President Obama Gets a New Ride

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"It's good to be the King," so they say. But as it turns out, being President ain't too shabby either.

Almost one year ago to the day, President Obama's defense secretary cut short the joint venture between Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) and AgustaWestland that was building the latest, greatest version of his presidential chariot, the "Marine One" helicopter. (Schadenfreude, I suspect, ran rampant then at United Technologies (UTC) (NYSE: UTX  ) , which had lost the contract to Lockheed back in 2005.)

But as we learned yesterday, the cancellation of one project has given rise to a replacement. The President still needs a new whirlybird, you see, and the Pentagon's gearing up to award the contract to build it. With billions of defense dollars at stake, the rivalry between Lockheed and UTC is history. Bygones are bygones, and the two erstwhile rivals are preparing to make a new bid, together, with UTC building the underlying H-92 medium-lift helicopter (and reaping the bulk of the revenues), and Lockheed filling the role of "systems integrator," getting less of the loot.

Speaking of loot, how much is it worth to ya?
When initially awarded to Lockheed, analysts pegged the Marine One contract at around $6.1 billion, but soaring costs better than doubled that tally. Considering that cost was a major factor in canceling the contract, however, I'd say we can use the original figure as the very tippety-top of the ceiling on how much the replacement contract could be worth to its winner. More likely, the Pentagon will be scaling down this project, using more off-the-shelf parts. And of course, revenues will be parceled out among multiple subcontractors (Lockheed's winning team last time included giants like General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , but also many smaller companies, rounding out at 200 names in all.)

But of course, it's not so much the money that's important here -- it's the bragging rights of having your equipment aboard the President's new ride. And to win this honor, we can expect competitors to flock to challenge Lockheed. Already, everyone from Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , to

AgustaWestland, to Textron (NYSE: TXT  ) have been named as potential challengers.

And personally, I'd be very surprised if Textron, at least, does not give them a run for their money. With just a fraction of the annual revenue stream of the giants, winning Marine One would give Textron not just bragging rights, but a very real, and very needed cash infusion.

Foolish takeaway
As the twin "incumbents" on Marine One, Lockheed/UTC has to be considered the favorite here. That said, Textron's the one that really needs to win this contract. Expect Textron to bid, and to bid aggressively.

But what if it wins? Textron's stock has already outperformed the S&P 500 mightily over the past year. How do you know when "the train has left the station" and it's too late to buy? Here's how

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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