Made in Mississippi: BAE Systems

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - BAE Systems sits tucked away on Highway 49 North in Hattiesburg, in fact, you have to look really hard to see it. Since 2004, the company has built vital artillery used by the U.S. government, Canada and Australia at its Pine Belt facility.

General Manager Benson St. Louis said, "The M-777 Howitzer is the latest Howitzer in the world today. It utilizes cast titanium to reduce its weight, it is less than 10,000 lbs., roughly half the weight of what it is replacing, the 198 Howitzer."

With a digital fire control system, GPS and navigation capabilities, it's a gun built to always know its location. The company behind it all, British owned global defense company BAE Systems.

"We are the 2nd largest defense company in the world and we have operations in over 100 countries. We employ over 100,000 people, about half of those employees are in the united states."

BAE produces products for air, land and naval forces. St. Louis said component parts for the M-777's are manufactured in different parts of the world, then assembled and tested right here in Hattiesburg.

"The range of the m-777 Howitzer is roughly 40 kilometers with an ex-caliber round, which is a GPS guided round that has accuracy within 10 meters," said St. Louis.

Many refer to it as the largest sniper rifle ever built.

"The Taliban over in Afghanistan, refers to the Howitzer as the desert dragon because it reigns fire from above," said St. Louis.

BAE is currently under contract with the U.S. Government to build 1,071 Howitzers. So far, they have sent 850 over seas, at a goal of 10 per month.

Machinist Tim Quinn said, "There are tons of tests and procedures you have to go through to make sure everything is correct before we send it out to the units."

BAE also refurbishes six Howitzers every month as they come back from the battlefield.

St. Louis said, "These guns are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, they come here and we do a reset. Basically, we bring it back to operational capabilities."

Quinn said, "We take pride in what we do, we have to make sure it is right before it goes out the door."

"We are building it for the war fighter and it is something that Hattiesburg and the Pine Belt can take a lot of pride in, because every M-777 Howitzer that exists in the world today came through this facility," said St. Louis.

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