Published March 7, 2016 in the Puget Sound Business Journal
Staff Writer Puget Sound Business Journal
Washington state aerospace supplier Janicki industries will help build the Air Force’s next-generation B-21 bomber. But the company's big brother, Boeing (NYSE: BA) company, won't be joining the party.
On Monday the Air Force announced seven companies nationwide that will support Northrop Grumman in building the stealthy new bomber, a project that's estimated to cost upwards of $23 billion.
By far the smallest was Janicki, a family-owned company located in the town of Sedro Woolley in Northwest Washington. The town is so obscure, at least from a Washington, D.C. perspective, that Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stumbled in her effort to pronounced it correctly during a press conference Monday.
In an additional plus for this region, James said Janicki will do its work in Washington.
The fact that Boeing wasn’t named a contractor is something of an upset for that company, which assembled substantial portions of two of the Air Force’s most advanced carbon composite aircraft, the F-22 and B-2.
Some observers had expected Boeing would get a piece of the B-21, even though Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. failed to win the contract in October.
Boeing had no comment on Monday.
Janicki’s ace in the hole may have been its huge 50-foot autoclave, second only to Boeing’s in Washington state. Janicki bought the autoclave in 2012 to allow it to make larger carbon composite structures. The project, including installing the autoclave, cost Janicki about $3 million.
“It will give us tremendously more capacity to be able to service these large aerospace companies,” said Janicki President John Janicki, in a 2011 interview. “It’s about being diverse.”
The delta-wing B-21, which outwardly will resemble the current B-2 bomber, will require extensive use of military-grade carbon composites to be invisible to radar. Janicki likely will use the autoclave to make some of these assemblies.
“We’re happy to be part of the team,” said Janicki in a brief interview Monday.The Air Force did not allow him to comment on any particulars of the contract.
Janicki Industries employs 700 people in Sedro Woolley, a small town about 75 miles north of Seattle, and east toward the mountains from the I-5 corridor.
Other companies the Air Force chose are aerospace heavyweights, including BAE Systems, engine builder Pratt & Whitney, GKN Industries, Orbital ATK and Rockwell Collins.
A lightweight in comparison, Janicki is known for making large and cutting-edge composite structures, including prototype fuel tanks for NASA’s new heavy lift rocket, and molds for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s 2011 America’s Cup sailboat. Janicki also is making composite panels for Air Force’s F-35 fighter, in a 100,000-square foot factory it built in Utah.