International defense contractor BAE Systems says it will expand its Huntsville operations to between 300 and 400 employees to support its Army customers at Redstone Arsenal.
The company has a small workforce of about 30 people in Huntsville now, Vice President Paul Markwardt said. But it is building a larger facility in Cummings Research Park scheduled to open early in 2020.
“We’re on a hiring spree,” Markwardt said in an interview Wednesday at the company’s booth at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium & Exhibition.
“We’ve hired a lot of very, very talented people already that are making a difference with our business,” Markwardt said. ““We’re looking to hire more, and Huntsville is a great place to attract talent to.”
Markwardt said BAE Systems is growing in Huntsville to support critical Army programs based in the city. Those include missile, aircraft and munitions programs, he said.
BAE Systems, a British-based company, is the third-largest defense company in the world after Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Markwardt said. The company was formed in 1999 with the merger of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems. It grew in 2000 with the purchase of numerous divisions of Lockheed Martin.
“We have a global presence,” Markwardt said, but half the company’s operations are in America and “critical customers” are in Huntsville. “We have a precision-guided munitions business, we’re on the THAAD program, so missile defense is nearby, and we also do aircraft protection,” he said.
“The types of products that we’re bringing down here are hardware with extensive software and some really leading-edge technology,” Markwardt said. That includes “machine learning technology for our products to make them adaptable, especially in the aircraft protection side.”
The new building will be 84,000 square feet with half in light-manufacturing space and half research and development and engineering space. The company’s property also has room for other buildings, he said.
“We’re really looking forward to growth,” Markwardt said, “and so we have the opportunity to have an even larger facility if our growth is larger than expected.”
Markwardt said America’s “peer adversaries” – Russia and China – continue to develop advanced technologies. “We really have to focus over the next several years of making sure we can continue to have our leading edge in technology over our peer adversaries,” he said, “because they’ve caught up.”
America and its allies have been focused on Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 15 years, Markwardt said. In that time, Russia and China have advanced their technology. “What you’re seeing in the budgets now and the work that’s going on in the Department of Defense is really focusing on the more sophisticated solutions,” Markwardt said.