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New F-35 Contract Reflects Harris Corp. Growth

Continuing its strategy of growth beyond its long-term leadership in joint tactical radios, Harris Corp. has announced a new contract to provide avionics support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter worth an estimated $55 million.

Under the award, Harris will supply next-generation avionics infrastructure, fiber-optic network solutions, and power units integral to the capabilities of the advanced fighter being built by a Lockheed Martin-led team.

The infrastructure and electronics are “critical to providing more efficient, affordable and higher-capacity avionics capabilities than ever before,” Harris said in a statement announcing the recent award.

Harris officials also noted the arrangement covers production of up to 32 additional aircraft. Moreover, this newest contract brings the total value of the F-35 program for Harris to more than $410 million since 2001.

More than 30 aircraft are under contract to date. But expected upcoming work on the single-engine, single-seat fighter to be used by multiple defense units could add significant additional revenues for Harris. Current plans call for production of more than 3,000 aircraft.

“This contract represents another significant milestone in the F-35 program, which is replacing the U.S. military’s aging fleet of fighter aircraft,” said Pat Seamon, vice president, avionics and electronics programs, Harris Government Communications Systems. “A global leader in avionics for military aircraft, Harris continues to provide products that meet the program’s technology leadership and affordability objectives.”

The F-35 is a highly lethal, survivable weapon system that will serve as a cornerstone of future defense capability for the U.S. and its allied partners. It is designed to replace the A-10, the AV-8B Harrier, the F-16 and the F/A-18.

Analysts noted the newest contract underscores how much Harris has branched out under the leadership of Howard Lance, chief executive officer. Lance has told the media in recent years he wants to continue the company’s strong growth while branching out beyond tactical radios.

Consider that the Falcon III handheld, manpack, and vehicular multiband multimission radios have become the world’s most widely deployed Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) units. They are fielded by all branches of the U.S. Department of Defense and many American allies.

Meanwhile, Lance has pushed expansion in other markets. For instance, in May 2009 Harris paid $675 million to acquire Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems. The unit delivers mission-critical communications systems for law enforcement, fire and rescue, public service, utility, and transportation in global markets Harris estimated at $9 billion.

“With an 80-year heritage in providing communications for the public safety market, Wireless Systems has established a large installed customer base, extensive domain knowledge, and well-developed sales channels,” Lance said.

In his 2009 letter to shareholders, Lance noted the company closed the last fiscal year with two huge contract wins. Together they are worth a potential $1.3 billion over the next 10 years, Lance said.

The company is the prime contractor for the ground-processing segment of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R) weather satellite program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GOES-R satellites serve as the primary tool for detecting and tracking severe weather.

Harris also is the prime contractor for the Modernization of Enterprise Terminals (MET) program for the U.S. Army.  Lance said the next-generation satellite earth stations for the MET program will provide the worldwide backbone for high-priority military satellite and missile defense communications.

Corporate expansion continued in fiscal year 2010. In late July, Harris completed the acquisition of CapRock Communications, a privately held concern, for $525 million in cash. With nearly 30 years experience, CapRock is a leader in global satellite communications for the energy, government, maritime and other markets.

Despite the soft economy, Harris reported revenue and profit growth for fiscal 2010. Revenues totaled $5.21 billion compared with $5.01 billion in the prior year. After accounting adjustments, income from continuing operations rose 12.8 percent to $562 million, the company said.


Michael A. Robinson has written articles for some of the nation's more prestigious publications. As...