FINN editor-in-chief Alan Peaford talks about strategies and key issues – from interoperability to achieving greater neurodiversity – with Paul Livingston, CEO of Lockheed Martin UK.
The F-35 programme will continue to be part of the “DNA” of the UK defence industry but there’s still challenges ahead in terms of solving the skills gap and creating a more diverse workforce. Lockheed Martin is the world’s biggest name in defence in terms of revenue. The company has had a presence within the UK for nearly 80 years and employs 1,800 people across some 20 sites.
With the UK part of the inception of the F-35 programme, Livingston said the order book was still growing for the F-35 programme, which he credited as being “part of the DNA” of the UK defence industry: “It’s a programme where 15 per cent of the workshare is with UK companies. It supports around 20,000 jobs in the UK supply chain and over 80 per cent of those companies that contribute to the F-35 are small and medium-sized enterprises, so the F-35 is – and will remain for years and years to come – a key part of our presence in the UK, not just in terms of its selling to the UK but of actually being part of the DNA of the UK defence industry.”
Interoperability will be a key concept
Speaking on the growing trend of collaboration between companies within the UK defence industry, Livingston said Lockheed Martin UK had always worked within partnerships, whether with the government or other industry partners including the C-130J with Marshall Aerospace and a joint venture with Babcock to deliver the Ascent Flight Training programme.
“Where defence is going now, particularly amongst Allied nations, is more around the concept of interoperability. We used to talk about that as all we operated the same platform, that was defined as interoperability. If you look at the recent success of Carrier Strike Group 21 where you’ve got the UK, US Marine Corps jets on the same carrier being serviced by the same people, taking off and flying mission packages together, that’s true interoperability.”
Livingston cited just a few of the acronyms around connectivity being used the wider defence space. “Some people call it JADO – Joint All Domain Operations – some people call it MDI – multi-domain integration – but that’s certainly where we’re seeing our customers go, and in fact our new CEO Jim Taylor in the States is always talking about 5G.MIL, which is really around being able to connect war fighters up to share data, no matter what centres they come from and actually deliver true effect and true force multiplication through that kind of digital interaction in real time.”
Encouraging employees to “bring their entire self to work”
Skills shortages are a topic which are never far from the FINN headlines. With Lockheed Martin in the UK focused on intellectual property development, Livingston said there was a real push towards employing people with different experiences and mindsets within the hiring process. “If we want to draw the best people in, we have to have an environment that absolutely allows people to bring their entire self to work and be the best that they can be. We have a whole range of DNI initiatives and broadly, even beyond Lockheed Martin, we support some of the industry-wide initiatives that are around better diversity and inclusion.”
Reaping the benefits of neurodiversity
Livingston has been invited to chair Women In Defence’s 10-year strategy review which he described as an opportunity to “really get involved in how can we help make defence a better place for gender balance and for diversity and inclusion.”
“Neurodiversity is another great concept to talk about. How do we allow people who’ve got different experiences, different backgrounds, different ways that they interact with other people to come in and be part of a wider team that allows us to draw the best from that diverse pool of talent?”
Lockheed Martin is aiming to attract people into defence with a range of early careers programmes including apprenticeships and work placements. Livingston said it was important to engage people early in their careers by giving them “real value-added work, giving them great experiences – that’s what’s going to attract and retain those people.”
He added that the majority of the company has also moved to a four-day work week which was attractive to both the younger generation and those with caring responsibilities. “People love that flexibility of having a three-day weekend effectively every weekend and we found that’s actually increased productivity. The more we can offer a hybrid work environment, the more we can offer people flexibility and agility – that’s what I think brings people to Lockheed Martin,” he added.