Central Florida's largest high-tech players — Lockheed Martin Corp. and Harris Corp. — have a big chunk of their revenue prospects hitched to the often controversial, sometimes uneven flight path of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Over the past decade, the F-35 program has been worth more than $1 billion in contract revenue to the defense contractors' Central Florida operations. More than a thousand jobs across the region are tied to work on various aspects of the advanced stealth aircraft.
And with its technical and cost issues, past and present, the F-35 is on track to be the most expensive military program in history. Latest price tag: $1.4 trillion.
"Despite defense spending caps and cuts made through sequestration, the F-35 program came out basically unscathed," Pentagon program chief Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told Defense News last month.
That bodes well for Central Florida's defense industry. Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed's Orlando operations build weapons-targeting systems, flight and maintenance training simulators and automated logistics computers for the F-35.
More than 500 local jobs are tied to the work, not including those at local subcontractors and vendors.
Melbourne-based Harris produces the F-35's high-speed avionics, cockpit communications and data-processing technology. The company employs about 6,500 in Melbourne and Palm Bay.
In their latest quarterly results, both companies pointed to the F-35 work as a key factor in beating Wall Street's consensus earnings forecast. Harris' stock rose 3.5 percent after its earnings were released last week. Lockheed's stock rose nearly 4 percent after its April 22 release.
FARO Technologies Inc.'s stock tumbled last week after the Lake Mary-based high-tech company badly missed analysts' expectations for its first-quarter results.
FARO earned $5 million, or 29 cents a share, on revenue of $73.4 million, up 9 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the year-ago period. It produces laser-based, computerized measurement and 3D imaging systems for manufacturing, health care, aerospace and other applications.
FARO was expected to earn 36 cents a share on sales of $80 million, according to Thomson Reuters. FARO cited higher research-and-development costs and higher writeoffs of older inventory related to the introduction of laser scanners and tracker products.
Intelligent Decisions Inc. has named military-training executive Dexter Conrad as chief of business development for its Orlando-based training and simulation unit.
Conrad is a former senior executive for L-3 Communications and Engility Corp. A retired veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he won the Purple Heart and other awards. Most recently, he was a leadership instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
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