Lockheed well-placed amid global insecurities, CEO says

Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:12pm EST
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By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea's launch this week of a long-range rocket may have sparked an outcry across much of the globe but the anxieties it has provoked could mean more business for Lockheed Martin Corp, the world's largest arms maker.

Lockheed, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, makes a wider range of missile shields that have been successfully tested than "anybody else on this planet," Robert Stevens, the company's chief executive, told Reuters on Thursday.

"Everywhere we go around the globe, with every leader in every nation that we participate with, this proliferation of missile technology ... it's on everybody's mind," he said in a joint interview with Marillyn Hewson, his designated successor.

"And we have, I would argue, the most mature portfolio of missile defense capabilities," Stevens said, projecting that foreign arms sales would help offset flattening U.S. military spending in coming years.

Stevens cited programs including Patriot, Aegis, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Medium Extended Air Defense System, plus communications and command-control systems that can link them in a layered defense. He said this has "high levels of interest internationally."

North Korea on Wednesday rattled the United States, its Asian neighbors and many other countries by putting a satellite in orbit for the first time, a step widely seen as advancing its ballistic missile program in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

Stevens, who hands over the CEO job next month to Lockheed President and Chief Operating Officer Hewson, said the company was poised to benefit from a rebalancing of U.S. forces toward the Pacific announced by President Barack Obama a year ago, after a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed expects this so-called "pivot" to Asia to rely largely on air, naval and space assets, more than on ground forces, dovetailing with Lockheed's top product lines, he said.   Continued...

CEO of Lockheed Martin Robert J. Stevens speaks at a business roundtable discussion at the Reuters bureau in Washington, December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing