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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Boeing, one of Huntsville’s largest missile defense contractors, won a multi-billion dollar contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and much of the project’s research and development will take place in North Alabama.

Boeing is the go-to contractor for ground-based long-range missile defense. Over the next five years, the $5.2 billion contract will bring research on one of the nation’s premier domestic defense systems to Huntsville.

“We’re going to continue to have a big footprint here,” said Boeing’s Senior Director for Business Development Jim Leary.

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is the only defense program able to protect the entire United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, against long-range ballistic missiles. The system is designed to detect, intercept, and destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Our systems engineering expertise is known, not just throughout the aerospace industry, but also here in Huntsville in the missile defense arena,” Leary said.

Under the contract, Boeing will be responsible for engineering, integrating, and testing the system.

“Huntsville is widely known for its engineering talent,” Leary said. “Boeing has 3,000 employees here, many of whom are engineers.”

The space program and the development of the Saturn V rocket brought Boeing to Alabama, and over time, the company’s mission expanded to include missile defense. Today, the aerospace company’s Missile and Weapons Systems Division is headquartered in Huntsville.

Leary said Boeing’s work on the GMD system will ensure that the company’s partnership with the Rocket City will continue.

“It’s another five-plus year contract here with the community,” Leary said. “Lots of opportunity for early career people, mid-career people, and also existing employees. It’s a really good thing for the Boeing company and the community here in Huntsville.”

This year marks 60 years since Boeing came to Huntsville. Today, Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the state, employing more than 3,000 Alabamians.