Military Industry Big 10 in Alabama
The Top 10 U.S. defense companies all have operations in Alabama. Here’s what they do here, and a brief history of how they came here.
A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile comes together at Lockheed Martin’s Pike County Operations.
1 | Lockheed Martin
Operating income 2015: $5.3546 billion
Alabama locations: Huntsville, Pike County
The nation’s top defense contractor, Lockheed Martin — with more than $40 billion in current defense contracts — provides security and aerospace services on a global level, with specializations in research, design, development, manufacture, and the integration and sustainment of advanced technologies.
“Air and missile defense systems are a focus for the corporation in Alabama,” says Jon Sharpe, Huntsville site director. “Lockheed Martin-developed systems have achieved more than 100 missile intercepts in combat and testing, more than any other company.”
Lockheed Martin formed in 1995 from a pairing up of the aviation pioneers Martin Marietta and Lockheed Corp. Lockheed Martin began operations in Alabama in 1963, at the suggestion of Wernher Von Braun. The Maryland company has 2,100 employees in Alabama and about 126,000 worldwide.
The company’s Huntsville and Courtland projects include the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense program, Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications program, U.S. Army Unmanned Aerial Systems programs and the Targets and Countermeasures program, which plays a vital role in national defense.
“Lockheed Martin’s Targets and Countermeasures Program team, which is based in Huntsville and Courtland, is a leading provider of highly reliable, threat-representative target missiles, of various ranges, that are used to test the Ballistic Missile Defense System,” says Sharpe.
The company also maintains a 410-worker facility in Pike County. This team helps build the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff missile, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile and the Javelin anti-armor missile. In addition to missile manufacturing, final assembly, test and storage, the facility also manufactures hardware for development programs.
In 2015, Lockheed Martin acquired Sikorsky Aircraft, maker of military and commercial helicopters. Sikorsky’s locations in Huntsville and Troy became a part of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training division. At the Troy site, nearly 600 employees are involved in various military helicopter programs, including the MH-60R and S-70B Naval Hawks.
Last year, the corporation’s net sales totaled $46.1 billion. Lockheed Martin was able to expand or enhance several operations in Alabama, including its operations in Pike County. “New business and support from the governor’s office and state economic development organizations enabled it to expand its cruise missile and THAAD production facilities,” says Sharpe. “The site hired over 75 new employees in 2015 to support this expansion, and is two years ahead in its hiring plan to create 224 new jobs by 2020.”
This year, Lockheed Martin is moving a major part of its Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications to Huntsville.
ABOVE Test launch of a Boeing Ground-based Midcourse Defense missile, engineered in Huntsville, part of the nation’s defensive missile shield.
2 | Boeing
Net income 2015: $5.176 billion
Alabama locations: Huntsville
Boeing Co. is the nation’s second leading defense contractor with more than $29 billion in contracts. In Huntsville, Boeing employs approximately 2,650 at its two main facilities in the Jetplex Industrial Park and Redstone Gateway. The company works with 223 suppliers and vendors in Alabama, with annual expenditures of $512.8 million. Internationally, Boeing designs and manufactures systems, vehicles and technology for aerospace and defense, and both industries are represented in the company’s Huntsville facilities.
While Boeing’s Alabama operations involve flight, space exploration and prime contracting for the International Space Station, the in-state facilities devote a tremendous focus toward missile defense. Core business areas include the Integrated Air & Missile Defense program and Strategic Missile & Defense Systems, which guard against ballistic missile military threats. Boeing’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which is designed to defend against long-range ballistic missiles by intercepting them mid-flight, is currently alone in its class, company officials report.
Boeing’s Integrated Air & Missile Defense organization contributes to multiple tactical missile defense programs, including the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 Missile Seeker, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense and the Arrow and Avenger programs.
Huntsville also is home to Boeing’s Global Services and Support Vertical Lift Sustainment subdivision, supporting platforms like the AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook, V-22 Osprey and the AH-6i Little Bird.
