Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries is set to buy defense services company Alion Science and Technology for $1.65 billion, HII officials said on Tuesday.
The acquisition of the McLean, Va.-based Alion adds to other recent HII buys the company said will better position its shipbuilding business to shape its platforms for a future U.S. military that will rely more on emerging technologies like unmanned systems, CEO Mike Petters said in a call with investors on Tuesday.
Alion’s business includes tying together information from multiple information, surveillance and reconnaissance systems; developing Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) training; using artificial intelligence to sort through vast amounts of data; and researching electronic warfare.
The Navy is in the midst of crafting a future fleet that will better link ships, aircraft and future unmanned systems to create a network of sensing and shooting nodes to better fight a distributed conflict over vast stretches of ocean.
In particular, HII cited the Navy’s emerging distributed maritime operations concept as a key reason to acquire Alion.
“[The] Navy’s DMO concept integrates manned and unmanned platforms for networked naval warfare leveraging AI and automation for improved lethality and force resiliency,” according to a presentation on the deal released during the Tuesday investor’s call.
An “HII + Alion combination will provide differentiated capabilities for DMO pursuit.”
The Alion deal follows HII’s 2020 $350 million purchase of unmanned systems manufacturer Hydroid, Sea Machines Robotics, Inc., and an investment in the autonomy arm of Spatial Integrated Systems in January.
The idea behind the acquisition, Petters said, is to give a better sense of how to shape its ships in the future.
“What we see happening in the big platform business is that the platforms are the base for enhancing a future Navy. That’s going to rely not just on the platforms, but it’s going to rely on unmanned. It’s going to rely on distributed operations and it’s going to look for asymmetric solutions,” he said.
“What we’ve already seen in the year that we’ve had Hydroid is that having the unmanned team interact with the platform business actually creates more focus in the platform business to providing solutions for the future Navy and not for the past Navy.”
HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works are the two yards with the capacity to construct the service’s next-generation destroyer DDG(X), USNI News understands. The next-generation destroyer will be designed with a distributed fleet in mind. HII is also one of five companies that were awarded study contracts to develop concepts for the Navy’s Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV) last month.