Air Force Contract for Sierra Nevada Means Two More Hangars at Dayton Airport

May 23, 2024
The Ohio aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company will more than double its Dayton International Airport presence thanks to a new $13 billion Air Force contract to update the Survivable Airborne Operations Center or "SAOC" airplane.

May 22—Dayton aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Sierra Nevada Corp. will more than double its Dayton International Airport presence thanks to a new $13 billion Air Force contract to update the Survivable Airborne Operations Center or "SAOC" airplane.

This is the kind of expansion Sierra Nevada leaders had in mind all along when they first chose to build a hangar in Dayton in 2022.

For the privately held company, the $13 billion Air Force contract to replace the service's current fleet of E-4B "Nightwatch" aircraft will mean the construction of third and fourth hangars at the airport, along with the construction of what company leaders believe will be North America's largest aviation emissions-free paint facility.

In total at the moment, the company plans to have five hangars in Dayton as a result of this contract.

"I bet my career and reputation that we could pull this off," Mark C. Williams, SNC's senior vice president of strategy, said in an interview Wednesday. "That's how I view it from my perspective."

He added: "It was worth the risk."

While Sierra Nevada executives have hinted at these plans in the past, Wednesday's interview was the first public confirmation of plans for the third and fourth hangars.

The company has about 75 to 100 employees in Dayton today for work in two aircraft MRO facilities, Williams estimated. Construction of the second hangar should be completed in August.

"It will be a significant number of folks who will end up being employed here," he said.

Hangars Nos. 3 and 4 will be the same size as, if not larger than, Sierra Nevada's first two local hangars.

There is no precise construction timeline, but Williams expects to be moving forward this year with prep work. Once design work is completed, then the company will move into "groundbreaking mode," which could happen as early as this year, he said.

Much of the work in modernizing and replacing the Air Force's current fleet of E-4B "Nightwatch" aircraft will happen in Sierra Nevada's Dayton MRO hangars. Work will also take place at the company's Denver facilities.

The aircraft serves as an airborne command center for the president (POTUS), secretary of defense (SECDEF) and chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) to ensure continued critical command, control and communication during national emergencies, Sierra Nevada noted in a new release Wednesday.

The contract marks one of the largest aircraft modernization contracts awarded to a company other than the original aircraft manufacturer and indicates a new acquisition approach, Sierra Nevada said.

"SNC has built a reputation as a trusted partner in delivering transformative solutions that help safeguard freedom," said Fatih Ozmen, Sierra Nevada founder and chief executive. "With a focus on open architecture, our SAOC proposal concentrated on providing the services we are widely known for: best-of-breed innovative solutions. We are ready and excited for the opportunity to design the mobile command center of the future."

The company's SAOC team includes some familiar industry names — and familiar Dayton-area names, including Collins Aerospace, GE Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, FSI Defense, Greenpoint Technologies Inc. and Rolls-Royce.

"Our successful SAOC bid is a direct result of the long-term strategic vision of SNC's owners and our extraordinary team of engineers, program managers, technicians and leaders who possess the ingenuity and know-how to develop a solution tailor-made for the mission at hand," Williams said in the company's official release.

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Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images/TNS