Last year, Boeing opened its new research and technology center in Huntsville. “The facility will serve as the company’s hub for collaborative technology development with academic institutions and research partners in analytics and simulation in the Southeast United States,” says Dexter Henson, Boeing’s communication manager.
The 80,000-square-foot center will facilitate simulations and analytics to further the state’s contributions to the aerospace industry. “Boeing builds the avionics system that will guide the most powerful rocket ever built and that will carry humans to deep space,” says Henson. The center added 200 new engineers to Boeing’s Alabama roster.
The company continues to invest in the city’s growing scientific community, developing new resources for upcoming engineers. “In 2015, Boeing opened its Huntsville Engineering Career Development Center,” says Henson, “providing space and technology for its engineers to develop their skills.”
Boeing began operations in Alabama in 1962, contributing to the region’s trailblazing space programs.
3 | BAE Systems
Operating income 2015: £1.502 billion
Alabama locations: Anniston, Mobile
Third among U.S. defense contractors is BAE Systems, based in London, and handling more than $25 billion in U.S. defense contracts in 2014.
Specializing in aerospace, defense and security, BAE Systems is one of the largest defense contractors operating today. BAE Systems Inc. is one of the largest companies working with the U.S. Department of Defense, and has produced some of the most iconic vehicles on the battlefield, including the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
BAE Systems was formed in 1999 in the merger of Marconi Electronic Systems (MES) and British Aerospace. Originally BAE Systems North America, the company’s U.S. subsidiary was reorganized into BAE Systems Inc. in 2005. The company has centered its expansion on the U.S. since the early 2000s, and is now one of the largest foreign contributors in the country’s defense industry.
Through a public-private partnership, BAE Systems has worked in cooperation with the Anniston Army Depot since 1994, repairing, testing and overhauling a host of vehicles like the M-88A2 recovery vehicle and M113 armored personnel carrier.
Last November, BAE was awarded a $245.3 million contract to carry out the low-rate initial production of two vehicles for the Army — the M109A7 self-propelled howitzer and its counterpart, the M992A3 ammunition carrier. The Anniston Army Depot participates in the vehicle production, along with other BAE facilities in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
BAE’s M109 vehicles serve as the primary indirect fire support system for America’s armored combat teams. The M109A7 howitzer borrows features from its predecessor, the Paladin M109A6 and the familiar Bradley. The high-tech vehicle sports an upgraded chassis and power generating capability, enhancing its own survivability while increasing its compatibility with other supporting systems.
BAE also maintains a shipyard in Mobile Bay. Complete with docks, cranes and 4,000 feet of pier space, BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards Alabama offers repair and conversions for both military and commercial ships.
ABOVE The Raytheon Redstone Missile Integration Facility makes antiballistic missiles with the help of robotics.
4 | Raytheon
Net income 2015: $2.074 billion
Alabama locations: Huntsville
Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Raytheon is the world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles. The industrial corporation specializes in defense, government and cybersecurity, with facilities across the U.S. and customers in more than 80 countries.
Raytheon arrived in Alabama in the 1970s, bringing electronics, sensing, effects, mission systems integration and support to its Huntsville facilities. “Our operations in Alabama are very important to Raytheon as a whole,” says Kevin Byrnes, VP of Raytheon Huntsville. “All four Raytheon business units are represented in Huntsville, including a corporate business development office.”
“We also have a technologically advanced missile integration and test facility on Redstone Arsenal that integrates and tests SM-3 and SM-6 missiles,” says Byrnes. The Raytheon Redstone Missile Integration Facility is a large-missile automated factory, producing anti-ballistic missiles with the aid of robotics and computer-controlled machinery.
Despite the high level of automation involved in their processes, Raytheon employs 61,000 staff worldwide with 725 in Alabama. “Many of our employees work in program management, engineering and various mission support roles,” says Byrnes.
Raytheon began as the American Appliance Co., founded by engineer Laurence Marshall, scientist Charles G. Smith and Vannevar Bush, who later served as dean of MIT’s School of Engineering. The company’s first production plant, which opened in Massachusetts in 1928, houses scientists and engineers who pioneered in the fields of electronics and technology.
