Jet travel is as fast as it's ever been, thanks to new materials like carbon fiber, and ultra-efficient turbofan engines, like General Electric Co.'s (NYSE: GE) GE9X and Rolls-Royce Holdings' (LSE: RR) Trent XWB.
Still… a trip from my home in California's Bay Area to, say, Sydney is a grueling, boring 15-plus hours. New York to London clocks in at more than seven hours, and the busy New York to Los Angeles route takes nearly five-and-a-half hours.
But what if you could take off from San Francisco and land in Sydney in a little over three hours? Or make the trip from JFK to London Heathrow in 90 minutes? How about a 230 mile hop between Washington, D.C. and New York that takes just four minutes?
Those incredible travel times are very, very possible traveling at Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound, or around 3,836 miles per hour.
It's become what's known as "hypersonic" speed, and before much longer, it's going to make those mighty GE9Xs and Trent XWBs look like steam engines.
The technology to take us hypersonic isn't coming tomorrow, or "just around the corner" – it's here now. Today.
It's not available to commuters or vacationers – yet – but it's the top priority of American, Chinese, and Russian defense firms.
A Stratospheric Growth Trajectory
Deloitte says the hypersonic market has grown by roughly 26% a year since 2014. At that rate, the annual spending is expected to double, from $2.6 billion last year to well over $5 billion by 2025.
But in my view, that's a conservative estimate – it simply doesn't include hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital that is flooding in.
What's more, now that a proof of concept – and the glaring need for this technology – is established, expect growth to come faster.
And wherever there's growth, there are investment dollars. The next catalyst for growth is coming courtesy of Uncle Sam.
See, in early June, the U.S. Senate was working on the new defense spending bill for the next fiscal year.
Drafters are "digging deep" not just for hypersonic vehicle development, but also for building defenses against our global rivals, particularly the Chinese and Russians.
By now, most people are familiar with the acronym for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Now it's time to learn a new acronym for the coming age – HGV. That stands for hypersonic glide vehicle, and it's what the military is spending huge resources to develop and counter.
Yes, the big defense companies we all know and love are part of this effort. We're talking Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), Raytheon Technologies Corp. (NYSE: RTX), and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC).
There's another player at work here – it doesn't get as much attention as the "Big Three" of the U.S. defense sector, but it will get a big cut of the hypersonic business. What's more, there's a merger on the table that will add some "oomph" to the shares.
And this company's merger with a major player in the aerospace sector may not make the stock go hypersonic, but it will certainly add to its velocity.
It's selling at a 35% discount to the S&P 500 at the moment, and it sports an enviable track record of beating that benchmark by 160%.
Over the past five years, the S&P 500 is up only about 49%. Over that same period, its shares are up 129%.
Yes, there's incredible upside ahead in Leidos Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LDOS).
This Firm Has Been a Tech Leader for 50 Years
Leidos has been around in one form or another since the late 1960s. Back then, it was established as the go-to government contractor for advanced scientific research.
Basically, this covered everything from nuclear and electromagnetic weapons to radiation therapies for cancers.
Leidos' unmatched ability to take cutting-edge technology and turn it into pragmatic applications has been a big part of its ability to thrive for decades in a cutthroat environment.
But it has stayed closer to its scientific roots than the bigger defense firms. It's not a top tier player in defense, but that's no ding against Leidos: That means it's much better leveraged for growth.
As a matter of fact, in 2016, Leidos bought Lockheed's Information Systems and Global Solutions business for $4.6 billion to be more competitive in the aerospace and defense markets.
This has been part of a longer-term strategy to build out its aerospace work through its longstanding government and Pentagon relationships.
Late last year, Leidos bought Huntsville, Ala.-based aerospace and applied sciences firm Dynetics for $1.6 billion to further expand its exposure to hypersonics, space, and weapons systems.
And yet it has managed to absorb those firms and keep fresh cash flowing in, to the tune of $922 million a year, in fact.
I believe this conservative approach is great news for investors. It shows the company is highly efficient, with a laser-like focus on its core competencies.
The fact that Leidos has battled it out – successfully – in the aerospace sector for four years means big things ahead.
The Military (Badly) Needs What Leidos Provides
Leidos boasts a workforce of nearly 11,000. Of those, some 38% are former Department of Defense employees. It's no surprise then that more than a third of its $10 billion-plus annual revenue comes from defense and intel agencies.
That's where the new Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) comes in. As the name implies, this is a sophisticated platform that can track objects flying through space at hypersonic speeds.
During the dark days of the Cold War, U.S. and allied militaries reckoned they'd have about 30 minutes' time between the hostile launch of a land-based ICBM and its impact. Now, that's not a very long time, but it's sufficient when you only need 10 minutes to prepare and launch a counterstrike.
Now, submarine-launched missiles, should they be launched from just offshore, cut that warning and response time down to as little as two or three minutes.
That's scary enough, but now we're talking about hypersonic weapons. The challenges our military faces in tracking HGVs are obvious – and significant.
The Pentagon is turning to Leidos for that all-important tracking capability.
Meanwhile, Leidos also ranks as a major player in the next generation of space travel, which some experts expect to be an $800 billion industry in the next decade.
Last year, Leidos won a $3 billion NASA contract for IT services. It has supported 87 missions from various firms to the International Space Station and is heavily involved in the planned Artemis moon missions.
The U.S. government is nothing if not a great, reliable customer. That sets Leidos up in the most favorable possible position for long-term revenue growth.
Leidos will become an important part of U.S. defense strategy before its tech sends customers on suborbital, Mach-5 vacation and business jaunts. By that time, it's likely to have doubled your money at least once.
Own this one for the long haul.
And that's not the only tech opportunity I have for you today…
By now, you've heard the 5G story a million times over. You've seen the billboards, you've seen the commercials, and you've seen the hype campaigns. But there's a key reason why there hasn't been a nationwide rollout yet.
It was following in the footsteps of the 10 years it took 4G to roll out… but the FCC just stepped in with a $10 billion initiative to supercharge 5G. Here's how to take your slice…
About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is a 36-year Silicon Valley veteran and one of the top tech and biotech financial analysts working today. That's because, as a consultant, senior adviser, and board member for Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Michael enjoys privileged access to pioneering CEOs, scientists, and high-profile players. And he brings this entire world of Silicon Valley "insiders" right to you...
- He was one of five people involved in early meetings for the $160 billion "cloud" computing phenomenon.
- He was there as Lee Iacocca and Roger Smith, the CEOs of Chrysler and GM, led the robotics revolution that saved the U.S. automotive industry.
- As cyber-security was becoming a focus of national security, Michael was with Dave DeWalt, the CEO of McAfee, right before Intel acquired his company for $7.8 billion.
This all means the entire world is constantly seeking Michael's insight.
In addition to being a regular guest and panelist on CNBC and Fox Business, he is also a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter. His first book Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings warned people about the coming financial collapse - years before the word "bailout" became a household word.
Silicon Valley defense publications vie for his analysis. He's worked for Defense Media Network and Signal Magazine, as well as The New York Times, American Enterprise, and The Wall Street Journal.
And even with decades of experience, Michael believes there has never been a moment in time quite like this.
Right now, medical breakthroughs that once took years to develop are moving at a record speed. And that means we are going to see highly lucrative biotech investment opportunities come in fast and furious.
To help you navigate the historic opportunity in biotech, Michael launched the Bio-Tech Profit Alliance.
His other publications include: Strategic Tech Investor, The Nova-X Report, Bio-Technology Profit Alliance and Nexus-9 Network.