"Hey! Who's Flying This Thing?" you may ask. Well, assuming you're talking about unmanned aerial vehicles, chances are that at least initially, the answer to that question is going to be L-3 Communications (NYSE: LLL ) .
Since the advent of the General Atomics Predator drone set off the race to fill the sky with UAVs, the U.S. military's preferred contractor for training its troops to fly the robotic airlines has been L-3. And this remains true today. On Monday, L-3 announced that its L-3 Link Simulation and Training subsidiary has just won a "recomplete" for the right to keep on building training systems to fly the UAVs, and to keep assisting in that training as well.
L-3 originally won the contract to build seven Predator Mission Aircrew Training Systems (PMATS) for the U.S. Air Force back in June 2005. PMATS links an actual drone ground control station to L-3 computers running flight simulation software, allowing users to train on the same equipment they will be using once training has been completed. L-3 has won additional work on this system since, including an upgrade of the PMATS software in 2008, and contracts to build new equipment. At present, the Air Force has 26 of the company's PMATS systems in operation.
L-3's latest contract win extends its base contract through September. Six one-year option extensions to this contract may extend the contract through 2019. Under this contract, L-3 will support training activities on the machines. It is also in the running to win further manufacturing work to build more than 50 new PMATS devices in addition to those already delivered.
No contract value was included in L-3's news release, but its original PMATS contract from back in 2005, for both devices and training services, was valued at approximately $1 million per unit.