Northrop plans bigger push into adjacent markets


Defence contractor Northrop Grumman is planning a bigger move into related markets to bolster profit in a tougher defence budget environment.

Chief Executive Wes Bush, who spearheaded the spin-off of the company’s shipmaking business earlier this year, is de-emphasizing sales growth and has instructed his division heads to pursue market opportunities and contracts that will add to earnings, three of the division heads told Reuters at this week’s Paris Air Show.
“We’re going to have to move into market adjacencies and start to put some pressure on our competitors and create new market share for us that otherwise wasn’t there,” said Jim Pitts, president of the electronics systems unit.

Last month, Northrop unveiled Firebird, an unmanned vehicle that flies medium-altitude ranges, to help fill out its product offering in unmanned spy planes that collect intelligence. Firebird can fly up to 30 000 feet.

Northrop makes small unmanned aerial vehicles and its Global Hawk drone, which is being deployed over Libya in the enforcement of a no-fly zone, serves the higher end of that market, as it can go up to 60 000 feet.
“We’re trying to position ourselves so that depending on where the market goes, we have a portfolio that can address those needs,” said Gary Erwin, president of Northrop’s aerospace systems unit.

The company is also moving to extend its business internationally, as more than 90 percent of its business is tied to the United States.

Linda Mills, head of the company’s information systems unit, said Northrop had been adding staff to its cyber facility in the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday at the air show, Northrop announced a partnership with Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo to develop exportable products in the directional infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) market, which deals with protecting military equipment against guided missile threats.

Pitts said the partnership will target products to countries that the defence contractor typically can’t reach because of U.S. rules that restrict exports of certain defence products.
“This is an innovative way for us to go into the marketplace,” Pitts said. “We think that is a whole untouched marketplace that other companies are going after.”