WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has agreed to provide Aerojet Rocketdyne $215.6 million to expand its rocket propulsion manufacturing facilities in order to speed up production of missiles for Ukraine, the Pentagon announced April 14.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, headquartered in El Segundo, California, makes rocket engines and propulsion systems for space vehicles, ballistic missiles and military tactical weapons. 

The agreement was announced by DoD’s Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization (MCEIP), which manages the department’s strategic investments in industrial base capabilities under the Defense Production Act

The contract with Aerojet was funded by the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act that Congress passed last year to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion that started in February 2022. 

Aerojet will use the funds to expand and modernize facilities in Camden, Arkansas; Huntsville, Alabama; and Orange County, Virginia, where the company manufactures rocket propulsion systems.

The company will “modernize manufacturing processes at the company’s facilities, consolidate production lines, purchase equipment, build systems to process data, and increase production and delivery speed for Javelins, Stingers, and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS),” said DoD.

The U.S. has provided Javelins, Stingers and GMLRS rockets to Ukraine. “The modernization of Aerojet Rocketdyne facilities will benefit DoD as it replenishes its ammunition supplies,” DoD noted. 

Restocking Ukraine’s dwindling ammunition supplies has been a challenge for the U.S. and allies. The GMLRS GPS-guided artillery rockets propelled by solid-fuel rocket motors have been especially in high demand and DoD has asked suppliers to speed up production.

The U.S. Army’s GMLRS rockets, made by Lockheed Martin, are fired from mobile launchers known as HIMARS, which have been successful in hitting Russian supply lines and command posts.

Investment in facilities and skilled labor

DoD’s industrial base office is “moving forward with appropriate urgency to support strategic industrial sectors crucial to protecting national security,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in the April 14 announcement.

The investment in Aerojet will “modernize rocket propellant and motor production in the United States, in addition to creating technical and skilled labor jobs at multiple domestic facilities,” she said.

Aerojet Rocketdyne in March announced it was working to “improve its processes to deliver advanced solid rocket motors to Lockheed Martin to power the Army’s GMLRS.”

The company produces the composite case motors for the GMLRS Insensitive Munitions Propulsion System variant, and is the sole producer of the steel-case solid rocket motors for the GMLRS variant used by many U.S. allies. 

“The GMLRS has been used to great effect by Ukrainian forces in their fight to defend their nation,” Aerojet said in a March 23 news release

Aerojet, one of only two major U.S. defense producers of solid rocket motors, in the process of being acquired by L3Harris Technologies pending regulatory approval. 

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...