As the U.S. Navy polishes the requirements for its proposed Aegis ballistic missile defense system upgrades, companies such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are cranking up production to support the combat system on the restarted DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyer line.

The Navy recently decided to restart the line to put more Aegis-equipped vessels into the fleet with tweaked combat systems for more enhanced ballistic missile defense capability.

As the incumbent Aegis prime contractor, Lockheed Martin is on the front line not only for the added combat systems work, but also the development of the proposed system upgrades. Other companies, particularly Raytheon, are benefitting, too.

“Our transmitter, which we’ve been building for 30 years, generates the radar’s waveform signal,” says James Bennett, Raytheon’s Air and Missile Defense program manager.

“Aegis’s MK 99 fire control system, which guides the missile to the final target — that’s Raytheon. We also build the missiles. So we are all over Aegis and understand how the system works.”

Raytheon was hard at work this summer on contracts for four new Aegis combat systems, three for ships and one for Aegis Ashore.

“About two years ago, the program looked like it was going to go into closeout,” says Sean Kane, Raytheon operations lead for Aegis programs. “In 2008, we shipped our last deckhouse out of here and prepared to close down the program. But then in 2010, there was a resurgence of Aegis, and we received the Navy contract for the four sets of equipment.”

The two-year break in Aegis production was not “huge,” Kane says. “But Aegis has been a very large production program. Even starting up after a relatively short break isn’t an easy thing to do.”

Raytheon officials decided not just to restart with as few hiccups as possible, but to improve the Aegis line as well.

“We sat down and asked ourselves, ‘what are we going to do differently? How are we going to do this better?’” Kane says. “We put a lot of lean manufacturing principles in place. We’re now building the same amount of hardware in here — at the same rate — as last time, but in half the footprint. We’re taking up half the floor space.”

Another major focus, he says, was “waste elimination.” By cutting down on things like hours worked, he says, the company is running 25% more efficiently with the new Aegis work than it was previously.

With the DDG-51 restart and planned Flight III Arleigh Burke redesign, there promises to be more Aegis work for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other Aegis contractors for years to come.