Force Protection, a division of General Dynamics, in Ladson, S.C., announced yesterday that it is laying off 75 percent of its employees. The majority of the employees will get their final paycheck the end of June; the rest by the end of the year.
The land-systems plant manufactures MRAPs, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, sold almost exclusively to the U.S. military. Five years ago, the U.S. Marine Corps was their largest customer.
When the last of the U.S. combat troops leave Afghanistan at the end of the year, need for the 360-degree battlefield Buffaloes and Cougars will be almost non-existent.
Some of the MRAPs currently in service in Afghanistan will be transported home, some will be left for the Afghan Army, and others will be sold to European countries. Bulgaria has recently offered to buy used U.S. war equipment and vehicles.
It is unclear how the severe cutback at this General Dynamics plant will impact the SPAWAR facility located at the old Navy Weapons Station where the Cougars and Buffaloes are fitted with highly sensitive electronic equipment before deployment.
Due to the high rate of troops deaths from rollover accidents, Force Protection opened a facility near Roxboro, N.C., in 2009, to train U.S. troops on maneuvering techniques for the 60,000 pound vehicles.
Examiner's Note: I have personally toured the Ladson Force Protection plant. Due to confidentiality agreements signed prior to the tour, much of what I saw is protected information. What I can say is, a great deal of the work at the Ladson plant is done by highly-skilled welders, most of whom will be unemployed in the next 2 months.
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