LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Raytheon Co. plans to add 98 employees to its south Louisville factory in the next 4-5 years as demand for the defense contractor’s naval ship weapons continues to grow and as the plant begins producing launchers for a new, long-range anti-ship strike missile.
Mark Roe, Raytheon’s Louisville-based domestic program manager, laid out the growth plan at an event Tuesday in which the company showed off its Louisville-made SeaRAM anti-ship defense system.
The SeaRAM is a mounted weapon weighing thousands of pounds that fires missiles at enemy targets encroaching on naval ships. It is used by the U.S. Navy and by other countries such as Japan.
“This kind of weapon is going to continue to be of vital significance,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who attended Tuesday’s event in his hometown to celebrate the SeaRAM.
Raytheon, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, has received hundreds of millions in federal dollars for the production and servicing of the SeaRAM and its companion weapon, the Phalanx, which looks similar but fires a machine gun instead of a missile. Company officials described McConnell as a “strong supporter” of the company and its weapons.
McConnell, who declined to speak to reporters at the event, told the audience that weapons like the SeaRAM are necessary to meet new threats to the U.S. military from “non-state actors” and “lone wolf” terrorists.
“In the last 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down, it almost makes you yearn for the Cold War, “ McConnell said. “…Life being what it is, new threats emerged.”
Raytheon, which brings in $23 billion in sales annually, and its political action committee have contributed $21,450 to McConnell’s Senate campaigns since 2008, according to data collected by opensecrets.org.
The company’s Louisville plant is on the site of the former Naval Ordnance Station off Southside Drive, which the Navy vacated in the mid-1990s.
The plant currently employs about 290, about half of which are union-covered production workers, as well as engineers and managers, according to Roe.
Part of the planned job growth will be from a new product complimenting the SeaRAM and Phalanx systems.
In July, Raytheon said the Louisville plant would produce launchers for a “Naval Strike Missile” it’s developing in partnership with Norway’s Kongsberg Defence Systems.
The strike missile, which has a range of more than 100 nautical miles, will be assembled and tested in Tuscon, Arizona – the headquarters of Raytheon’s missile systems division.
The launchers will begin production in Louisville early next year, Roe said.
The strike missile is expected to compete with other “over the horizon” weapons to become a standard fixture on U.S. Navy near-shore combat ships, according to USNI News.
Meanwhile, Raytheon has a $288 million Navy contract in the current fiscal year for production and upgrades to the SeaRAM and Phalanx weapons, Roe said.
He said the Navy has “programmed” money for the SeaRAM for the fiscal years 2018 through 2021, which bodes well for factory work in Louisville. The SeaRAM was first produced in Louisville in 2009, Roe said.
Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.