Robotanks, attack helicopters at AUSA; Subway tech may ease wargaming; Leonardo's next acquisition? And more.

The shift to great power competition was alive and well in the exhibit halls at the annual Association of the U.S. Army convention. But this year, it was more than forest-green paint on the tanks and trucks.

There were new, heavier weapons mounted on many vehicles, from the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to the Humvee it is replacing. There were robotic vehicles, more than I’ve noticed before, armed with anti-tank missiles and other types of firepower. My colleague Patrick Tucker gets more into the robotic tanks here.

There were full-size models of next-generation attack and reconnaissance helicopters: one being developed by Bell and the other by L3Harris Technologies and AVX Aircraft. Lockheed’s Sikorsky unveiled a concept of its coaxial Raider X helicopter. Karem Aircraft even brought a drawing of its AR40 concept

Boeing did not reveal a new helicopter design. Boeing, like the companies listed above, has an Army contract to build a prototype of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA. 

“We will gradually go public and start revealing the nuances of our design when it makes sense for us to do so,” Shane Openshaw, the program manager for Boeing’s aircraft, said Monday.

But a far less sexy project under development may actually affect more troops.

Cubic, a major player in the military training and simulation market, also helps millions of civilians get around in the real world. The company’s technology powers many municipal transit systems’ farecards, including the New York Subway’ MetroCard, Washington Metro’s Smartrip, and London’s Oyster. Company executive think they’ve found a place where the two businesses converge.

“Whenever we run a massive exercise, especially on the ground side, we move thousands upon thousands of soldiers through, kitting them up for a multi-week training environment,” Mike Knowles, president of Cubic Global Defense, said in an interview. “We are looking at ways to make that process more efficient.”

Knowles said the tracking technology that transfers payments as millions of people pass through subway turnstiles each day may soon make it easier for the military to issue training gear without paperwork. Cubic is working on a system to make it happen.

“There would be tags and information in there on a card, and a soldier would just be able to walk either through a…notional area,” he said. “Because of the technology, we’ll be able to pick up signals between who they are and what gear they have. We’ll be able to pair that information.

“We anticipate [that] where issue and receipt for 1,000 people might have taken us half a day, we’ll be able to do that in a matter of minutes now,” he said.

How’s that for something different?


You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. The trade show season is starting to slow with AFA and AUSA behind us, but there are still a lot of defense conferences happening in the coming months. Send along your tips and feedback to or @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!

From Defense One

Weapons Makers Unveil A Herd of Robotanks— As the Army Worries about Battlefield Bandwidth // Patrick Tucker

The U.S. Army is determined to field a mid-sized combat robot vehicle, but the prototypes are outstripping the datalinks that would connect them.

The US Exported Arms Worth $55B in the Past Year // Marcus Weisgerber

That's almost exactly the same as in fiscal 2018.

Boeing's 737 Woes Aren't Hurting Its Pursuit of Military Contracts, Exec Says // Marcus Weisgerber

The company is still sinking its own cash into prototypes that can help it win long-term work.

Russia Consolidates Helicopter Firms 

Russia Helicopters is consolidating its Mil and Kamov design bureaus. This new “National Helicopter Center shall combine the potential of two helicopter design schools for more efficient and higher-quality rotorcraft design and upgrade,” the company said in a statement. “Also, the creation of NHC shall assist in getting rid of administrative, legal and economic barriers currently in the way of cooperation between the two design teams.” More here.

Shareholders Approve Raytheon-UTC Merger

Shareholders “voted overwhelmingly” to approve the Raytheon-United Technologies merger the companies said in an Oct. 11 joint statement The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020, creating the roughly $80 billion Raytheon Technologies.

Nammo to Consolidate U.S. Business 

The Norwegian defense company will consolidate its U.S. business under the umbrella of Nammo Defense Systems. “The new investments includes nearly $20 million in new tools and equipment for Nammo’s facilities in Mesa, Arizona,” the company said. “Scheduled for completion by the middle of 2021, this will support the delivery of crucial components for new US Army long-range artillery shells, as well as other current and future products for the US market.” Nammo employs more than 600 people in the United States.

Mack Eyes More Truck Sales

The Army is paying the Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company $293 million for 683 heavy dump trucks, Mack’s first major military project since the Vietnam era. Now, the company wants to add to its military portfolio, pitching a new crane to the Army and trucks to foreign militaries.

The crane is built on the same chassis as the heavy dump truck. The company expects the Army to buy between 170 and 200 cranes, Rob Gordon, vice president for business development at Mack Defense said Wednesday. The company is also eyeing the Army’s expected replacement of the M915 trucks, which haul Army weapons and foreign military sales, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

The new Army dump trucks — five of which are in testing right now at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland — are similar to the company’s commercial Granite dump and cement trucks. The company expects the trucks to enter production in late 2020. The Army’s horizontal engineer companies will use them, replacing trucks, including some that are 40 years old. While it’s supplied fleet vehicles for the U.S. government, the heavy dump truck project is the first military project for Mack since the Vietnam era, Gordon said.

Leonardo DRS Teases Acquisition

The U.S. arm of the Italian defense and aerospace is buying someone, but CEO Bill Lynn isn’t saying who…yet. “We are continuing to look at acquisitions,” Lynn said Tuesday. “We will have something relatively soon.” Leonardo DRS most recently acquired Daylight Solutions, a laser technology company, in 2017. “Daylight Solutions organically has been growing substantially since we acquired them,” Lynn said. Speaking about acquisitions in general, Lynn said: How does the company approach M&A: “We’re quite conservative in what we look at,” Lynn said.

When Lynn and I chatted at the Paris Air Show, he was touting the company’s growing at a rate higher than the market. “Even for a midsized company, we are in a preponderance of those Army priorities and it’s that positioning that we think is putting in a strong position to continue the kind of growth that we’ve had the last five years,” he said.

BTW: Leonardo DRS turned its exhibit hall booth pink on Tuesday to raise awareness for breast cancer. Employees donned pink lanyards and pink ties embossed with pink ribbons. Here’s a video of the overnight transformation.

Making Moves

The Senate on Wednesday voted 85-7 to confirm Barbara Barrett to be Air Force secretary. In an emailed statement shortly after the vote, the Air Force noted that Barrett “gained notice as the first civilian woman to land in an F-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, riding in the back seat.” In previous comments, she made it sound like she landed the plane.