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Raytheon closing N.M. laser weapons site, moving operation to Tucson

About 200 Raytheon employees in Albuquerque will be laid off as the company moves its "Directed Energy" R&D operation to Tucson over the next several months.

The Raytheon site at Sandia Science and Technology Park was expanded just in 2017. But the company, which just last month finalized its merger with another defense contracting giant, United Technologies, is closing the facility "after careful and deliberate consideration," spokeswoman Heather Uberuaga said.

The Directed Energy employees focus on developing laser and microwave weapons, and have worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory at nearby Kirtland Air Force Base.

Raytheon, now called Raytheon Technologies after the merger, chose Tucson to be the headquarters of a new division combining its former Missile Systems and Integrated Defense System — news that TucsonSentinel.com broke in January.

Raytheon is now the world's second-largest aerospace and defense company, trailing only Boeing.

13,000 of its workers are here in Tucson, Uberuaga said.

The move to close the New Mexico facility "is in best interest of our customers as we look to further integrate and streamline our capabilities with pursuits and programs located at other sites," she said.

About 20 of the Directed Energy "subject matter experts" may be transferred to Tucson, Uberuaga told TucsonSentinel.com. Other staffers being laid off may be offered positions in other programs at other sites, she said.

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"The last day of work (in Albuquerque) will vary by employee based on the programs they are working on, but it will be between mid-July 2020 and December 2020 for the vast majority of employees," she said.

Raytheon has cut pay for some corporate employees, including more than 100 in Tucson, by 10 percent through the end of the year, essentially furloughing them by ordering 15 paid days off, sources within the company told TucsonSentinel.com.

While workers for the Raytheon Missiles & Defense division here aren't affected by the cuts, staff working directly for the corporate headquarters operation are, no matter where in the country they're physically located.

Those pay cuts are in part due to the impact of the pandemic on aircraft production. The company operates engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

"We merged with an airplane-building company at the wrong time," one Raytheon worker sardonically told the Sentinel.

Wes Kramer, the head of the missile division headquartered here, told employees in January that "at this time, we have no plans to relocate programs or business area/product line leadership, and we do not expect the announcement of a new headquarters location to result in many (if any) personnel relocations."

"In addition to the Tucson headquarters, the business remains fully committed to our current large-scale operations in Alabama, California, Massachussetts, north Texas, and Rhode Island, as well as to our operations in several other key communities and customer centers around the world. Our landed company names, Raytheon Emirates and Raytheon Saudi Arabia, will remain unchanged," he wrote in an internal company memo that was leaked to TucsonSentinel.com.

Kremer took over the Missile Systems division in March 2019, overseeing some 13,000 employees. He succeeded Taylor Lawrence, who headed RMS for 11 years, in the post.

Raytheon's Tucson facility develops and manufactures a variety of missiles, including a new nuclear cruise missile, the Standard Missile-2, SM-3 and SM-6 interceptors, and a deal with Norway's Kongsberg, with plans to assemble and test that company's Naval Strike Missile in Tucson.

With $16 million in incentives from Pima County for the contractor, Raytheon has been in the process of adding about 2,000 jobs here over the next half-decade. The county and Pima Association of Governments have invested about $33 million in the company's expansion here, purchasing land for a buffer zone and constructing a new roadway near the factory, south of Tucson International Airport.

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Raytheon reported that it had about 9,600 workers in Tucson in 2017. In 2009, about 12,140 were employed by the company here. In early 2013, Raytheon reported 10,300 local workers.

In 2010, the company chose Huntsville, Ala., as the location for final assembly of the SM-3, with about 300 jobs created in a new plant on the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal. The company chose the location because of the large buffer zone and significant tax incentives unavailable in Arizona.

The company reported a strong fourth quarter Thursday, with net sales of $2.3 billion in the Missiles Systems unit, and $8.7 billion on the year for that division. The IDS unit reported $2 billion in fourth-quarter revenues. Overall, Raytheon had revenues of $29.2 billion in 2019.

Raytheon had been awarded $850,000 in public funding to expand its Albuquerque plant in 2017, which was used to increase the size of the facility and meant to support the hiring of 60 new employees there. Those funds were returned to the state, Uberuaga told the Albuquerque Journal.

Raytheon purchased the operation in New Mexico in 2011, acquiring the Ktech Corporation's "non-kinetic effects" assets.

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A Raytheon-produced SM-6 missile launch.