BAE Systems land and armament division will finish moving its manufacturing operations from Fridley to Louisville, Ky., by the end of the year, officials confirmed Thursday.

The Fridley plant, which once had about 240 machining and welding workers, is now down to roughly a dozen employees, said BAE spokeswoman Debra Parsons. The move to Kentucky began earlier this year, she added.

However, the Fridley operations will retain 650 employees -- professionals and project managers -- who specialize in engineering, microwave systems that disable enemy threats and managing projects that include development of naval gun systems.

The factory work force began declining in 2009, after the U.S. Army killed the program for the futuristic Non Line of Sight (NLOS) cannon prototypes that BAE designed, built and tested. The hope was that the advanced weaponry would jump-start production and ramp up hiring.

Now, all that remains of the plant move is "tying up loose ends," Parsons said. "It's all part of trying to reduce our costs and reduce our footprint and realize efficiencies wherever we can. This is part of an overall cost reduction."

BAE, which has U.S. operations in South Dakota, California, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and other states, has no plans to shut its Minnesota facility, officials insisted.

Engineers in Fridley are working on a Mark 45 naval gun, a vertical launching system for the Navy, electromagnetic weapons and high-power microwaves and lasers used by the military.

"So we have some real exciting technology," Parsons said.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725