Boeing to build Navy planes at MidAmerica, invest $ 200 million

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Chicago-based aerospace giant Boeing Co. will invest $ 200 million to begin manufacturing the U.S. Navy’s last unmanned aircraft at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport as part of a project that could create at least 150 jobs in southwest Illinois. campus, officials said on Friday.

Boeing will build the MQ-25 Stingray, the Navy’s first unmanned, unmanned aircraft in a state-of-the-art plant of approximately 300,000 square feet. The company has been under contract to develop and test the machine since 2018.

Gathered at Mascoutah Airport, about 45 km southeast of St. Louis, company officials and politicians celebrated not only the expansion of Boeing’s operations, which currently employs 70 people.

With a pledge of $ 57 million in state-funded improvements, they say this is also a milestone for MidAmerica, which began civilian operations near Scott Air Force Base in 1997 to the derision of critics. on its viability.

“This state-of-the-art production facility strengthens Boeing’s local presence here in the Eastern Metro region and extends Illinois’ legacy of supporting our national defense …” said the governor JB Pritzker. “Boeing employs hundreds of Illinois and supports thousands of other jobs across our state. I am very proud to have them as a partner in preparing our communities for 21st century manufacturing.

According to Boeing, the MQ-25 Stingray, developed from a 2018 contract with the Navy, is a refueling aircraft that will significantly increase the combat range of aircraft launched by the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. “What we’re talking about is taking the carrier’s area of ​​influence and doubling it,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program manager.

Boeing receives about $ 8.7 million in state income tax relief in exchange for the $ 200 million investment over 15 years and adding at least 150 jobs to the 70 already in MidAmerica, where Boeing has settled for about a decade and produces components. for CH-47 Chinook helicopter, F / A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft and other defense equipment.

Construction of the MidAmerica facility is expected to begin later this year and be completed in early 2024. Production would begin by mid-2024.

Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of autonomous systems, Boeing Defense, Space & Security called Stingray’s technology “unprecedented”.

The facility will feature robotic automation and “advanced assembly techniques” aimed at improving product quality and employee ergonomics and safety. Boeing’s digital engineering of the MQ-25 and its systems actually promotes product quality and efficiency, officials said.

The state’s spending comes from the ongoing $ 45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital construction plan approved in 2019. It is targeting $ 57 million for the airport. The Department of Trade and Economic Opportunities previously released $ 25 million in capital funds for improving aircraft taxiways to support the Boeing installation.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to spend an additional $ 25 million on further improvements to taxiways and airfields, and the Pritzker administration has pledged a $ 7 million DCEO grant to modernize the passenger terminal.

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