The gang that couldn't shoot straight ... still can't.
After months of stories about defense contracting overruns -- Northrop Grumman
It's a start. Lockheed, you see, was contracted to build a new robot to serve a trio of functions within the Pentagon's $160 billion Future Combat Systems program -- a program itself plagued with cost overruns and reportedly sitting in Congress' gunsights.
One version of this MULE (Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle) works as a minesweeper, another as a mobile weapons platform, and the third -- as a turbocharged pack mule. Heavily armored, capable of reaching speeds of 40 mph, and with independent engines powering all four wheels, the MULE could be the most robust military robot ever built.
There's just one problem: According to Pentagon spokesmen, they ordered a MULE weighing no more than 5,000 lbs. -- light enough that United Technologies'
Okay. But what's it mean to me?
It really depends on who "you" are. If you're a Lockheed shareholder, this is not good news. By all accounts, the Army is not pleased with Lockheed going 40% over budget on weight. Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, was quoted asking peevishly: "Didn't industry bid to those specifications? Shouldn't they be held accountable?"
Indeed. But this may be good news for Lockheed's rivals. For example, iRobot
And you don't even need to be a big-time defense contractor to play this game. A coupla guys up in Maine have produced a shock-and-awe-inducing robotic tank that makes the MULE look like a donkey. Their Rip Saw is faster, tracked so that it can turn on a dime, capable of carrying heavy weapons, and looks much lighter than Lockheed's three-and-a-half-ton behemoth.
As robotic tanks go, sure, the MULE's cool. But if Lockheed doesn't get its act together, it could lose this contract yet.
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