Aerospace & Defense

Aerospace & Defense


Miles of wide-open space, a dry and sunny climate and an innovation ecosystem add up to the best place to test, launch and scale ideas. Leading aerospace & defense companies find that perfect atmosphere in Arizona.


Arizona’s six military installations and four National Guard operations are responsible for creating over 76,000 direct and indirect jobs and account for nearly $11.5 billion in annual economic output according to a 2017 report from the Maguire Company.


With Arizona’s pro-innovation environment, the town of Sierra Vista’s stable climate and Fort Huachuca’s federally protected airspace, Fort Huachuca is a key partner in intelligence electronic warfare testing. Fort Huachuca is home to the Department of Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base, which offers third-party testing for companies to validate their technology. 


In addition, the town of Yuma’s airport has unparalleled military ties with the country’s most prestigious defense aviation parks, the 120-acre Defense Contractor Complex. The DCC is located near the airport and Yuma Proving Grounds and supports defense contractors such as Boeing and other firms by providing a secure space to complete technical testing.


Arizona is home to 150 FAA-certified operations that are the foundation for the soaring economy, including Ascent Aviation Services near Tucson. Ascent is one of the largest MRO facilities in the world; the 1,200-acre complex can accommodate up to 400 aircrafts. Arizona ranks top 8 in the nation for MRO economic impact of $2.31 billion. The state also has the 8th largest aviation MRO employment with more than 11,171 workers.


Arizona is a hub for innovations in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology. Four of the state’s prominent universities are engaged in UAS-related research projects and two offer degrees in UAS. Top entrepreneurs and experienced defense agencies come from around the world to test and evaluate their unmanned aircraft systems at Fort Huachuca -- home to the largest UAS training facility in the world. The 25,000-square-foot facility holds 10 simulators and manages 964 square miles of restricted air space.


The AZSkyTech program was established in 2018 to position the state as the premier place in the world to responsibly test, deploy and advance Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology and policy.


Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Arizona’s largest airport, is ranked among the busiest 10 commercial airports in the United States. The hub offers nonstop service to more than 120-plus destinations with more than 1,200 flights serving more than 125,000 passengers and moving 1,000 tons of air cargo daily. Tucson International Airport offers 19 nonstop destinations and serves an average of 3.3 million passengers annually. In all, there are 83 airports in Arizona.


Many of the top cybersecurity companies in the world have operations in Arizona. The state’s cluster of cybersecurity companies, university programs and government initiatives are securing the nation’s systems. Arizona’s cybersecurity leaders are exposing potential risks before a real cyberattack, securing integrated mobile enterprise solutions and protecting employee identities.


UArizona led the design and development of the Near-Infrared Camera onboard the James Webb Space Telescope, which was successfully launched Dec. 25, 2021. The Near-Infrared Camera onboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope saw its first star, confirming that Webb is a functioning space telescope


Arizona companies are taking space innovations to new heights, developing technology for exploration, defense and commercial travel. Scientists from all over the world visit the Arizona Mount Graham International Observatory and the Lowell Observatory to conduct research on submillimeter wavelengths, extraplanetary systems and star positioning.  The state’s public universities are also star players in the sector. Both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona have been instrumental in developing instruments used on the Mars missions and the Mars rovers.


The Tucson region, sometimes referred to as Optics Valley, is a leader in the state’s $3 billion optics industry. The University of Arizona serves as a hub for optics and photonics innovations and is currently producing some of the largest and most advanced telescope mirrors for use in the Magellan Telescope. Southern Arizona manufacturers offer a wide range of precision-machined optical products and instruments as well as optical engineering services.