ANDOVER, MD—Defense contractor Raytheon Co. on Monday launched a new manufacturing facility here that's meant to support the production of cutting-edge radar technology for the U.S. Navy. With 50-foot-high ceilings and a 40-ton bridge crane built into the roof, the building is specially designed for the testing and assembly of the SPY-6 line of radar arrays. reports that the 30,000-square-foot facility cost $72 million to develop and took just over a year to build. Sarah Jennette, an operations program manager who oversaw the project, says that an "extremely aggressive timeline" was necessary to keep up with the development schedule of the SPY-6. Components of the radar system were already being built, but Raytheon did not have a building big enough to fit the fully assembled array.

The SPY-6 radar systems, which consist of 37 radar cubes stacked into a octagonal shape, are already being assembled and tested in the new facility. Jennette said her team spent a lot of time with Raytheon's engineers and technicians to understand what the assembly process would look like, and to automate as much of that process as possible.

The result is a facility that runs with just a few dozens humans present, thanks to autonomous carts that transport materials and a specially designed robotic arm that does most of the work of actually assembling the radar cubes. “Now we’re going to be able to have a repeatable process and a lot of mission assurance around assembling and creating it over time,” says Scott Spence, the senior director for Raytheon's Naval Radar System.

The Andover campus is the heart of Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems division, which builds radar systems that defend against missile attacks and air strikes. In addition to the new facility, Raytheon is hiring up to 500 new employees to help build the SPY-6 and other radars.

In April, the Navy awarded Raytheon a $136 million contract to support a ramp-up period in manufacturing of the new technology. That phase of production will last through 2021, according to Jennette. If all goes well, the company will transition to full volume production after that. If the Navy awards all of the possible contract options under the SPY-6 program, they will be worth $1.6 billion in total.