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By Julian Nettlefold

BATTLESPACE went to the Paris Air Show to meet Jeffrey Q. Palombo, Sector Vice President and, Division General Manager, Land and Self Protection Systems Division, Electronic Systems sector, Northrop Grumman Corporation.

To work your way up to run the Land and Self Protection Systems Division at Northrop Grumman in six years at the age of 47is no mean feat! This sector of Northrop Grumman is the size of a large Company in itself. A component of Northrop Grumman’s Baltimore, Md.-based Electronic Systems sector, the Land and Self Protection Systems Division provides a full range of warfighting solutions for the “digital battlefield.” The division produces fire control systems for airborne and tracked vehicles, sensors to detect enemy movement, and systems that defend against enemy fire. The division’s commitment to quality ensures that high value, complex, electronic and electro-optical weapons systems are mission ready.

One of several product line divisions that comprise the Electronic Systems sector, the Land Forces division is based in Rolling Meadows, near Chicago, with additional facilities in Baltimore, Buffalo, Ny., Cincinnati, Apopka, Fla., and Huntsville, Ala. The division employs approximately 3,000 people. Very few people comprehend the sheer size of this business.

Is it intentional that you underplay the sheer size of the business?” BATTLESPACE asked Jeff Palombo.

“The business has taken off and has a momentum of its own, given the demand for land systems to support U.S. and allied operations in Afghanistan,” said Palombo. “The Land and Self Protection Systems Division was formed in 2009. We have a philosophy to react quickly to the demands of irregular warfare. The speed of our reaction to these threats saves lives and gives our warfighters the equipment they deserve. Our aim is to be more innovative on the ground. The speed of changing threats means we don’t always have time for invention. Instead, we must often use existing capabilities to create a system to defeat the threats with the right tactics and geographic environment.”

“Your meteoric rise through the ranks is impressive, what do you out this down to?”

“In my previous jobs I was lucky enough to get a grounding in every part of management from Quality Assurance thru Line Supervisor to Mission Assurance, before I was appointed to my current job. This gives me an understanding in how a high-tech engineering business works and where the pitfalls lie. I was also fortunate enough to head up the PM team to execute the CHS-1 contract in the early 90s for Miltope, which was then an unknown small, specialist maker of electronics and systems, employing 800 people. For such a small enterprise to have teammates such as TRW, HP, Analytics, Ford Aerospce and Tadiran was a huge experience and proved key to my career. TRW was of course acquired by Northrop Grumman so I have known a number of the top management at Northrop Grumman for many years.”

“What took you into the defense business, Palombo suggests an Italian parentage?”

“Absolutely, my family is a Second Generation American family of Italian descent arriving in New York in the last Century. I was one of five children, my father was a glazier and worked hard to pay for my education. I had an interest in electronics at an early age and took a course in electronics at the same time as selling air conditioning and heating systems to keep me in food and water! My wife has been a huge support as she and our two children have moved many times for my new jobs.”

“What was your first break?”

“I won a job at Miltope as an Assurance Analyst in 1985. The Company came out of the Potter Industries and its main product was reel-to-reel tape systems, going head-to-head with IBM. As the idea for military digitization took off, it rapidly became apparent that the current range of laptops and computers were not strong enough for the

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