Harris deal may be worth $205M. Marine radios to get upgrades

Harris Corp. on Thursday won a contract worth up to $205 million from the Marine Corps for its tactical radios, which can be carried by soldiers or bolted into armored vehicles designed to take out mines.


The Melbourne-based communications-electronics manufacturer -- which gets about three-quarters of its revenues from defense and one-quarter from commercial technologies -- is strengthening its ties to the Marines.

In March, Harris won a $75 million contract for tactical radios and parts from the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., to be used in training exercises for soldiers.

The contract won Thursday is designed to upgrade older radios for the Marines and reserves.

The new batch of Harris radios will include hand-held models used by Marines in locating enemy targets and intelligence-gathering, as well as radios installed on vehicles built from the chassis of an M1-A1 Abrams main battle tank and used to plow through enemy minefields to keep soldiers safer.

Harris, along with other local military contractors -- including DRS Optronics in Melbourne, DRS Tactical Systems in Palm Bay, Northrop Grumman in Melbourne and others -- have captured some of their largest contracts ever in recent months, with defense spending higher to support the conflict in Iraq and global war on terrorism.

The Marines again choosing Harris for the radios is a "strong validation of the operational performance and reliability of our radios," said Dana Mehnert, vice president and general manager of U.S. government products at Harris' Radio Frequency Communications Division.

Work on the contract will be performed by Harris' Radio Frequency Communications Division in Rochester, N.Y.

That division has been growing rapidly. The Radio Frequency Communications Division, for example, posted strong gains in the fourth fiscal quarter ended July 1, with sales up 37 percent to $163.8 million from the prior year's quarter.

The company has sold its tactical radios to the U.S. Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and Pakistan.

Harris on Wednesday is releasing its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2006, which, in Harris' corporate calendar, is the period from July through September 2005. The company is holding its annual meeting of shareholders Oct. 28.

Melbourne Village resident Bill Whitehead is considering going to that meeting. He worked for Harris for 35 years, and retired in March.

He said he misses the "teamwork, solving problems and chasing after exciting programs. But I am very happy to see the company do well. It's beneficial to the area. The government is spending so much money on defense and homeland security, defense companies like Harris are bound to do well."

Despite an overall down day on Wall Street, Harris stock rose, closing at $38.02, up 17 cents from Wednesday's close, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. That's on the upper end of the stock's 52-week trading range of $26.94 to $42.48.

Von: 21 October 2005, http://www.floridatoday.com by BRIAN MONROE

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