Attending DEFEA 2021 Exhibition in Athens, “Al Jundi” met with Mr. Demetrios Papacostas, CEO of Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A., which delivers defense and aerospace services and products, aircraft, engines, accessories and avionics maintenance, and discussed with him challenges that are facing the defence sector, his company’s cooperation with the GCC countries, especially with the UAE, and with other countries of the Middle East, and some other issues, here is the dialogue:
Can you tell us about the nature of your company, and the main products and solutions the company provides?
Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A., established in 1975, is the leading aerospace company of Greece. It delivers defense and aerospace services and products that include:
Aircraft, engines, accessories and avionics maintenance (repair, overhaul, modifications, modernizations, upgrade, life extensions and logistics support)
Design, development, manufacturing, and after sales support of electronic, optoelectronic and telecommunication products
Design and manufacturing of aircraft subassemblies from metallic and composite materials
HAI is a strong pillar for the support of Hellenic Armed Forces and a lever for national economic growth. At the same time through a certified per the highest quality standards “one-stop-shop” the company expands in the international market acquiring a broad customer base, and establishing itself as a reliable partner of the leading aerospace industries globally.
What are the strengths of your organization in the defense sectors?
We value our personnel as one of HAI’s strong assets. With almost 130 fields of expertise and continuous training and assessment, the company’s human resources are contributing to the productivity and effectiveness of HAI.
Moreover, considering the ”Total Customer Satisfaction” as the ultimate goal, HAI is pursuing over the years quality excellence in products and services. By implementing an integrated quality management system, HAI has earned the recognition of leaders in the aeronautical sector such as Lockheed Martin, Safran, and Rolls Royce.
What are the main challenges facing defense sector in various countries around the world?
1 Developing a sustainable supply chain: The requests for parts and raw materials have been met with delays from local shops that don’t have the capacity to meet increasing demand. Therefore, aerospace and defense industries must search for alternative suppliers and routes to meet customer demand.
2 Government regulations and environmentally-friendly policies: Alignment with Government Regulations and Environmentally Policies of each country is a key factor of an aerospace and defense corporation to survive and grow in the defense market environment. Recent developments concerning emission rates from factories and environmental vigilance impose flexibility, awareness and investments from defense industries as well.
3 Growing revenue in a competitive environment: Seeking an edge over the competition requires delivering more value in addition to produce equipment. Equipment that supports data extraction and other value-added services that simplify the manufacturing operations are mandatory. Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions enable data capture while IoT platforms provide the resources for storing and analyzing shop floor data.
4 Implementing Digital Transformation Strategies: Aerospace and defense corporations that understand the value of implementing digital transformation initiatives to optimize factory floor processes will obtain a competitive advantage. Solutions such as smart hardware ease the data collection process while digital platforms provide an environment for extensive data analysis to receive insight into factory production processes.
How do you rate your recent experience and participation in DEFEA 2021, did it meet your expectations? and how do such exhibitions contribute to developing your company’s business?
We consider that DEFEA constitutes an important event for the country, marking the opening to extroversion after a long period of constraints due to the pandemic. HAI had a series of targeted meetings with international partners, and a number of official delegations, that will lead to future synergies. Exhibitions, like DEFEA ‘2021, gives the opportunity to HAI to meet and interact with global companies of the aerospace and defense market and to identify potential opportunities for future cooperation.
How do you assess the cooperation between your company and GCC countries, particularly the United Arab Emirates?
Being always responsive to the specific needs of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, HAI had the chance to transfer invaluable experience to them in various areas from MRO of aircraft and engines to technical training.
HAI is planning to maintain and further enhance the valuable and long-term relationship with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces in the field of technical training. HAI operates an EASA Part-147 Maintenance Training Organization, having been approved to conduct training and examinations, meeting the requirements of EASA Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance License in all currently available categories.
Additionally, HAI looks forward to deliver each expertise in other sectors, such as electronics, command & control systems, already tested and in use by the Greek Army. Also, due to the strategic location and the strategic importance of the United Arab Emirates, HAI considers the country as a hub for further expansion in other GCC neighboring countries.
