A Strong Defense: Groundbreaking Capabilities at Utah’s Falcon Hill Research Park

Utah Gov Gary Herbert addresses defense experts at a Hill AFB groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, Dec 2, 2016. Photo by USAF
Utah Gov Gary Herbert addresses defense experts at a Hill AFB groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, Dec 2, 2016. Photo by USAF

On Friday, December 2, congress appropriated another record defense spending bill while in Utah, officials from the Woodbury Corporation, the Air Force, and Lockheed Martin joined Governor Gary Herbert to announce the most recent development at Hill Air Force Base’s Falcon Hill Research Park. In the years to come, military and aerospace contractors will compete to design some of the newest versions of America’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile systems, dubbed the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) by the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In October, Lockheed Martin announced that their research would be housed at Falcon Hill, and construction on their facility has now begun with Woodbury’s oversight. Continuing a decades-old effort by ordnance developers and frontline “missileers,” the contractors assembled in Utah and the engineers who will eventually staff the facility upon its completion, all represent the “point of the spear” in America’s defense design. The 75,000 square-foot facility is expected to be completed and ready for mission-specific design assignments in August when Lockheed will occupy a third of the new building. Other contributing partners include Bechtel for launch systems and Orbital ATK for propulsion designs.

General Bernard Schriever and TRW co-founder Simon Ramo shake hands following award of contract award to TRW to oversee the U.S. Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program in 1954
General Bernard Schriever and TRW co-founder Simon Ramo shake hands following award of contract award to TRW to oversee the U.S. Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program in 1954

Partly in response to a 2013 “follow-on” study prepared by the GAO, the GBSD program will provide for a significant upgrade of America’s six-decades-old missile program. Referred to as the “nuclear triad” by defense experts, the nation’s missile defense system has relied upon the development of Atlas, Titan, Peacekeeper and the currently deployed Minuteman III series components, in addition to the Navy’s submarine-launched strike capabilities.

By being close to other aerospace contractors, Utah’s Hill Air Force Base provides a unique opportunity for Lockheed Martin – opening up the possibility of using the Beehive State for their division headquarters. Program manager for Lockheed’s team, John Karas said, “If we are selected to move forward with GBSD our office at Hill Air Force Base will allow for close collaboration with the Air Force, access to the strong aerospace and defense industry in the state and support from a vibrant community of veterans, engineers and scientists we will need to execute this important mission.”

Acknowledging the defense effort also means the addition of more than a few, “high-paying” jobs in the private sector in his state, Governor Herbert agreed and added, “The Falcon Hill project is a leading example of unprecedented partnerships making a difference in Utah communities.” The governor routinely emphasizes the strength of his state’s economy, often recognized by Forbes as leading the nation.

Those who come to Falcon Hill will be involved with the first overhaul of the nation’s missile systems in 25 years and will be managing efforts at designing and testing the tangible pieces of follow-on systems which they say will increase the accuracy, security, nuclear safety and surety of America’s knockout punches.

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