As the UK's first fifth-generation F-35Bs take centre stage in the RAF100 flypast , AEROSPACE catches up with Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin, MARILLYN A HEWSON FRAeS.
Marillyn Hewson. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: Tell us about Lockheed Martin’s relationship with the UK.
Marillyn Hewson: We’re very proud of our relationship with the UK; it’s a strategic partnership that has evolved and grown over 80 years. The story of how it began is remarkable. In 1938 the British Purchasing Commission approached Lockheed to help augment British production of maritime patrol aircraft in response to the perceived threat from Nazi Germany. In just five days, our team completed a mock-up and, following a few adjustments requested by the RAF, the Lockheed Hudson bomber – which played such an important role in World War 2 – was born. Since then, we have played a key role in delivering and maintaining capability for frontline squadrons through peacetime and in times of conflict.
In 2016, we celebrated 50 years of continuing service and support to the RAF’s C-130 Hercules fleet. We’re excited that this summer, during the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAF, we helped the Lightning Force bring the UK’s first F-35 squadron home to RAF Marham. The F-35, which would not have been possible without the UK, will continue our relationship with the RAF and the Royal Navy for another 50 years.
Lockheed Martin in the UK
RAF F-35s. (UK MoD)
AEROSPACE: What is the current scope of the Lockheed Martin footprint in the UK and what opportunities do you see in the UK?
MH: Given our long history, the UK is an important market for us and we have approximately 1,700 employees based across 16 sites in the UK who are engaged in programmes across land, sea, air, space and cyber domains. In Ampthill, Bedfordshire, our facilities are providing advanced manufacturing for the UK’s armoured-fighting vehicles, Warrior and AJAX. At our Havant site, in Hampshire, our team is working to deliver the Royal Navy’s new airborne surveillance and control system which will provide vital surveillance and intelligence capabilities from the Merlin MK2 helicopter for the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. And of course, the UK is also a key partner on the F-35 programme. There are more than 500 UK companies in the F-35 supply chain and more than $13.5bn has been invested in the UK since the start of the programme. British industry contributes roughly 15% of each of the more than 3,000 planned F-35s, generating export revenue and GDP growth. Looking forward, we see additional opportunities to grow our space business in the UK and use our expertise – which includes launching more than 800 satellites – to help the UK government achieve its goal of developing a UK space industry.
International defence market
Marillyn Hewson with an F-35A after its arrival at Avalon Air Show 2017 in Victoria, Australia. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: How has the international defence market evolved in recent years? What trends are you seeing?
MH: Just last year, I took over a dozen international trips and heard the same refrain from customers all over the world. They say their global security challenges are more complex, numerous, and far-reaching than ever before. They look to us to provide integrated solutions to protect their citizens. Five years ago, international sales accounted for 17% of Lockheed Martin’s annual sales. Last year, that number was 30%, or $15bn, and we see strong demand and growing opportunities to expand sales in nearly every region where we operate. For example, customers across the globe are recognising the tremendous capability the F-35 brings to their forces. About half of all F-35 orders over the next five years are expected to come from international customers.
Integrated air and missile defense is a very important element of our business that continues to grow. We’re in active negotiations with Germany on our MEADS-based TLVS system, which we believe can be leveraged by other nations and extended to create a much-needed advanced missile defence capability for all of Europe.
AEROSPACE: As you mentioned, this summer has seen the first UK F-35Bs arrive at RAF Marham – with Britain being a major partner. Can you talk a bit about the status of the programme?
MH: The F-35 programme is progressing very well and remains on a solid path to deliver unprecedented military capability to the UK, while also supporting 20,000 UK jobs during the production phase and creating positive economic impact for the country across the vast supply chain. This is a big year for the UK and the F-35 programme and we were excited to see the aircraft arrive at RAF Marham in early June. Once on the ground, our team will support the Lightning Force as they work to achieve Initial Operational Capability by the end of 2018. It’s a historic milestone for the UK, and fitting that it takes place amid all of the wonderful celebrations for the RAF’s centenary. And of course, the UK is just one of a growing number of customers involved in F-35 globally. There are now about 300 aircraft operating from 14 bases around the globe and the F-35 is proving its value and already playing a critical role in today's global security environment. It’s so much more than a fighter jet. Its ability to collect, analyse and share data is a powerful force-multiplier enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets and enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and come home safe.
