Leidos Acquires Famed Naval Architecture Firm Gibbs & Cox

Gibbs & Cox is a subcontractor on the Navy's Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel program (Gibbs & Cox)

Published Feb 24, 2021 1:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

Engineering, IT and defense conglomerate Leidos has reached an agreement to buy the storied naval architecture firm Gibbs & Cox, boosting its capabilities as it competes for U.S. Navy unmanned systems contracts. 

In an earnings call Tuesday, Leidos CEO Roger Krone confirmed that his company plans to pay $380 million for Gibbs & Cox, with the transaction expected to close in the first quarter. "The acquisition of Gibbs & Cox will extend our existing maritime business and add specific capabilities and services, such as naval architecture and marine engineering, 3D modeling and design, and specialty engineering to the solution set that we offer to our customers,” Krone said. 

Gibbs & Cox is famous for its military designs, including the mass-produced Liberty Ships that carried U.S. military aid in WWII and many of the landing craft that ferried troops to Normandy on D-Day. In the 1970s, the firm designed the nearly-unsinkable Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, some of which are still in service with overseas navies today. It also worked on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer series - the backbone of the U.S. surface combatant fleet for the past 30 years, with nearly 90 built or on order - along with the Freedom-class littoral combat ship and its replacement, the FFG(X) adaptation of Fincantieri's FREMM frigate design. The company also designed the iconic liner SS United States, which set the transatlantic speed record for a commercial passenger vessel in 1952. Her record stood until 1990.

Given the firm's rich history and longstanding ties with the U.S. Navy, it will remain as an independent entity and retain its brand after the acquisition is completed.

For Leidos, Gibbs & Cox presents an opportunity to compete in the unmanned surface vessel space. Last year, Leidos lost a bid to design the Navy's future Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel (MUSV) when the service selected L3Harris instead. However, Gibbs & Cox is the ship design agent and engineering plant automation lead for L3Harris on the MUSV project, and it will perform a majority of the design work; the acquisition gives Leidos a way back into the MUSV program. Gibbs & Cox also holds one of six contracts to submit a competing proposal for the future Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV). 

"In our MUSV program, I think we had a very, very competitive bid, but we didn’t win. And as good as we were about the mission equipment on the autonomy, I think there were things that we learned in naval architecture and ship design,” Krone said.