OKC’s Kratos plant to be part of futuristic US Air Force drone program


Kratos Defense and Security, the California-based company with an unmanned aviation manufacturing facility in Oklahoma City and offices in the Tulsa area just won a $400 million part of the Air Force’s futuristic Skyborg Vanguard Program.

Production of the drones for the program will be carried out at the Oklahoma City plant. Considered a national security solutions provider, the company’s Unmanned Systems Division was awarded a five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract valued at up to $400 million for the development, integration and prototype air vehicle delivery in support of the Air Force’s SKyborg program.

Work under the program award will be performed at secure Kratos manufacturing and production facilities located in Oklahoma and California over the next 60 months.

Steve Fendley, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said, “Skyborg is a critical U.S. Air Force Vanguard program that will ensure the United States maintains our technological dominance in a period of significant nation-state competition and our readiness for the future of aircraft-based warfare. Kratos has been and remains committed to advancing affordable unmanned technologies, and we are proud to be a Skyborg prime contractor, helping enable the DoD to significantly increase mass and effect at dramatically reduced cost compared to traditional aircraft programs.”

Eric DeMarco, President and CEO of Kratos Defense, said, “Kratos operates at the nexus of advanced jet drones, space and satellite communications, microwave electronics, next generation jet engines, missile defense, and hypersonic vehicles. At Kratos, affordability is a technology, and we are executing on our plan to be a disruptive leader providing affordable systems to our DoD and National Security partners and customer base which we work extremely closely with. We believe that this plan is completely complimentary to the Skyborg mission, and we look forward to supporting the Skyborg program for the USAF.”

The Air Force explained its Skyborg program this way: “Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. The program will enable airborne combat mass by building a transferable autonomy foundation for a family of layered, unmanned air vehicles. This foundation will deliver unmatched combat capability per dollar by lowering the barriers to entry for industry and allowing continuous hardware and software innovation in acquisition, fielding and sustainment of critical mission systems. During this effort, AFRL will prototype a suite of autonomy and unmanned system technologies equipped with capabilities that can support a range of Air Force missions.”

As the Air Force explained, Skyborg won’t replace humans at the controls of fighters and bombers.

“Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions. In this manner, Skyborg will provide manned teammates with greater situational awareness and survivability during combat missions.”

Shares in Kratos rose 10% on Friday after word of the contract was revealed. Earlier in the week, there had been speculation that Lockheed Martin might be a potential buyer of Kratos. One reported indicated Lockheed has close to $8 billion to spend and could easily acquire Kratos which has a $2.15 billion enterprise value.

Lockheed Martin’s CEO James Taiclet had said he was interested in buying “pure-play” defense businesses to expand his company’s expertise in areas in which it already has a presence.

Source: Kratos/Motley Fool

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