F-35 production line. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: US President Donald Trump seems to have gone from a critic of the F-35s costs to its biggest fan. How much were cost savings down to his intervention and how much were natural incurring from economies of scale and the production learning curve?
MH: While some of his initial tweets were critical of the cost of the jet, President Trump welcomed a broader dialogue and we were able to have some consequential discussions on how we continue to reduce the aircraft costs. He definitely helped accelerate the negotiation and sharpened our focus on driving down the price significantly. We are pleased that he has since become a strong advocate for the programme and the aircraft’s capabilities.
By incorporating lessons learned, process improvements, production automation, facility and tooling upgrades, and supply chain initiatives, the F-35 enterprise has significantly reduced costs and improved efficiency. In fact, F-35 unit costs have declined by more than 60% since the first production lot and we continue to reduce costs across production and sustainment. We’re on track to reduce the cost of an F-35A to $80m by 2020, which is equal to or less than the cost of legacy fourth-generation aircraft. As the programme matures, we are seeing increased support from governments and policymakers around the world.
The US Marine Corps took delivery of its first Sikorsky CH-53K in May 2018. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: Lockheed Martin has always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation. What are some of the emerging technologies you’re working on now?
MH: We’re constantly engaging with our customers to better understand their immediate and future needs and help them develop solutions that will allow them to maintain their technological advantage across every domain for decades to come. Many of our most prominent programmes already represent a generational leap forward in technology. I’ve already mentioned the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35, and the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter is another aircraft that will provide tremendous mission flexibility and efficiency. Across the business, we are spending roughly $3 m on research and development efforts every day. Whether that is in hypersonics, directed energy or autonomy, our aim is to push the boundaries of scientific discovery to help our customers maintain a decisive advantage over adversaries.
Lockheed Martin has been selected to build the low- boom supersonic demonstrator X-plane for NASA. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: There has been a lot of excitement in the media about your involvement in plans to build NASA’s supersonic low-boom X-Plane. Could you see the company potentially returning to civil aerospace by that route?
MH: We’ve produced commercial aerospace products throughout our history, and we recently debuted the LM-100J, a commercial version of the C-130J, which is a proven aircraft used around the world, including the RAF of course. In addition, Sikorsky’s S-76 and S-92 helicopters have amassed more than eight million flight hours. Their commercial uses include search and rescue, offshore oil and gas and executive transport. Our current focus for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator project is to build and test the X-plane to help NASA collect the data necessary to overturn the ban on supersonic flight over land. We have been at the forefront of advancing low-boom technology for the past 20 years, and we’re excited to continue our work with NASA to enable the next generation of supersonic commercial travel.
AEROSPACE: Lockheed Martin’s ‘Skunk Works’ has become a byword for aerospace innovation. How much does Lockheed Martin invest in R&D and how much of that goes to ADP?
MH: We’re deeply proud of our Skunk Works team and, like the RAF, 2018 is a big year for us, as we celebrate 75 years of Skunk Work’s pioneering numerous technologies that have pushed the boundaries of human flight. From the development of the SR-71 Blackbird, to the U-2 Dragon Lady, to the stealth technology that made fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35 a reality, the Skunk Works has been behind some of the greatest successes in our company’s legacy. Last year we spent $1.2bn on independent research and development, and this year alone, we expect to increase our R&D investment and capital expenditures by a combined $200m. This includes a variety of strategic investments across the corporation, including projects the Skunk Works leads.
AEROSPACE: What opportunities for Lockheed Martin do you see in spaceflight – particularly now that the current U.S. Administration wants to open it up more to private companies and innovation?
