Alliant Techsystems has acquired funding for a modernization program at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence.

The U.S. Army Sustainment Command in Rock Island, Illinois, gave Alliant Techsystems $49.2 million for improvements at Lake City.

According to Alliant Techsystems Spokesperson Amanda Covington, modernization efforts began in 2005 and will run into 2011.

“The money will be used for a variety of improvements,” Covington said. “Equipment refurbishment and various upgrades are primarily what we’re looking at.”

Alliant Techsystems has contracted with the U.S. military since 2000 with an objective of modernizing the plant and increasing its manufacturing ability.To date, Covington said Alliant Techsystems has received approximately $225 million from the U.S. military for the Lake City plant, built in 1941.

“So far, we’ve expanded Lake City’s capabilities by four-fold as a contractor for the plant,” Covington said. “It’s a really significant partnership.”

Covington said the upgrading project has included taking out entire lines and redoing them, or aligning the lines and equipment to improve efficiency and reduce the amount of time the ammunition has to travel through the plant.

It also has brought more computerization and robotics to the plant, which has a grid that was laid out decades ago and “some machinery that looks like 1940s equipment,” Covington said.

The plant manufactures and tests small arms ammunition including 5.56 mm cartridges used in the M-16 rifle, M-4 carbine and M-249 machine gun. Since the mid-1990s, production has grown from between 300 million and 400 million rounds a year to about 1.4 billion last year.

The plant is also the largest private employer in Independence, with a work force that has grown from 650 eight years ago to about 2,550 today.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.