S.C. Military Drone Builder Retools Plant, Doubles Workforce

Adam Townsend from the Sam Clementine Patch reports

Just this week, Swift Engineering, a high-tech race car and aerospace firm off Avenida La Pata in San Clemente’s commercial district, broke ground on a new 15,000-square-foot, $3-million manufacturing center.

Armed with the latest design technology and poised to increase its manufacturing capacity by at least 600 percent, the firm plans to double its workforce by hiring and training 75 technicians.

Or more.

Swift President Jan Refsdal said 75 new hires is a conservative estimate and the firm’s investment in San Clemente could increase to $10 million over the next five years.

“We’ve been producing four to five vehicles per month, and [Northrop Grumman] is telling us to produce 30 per month,” he said.

The vehicle in question is the Bat 12 unmanned aerial drone, which Swift began developing in 2009. Northrop bought the patents, then hired Swift to begin producing the craft for the U.S. military.

The Bat 12 can be launched in the field, without a runway, according to Northrop’s  website. The drone is used for reconnaisance to help ground troops detect improvised explosive devices.

Swift’s subcontract is part of a $26.2-million deal Northrop Grumman and the feds signed in August. Contractors in many parts of the U.S. have a piece of the pie, manufacturing different parts of the drone and launch equipment, but the Bat 12 isn’t ready to fly until it leaves the factory floor in San Clemente.

Part of what makes all of Swift’s aerospace and racing development possible is the company’s virtual wind tunnel.

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