Formed a year ago, BAE Systems' Platform Solutions sector is making progress towards its target of becoming a truly transatlantic business. That progress is paced by the ability of military customers in the UK and USA to see clear benefits from co-operation and relax technology controls.
Platform Solutions was formed to bring the capabilities of BAE's UK and US avionics businesses to bear on opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic, to the extent allowed by each country's technology transfer restrictions.
The opportunity to form Platform Solutions came when undertakings attached to BAE's 1999 merger with GEC-Marconi lapsed. "We looked at different models to get the best value out of the business," says Dean McCumiskey, vice-president, business development. "It is a different model to BAE itself."
Rather than place the UK company's Edinburgh, Plymouth and Rochester avionics operations into the planned EuroSystems joint venture with Italy's Finmeccanica, BAE decided to put them under the umbrella of its North American subsidiary. "We have revolutionised part of the organisation by having a piece of the UK report to the USA," says McCumiskey. "The reason is growth."
Platform Solutions has annual sales of $1.1-1.2 billion, divided roughly equally between the UK and USA, where growth is highest. The former Marconi Avionics site in Rochester is "almost a North America-facing business", says McCumiskey, because of its head-up display and other sales, but "also has a large incumbency on the [Eurofighter] Typhoon".
Through its UK and US arms, Platform Solutions has the lion's share of the military fly-by-wire market, the former Lear Astronics, Lockheed Martin and Marconi Avionics flight controls businesses now under one management. BAE's task now is to break down the barriers between the UK and US markets.
Platform Solutions is looking for programmes that benefit from bringing technologies together from both sides of the Atlantic. One such programme with "huge potential" is a US Air Force project to test a day/night all-weather landing system for transport and rotorcraft on a Boeing C-17. This combines a US millimetre-wave imaging radar and a UK helmet-mounted display.
"It plays to the strength of each side," says McCumiskey, who believes co-operative programmes will lead to greater UK-US technology exchange. "We believe anything non-classified should be accessible. But there has to be a clear benefit or things will stay where they are."
GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International