On Friday, the Department of Defense awarded Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) two contracts worth a combined $34 million.

The first contract modifies an existing contract by awarding Northrop $28.6 million to provide engineering and production planning services for Mission Packages that will be used aboard Navy Littoral Combat Ships, or LCSes. "Mission Packages" are a relatively new concept for the Navy and consist of standardized sets of equipment, sensors, and crew (Mission Modules) that can be loaded aboard an LCS to transform it into a ship designed for a specific mission.

Think of the LCS as the base plate in a Lego set. Depending on what kind of mission you might need to perform, different sizes and colors of Legos (Mission Modules) could be added to the base plate to build a complete Mission Package. For example, an LCS equipped for a surface warfare mission might be equipped with MK 46 and MK 44 cannons and associated rounds, surface-to-surface missiles, and an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter. LCSes destined for other missions might receive equipment better suited for minesweeping, for anti-submarine warfare, for anti-piracy, and so on.

Northrop's role in the instant contract is to assist in picking out the right "Legos," and evaluating how they work through a dynamic process of "continuous evaluation."

The company's role in the second contract is more straightforward. For $5.4 million, Northrop will support U.S. Army efforts to develop digitized communications among units on the battlefield, a project referred to as the "Lower Tactical Internet." Northrop will continue its work here through Sept. 12.