McAlester Army Ammunition Plant

Oklahoma officials want to set conditions for the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant to compete for a hypersonic missile storage contract.

McALESTER — As the world races to develop hypersonic weapons, officials hope to obtain a government contract to store such missiles at the southeast Oklahoma ammunition base.

John Nash, state secretary of veterans and military affairs, said Oklahoma officials want to set the conditions for the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant to compete for the hypersonic missile storage contract.

To do that, they anticipate a number of security requirements and logistical redundancy requirements.

A second railhead, estimated to cost about $4.6 million, will be needed to move the hypersonic missiles that need to go to other installations.

“The goal is to work with the Legislature and state and local governments to secure the funding so that we can build that second railhead,” Nash said. “That should help us set the conditions to compete for that mission rather than trying to compete for that mission with an incomplete portfolio of resources.”

Nash said the contract would allow McAlester to store the new hypersonic missiles the Department of Defense is beginning to develop.

The U.S. Air Force successfully tested two Lockheed Martin Corp. hypersonic missiles as the nation catches up with Russia and China in developing hypersonic weapons, Reuters reported in July.

Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at more than Mach 5, which is 3,853 mph and five times the speed of sound. Arms makers Lockheed, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Technologies Corp. laud hypersonic weapons programs to investors amid the world’s race in developing the new weapons.

MCAAP is America’s premier warhead-producing facility that accounts for roughly one-third of the DoD’s munitions — including thousands of Mark 84 2,000-pound bombs, M11 artillery rounds, 105mm artillery rounds, and more.

Steve Smith, director of the McAlester Defense Support Association that works to ensure MCCAP’s future, said he hadn’t heard about a plan to pursue the contract. But discussions in the past couple months revolved around storing the missiles at the base.

“In terms of anything hardcore locked in, there’s nothing yet,” Smith said. “But what I’ve been told, it’s definitely something we’ll be pursuing.”

MDSA and the city of McAlester hosted an election forum in June with candidates running for the U.S. District 2 Congressional seat, focusing on what candidates would do to avoid MCAAP leaving in a Base Realignment and Closure. A BRAC is a congressionally authorized process the Department of Defense uses to reorganize its base structure.

A BRAC Commission decision in 1995 to close a facility in Savanna, Illinois, led to the U.S. Army Defense Ammunition Center’s relocation to McAlester in 1998.

Officials have said they want to ensure MCAAP’s future, and Smith said getting such a contract to store hypersonic missiles would help by adding jobs.

“It definitely would help,” Smith said. “And it might happen someday, it’s just any conversation taking place right now, it would be an opportunity if they can find an avenue to make that happen.”

Winning the contract would be an economic boon for the area, Nash said.

“They’ll have to I’m sure improve the internal logistics of the base in order to accept that missile or the storage of that missile,” Nash said.

Nash said storage of the missile “sounds a little bit boring,” but McAlester would store the missiles prior to deployment and would be responsible for shipping and deploying those to fighters that need them.

He said the goal is to add the railhead as soon as possible to give McAlester and the ammunition depot competitive to win the contract.

“This additional railhead is not only about the hypersonic missile,” Nash said. “It’s about ensuring through redundancy that we can meet the supplying mission. If the rail goes out, now you’re left with semitrucks.

“Having a second railhead offers a contingency for problems that we may face in the future.”

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