TULSA, Okla. — L3Harris Technologies announced Friday it's expanding its production and workforce in Tulsa to include a new aircraft, the Sky Warden.
L3Harris is currently in a competition to win a contract from U.S. Special Operations Command for the Sky Warden. If it wins, Luke Savoie, president of aviation services for L3Harris, said the contract is expected to be more than $1 billion. It would also bring more than 100 jobs to Tulsa.
The Sky Warden is similar to a crop duster, but it could be one of the newest aircraft for the Department of Defense.
Along with L3Harris, Air Tractor manufactures the plane. The goal is to do more with less.
“How do we still keep an eye on the enemy at the gate that’s at the backdoor while we’re focusing on the enemy that’s at the front door," Savoie said.
Air Tractor will manufacture the planes in Texas and then send them to Tulsa, where L3Harris will modify them to be mission-ready. The plane is outfitted with high-tech- including a lot of sensors.
“It’s the capabilities that we used to stack plane on plane on plane in Iraq and Afghanistan," Savoie said. "We’re doing that all now on one single airplane at a much much lower cost point with a lot of tools, software-wise and technology-wise, that reduce the workload of the operator and still provide the same effect, the same situational awareness, keep the ground teams informed.”
Savoie said the Oklahoma National Guard will receive some of these planes.
The plan is to produce at least 75 of them in Tulsa. Savoie said Tulsa is a good base for the aerospace industry thanks to the access to talent here.
“Now, we’re already growing as a division between what we’re doing on our modification work and then what we’re doing with our engineering side," Savoie said. "We’ll be close to over 100 heads next year in 2022 alone just at this location.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum attended the announcement Friday morning. Bynum said the city is committed to growing the aerospace industry in Tulsa.
“These companies, the CEOs of them tell me every time I see them, they cannot hire people fast enough for all the work that there is to do out there," Bynum said. "And that’s a great problem to have for us here in Tulsa.
L3Harris will find out in the middle of next year if it wins the contract. If it does, Savoie said production will start at the end of next year.
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