TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A new report estimates Raytheon adds about two-point-one billion dollars to the Arizona economy. Today the company is celebrating one of its products that's a big part of the company's success.
Raytheon is celebrating construction of the 20,000th AMRAAM---the Advanced Medium-range Air to Air Missile. The missile is so effective, 36 countries besides the U.S. buy AMRAAMs for their own protection.
Some versions of AMRAAM fly from ground launchers, but most of the missiles fly on fighter planes--- ready to shoot down enemy aircraft.
Over more than 30 years, pilots launching AMRAAMs brought down ten aircraft in war zones like Iraq and Kosovo.
The missile used before AMRAAM depended on the fighter plane's radar to guide it to its target. That meant that pilot had to fire the missile and continue flying towards the threat. What makes AMRAAM so different is it has its own built-in radar so the pilot can fire AMRAAM, peel off to safety or take on a new target.
AMRAAM does its job so reliably 36 friendly countries carry it too. Air Force Colonel Brian Henson says that's a tribute to the Raytheon workers who help AMRAAM fly.
"When you sleep at night, know that those parents of those warfighters, they're sleeping well at night because you are giving them the tools to not only execute, to come back and do it again. Or not execute because no one else will dare even try to touch us."
Raytheon's AMRAAM Program Director Ron Krebs says about five hundred engineers work to upgrade the missiles hardware and software, while technicians work to assemble a missile pilots can count on.
"We want to know that when that thing's uploaded on some young fighter pilot's jet that when he gets into combat, he's gonna win."
Now Raytheon's planning to expand and add five thousand jobs over the next five years but the company has many programs besides AMRAAM that could grow.