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Missile Enterprise Cruises on BRAC, Major Contracts

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is designed to intercept and destroy short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is designed to intercept and destroy short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles.

Alabama has a long history of developing and producing missiles, dating back to 1950, when Redstone Arsenal was designated as the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Guided Missile Center. Propulsion systems developed by German rocket scientists and others at Redstone Arsenal in the 1950s and 1960s were used to power both missiles and space vehicles.

Since then, Alabama has played various roles in supporting the production of ever-more-sophisticated missiles, says Jeff Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association. “Launch, guidance and propulsion systems have improved dramatically,” he says.

Our state has taken on a higher profile in recent years with the relocation of missile-related Department of Defense agencies to Redstone Arsenal as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure order. Those agencies include the Army Materiel Command and the Missile Defense Agency.

“Compared to big states like Florida, Texas and California, we don’t have a large share of missile contracts, but for the size of our population we do have a significant missile sector, especially in terms of its diversity,” Thompson says. “From concept, design, engineering, component manufacture and assembly, Alabama does it all.”

According to the most recent Alabama Aerospace Industry Association report, missile and space vehicle and parts manufacturing accounted for 19 percent of the state’s aerospace industry employment.

The missile sector currently is in job growth mode, and continued growth is anticipated. “The sector operates in a cyclical environment, as does any type of defense-related product,” Thompson says. Recent developments include major DOD contract awards for advanced interceptor missiles that are being produced, or will be produced, by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon in Alabama.

This past spring, Lockheed Martin won a second Missile Defense Agency contract and option to produce 48 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor missiles in addition to multiple launchers, fire control units and support equipment for the U.S. Army’s THAAD batteries 3 and 4.

The total contract award of about $790 million follows a 2006 MDA contract to equip and support two initial Army batteries with THAAD interceptor capabilities. Future plans include equipping a total of nine Army batteries, plus foreign allied forces with THAAD capabilities. Current projections anticipate the production of at least 500 THAAD interceptors.

“THAAD can operate both inside and outside the atmosphere, which gives it great flexibility in combating various threats,” says Tom McGrath, vice president and program manager for THAAD at Lockheed Martin.

The THAAD Weapon System, a surface-to-air missile system, is considered a critical new element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System. Interceptor missiles, including the Patriot, made famous during the Gulf War, have been used to intercept and destroy enemy missiles and are sometimes called “bullets used to shoot down bullets.”

Whereas the Patriot is designed to intercept a missile within a localized area about the size of a city, the new THAAD missiles are designed to intercept missiles within an area comparable to that of several counties. Those missiles, in certain cases, could be used with the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which will employ Raytheon’s new Standard Missile 3. “The various interceptor missiles can be used as part of a layered defense system that will provide enhanced defense capabilities,” McGrath says.

Lockheed Martin has completed 11 THAAD flight tests, including seven successful intercepts out of seven attempts. Army THAAD battery 1 out of Fort Bliss, Texas, has been fully equipped and trained and is ready to be deployed any time needed.

Some of the design work for the THAAD system was done at Lockheed Martin’s Huntsville operation. Lockheed Martin Missile Defense Systems, headquartered in Huntsville, employs about 800 workers in program management and engineering.

THAAD interceptors are tested and produced at the Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations in Troy. The interceptors are being manufactured at a rate of about four per month, and that rate is expected to ramp up with the new THAAD contract and other anticipated THAAD contracts, McGrath says.

While 50 of the plant’s 260 employees now are devoted to the THAAD program, the number of workers needed for THAAD will likely increase to 75 or 80 within the next 18 months and then up to 110 or 120 a year later, if production and contract awards increase according to projections, McGrath says.

“Troy has been a good location for us. There’s a highly skilled labor pool, and Troy University offers educational support when we need it,” McGrath says.

Lockheed Martin’s 3,800-acre Troy plant includes a 340,000-square-foot manufacturing complex. In addition to THAAD interceptor testing and production, it also supports production and engineering development for the Javelin, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM).

Raytheon broke ground June 27 on a new, 70,000-square-foot missile production facility on 200 acres at Redstone Arsenal the company has leased for 25 years. Both the new Standard Missile-3 and Standard Missile-6 will be assembled and tested there. “Raytheon’s SM-3 is the centerpiece of the nation’s new missile defense strategy in Europe, and SM-6 will give the U.S. Navy a new, much-needed weapon system,” says Taylor Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president.

The SM-6, also called the Extended Range Active Missile, is being developed as an anti-air warfare missile for the Navy. The SM-3, which is further along in development, is to be incorporated into the Missile Defense Agency’s sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. The missile will launch from Aegis cruisers and destroyers to repel short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.

The SM-3 has completed 19 successful intercepts, says Kevin Byrnes, Raytheon’s Huntsville site executive. In addition, the missile was modified and successfully used in 2008 during Operation Burnt Frost to intercept a nonfunctioning satellite in space. That satellite contained toxic fuel and was a threat to thousands of people on the ground.

“It wasn’t what the missile was originally designed for, but when we were asked to look at whether it could be used that way, we were honored to take on the challenge,” Byrnes says. “The success of that mission was a very public demonstration of the missile’s effectiveness.”

Raytheon has budgeted about $75 million for the new SM plant construction project, which will be completed in phases. The first phase could be completed as soon as next June with up to another six months rollout for SM-3 production to begin, Byrnes says.

The facility is expected to employ about 300 workers and Raytheon is planning to hold job fairs later this summer and fall. Raytheon currently has about 600 employees in the Huntsville area.

Before the Redstone Arsenal site was selected for the new missile production facility, Raytheon spent 18 months considering 80 potential sites. Raytheon has also invested in Alabama by building the Warfighter Protection Center facility in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park.

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