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UPDATE 1-Harris Corp, L3 Technologies win U.S. antitrust approval for merger

(Adds context, quote, background on deal)

WASHINGTON, June 20 (Reuters) - Military communication equipment providers Harris Corp and L3 Technologies Inc have won U.S. antitrust approval for their merger, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

Increased defense spending under U.S. President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress is driving contractors to pursue mergers so they have more scale to bid on bigger projects, spanning everything from upgrading computer systems to space exploration.

The all-stock merger will create the sixth-largest U.S. defense contractor, with a market value of $34 billion at the time it was announced in October 2018.

The government required that the companies sell Harris' night vision business to win approval for the proposed transaction.

The companies were the only two which make intensifier tubes, which amplify visible light and are a needed component for night vision devices, the department said.

"The merger, as originally structured, would have given the combined company a monopoly over image intensifier tubes, an essential component in night vision devices," said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

"Today’s settlement will ensure that our armed forces continue to benefit from competition for a mission critical component," Delrahim said. (Reporting by Diane Bartz Editing by James Dalgleish and Tom Brown)