Lockheed Martin’s Camden manufacturing site part of $1 billion Saudi missile deal

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 636 views 

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s industrial site in Camden is likely to be apportioned a significant amount of work from the Pentagon’s nearly $1 billion contract to provide so-called THAAD missiles to Saudi Arabia, part of the Trump administration’s controversial multi-billion dollar arms deal with the Middle Eastern ally.

According to details of the U.S. Department of Defense’s bid specifications released on Monday (March 4), Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) division in Dallas was awarded a non-competitive hybrid contract under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The total estimated value of this undefined contract is $945.9 million, under which the nation’s largest defense contractor will provide Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) for Saudi Arabia’s fledgling Phase I missile defense program.

Besides manufacturing THAAD systems, Lockheed will also provide “tooling and test equipment, key personnel, line re-qualification activities, initial training development, system Integration Lab and testbeds, three-level maintenance concept, exportability, and early engineering development,” the DOD bid specifications states.

According to video and marketing materials on Lockheed Martin’s website, THAAD can defend countries and entire regions against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles by basically knocking them out of the sky and rendering them useless. THAAD interceptors employ Lockheed Martin’s proven “hit-to-kill” technology to destroy missile threats inside and outside the atmosphere, the company said.

“When enemies attack, governments must be ready to defend their soldiers, citizens and infrastructure. That’s where THAAD comes in – one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world,” Lockheed Martin boasts on its website. In the Trump administration’s recent talks with North Korea, the U.S. military’s THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea has been highlighted as their main defense against a possible nuclear strike from the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

Final details of the contract award also show that work for the project will be performed at Lockheed MFC locations in Camden, Dallas and Lufkin, Texas; Huntsville, Troy and Anniston, Ala.; and Sunnyvale, Calif., over a seven and a half-year period from Feb. 28 to Oct. 31, 2026.

Lockheed officials declined to comment for this story.

The THAAD missile sales to Saudi Arabia are the first phase of a larger $15 billion THAAD deal that is part of the $110 billion joint arms deal signed by President Donald Trump and King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on May 20, 2017 during a state visit to Saudi Arabia.

Exactly three years ago, Lockheed extended its $882 million contract with the U.S. Army for work on the THAAD system that was performed at Bethesda, Maryland-based defense giant’s MFC manufacturing locations in East Camden; Grand Prairie, Texas; and the three Alabama locations.

“The THAAD system’s capability and reliability have been demonstrated with 15 out of 15 hit-to-kill intercepts dating back to 1999, and by exceeding readiness rates currently being experienced in the field with operationally deployed batteries,” Richard McDaniel, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the THAAD system, said on Jan. 26 after the U.S. Army extended its THAAD contract with the same MFC division in Dallas that lead the Saudi project.

Besides building the THAAD system, Lockheed restarted its Tactical Mission System (TACMS) production line at the company’s sprawling industrial facility in Camden in March 2016 shortly after the defense giant lost its $30 billion competition with rival Oshkosh Defense to design and manufacture the next-generation JLTV to replace the Humvee and Jeep as the military’s every day fighting vehicle.

TACMS is the U.S. military’s combat-ready, precision deep-strike system to provide offensive, quick-reaction firepower with ranges up to 300 kilometers from the entire family of the military’s Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) launchers, including the lightweight High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

THE SAUDI ARMS ‘PACKAGE’
Nearly two years ago, the White House described the historic $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as a “package of defense equipment and services (to) support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats,” stated a transcript from the signing ceremony between Trump and Salman.

“This package demonstrates the United States’ commitment to our partnership with Saudi Arabia, while also expanding opportunities for American companies in the region, potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States,” said President Trump.

Although the Lockheed Martin deal is moving forward, some lawmakers in Washington, D.C., in both parties have called for sanctions on similar deals with Saudi Arabia following the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident and frequent critic of the Middle Eastern country.

On Tuesday (March 4), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed hearing on the status of an investigation of the Khashoggi murder from the U.S. State Department. Earlier on Feb. 14, U.S. Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting an update on the murder of Khashoggi as the panel looks at possible sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking member of the Senate committee, also sent a letter to Pompeo signed by other Democratic senators on the panel to brief Congress on why the Trump Administration refused to comply with the investigation.

“The administration’s response thus far to a brutal killing of a U.S. lawful permanent resident and a journalist makes a mockery of the United States’ commitment to human rights and its efforts to demand accountability for extrajudicial killings around the world,” wrote the Democratic senators.

Menendez has also sponsored S. 398, known as the “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019.” The bipartisan bill would impose new limits on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and put sanctions on individuals involved in Khashoggi’s death, and includes Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Todd Young of South Carolina, Maine and Indiana, respectively, as co-sponsors.

The bill was filed on Feb. 7 and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, where no action has been taken.

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