Defense News Q&A with Orlando P. Carvalho

carvalho qa

This advertorial originally ran in the September 16 issue of Defense News

Orlando P. Carvalho has served in the defense industry for 33 years, and in that time he’s taken on some key roles within Lockheed Martin. Most recently, he served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 Lightning II Program. Before that, he was President of the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors (MS2) business unit, a 15,000-employee enterprise.

While at MS2 and prior to being appointed President, Carvalho served as General Manager and Vice President of the Surface Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense Systems line of business and was responsible for the successful development, production, fielding and lifetime support of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program, and development of core combat systems capabilities for the U.S. Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer. In addition, he was responsible for initiating and managing the Spanish Navy’s F-100 Aegis Frigate Combat System Program.

In March 2013, he stepped into what may be his biggest role yet —Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, responsible for all operations in a business area that generated $15 billion in sales in 2012. Not least among its current projects: the F-35, the largest single military program in history.

Here Carvalho talks about the present and future of that program; gives his thoughts on leadership; and discusses Lockheed Martin’s position as a preeminent aerospace provider.

You’ve worked your way up through two divisions of Lockheed Martin. How do you think this broad experience base has helped prepare you for your newest assignment?

I was fortunate enough that, for a large part of my career, I had the opportunity to work on the Aegis Program, including the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program — one of the larger and more critical programs in the Navy. Having cut my teeth on a program like Aegis gave me an appreciation for working on a large-scale combat systems development program with both domestic and international scope. It gave me a very strong foundation that I’ve been able to build upon at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

On the personal side, is there anything you would like to share about your background and experience that has helped shape your leadership style?

Who I am today is due, in large part, to my parents and the way they raised me and my brother. My parents were immigrants from Portugal, and they had a very strong work ethic that they instilled in us. They fundamentally believed you should always respect others and, as a result, we never thought of ourselves as being better than anyone else. With this respect for others, I also credit them with reinforcing the importance of respectfully and genuinely listening to what people have to say. It’s better to have humility, and take the time to listen and learn before expressing an opinion. These values have been the core of my upbringing and my approach to leadership.

How do you define quality, and how does your organization ensure and inspire quality from your staff and suppliers?

Quality is attention to detail. We build quality into our products by maintaining a strong focus on every detail and combining that with continuous and proactive improvement. Quality is so important because it directly correlates to our customers’ trust and confidence in us. We have embraced a continuous theme of quality, and this is helping transform ourculture. This cultural transformation has to do with getting our team to go from doing something because they have to do it, to doing something because they want to do it.

We are also holding our suppliers to this same high standard of quality and accountability.

In terms of the F-35, why do the U.S. and its allies need this aircraft and its 5th Generation capabilities?

All three U.S. Services — Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps — need to recapitalize their fleets. The F-16, F-18 and the Harriers are all 4th Generation aircraft and are quickly reaching the end of their service lives. The air defense systems that these aircraft could potentially encounter are also becoming much more sophisticated, significantly increasing their vulnerability.

With the F-35, you have low observable stealth technology, advanced avionics such as sensor fusion, and advanced electronic warfare capabilities. You also have interoperability; the ability to share through various communication links the situational awareness available on a given aircraft with other platforms. Our test pilots have expressed their satisfaction with the situational awareness being provided through the sensor fusion capability. In the final analysis, the mission system capabilities of the F-35 are significantly greater than what was available in previous generations of fighters and these capabilities are essential to pacing future threats. This is what fundamentally defines 5th generation capability.

What are the critical challenges facing your F-35 customers right now and what are you doing to respond to those needs?

By far, the most critical challenge that faces our customers is budget constraints. There isn’t a day that goes by, that we are not talking about affordability and how to bring down the price of the F-35. There are natural forces that bring down the price; for instance, learning on the production line as our workers become more and more proficient, or the economic order quantity benefit as the number of airplanes in production increases. However, while this is necessary, it is not sufficient. We have therefore joined forces with the JSF Program Office (JPO) to look at how every aspect of producing the airplane can be done more effectively, more efficiently and, therefore, at a lower cost. That may mean investing in new or additional tooling or in engineering redesigns that enable greater producibility. There is a whole spectrum of initiatives we are examining with the JPO, all with the objective of taking cost out of the airplane.

What economic impact does the F-35 Program bring to the United States?

Today, we use a supply base of more than 1,300 suppliers across 47 states. The employment base of those suppliers, directly and indirectly, is more than 127,000 people. That number will climb to 260,000 direct and indirect jobs at full-rate production. That’s not even including the value we’re seeing from our eight partner nations and two foreign military sales countries.

In development, production and sustainment, the employment is mostly for high-technology positions and highly skilled workers, which we believe is essential to our economy. These are ultimately career jobs, and we are proud to say many of our employees are here for the duration of their professional careers.

Looking at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ track record, is there a particular success story that stands out, and what does that achievement say about Aeronautics as a whole?

There are 25,000 of us in this organization. I believe we are the strongest aeronautics company on the face of the earth and our strength comes from our people. This includes the engineers who come up with the innovative concepts and designs, the people who build these products on the assembly line, and those who sustain our products in the field. Every day I am humbled by what this team can do.

What is your vision for the future of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and what will it take to get there?

It comes down to three things: our portfolio, our team, and our ability to meet our customer commitments. We will first leverage the portfolio we have today, which is very strong. In addition to building the F-35, F-16, and C-130J aircraft, we continue to sustain, modernize and upgrade the F-22, U-2, P-3 and C-5, and we will keep them flying for the foreseeable future.

Then there are the people – this great team of engineers and production operations personnel who design, build and sustain our multitude of aircraft systems. Combining the strength of our portfolio with the innovative skills of our Aeronautics team is what will take us into the future. Our Advanced Development Programs team — perhaps better known as the “Skunk Works” — is at the heart of this innovative spirit. This is how we will continue to best meet our customers’ needs going forward.


September 16, 2013