EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Bob Harward, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Middle East
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How has the pandemic impacted aerospace defense spending in the Middle East?
Defense spending across the Middle East has remained consistent despite the pandemic as the regional threat landscape continues to evolve in unpredictable ways. Our industry is being called upon to address new, complex challenges that require innovative solutions and concerted efforts. While demand for our solutions remains steady, the pandemic continues to impact our industry with supply chain pressures, evolving protocols, travel restrictions, and local outbreaks impacting operations.
Lockheed Martin has weathered the storm well so far. We are using remote working schedules, maintaining specialized employee skillsets, and accelerating payments to small and vulnerable suppliers to continue meeting customer commitments.
In the first quarter of 2021, we accelerated payments worth roughly $430 million every week to help support the operations of our supply chain partners. Since March 2020, when COVID-19 disruptions began, we have supported over 11,250 suppliers, including more than 6,900 small businesses across the US and 47 countries worldwide.
Have industry players been quick to adopt technology to cater to the changing needs in the market?
Re-balancing business operating models has been a priority throughout this period. The pandemic has moved us into a future state, one in which digital has become central to every interaction, forcing both organizations and individuals further up the adoption curve almost overnight.
The long-term growth prospects for our industry remain strong. From a capabilities perspective, the space sector, and developments such as network-centric warfare, advanced air mobility, hypersonics, electric propulsion, and hydrogen-powered aircraft are likely to drive future growth for the industry.
Lockheed Martin has had a long-standing relationship with the Middle East and the GCC region. How have your regional operations fared in the last year?
Lockheed Martin's presence in the Middle East spans more than five decades, and our relationships here have never been stronger. While the ultimate impact of COVID-19 on our operations will depend on future pandemic-related developments, we have managed to keep things on track in the last year.
Our mission in the region is to help protect generations to come with next-generation fighter jets, advanced air and missile defense technologies, the ultimate command and control systems, and state-of-the-art simulation and training support.
In which areas and geographies do you see the most substantial potential for growth?
As we begin to enter the post-pandemic recovery phase, we see growth potential across the GCC region, starting with the UAE and extending into Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. The strong demand for our services and solutions look set to continue, despite expected pressures on regional budgets.
What are your expectations from Dubai Airshow 2021 - which will be the first of its kind event since the coronavirus outbreak?
Dubai Airshow is a significant event for the global aerospace industry. It will be even more highly anticipated this year after the many cancellations we've had over the past year and a half. As one of the only confirmed live events for the sector in 2021, Dubai will offer us an excellent opportunity to support our customers, strengthen relationships, review the latest technologies and interact with key decision-makers on critical issues.
Safety remains a key priority, of course, and we are committed to properly managing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by adhering to strict protocols. As the global vaccine rollout picks up pace, confidence in air travel is increasing. Furthermore, the UAE's excellent hosting of IDEX 2021 as an in-person event in February instilled a lot of confidence in the industry.
What will you be looking to showcase at the event?
At Dubai Airshow this year, Lockheed Martin will focus on the advanced networking of defense technologies to create an interoperable and resilient 'network-of-platforms' that serve as a flexible, formidable, and decisive force multiplier against threats from adversaries.
Aircraft, satellites, ships, and ground equipment that defense forces operate today produce a massive amount of information every day. Processing and analyzing that volume of data is a
challenge, especially when you factor in multiple levels of security at which those systems operate.
To address this, we are helping to develop a new concept known as Multi-Domain Operations or Joint All-Domain Operations (MDO/JADO). By synchronizing major systems and crucial data sources with revolutionary simplicity, MDO/JADO provides a complete picture of the modern battlespace and empowers our partners to make decisions that drive action quickly.
Additionally, we will showcase some of our well-known platforms and systems, such as the F-35 and F-16 fighters, the C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft, the PAC-3 MSE interceptor, and our Black Hawk and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. We will also showcase the latest STEM projects that our Emirati engineering students have been working on at the Center for Innovation and Security Solutions in Abu Dhabi.