A Louisville-made Raytheon SeaRAM missile defense system. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

A Louisville-made Raytheon SeaRAM missile defense system. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its ongoing conflict with Ukraine are helping to create high-paying jobs in Louisville.

Raytheon plans to add about 100 jobs, including engineers, to its South Louisville facility, which designs and builds weapons systems used by the U.S. Navy and its allies.

The company and military officials on Tuesday unveiled a SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system that will be installed on the USS Ross, a guided missile destroyer deployed in the Mediterranean and based in Rota, Spain. Another 17,000-pound SeaRAM was shipped out of Louisville last week to be installed on the USS Donald Cook.

The SeaRAM can launch 11 missiles to destroy subsonic and near-sonic threats such as cruise missiles, drones, small boats and helicopters that are attacking the ship.

A missile being launched from a Raytheon SeaRAM system. | Courtesy of Raytheon.

A missile being launched from a Raytheon SeaRAM system. | Courtesy of Raytheon.

U.S. Navy Capt. Craig Bowden said that the U.S. Navy issued an “urgent need request” in February 2015 for a new weapons system of its squadron of four guided missile destroyers.

Bowden said he could not talk about the nature of the threat, but according to the U.S. Naval Institute, the threat is Russian — though details remained classified as of March. The Navy’s public affairs office did not immediately respond to an inquiry by IL to provide more details about the threat.

USS Donald Cook. | Courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

USS Donald Cook. | Courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

In April 2014, the USS Donald Cook was deployed to the Black Sea in response to a Russian troop buildup at its border with Ukraine, according to CNN. The Navy also reported that two Russian Su-24 aircraft flew near the destroyer that month. Tensions have remained high. Russian pilots flew close to the same ship again this past April in the Baltic Sea.

The USS Porter was the first to be equipped with a SeaRam system, followed by the USS Carney. The USS Ross will be the fourth to receive the system.

Bowden told IL on Tuesday that the SeaRAMs enhance the ships’ current defensive capabilities. The destroyers employ a “layer defense” meaning they have weapons systems for threats at varying distances. For short-range defense, the ships use the Louisville-made Phalanx system, which looks similar to the SeaRam but is equipped with a 20mm gun. While the Phalanx can engage only one target, the SeaRAM can attack 11 at the same time. The SeaRAM defends the ships from threats that are beyond the reach of the Phalanx guns. Company officials would not talk about the system’s effective range, but the Arizona Daily Star said the missiles have a range of about 8.4 miles.

The SeaRAMs give military personnel a greater degree of comfort to defend the ship in a hostile environment, Bowden said.

The company would not disclose how much a SeaRAM system costs, but officials said Raytheon received a $288 million contract from the U.S. military for this year for close-in weapons systems, which includes SeaRAM and Phalanx.

Company officials said the SeaRAM has more than 36,000 parts.

‘Incredible feat’

A SeaRAM system being made at Raytheon's Louisville plant. | Courtesy of Raytheon.

A SeaRAM system being made at Raytheon’s Louisville plant. | Courtesy of Raytheon.

Military and company leaders who attended Tuesday’s ceremony praised Raytheon’s local employees, who completed design, manufacturing, testing and installation of the system in just over a year, which, Bowden said, “just doesn’t happen.”

He said Raytheon’s achievement to respond to the Navy’s urgent request in such a limited time was an “incredible feat.”

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Raytheon’s system protects the ships of the U.S. Armed Forces and its allies, and he is thrilled that it is being built in Kentucky.

McConnell said that the complicated and challenging global geopolitical climate will make the SeaRAM a vital system for years to come.

“It’s important to our entire country,” he said.

Raytheon officials, too, said they expect to receive more contracts from the U.S. and its allies in the coming years.

The company could not immediately say what its total investment in Louisville would be, whether it received any state or local incentives, and what wages the new employees would be paid. However, company officials said the 100 new positions will include about 30 engineers. Open positions listed on the company’s website do not include wage or salary information.

The expansion also will support Raytheon’s manufacturing of a new launch system for Naval Strike Missiles being built by Norway-based Kongsberg. Unlike the SeaRAM, the NSM — an anti-ship missile with a range of more than 100 nautical miles — is a weapon used for offense.

Raytheon’s Louisville plant, near the airport, was founded during WW II and taken over by the Navy in 1943. It was closed by Congress in 1996 and acquired by Hughes Aircraft Co. that year. Two years later it became part of Raytheon. The Louisville plant has more than 700 suppliers. Last year it built more than 18,000 items, which includes anything from full weapons systems to spare parts.

Based in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 61,000 and reported revenues of $23 billion last year.