WASHINGTON — The defense contractor modifying the U.S. Army's self-propelled howitzer will begin production of the cannon next year in Elgin, a town near the Army's artillery post of Fort Sill, Oklahoma lawmakers said Thursday.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said BAE Systems will perform low-rate initial production at the Fort Sill Industrial Park.
The program, called Paladin Integrated Management, is intended to modify the long-used 155 mm cannon called the Paladin. Inhofe sought for years a replacement for the Paladin but met strong resistance from the Defense Department under former President George W. Bush.
Inhofe said Thursday, “After years of working on this issue, today's BAE announcement is exciting news for Elgin, Fort Sill, Oklahoma and the Army.
“BAE's plan to expand the Elgin facility will mean more jobs for the area as the Paladin Integrated Management Program provides improved technology for our Army artillery personnel. This announcement means that jobs will be moved to Elgin two to three years sooner than they otherwise would have under BAE's old plan.”
The lawmakers gave no estimates of additional jobs Thursday morning.
The award for low-rate initial production is expected in July 2013, with the first delivery to the Army in December 2014, the lawmakers said. The first phase of expanding the BAE Elgin facility will begin sometime mid- to late 2013. The Army ultimately plans to acquire 581 of the retooled cannons.
Cole said, “Oklahoma can be proud that in addition to being home to the Army's Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, the region will continue to play an essential role in equipping our troops with essential fire support for the future.”