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Blackwater launching airship built in Elizabeth City soon Print
By JEFF HAMPTON, The Virginian-Pilot - July 31, 2007

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - Blackwater USA expects to launch its first airship built in Elizabeth City soon and produce at least one armored personnel carrier a week with plans for 1,000 a year at its Camden County facility.

Blackwater President Gary Jackson highlighted expansion plans of the tactical training company at an economic forum at Elizabeth City State University on Monday.
"We're going to see good, steady growth for at least 10 years," he said.

Blackwater employs about 600 people at its compound in Camden County and a total of about 750 worldwide, he said.

Jackson was the keynote speaker at a forum on economic development in northeastern North Carolina.

Founded 10 years ago on Camden farm fields, Blackwater began with a few small buildings and firing ranges. Puddin Ridge Road in the Currituck County community of Moyock provides access, but all the large facilities, including the headquarters building, are in Camden County.

Plans are to launch a 170-foot- long surveillance airship built at the Blackwater plant and are being tested at the Weeksville facility for TCOM, an airship developer, he said.

Blackwater plans to sell or lease airships to the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, among other government customers, according to the company's Web site. The Polar 400 is flown remotely, can go up to 60 mph and can operate 48 to 60 hours from 5,000 to 15,000 feet.

In a new 70,000-square-foot plant, Blackwater builds an armored personnel carrier every four days that can protect troops from roadside bombs. Production could expand in the future to 1,000 a year, Jackson said. Over the years, Blackwater has cut back on general security duties, instead focusing on high-threat protection, Jackson said.

"We deal in a very, very small niche market," Jackson said. "We protect Americans in hostile areas."
 
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