A U.S. Navy P-8 sits on the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022.

A U.S. Navy P-8 sits on the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Ariel O'Shea

Defense Business Brief: Bell gets new CEO; Sea-Air-Space wrap up; Team forms to replace Navy TACAMOs; and more.

Textron named Lisa Atherton president and CEO of Bell effective April 28, the company announced Monday. She will replace Mitch Snyder, who is retiring after nearly 20 years at the company—including seven as president and CEO. Atherton became COO of Bell in January after leading Textron Systems since 2017. 

The announcement came just days after the Government Accountability Office upheld a massive Bell contract to replace Black Hawk helicopters with V-280 tiltrotor aircraft, part of an effort known as the ​​Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA. 

As CEO, Snyder led the strategy shift and rebranding of the company long known for its helicopters. Scoring the Black Hawk replacement deal, which could be worth $70 billion over several decades, was a massive achievement, particularly as V-22 Osprey production is slated to end in the coming years and H-1 production also winding down.

An Air Force Academy graduate, Atherton kept a low profile at Textron Systems. Before that, she ran Bell’s V-22 Osprey program before being named executive vice president of the company’s military business.


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Walking around the massive exhibit hall at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference last week, it didn’t take long to realize that surface, underwater, and flying drones are all the rage right now. After all, the Navy is planning to ramp up its use of unmanned vessels in the coming years.

The Navy also plans to start using drones in the 4th Fleet, which includes the waters around South and Central America and the Caribbean, to assist in searching for drug smugglers, human traffickers, and illegal fishers in July. This follows trials in the Middle East.

But large ship and aircraft programs also drew some headlines. Northrop Grumman announced it would partner with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Crescent Systems, and Long Wave ”to develop a solution” for the Navy’s E-XX TACAMO, an effort to replace the E-6 Mercury. The aircraft, which are based on decades-old Boeing 707s, communicate with nuclear-armed submarines. The Navy wants to use C-130J aircraft with special communications systems for its next TACAMO, which stands for take change and move out.

The Navy is studying arming its P-8 submarine-hunter planes with extended range Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile missiles, Seapower reports. The planes are already armed with anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles. The so-called AARGM-ER would be carried externally on the P-8 wing, according to Navy and Northrop Grumman briefing slides.

Away from Sea-Air-Space, Fincantieri Marine Group suspended Bay Shipbuilding’s general manager Craig Perciavalle last week after the Justice Department charged him “with orchestrating an accounting fraud scheme” when he worked at Austal USA. The alleged crimes happened between 2013 and 2016, according to the Justice Department. “We are aware of the criminal indictment and civil complaint filed against Craig [Perciavalle] related to his previous employment before coming to FBS,” Fincantieri Marine Group CEO Marco Galbiati said in a statement. “We have chosen to suspend him from his current duties until these matters are resolved.” Fincantieri is not accused of any wrongdoing. Fincantieri Marine Group’s Marinette Marine builds Navy Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships and the new Constellation-class frigate. The Bay Shipbuilding division led by Perciavalle “is a specialist in the construction, repair, and conversion of Coast Guard and commercial vessels.”

Boeing received a $184 million Air Force contract to “add advanced communications capabilities to further enhance the aircraft’s data connectivity and situational awareness” to KC-46 tankers. “Upgrades include line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications technologies with anti jamming and encryption features. These capabilities will further enhance the data and communications connectivity the KC-46A provides to joint and allied forces for battlespace situational awareness,” the company said. The U.S. Air Force wants to turn its tankers into communications nodes.

Speed Read

  • United Kingdom regulators are investigating Amazon’s planned acquisition of iRobot.
  • The Army approved GM Defense’s Infantry Squad Vehicle for full-rate production. The Army plans to buy more than 2,500 ISVs.
  • The U.S. Air Force declared initial operational capability for Boeing’s Minuteman III cryptography message processing units.

Making Moves

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin named Apple executive Doug Beck the next director of its high-profile Defense Innovation Unit, which aims to adopt commercial technology for military use. More here.

Northrop Grumman-owned Scaled Composites named Greg Morris its president. He will succeed Cory Bird, who is retiring. 

Draper named Sarah Leeper vice president and general manager for Electronic Systems.