The government gave EOS $36m, so who else might be in line for a defence cash splash?
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Electro Optic Systems got millions of dollars and serious government help to get its weapons tech into Saudi Arabia.
But they aren’t the only grateful recipient of government aid in getting expensive military hardware into the hands of foreign powers.
There are 26 small caps on the ASX which are either deeply engaged or have a single toe in the industrial military complex.
These range from weapons guidance sellers like Electro Optic Systems (ASX:EOS) to actual weapons makers, like Xtek (ASX:XTE), to biotechs Immuron (ASX:IMC) and
ResApp (ASX:RAP) which are making anti-gastro pills and cough warning apps respectively for the US military.
Early in 2018 then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made $3.8 billion available through a funding program called the Defence Export Strategy.
The plan was to get Aussie arms exports on par with countries like Britain, France and Germany within 10 years, by selling those weapons to Asia and, specifically, the Middle East.
While Saudi arms sales are on the nose with the US and UK, there are 25 other companies hoping for a halo effect from that government defence exports cash splash.
These guys are not developing biological weapons of mass destruction.
In the case of Immuron, however, they’re fighting a weapon of mass destruction: gastro.
The US Department of Defense is funding the $55 million company’s study to find a way to kick Delhi belly in the gut before it starts — after the last of three studies suggests it might work.
Word is it’s working on apes, so it might work in US soldiers.
You’re not a real military unless you’ve got drones and a way to shoot them down — without destroying them of course, because you want to see what your opponent is using.
Department 13 (ASX:D13) and Droneshield (ASX:DRO) are both known for their drone killing tech.
The former is a kind of anti-drone forcefield and the latter is a Rambo-sized ‘gun’ that you point at a drone to steer it to Earth.
Everyone’s favourite 3D metal printer Titomic (ASX:TTT) has a contract to test out its printer to make drones, and body armour, while Aquabotix (ASX:UUV) makes underwater drones — some of which may soon be authorised by the US Navy to carry bombs.
It also has some imaginatively designed surveillance drones for wriggling into secret spaces.
Mobilicom (ASX:MOB) does drone steering and surveillance software that it targets at security services, but doesn’t appear to have any military contracts.
Surveillance and monitoring
Brainchip’s (ASX:BRN) baddie-detecting software is pinpointing terrorists in a crowd up to six times faster, while Spectur (ASX:SP3) sells its cloud-connected camera to the Australian military and Sky and Space (ASX:SAS).
Boats, weapons and armour
Where Titomic is tiptoeing towards the big guns — literally — only one actually makes the things.
Xtek makes a variety of military equipment for the Australian military, from bomb disposal robots to body armour, but one of the most interesting are the sniper rifles it supplies.
It doesn’t say much about its high-powered customer but did make $17m in revenue last year and $139,224 in profit.
Austal (ASX:ASB) makes armoured ships for the US Navy and was most recently in the news because US federal investigators raided its Mobile, Alabama office.
The investigation is “separate but related” to an ASIC investigation into market announcements around earnings from its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.
Quickstep (ASX:QHL) also makes carbon fibre plane parts for Lockheed Martin and the infamously over-budget, under-prepared Joint Strike Fighter.
Bisalloy Steel (ASX:BI) makes ship armour, while Alexium (ASX:AJX) makes body armour.
Temporary roading company Sapex Group is in the process of moving from the NSX to the ASX.
Cybersec and comms
Whitehawk (ASX:WHK), Ava Security (ASX:AVA), ArchTis (ASX:AR9), Elsight (ASX:ELS), Codan (ASX:CDA), Speedcast (ASX:SDA), Etherstack (ASX:ESK) and Livetiles (ASX:LVT) all over either cyber security, communications or process management software for military use.