Boeing will invest $200 million to build the Navy’s newest unmanned aircraft at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois, the Chicago-based aerospace company announced Friday.
Boeing will build the MQ-25 Stingray, “the Navy’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft,” in a new 300,000 square-foot facility, set for completion in 2024, according to a company statement.
The defense contractor said the new facility — to be built in Mascoutah about 25 miles east of St. Louis — would initially create approximately 150 mechanic, engineer and support staff jobs to build the aircraft, with another potential 150 jobs should the Navy order more Stingrays.
“The world’s largest aerospace company is doubling down on Illinois because of our unparalleled assets in the transportation and logistics sector and the world-class talent of our people,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.
Pritzker said $57 million in state money is set aside for airport improvements, almost half of which will aid the Boeing project, The Associated Press reported earlier Friday.
The Navy intends to buy more than 70 MQ-25s — a refueling aircraft meant to sit on the flight decks of Navy carrier ship — to help extend the range of its carrier ships. A majority of those will be built at the new Boeing facility, the company said.
Boeing is producing the first seven Stingrays, in addition to two ground test articles, at its St. Louis facilities, and they will be transported to MidAmerica for flight test. The MQ-25 program office, including its core engineering team, will remain based in St. Louis.
The company lauded the facility, which it said will feature “robotic automation and advanced assembly techniques,” to better its product quality and efficiency.
Boeing already produces components for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft and other defense equipment at its St. Clair, Ill., site at MidAmerica, where it employs roughly 70 people.
“The team and state-of-the-art technology we’re bringing to the Navy’s MQ-25 program is unprecedented, and we’re incredibly proud to be expanding both as we build the future of autonomous systems in Illinois,” Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of autonomous systems, Boeing defense, space and security, said in the statement.