MS&T’s Robert Moorman interviews the President of CAE’s Defence and Security Group, Gene Colabatistto.

MS&T: What are three top priorities for your key customers in the next year?

Colabatistto: One is force generation, the ability to recruit, train, and retain an adequate military workforce, including pilots. This is a complex task because it has to correspond to aircraft type and rank structure. The military wants training that is immersive and interoperable. We look at the training needs and what integrated constructive solutions will meet those needs.

Number two is to build a mission package, which includes multiple aircraft, personnel and ground entities working together. Our strategy is to be a training systems integrator (TSI). Unlike the airlines, which fly most of the time and train some of the time, the military trains almost all the time, even when deployed.

The third priority deals with achieving efficiencies. It is not just about the lowest-cost options available for training. Trainers look at what is possible within the given amount of time, budget and physical resources available. Efficiencies are the sweet spot of getting the most bang for the buck. We are finding more opportunities to provide a whole training solution and, in some cases, an outcome.

MS&T: How is CAE Defence and Security Group addressing the needs of its military customers?

Colabatistto: Consider what we did for the US Army at the fixed-wing CAE Dothan Training Center in Alabama. The physical infrastructure, aircraft, simulators and coursework were funded from the ground up by CAE. This is more than a so-called turnkey operation. Typically a turnkey solution refers to simulators, trainers and the training building. On the defence side, it goes beyond simulation-based training to include live flying, virtual and constructive training.

Editor – The CAE Dothan Training Center, which opened March 2017, is a 79,000-square-foot facility designed to provide comprehensive fixed-wing flight training for the US Army, US Air Force and other customers. Live flying training is delivered at the adjacent Dothan Regional Airport.

MS&T: What new training technology has CAE developed recently for the military sector?

Colabatistto:CAE continues to upgrade its core offering, high-fidelity simulators. Our 700MR (Mission Ready) simulator is a mid-fidelity trainer focused on rotary-wing aircraft training. Upgrading of technology for the visuals, adding military-specific technology, such as computer-generated forces, plus a new generation of instructional stations and cyber-securing of all CAE simulators to go on a military network is part of CAE’s ongoing investment in military training.

Digital transformation – the ability to take data from simulators, aircraft and student performance during training – is another aspect of CAE’s evolving training capabilities of pilots and others. Getting and looping that data back to the instructor in real time is important.

Instructor aids such as the CAE Rise Training System, which is popular on the civil side, will be offered to defence customers in late 2018.

MS&T: CAE USA is based in Tampa FL and part of Canada-based CAE Inc. What are your views of the proposed tariffs on Canada, Mexico and Europe by the US Administration? What effect could such action have on CAE and its customers?

Colabatistto: We are watching this issue carefully from a strategic and tactical level. The tariffs have been focused mainly on specific industries, such as lumber and steel, which influence the balance of trade. On another level, because our defence business is national security related and is governed by export control regulations, these tariffs will likely not threaten our business too much because purchases of CAE defence equipment by the US Department of Defense goes through our CAE USA business in Tampa. Having said that, we are not incognizant of the political environment. If tariffs are applied to materials like steel, it may affect how we ultimately source and produce our products, but it will not prevent deals from being reached. And one final comment, we fully agree with the position of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) that tariffs will not be good for the US or global aerospace and defence business.

Originally published in Issue 3, 2018 MS&T.