AAI Corp. announced yesterday that Frederick M. Strader, general manager of its defense systems business, has been named president and chief operating officer and given responsibility for all day-to-day operations of the Hunt Valley defense contractor.
Richard R. Erkeneff, who has served as president and chief executive officer of AAI since 1992, will continue as chief executive.
The move comes just as the company enters a crucial production phase of its marquee defense product - the Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle, which won an $86.1 million contract from the U.S. Army this month. And Strader, 49, will preside over the 1,000-employee company and its broad offering of defense-related products as the company's parent, United Industrial Corp., continues to try to sell itself as a whole or in pieces.
Company executives said the change is designed to streamline AAI's management structure. The company did not have a chief operating officer before Strader's appointment, and his responsibilities as manager of defense systems had broadened as AAI sold off nondefense businesses to focus on its main strength - unmanned aircraft and training systems for the military.
AAI is widely considered an attractive takeover candidate because of its prominence in the field of unmanned aerial surveillance, a fast-emerging military technology. Most analysts suspect the company would have been sold months ago if it were not affiliated with Detroit Stoker Co., another United Industrial subsidiary that faces hundreds of outstanding asbestos lawsuits.
Strader said the prospects of a sale should have little effect on daily operations of the company, which hopes to grow and expand.
"When we've gone out and talked to different companies, they've been interested in us because we have businesses that are growing," said Strader. "Perhaps there will be a sale, perhaps there won't, but in any case we're in the middle of some exciting businesses and opportunities and there's a lot to do."
A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Strader joined AAI in 2001 after leaving United Defense LP, where he was general manger of its Armament Systems Division in Minneapolis.