DRS BUILDS ON HERITAGE TO WIN NEXT GENERATION U.S. ARMY COMPUTING REQUIREMENT
By Julian Nettlefold
It was during the AUSA National Symposium in 2000, the Editor had left a copy of BATTLESPACE on the Paravant Inc. tabletop stand at the overflow Omni Shoreham Hotel across the road from the main AUSA venue, the Woodley Park Hotel after an introduction to the company from Al Zimerman and Richard Hoare. The events of 9/11 precluded the AUSA National event in 2001 and it was not until the summer of 2002 that the Editor was invited to Palm Bay, Florida by Al Zimmerman and Richard Hoare to see the then fledgling computer company run by Bill Craven, Rick McNeight and their team. The factory was hand-building rugged computers for the U.S. Army’s FBCB2 program and was in line for winning the British Army’s Bowman Rugged Computer Requirement.
This all changed on October 24th, 2002 when DRS Technologies Inc. signed a definitive agreement to buy Paravant Inc. for a total consideration of approximately $92 million. In June of that year Paravant Inc. reported revenues of $15,238,106 for the quarters ended March 31, 2001 and 2002 respectively. DRS, reporting $517.2m in sales for the year ended March 31st, 2003, expected the deal to add about $80 million in sales in the first full year and be immediately accretive to earnings.
Then on March 17th, 2003 DRS Technologies received a $29 million contract to provide rugged Appliqué Computer Systems and Display units, Mission Data Loaders and engineering services for the U.S. Army’s Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) program. This was the fourth consecutive year that Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Mission Systems sector had awarded contracts to DRS on the FBCB2 program. Work for this order was performed by the company’s DRS Tactical Systems unit in Palm Bay, Florida and product deliveries were expected to commence the following month in April. This firmly established DRS as the sole platform computer & display provider for the U.S. Army’s FBCB2 Program.
The rest, as they say, is history and on October 22nd, 2008 Finmeccanica, S.p.A. completed its acquisition of DRS Technologies by purchasing all outstanding shares of DRS for US $81 per share in cash. The enterprise value of the transaction was US $5.2 billion, including the assumption of approximately US $1.6 billion in outstanding indebtness (including the convertible notes).
Over the past decade, DRS has delivered more than 180,000 rugged computer and display systems to PM Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below (FBCB2) and 25,000 rugged Tablet computers for the Movement Tracking Systems (MTS) program for U.S. ground forces worldwide. These systems provide critical Blue Force Tracking (BFT) and In-Transit Visibility (ITV) logistics data of friendly forces and situational awareness for the military. During this same period of time, DRS had also been selected to provide the UK Army with its BOWMAN Data Terminals via lead Systems Integrator General Dynamics UK. More than 13,000 rugged platform Tablets and Laptops from DRS, recently upgraded to multi-core processors, are currently in service with the British Army. No company in the world has a stronger pedigree for Battle Management System computing and display systems.
Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS)
The Boeing-led, Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, envisaged a complete change to the technology surrounding FBCB2. FCS foresaw a family of computer screens, mounted and dismountable, including tablets and handhelds which could either hook up to a central server and screens inside the vehicle or be dismounted and used by infantry. The eventual demise of FCS program caused the collapse of this project.
However, a new US joint forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps) capability requirement called Joint Battle Command – Platform (JBC-P) was approved to enhance legacy fielded capabilities. JBC-P is meant to integrate new, dramatically impro