Cooperation and partnerships for some defence manufacturers are based on “buyer& seller” relations, what about your company?
It is a reality that some defense companies apply strictly “buyer &seller” relations with their customers. This strategy means that the commercial aspect of a cooperation is the dominant factor between the two bodies and as such, the financial and contractual implications matter the most. HAI, from the first day of its operation, followed a totally different strategy in the relations with its partners and customers. Creativity, support, appreciation and full respect of the customer’s needs and requirements are the ingredients to successful business relationships and that is what HAI follows. It is very crucial for HAI to listen to the requirements of the customer and to provide innovative solutions that meet its needs. In this way, customers are retained through the years and further relationships are grown, based on mutual understanding and acknowledgement. To reach a win-win cooperation is the ultimate goal for every corporation that wants to survive in the Defence Market. The way to achieve it, however, passes through the above-mentioned behavior and attitude. Since we are talking about the Defense Market, it is inevitable that a company acting as a trusted supporter and consultant to the end user, rather than a sole seller, will achieve its goals. And HAI looks forward only to that direction.
What are the most needed defence solutions and technologies in the Middle East and Gulf region?
The technologies most valuable to national defense are those that maximize the nation’s freedom to develop and use its military capability. Technologies that enhance interoperability with allies or mitigate supply chain dependencies are therefore particularly important. These may not appear to be the most economically attractive choices in a traditional export-focused sense. The ‘make or buy’ question is the same for all nations but the answer is different for each. Middle East nations should learn from others but not imitate the solutions of other nations. Developing regional competence in systems integration, research, development, test and analysis will have more strategic impact towards ensuring national security and resilience than competing with established, over-capacity producers.
Foreign investment in the most beneficial technologies must be encouraged and, more importantly, in transferring the knowledge that underpins them. All traditional joint ventures or FDI, should be judged by their contribution to building knowledge capital and thereby national freedom of action.
Developing human capital (education, knowledge transfer, research, development, and training) is essential to achieve independent indigenous defense capability and more beneficial than replicating production facilities in competitive market areas.
How is your company supporting security and defense in the Middle East?
HAI has a long-standing relationship with the Middle East Region that started back in 1980’s. Currently we provide state- of- the- art works and services for various MoDs in the Region in the field of MRO for aircraft, components, parts and engines. Additionally, very advanced educational services are provided to numerous customers, by delivering EASA certified advanced technical training program, that can lead to an Engineering Bachelor Degree from prestigious U.K and Irish Universities.
How do you see the company changing in two years.
The world is changing rapidly. The same happens to the Defense Market. HAI’s vision is to be smoothly adapted to the new requirements of the market. Its strategic plans are the expansion of its portfolio of services and solutions and the development of new products of cutting-edge technologies which will cover the needs of our customers and the increasing demand for security. HAI also focuses on becoming more flexible, so as to easily be integrated to the new global defense environment.
What Are your recent 3 biggest accomplishments in the defense sector?
HAI’s recent 3 biggest accomplishments are:
The on-going participation with Lockheed Martin as a subcontractor to the Global Production of F-16 and C-130J aircraft. Moreover, the partnership in the upgrade of P-3B Orion aircraft for the Hellenic Navy and the upgrade of the F-16 fleet of the Hellenic Air-Force to the Viper version.
The provision of advanced technical training program to GHQ of the UAE Armed Forces.
The cooperation with leading European OEM in the MRO sector, by becoming international service center, thus expanding HAI’s portfolio of services and customer base.
Would you like to send any message through Al Jundi Journal to the defence community in the UAE and the GCC?
As an aerospace and defense corporation, HAI’s purpose is to serve the Defense Forces of Greece and all Defense Forces of esteemed and allied countries, such as UAE and GCC, that requires support and consultancy. Greece shares the same values as a country with the Arab States and historically the relationship between the two parts is more than friendly. HAI is proud to serve the Defense Forces of UAE and GCC, and would like to ensure them that its main goal is to strength the partnership in various mutually interesting areas.
By: Jasim Shahin