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Sierra Nevada's High Tech Mission: Possible

by Missy Sheehan + photos by Chris Jackson

Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Integrated Missions Systems Division at the Hagerstown Regional Airport specializes in innovative aircraft technology for the U.S. Government.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), founded in 1963, is an electronic systems provider and systems integrator specializing in electronics, aerospace, avionics, communications systems and solar energy. Led by CEO Fatih Ozmen and President Eren Ozmen, the privately owned company has a reputation for rapid, innovative technology solutions for clients like the U.S. Department of Defense.

Headquartered in Sparks, Nev., SNC has a workforce of more than 3,000 and operates in 30 locations spread over 16 states. The company’s Hagerstown campus has been home to its Integrated Missions Systems (IMS) division — one of six unique business areas — since 2004. The division’s sizeable facilities at the Hagerstown Regional Airport house nearly 200,000 square feet of office, manufacturing, and hangar space.

SNC’s IMS division provides high-tech intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products and services to clients like the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, as well as select commercial and international customers. “IMS specializes in rapid, agile engineering and integration of aircraft,” says Bill Morris, IMS vice president of business development. The division’s engineers modify and equip standard aircraft to meet customers’ desired technology requirements. “The modified aircraft then helps the customer serve its various missions,” Bill says.

IMS products developed in Hagerstown include the U.S. Army’s Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (MARSS) aircraft, the Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) aircraft and the Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) built for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine (OAM).

Over the last decade, SNC’s location in Hagerstown has been win-win for both the company and the Hagerstown-Washington County community. Besides the benefit of having a location close to many of the company’s government clients, “IMS has very experienced employees,” Bill says. “The Hagerstown area maintains vast resources of individuals who have grown up in the aircraft industry.”

According to James Jenkins, public relations and community affairs manager for Washington County, “any business that resides at the Hagerstown Regional Airport contributes to the local economy.” The MEA program in particular has helped spur economic growth in the Hagerstown-Washington County area, Bill says. “There are over 100 employees directly or indirectly involved in the MEA program,” he adds.

In 2009, SNC received a federal contract valued at more than $600 million to manufacture up to 30 Enforcement Aircraft for the Border Protection’s Office. The following year, IMS opened a new structure, Hangar 66, dedicated to the Customs and Border Protection agency in support of the program. In 2013, SNC received an additional $43 million in federal funding to build two more MEA, protecting local jobs involved in the program.

Aside from the IMS division, SNC’s other business areas include Space Systems; Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management; Electronic Warfare/Range; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; and Information and Sensor Solutions. SNC also is expanding into emerging commercial markets including renewable energy, telemedicine, nanotechnology and human space flight