Pike County is where the newest strategic missile in the U.S. arsenal is manufactured, and production will soon ramp up more than double in response to president Donald Trump’s proposed $750 billion 2020 defense budget.
Pike County is home to Lockheed Martin’s primary facility for making JASSM missiles, the most advanced air-to-ground missile.
On May 16, Lockheed breaks ground on a second Pike County JASSM manufacturing facility, a 222,000-square-foot plant that joins a 160,000-square-foot missile-making factory that completed an earlier expansion in 2014.
The original Pike County missile facility was established in 1994 “as a revolutionary production center, Lockheed’s most advanced type missile facility,” says Jason Crager, Lockheed’s site director for Pike County Operations. “We are the sole integrator of this (JASSM) weapon system,” said Crager of the Troy County facilities.
The new facility that “will allow us to meet customer’s needs, the U.S. government, for increased quantity over the life of the program,” said Crager, increasing the total from “4,900 to 7,200 missiles.” The president’s 2020 budget proposal called for the increase, he added.
Missile assembly at the new factory will begin in the third quarter 2020, ramping to full production in 2024. Employment will increase by 22 workers in the second year of operation and another 45 employees in the third year, in addition to the 522 workers Lockheed currently employs in Pike County.
According to defense analysts, the JASSM is a large, stealthy long-range cruise missile that gives the U.S. military an edge for precise surprise attacks against targets well protected by enemy air defenses. The missile can strike more than 500 miles away. Estimated cost is $1.4 million each.
The missile has been under development since 1995, but only recently has it been deployed in combat — with a few JASSMs among a barrage of U.S., British and French missiles fired in a one-off attack on Syrian government forces in April, 2018.
The U.S. — the world’s number one weapons dealer — has approved foreign sales of the JASSM to the military of Australia, Finland and Poland, but not to the number one U.S. weapons customer, Saudia Arabia.