Defense firm L3Harris Technologies Inc. recently announced it will buy missile engine-maker Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. for $4.7 billion. Aerojet was the biggest maker of propulsion systems in the U.S. defense industry left as an independent company after Northrop Grumman Corp. acquired Orbital ATK Inc. in 2018 for $9.2 billion.
Aerojet’s engines are propelling the Javelin anti-tank missiles currently being used in the Ukraine conflict and help power National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) rockets and U.S. military hypersonic systems. The company also makes solid-fuel rockets, which defense experts say are more reliable than liquid-fuel motors, The Wall Street Journal reported. Its customers include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon Technologies Corp.
In January, federal regulators sued to block Lockheed Martin Corp.’s intended purchase of Aerojet on antitrust grounds. The company was put up for sale again after Lockheed dropped its bid in February.
General Electric Co. and Textron Inc. made competing offers, according to The Journal.
Florida-based L3Harris produces surveillance equipment, microwave weaponry, and electronic warfare products. With the purchase, the company becomes one of the government’s six key defense contractors.
Previously, L3Harris was mostly a competitor rather than a customer of Aerojet. Aerojet's solid fuel rocket motors and other propulsion systems would help L3Harris expand its space defense systems and precision munitions businesses.
In 2022, L3Harris won contracts outside its usual areas of expertise, including supplying aircraft for the U.S. Special Operations Command and satellites to track hypersonic missiles. The company has also been growing through acquisitions, most recently with a deal in October to buy Viasat Inc.'s tactical data business for $1.96 billion.