Can somebody check the calendar, please? Does it still read 2010? Because from where I'm sitting, it's starting to feel more like 1862.
Last month I regaled you with a few notes on Raytheon's World of Wonders -- the marvelous feats of technology with which defense stalwart Raytheon
Crazy idea, you say? Well if so, then craziness is contagious ...
Far from it
Turns out, there are multiple companies working to bring Civil War-era "aerospace" ideas like observation balloons to the battlefields of today. Raytheon, of course. Northrop Grumman
Pursuant to a $142 million contract, Lockheed is upping its production of tethered airships to eight per month. One aim is to lower costs. According to the Pentagon, unmanned blimps can float above the battlefield for 30 days at a time, burning a whole lot less fuel than other options. Another aim is safety. Jam-packed with hi-tech surveillance gear, these balloons keep round-the-clock watch from on high, providing a visible, all-seeing, and economical deterrent to would-be IED-planters.
And apparently, the blimps are getting the job done. Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter is so pleased with their performance that he says he wants to "dramatically boost" use of blimps in Afghanistan. There's even talk of bringing the concept home -- posting blimps along U.S. borders for Homeland Security. (In fact, Lockheed already has similar aerostats deployed along the U.S. southern border.)
Which way's the wind blowing?
Granted, even at $8 million a pop (reports say the Pentagon will receive an additional 17 airships from the $142 million contract), it's going to take a whole lot of blimps to replace the revenue Lockheed loses from just one canceled F-22 sale -- so Lockheed investors shouldn't get too excited. More important than the money, though, is that this contract provide further evidence of the military's desire for low-cost solutions in a world where it's being asked to do more with less: Fewer billion-dollar "future weapons" projects from Boeing
The good news, though is that even if Lockheed might prefer to win high-dollar contracts for aircraft and satellites, it's just as capable of reaping revenues from smaller-ticket items like blimps. Give this company an "A" for creativity.
Even if that's true, though, Lockheed's stock has lagged the market badly over the past year. How do you tell a bargain stock from a value trap? Find out here.
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of AeroVironment. General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. AeroVironment is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.