In this April 27, 2016 photo, USS Gerald R. Ford is stationed at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va.

In this April 27, 2016 photo, USS Gerald R. Ford is stationed at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. Photo/Steve Helber

Best of 2019: The Business of Defense

A look back at the top defense-industry-related stories of the year:

Robots and Lasers Are Bringing Shipbuilding into the Digital Age 

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — When the USS George Washington took shape here in the late 1980s, endless paper blueprints guided the welders and shipfitters of Newport News Shipbuilding. Now, with the aircraft carrier back in a drydock for its midlife overhaul, shipyard workers are laser-scanning its spaces and bulkheads. // Marcus Weisgerber

America's Fighter Jet Makers Are Thriving, Thanks to Trump and Putin 

American-made fighter jets, once facing extinction, have seen a resurgence in sales, thanks largely to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Add to that Middle Eastern nations arming for potential war with Iran and there may be more than $80 billion in new or potential sales for F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s worldwide. // Marcus Weisgerber

Lockheed Martin is Waging War on Boeing's F-15EX 

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has reportedly been racking up kills against older warplanes during U.S. military drills in Nevada — even the F-15, whose record in real combat is a flawless 104 to zero. Now the two jets are heading into a fierce dogfight, one that doesn’t involve missiles or guns. // Marcus Weisgerber

We Really Need to Fix the Federal Budget Process 

SIMI VALLEY, California — What keeps Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy up at night? Things like not knowing, nearly one-quarter into the fiscal year, whether his service is going to be able to start new programs, or even keep civilian staff at work. // Marcus Weisgerber

As Secret Pentagon Spending Rises, Defense Firms Cash in 

The share of Pentagon spending hidden from public view is rising, as are defense contractors’ revenues from it.  // Marcus Weisgerber

Has Lockheed Replaced Boeing as Trump's Favorite Defense Firm? 

With Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg focused on fixing the 737 MAX, President Trump now appears to have a new favorite defense CEO: Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson. // Marcus Weisgerber

Ejecting Turkey from the F-35 Effort Will Cost At Least Half a Billion Dollars 

It will cost the U.S. Defense Department between $500 million and $600 million to remove Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon acquisition chief said Wednesday. // Marcus Weisgerber

Great Power Competition Ushers in a New Generation of European Weapons 

LE BOURGET, France — From a distance, the two red-white-and-blue helicopters seemed perfectly comfortable sandwiched between the flight-line chalets of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and L3 Technologies. But as music started blaring and a group of women wearing red-and-white-skirted leotards began to dance, it became obvious that these were Russian, not American, aircraft. // Marcus Weisgerber

How L3 Technologies Is Culture-Shifting Its Way into the Industry's Top Tier 

For two decades, L3 Technologies operated largely in the shadows — not only publicly, but also within its own walls. // Marcus Weisgerber

What's Wrong with Boeing? 

Boeing’s products are ubiquitous in American civil and military life — not just in the air, but on the ground, at sea, and in space. It is no stretch to say that our country depends on this century-old company, which makes its recent string of high-profile failures of deep and urgent concern. Taken together, the problems with the 737 MAX, the 787 Dreamliner, the KC-46 Pegasus, the NASA Starliner, and the Space Launch System suggest systemic organizational and cultural failures that the company, unaided, appears incapable of solving.  // Mark R. Jacobson