MH: We’ve been a leader in space since the dawn of the Space Age. In fact, space technology built by Lockheed Martin touches hundreds of millions of lives every day. Your readers may not realise we built more than half of the GPS satellites in orbit today, plus satellites for weather prediction and Earth imaging, and secure communications networks like the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, which is an international partnership between the US, UK, Canada and the Netherlands. You might have also seen the launch of NASA’s InSight Mars lander on 5 May, which is the 11th Mars-bound spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin. So we are ready to help the world welcome the dawn of a new space age – especially here in the UK. We welcome the government’s plans to launch small satellites from British soil. The UK Space Agency has a strong vision for the future, and we believe we can help make it a reality.
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson participating in a Youth Circle activity with Emirati young professionals and students on the sidelines of 2018 Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: You are a woman at the head of the world’s largest defence company. What is it like to be a role model for young women looking to break into careers in aerospace/defence?
MH: In my position, it’s important to be a role model for both men and women. At the same time, I recognise it is important to get more women into executive leadership roles across industries. Getting to these roles requires hard work, performance and gaining experience. So as leaders, we must be very deliberate about getting more women in the talent pipeline, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and giving them opportunities to perform and gain experience. Early on in my career, I made a conscious choice to take risks and move beyond my comfort zone in order to gain a wide variety of experiences. I found that the best learning came from being open to different jobs and opportunities. It took me a number of years to get to the position I'm in. As I look around at other women in leadership positions, our stories are similar. We didn’t all start at the top. We were given opportunities, made the most of our experiences, and only then were we able to attain the positions we have now.
I look back and I am deeply thankful for the mentors and leaders who appreciated my contributions and saw my potential to do more. When young people ask me: "What can I do to be successful?" I tell them to perform the best they can on the job they have today, and to look for opportunities to get outside of their comfort zone and grow their skills. It’s important to gain a collection of experiences. I also encourage them to look for mentors and advocates that can help them find opportunities for growth.
AEROSPACE: Can you speak about the global skills shortage the aerospace industry is facing? What work is Lockheed Martin doing to encourage young people to consider a career in aerospace?
MH: More than half of Lockheed Martin’s global workforce is made up of STEM professionals and it’s these individuals who create the technologies that strengthen security, provide economic opportunities and drive global progress. We have a key role to play in ensuring the youth of today have the tools and resources they need for a prosperous tomorrow. That’s why we support and promote programmes that encourage young people to pursue STEM careers. One of the programmes we’ve established in the UK is called Generation Beyond. It uses a variety of interactive and problem-solving activities to help teachers or parents educate children about space exploration either in the classroom or at home. Last year we challenged children, ages 9 to 11, to create a video describing how they would design a habitation module that might one day carry astronauts to Mars.
We had a great response with more than 70 video entries submitted from schools across the country. Their ideas were innovative and creative, especially for children so young! We gave prizes to the winners and gave their schools STEM grants to help continue their work and we’re looking forward to see what our 2018 competition brings.
Inventing the future – as well as stealth fighters, UAVs and next-gen rotorcraft, Lockheed Martin is also working on Mars base camps and compact fusion technology. (Lockheed Martin)
AEROSPACE: As head of Lockheed Martin – what is the biggest challenge you face right now?
MH: Whether I’m meeting with leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, or other global capitals, I hear the same thing: we’re living in one of the most complex, volatile, and unpredictable geopolitical environments since the end of the Cold War.
At the same time, economic and political factors are influencing our customers’ budgetary constraints, which significantly hampers their ability to plan, invest, train and modernise for the future. As the threat environment expands and evolves at this unprecedented rate, we must remain focused on staying ahead of the technological curve in order to provide our customers with the solutions they need in the most affordable manner possible. This continues to be our greatest challenge. Our team of 100,000 Lockheed Martin employees around the world is simply extraordinary in terms of talent, ingenuity and integrity. So, although we face these challenges, I’m confident that our corporation will continue to provide our customers with the products and services they need to preserve global security in the decades to come.