Among Raytheon’s most recognizable innovations is the use of microwaves to cook food. The discovery is attributed to engineer Percy Spencer, who found a candy bar had melted in his pocket after being exposed to waves emitted from an active magnetron.
The company’s military involvement traces back to World War II, providing the U.S. Navy with microwave surface search radar. Raytheon also produced the bulk of the magnetron tubes used by Allied Forces’ radar systems. In the following decades, they pioneered guidance technologies, including the first missile-mounted guidance system and the computer guidance on the lunar landing crafts.
5 | General Dynamics
Operating income 2014: $3.889 billion
Alabama locations: Anniston and other offices
General Dynamics specializes in combat, information and marine systems, as well as aerospace. The Fortune 100 company has manufactured fighter jets, ships, submarines and tanks for more than 50 years, with a developing emphasis on the technology onboard these vehicles. In recent years, the company has shown a steadily increasing focus on its information systems and technology segment, making it the company’s fastest-growing department.
General Dynamics’ history goes back to the Torpedo Boat Co., owned by John Philip Holland, an engineer whose submarine designs were the first commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Holland’s company was renamed the Electric Boat Co. in 1899, after he sold his interest in the business. As technological advances were made and production expanded to include aircraft, the company was renamed General Dynamics in 1952.
In 1953, General Dynamics bought Convair, a division that would later produce the Atlas rockets used to send John Glenn into orbit. A decade later, General Dynamics partnered with Grumman on an Air Force contract to create a series of fighter jets, including the F-111 and F-14 Tomcat.
In Anniston, General Dynamics operates a precision machining, assembly and testing facility. Dubbed Anniston Operations, the facility covers about 12 acres in the Appalachian foothills. More than 120,000 square feet offer space for a broad range of processes like milling, precision turning, electrical discharge machining and electron beam welding.
The company’s Ordnance and Tactical Systems machines and fabricates metal parts for the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile program. The AMRAAM is a beyond-visual-range missile, capable of connecting with a target more than 20 nautical miles away. Parts made in Anniston also are used on other U.S. and allied missiles, including the Tomahawk, Patriot and Stinger.
The Anniston facility is responsible for producing the folding fin and nozzle assembly of the unguided Zuni Rocket. These parts help the rocket stay aerodynamically stable in flight.
6 | Northrop Grumman
Operating income 2015: $3.076 billion
Alabama locations: Huntsville
Global security corporation Northrop Grumman divides business operations into three sectors, including aerospace systems, mission systems and technology services. Last year, the Fortune 500 company was listed as the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor, sixth among U.S. defense firms. It employs 1,200 people in Huntsville and more than 65,000 people worldwide.
Both companies boast nearly a century in the aircraft industry. The Grumman Aeronautical Engineering Co. was founded by Leroy Grumman, Jake Swirbul, Bill Schwendler, E. Clint Towl and Ed Poor in 1930. Setting up shop in a derelict factory in New York, the company quickly secured contracts with the Navy. Through the remainder of the century, Grumman’s output included the F6F Hellcat, which gained notoriety during WWII, the F-14 Tomcat and the Apollo Lunar Module.
Building from his experience in several aviation companies, John K. Northrop founded Northrop Aircraft Inc. in 1939. The next year, Northrop began producing its first aircraft, the N-3PB patrol bomber. Over the following decades, the company developed early jet and supersonic fighters, stealth bombers and the SM-62 Snark, the first online intercontinental guided missile.
Northrop Corp. acquired Grumman in 1994. Now Grumman is incorporated into the company’s Aerospace Systems and Mission Systems sectors. Northrop Grumman has continued to expand since the two industry giants joined forces. Other key acquisitions include laser radar pioneers Litton Industries, UAV industry leader Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical and TRW Inc., the company that fabricated NASA’s inaugural spacecraft, the Pioneer 1.
Earlier this year in Huntsville, Northrop Grumman collaborated with Boeing to test the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The system is part of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, which was developed to intercept ballistic missile threats.
