Elroy Jetson Is Building Missiles!

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Well, actually it’s Raytheon. But imagine if little Elroy – the youngest Jetson in that futuristic cartoon family from the 1960s, The Jetsons — had spent his career in the defense industry. He might well be starting work Monday at Raytheon’s new $75 million missile factory opening in Huntsville (“The Rocket City”), Ala. – as an automation engineer. That’s a new job category in the missile biz, Raytheon says.

The company’s Redstone Missile Integration Facility comes complete with data-driven automation and virtual-reality tools. The SM-3 and next-gen SM-6 Standard missiles (if they’re standard, how come there’s more than one?) are key elements in the soon-to-be-even-more-booming (post-Iron Dome) missile-defense and anti-aircraft business.

The SM-3 is being developed as part of the Pentagon’s sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. It’ll be deployed on U.S. and Japanese Navy warships to defend against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats in the ascent and midcourse phases of flight. The SM-6 is an extended-range, ship-based missile targeting manned and unmanned aerial platforms.

The new factory, located on the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, is a “zero-lift” facility. That means once missile components are unloaded and enter the building, they’re never lifted again.

That’s generally good news around explosives.

“Processes are completely automated as are the master controllers, which are fed by computers to create a rigidly-controlled environment, and the most technologically-advanced weapons-integration facility in the world,” the company says. “For example, a work station will know if an operator has the necessary training to complete the work; if not, the station will become inoperable.”

Of course, there is a populist downside to this kind of progress. “It is significantly less labor-intensive than historical processes of missile assembly,” a company spokesman adds. “For example, no people are needed for movement of components, as this is now done by automatic, laser-guided vehicles powered by lithium batteries.”

So that means the factory is starting out with only 35 workers, although more are expected to be hired as the 70,000-square-feet plant expands. “This new Raytheon factory means more jobs for Alabama,” says Richard Shelby, the Republican senator from the state, “and is a clear demonstration of Raytheon’s strong partnership with the state.”

Bonus Fun Fact: The Jetsons ran on ABC in primetime in 1962-63, and was set in the year 2064. We’re halfway there!