Supporting the 21st century warfighter

Supporting the 21st century warfighter
August 06, 2020

Lockheed Martin is continuing to transform to ensure that our customers stay ahead of the increasing pace of today's threat environment. A trusted name in innovation, the corporation is now under new leadership. President and CEO Jim Taiclet plans to continue Lockheed Martin’s legacy by pursuing a long-term strategy to deliver enhanced capabilities to our customers facing advanced challenges in any environment.

“The 21st century warfighter concept endeavors to bring relevant lessons in the latest technologies from the broader tech sector to the defense industrial base,” Taiclet said during the corporation’s Second Quarter 2020 earnings call. “I believe Lockheed Martin is uniquely positioned to address this and other evolving security and needs of our nation and its allies, and I'm excited to have this opportunity.”

At The Hill's New Threats, New Defense: The Future of National Security virtual summit on July 15, Lockheed Martin Space Vice President of Strategy and Business Development Robert Lightfoot, echoed Taiclet’s sentiment and discussed the advanced technologies the corporation is focusing on to keep the nation safe well into the future.

"The pace of technology is moving so quickly,” Lightfoot said. “We're going to have to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning."

In every way possible, Lockheed Martin is doing just that. Militarily, one of the biggest threats to the United States is a long-range missile strike. As rogue nations continue their pursuits of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technologies, Lockheed Martin is at the forefront of developing future missile interceptor programs. The corporation has had 100 successful intercepts in testing, which is more than any other industry leader.

Watch Robert Lightfoot’s full interview here:

This June, Missiles and Fire Control (Lockheed Martin’s air and missile defense line of business) marked the delivery of the 500th THAAD interceptor to the U.S. Army. That program is a key part of the United States missile defense system and has been selected by multiple international partners to support their national security.

“We were part of pioneering the hit-to-kill technology, and we're the world leader in that perspective,” said Lightfoot. “These are interceptor tests that we've done, in coordination with our customer and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), that allow us to verify that these systems are ready to go if we need them. The question then becomes, what's the next system? What’s the next threat?”

According to Taiclet, the emergence of near-peer threats underscore Lockheed Martin’s need to focus on delivering enhanced capabilities to customers.

“Some of them are symmetric and some of them are asymmetric to find our vulnerable spots in our traditional way of running our defense operations and trying to get ahead of us in those especially vulnerable spots,” said Taiclet. “There's going to be a lot of investment and a lot of technology investment to firm up those vulnerable places in our defense posture. That's what I would characterize as the big challenge.”

Lockheed Martin scientists and engineers are developing a range of hypersonic solutions. The term “hypersonic” refers to an attribute of flight where a vehicle travels at speeds over Mach 5, which is five times faster than the speed of sound. Using hypersonic systems allows for more speed and maneuverability when it matters most. This technology provides capabilities important in this current threat environment, but also comes with unique technical challenges. In the bigger picture of national security, hypersonic systems will need to communicate with other assets to maximize safety, performance and situational awareness across air, space, sea, land, and cyber.

One of the challenges to fully communicating the bigger integration value for Lightfoot is that the innovations that are taking place are intangible.

“I can take you to a flight line and show you an aircraft,” said Lightfoot. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning is more amorphous and ambiguous in terms of how the technology allows us to do things.”

How to combat this challenge? In Lightfoot’s mind, the synthesis of data is key. Helping Lockheed Martin’s customers talk about how important the interconnectivity is so that decisions can be made quickly in the face of new threats.

“By developing these integrated systems that allow the satellites, aircraft, and ships to seamlessly communicate with one another, while not quite as interesting as seeing the actual platforms, will be the differentiator going forward.”

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