Northrop Grumman announced Tuesday that it will expand its manufacturing operations at its Elkton facility in Cecil County, MD. The company, which designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation-related systems, said it plans to add 175 new jobs over the next five years.

This operating sector of the company was known as Orbital ATK before it was acquired by Northrop Grumman last year. There are currently 400 workers employed in Elkton.

“Our team in Elkton has delivered rocket motors for space launch and military applications for 70 years,” said Mike Kahn, vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman, via a statement.

“We are extremely pleased that the state of Maryland will be supporting investments in both infrastructure and in our workforce,” Kahn added. “Our continued partnership with both the state and county will ensure that the Elkton operation will continue to provide innovative technology to NASA and the Department of Defense for many years to come.”

The company has a long history in Elkton.

“Northrop Grumman’s Elkton plant had its first rocket engine test-fire more than 70 years ago,” said County Executive Alan McCarthy. “Cecil County has long benefited from this manufacturing plant and the many jobs it provides, and we look forward to a continued strong partnership with the company to ensure their success and growth in the future.”

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission cleared the $7.8 billion purchase of defense and space contractor Orbital ATK last June, and it became Northrop Grumman’s fourth business sector – which has been rebranded as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. As a condition for the approval of the acquisition, Northrop Grumman agreed to supply solid rocket motors “on a non-discriminatory basis under specified circumstances.” This was to ensure competition in the solid rocket motor sector, as only two manufacturers had remained in business –  including Orbital ATK – the other being Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Orbital ATK unveiled a new intermediate to heavy lift rocket last year that was designed to compete for national security launches. Prior to the merger, the two companies had very little overlap, and while Northrop Grumman had a long history of producing spacecraft, it was not a leading player in the launch industry.

At the time of the FTC’s green light on the deal, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush told analysts, “Our two companies represent a very complementary fit.”

The FTC did require Northrop Grumman to separate its solid rocket motor business with a firewall so that it can continue to support industry rival Boeing – as both Aerojet and Orbital ATK were supplying to prime contractors Northrop Grumman and Boeing.

Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems’ main products now include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures.

Northrop Grumman’s capabilities and products span other technology sectors including autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization.

Maryland on Board

The Maryland Department of Commerce has approved an $800,000 conditional loan through Advantage Maryland, formerly the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund (MEDAAF), to assist with project costs. In addition, Maryland Commerce is also providing a $200,000 training grant through the Partnership for Workforce Quality (PWQ) program, and Cecil County is providing an $80,000 conditional loan to help the company complete the project.

“Northrop Grumman is Maryland’s largest manufacturing employer and we are proud to support their continued investment in our state,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “We look forward to working with the company as they expand their aerospace and defense technology operations here and grow their workforce.”

Northrop Grumman will also be eligible for state tax credits including the Job Creation Tax Credit and the More Jobs for Marylanders Program, which was the centerpiece of Governor Larry Hogan’s Maryland Jobs Initiative, incentivizing manufacturers to create new jobs in the state.

“It’s clear that Maryland is open for business when companies like Northrop Grumman are creating hundreds of new jobs and continuing to expand their operations here,” said Governor Hogan in a statement. “Our administration has been focused on growing manufacturing in the state and this expansion is further proof that programs like More Jobs for Marylanders truly make a difference in creating jobs and strengthening our economy.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at