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BAE Systems – Fantastic Effort Providing COVID-19 Support By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.




Observing the various press and other specific announcement in regard of the enormous effort that UK industry has been putting in to support those that need it most during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely gratifying to me over the past few weeks and I raise my cap to each and everyone involved for what they have done or attempted to achieve. I have already written about some of the brilliant work being put in, the product or equipment that some are now producing to support the NHS, Care Homes and Hospices. BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Cobham, Meggitt, Thales, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Smiths Group, Penlon, Marshalls Aerospace, CAM Lock and GKN Aerospace are some of the many important company names that spring to mind as having been extremely active in designing and producing equipment or components urgently required.

BAE Systems wasted no time in rising to the challenge of doing whatever it could to help. Although also a recognised member of the Ventilator Challenge, the company and its people have worked hard on many other important or less well reported aspects of COVID-19 support, be these in providing PPE that has been urgently required by the NHS, Care Homes and Hospices together with other related training and human support. What BAE Systems has already achieved and what they as a company are continuing to do wherever it is needed is not just an example of what we can all do and achieve when we put our minds to it, it is one that as a nation deserves our very sincere thanks. 

As a very large company, one that has state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, research and development strengths that are second to none and that are located in the most important areas right across Britain, BAE Systems people are spread right across the country. Whilst far from being a comprehensive review, from press reports and other accounts, please find below some of the very many examples of how one large and important UK based company and its staff have done their best to rise to the massive challenge presented by COVID-19:

Ventilator Challenge

by the head of the consortium that received an order for 15,000 machines. Ventilator Challenge UK chairman Dick Elsy described recent reports of “disjointed thinking” among politicians as “just noise”. The consortium-which includes heavyweights from British engineering including BAE Systems, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Meggitt, GKN, Ford together with Formula 1 teams and ventilator manufacturer Penlon was only formed on March 19 and the speed at which members of the consortium were able to have the design ready for regulatory approval was quite remarkable.

Based on the existing Penlon ESO2 design, the newly adapted ventilator design from the consortium received approval on the 16th April. This was followed immediately by confirmation from the Government that it had ordered 15,000 of the new devices – the first 40 of which were I believe despatched on the same day to MOD Donnington who are heavily involved supporting NHS logistics. The total number of ventilators in the NHS’s possession will have increased from just 8,000 (the figure at the beginning of the year) to over 25,000 in the space of two or three months.

Instructional Videos 

BAE Systems was reported to have teamed up with an unnamed game design company to create instructional videos on the correct use of the ventilators for NHS staff.

Donating Face Shields

Further supporting the NHS, BAE Systems has donated over 120,000 face shields – a vital component of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) I order to protect NHS staff in the fight against Coronavirus. Employees in the Air sector, who normally produce parts for combat aircraft including Eurofighter Typhoon, and our Submarines business have been 3D printing parts for the newly designed face shields. Meanwhile, the company has been sourcing tens of thousands of additional face shields through its supply chain and then distributing these free to the NHS. By the end of April, the company expected to have delivered more than 120,000 face shields to the NHS this month. In relation to the production and distribution of Face shields BAE Systems Technology Director, Dave Short was quoted as saying earlier this month that:

“We’ve all been moved by the personal bravery of those working in the NHS who face the virus close up every day, so we wanted to help in any way we could. Our employees heard about the need for face shields, so we looked for the quickest way to get effective products to users.

“At the same time as talking to suppliers, colleagues from our Technology team and our Air sector joined forces to design and manufacture our first 3D printed face shield in less than 24 hours. We kept in constant dialogue with our NHS contacts to ensure this met their requirements and had the first shields with them in less than two days. We’ve already delivered the first batch of 3D printed face shields, but to really make a difference, our supply chain is manufacturing a further 120,000 face shields to their own designs. More than 20,000 face shields are already on their way to locations around the country, with the remaining face shields set to be delivered to the NHS this month.”

Subject to Government approval, in line with industry regulations issued on 4 April, BAE Systems announced that it planned to scale up production of its 3D printed face shield in order to deliver around 10,000 single-use visors with a smaller number of re-usable head straps over the coming weeks. Apart from donating these to the NHS the company also confirmed at the time that a number of other projects are underway as employees across the business continue to look at ways to help the country at this difficult time.

PPE Fitting

Earlier this month the ‘Evening Mail’ reported that BAE Systems has fitted for, and delivered to, personal protective equipment to staff members operating the St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston.  The equipment will allow staff to continue providing palliative care to patients in their charge.  Phil Myerscough from BAE Systems Submarines was reported as saying that “Face Fit Testing is a requirement to ensure that Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) issued to an individual is suitable and capable of providing them with appropriate protection. 