The company’s Huntsville location is in a prime geographical position to serve customers like NASA, the Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
ABOVE Airbus Defense and Space Inc. employs 66 people in Alabama but also supports more than 80 supply companies in the state.
7 | Airbus
Net income per year: $15 billion (converted from €14 billion)
Alabama locations: Huntsville, Fort Rucker, Mobile
Airbus made international headlines when it opened a commercial aircraft assembly facility in Mobile, its first in the U.S. But other elements of the parent company had been working here for years before that.
Airbus Defense and Space Inc. is a division of Airbus Group, serving U.S. military and homeland security needs. The company’s defense services include fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, homeland security systems, public safety communications, defense electronics and avionics and threat detection systems.
Airbus traces its history to European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. “Airbus Defense and Space Inc. began life as EADS North America in 2003, as a U.S. corporation that existed to bring the best technologies in the Airbus family of companies to the U.S. military and government, and where possible, to produce those technologies in the United States,” says Director of Corporate Communications James Darcy. “It also brought the company closer to its supply chain of thousands of U.S. companies, with which Airbus Group spends about $16.5 billion annually.”
Airbus Defense and Space Inc. now counts approximately 760 employees in the U.S., with 66 in Alabama. However, the company also works with more than 80 Alabama-based suppliers, which facilitate additional jobs throughout the state.
The company’s first Alabama facility was Huntsville’s UH-72A Lakota helicopter program office. The program began following the award for an Army contract for the light utility helicopter in 2006. Since then, Airbus has produced more than 350 of the American-made helicopters for the Army, consistently meeting time and budget requirements.
Airbus maintains a presence near Fort Rucker to support Army pilot training. The Army’s program is currently transitioning to train pilots to fly the Lakota. “Every Army pilot learns to fly in Alabama,” says Darcy, “and every Army pilot will learn to fly there on an Airbus helicopter.”
Last year, Airbus selected Mobile to serve as the site of its new worldwide support center for the C212 turboprop aircraft, an enterprise connected to hundreds of operators around the world, including the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile. 2015 was the Airbus’ 10th anniversary of operations in the port city.
“The business is located in Mobile to take advantage of a skilled workforce and very supportive community, as well as to be closer to the unit’s largest customer in the U.S., the United States Coast Guard,” says Darcy.
Airbus’ facility at Mobile Regional Airport spans 38,000 square feet. The 50-member team provides maintenance, repair and overhaul services; professional engineering; component repair, and technical support for Airbus transport aircraft.
ABOVE JetBlue nacelle made for Airbus at the UTC Aerospace Systems’ Aerostructures facility in Foley.
8 | UTC Aerospace Systems
Annual sales: $14 billion
Alabama locations: Foley
Based in Farmington, Connecticut, United Technologies Corp. is a global conglomerate serving both military and commercial customers. Through decades of development and acquisitions, the company has diversified to manage business units in aerospace systems, HVAC, R&D and elevators.
The company originated in 1929 with the formation of United Aircraft and Transport Corp. When that company split in the 1930s, United Aircraft Corp. was formed from the combination of several groups, including Hamilton Standard Propeller Co. Harry Gray became CEO in 1974, promoting a broad diversification of the business. The company’s name was changed to United Technologies Corp. to signify the new breadth of technologies and industries.
United Technologies purchased the Goodrich Corp. in 2012. Soon after, the aerospace manufacturer was combined with Hamilton Sundstrand to form UTC Aerospace Systems. This business unit contributes components and services for ground vehicles, ships, satellites and unmanned craft, serving a long list of airlines, manufacturers and defense contractors.
UTC Aerospace Systems employs about 42,000 people in various facilities around the world. The company’s Aerostructures business unit supports both commercial and military aircraft through design and production, as well as aftermarket support (spare parts, maintenance and overhaul).
In Alabama, UTC Aerospace Systems’ operations are carried out at the Aerostructures facility in Foley. Originally opened as part of Rohr Industries in 1984, the facility was part of an acquisition by Goodrich in late 1997, before folding into the UTC camp in 2012.
