By Mike Stone
CAMDEN, Arkansas (Reuters) – Lockheed Martin’s mobile rocket launcher plant in Camden, Arkansas is gearing up to boost production of the HIMARS system after its success on the battlefield in Ukraine drove up demand from other nations, executives said on Monday.
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is now a widely recognized weapon after mobile phone camera footage of the war in Ukraine showed the launchers in action.
“When you have a combat proven system that is out there and in the news – daily – then that’s driving that demand,” said Jennifer McManus, the vice president for operations of Lockheed’s missile business.
Lockheed Martin makes HIMARS and refurbishes an older version in Camden, a small town southwest of Little Rock.
Thanks to some investments made over the last year in the 282,000 square foot building where the ground vehicles are made, Lockheed only needs a few upgrades to meet that increased production rate, Lockheed executives said.
The list includes a paint booth, non-skid coating mixer, tire assembly manipulator arm and an axel installation track, the executives told Reuters.
On an earnings call with investors Lockheed’s CEO said “on HIMARS specifically, we’ve already met with our long lead supply chain to plan for increasing production to 96 of these units a year.” Lockheed started 2022 with a HIMARS launcher production rate of 48, but has since ramped up to 60 year.
The HIMARS launcher had been growing in popularity even before its success in Ukraine.
Poland was cleared in February to purchase 18 HIMARS launchers and 468 launcher loader kits that can be in installed on Polish-made trucks to turn into them into similar launch platforms. Talks for that deal began in 2017, a Lockheed spokesperson told Reuters.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Camden, Arkansas; Editing by Stephen Coates)