Raytheon selects Alabama for new missile plant

Sea Sparrow missile being fired

This is one of missiles Raytheon designed. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Electronics giant and defense manufacturing heavyweight Raytheon has broke with tradition and will be constructing a new plant in Alabama. The manufacturing plant will be a new facility for their missile division. Raytheon Missile Systems has been a mainstay in Tuscon, Arizona for half a century. The main facility in Tuscon will not be closing. Raytheon is one of the largest defense contractors in the world, and it has a long history of innovations outside of the defense industry as well.

New plant in Tuscon was not feasible

According to Business Week, Raytheon Missile Systems needed a new manufacturing facility for a ship defense project, and a sea-based interceptor missile. (It would blow up incoming missiles.) A new state-of-the-art facility wouldn’t be feasible in Tuscon because of zoning, schedule and other requirements that weren’t able to be met. They picked Huntsville, Ala., from a small list of cities. The facility will have its ground breaking fairly soon, and it will be a $75 million, 70,000 square foot building.That’s bound to have some pretty high mortgage payments.

Raytheon has laser like focus

The Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” program, may have been a bust for Ronald Reagan, but laser weapons are panning out for Raytheon. The company is working on a laser defense system that can take down Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with impunity, and perhaps eventually aircraft. At a recent test on the California coast, a model of the Laser Area Weapon System shot down 4 UAVs out of the sky, according to CNET. The high intensity beam causes the targets to burst into flames in moments and drop from the sky.

History of innovation

Raytheon has a long history of being on the cutting edge of engineering, aside from just defense projects. It was Raytheon (then the American Appliance Company) that first developed a gas filled vacuum tube that could power radios by plugging them into the wall, instead of a battery. (Some still insist vacuum tubes provide the best sound.) Raytheon also invented radar for naval vessels and the microwave oven.

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