In the News
Company to build special ops aircraft in Tulsa
The Journal Record
A company’s plans to produce a unique new aircraft in Tulsa will bring additional jobs and prospects for the region’s aerospace industry.
L3Harris Technologies partnered with Texas-based Air Tractor to produce its AT-802U Sky Warden, designed to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, missions even in austere environments. Company President Luke Savoie said the two-seat plane, at its core a single-engine turboprop modified with a range of sensors and weapons systems, was developed to meet specific military special operations needs.
The company made the move to expand in anticipation of a contract award related to the Armed Overwatch Program of the U.S. Special Operations Command. The Department of Defense previously announced it was looking at a handful of firms to supply 75 planes. It has been reported that the contract would be worth more than $1 billion.
Officials expect an Armed Overwatch contract to be awarded sometime next year.
Savoie said the goal was to develop an aircraft capable of doing what it previously has taken several specialized planes to do.
“We’re doing that now all on one single airplane at a much, much lower cost point with a lot of tools software-wise and technology-wise that reduce the workload of the operator to still provide the same effect, the same situational awareness (and) keep ground teams informed for places like Africa and the Middle East where we will continue to operate but not with the entire Department of Defense behind us,” Savoie told Public Radio Tulsa in an interview.
According to Business Insider, there are four other finalists for the Armed Overwatch Program contract.
L3Harris previously has employed more than 260 people at its 90,000-square-foot facility at Tulsa International Airport. Savoie said potentially more than 100 new jobs will be created as it adds a new production line for the AT-802U Sky Warden.
“This investment represents L3Harris’ commitment to the Department of Defense, its global partners and customers, Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
L3Harris already spends approximately $3.5 million annually with state suppliers and vendors. Arthur Jackson, senior vice president of economic development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber, said the company’s expansion and addition to its workforce will have a significant regional impact.
“The aerospace industry has long been a pillar of northeast Oklahoma’s economy,” he said, “and L3Harris is one of our key aerospace employers.”
Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida and with locations in multiple countries, L3Harris Technologies has been described as a global aerospace and defense technology innovator capable of providing advanced defense and commercial technologies across physical and cyber domains. It has reported approximately $18 billion in annual revenues earned from customers in more than 100 countries.
According to Business Insider, special-operations forces desire three things in the Armed Overwatch Program-produced aircraft: including loiter time, a potent and diverse weapons arsenal, and strong ISR capabilities. Commandos want to have their own cheap aircraft and not have to depend on fighter jets, such as the F-22 or F-35.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern, who represents Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District in and around Tulsa, said the new line of production by L3Harris reflects the state’s leadership in aerospace and defense.
“I am thankful that L3Harris is expanding their operations in Tulsa with the advancement of the new Sky Warden aircraft,” he said in a statement. “Developments like this grow high-paying jobs for Oklahomans and contribute towards the safety and security of our nation.”