Howe and Howe Technologies, the maker of futuristic off-road vehicles that have appeared in movies and reality TV shows, is being purchased by Textron, a Rhode Island-based defense contractor.

Michael D. Howe, president of the Waterboro company, said the deal is expected to close in late November or early December. Terms were not disclosed, but Textron is a $14 billion military and industrial conglomerate with subsidiaries that manufacture Bell helicopters, Cessna aircraft and Arctic Cat snowmobiles, among other products. It employs 35,000 people worldwide.

Howe and Howe has developed Ripsaw, a remote-controlled, tank-like vehicle that can handle a range of extreme terrains and conditions. A version of the vehicle was used in the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” three years ago.

Howe said the purchase will allow the Waterboro operation to expand, while giving the company the resources to enhance its research and development programs and better compete for military contracts. It is currently bidding on a contract for remote-controlled vehicles similar to its Ripsaw. The contract is expected to be awarded in the next six months or so, Howe said.

The 13-year-old company will remain in Waterboro after the sale, and may add to its 50 employees, Howe said. There’s also a possibility that it could build new facilities locally.

Both Michael Howe and his twin and co-founder, Geoff Howe, the chief executive officer, will retain their positions after the sale. The two were featured in “Black Ops Brothers,” a Discovery Channel series.

‘GLOBAL LEADER IN AUTONOMY’

In a statement, Textron said the purchase will position the Rhode Island company “as a global leader in autonomy across the air, land and sea domains.”

Seen in 2017, Howe and Howe Technologies President Michael Howe, left, and his twin, Geoff, the Waterboro company’s CEO, will retain their roles after the planned sale to Textron this year. Staff photo by Derek Davis

A version of Howe and Howe’s’ Ripsaw Super Tank already is being purchased by the U.S. military, and the company is competing for a contract to build a platoon-carrying robot vehicle for the U.S. Army.

“Howe & Howe are the original disruptors in the advanced robotic vehicle space,” Lisa Atherton, Textron Systems’ president and CEO, said in a written statement. “Not just anyone can build these vehicles. Bringing together Textron Systems’ and Howe & Howe’s talent, capabilities and proven products will join two of the best.”

Howe and Howe also has developed and sold Ripchairs, which are off-road wheelchairs; a firefighting robot; a robot customized for police use; and other robots deployed in a range of uses, from surveillance to landscaping.

TOWN WELCOMES THE NEWS

The Howe brothers, who hail from North Berwick, began tinkering at an early age. Geoff attended the University of Maine for two years before deciding college wasn’t for him and getting a job at a water treatment plant. Michael attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick and worked as a financial adviser by day. The brothers developed the first Ripsaw, along with other vehicles, at night.

In 2006, the two opened a shop in an Eliot business park, and in 2009 announced a move to Waterboro.

Gary Lamb, Waterboro’s town administrator, said the news and the prospect of Howe and Howe Technologies expanding are exciting developments.

“We’re a commuter town and this means there will be a few more people who won’t have to commute” to jobs, he said, which could lead to more development in town.

Lamb said the company has been a good corporate citizen in Waterboro.

Jim Southworth, chair of the town’s Economic Development Committee, echoed that, noting that the company put on a demonstration of its vehicles for residents during an open house a few weeks ago.

Southworth said his panel now will now try to persuade some of Howe and Howe’s suppliers to locate in town, possibly leading to more jobs if the company expands.

Tammy Wells of the Journal Tribune contributed to this report.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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