Lockheed Martin's ambitions will force Europeans to look to their laurels.
Talk of "mission statements" is normally enough to induce something akin to nausea among cynical European industrialists. In the case of US giant Lockheed Martin, however, they have to sit up and take notice.
By 30 June, Lockheed Martin leaders Daniel Tellep and Norman Augustine will have unveiled the shape of things to come for the consolidated company. In size, and in the speed with which it is taking shape, the tie-up should have European combat-aircraft manufacturers looking to their laurels.
Europe still has a long way to go. While Lockheed has absorbed the General Dynamics F-16 production line and tied the knot with Martin Marietta, the closest that Europe has got so far is a "marketing" tie-up between British Aerospace and Saab over an export variant of the latter's JAS39 Gripen.
The Gripen link has taken more than two years to resolve. By comparison, the Lockheed/Martin Marietta merger has gone a great deal further in little over six months. If European manufacturers are to compete with the emerging goliaths of the USA, then the pace of consolidation will have to be increased.
Senior Lockheed Martin management is bullish over the company's future policies. Micky Blackwell, Aeronautics- sector president, and Thomas Corcoran, Electronics-sector president, both push a confident, expansionist, line which should cause consternation among their European competitors.
Corcoran says that Lockheed Martin's proclaimed aim to "be number one" is considerably more than just a statement on a strategy paper. Phrases such as "increasing global market share" and "relentlessly strengthening our competitiveness", from the same position paper, rightly give European manufacturers cause for concern.
Tellep and Augustine, however, are at pains to portray the merged Lockheed Martin as an ideal partner for international ventures, rather than as a juggernaut that will flatten European industry in its path. This may be hard for Europe's fighter manufacturers to accept, given Lockheed Martin's established strength.
The company's market-share ambitions were given further credence by the Teal Group, an independent US market-forecaster, which with consummate timing - and one eye on the publicity to be garnered - released during the Paris air show its forecast of the fortunes of the world's fighter manufacturers.
Lockheed Martin comes top, along with British Aerospace, and ahead of McDonnell Douglas, with French manufacturer Dassault having to scramble for the scraps left behind. The Teal Group foresees "two large entities" dominating the export-fighter market. Alongside Lockheed Martin, intriguingly, Teal Group analysts see a linked British Aerospace/Saab as fighting it out for dominance in the export market.
For high-end and medium-level fighter offerings, in terms of cost and capability, Lockheed Martin has the F-22, and potential export derivatives, and the F-16. BAe, in turn, has the Eurofighter 2000 and JAS39 Gripen, Teal contends.
Looking further ahead, there is the US Air Force/Navy Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) programme, intended to produce a next-generation multi-role fighter, of which Lockheed Martin's Blackwell says: "We do not entertain the thought of losing."
The longevity of the F-16 line, should see this aircraft continue to provide the US company with a medium-fighter revenue stream, well into the early decades of the next century
At home, the US Air Force is looking to an early resumption of F-16 procurement, says Blackwell, with an initial order for between six and 12 aircraft expected in 1996, against an eventual requirement for 120. Lockheed Martin is looking to offer an extensively modified F-16, dubbed the Falcon 2000, to meet the USAF's multi-role fighter requirement should the JAST programme be delayed, or even cancelled.
In the export market, the company is looking to the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) requirement for up to 80 deep-strike aircraft to provide a launch customer for the advanced F-16 derivative. A decision on this procurement could be made towards the end of 1995. Other contenders in the UAE competition include a derivative of the McDonnell Douglas F-15E, the Dassault Rafale, the EF2000 and the Russian Sukhoi Su-35.
Norway is another potential venue for a US-European fighter contest, pitting the Eurofighter 2000, JAS39 and Rafale against the F-16, McDonnell Douglas F-18, and now possibly even an F-22 export derivative, in its search for a Northrop F-5 replacement. Such contests are going to make it hard for Europe to view the consolidated Lockheed Martin as anything other than a "five-hundred-pound gorilla" in the international marketplace.
Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, has quietly kept the UK informed of progress with the F-22, and its likely availability should an alternative to the EF2000 become a necessity. The longer it takes to get the Eurofighter on to the export market, the fewer competitors Lockheed Martin will have to contend with.
The challenges facing Tellep and Augustine in restructuring Lockheed Martin cannot be understated, but the company's "can do" attitude should be a salutary lesson for the European manufacturers.
Source: Flight International