BAE Systems Submarines uses similar equipment to protect employees from manufacturing processes involving dusts and chemicals.  Given that the company has the capability to carry out Face Fit Testing on site, Mr. Myerscough went on to say that “we were delighted to be able to support a request from St Mary’s Hospice to provide their staff with Face Fit Testing at their own location and also support them with the continued supply of respirators through Alpha Solway, who are the manufacturers of the respirators.  This will help their staff to remain protected from coronavirus so that they can continue to provide their essential services to the community.”

More on Face Shields

The Bristol Post reported that BAE Systems has manufactured for, and delivered to, 5,000 face shields for Southmead Hospital in Bristol.  The firm re-tasked its industrial 3d printers from making materiel to making the face shields, which are a critical piece of the gear used by medics to shield themselves from, and prevent the spread of, the COVID-19 virus.  The company continues to use its facilities to manufacture the masks, and more deliveries are expected in coming days.

Similarly, the Lancashire Telegraph reported that BAE Systems was using its Samlesbury facility (this facility produced major component parts for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joints Strike Fighter programme and Eurofighter Typhoon) to produce 3D print personal protective equipment in the form of face shields for NHS workers. Richard Hamilton, a manufacturing and support director at BAE Systems said: “We’ve had an amazing response to our recent announcement that we’re donating PPE to the NHS.  This has been a real team effort at a difficult time for everyone.  Employees across our Air, Maritime and Electronic Systems sectors, as well as our suppliers, are all rallying to play their part in the national endeavour as we work together to ramp up and further increase the supply of vital protective equipment to the frontline.  As a result of everyone’s collective efforts, we’ve been able to respond to requests to send equipment directly to medical staff in our local communities working in GP surgeries, the ambulance service and hospices, as well as sending supplies to NHS hospitals and trusts.”

Specialist Hooks

The BBC reports that staff at the BAE Systems submarine yard at Barrow in Furness have made 860 specialist hooks for isolation cubicles in hospitals run by the local NHS trust. Workers have also supplied the trust with thousands of face masks. BAE SYSTEMS engineering director Michael Fraser was quoted by the BBC as saying that “the team had responded rapidly. Some technologists have even used their own home 3D printers of a suitable specification to contribute to the production at their home addresses” he said.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

The Lancashire Evening Post and Blackpool Gazette both reported earlier this month that a member of BAE Systems Warton staff had been using 3D graphics software that make computer games to help train people in the production of the new ventilators to combat coronavirus.

Charles Jackson is an Augmented and Virtual Reality expert working in the BAE Systems Air sector team whose day job involves developing Typhoon simulation training for the Royal Air Force. The reports noted that he is working alongside other partners in the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium launched last month with a host of other precision engineering and Hi-tech companies.

Temporary Mortuary

The Blackpool Gazette reported last week that the construction of a temporary mortuary at an aircraft hangar at the BAE Systems Warton plant had now been completed.  The facility will be used to store those who died from the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was built in order to avoid local funeral homes and mortuaries from being overwhelmed. 

The report noted that members of the Lancashire Country Council (LCC) have thanked BAE Systems for the loan of the premises.  The company has allowed LCC to use the hangar and has not asked for any remuneration.  LCC expressed hopes that the facility would never be needed, but also relief that it was there in the event of a worsening of the crisis.

Activity Packs

BAE Systems is also reported to have distributed activity packs to more than 100 households in Barrow in Furness, these aimed at providing children, currently housebound because of the lockdown, with a means of entertainment.  Amy Lamph, BAE Systems education and skills adviser was quoted as saying “We’re delighted to be able to bring long-standing supporters like Phil Heath, Asda and Morrison’s together to help us provide these activity packs.  We work closely with young people of all ages and know the gifts will bring a welcome distraction while the current restrictions remain in place.”

And Finally..…

The Evening Mail reported recently that volunteers who normally arrange the Keswick to Barrow charity walk at this time of year have transferred their organisational skills to the NHS.  The group is arranging temporary accommodations for NHS staff in the region to provide assistance.  David Thompson, a supply chain project leader at BAE Systems was reported as saying that: “We’re used to getting involved in this kind of work so it’s our pleasure to get involved and help provide additional shelter at a time when it’s needed most.”

The above listed examples of just some of the many ways that BAE Systems and its staff are providing assistance to NHS Hospitals and separately, to Care Homes, Hospices and those that require support as we move through the COVID-19 crisis. BAE Systems are certainly not alone but they are a wonderful example of a company that didn’t wait to be asked and just got on with designing, producing and attempting to provide the nation with some of its most urgent requirements. Industry is accused of many things in this day and age but let no-one criticise BAE Systems for its efforts and generosity. 

CHW (London – 30th April 2020)

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon



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