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Thursday, Jul 18, 2024

The Future of Warfighting

Palmer Luckey, the founder of defense contractor Anduril Industries Inc. in Costa Mesa, believes it’s time to recapture the “spirit of innovation and bring cutting-edge technology to our armed forces once again.”

“War in Eastern Europe, the looming threat of a Taiwan invasion, and a rising tide of security threats in other regions of the world demand it,” says the 29-year-old Luckey, whose upstart defense tech firm is among Orange County’s fastest-growing businesses with a valuation quickly approaching $8 billion, if not more.

Anduril used the fifth anniversary of its founding this month to issue a call to action named “Rebooting the Arsenal of Democracy” to provide for a future that is “safe, prosperous and free.”

The armed services of the U.S. and its partners are “equipped with tools decades behind what you or I use today,” according to Luckey, whose firm is looking to grab more business that would traditionally go to defense behemoths such as Raytheon Technologies Corp. (NYSE: RTX) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT); see separate story this page.

Anduril utilizes technology such as drones, optics and artificial intelligence as it seeks to transform U.S. defense capabilities and solve national security challenges. The company, founded in June 2017, also develops border protection systems.

Mission Statement

Anduril is seeking to push much greater use of technology by the Department of Defense and its allies, issuing both the call to action and Luckey’s recording of it on June 6—which came on the 78th anniversary of D-Day.

Anduril took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post that day to help get its call to action across to the U.S. military and federal government officials.

To make sure the word got out to the widest-possible audience in the nation’s capital, the strongly worded mission statement was promoted all around Washington on numerous posters.

Luckey featured the full presentation on his Twitter feed, and it was on the company’s Linkedin.com page and company blog as well, while several Anduril executives and stakeholders tweeted and shared the announcement.

“We need a new breed of defense technology companies to reboot the arsenal of democracy,” according to the company’s mission statement.

Anduril’s products include the high-tech Lattice border protection network and its Ghost drones.

The company has branched out into other areas, including under-sea vehicles.

The privately held company, which counts just over 1,000 employees and is expecting to hire hundreds more in the next few years, had a reported valuation around $4.6 billion during its most recent financing round last year.

An upcoming round said to be in the works places that valuation close to $8 billion, according to a recent report in Forbes.

Arming Ukraine?

A Forbes profile of Luckey, published June 3, said Anduril is “arming Ukraine and building the weapons of the future—before the Pentagon even knows it wants them.”

The company has yet to confirm that its technology is being used in Ukraine, though Luckey has previously stated that “we’ve designed our technology to be specifically relevant to exactly these challenges.”

AI Lagging

Trae Stephens, the Anduril co-founder and executive chairman, in a commentary accompanying the mission statement, provided some sobering thoughts:

• “Today, in U.S. Defense Department war games that model conflicts with China, China wins.”
• “Today, there is more AI in a Tesla than in any U.S. military vehicle and better computer vision in your Snapchat app than in any system the Department of Defense owns. Until 2019, America’s nuclear arsenal operated off of floppy disks.”
• “Those who take on the defense giants must fight the bureaucracy tooth and claw.”
The West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is already using various high-tech weapons, ranging from the ultra-lethal Switchblade drone supplied by the U.S. to sophisticated electronic eavesdropping on Russian troops by NATO military forces.

Nearly $1B Contract

Anduril said in January it had landed its largest-ever contract, a nearly $1 billion deal with a unit of the Pentagon. The contract is to help develop protections against drones, the rapidly proliferating flying devices that are increasingly seen as a threat to national security.

Defense industry trade publications cited the deal as a watershed one, showing that certain Pentagon divisions are increasingly looking to nontraditional tech and defense startups for the newest technologies, rather than relying on traditional defense contractors.

New HQ

Early this year, Anduril moved into its new headquarters at The Press in Costa Mesa.
When built out, the space at The Press creative office campus will run 640,000 square feet, making the upstart defense tech firm one of Orange County’s largest office tenants.

Anduril Takes on Larger Competitors

Privately held Anduril Industries Inc. in Costa Mesa is putting up a feisty challenge to mammoth defense contractors in some areas.

While the company is reportedly seeking to raise capital to boost its valuation to between $7 billion and $8 billion from $4.6 billion reached last year, Anduril is still far smaller than its competitors.

Here are some of those competitors with sample products:

• Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), with a market cap of around $120 billion: Hellfire missile, Javelin missile (with Raytheon), prime contractor on F-35.

• Raytheon Technologies Corp. (NYSE: RTX), market valuation around $145 billion: Lynx infantry fighting vehicle (with American Rheinmetall Vehicles);
Stinger missile.

• Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC), valuation around $75 billion:
B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, naval systems, space.

• Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), valuation around $85 billion: P-8A Poseidon
maritime patrol aircraft, C-17 Globemaster (military side).
—Kevin Costelloe

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