Mr. William Ennis - Director, International Programs, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Mr. William Ennis
Director, International Programs, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Dealing with the Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan—How Can the International Defense Industry Contribute?


Let me start by saying that I do believe that industry, working very closely with operational users, can help meet the capability challenges of both Afghanistan and Pakistan in the near term and the far term. In just a moment I will give you some concrete ideas on this, but, to begin, let me say that everybody in the room probably is familiar with the international business development models of American aircraft companies. They start with a focus on a combat commander. What you try to do is get inside his theater engagement plans to the degree that you can to learn as much as you can and find out which allies are participating in the plans and which capability contributions are being embraced by them. Then you run an ops analysis on a whole set of requirements that run the gamut from fuel to weapons to runway lengths to medical team—you name it—and you look for the capability gaps because that is your natural market as a businessman. You then turn your technical wizards loose on those identified gaps and you look to see if your company can come up with something that is better or cheaper—or both—than the next-best alternative. And if you find something, then you have a game; if you don’t, you don’t. But there are a couple of ways to go about doing this, and I want to talk about two of them.

I have been working on major aircraft development programs for about 24 years, and they run the gamut from the X-29 right up to the Global Hawk. My experience has been that joint trials with operational users are the way you define requirements quickly and most efficiently. I will give you two examples of this: One that addresses near-term requirements and one that addresses far-term requirements. It is a little bit out of theater, but it is somewhat applicable.

In Japan, the Fifth Air Force runs a command post exercise every fall with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. A couple of years ago, we were invited to participate in the exercise and bring in a virtual Global Hawk capability that they wanted to insert into the model to see how it ran. It allowed them to run the scenarios, observe the decision-making and the predicted results, and then run the scenarios again with scripted Global Hawk inputs into the model. The results were dramatic, and led to a whole host of Joint Staff studies to look further into it. Now, five years later, we are looking at Japan possibly funding a Global Hawk program in their next five-year plan, which they are putting together. That is a typical gestation period for a normal airplane program; it tends to take about five years.


Another approach to defining requirements that works a lot better is field trials. They are more expensive, but they do allow you to combine company money with customer money and actually go and fly something and see if it works. Two years ago, we ran an exercise in the U.K. with the Royal Air Force in which they put up some airplanes and some air crews, some range time and some fuel, and we brought some networking specialists from the United States with some modified hardware. Then we collectively tried to answer the question “Can a British soldier in the field query his command and ask it what is on the other side of the hill right in front of him?” and be able to get some operable intelligence, or maybe a high-fidelity picture that he could capture and download on a commercial off-the-shelf PDA device like a Palm Pilot.

We ran the drill and came to the conclusion that, yes, you can do this. It did not result in funding an urgent operational requirement. That was not really the drill, but it gives you a sense of how you can address urgent requirements in that way and be very effective. I guess my fear for the future with budgets declining in Europe and in the United States is that we are going to see chief financial officers in all our companies being less inclined to fund these kinds of exercises if they do not show a return in the next quarter’s numbers. If that happens, we will have lost something valuable.


Both of the approaches I just talked about work for defining requirements. There is also one other idea that I have learned from experience is underused but very valuable. It relates to the field engineering teams that all American aircraft companies have which staffed with highly experienced guys, all with excellent military backgrounds, who have a good concept of operations (CONOPS) and whose principal job is to monitor the company’s aircraft out in the world and to take on problems before an airplane has its nose against the fence for a downing gripe of some sort. These gentlemen can be extremely helpful in identifying new solutions to problems that cut through a lot of the normal requirement-generation drills we usually go through with some of the larger programs. Based on their perspectives you can often take a “USAF Big Safari” approach to solving an urgent problem quickly; it works very well but it is underutilized.


To sum up, I would like to lift our sights just a bit and say that I make these suggestions from the perceived context that European defense spending is declining and that half or more than half of European defense expenditures goes to manning. The economic logic for cooperation within Europe to rationalize overall defense spending as well as transatlantic cooperation to take advantage of U.S. defense spending makes a lot of sense. That is because, at the end of the day, we need to fund urgent operational requirements while still providing some head room to capitalize on game-changing capability improvements that technical innovation brings us.

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