Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor Vol. 28 No. 4
Visit Archives | Return to Issue
Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor
Article 3 of 8
January 26, 2024

Kansas City campus marks 75 years since taking over nuke component manufacturing mission

By Dan Parsons

The Kansas City National Security Campus in Missouri, which manufactures most of the non-nuclear components of U.S. nuclear weapons celebrates its diamond anniversary next month.

Initially dedicated by then-Senator Harry Truman in 1942, what began as a Pratt & Whitney plant building Double Wasp radial engines for a variety of World War II aircraft, the plant would eventually grow into an integral hub of nuke development under the auspices of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

In 1949, the Atomic Energy Commission tapped the Bendix Aviation Corporation to begin building non-nuclear components of nuclear warheads at the site. 

Bendix was hired to perform “certain operations, the exact details of which are classified. The employees guarded the nature of the mission so well that, for many years, the community assumed the plant made washing machines,” the Kansas City site says on its website.

The first employees for that mission were hired in March of that year and set to work readying the existing facility for its new national security role by removing tons of sugar and tires being stored at the facility by a former tenant and. The first part manufactured at the site, a simple machine bushing, rolled off the Kansas City Line in April 1949. 

Setbacks abounded in the campus’ early years. It suffered a direct hit by a tornado in 1957 and was severely flooded four years late, according to a timeline of notable events at the site posted on its website.

Bendix became Allied Corporation in 1983 and Honeywell took over management of the site in 1999. Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies manages the site on behalf of the NNSA to this day. 

“The NNSA and the Kansas City National Security Campus, managed by Honeywell FM&T are proud of their 75-year history partnership,” the Kansas City site’s website declares on a page dedicated to its history. “Since 1949, both organizations have worked together to provide excellent jobs supporting a great mission in addition to serving as a strong community partner in Kansas City and Albuquerque,” N.M.

A new 12,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility opened in 2019 to provide support to the W88 Life Extension Program by 3D printing cushions for the warhead.

Now more than 7,000 employees work at the campus where 80 percent of non-nuclear components that go into the nuclear stockpile are made. 

The plant has hit some production bottlenecks in recent years, symptoms of growing pains as it expands its mission following a significant downsizing as a result of the post-Cold War peace dividend. 

It has seen complications with two nuclear-weapon refurbishment programs that might delay production of new intercontinental ballistic missile fuses that delayed Fuze Modernization by at least 10 months in 2020. The speedbump in turn delayed an ongoing drive to replace the fuses that set off the W87 nuclear warheads of the Minuteman III and its planned successor, the LGM-35 Sentinel to some time in late fiscal 2025, instead of the middle of fiscal 2023 as planned. 

A recent Government Accountability Office audit of the Kansas City campus found that staffing plans can’t match its current workload and may not meet the demands of the next series of nuclear weapons life extensions, according to a recent report. 

“Workload demands for the site may continue to increase over the next two decades, exceeding its capacity. NNSA has begun efforts to address this, including buying more equipment and planning an expansion of its campus,” GAO found.

Honeywell has taken action to staff up by acquiring additional square footage near the existing facilities and has plans for further expansion, specifically for production and office space. 

NNSA has plans for a 15-phase expansion of the site, adding about 1 million square feet of manufacturing space and 675,000 square feet of office space.

“These efforts may not fully meet future needs and the site may need additional space beyond the planned expansions to meet projected demands,” GAO found.

Comments are closed.

Partner Content
Social Feed

Tweets by @EMPublications