Lockheed Martin- Marshall alliance pushes frontiers of aircraft hi-tech
Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge and American giant Lockheed Martin this week celebrate the 40th anniversary of a transatlantic partnership that has revolutionised aircraft design.
Major officials from Lockheed in the US flew in to Cambridge for a celebratory jamboree today and Business Weekly, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and Marshall Aerospace have produced a commemorative A4 publication.
The partnership began in 1966 – just four years after Kennedy and Kruschev had been locked in a nerve-jangling stand-off in the Cuban missile crisis.
Alongside the military benefits has been a robust peace dividend. The companies have together taken the C-130 Hercules and created better designed, more durable and ‘intelligent’ allied air fleets – a payback that has reverberated throughout the civilian sector in terms of safety, comfort and the success of humanitarian missions.
This was recognised in this anniversary year through the award to Marshall of a £1.52 billion contract from the UK MoD to support the RAF’s fleet – a project in which Lockheed Martin will again be a cornerstone partner.
Martin Broadhurst, managing director of Marshall Aerospace, believes many more enhancements can be made by combining the technical skills and know-how acquired by the respective companies.
Broadhurst says: “There are so many fresh challenges for us to meet and opportunities to be grasped.
“The enhancements to the C130 is a worldwide success story of which Marshall is proud to be a part and the capability of the aircraft now is amazing when one thinks back to the start point.
“If you just take the history of the ‘K’ over the years there have been well over 600 modifications and injections of state-of-the-art technology. The constant march of technological progress suggests that this won’t be the end of the story.
“One can never predict individual requirements for that aircraft in the future, whether that might be in a theatre situation such as Iraq or Afghanistan, for humanitarian relief operations or other uses. It is such a versatile aircraft.”
There has been much debate in the industry about just how closely two countries can realistically work when valuable intellectual property is at the heart of their collaborative effort. The issue becomes particularly sensitive when national defence and security are at stake.
It is to the immense credit of Marshall Aerospace that the company has built such a position of trust – not just with Lockheed Martin but also with other major players in what has become a globally acknowledged dream team.
Take the Joint Strike Fighter project being piloted by Lockheed Martin. The Americans want a stealth element to the aircraft and naturally want to ensure that, unwittingly, the IPR doesn’t get into the wrong hands – or hands that they are not entirely comfortable with.
The counter argument, says Broadhurst, concerns the potential problems further along the road if key players in a collaboration aren’t privy to the ‘secret’ element of the technology.
“For example, how do you then carry out essential ongoing maintenance or even modifications to upgrade the capability of the aircraft. These are big issues that have occupied a great deal of necessary debate and dialogue recently and there has been excellent progress in working towards a possible solution.”
It is against this sensitive backdrop that Marshall Aerospace has evolved as a trusted international partner. Broadhurst said: “For the relative size of our company, we have really punched above our weight.”
• Business Weekly subscribers will receive a copy of the commemorative booklet over the next week or so. We are selling additional copies at a nominal charge of £5. Inquiries to news [at] businessweekly.co.uk