Advanced weapons systems on the way from Lockheed Martin

Posted Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Lockheed Martin hopes to win a contract from the Marine Corps that would make superheroes like Aquaman proud.

Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years have diverted the Marine Corps from its expeditionary roots. But the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control unit in Grand Prairie has built an assault vehicle named "Havoc" that would provide a boost to the Corps' reputation for amphibious assaults.

The combat vehicle, equipped with a weapons station, travels in water and on land with up to 12 on board, including nine Marines, Lockheed says.

"We'd like to think it's going to cause havoc wherever it lands," said Ric Magness, director of the local "test asset" effort.

Havoc is just one of several high-tech vehicles that Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control division is hoping to sell to U.S. and international customers. Another experimental vehicle includes an autonomous combat robot able to transport 1,200 pounds of equipment and materials for U.S. Army soldiers. Planning and engineering for the programs is done in North Texas.

A third vehicle is a missile launcher with wheels that is wrapping up production this summer. Unlike its stationary predecessors, the vehicle can roll off C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The Army and Marines combined will own more than 400 of the launchers in August.

Havoc, which takes its name from a famous line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, probably won't see any action for several years, officials say. It is in the Marine Personal Carrier competition with amphibious combat vehicles being developed by other contractors such as General Dynamics, the London-based BAE Systems and Science Applications International Corp., of Tysons Corner, Va., a Marine Corps official said.

"We're testing all these to see if it would suit our needs," said Marine spokesman Manny Pacheco. "Testing will be completed this year and at some point and time, the Marine Corps will determine whether they need it and its affordability.

"We don't have a bottomless pocketbook," Pacheco said. "We have to be frugal with yours and mine."

Last year, in an experimental cost-share program with the Army, Lockheed provided four of the combat robot vehicles, known as the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS), to ground troops in Afghanistan, said Joe Zinecker, director of unmanned ground vehicles for Lockheed Missiles and Fire Control.

"There is nothing similar to this vehicle at all," Zinecker said. "It's the first large combat robot to enter the service."

The robots have the capacity to lay "digital breadcrumbs" and carry loads for soldiers in a number of roles, Zinecker said. Last year, the robots were used to carry lumber and fencing materials to build combat posts.

"The terrain is so rugged in Afghanistan that much of those materials would have been carried literally on soldiers' backs," Zinecker said.

The robot, with a range of 125 miles, can operate like a remote-control toy car or can be programmed, he said. It has voice control and sensors, including optical remote sensing technology, infrared and color cameras, Zinecker said.

It wouldn't go into production until 2017 or 2018, he said.

Lockheed's high-tech missile launcher, known as the HIMARS, also has played a role in Afghanistan in recent years. That program, unlike the robot and amphibious vehicles, is in full production. So far, the U.S. Army is expected to receive its last delivery of launchers in August, totaling 375. The Marines have received almost 50 launchers.

The launchers are expected to be in the field through 2050, said Becky Withrow, business development manager of MLRS launchers at Lockheed Missiles and Fire Control.

"They have a long life ahead of them," Withrow said. "We will continue to provide updates and keep them relative."

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

Twitter: @yberard

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