Iffy invisibility. Inoperable guns. Recalcitrant customers -- with all the problems that have been deviling Lockheed Martin's (NYSE:LMT) vaunted F-35 stealth fighter jet, it's easy for an investor to get discouraged about Lockheed Martin as a stock.

But even if investors are worried, Lockheed isn't. When the going gets tough, this is one tough defense contractor that gets going -- and gets contract wins where you didn't even know it was looking for them.

Lrdr
Based out of Alaska, Lockheed Martin's new LRDR radar system promises to hold an umbrella over America, and protect us from ballistic missile strikes. Artist concept of LRDR courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin and... radar?
Case in point: Just the week before last, Lockheed Martin booked a big contract win in the wide world of ballistic missile defense, and specifically, in the subsector of radar systems. On Monday, Oct. 26, Lockheed announced it has just been awarded a $784 million contract to "develop, build and test" a new Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) system for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Historically, radar has been more in Raytheon's (NYSE:RTN) bailiwick. For instance, on the famous Patriot air-defense system, while Lockheed Martin builds the system's missiles and their launchers, it's Raytheon that builds the fire control radars that make Patriot so effective at shooting down threats.

In fact, Lockheed Martin seems to have beat out Raytheon for the LRDR contract. According to the Defense Department, a total of three companies (not named) bid to build the system for MDA, but in the end, Lockheed won the contract.

What LRDR is
Lockheed describes LRDR as "a high-powered S-Band radar incorporating solid-state gallium nitride (GaN) components ... capable of discriminating threats at extreme distances." As part of MDA's Ballistic Missile Defense System, that includes complementary Lockheed products including the Aegis air defense system and its cousin, Aegis Ashore, the new radar "will provide acquisition, tracking, and discrimination data to enable separate defense systems to lock on and engage ballistic missile threats" before they can strike their targets. 

MDA intends to base and test LRDR at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska, by 2020, but Lockheed Martin's contract promises to last even longer than that, with an anticipated completion date of Jan. 21, 2024.

What it means to Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin's Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors unit appears to be taking the lead on LRDR. With IWSS being part of Lockheed's Mission Systems and Training (MST) business, LRDR will have an outsize influence on this division's results, which is currently Lockheed's third smallest (of five -- so it's also it's third-largest), and its second-least profitable.

According to data from S&P Capital IQ, MST earns roughly 10% operating profit margins for Lockheed Martin, a number far below Lockheed's overall profit margin of 12.5%. As such, the LRDR contract can be expected to produce perhaps $79 million in profits for Lockheed over its nine-year duration, or roughly $0.26 per share.

For a defense giant that rakes in nearly $46 billion in annual revenue, and earns profits of close to $3.6 billion, $0.26 per share may not sound like much -- and in the grand scheme, it isn't. But over the course of 36 quarterly earnings reports, last week's contract win should give Lockheed Martin 26 extra opportunities to "beat by a penny."

Stay tuned.

Rich Smith owns shares of Raytheon. You can find him on our virtual stockpicking service, Motley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 299 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

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