Now in its fifteenth year, the ‘Minister for Defence Procurement Acquisition Awards’ (MinDP Awards) are designed to recognise teams from across defence for their exceptional performance, innovation, effort and commitment in the field of acquisition.
Given that, as far as I am aware, although the awards have already been presented they have not yet been published and that in my view, they should be seen to represent a massive vote of confidence in and important recognition by the MOD and of those others that decide the awards, of how industry and the military work so hard together to ensure that defence gets the requirement that it needs, I thought that I would devote today’s commentary to this subject alone.
This year eleven teams that represented excellent examples of industry and military working together in the Commands, Head Office, DE&S, DSTL and DIO were highlighted and have been suitably recognised for their work.
Below I have picked out just a few examples that I consider being worthy of further highlighting but the truth is that all award winners are very deserving. Supported by and in partnership with industry colleagues, the various award winners are all involved in finding and securing ways of maintaining and enhancing critical defence capability. To put this another way and as Adam Powell, Head of the Acquisition System Authority did when he said this, the MinDP Awards “show how people, be they Ministry of Defence civilians, Armed Forces personnel, industrial partners, academics and scientists can come together to deliver for defence and the country. They are examples of the Whole Force approach in action”.
Special Award 2017
In addition to their Acquisition Award, the Special Award this year was presented to ‘Team UK’ who in November 2016, were successful in the F-35 Lightning ll Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U) competition. Team UK is an innovative partnership between Defence Electronics & Components Agency (DECA), BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, supported by key F-35 Original Equipment Manufacturers. The work will be centered at the UK Government-owned, Defence Electronics & Components Agency (DECA), based at MOD Sealand, in North East Wales.
As a result of their efforts the UK will now be the global repair hub for the F-35 providing maintenance and repair of major sub-systems including electronic and electrical components, fuel, mechanical and hydraulic systems and ejection seats. The operation will sustain thousands of high tech skilled jobs over many years ahead and will generate significant revenue in a less prosperous area of Wales.
The F-35 Lightning MRO award was won against stiff international and it is a significant win for the UK. Hopefully other awards will follow. As Air Marshal Julian Young, COM Air DE&S, said last month when the MinDP Special Awards that recognises the achievement of Team UK said, “to win the global competition for the for round of Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade of key Avionics and Mechanical components for F-35 was a fantastic outcome for Team UK. He like the rest of us is looking forward to the possibility of winning more F-35 related work in the future.
FYI, the Directors of Sealand Support Services Ltd are Andrew TYLER, CEO of Northrop Grumman Europe, Declan HOLLAND, Commercial Director F-35, BAE Systems, John PARKER Vice President Integrated Logistics & Modernisation, Northrop Grumman, Geraint SPEARING Chief Executive, Defence Electronics Components Agency and Andrea THOMPSON, Senior Vice President F-35 Lightning II Senior Vice-President at BAE System.
Two innovation awards were presented to the Data Science Challenge Team, a cross-Government collaboration that includes DSTL and whose work is to find innovative solutions that meet defence and security Science & Technology requirements. Working with multiple industry suppliers, this project delivered a publicly accessible web based crowd-sourcing platform on which to host data science challenges. The platform has improved access to the UK-based data science community by providing a mechanism for engagement so that Government can access a wider and more diverse market of specialists and niche suppliers to complement in-house specialist skills.
This is project that some of you will know that, through my closeness with 51 Squadron of the Royal Air Force over several past years as the Airseeker/Rivet joint programme has come together is very close to my heart. I am naturally delighted to see that Airseeker has been recognised in the MinDP awards.
Project Airseeker is aimed at both replacing and improving UK Airborne Signals Intelligence capability previously provided by the fleet of three Nimrod R1 aircraft. It has been built against and evolving target set to at least 2025 through the procurement of three former Boeing KC-135 tankers that have by L-3 Technologies been refurbished and transformed into US ‘Rivet Joint’ configuration SIGINT capability and that includes specialist equipment both aircraft and ground systems equipment supplied by a number of international companies including Northrop Grumman.
Deployed on operations since it first came into service with the Royal Air Force in July 2014, the Airseeker project is recognised because of the work carried out across a number of different UK and US organisations and that it celebrates the close collaborative working between the US and the UK that has resulted in delivering the aircraft ahead of schedule and enabling the capability to be deployed earlier than had been anticipated.
To this may be added that Airseeker and members of 51 Squadron based at RAF Waddington who operate this excellent and important capability are delivering cutting edge technology to UK defence and that of our NATO allies that provides value for money and that also leverages off the Cooperative Programme that exists with the US Government.
RAF Akrotiri Runway Project Team
Some of you will know that I recently spent a week at the Sovereign Base in Cyprus and that included spending several days at the RAF Akrotiri base.
RAF Akrotiri has played a significant role supporting Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 and Typhoon FRG4 ‘Op Shader’ missions against Daesh over the past few years and it has also become one of the busiest airfields for military operations in the world.
As with all airports, over time they require significant new investment and it is hugely important to ensure that the runways and taxiways are fully fir for purpose meaning. The runway and taxiways at RAF Akrotiri are no exception and resurfacing work was classified as being urgent. However, such is the importance of the base and a reflection of how busy it is, that runways resurfacing work could only be done in the few hours that the airport was quiet during the night. The task required that the team responsible, Lagan Construction in conjunction with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, conducted the refurbishment programme whilst keeping the airfield fully operational and open. The success of the 21 month, £46 million project which was completed on time and on budget was simply amazing and having been there and seen for myself I can find only the word formidable to describe it. RAF Akrotiri not only now has first class runway and taxiway facilities that will enable constant operation of strategic military air assets to continue using the base for years ahead but as a programme of refurbishment completed on time and on budget, this one was unique.
Space and time limit my ability to detail other significant awards given in the MinDP Award scheme but suffice to say that the importance of the awards and the message of what they say in respect of military and industry working together should not be lost.
CHW (London – 14th December 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785