As to those that I have included below and not forgetting the huge amount of export involvement from each of the four companies mentioned, orders such as these and the confidence bestowed in UK defence companies will I hope serve as another timely reminder to the UK government not only of the strength and vital importance of maintaining strong sovereign defence manufacturing and design capability [not forgetting highly invested UK subsidiary operations of foreign owned companies such as Lockheed Martin, Thales, Raytheon, Leonardo, Leidos, Airbus and Boeing] but also, in some of the instances below, how strong UK defence companies are regarded internationally. The UK is very fortunate to still have a strong UK defence industrial base and the companies mentioned below along with other important companies engaged across in defence such as Babcock International, Meggitt and Cobham. Maintaining strong sovereign defence manufacturing and design capability is absolutely essential and, being technology led, this requires that the government ensures there is no further decline in research and development related investment.
I’ll start with Rolls-Royce which a couple of weeks signed a collaborative agreement with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to strengthen ways of working across key Royal Navy programmes.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed with the MOD describes a commitment of both parties to work together to deliver on-going support for Rolls-Royce MT30 and WR-21 engines and an understanding of how that will be done. The agreement will improve on-going support for the Rolls-Royce MT30 engines that power the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Aircraft Carriers. It also covers support of the WR-21 engines that power the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers.
In-service with navies across the globe, the MT30 gas turbine alternators provide the power needed for the huge Aircraft Carriers to operate, turning the propellers that drive them through the water at speeds in excess of 25 knots and the other electrical services that enable the ships to operate. The MT30 marine gas turbine has been specifically designed for 21st century ships. This is important for the QEC programme with a 50-year service life expectancy; a guarantee that the engine will be able to deliver the power demands of tomorrow, as operational requirements increase requiring new equipment and upgrades to weapon and radar systems.
BAE Systems is the UK’s largest defence and security company, one that employs 34,800 people in the UK including 18,000 professional engineers and works with more than 7,500 British companies. As a global leader in electronic warfare, the company was selected earlier this month to develop attributable air vehicle systems under the US Air Force ‘Skyborg’ program, one that has a contract ceiling of up to $400 million. The company will compete to develop a digital design for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of autonomous functions.
The ‘Skyborg’ program is intended to create a low-cost autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle that will partner with manned aircraft to increase air combat power. Teamed with a manned aircraft, the UAVs will leverage autonomy to disrupt and defeat adversaries in contested environments.
“The need to generate combat power faster than our adversaries is critical to address near-peer threats,” said Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems adding that “This award will accelerate the development and deployment of manned-unmanned teaming technologies to give the US Air Force a decisive edge in the battlespace.”
The UAVs will be designed with BAE Systems’ autonomous systems, which include sensors and payloads that communicate across a shared network with manned aircraft. This modular and common system approach provides the foundation for rapid updates and integration to ensure the fleet is fielding the latest capabilities to defend against emerging threats. The shared network enables manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T), which allows UAVs and manned aircraft to work together and complete missions more effectively. The network extends the reach of the fleet, while keeping the manned aircraft and personnel out of harm’s way. It will allow the UAVs to serve as the eyes and ears for pilots, collecting and sending data from the battlespace to a manned fighter.
QinetiQ which has enjoyed a very strong period of orders over the past year and said in July that first-quarter orders and cash generation continued to be strong announced this month that working together with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force they had identified a number of areas for potential improvement in order to ensure UK readiness to generate the UK’s Carrier Strike Group for deployment in May 2021.
The process undertaken by QinetiQ highlighted a number of training shortfalls and in order to resolve shortcomings the company will put in infrastructure that allows F-35B STOVL aircraft pilots from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and US Marine Corps to effectively train together on either of the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
The infrastructure development planned will combine traditional MoD and QinetiQ test and evaluation (T&E) spaces in the Hebrides and Aberporth, with the RAF’s training airspace on the UK’s East coast – so that the whole of the UK becomes an integrated capability. Resulting data from these F-35 tests will allow comprehensive de-briefs for everyone, from individual pilots and ships to the operations command and planning teams.
