Aerospace giant Raytheon makes critical defensive missile systems at a futuristic Alabama factory, where a fleet of laser-guided robotic vehicles glide across the plant’s gleaming floors, carrying massive missile components to the exact position where they are needed for assembly.
Raytheon invested $75 million to build the 70,000-square-foot facility at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and the company pledged to hire 300 as part of the project. A separate Raytheon facility in Huntsville houses about 100 of those workers, mostly engineering staff.
The automated factory produces the Standard Missile-3 and the Standard Missile-6 systems. The first SM-6, a ship-defense missile, left the new plant in February 2013, and the first SM-3s were delivered in June 2013. In early 2014, the facility expanded, adding a new test cell to boost production and stay ahead of growing missile demand.
Raytheon’s “factory of the future,” as it calls it, utilizes the most advanced robotics and computer-controlled tools. Raytheon’s designers used a virtual reality chamber to test all aspects of the factory long before the first girders were placed in the ground.
In 2015, Raytheon won a $560 million contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for missile systems assembled at the facility.