The facility’s Alabama Service Center is responsible for maintenance, repair and overhaul on multiple parts and products, including flight controls and nacelles, the housing for aircraft engine and equipment. A nacelle is the aerodynamic structure that surrounds and protects and airplane’s engine, contributing to fuel efficiency, reduced engine noise, and providing stopping power through its thrust reversers. These housing pieces are designed to be aerodynamic, quiet and fuel-efficient. The co-located Foley original equipment business is responsible for the assembly of nacelle systems for multiple customers, including Airbus and Boeing.
9 | DRS Technologies
Finmeccanica Revenue 2013: € 13 billion
Alabama locations: Andalusia, Huntsville
Owned by the Italian defense company Finmeccanica, Diagnostic/Retrieval Systems Inc. develops technologies and supplies products and vehicles for the federal government and other customers. DRS manufactures military craft like the M1000 Trailer and DRS RQ-15 Neptune reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle.
The company began in the late 1960s, after engineers Leonard Newman and David Gross left Loral Corp. With a focus on submarine detection, the two developed the signal processing technology that led to the modern AN/SQR-17 detection system.
DRS went public in 1981 and was acquired by Finmeccanica in 2008. Based in Rome, the aerospace and defense company is a major international player in the aeronautics, defense systems, electronics, rotary-wing and space industries. The company employs more than 47,000 people worldwide.
In 2012, DRS opened an aircraft maintenance and overhaul center in Andalusia. Working with the South Alabama Regional Airport, the 70,000-square-foot MRO Center can accommodate rotary- and fixed-wing vehicles in two large hangars.
In Huntsville, the Network Computing & Test Solutions facility spans 131,500 square feet near the UAH campus. Serving commercial clients and the Department of Defense, the team designs and produces advanced electromechanical and electronic systems, subsystems and assemblies.
Engineers at the Test and Energy Management facility are developing the M1A1 vehicles of the near future. With the M1A1 System Integration Lab, DRS can simulate, test and analyze the M1A1 Abrams Tank and similar machines. Here, they can experiment with technologies like their Thermal Imaging System in a controlled environment.
ABOVE L-3 Aerospace Systems’ Army Fleet Support team at Fort Rucker assists Center Logistics Command in training helicopter pilots and ensures all vehicles are safe and functioning optimally. This is a Boeing CH-47 Chinook at Fort Rucker.
10 | L-3 Communications
Net income 2013: $778 million
Alabama locations: Fort Rucker
L-3 Communications develops and manufactures systems and products for various fields of command and control, including intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. The company also produces systems, products and instrumentation for use in aerospace and sea travel.
Based in New York, L-3 serves the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, government intelligence agencies and NASA, as well as a number of commercial customers.
The company formed in 1997, beginning as a collection of 10 acquisitions from Lockheed Corp. and Martin Marietta, which had already merged as Lockheed Martin. The company’s name is a combination of co-founders Frank Lanza (the original CEO), Robert LaPenta (original CFO) and Lehman Brothers.
Since then, L-3 has established a trend of mergers and acquisitions, growing into a multifaceted company with a diverse array of products and services. Acquisitions include night-vision manufacturer Insight Technologies, Crestview Aerospace and most recently CTC Aviation Limited.
L-3 Aerospace Systems has locations in 29 countries and 40 states, including an Army Fleet Support team at Fort Rucker in Dale County. In Fort Rucker since 2003, L-3 Army Fleet Support provides logistics, safety and quality performance for Army and Air Force training. More than 3,000 L-3 employees work at Fort Rucker, providing inspection, repair and modification to aircraft parts.
The team works closely with the Aviation Center Logistics Command to train helicopter pilots and ensure all vehicles are safe and functioning optimally. L-3’s Aviation Maintenance Support Shops consists of 23 specialized departments dedicated to aircraft upkeep and maintenance of the surrounding facilities.
Thomas M. Little is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. He is based in Birmingham.