Working jointly with its 85% owned operational military training provider Inzpire, QinetiQ will support planned training exercises with scenario development, including integration and control of a wide range of electronic warfare threat simulators, both on and off-range. QinetiQ and Inzpire will work closely together while building key infrastructure for a high-profile defence programme, testing the F35 and its’ pilots. During these tests, threats will include an array of QinetiQ-provided resources, for example the Banshee aerial target, Rattler supersonic missile emulator and Hammerhead surface target.”.
Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) which already supports Lockheed Martin built C-130 capability platform for no fewer than 17 Government operators including C-130J aircraft in service with the UK Royal Air Force under the award-winning Hercules Integrated Operational Support (HIOS) announced earlier this month that it had been awarded a ten-year multi-million-dollar contract with the US Marine Corps to provide depot-level maintenance to its 66-strong fleet of KC-130J tanker aircraft deployed worldwide.
The contract, one of the largest that the company has ever received enables MADG to perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in support of Naval Air Systems Command’s Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207). The Multiple Award Contract (MAC) was issued by Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka after a rigorous international competition that included extensive pre-solicitation audits and demonstration of past performance.
MADG Chief Executive, Gary Moynehan said of the award “This really is fantastic news that represents a very significant step forward in our strategy to grow our share of business in North America. This win builds on more than 50 years of service to the Royal Air Force which has, and continues to be, the bedrock of our Military Aerospace business. I am very proud that the US Marine Corps is prepared to place its trust in a privately-owned British company to undertake this important work”
Gary Moynehan added that “We are already working closely with the US Government and the US Department of the Navy through NAVAIR. We initially won the support contract in 2019 for three Kuwaiti KC-130Js purchased through the US Government’s Foreign Military Sales process and, more recently, supported the entry into service of the iconic ‘Fat Albert’ replacement for the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. Our ability to secure this framework contract with the US Navy is a further strengthening of our relationship with this important customer, the world’s second largest operator of C-130 aircraft, validating MADG’s position as one of the most capable, experienced and competitive C-130 support organisations in the world. We thank both NAVSUP and the Fleet Readiness Center Western Pacific for the trust they have shown in our aircraft support capabilities.
MADG is one of only two suppliers to have been awarded a framework contract and as such, it has huge potential for the long-term future of our business. Gary Moynehan added “Whilst the volume of work we secure will ultimately be dependent on our ongoing performance I am very confident that we will begin to demonstrate our ability to deliver a world-class, cost effective service when the first aircraft arrives Cambridge later this year.”
And finally……while there is no specific UK based company to talk about here yet the announcement from Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace last week that the three planned Fleet Solid Support Ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will after all be built in the UK by ‘British-led’ teams is excellent news. Mr Wallace said in the announcement that:
“Shipbuilding has historically been a British success story, and I am determined to revitalise this amazing industry as part of this Government’s commitment to build back better. The Fleet Solid Support warships competition will be the genesis of a great UK shipbuilding industry, and allow us to develop the skills and expertise for the shipyards of tomorrow.”
But despite the announcement some concerns continue to exist. The MOD has also stated that “international companies will be invited to work in collaboration with UK firms to feed in their skills and expertise” albeit that it added that “the successful manufacturing team must be led by a British company”.
Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions General Secretary Ian Waddell said following the announcement that while the “news that the successful bid will be led by a British firm is welcome, it only promises that a ‘significant proportion’ of the work will be completed in Britain and which could be open to all sorts of interpretation”.
Such concerns are fully justified in my view and whilst welcoming the formal announcement and reversal of previous policy confirmed by Secretary of State Ben Wallace, caution will remain the watchword to ensure that this time the MOD is as good as it’s word.
CHW (London – 29th October 2020)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785