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The first order for amphibious landing craft came in 1941 with a form from the military that simply said "Buy 1,000 LVTs - Food Machinery Corporation." During World War II, FMC produced more than 10,000 armored vehicles. Similarly, Bowen McLaughlin York (later BMY, a division of Harsco) also began building tanks.


For the next 50 years, both companies achieved recognition for producing quality combat vehicles and Navy guns. Of particular note was the development and production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a combat vehicle hailed as "the most magnificent fighting machine ever" after its success during Desert Storm. FMC established a preeminent industry position in the production and upgrade of Navy guns and launchers, including the Mk 45 Gun System, a fully automated five-inch naval gun which is in service on all destroyers and cruisers in the U.S. Navy and on the ships of seven allied navies.

In response to the downsizing of the military, the shrinking industrial base and improvements in technology in a declining market, FMC and Harsco merged their defense units into United Defense Limited Partnership in 1994.


The Carlyle Group bought United Defense in October 1997. With their support, United Defense was able to reinvest in defense opportunities. The company charted a path of raising the value of the company by reducing debt and developing new business. In the late '90s the company focused on repaying debt and seeing ways to invest for growth. The strategy was highly successful as the company was able to reduce debt and pursue acquisitions. The company expanded its capabilities in gun systems and intelligent munitions and acquired a more global business reach with its purchase of Bofors Weapon Systems AB of Sweden in September 2000, renamed Bofors Defence.

In late 2001, United Defense took the necessary steps to become a public company and on December 14 of that year began public trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol UDI.

In July 2002, United Defense acquired United States Marine Repair, America's largest non-nuclear ship repair, modernization, conversion and overhaul company. The acquisition balanced and diversified United Defense's portfolio, providing a strategic growth platform and expanding its mission to support the U.S. Navy with superior technology and services.