Simon Howison came to Kingston on October 7th 2014 to brief Members on the current activities of BAE Systems, on whom we all depend for our pensions. Simon started his career at Smiths Industries as an electronics engineer working on Kingston’s Hawk, Harrier and Sea Harrier as well as other types including the Jaguar, Tornado, Lynx and India’s MiG 21.


He came to work at Kingston’s Avionic Systems in 1984 becoming Head of Avionics, Chief Systems Engineer, Project Manager Sea Harrier and Chief Engineer Harrier. After the move to Farnborough he went to Warton as Chief Engineer Tornado rising to Engineering Director BAE Systems Military Air Solutions covering Typhoon, Tornado upgrades, F-35 and UAVs. He retired from BAE Systems at the end of March 2014 and the views expressed in, and the content of, his talk are personal.

Simon started with some numbers: BAES employs 84,000 worldwide (down from 108,000 in 2011) with 33,300 in the UK, 31,500 in the USA, 5,900 in Saudi Arabia, 4,700 in Australia, 55 in Oman and some 9,000 elsewhere. Sales in 2013 were 18.2 billion. 11 bn is spent annually with 2,500 suppliers. 50 m is spent annually on education and skills and BAES works with many universities, more than 30 in the UK alone.

BAE Systems Today

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The speaker then looked at the market segments covered by the Company. These are Platforms and Services (P&S) UK 36%, P&S US 22%, P&S International 22%, Electronic Systems (ES) 13%, and Cyber and Intelligence (C&I) 7%. ES employs 13,000, mainly US based plus Rochester (was Marconi) in the UK. UK and US based C&I, providing secure government, commercial and financial activities, has 8,200 employees. P&S US has 21,300 employees providing engineering services to the USN and land vehicles to the US Army. P&S UK with 27,900 employees comprise Military Air & Information, Maritime, Munitions, Combat Vehicles and International.

Simon continued to cover all aspects of BAES’s business including Military Air & Information (MA&I) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) which, in the Editors opinion, are of the greatest interest to Members. This report will therefore concentrate on those topics. MA&I under Managing Director Chris Boardman employs 13,000 people organised in three directorates: Combat Air under Marl Kane, F-35 under Cliff Robson and Defence Information, Training and Services under Steve Timms.

The F-35 work is centred at Samlesbury for design, engineering and manufacture of the aft fuselage, empenage, mission systems, vehicle systems, autonomic logistics, crew escape and life support, fuel system, prognostics and health management, carrier integration and programme management. Some 1250 BAES people are employed on the F-35: 1,100 at Samlesbury, Brough and Abbeywood, 150 in the US and 2 in Canada. Particular areas of expertise were crucial in gaining the F-35 contracts and are critical to the development, manufacture and support of the F-35: digital thread technology from design to manufacture, precision airframe engineering, lean manufacturing, systems modelling and simulation, electronics, STOVL expertise and in-service support.

Combat Air embraces the Typhoon, which, with production contracts for 719 aircraft, 250 of which are in service with the RAF and with the air forces of Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Saudi Arabia. The programme is managed by the Eurofighter GmbH consortium and involves 100,000 people in 400 companies across Europe. Typhoon is the largest European collaborative production programme with a BAES workshare of 37.5% (EADS Germany 30%, EADS Spain 13%, Alenia Italy 19.5%).

The UK built items are the front fuselage with cockpit and foreplanes, the upper centre fuselage spine, the fin and rudder, the flaps and the rear fuselage shared with Alenia. Considerable upgrade work is in hand covering radar developments and new weapons.
    Defence Information, Training and Services covers the Hawk AJT advanced jet trainer and light combat aircraft, the Hawk T-X campaign for a replacement for the USAF T-38 trainer for which there is a requirement for 350 aircraft, and the Falcon secure internet for the battlespace. Also covered is the new Saudi Arabia training system requiring 22 Mk165 Hawk AJTs, 25 American-built Cirrus SR22 primary trainers and a managed training service, as well as Typhoon and Tornado support.
    The primary MA&I site is Samlesbury where BAES has made a huge investment in facilities over the last six years covering F-35 machining, F-35 assembly, advanced forming and fabrication, and materials engineering as well as supporting offices, welfare facilities and reception areas. The F-35 machining facility is highly automated utilising robotics and computer control to provide advanced machining capabilities producing complex titanium and aluminium components.

The dedicated F-35 high-tech assembly facility allows advanced forming and fabrication processes making up to one aircraft set per day of rear fuselages, non-stop. The advanced forming and fabrication facility produces complex fabricated and assembled details for the Typhoon and F-35 using super plastic forming and diffusion bonding techniques. The materials engineering, support and test facility covers materials chemistry, composites, metallurgy, non-destructive testing, mechanical testing, and instrumentation.
    Touching on safety, Simon said that BAES had introduced a ‘total safety culture’ which has produced a massive reduction in accidents from 2,630 in 1996 to just 246 in 2013, putting MA&I at the top of the league with Boeing at the bottom having 20 times as many accidents.
    Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) was Simon’s final topic. BAES had been in the field since 2001 and had invested in key technologies: airspace integration or ability to operate in airspace in use by manned aircraft, integrated vehicle health monitoring, assured communications for control and to maintain awareness of vehicle behaviour, survivability including stealthy airframe design, flight control and complex control law design, conformal air data systems, power plant integration and high levels of automation whilst retaining human control. Successful airspace integration had been demonstrated in airways using an autonomous Jetstream (actually G-BWWW, the old Dunsfold based ‘treble whisky‘) with a safety pilot; the ASTRAEA project.
    The current project is the Taranis UCAS (Unmanned Combat Aircraft System) advanced technology demonstrator, jointly funded by the MoD, UK industry and led by BAES with the aim of demonstrating the feasibility and usefulness of UCAS. Taranis (a Celtic god of thunder) first flew in August 2013 and has completed the first two phases of the flight trials and will examine: propulsion integration (an Adour 951 embedded and hidden for infra-red and radar stealth), novel controls, low cost composite airframe, concealed weapons configuration, low radar cross section, embedded sensors and conformal air data system, secure communications, interactive mission systems and artificial intelligence. High levels of autonomy are to be demonstrated with mission demonstration aims of: auto taxi, take-off and transit, navigation to search area, ingress, search, target detection, target location, generation of attack profile, simulated attack, damage assessment, re-attack or continue search, egress and automatic landing and auto-taxi.
    For the future the UK and French governments plan to invest 200m over a two year period with a 120m joint two year FCAS (Future Combat Air Systems) feasibility study already launched with an Arrangement signed by Government Ministers Hammond and Le Drian at the 2014 Farnborough Air Show. This will build on studies already conducted by BAES, Dassault, Rolls-Royce, Thales, Safran and Selex.
    Simon’s lecture was replete with information and this report gives but an idea of what was said in the speaker’s inimitable and entertaining style.