Tag Archives: BAE

La última cena de William Perry

La semana pasada, con motivo de la celebración del día de la Hispanidad, el diario ABC publicaba una entrevista al ministro de defensa, Pedro Morenés (“Morenés: “Me preocupa el adiestramiento de las Fuerzas Armadas”“).

El portal InfoDefensa hacía referencia a dicha entrevista en la siguiente entrada, “Morenés: “Vamos a reforzar la industria de Defensa desde Navantia a Indra”“, donde además incluía unas declaraciones que no aparecen en la edición digital de ABC. En ellas el ministro habla de la necesidad de consolidar la industria de la defensa española para competir con las grandes empresas del sector: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE, etc.

En esta entrada me quería centrar en una anécdota que se relata:

La anécdota de Weinberger (sic).

Según el diario, el ministró finalizó este tema mencionando una anécdota del secretario de Defensa de EEUU Caspar Weinberger (1981-1987):

“Cuando el señor Weinberger dijo a las cincuenta y tantas empresas de Defensa que había en EEUU, o más, “el año que viene por estas fechas, cuando yo les invite a cenar en esta mesa en la que hoy hay ciento y pico personas, va a haber doce. Arréglenselas ustedes como puedan”. Les dio un mensaje muy claro. Al final hubo 12.

En esta entrada en el blog solo quería precisar:

  • La cena no fue con Weinberger como secretario de defensa (1981-87), sino con Les Aspin en 1993.
  • No fue el secretario de defensa (entonces Les Aspin) sino William Perry (subsecretario entonces, y que posteriormente fue secretario de defensa) quien dijo aquello.
  • No había ciento y pico personas que luego pasaron a 12; sino 12 en la cena que luego pasaron a 5 (representando a Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon); por eso de que a la mesa iban 12 lo llamaron “última cena”.

Esta anécdota se puede leer en numerosas fuentes especializadas en asuntos de defensa y genéricas, como por ejemplo, The New York Times:

The changes now occurring began in the early 1990’s. Industry executives recall the famous ”Last Supper,’‘ a 1993 Pentagon dinner whose host was Les Aspin, then Secretary of Defense, and his deputy, William J. Perry, who succeeded him. At the dinner were executives from a dozen contractors who were told by Mr. Perry that there were twice as many military suppliers as he wanted to see in five years and that the Government was prepared to watch some go out of business. From 1992 to 1997, a total of $55 billion in military-industry mergers took place, according to Securities Data Company, a research concern in Newark.

Quiero pensar que el ministro Pedro Morenés conoce bien la anécdota, y fue el periodista de ABC el que escuchó algo y no se enteró, y más tarde, en la redacción, la reconstruyó como quiso sin comprobar datos en ninguna fuente… raro es que no acabase atribuyendo la anécdota o cita a Wiston Churchill o Mark Twain.

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Le Bal des Ambitions

Le Bal des Ambitions, 2009.

I learnt about the book “Le Bal des  Ambitions” in 2009, when a former colleague mentioned it and asked me to buy it in one of my trips to Paris. By then, I did not know French so as to read it, but some months ago I found it again in the aerospace boutique in Blagnac and grabbed it.

The book is written by two journalists, Véronique Guillermard and Yann le Galès, that in my opinion give an image history of EADS and the main characters who shaped it a bit too much thriller-like. Nevertheless, I found it interesting as I could recall many of the names and chapters, even though most of the stories happened either when I was still a student or had recently joined the company.

Some of the topics covered in the book:

  • Who are the so-called Lagardère boys, the relationships among them and with J.L. Lagardère. (I got to know who from some of top managers came from Matra and who from Aérospatiale.
  • It describes the merger discussions between Aérospatiale–Matra, BAE and DASA.
  • You get a glimpse of the role played by the grandes écoles in French networks.
  • The case of insider trading affecting top management of EADS in 2006.
  • Some of the issues behind the delays of A380 in 2006.

I guess that for a French native the text hasn’t got much quality, but for me, being my second book in French language, it was just perfect.

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Nimrod: endless development, never delivering

Aerospace and Defence programmes are formidable undertakings full of complex developments, new technologies, changing requirements that make them difficult to manage and keep in control. This is not new and lead Norman Augustine to write his famous “Augustine’s Laws” of which I already wrote a post in this blog.

Few months ago I was having lunch with my colleagues while we were discussing about some current defence programmes with sound cost overruns and delays. One of us challenged the rest with the question of what was the programme in the direst situation. Among the answers came the British Nimrod Maritime, Reconnaissance and Attack (MRA) Mk 4 aircraft programme.

The programme called for the upgrade of existing Mk 2 aircraft. The upgrade involves extensive (80%) reconstruction of the airframe, plus incorporation of many new components, including engines, wings, landing gear and general systems, as well as new flight deck and detection systems. The contract was awarded in January 1997. The original order was for 21 aircraft.

Nimrod modifications.

One of my colleagues jokingly said “that programme is just the perfection of the British A&D business model: charging money to the tax payers without delivering a single aircraft, being paid simply for developing”. We all laughed at the comment, sure.

In 2002 the contract was reduced to 18 aircraft. In 2004 the in-service fleet requirement was reduced to 12 aircraft, including the 3 prototypes. By 2008 BAE had only been contracted to for 9 aircraft in addition to the development contract. In 2009 the Defence Equipment Minister announced that it was not necessary to upgrade the 3 development aircraft.

When first ordered the programme had an estimated cost of 2 billion pounds; by 2006 the estimation was of ~3.8 billion pounds (+90%). When ordered the first delivery to the Royal Air Force (RAF) was scheduled for 2001, with the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2003, on the delivery of the 7th aircraft.

BAE Nimrod.

Last week we could read in the British press that the air force chiefs to the Strategic Defence and Security Review had proposed to cancel the Nimrod programme in order save money under current budgetary pressures. The measure would “only” save now 200 million pounds, as most of the development and acquisition costs (~95%) have already been paid. The savings would come in the longer term, due to the saving of operation and support costs related to that fleet.

If this cancellation becomes effective, that would be consummation of that model: being paid (180% of initially estimated costs) for developing of a fleet of aircraft (along a period twice as long as initially expected) to end up not having to deliver those aircraft (not 21, not 18, not 12, not 9… not a single one).

Aside from this humorous note, that would be a very sad happening for BAE engineers, managers and technicians.


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