Interview : QinetiQ

Sub Title : The company’s product profile and plans

Issues Details : Vol 14 Issue 2 May – Jun 2020

Author : Editorial Team

Page No. : 21

Category : Military Technology

: May 31, 2020

Working for QinetiQ and its predecessors since 1985, Cathy’s technical career started in the air weapons domain within the Royal Aircraft Establishment. On the formation of QinetiQ in 2001, Cathy became Business Group manager for the Airspace Weapon Systems Group with operational responsibility.

To her credit, Cathy has led the reshaping of the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) contract to deliver Integrated Test & Evaluation (T&E) and Training Support Services capability to the UK MOD. Under this contract, QinetiQ manages 16 core MOD owned T&E sites and is responsible for providing T&E and Training Support services to ensure that capability is developed to meet UK MOD’s evolving needs.

Now as the Global Campaign Director for T&E, Cathy has responsibility for defining, shaping and delivering QinetiQ’s global strategy including designing and enabling integrated environments for complex experimentation, T&E, training and tactical development.

QinetiQ possesses a large portfolio by way of Sectors, Expertise and Solutions. Which are the ones where you feel that QinetiQ is a global leader? For example, is it Autonomous platforms or the Cyber domain where QinetiQ dominates the rest?

QinetiQ is a global company founded upon innovation. Defence research and development, and Test & Evaluation (T&E) are at the heart of our business with world-class capabilities and facilities across land, sea, air, space and cyber. A key element of the QinetiQ strategy is to modernise T&E, to deliver capability assurance for our defence customers around the world. T&E is core to all Defence equipment projects and military capability in order to ensure performance and safety. QinetiQ has a long and proven history of designing, building, operating and sustaining modern T&E capabilities. This includes the consolidation, standardization and use of best practice across geographically disparate ranges and facilities. In the face of emerging and global threats, we employ cross-disciplinary scientific and engineering expertise, operational know-how, and broad ranging partnerships with industry and academia, enabling our customers to create, test and operate military capability. As a predominantly service-based business we are not encumbered by large product portfolios and hence conflicts of interests. Instead we work collaboratively with Government, Industry and Academia to deliver complex services and innovative technology solutions. QinetiQ’s aim is to deliver Mission-Led Innovation to defence and security markets across the globe, putting Test & Evaluation (T&E) at the heart of our strategy to help customers.

QinetiQ’s expertise in test and evaluation is well known. How has it helped the UK Defence forces hone their skills? Would QinetiQ be keen to bring the expertise to India where there’s a huge need and demand?

In the UK, QinetiQ manages the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA), a 25-year contract with the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Its primary purpose is to meet T&E and Training Support requirements of this customer, its contractors, and other organisations acting on behalf of the UK MOD. But it may also be accessed on a commercial basis by authorised entities including overseas governments and industry. Under the LTPA, QinetiQ manages 16 core MOD-owned sites to provide T&E and Training Support services across air, land and sea, maintaining associated equipment, land and buildings and for delivering an investment programme to maintain and develop the capabilities to meet evolving needs. In April 2019, QinetiQ signed an amendment to the LTPA contract with the UK MOD to deliver these T&E services until 31 March 2028. Under the LTPA QinetiQ is helping our customers to do three core things.

First, it enables them to experiment – to rapidly and safely explore the utility of new technology (eg advanced materials, autonomy, robotics), to create new warfighting capabilities. The large-scale Unmanned Warrior event demonstrated the power of autonomous systems – more than 50 unmanned vehicles from 40 different organisations co-operated on missions in the air, on the water and below the surface.

Second, it helps them generate and assure capabilities across platform lifecycles. For example, QinetiQ was tasked by the UK MOD to support the purchase of the new Chinook Mk6. We conducted an independent technical evaluation of the design organisation’s safety case and supporting documentation, and provided Release to Service recommendations.

And third it helps them understand the operational capability and develop tactics for new platforms prior to deployment by assuring interoperability and undertaking user testing

The MOD Hebrides Range, operated by QinetiQ through the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA), was critical for the success of Formidable Shield 2017 (FS17) – a huge live exercise drawing together eight NATO countries to test integrated air and missile defence capabilities through a series of live missile firings and demonstrations.

QinetiQ is already engaged in T&E business in India on aerial targets. We are looking to grow our T&E business internationally and would consider expanding this business in India if there is a demonstrable need that makes it commercially viable.

In the emerging new world order how important is India as a developing market and as a partner?

Very important. India has big ambitions for the future. That makes it an important part of the new world order. Achieving these ambitions will not be easy and there will be both known and unknown problems to solve along the way.

