WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin is in “late-stage negotiations” to partner with an unnamed rocket propulsion supplier, according to CEO Jim Taiclet.
Taiclet told lawmakers that discussions are ongoing with the unnamed firm. A Lockheed spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the deal — including the identity of the supplier and the nature of the partnership — saying the company is in a “quiet period” in the lead up to its third quarter earnings release next month.
“We are endeavoring . . . to create another supplier,” Taiclet said during a House Armed Services Cyber, Information Technologies and Innovation subcommittee hearing Sept. 20. “We’re in late-stage negotiations with a company that can actually pull this off, we believe.”
Lockheed’s Chief Operating Officer Frank St. John told Defense One in June the company was “actively investing and looking to partner” with a solid rocket motor source and expected to announce its “way forward” by the end of the summer.
Defense firms L3Harris and Northrop Grumman own the only major U.S. suppliers of solid rocket motor propulsion systems. Northrop acquired rocket company Orbital ATK in 2018 and in July L3Harris closed a $4.7 billion deal to purchase Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Lockheed previously attempted to acquire Aerojet, announcing a $4.4 billion potential deal in 2020. However, following a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission seeking to block the merger due to antitrust concerns, Lockheed walked away from the purchase in early 2022.
Taiclet framed the company’s new partnership attempt as an effort to diversify the solid rocket motor industrial base with a new supplier. He pointed to defense technology firm Anduril’s June acquisition of rocket propulsion supplier Adranos as another example of expanding the market.
Anduril CEO Brian Schimpf, also a witness at the hearing on defense innovation, said the company’s foray into the solid rocket motor business came from a thorough analysis of the industrial base.
“One of the most critical gaps we saw was production of solid rocket motors,” he said. “We’ve heard it from the primes, we’ve heard it from the government that this is a major gap in our ability to produce and scale weapons that we critically need.”
Anduril is “investing heavily” in Adranos but is looking to government for additional resources. Schimpf said.
“Anywhere we can create leverage to accelerate the capacity we can bring to market, that’s absolutely critical,” he said. “It’s an area where I think Congress can add very specific emphasis into the U.S. industrial base and grow it very, very quickly.”
The Pentagon has made some recent investments to support rocket motor industrial base modernization and replenish its ammunition stocks. In April, it awarded Aerojet $215 million to make improvements to its manufacturing facilities in Arkansas, Alabama and Virginia, which support production of key weapon systems.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.