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FEATURE STORY: BAE Systems: Missile Canisters for the U.S. Navy, produced in Aberdeen

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ABERDEEN, S.D. – In Aberdeen, S.D., manufacturing maintains a steady pulse within the local economy. There's MFG, a producer of wind turbines; 3M, a manufacturer of allergen defense filters, and Hub City, Inc., who just celebrated 125 years of business, that produces...well, they produce the parts needed in equipment throughout many different industries. But quietly on the other side of a chain-link fence sits a nondescript manufacturer not many know about. Whether you live in Aberdeen, the surrounding area or just about anywhere else in South Dakota, it's almost a sure bet this next one you may have never even heard of: BAE Systems.

BAE Systems is an international defense, security and aerospace company that has had a facility in the Aberdeen community since 1985. The BAE Systems site in Aberdeen, believe it or not, produces missile canisters for the United States Navy. You read that right—missile canisters, for the U.S. Navy, right here in Aberdeen, S.D.

So how have they flown so far under the radar for this long? Sarah Mann, plant manager, says it's simple:

"BAE Systems isn't a widely publicized company because our customers aren't your average customers," Mann laughed. "What we're producing isn't sold in a store, it's not a piece of equipment that can be replaced—we simply do not have a conventional customer-base, and I think that's why people don't really know about us.”

In 1985, the plant was established in Aberdeen and was meant mostly for experimental purposes. By Desert Storm, the plant was in full operation, supplying U.S. Navy cruisers, along with U.S. allies, with missile canisters.

"It's state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind manufacturing," Mann said. "During 'down-time' we find ways to train and educate our staff on better, more efficient production. Manufacturing, as an industry, continues to evolve, with the use of a lot of robotics and automation. While we utilize and value the hard skills, we spend a lot of time honing soft skills, too."

BAE Systems in Aberdeen employs close to 80 people—many of whom have a background in welding, machining and engineering, including Mann who is a manufacturing engineer by degree. Included in those employee numbers are both retired and current servicemen. Demographics within the Aberdeen location break down to mostly men; however, there are a few women working in various positions throughout the facility. The average age is right around 50, and the average years of service with BAE Systems is almost 20.

"It's an enjoyable place to work," Mann said. "We're starting to see a reignition of interest in the industry, because it's a real opportunity to be involved in a company that's creating something really cool. Our teams are self-sufficient and self-managed. We have excellent employee engagement where personal and professional growth is a top priority. If you want to move up in our company, with the proper training and team support, there's really no limit."

BAE Systems continues to produce new missile canisters, because as you can imagine, after a missile blast, there's little-to-no functioning canister left so it must be replaced.

"We do get canisters back, and we have a team that inspects, neutralizes and renews them,” Mann said. "So, while our demand fluctuates, we can continue to work and improve the quality and sustainability of our current canisters."

BAE Systems is a globally renowned company that employees more than 83,000 people worldwide. A subsidiary of BAE Systems plc, BAE Systems Inc. is an international defense, aerospace and security company that delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces. The U.S. headquarters are in Arlington, Va. For more information, go to www.baesystems.com/us.

Media Contact

Members of the media requesting more information should contact Natalie Likness at natalie.likness@sdreadytowork.com or (605) 773-GOED (4633).