Boeing Will Produce Navy Aircraft In MidAmerica, Spending $200 Million In The Process

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Boeing Co., based in Chicago, will invest $200 million to start producing the US Navy’s newest unmanned aircraft at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, officials announced Friday, in a project that may bring at least 150 jobs to the company’s southwest Illinois site.

Boeing will construct the MQ-25 Stingray, the Navy’s first carrier-based unmanned aircraft, at a 300,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility (27,870 square meters). Since 2018, the business has been contracted to build and test the craft.

Company officials and politicians gathered at the airport in Mascoutah, approximately 29 miles (47 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis, to celebrate not just Boeing’s expansion of operations, which now employs 70 people.

They believe it’s also a watershed moment for MidAmerica, which began civilian operations close to Scott Air Force Base in 1997, despite opponents’ doubts about its sustainability.

Governor J.B. Pritzker stated, “This state-of-the-art production facility further roots Boeing’s local presence here in Metro East and extends Illinois’ heritage of support for our national security…” “Boeing employs hundreds of Illinois residents and supports tens of thousands more around the state. I’m honored to have them as a partner in preparing our towns for manufacturing in the twenty-first century.”

The MQ-25 Stingray, created under a contract with the Navy in 2018, is a refueling aircraft that would greatly extend the combat range of aircraft launched from the Navy’s nuclear-powered carriers, according to Boeing. “What we’re talking about is tripling the carrier’s effect area,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program director.

In exchange for the $200 million investment over 15 years and the addition of at least 150 jobs to the 70 already at MidAmerica, where Boeing has been producing components for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft, and other defense equipment for about a decade, Boeing will receive tax breaks worth about $8.7 million on its state income tax liability.

The MidAmerica facility is expected to begin construction later this year and be finished in early 2024. By the middle of 2024, production would be underway.

The technology of the Stingray, according to Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems at Boeing Defense, Space & Security, is “unprecedented.”

Robotic automation and “advanced assembly techniques” will be used at the plant to increase product quality as well as staff ergonomics and safety. Officials claim that Boeing’s digital engineering of the MQ-25 and its systems really improves product quality and efficiency.

The state’s contribution is part of the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital building plan, which was authorized in 2019. The airport is expected to cost $57 million. To assist the Boeing facility, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity already approved $25 million in capital-fund funds for airplane taxiway upgrades.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is set to invest another $25 million in taxiway and airfield upgrades, while Pritzker’s administration has committed a $7 million DCEO award to modernize the passenger terminal.

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