Defense plant at Camden growing; Lockheed to add missile capacity

Airmen load Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitionsfrom Lockheed Martin’s plant outside Camden bound for Ukraine aboard a Boeing 767 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on Aug. 13. In late August, the company received $600 million from defense officials for replenishing stockpiles of the multiple rocket and HIMARs systems. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

CAMDEN -- Lockheed Martin is expanding its missile production operations in south Arkansas to support increased production of PAC-3 missiles for the Patriot missile system.

Aerospace industry leaders from Boeing and Aerojet, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state officials, as well as U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano attended an event Tuesday morning to announce the opening of the new All Round Up III facility in Camden.

"This 85,000 square foot expansion supports increased production capacity for the PAC-3 missile segment enhancement, the world's most advanced air defense missile," Camden operations facility site director Aaron Huckaby said.

The PAC-3 MSE program in Camden started in 2014 with the capacity to build 240 PAC-3 MSEs a year, said Brenda Davidson, Lockheed's vice president of PAC-3 Programs Missiles and Fire Control.

"Since that time, our first step increase went up to 350 MSE and this facility is taking us to 500 MSE," Davidson said.

This is the second major expansion at the Camden operations facility since Lockheed Martin announced an investment of $142 million at the Camden site in June 2019 with company executives and Gov. Asa Hutchinson during the Paris Air Show.

That capital investment was intended to support new construction and equipment, improve existing facilities and add 326 new jobs by 2024.

Just over 1,000 employees work at the Camden operations facility now; and 3,125 employees support production of the PAC-3 MSE globally at several Lockheed Martin facilities.

Lozano, who has served as program executive officer of Missiles and Space at the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., since August, oversees many aspects of space and missile programs, including the PAC-3 MSE interceptor.

"The demand for PAC-3 and our missile defense capabilities is real, that demand is growing especially for the U.S. Army as we work toward meeting our inventory requirements for this advanced air defense missile," Lozano said.

"Our adversaries rely on tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and a variety of aircraft as a way to project their power and cause damage and destruction. These threat capabilities currently on display in certain parts of the world today can be easily found just by turning on the TV. U.S. Army patriot forces having extremely high operational tempo due to the need to provide critical air and missile defense protection and capability to our combatant commanders and to allies around the world."

Generals and other experts have recently recognized Lockheed Martin and other defense manufacturers in the Camden area for building weapons that have been key to Ukraine's successes in its war with Russia.

Davidson said the PAC-3 missile is an asset that is not currently being utilized in the war in Ukraine.

"The PAC-3 missile is the only hit-to-kill interceptor that's on the market today, we have 14 partner nations that have this product, so it continues to be in high demand and we just look forward to the growth, not only here in Camden ... but it is so critical across the world to make sure our war fighters are protected and our critical assets are protected," Davidson said.

"However we have European countries that do use this and are going to utilize it, and they've asked for additional supply based on the threats in Europe," Davidson said.

"The global landscape has changed, the demand has changed and the importance of what is being done in Camden, Arkansas has caught the attention of the nation," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

The Camden operations facility manufactures components and performs final assembly for several Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Precision Fires products.

Aerospace and defense industry manufacturing companies employ approximately 7,000 people in Arkansas and of that, roughly 4,000 are directly involved in manufacturing aerospace products and parts, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's 2022 Aerospace & Defense Report.

Aerospace and defense exports comprised approximately 20% of Arkansas' total exports with over $1 billion in goods exported in 2020.

The Camden operations facility produces ground vehicles like the M270 launcher, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Launcher and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Transporter.

The facility also produces precision fire products like the PAC-3 missile, Multiple Launch Rocket System and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rockets and Tactical Missile System missiles.

The facility first opened in 1978 and is located primarily in Calhoun County.