Blackwater USA president outlines firm's future plans
Charlotte Observer (2007-07-31)
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Private security contractor Blackwater USA plans to expand its business by selling airships and armored vehicles, the company's president said.
The Moyock-based company has reduced its general security work and is now focused on security in high-threat areas, Blackwater President Gary Jackson said Monday during an economic development forum. Jackson didn't specify when the airships and vehicles would be up for sale.
"We deal in a very, very small niche market," Jackson said during the event at Elizabeth City State University. "We protect Americans in hostile areas."
Jackson said the company plans to build the 170-foot surveillance airship, called the Polar 400, at its plant in northeastern North Carolina.
The blimp-like aircraft can be flown remotely at speeds of 60 mph and altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, according to Blackwater. It will be tested at another airship developer outside Elizabeth City, Jackson said.
The armored personnel carrier, named The Grizzly, is designed to deflect .50-caliber bullets and insulate troops against roadside bombs.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Tuesday that the armored vehicles are being built, but the airship must pass tests before production can begin. The market includes the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, company officials said.
Blackwater plans to build the armored personnel carriers at its 70,000-square-foot plant in Camden County. One vehicle will be built each week, and production could increase to 1,000 vehicles annually, Jackson said.
"We're going to see good, steady growth for at least 10 years," Jackson said.
Blackwater employs about 600 people at its training compound in Camden County. The company was founded about 10 years ago with a few firing ranges.