CREATING THE LEADING LIGHTWEIGHT MISSILE SYSTEMS HOUSE IN EUROPE
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE meets David Beatty OBE, Vice President, Advanced Weapons Systems, Thales UK, the winner of BATTLESPACE Businessman of the Year 2014.
“In all its iterations Thales UK’s Weapon Systems business ticks all the boxes for BATTLESPACE. Its products are based on advanced technology using advanced guidance and fuzing systems developed either in-house, in partnership with other companies or with MoD Funding. The remarkable development of the company from a seed corn idea to ‘get into missiles from aircraft,’ as Shorts in the 1950s to what has become the leading Lightweight Missile Systems House in Europe, driven by technology, under the Thales banner, is nothing short of a huge credit to you, your predecessors and the workforce as a whole.” The Editor said. “How did you start at the Company?”
“I started at what was then Short Brothers Limited, a UK Government-owned Company on September 5th 1977, 37 years ago. I was educated at Belfast Methodist College and decided that I was interested in engineering given my interest in mathematics. I applied for a 5 year Under Graduate Apprenticeship at Shorts, and won a Joint Scholarship for electrical and Electronic Engineering at Shorts and Queen’s University of Belfast. I spent a year at Shorts as an Apprentice at the Apprentice School and on the shop floor. I then went on to 3 years at University and went back to Shorts every summer holidays for more work experience.” David Beatty said.
“How did Shorts build a missile division from scratch from a business which was mainly centred on aviation?”
“A small group of engineers including Philip Forman, Martin Armour and Hugh Conway, decided there was a future business for Shorts to develop missile systems. They moved the business to a new facility at Castlereagh, and formed a new capability which was named Shorts Precision Engineering Division. Shorts Brothers was then employing 7-800 people in total at Belfast “What was the first success?”
“The missiles being developed relied on advanced guidance, telemetry and control systems developed in-house. All the fuzes, rocket motors and propellants were generally supplied by Royal Ordnance. Our first successes were Seacat and Tigercat, Surface to Air missile systems which were sold worldwide. These were followed by Blowpipe which sold to more than 20 countries. The business expanded to a second 100 acre facility, an old Royal Naval facility at Crossgar. All the final assembly and explosive work was carried out here, with design and sub-assembly manufacturing at Belfast.”
“What made you take a full-time employment at Shorts?”
“Having enjoyed my Apprenticeship and gained my Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, I was employed by Shorts as a Systems Engineer working on advanced guidance systems.” Javelin was the first system I worked on with new electro-optical and RF technologies. We worked closely with GEC Marconi in Rochester and Basildon. After about five years I noticed a job advertisement for Project Management, a whole new functional area, and decided that, I fancied that. My first programme was the Self-Propelled Javelin Programme working with Alvis using the Spartan CVR(T) vehicle. We made prototypes but the Programme stalled and ended at that stage in the late eighties as the Starstreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) technology was beginning to emerge.”
“I have been fascinated by the HVM concept since the early days, it is a completely unique concept. How was it developed?”
“In 1985 the MoD had a requirement to defeat low-flying Russian helicopters on the horizon and a Competition was initiated between us and BAE Systems offering the Thunderbolt missile. Shorts won what was a huge contract worth £225 million to develop and manufacture 4000 missiles and the vehicle and man-portable systems. I was Programme Manager responsible for the Vehicle Programme for which the A