Lockheed Martin's Akron unit on Tuesday celebrated the delivery of the 1,000th specialized, ship-to-submarine missile to protect U.S. and Japanese naval forces.
The weapon, known as a Vertical Launch ASROC (VLA) missile, has played a major role in Lockheed Martin's modern operations in Akron, said Rick Perez, vice president of Lockheed Martin's Defense Systems market segment.
About 60 engineering and manufacturing workers in Akron are devoted to designing and making the VLA missile, Perez said.
Lockheed Martin's Akron location has about 700 employees.
Until Lockheed Martin began moving precision machinery work to Akron a couple years ago, the VLA missile used to account for about 80 percent of the factory workload there, Perez said. Now the amount is closer to 33 percent.
The VLA missile continues to account for about 25 percent of the Akron unit's revenue, Perez said.
''VLA has been a backbone of Lockheed Martin here in the Akron facility,'' he said.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic praised Lockheed Martin as ''an important economic engine'' for the city.
Elected officials, U.S. Navy officers, retirees and subcontractors attended a ceremony at the Akron plant on Tuesday to mark the production and delivery of the 1,000th VLA missile.
The 1,000th missile recently was delivered to Japan for use by the Japanese Navy.
The event also was attended by representatives from Mitsubishi International Corp., which serves as Lockheed Martin's trading partner for the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.
Development of the VLA missile started in 1984. The first missile was delivered to the U.S. Navy eight years later.
Since then, nearly 100 U.S. and Japanese naval ships have been equipped with the missiles, which are launched from ship decks to seek out and destroy enemy submarines.
Although the missiles haven't been used yet in actual battle, U.S. Navy officials praised them for their performance in tests.
Capt. Tom Weans, underseas weapons program manager for the U.S. Navy, described the Akron-made missile as a ''reliable weapons system.''
The missile gives vessels the capability to attack submarines beyond the submarine's attack range, though Perez declined to say how far the missile can travel for security reasons.
Lockheed Martin is working to extend the range in future versions, Perez said.
The company also is talking to other countries, including Greece and Taiwan, for potential contracts, Perez said.
''There is demand out there in the international community,'' he said.
Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., is a global security company with annual sales of about $42.7 billion.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.