Columbus plant gets Air Force contract

Published 4:26 pm Friday, November 16, 2007

Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. in Columbus will work on an Air Force project to develop unmanned aerial vehicles that can fly five to eight days straight.

Aurora, which specializes UAVs, was chosen as a subcontractor on the project by General Dynamics Information Technology Inc. Members of Mississippi’s congressional announced the contract Thursday.

The Air Force said the project would allow for longer reconnaissance and battlefield supervision. No contract amount or project timeline was released.

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“The program takes advantage of one of the things Aurora does best; using its full range of capabilities, facilities and expertise to advance existing technology,” said John Langford, Aurora’s president and CEO.

The project will use Aurora’s Orion aircraft, a long-endurance UAV under development at Aurora’s plant next to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Columbus.

“It is the third competitively awarded contract the company has won in six months, signifying the confidence the Defense Department has in Aurora’s ability to provide state-of-the-art technology to strengthen our national defense,” said U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said UAVs provide a capability that is often cheaper, safer, and better suited for missions than manned crafts.

“Their role in national security, reconnaissance, and even weather prediction will increase over time. I am pleased that the Department of Defense has once again recognized the quality products being produced in Mississippi by awarding this contract to Aurora,” he said.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said military forces are utilizing unmanned vehicles to obtain better battlefield intelligence and have more combat capability with less risk of life.

“This program joins other UAV production already in Mississippi, helping make our state one of the design and construction leaders in this particular aerospace segment,” Lott said.