Defense contract spurs Aerojet Rocketdyne to increase 1,100-employee workforce in Camden

A Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System is shown in this undated courtesy photo. Aerojet Rocketdyne, a company based in El Segundo, Calif., with operations in Camden, is the only company that produces both composite-case and steel-case solid rocket motors for the rocket system. (U.S. Army photo courtesy Aerojet Rocketdyne)

Aerojet Rocketdyne, the largest independent company remaining in the U.S. defense industry that produces propulsion systems for weapons, aims to hire more workers at its facility in south Arkansas.

During a panel discussion Tuesday at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Little Rock, Aerojet Rocketdyne Senior Director Chandra Hooker said the company would be adding jobs at its factories in Camden.

Aerojet, based in El Segundo, Calif., produces solid rocket motors for missiles and other applications; the company's operations in Camden are spread over almost 2,000 acres and 150 buildings, according to the company.

The company declined to disclose the number of employees it intends to hire, though an article on the Rotary Club's website after the panel discussion indicated the company may plan to add about 200 jobs as part of a recent multimillion-dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The company said its workforce in Camden has grown by more than 80% and is still growing. There are numerous job openings listed on the company's website for skilled operators, engineers and other jobs in Camden.

Aerojet announced a $50 million investment for expansion and new infrastructure at its south Arkansas facilities in 2018 that would create more than 140 new jobs over the next three years, increasing the workforce at the Camden site to 900 employees; this followed the company's announcement in 2015 that it would hire 85 new employees and spend $18 million on facility and equipment upgrades, according to a company news release.

Currently, there are about 1,100 people working for Aerojet in Highland Industrial Park in Camden, the company said.

Aerojet's neighbor in the industrial park -- Lockheed Martin -- announced a $142 million investment into its Camden-area operations in June 2019 with plans to add 326 jobs after several high-profile contracts with the Department of Defense.

Both companies have ramped up hiring and expanded facilities in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The workforce at Lockheed Martin's facility has roughly doubled over the past five years; there were 1,047 employees at the Camden facility at the end of 2022, up from 594 employees in 2018; 655 employees in 2019; 829 employees in 2020; and 974 employees in 2021.

Lockheed Martin's workforce is set to eventually exceed 1,200; the company anticipates adding an additional 200 employees over the next five years, Lockheed Martin told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in February.

The U.S. Department of Defense has approved contracts with defense companies in the last year and a half, the department has said, to strengthen the supply chain for weapon production and bolster the nation's stockpile of weapons.

In April, the Defense Department announced a $215.6 million contract with Aerojet to 'expand and modernize' company facilities in Camden; Huntsville, Ala.; and Orange County, Va., essentially to streamline the manufacturing process, a Department of Defense news release said. The facilities produce rocket propulsion systems for missiles and for missile defense interceptors, as well as space launch vehicles and satellites for civil and commercial use.

In addition to modernizing the manufacturing processes, funding from the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 will go to consolidation of production lines; new equipment; building systems to process data; and increasing the production rate of the anti-tank Javelin missile, anti-aircraft Stingers and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.

"The U.S. has provided Javelins, Stingers, and GMLRS rockets to the Ukrainian government, and the modernization of [Aerojet Rocketdyne] facilities will benefit DoD as it replenishes its ammunition supplies," the company said.

In December, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by L3Harris Technologies, with the $4.7 billion deal expected to close this year.

That deal came to fruition 10 months after the $4.4 billion sale of Aerojet Rocketdyne to Lockheed Martin fell through after antitrust regulators sued to block it, arguing the acquisition would have critically disadvantaged Lockheed Martin's rivals, Reuters reported in December.