I/ITSEC provides an opportunity to gain insights into the defence industrial community about current trends, practices and intentions. During the course of the event, Group Editor Marty Kauchak spoke with Lenny Genna, LeAnn Ridgeway, and Ron Vadas, and participated in a media event with Bob Gower Here are the highlights.
The discussion with Lenny Genna, president of L-3 Link, primarily addressed the international market.
Link is expanding its military portfolio beyond its traditional markets. MS&T’s meeting with Genna came on the heels of Link receiving an award from BAE Systems to develop the Hawk Oman Training System (HOTS) and from the US Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation to build three UH-60L Operational Flight Trainers (OFT) for the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command.
So while Link solidifies its market share in the US and other heritage markets, Genna pointed out “our focus through the last several years continues to be on international opportunities. From that perspective we have had some recent successes and we have some other ones for which there is a relatively long gestation period – these things take time from both a foreign military sales or direct commercial sale perspective to award.”
Link sees a steady demand for its products based on its training system support for F-16, unmanned air systems, rotary aircraft and other weapons platforms. “These are the big ones in our portfolio that support the US government today. There’s the natural extension for us supporting the HOTS and other programs,” Genna remarked and continued, “And we’re looking at other opportunities for other non-US platforms out there. We still see a reasonably good demand for some of these US platforms internationally.”
Link’s portfolio in the training systems sector will continue to represent products through the entire life cycle – including training devices, e-learning products, services and others. Genna emphasized that Link’s business model will continue to be the same for all customers – presenting a full “toolkit” from devices to instructors. In a message that should resonate with large and small military services alike, Genna emphasized “We can operate it for you, build it, teach you how to use it, or you can buy it. Each customer is different. Our desire is, where possible, to compress that value by including all of these capabilities and services. But that doesn’t make sense for every customer.”
Genna noted other realities of the 2014-2015-era marketplace that impact Link’s traditional “toolkit” offering. Often in the international arena customers “have in-country partners they want to include in a program. So we have to learn to do a good job in integrating with their partners and there are often offset requirements.” In the case of Saudi Arabia’s UH-60L OFT program, Link works with in-country AEC to establish “Saudiazation”, whereby Link builds the first OFT and AEC will take over building the second and third devices.
Link’s president continued, “Each nation requires a certain ‘recipe’. But the good news is we have this full tool box to work with.”
LeAnn Ridgeway, the vice president & general manager for Simulation and Training Solutions at Rockwell Collins, shared a number of insights about her rapidly expanding portfolio with MS&T.
Rockwell Collins’ is strengthening and growing its simulation and training (S&T) market share. In one instance the company is on contract to upgrade the US Navy’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Integrated Training System (HITS), including the system for Aircrew (HITS-A) and Maintenance (HITS-M). Subcontractor ASI will support Rockwell Collins with the HITS-A operational flight trainer.
As the Northrop Grumman-built E-2D is a logical choice to replace nations’ E-2C Hawkeyes, Rockwell Collins could have significant, additional S&T business supporting this product line. “We have that on our five-year business plan. As we are part of Team Hawkeye we are open and plan to pursue the opportunities to provide simulators into the international market under foreign military sales.”
Ridgeway was also optimistic about the military-industry team’s recent efforts to advance the LVC environment. While the industry executive noted technologies exist to improve LVC training, she specifically noted the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s intentions announced at this I/ITSEC to provide policy oversight in this blended training environment. “This is what is needed and lacking. Now what is missing is that ‘guiding light’. We [in industry] could each follow the individual services in our individual contracts but that wouldn’t do anybody any good. Where we need to be is in that blended training system.”
Ridgeway remains attentive to other dynamics in the S&T industry. Noting that her company’s “eyes remain open” to the possibility of acquisitions to enhance their capabilities, Ridgeway added, “where we are really focusing a lot of our strategies, including internationally, is partnerships.” Rockwell Collins’ most recent partnership was announced last October with Zen Technologies. The agreement is allowing Rockwell Collins to pursue new S&T business in India.
Rockwell Collins’ S&T group is also achieving a higher-than-market growth rate and other synergies by using the company’s global sales and support network in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia-Pacific “We are really starting to see traction from that. Over the next five years in our plan we have high, single-digit international growth figured in. And we’re already seeing some good results. It doesn’t hurt we are also well positioned on platforms like the UH-60, E-2 and F-35 (for the visuals),” Ridgeway said.
Back in the technology lane, Rockwell Collins’ open architecture structure also supports its international business development efforts. The Sterling, Virginia-based executive noted, “We have the ability and willingness to take our basic core simulation technology, all open architecture, and take them particularly to those emerging countries and let them have the indigenous control over that build.” Rockwell Collins’ expanding list of international partners in the S&T sector also includes Havelsan (Turkey) and unspecified partners in Brazil.
A development that MS&T will be watching this winter is the results of a Rockwell Collins’ supported Government Business Council (GBC) study to assess the value of integrated live and virtual training for the military. (Editor’s Note: The study was recently released. GBC found that by integrating more virtual simulation into the services’ training regimens, the military can reduce costs while better preparing for new challenges. It can be viewed at http://www.govexec.com/gbc/going_virtual_for_new_defense_era/)
The company is also using another research effort into methods for measuring training effectiveness, and determining how much knowledge transfer occurs from a training device to the learner. “This really asks, is it giving you the training outcome that you need from the value proposition,” Ridgeway concluded. Using that methodology, S&T stakeholders will be better able to determine the value of investing in cueing systems and other technologies in a product’s life cycle to achieve optimal training efficiency.
