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October 26, 2018

Textron Systems to buy Waterboro robotics firm

Courtesy / Howe & Howe Technologies Inc.
Courtesy / Howe & Howe Technologies Inc.
Howe & Howe Technologies, a maker of robotic vehicles used by the Army and by firefighters, has been acquired by a Providence, R.I.-based company. Pictured is its Ripsaw off-road vehicle.

About Textron Inc.

Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) has a global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses, including such brands such as Bell, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Textron Off Road, Arctic Cat, Textron Systems, and TRU Simulation + Training. For more information, visit: www.textron.com. It had 2017 sales of $14.6 billion.

Howe & Howe Technologies Inc., a maker of off-road and robotic vehicles used by the Army and by firefighters, has been acquired by a Providence, R.I.-based defense contractor.

Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT, which owns brands like Bell, Cessna and Arctic Cat, announced that it entered into a letter of intent to make Howe & Howe part of its Textron Systems unit.

Textron Systems is a global leader in unmanned systems, including combat systems for defense and aerospace customers. Howe & Howe produces advanced robotic and manned off-road vehicles built for extreme conditions

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Howe & Howe has 50 employees and manufactures everything in its 60,000-square-foot site in Waterboro, President Michael Howe told Mainebiz. He said the deal "will infuse Textron capital into the existing and new infrastructure to push our research and development potential to new limits."

Textron Systems President and CEO Lisa Atherton called Howe & Howe "the original disruptors in the advanced robotic vehicle space."

Its versatile Ripsaw off-road vehicle has been used for military and civilian use. After testing in swamp and jungle terrains, its RS2-H1 SMET unmanned robot was down-selected to compete to be the U.S. Army's first platoon load-carrying robot. Howe & Howe also built a robot for fighting fires, the Thermite, and developed the Bulldog line of extreme firefighting and medical transport vehicles.

"Textron Systems is now positioned to be a global provider of unmanned capabilities across all three domains. We are clear on the U.S. military's vision and their future technology needs for autonomy, robotics and unmanned systems," Atherton said in a news release. "This planned acquisition demonstrates our commitment to our U.S. military customers and an understanding of their critical work. Not just anyone can build these vehicles. Bringing together Textron Systems' and Howe & Howe's talent, capabilities and proven products will join two of the best, and we are excited at the idea of advancing the industry even further as one team."

Textron did not provide any other details about plans for the Waterboro site or the existing staff.

Two brothers with an inventive streak

Howe & Howe was founded by twin brothers Geoff and Michael Howe, who graduated from the Kents Hill School in Kennebec County in 1992. The brothers grew up building stuff, including a cabin they built at age 8 with power tools they their mom gave them for their birthday, according to their website. Later, they worked on cars.

By 2001, they'd developed the Ripsaw off-road vehicle, according to their website. The Ripsaw Super Tank, a tracked vehicle, has been adapted for military and civilian use. It was also the base of a car used by the Bullet Farmer character in "Mad Max Fury Road."

The brothers won their first military contract at age 31.Their designs have been featured in Popular Mechanics magazine. They starred in a Discovery Channel reality show, "Black Ops Brothers, Howe and Howe Tech." Their vehicles have been featured on "Jay Leno's Garage."

'Experience and forward thinking'

Michael Howe praised the "deep experience and forward thinking of Textron Systems.

"We are extremely pleased at the possibility of joining forces with Textron and continuing to push the laws of physics in ground mobility and robotics," said Howe. "The deep experience and forward thinking of Textron Systems, coupled with the innovation and sheer competitiveness of Howe & Howe, will make for a formidable combination. We expect that the whole will be immeasurably greater than the sum of our parts and will be positioned to forge the 21st century world leader in ground robotics and mobility."

The transaction is subject to the execution of a definitive acquisition agreement containing customary closing conditions.

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