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Armed and Ready

Lockheed rolls out new missile

By BRIAN BLACKLEY

Managing Editor

Published Sept. 3, 1999

Armed with a new missile, Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations will head to 2000 with an arsenal that now includes an important weapon that is made to help B-52 bombers safely hit targets from greater distances.

Though it has been produced in other forms since 1992, Pike County has never made the AGM-142, an air to ground missile that is 16 feet long and weighs 3,000 pounds – until now.

The AGM-142 rollout, a missile produced in conjunction with RAFAEL, an Israeli missile manufacturing company, was held yesterday at Lockheed Martin’s Pike County facility. The missile now joins the Hellfire, the Javelin and other missiles manufactured at the plant and holds the title for being the largest produced there.

Speakers at the rollout included state, federal, military and private company.

Stan Arthur, a former admiral in the U.S. Navy and president of Lockheed Martin, praised the production of the missile and the ability of workers at the Pike County plant.

"This facility here in Pike County is the most advanced missile manufacturing facility in the world," he said. "Thanks to the work of the people here, this facility is well on its way to being the center for excellence for Lockheed Martin."

Arthur, who commanded the largest armada assembled since World War II during escalation in the Persian Gulf in the 1990s said the AGM-142 will join the Hellfire and the Longbow Hellfire as a top missile produced in Pike County.

U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Regner Rider of Barksdale Air Force Base said the AGM-142 is important to the Air Force because it enhances the B-52’s weapons system. The B-52 is one of the oldest and most used planes by the USAF.

"The B-52 is the most flexible plane in the United States Air Force," Rider said. "But there has been one thing that it could not do – fire real precision weapons."

The AGM-142 has changed that, he said. Cost, effectiveness and the ability of the large bombers to fire the missiles at great distances with superb accuracy were behind the military’s decision to purchase many of the missiles.

Additionally, Lockheed Martin is supplying the Australian and Korean air forces with the AGM-142.

U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, Rep.-Ala., said the AGM-142’s production in Pike County is significant from a global perspective.

"This represents an agreement between governments, between air forces and between industries," Everett said.

Everett was quick to praise the work of the employees of Lockheed Martin’s Pike County Plant.

"The most important asset of his facility is the people who work here," he said.

Alabama Sen. Wendell Mitchell also praised the advancements made in South Alabama by a strong workforce that is moving ahead rapidly.

"In the 1990s, we have seen a solid foundation built here for unprecedented growth in the 21st Century," Mitchell said.

The AGM-142 was originally produced as the POPEYE in Israel. The agreement in place between Lockheed Martin and RAFAEL allows the missile to be manufactured and marketed from the United States. Lockheed Martin has produced the missile at other plants, but the recent addition in Pike County marks the first of the AGMs to be produced here. The first shipment is slated to leave Lockheed Martin sometime this month.

Lockheed Martin has another missile being planned that officials hope will be unveiled next year.