Ross Wilkers


L3Harris pushes 'Sixth Prime' strategy with latest Navy unmanned vessel win

L3Harris Technologies claimed its second significant contract win in less than a month this week when the Navy announced it selected that company to help design a class of mid-sized unmanned ships.

The potential seven-year, $281.4 million contract calls on L3Harris to provide the Navy up to eight Medium Surface Unmanned Vehicle prototypes along with other related support services. Five bidders including L3Harris pursued this contract, according to the Pentagon’s awards digest from Monday.

Navy officials previewed the MUSV effort last July and three months later issued the final solicitation in a sequence of events that coincided with the merger of Harris Corp. and L3 Technologies to create today’s L3Harris.

But before that megadeal closed, L3 in particular made several moves to push for a wider presence in the unmanned maritime arena that largely began with its April 2017 acquisition of underwater drone maker OceanServer.

L3 was not done with just having the company that makes the vehicle, however. It subsequently purchased several businesses which make technologies to augment the platform including batteries and energy, autonomy and sensor systems, and anti-submarine and other control systems.

In retrospect, MUSV’s requirements largely match up with all of those aforementioned areas. The Navy wants the vessel to carry payloads for electronic warfare and “ISR” -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

MUSV was also going to be a rapid prototyping effort under Section 804 acquisition authorities, and one of L3Harris’ selling points in why its merger made sense was that it created a non-traditional Sixth Prime in the defense arena with a more agile approach.

Winning the MUSV contract is merely step one, albeit a big one. Executing on the MUSV program certainly is one proving ground for L3Harris to further make that argument.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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