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Factories of the Future: Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Key Milestones in Expansion and Modernization Effort

Aerojet Rocketdyne
May 9, 2024 | 3 MINUTE Read

Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, has completed several milestones as it executes the $215.6M cooperative agreement signed last year with the Department of Defense (DoD) to expand and modernize facilities to support increased production demand primarily focused on Javelin, Stinger and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS).

The cooperative agreement aligns with the DoD’s goal of increasing domestic production of solid rocket motors as it replenishes its ammunition supplies of the missile systems that have proven crucial to Ukraine’s defense from Russian attacks.

"Since the agreement was signed, the company has moved beyond initial planning, making significant progress on designs for nearly a dozen dedicated solid rocket motor manufacturing buildings," said Byron Lee, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Program Manager in charge of executing the cooperative agreement. "We are also procuring highly specialized long-lead equipment such as large-capacity mixers and grinders.”

Building and Expanding Modern Facilities for GMLRS, Javelin and Stinger

As part of this effort, the company is building a new 65,000 sq. ft. facility GMLRS manufacturing facility at its Camden, Arkansas site, consolidating manufacturing activities from three buildings into one. The automation of processes, upgraded equipment and consolidation of cast and assembly operations to a single building will increase production capacity and overall production efficiency for this important program.

After a comprehensive review of site resources, capacity and forecasted demand, Aerojet Rocketdyne decided to move manufacturing of Javelin and Stinger propulsion from Camden to the company’s Orange County, Virginia site.

“We are aligning product lines to our site centers of excellence, focusing on core capabilities, specialty areas and future demand,” said Mark Farley, Aerojet Rocketdyne, VP of Site Operations & Manufacturing. “The move will allow the Camden site to focus on and expand their work manufacturing medium and large solid rocket motors, while our Orange site will specialize in small motors.”

As part of the transition, the company will build new facilities and hire additional employees in Virginia.

Since the opening of Camden’s Engineering, Manufacturing and Development facility in 2020, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Camden site has seen increased demand for large solid rocket motors and the company’s growing team in Camden will continue to support key national defense programs.

“For decades, our team in Camden has manufactured motors for Javelin and Stinger; their dedicated work has helped protect American and Allied warfighters, and most recently, helped save innocent lives in Ukraine,” said Farley. “The workforce at our Orange site looks forward to leveraging their experience manufacturing propulsion for these important programs.”

To ensure safety and environmental regulations are upheld, Aerojet Rocketdyne is working closely with federal, state and local officials to prepare the land for energetic manufacturing. The permitting process to build roads and infrastructure and connect utilities is ongoing at each site. The federal government has also identified the need for a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Assessment at the Camden and Orange sites.

The company is also expanding its effort to transition inert component work, moving inert manufacturing - like case-winding and nozzle production - for GMLRS and Javelin from Camden to Huntsville, Alabama. To expand the inert work Huntsville employees are doing at the Advanced Manufacturing Facility, the company leased a massive 379,000 sq. ft. facility in Huntsville’s JetPlex Industrial Park to provide additional workspace and capacity.

Automating Equipment and Manufacturing Processes

The company is incorporating the latest advancements in technology and manufacturing processes into its new building designs.

“Our building design approach incorporates automation and robotics throughout the cast and assembly buildings to maximize the efficiency and flow through the manufacturing process with a minimum of unnecessary movement,” said Lee. “We have made significant progress on the designs for both the automation and the building floorplans at both our Camden and Orange sites.”

As part of the Digital Transformation effort, the company is modifying its foundational digital business systems and the information flows between them, to enhance the ability to share key product data across systems, enabling better, faster data-driven decision-making.

“We have made significant progress in our digital transformation work as well,” noted Lee. “We’re working closely with our IT and automation partners on our cyber secure Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) network where factory equipment, business and manufacturing systems are being seamlessly integrated.”

Investing in Capacity

“Our team understands how important these systems are to American and Allied warfighters, and we are committed to bringing these new buildings online as quickly as possible,” said Farley. “While we work to build these new facilities, we are continuing our internal investments to increase capacity in these and other critical programs, and we are already seeing improvements in production efficiency.”