Jackson Co. aerospace footprint grows with new Navy contract - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson Co. aerospace footprint grows with new Navy contract

There was a big celebration Tuesday at Northrop Grumman's Moss Point plant as leaders signed off on a new Navy project. There was a big celebration Tuesday at Northrop Grumman's Moss Point plant as leaders signed off on a new Navy project.
MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) -

Jackson County's aerospace footprint just got a little bit bigger. The Navy has chosen Northrop Grumman's Moss Point plant to build a new unmanned aircraft.

There was a big celebration Tuesday at Northrop Grumman's Moss Point plant as leaders signed off on a new Navy project. 

"The Navy Triton airplanes are going to be used for open ocean surveillance.  They have the ability to go out to very long ranges, at least 2,000 miles or more, and stay for 24 hours of total flight time. So, it is very different capabilities than a manned airplane because people can't stay up and stay airborne that long," said Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System Vice President Steve Enewold. 

The Navy plans to buy 68 Triton airplanes. The Moss Point plant has a contract for three, so far, totaling $280 million. Northrop leaders said the contract keeps 70 employees at the plant working, and the state-of-the-art aircraft will also assist in keeping the country safe. 

"You hear a lot of work on drug smuggling and those kinds of things. This airplane is uniquely suited surveillance of the oceans to include counter-drugs, counter-insurgency and all those kind of things, which are missions that affect us all," Enewold said. 

The contract is also great news to Jackson County's Economic Foundation Director George Freeland. With so much talk about defense budget cuts, he is pleased the aerospace industry is still growing on the coast.

"Unmanned systems are the future of military aviation and to some extent commercial aviation. I believe we have a legitimate foothold within that industry," Freeland said.

The Moss Point plant will be responsible for building a portion of the Navy planes, which should be finished by late 2013. The total contract for all 68 Triton aircraft is $2 billion. The plant also builds a portion of the Globe Hawk and Fire Scout unmanned systems for the military.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved

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