The United Arab Emirates(UAE) attaches great importance to developing its defence industry, and seeks to establish important partnerships with leading companies specializing in defence affairs in the world, within the framework of a comprehensive strategic view of these industries that emanates from the vision of sustainable development that focuses on diversifying income sources and building a knowledge economy, in addition to a defensive strategy based on owning and resettling the latest defence technologies and providing our armed forces with the latest weapons to enhance their role in defending the country and its gains. In this context, the American company Lockheed Martin is considered one of the important companies that have important and fruitful partnerships with UAE defence companies, effective cooperation at multiple levels, and joint projects that aim at achieving the national goals of the vision of developing the UAE defence industries.
To learn about horizons of this partnership and cooperation, “Al-Jundi” Journal Reporter M. Fahed AL Halabieh interviewed Mr. Robert (Bob) S. Harward, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin United Arab Emirates & Middle East, talked to him about the cooperation between his company and the UAE defence industry, the prospects and aspects of this cooperation, in addition to some other related issues. Here are excerpts:
UAE and especially its armed forces have very good long-standing relationship and cooperation with Lockheed Martin, can you tell us in which areas is this cooperation reflected?
Well, UAE and its armed forces have been partners across many portfolios; F16s, radars, aeronautics, command and control systems. In space, we look at satellites and other systems. In mission support, we provide them with helicopters, command and control systems, and then finally in missile and fire control, we do THAAD, we do interceptors, so it’s a very healthy relationship across the board. And when it comes to the announcement of EDGE, and the growing aerospace and defence sector, we are involved in an industrial participation offsets credits and using those tools to investing help grow the industry.
How do you view the consolidation of most of the UAE defence equipment manufacturers into one entity, under the umbrella of EDGE ? How will this affect your cooperation with the UAE and its defence industry?
It solidifies our partnership and more importantly, it allows me to take all my assets, my resources and my people and focus it in a way we had not before. And I think this will save us a lot of time by shortening and facilitating a lot of procedures, which will enhance the efficiency and speed of joint work and make it more streamlined. It really enhances the speed of operational relative to the basis of what they need, the “speed of relevancy” as I call it. I think all of these and this consolidation will help with that.
Can you tell us what your target is at this current phase and if you have been asked by the UAE to further develop your cooperation in any particular domain?
Well, we always have targets both from UAE requirement standards and from our own. So that is incessant. I believe this process will help both of us achieve these goals more effectively, more efficiently and better bang for the buck (better value for the money you spend or the effort you put in). So that’s what the announcement of EDGE represents to me and why I am so excited. And we know the partners. This team is a very tight family, from Mubadala to Tawazun, to what was Edic, to now EDGE, and these companies. We know each other, we have worked together before. This announcement is an indicative of the evolution in the aerospace and defence industry within the UAE, which allows us to produce better products more quickly and more effectively for the UAE.
We know that Lockheed Martin has state-of-the- art technologies and the best standards in the world, probably, but what kind of technologies do you transfer to the UAE?
Thank you. This is a great point. One of the things we are most proud of is our Centre for Innovation and Security Solutions through which we have been over the last two years, not only, introducing all our technology to the UAE, but we are building the next generation of engineers and students who are now interning in all those programs in space, the exo analysis, and now command and control. These interns when they finish those programs, they will be part of this industry, and they’ll be the leaders for the engineers and the innovators who ensure that the UAE gets the best technologies, not only from abroad, but also hopefully internally and the domestic round. So, that’s our future where we see this all going and this today’s in decade of that.
In fact our Centre for Innovation and Security helps UAE people to explore innovation, advance security and helps them to achieve the UAE’s vision of building a strong resilient economy. The Center for Innovation and Security Solutions (CISS) in the UAE is the first of its kind outside the United States.
Space, innovation and cyber security, these are of a great interest to the UAE leadership. What are you doing to enable the UAE to achieve progress in these three domains?
That’s a very interesting question? Well, look UAE has an astronaut now. Look where the space program and on. Cyber security, we know how important that is, and we work closely on it, but that’s where our government and the UAE government move very judiciously to ensure we do the right thing and do no harm to our own systems, as we build those partnerships to address the threats in that realm.
As you have Emirati students learning in your training centres, how do you assess their enthusiasm to learn and their aptitude to absorb new technologies?
Don’t ask me. Talk to Humaid Al Shammari from Mubadala, my partner on that. I can tell you how excited he was. Talk to His Excellency Faisal Al Bannai, EDGE CEO and Managing Director. Talk to the guys who’ve now seen those capabilities and using that and understand what this gene pool of people can mean for the future. So, I think it’s unprecedented. I think it’s a success. And by the way, we in Lockheed Martin have outsourced the services of some of these students to work with us. These students are the future (of the UAE).
From your own point of you, why our students have achieved that unprecedented success, is it due to your training capabilities, or because of our students’ enthusiasm, dedication and their ability to absorb new technologies?
We work as one team. We trust that Mubadala help us select the right students and screen them. They know them better than us. We trust that those students have the right energy, the right vision. And I can tell you when we have finished the last competition, the “Payload Design” competition. Each one of these guys developed a unique technology that they owned the intellectual property for. And now they want to go out and start a business for. That’s indicative of their success. In potential, we are dealing with all those students. At Dubai Airshow, we’ll host them for lunch. Please come and meet them in our chalet. A member of our Lockheed Martin team at the Dubai Airshow is one of those students. She is a UAE engineer who we’ve already employed, and she is brilliant.
Would you like to send a message to the UAE armed forces and defence and aerospace manufacturers through Al Jundi Journal on this occasion?
This is a great opportunity for all of us. It’s a situation where we all will benefit and grow, and most we’ll grow capabilities that will serve UAE and the rest of us for a long time to come. So, it’s a very exciting time for us.
Interviewed by: Mohamed Fahed AL Halabieh – Photography by: Mohammed Alshaer