Defense Bill Includes Shoreline Work

August 9, 2004
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, announced that a manufacturer in Ottawa and another in MuskegonCounty will partner in a new military project totaling nearly $8 million.

The firms are Alcoa Automotive, located in SpringLake, and Howmet Castings, of Whitehall, in northern MuskegonCounty. Together, the firms — both subsidiaries of Alcoa Inc. — employ well over 2,000 people along the shoreline.

The project is funded in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2005(H.R. 4613), which President Bush signed into law last week.

Hoekstra's office says the project is part of the Army's Lightweight Structures Initiative, which aims at developing lightweight vehicle structure components and assemblies for the Army Future Combat Systems.

"Today's U.S. military requires high-performance vehicles that are significantly lighter than traditional vehicles to enhance speed and effectiveness without compromising strength and durability," Hoekstra said.

Howmet — known as Howmet International before Alcoa acquired it — pioneered the casting of titanium and other exotic metals early in the cold war and was critical in developing turbine vanes for high-performance military and civilian jet aircraft.

According to Hoekstra's office, a significant part of Howmet's business now involves making titanium castings for the M-777 lightweight towed 155mm howitzer.

The weapons are much lighter than their predecessors and can be towed by lighter vehicles than in the past. They also can be emplaced by cargo helicopters.

The howitzer element of the Howmet business is to grow soon, because the defense appropriations act also includes $52 million for the howitzers for the Marine Corps and $37.2 million for the Army.

Howmet currently is supplying components for the weapons under what the defense department calls an initial, low-rate production phase.

As of next year, however, the act's funding would send production into its full rate.

Howmet would continue supplying M-777 components until 2009.    

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