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Gremlin Competition Could Benefit San Diego

Two companies with San Diego ties will compete to build small military aircraft that will travel in swarms and be reusable up to 20 times.

The Pentagon calls them Gremlins.

Poway-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Sacramento-based Composite Engineering Inc. lead two of the four teams that received Phase 1 contracts announced March 31. Composite Engineering is a subsidiary of San Diego-based Kratos Defense and Security Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq: KTOS).

The Kratos deal is worth $3.9 million, according to the website Military Aerospace & Electronics.

The two other teams are led by Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Ala. and the Dallas office of defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is leading the program.

Program managers envision launching groups of the little unmanned aircraft from existing large aircraft — including bombers, transports, fighters or small, fixed-wing platforms — while those planes are out of range of the adversary. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

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