Lockheed Martin celebrates 100 years with rare demonstration

OWEGO — With 100 years under its belt, Lockheed Martin is looking toward the future — and using a hand-held aircraft to do it.

Members of Lockheed Martin Systems & Sensors team discussed the company’s history Thursday, focusing on the accomplishments of its 1.7-million-square-foot Owego facility, as well as its future endeavors, which involve increasing its international business and working with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. to land another presidential helicopter contract.

The Owego facility, which employs 2,700 people, currently works on several projects, including the Joint Strike Fighter, A-10, Desert Hawk, MH-60, K-MAX, B-2, P-3 and C130, said Dan Spoor, Lockheed’s Owego general manager.

The Desert Hawk and K-MAX are both unmanned aircrafts, the first being a lightweight plane that can be carried in a backpack and used as a short-distance scout. Currently used by Britain in combat missions, the devices have definite benefits, giving anyone who uses them live video feed of an area.

“To them (soldiers), it makes a big difference,” technical director John Yuhnick said. “They will be able to make quick decisions without putting you in harm’s way. The value to us is more than technology.”

As one of several small unmanned aircraft systems — SUASs — the company has developed, the Desert Hawk gives troops in the field the advantage of knowing what, or who, may be waiting ahead.

On Thursday, Dan Ladue, a test engineer, tossed a lightweight, gray object —like a paper airplane — into the sky, and it soon picked up to its cruising speed of 35 knots. The aircraft — which looks like a bird when it’s just 500 feet in the air — can get up to 50 knots and stay up for five hours, all on battery power, while someone controls it with a few keystrokes on a laptop from below.

Lockheed provided the demonstration of the 18-pound Desert Hawk high on a hill at the company’s sprawling 675-acre secure campus in a rare event reserved for media.

The Desert Hawk, with a body of foam covered by Kevlar and carbon fiber, can withstand hard landings in the rough terrain. They are able to break apart upon landing and are easy to piece back together, Yuhnick said.

“They can take a lot of damage,” he said. “They need that type of resiliency.”

The K-MAX is an unmanned helicopter that is being used by the U.S. Marine Corps to bring supplies to soldiers in advanced positions in Afghanistan, Spoor said. The K-MAX has the capability to carry 6,000 pounds of cargo, flying under the cover of night.

“The computer controls all flight dynamics for that helicopter,” Spoor said.

International contracts currently make up 15 percent of Lockheed’s sales. The Australian government purchased 20 MH-60s, a helicopter also used by the U.S. Navy.

“The expectation is that the 15 percent will grow,” Spoor said.

Along with defense-related programs, Lockheed also has contracted with the U.S. Postal Service, and mail services in five other countries, for equipment it developed that has address imaging and recognition systems, he said.

Through the years, the facility has produced equipment for U.s. armed service branches, as well as dozens of foreign countries including much of Europe, India, Brazil and Algeria, officials said. The company also helped with the guidance system on the Saturn Rocket for NASA in 1964.

Lockheed Martin also is beginning to work with health care companies to help them tie together several pieces of medical equipment to work in tandem.

“We are in discussion with Lourdes Hospital,” Spoor said. “We’re at an early stage, but it’s a very exciting area.”