Maryland firms showcase products at Paris Air Show, including new fighter jet, drone

Lockheed Martin demonstrated its F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet, Textron Systems introduced a next generation warfighting drone and Gov. Larry Hogan led a trade mission of eight smaller Maryland firms to the Paris Air Show, which started Monday.

The week-long air show, which dates to 1909, is considered one of the world's premier events for aerospace companies to show off their latest products.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Lockheed Martin is one of the top defense contractors in the world and showed off a range of products in its own pavilion at the air show, held every other year at Paris-Le Bourget Airport.

Lockheed used the occasion Monday to show off the capabilities of the F-35, which the company is negotiating to sell to the U.S. military and its allies. It's also displaying the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter, Sikorsky Black Hawk utility helicopter, a commercial freight plane, a hybrid airship and various missile and information systems.

Textron Systems unveiled its new NightWarden tactical unmanned aircraft system — the next generation of its Shadow drone, which is used widely by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. A unit of Rhode Island-based Textron Inc., Textron Systems develops and builds drones at a plant in Cockeysville, where it employs about 1,400 people.

Like its predecessor, the NightWarden is designed for missions including surveillance, targeting, attack and electronic warfare, but offers significant improvements, including greater flexibility and combat capability, said Bill Irby, senior vice president and general manager of Textron Systems Unmanned Systems, in a statement.

With a range of about 685 miles and a top speed of 90 nautical miles per hour, it can carry a payload of up to 130 pounds and operate for as long as 15 hours. A water-cooled, rotary engine makes the NightWarden quieter yet more powerful than prior Textron drones, the company said.

Hogan visited the Textron display at the air show for the drone's launch.

"Textron Systems continues to be an important economic driver for the state of Maryland, creating hundreds of jobs and supporting more than 270 Maryland-based suppliers, in addition to their numerous partnerships with local schools and their strong commitment to giving back to our local communities," Hogan said in a statement.

Hogan was there as part of his week-long trade mission to Europe that also includes a stop in London, where the governor, Commerce Secretary R. Michael Gill and other senior administration officials plan economic development meetings with international companies planning to start or expand operations in the state.

Eight Maryland firms accompanied the governor to the air show hoping to secure business deals, including ASTec Metalworks in Middle River; Applied Defense Solutions in Columbia; Jackson and Tull in Greenbelt; OCR Services in Rockville; Orbit Logic in Greenbelt; Planar Monolithics in Frederick; Tecore Networks in Hanover; and WGS Systems in Frederick.

Most received an ExportMD grant from the Maryland Department of Commerce to help offset the cost of the show, where the state is operating a promotional booth.

The event "puts Maryland and our job creators in front of the senior decision-makers at top aerospace companies, as well as more than 2,300 international exhibitors looking to buy and sell products and services," Hogan said in a statement.

Bob Wise, CEO of WGS Systems, said the show will allow the Frederick company to demonstrate its manned and unmanned airborne surveillance technologies to both international and domestic customers.

While at the show Monday, Hogan also met with executives from Fives Group and announced that the company's subsidiary, Fives Landis Corp., will open a research and development and demonstration technology center for its precision grinding solutions at the company's U.S. headquarters in Hagerstown.

Fives Landis already has hired 23 new employees in Hagerstown to support its new North American Technology Center and staff a new manufacturing line. The center will focus in part on developing grinding solutions for tough-to-machine or exotic materials used in sectors such as the aerospace industry.

"As one of the few remaining U.S. precision grinding machine manufacturers, our goal is to strengthen our market position in this sector, domestically as well as globally," said Ron Wood, director of business development at Fives Landis Corp. "The Tech Center is a great opportunity for us to gain more visibility and to even better engage with our customers."

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