engine Hawker Beechcraft KingAir that carries a largely classified suite of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors. The system was rushed into production to improve ISR capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Number two on the list is the nearly $20 billion Ground Mobile Radio program, apparently mortally wounded by the Office of Secretary of Defense after it failed to meet expectations after several years of field tests. It’s subject to a Nunn-McCurdy program review and word is that acting acquisition czar Frank Kendall is leaning toward the conclusion that the Pentagon can’t certify that the system is vital to national security, as required by the process set in motion after a program rises 25 percent or more in cost.

Finally, the Navy and Army are ready to throw the $5 billion Joint Air to Ground Missile system overboard to save some money, a not uncommon approach by services when they feel “saddled” by a joint program requirement. After all, it’s not really their system. But JAGM is considered one of the Pentagon’s groundbreaking programs because of its recent shoot-off and requirement that the two competitors build almost production-ready prototypes and test them first. Our colleagues at Inside Defense broke the story of JAGM’s apparent impending demise.

But we hear that the Office of Secretary of Defense may come to the rescue on this one because there are no other missile programs being developed and the requirement was recently validated.

“The Joint Air to Ground Missile (JAGM) is currently the only new missile development program. This lack of new missile program development limits our ability to fully exercise the industrial capabilities necessary in the missile industrial base – from design concept, system development, and production – to meet our current and future national security needs,” notes the Pentagon’s just-released Annual Industrial Capacities Report To Congress. “Both the Air Force and Navy are developing requirements for next generation missiles and there is concern that the industrial capabilities needed for those systems may not be readily available. While many industrial sectors that support our national security requirements are supported by the commercial markets, the missile industrial sector is mostly defense unique.”

The two companies competing on JAGM were reluctant to say anything that might antagonize their customer, but they issued official statements.

“Raytheon is optimistic JAGM is well positioned for today’s fiscal realities because JAGM is the only weapon that meets a DoD-validated requirement to give fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft the capability to engage moving targets in adverse weather from safe distances,” Raytheon spokesman Mike Nachshen said in an email. “The result of the taxpayer’s prudent $900 million investment in the JAGM program is a mature, capable weapon that fills a critical capability gap for the warfighter.”

Keep reading →

The Marine Corps is taking the use of unmanned air systems to the next level, deploying pilotless cargo helicopters to Afghanistan to test their ability to supply troops in the field without trucks facing the risk of deadly IEDs.

The six-month demonstration of the feasibility of a cargo UAS in a combat environment will involve two K-MAX helicopters, a commercially-proven manned aircraft produced by Kaman that was modified for drone operations by Lockheed Martin. The decision was announced today by Rear Adm. William Shannon, program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons at Naval Air Systems Command, which buys aircraft for both of the naval services. “I am very excited to deploy a system that will keep our Marines and sailors out of harm’s way and ultimately save lives,” Shannon said in a NAVAIR release. Keep reading →

This time it’s different.

For more than a year, defense companies have taken measured steps to prepare for defense spending budget cuts. Many pruned corporate spending, sending fewer executives to foreign air shows. Some, like Lockheed Martin Corp., even offered sweeping buyouts. Others even sold off headache-causing businesses, as Northrop Grumman Corp. did by spinning off its shipyards. More acquisitions can be expected along the lines of United Technology Corp.’s offer for Goodrich Corp. Keep reading →

Washington: Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, where the F-35 is assembled, wrote presumptive Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter today, expressing “disappointment” with Carter’s “apparent lack of commitment to the success” of the largest “defense acquisition program in our nation’s history.”

Cornyn is clearly part of a greatly stepped up lobbying effort by Lockheed Martin to save the F-35 from major cuts as the Pentagon budget comes under rising pressure as the administration’s strategic review progresses. Although the letter might seem a veiled threat, a source familiar with Lockheed’s efforts said Cornyn was not likely to try and put a hold on Carter’s nomination. Keep reading →

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