The addition last month of an entrenched military GPS receiver product business by BAE Systems will provide the company with more than just leading products that helps build out its portfolio in precision strike, particularly in the “kill chain” of missile technology, it brings with it high volume production operations that the company expects to learn from and leverage, a BAE executive said last week.
About two-thirds of the 700-employee military GPS business, which BAE is now calling Navigation and Sensor Systems, are high-technology engineers and the rest are “highly disciplined…highly skilled production operations people that do things a little differently than we do so it’s really interesting to learn from them,” John Watkins, vice president and general manager of Precision Strike at BAE Systems, told Defense Daily in an Aug. 6 telephone interview.
The military GPS business operates in two facilities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Watkins said their secret sauce is “they’re really good at designing a high-tech system and making it producible in high volume.” The government is buying “thousands and thousands” of missiles a year and the GPS business has become “very good at building the things that go inside those weapons,” he said. “So, that’s really, really attractive to our precision strike business because it’s a high-volume business.”
BAE acquired the GPS business for more than $1.9 billion from Raytheon Technologies [RTX]. The business unit, which used to be part of Collins Aerospace, has fielded more than 1.5 million devices on nearly 300 weapons and platforms.
BAE plans to consolidate the separate facilities into a single facility in Cedar Rapids holding the design and production operations of Navigation and Sensor Systems. Plans for construction of the new site are expected to get underway this fall and take two years to complete.
The current military GPS facilities are being rented from Raytheon Technologies, Watkins said.
BAE “will probably” look to expand its footprint within the new facility with some of its legacy work “because there’s stuff that they do better than us that’s related and we can move there and have better overall performance from our portfolio.”
The Navigation and Sensors Systems business is at the cutting edge of GPS receiver technology, developing and producing anti-jam systems that can operate in highly-contested environments. The business provides and continues to develop M-Code technology that is being used for all U.S. military GPS user equipment beginning this fall.
Watkins said about 65 percent of the business unit’s devices are on precision missiles and the rest on various airborne and ground platforms and man-portable systems.
BAE announced in January its agreement to acquire the military GPA business and said at the time it expects it to grow at more than 10 percent annually over the next four years.
Even if defense budgets flatten or decline in the next few years, Watkins noted the congressional mandate for the new anti-jam technology and that it’s going into “more and more platforms,” adding that the “demand for the M-Code technology is higher in a near-peer, highly contested environment that our DoD customers are now facing into.”
Existing key products in BAE’s Precision Strike business include the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket for which BAE provides a mid-body guidance section that converts an unguided 70mm rocket into a laser-guided rocket. The business also provides a long-range precision guidance kit for artillery projectiles and the seeker for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile defense system.
The military GPS business is expected to have about $359 million in sales this year, BAE said when it first announced the deal.