Batting A Thousand: Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP)

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What does it take to deliver 1,000 Sniper ATPs? According to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Program Manager Bill Spangenberg, it takes commitment, consistency and continuous investment – and most importantly, performance. In the interview below, Bill explains what he believes has set the Sniper ATP program apart – and how the team continues to be successful today.

Bill – what is the significance of the 1,000th Sniper ATP delivery?

I think the 1,000th delivery demonstrates our ability to be flexible. And what I mean by that is, you can’t have a single configuration and expect to sell 1,000 pods. You have to be committed to adapting – to making improvements, to making changes. We couldn’t have grown the program without growing the number of platforms that Sniper ATP supports. We had to evolve with our customers and the missions they conduct.

What makes Sniper ATP program operations unique?

Early on, we made the change – the change from a traditional, government-funded development program approach to an internal investment program approach. That change was hard – 10, 15 years ago, our costs were higher, and our margins were lower. It was hard to find the investment dollars that we needed for the pod, but it was something we knew we had to do. Not everyone makes that decision, and that impacts the relevancy of your product.

How do you sustain Sniper ATPs? Is that important for the program?

Life cycle costs are a significant factor in today’s economic environment, particularly when customers are choosing between competitive products. You have to ensure that your product is maintainable, reliable and available – all while keeping costs low. Our depot repair operations, which we operate in partnership with Warner Robins [Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base] are, in my opinion, the most efficient out there. We’ve made statistics like ‘Mean Time Between Maintenance Events’ a priority because we know that’s what matters to the warfighter. We strive for consistency – it’s our job to make sure Sniper ATP is there when warfighters need it.

How do you improve Sniper ATP? What keeps it relevant for customers?

It takes homework. We have users’ conferences, and the users tell us what’s important in the field – what improvements we can make, what capabilities we’re missing. You start with that feedback, listening to the customer. Then you make the tough decisions – what piece are you going to invest in now, what piece are you going to invest in later. Sometimes you have to go with instinct. But if you get enough feedback, you can usually see what investment is going to provide the biggest bang for the buck. Then, you continually invest to improve.  

Which aspects of Sniper ATP’s structure or design do you feel have been most impactful?

I mentioned our ability to integrate across platforms – that’s due to our plug-and-play technology. Sniper ATP auto-detects what platform it’s on, and that’s significant in that operators and maintainers don’t have pressure to manage dozens of different configurations. Also, our modularity – the pod’s line-replaceable units – enable us to make affordable upgrades in the field. Both of these factors have been essential to our success.

As a program leader, what’s the most important advice you can give to team members?

Performance is key. The product has to perform for the warfighters. If it’s not performing, you have to stop and make it right. There’s nothing more important than that.

April 29, 2015

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Sniper is a Registered Trademark of Lockheed Martin Corporation.