Textron Systems eyes rising foreign demand for drones, weapons

Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:21pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Textron Systems, a unit of Textron Inc (TXT.N: Quote), says strong demand from the Middle East and Asia for unmanned systems, ground vehicles and smart weapons will help expand foreign sales to about half of the division's total revenues in coming years.

Ellen Lord, president and chief executive officer of Textron Systems, said international sales had already grown to about 35 percent of total revenues from less than 10 percent in 2009, and would continue to expand toward a 50-50 split in coming years.

Textron Systems reported 2012 revenues of $1.74 billion, down from $1.87 billion a year earlier.

She said the company was actively pursuing new orders in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia with product demonstrations and by posting industry executives in target countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.

"We are being laser-focused on what opportunities we are looking at," Lord told Reuters Tuesday at the annual conference of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Lord said Textron Systems was investing its own funds to continue upgrading the capabilities of its unmanned planes and other weapons systems, even as U.S. military demand declined in the face of mounting pressure on U.S. budgets.

Such work, coupled with international orders, would help Textron maintain hot production facilities for when the U.S. military services resumed their own orders, she said.

For instance, Textron invested heavily to develop a larger, longer endurance version of its Shadow unmanned plane that was demonstrated for Saudi Arabia in 2012, with an additional demonstration planned in Arizona this fall, Lord said.   Continued...