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Contract for Unmanned Off-the-Shelf Weapon Raises Profile of Firm

Contract for Unmanned Off-the-Shelf Weapon Raises Profile of Firm

By BRAD GRAVES

San Diego Business Journal

It’s part pilotless drone, part cruise missile and a fraction of the price of either.

The Office of Naval Research calls it the “affordable weapon,” and San Diego-based Titan Corp. is its contractor. The company is working on the project under a $25.7 million pact awarded in 2002.

If all goes well for Titan, the device could be part of the 2005 Pentagon budget.

If all goes well for the Pentagon, the missile’s price could fall to $50,000 per unit when in full production, according to Chuck Saffell, senior vice president for national security solutions at Titan.

A Tomahawk cruise missile costs $1.2 million; the Predator drone, made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., costs between $4 million and $5 million without its sensor suite.

Key to the Titan drone’s affordability is its use of commercial, off-the-shelf components rather than components made to military specifications.

The weapon’s jet engine comes from a catalog, Saffell said. Its igniter is the kind that rock bands use in stage shows. The Global Positioning System equipment is off the shelf.

The New York Times dubbed the project “Navy Meets Home Depot.”

The weapon takes off like a rocket, with a small booster on its tail. It could be launched from a shipping container, and it rides a short rail pointed at 45 degrees from the horizon.

Tom Taylor, the Office of Naval Research program manager for the project, said that the Pentagon planned to field 100 missiles, 80 warheads and their shipping containers by the end of September. He said the missiles would carry weapons or surveillance packages.

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