The president of Meggitt Training Systems, Ron Vadas, addressed existing and future markets and technologies.
Meggitt Training Systems has focused in the last several decades on the ABCA (America, Britain, Canada and Australia) market, which accounts for 75-80% of the company’s revenue. Meggitt’s strength in these nations was reaffirmed last October when the company was confirmed as the supplier of the US Army’s next generation virtual small arms trainer, EST (Engagement Skills Trainer) II, in a $99 million contract announced last June.
While the Suwanee, Georgia-based company continues to invest heavily in the ABCA market, it is rapidly shifting its attention to other regions. “Other parts of the world, Southeast Asia and other parts of the Pacific and India, for instance, are beginning to appreciate the value of virtual training,” Vadas pointed out. In the Middle East alone, Vadas projects a $400-600 million market through the next years in this sector.
The industry executive revealed that he has fine-tuned his business model to achieve success in the Middle East. As Meggitt remains attentive to the region’s customs, acquisition programs and other attributes, it has also established a hub in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to support operations in the region. He further remarked, “We have another hub in Singapore which gives us a solid anchor in Southeast Asia. I am also looking to put in an operation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when the time is right and that could be very soon.”
Meggitt is also eyeing the Indian market. While a business hub and other details remain in internal staffing, “we are narrowing all that down,” Vadas noted.
Vadas anticipates certain products from Meggitt’s portfolio will be more popular in new markets. “In the Middle East and to a certain extent, Southeast Asia, live fire training is more prevalent – compared to virtual training.” Vadas continued, “And because Meggitt offers both live and virtual training products we can work ‘both sides of the equation.’ We are even in a good position to offer combined solutions.”
Vadas dismissed any talk of the industry hitting a “brick wall” with respect to technology advancement and innovation, declaring, “This is absolutely an exciting time to be in the market. Take Moore’s Law. Some people argue it is no longer relevant. I would argue it is more than relevant.”
Indeed, Meggitt had more than 12 advanced engineering programs in progress when this interview was conducted. The company’s structure and other attributes have been fine-tuned through the last three years to allow innovation to advance in these and other initiatives. Vadas’ management philosophies for a technology company come into play. “I sincerely believe we need to nurture advanced engineering. If you don’t do that you will become irrelevant. The key is you fund them and you don’t burden them with day-to-day programmatics – it’s very exciting.”
Vadas noted that while Meggitt has a long heritage in the live fire and virtual training markets for law enforcement and nearby adjacent sectors, other opportunities are on the horizon.
MS&T attended the Boeing media roundtable event featuring Bob Gower, vice president of the company’s Defense training systems and government services group. Gower told the media representatives that his group recently reorganized to permit it to develop a “healthy” business around training systems and, as significant, to “move more aggressively in training services.” Gower emphasized that his group’s activities are in response to where a “lot of the market is” but more significant, “we are seeing trends where some of our customers are buying services and upgrading systems underneath those services – so we have to be in the services business as well.”
Gower briefly commented on other current and future Boeing initiatives.
Boeing continues to throw its business development net into different regions of the world, in particular the Middle East. “Part of what’s evolving there, and this is a trend, is a real desire to start school houses to take people from ab initio training through model type training. We’re very focused on using our experience as well as the Boeing presence to capture this and other markets,” he said. The group reports a 70% (domestic)/30% (international) market share.
Gower’s list of near-term objectives for his group includes developing live-virtual-constructive (LVC) capabilities. The industry veteran indicated his groups’ progress to advance LVC training is enabled by its “industry lead in visual systems, a pretty strong presence in synthetic environments and I believe we’re an industry leader in LVC technology.”
While the St. Louis-based executive sees progress in the LVC domain as evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Boeing continues to complete demonstration projects to advance the domain’s underlying technology. Gower reported the company’s most recent project networked an F/A-18 mission simulator with an E-2D using Link 16. “The Link 16 is a short-term opportunity it is not the long-term solution as you are limited by the number of tracks on Link 16. But it is here today and you will see this evolve to include more robust solutions and capabilities such as multi-layered security.”
The training systems and government services group’s five-year planning period will be sustained, in part, through the global sales of Boeing’s F-15, P-8, rotor craft and other weapons platforms. Indeed, Gower reminded the media members that India continues to take delivery of the P-8I model and sales of the P-8 to other nations is expected.
One Boeing technology thrust promises to advance the state-of-the-art in maintenance training. At the core of Boeing’s research and development efforts in this learning sector is to understand the necessity to fault isolate every item in a scenario Gower added, “There are a lot of opportunities here. We can have lower cost virtual maintenance trainers that teach a student to do fault isolation and not have to fault isolate every ‘problem.’”
Gower also confirmed his group’s latest information has the US Air Force’s embryonic T-X program relying on Research, Development, Test & Evaluation funding through FY 2016, with procurement funds for the aircraft first being made available in 2017.