To achieve the Indian Government’s aspiration to be seen as a self-reliant global power will require significant investment in roads, infrastructure, defence and security. Whilst defence exports have grown significantly in the last few years, to become a key competitor in the global defence market two things are absolute requirements. The first is the ability to offer platforms, products and systems that meet the most exacting of customer requirements.

The second is relationships.

It is clear that India wishes to expand and grow its existing capability and further develop within the T&E, defence and security domains. The Government’s desire that large PSU’s should get 25% revenue from export has already driven them to reach out and contact businesses such as QinetiQ. As we are already working within India through our Target Systems business we are helping with development of the MSME side of the Indian vision. Our partnership with Anadrone India stands out in that endeavour.

Any plans to expand on QinetiQ’s aerial targets currently being used in India?

QinetiQ Target Systems (QTS) currently have the Banshee Whirlwind (referred to in India as (BPTA) Basic Pilotless Target Aircraft) and the Banshee Jet 40 (referred to as MEAT (Manoeuvrable Expendable Aerial Target) or EAT (Expendable Aerial Target)) in service and operated by the Navy (EAT), Army (MEAT/ BPTA) and Air Force (MEAT). We are also supporting the provision of target services into the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur. Here the more powerful and capable Jet 80 is being used on a services-only basis. However, the Indian Navy are currently looking at procuring a quantity of Jet 80+ targets which, if the deal is successful, will likely see them enter service within the next 12 months.

The near-term plan is that those products already in service (Whirlwind, Jet 40) will be indigenously produced under license. This indigenous production will be supported by a licensed supply chain comprising capabilities in avionics, electronics, composites, metallic and other critical components. QTS believe that making these in India, with in excess of 50% indigenous manufacture, appears achievable for the Shikra-Banshee (re-badged for India) Jet 40. When combined with the other planned supply chain activities which are being pursued by QTS and some of its partners, the indigenous content is likely to grow to beyond 60%. Once this capability has been fully developed to support the current products, the manufacture of the Jet 80 will follow, this is planned within the next 18 to 24 months. As other products reach maturation and the supporting capability is developed, they will also become available for manufacture. These will likely include the NG (Next Generation) and Supersonic Rattler (Naga –Rattler at it will be badged for India). As you can see we have significant ambitions to grow in India but this is going to be a staged process as it takes time to build the necessary capability able to deliver sustainable levels of quality and repeatability.

Does QinetiQ view India as a stepping stone to markets in South and SE Asia? Would you like to ‘Make in India’ and market the products in nearby regions?

QTS fully supports the ‘Make in India’ programme and yes, we do have other customers within the region. However, whilst manufacturing our targets in India could prove beneficial for supporting other customer opportunities nearby, this is not being pursued as part of the current plan.

A word on Industry partners in India.

As one of the key enablers to the execution of our strategy in India we are currently some way towards building an indigenous supply chain. This is being developed to actively support the Indian Government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. This will allow us to license the manufacture of our portfolio of products and their subassemblies to meet new opportunities.

As part of this supply chain activity we are building relationships with a number of businesses in India and we are making good progress. We have NDA’s in place with a number of MSME which will be followed by MOU’s and then licensing agreements.

But we are not starting from scratch. We currently have a teaming agreement with Anadrone Systems Pvt (previously Sure Safety Solutions) in place. This is a long standing relationship and they are and will continue to be licensed to manufacture and deliver our portfolio of products and services within India. To date the relationship has seen the delivery of more than 500 targets from the Anadrone plant in Gopalpur. Whilst these have predominantly been in support of offsets, Anadrone has also supported the delivery of QTS targets direct to the Indian Army. QTS have worked in partnership with Anadrone to provide them with the skills necessary to build, test, maintain and refurbish both types of targets themselves, and the KEC launchers that are currently in service. They have been trained on the delivery and support of Target services utilising the Whirlwind, Jet 40 and the Jet 80.

We also have existing relationships with SASMOS, Oriental Mills and Absolute Composites, which we are looking to progress further. And we have a growing relationship with Cyient a company with an impressive portfolio of capabilities and with whom we signed an MOU in 2019. Together we are working towards the manufacture of avionics and electronic assemblies in India, whilst at the same time exploring other opportunities to leverage their range of capabilities in other areas of our business.

Through the execution of these relationships and the others being pursued, we expect to have a highly capable and sustainable Indigenous supply chain, able to support our products and services into the future, while at the same time providing a solid basis for future growth in India.