The manufacturing power of Rock Island Arsenal was first tested during the Spanish-American War. Utilizing the original stone shops, the arsenal produced personal equipment for infantry, cavalry, and artillery Soldiers. In addition, small field guns, 7-inch howitzers, and 5-inch siege guns were manufactured at the arsenal.
During World War I, Rock Island Arsenal accounted for over $90 million in war materiel production. This included gun carriages, limbers, battery wagons, recoil mechanisms, rifles, and various personal affects for Soldiers that were created during the 1910 equipment board.
The most notable pieces during this time was the acquisition of the M1903 Springfield program, recoil mechanisms and limbers for the French 75-mm field gun, and the Mark VIII tank. The arsenal more than doubled this output during World War II and expanded their mission set to include gun mounts for air and sea use. The foundation of the modern day factory was constructed during the war, and has subsequently been built on ever since.
The Korean War saw the urgent designing, development, manufacture, and deployment of the “Super Bazooka” for Soldiers fighting against Soviet armor. As the Cold War continued, the mission and scope of the arsenal changed to meet the need. In 1973, the Weapons Research Laboratory (renamed to the “General Thomas J. Rodman Laboratory, RIA on March 29 of that year) was transferred to Rock Island Arsenal. This transferred design and development of a wide assortment of weapons systems to the arsenal.
Throughout this transfer, the manufacturing center took on larger and more sustaining projects, such as the production of the American variant (M119) of the British L119 field gun. In the 1980s, the arsenal also acquired the contract for the M198 howitzer, which saw numerous export sales. Up armor and ad hoc replacement missions have remained at Rock Island since the Global War on Terror.
The Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center at Rock Island Arsenal of today is the last and only Army owned forge and foundry. Having grown from the stone shops envisioned by Thomas J. Rodman in 1866 to the multi-building complex that it is today, Rock Island Arsenal remains more ready than ever to deliver industrial power anytime for anything.