BAE Systems Inc.’s plant in Jessup recently received a $48 million Defense Department order for soft body armor that could expand to $108.5 million over the next year.
The Defense Logistics Agency approved the order for two versions of outer tactical bullet proof vests and components for the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, the Pentagon reported.
Outer tactical vests are worn by all U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vests, which weigh about 17 pounds, include ballistic plate inserts, collar and groin protectors. The apparatus can be released in an emergency with a pull on a hidden lanyard.
Heather Russell, a spokeswoman for BAE, said the contract’s value could expand to $267 million over four years.
“This is great news,” said Austin Burke, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. “There is a quality team at BAE that captured this contract with their design and production abilities.”
About 50,000 U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan wear the vests daily and total use by combat units may average 100,000 a day, said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy think tank near Washington, D.C. The vests also are used routinely during military training exercises, he said.
“They wear out and they have to be replaced,” Mr. Pike said. “We are going to be in Afghanistan for several more years.”
BAE also produces ballistic helmets and other military field gear at the Valley View Business Park in Jessup, where it employs about 225 people.
The contract could increase employment at the plant over several years, said Eric Gavelda, BAE’s director of armor products.
Workers in Jessup cut, sew and apply materials for helmets and load-bearing gear and have had little association with body armor production, Mr. Gavelda said.
“It increases the body armor portion of the business there,” he said.
The Jessup plant traces its origins to Specialty Defense Systems, a Dunmore military helmet manufacturer that was acquired by Florida-based Armor Holdings Inc. for $92 million in 2004.
Armor vacated the Dunmore facility in 2006 and relocated to the 100,000-square-foot Jessup plant. BAE, a British defense and aerospace giant, took over the plant when it acquired Armor for $4.1 billion in May 2007.