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Allegany Ballistics Laboratory

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Allegany Ballistics Laboratory Helps the Military

By ANDREA LANNOM ∙ alannom@statejournal.com

Employing more than 1,000 people on a 1,634-acre tract in Mineral County is Allegany Ballistics Laboratory, a center for research and testing for products that will help every branch of the military.  

According to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the Rocket Center site was constructed in 1942 and used by the U.S. Army as a loading plant for machine gun ammunition. 

The Navy took over the facility three years later and currently is using the facility for "research, development, production and testing of solid propellants and motors for ammunition, rockets and armaments," the site states. 

The site is divided into two plants — the first plant is owned by the Navy and leased to ATK Tactical Systems Company. The second plant is owned and operated by ATK. 

Also on the Rocket Center property is the Robert C. Byrd Institute, which provides access to "cutting edge technology and technical training to manufacturers across the region." 

So what kinds of products has Allegany Ballistics tested and developed? 

According to ATK's website, one of these products was the Oriole booster, described as a "next-generation sounding rocket for launching scientific and commercial payloads." 

This sounding rocket was tested at the facility in 2000. 

Another product that was developed at the facility was the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, which an ATK news release described as a "medium-range, high-speed, all-weather, all-aspect, semi-active guided missile used to intercept incoming missiles, attack aircraft and ships." 

This product was developed on the site in 1995, the news release states. 

"Tucked in the corner of Mineral County, ABL is arguably one of the most diverse manufacturing facilities supporting the U.S. Defense Industrial Base," said ATK vice president and site manager Pat Nolan. "The products produced support every branch of the military and include: rocket motors, warheads, fuzes, ammunition and complex composite structures for aircraft and weapons systems." 

In 2012, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley sent a letter to the Navy, asking it to stay in West Virginia. 

According to a previous news release from the governor's office, the Defense Authorization Act required the Navy to reduce space to its information technology center for the 2012 fiscal year. 

Tomblin and O'Malley said the facility shouldn't be closed because it would be a good consolidated center, the news release states. 

The letter stated the laboratory offers "a number of key attributes" such as its proximity to Washington D.C., the state's strong data skill set and the lack of natural and manmade disasters. 

"Over the last two decades, the federal government and the private sector have invested over $500 million on environmental and facilities restoration at ABL," O'Malley's and Tomblin's letter states. "In addition to its role in the National Security industrial base, the Navy also has made a significant investment in information technology assets at ABL that enable manufacturing and production operations as well as IT operations. These information technology assets provide a strategic and operational edge to the war fighter who today operates in a net-centric global environment."