VTESS Protest Stalls Implementation But Does Not Cool Appetite
Change is the only constant in the defence industry, as companies large and small duck and weave to accommodate the vagaries of government procurement. Strategies come and go, contracts are awarded (and appealed, stalled and reinstated or recompeted) and relationships blossom, wither and die.
In April, the US Army announced that it had awarded a contract to build the Vehicle Tactical Engagement Simulation System (VTESS) to Lockheed Martin. With an estimated value of $288 million, the contract is intended to replace the legacy MILES laser-based tactical engagement simulation system and bring US Army training slap bang up to date. To achieve that, Lockheed Martin had already entered into a collaborative agreement with Saab’s Training and Simulation business.
The award, almost inevitable, attracted a protest from Cubic on 11 April and a 100-day period of stasis has now started, during which it will be impossible to get on the record statements regarding what each company brings to the party – for obvious reasons. However, MONS took the opportunity of both companies being at ITEC 2017 in Rotterdam this week to delve a little deeper into the relationship.
“The bottom line is we always seek to team with good companies that share our vision,” Ralph Briggs, Senior Business Development Manager for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Training, told MONS. Explaining that the company had already made the decision to seek out a ‘best of breed’ good fit to enhance its offering on VTESS and other programmes, he added, “both our companies are very involved in and experienced with the delivery of live training. It is perfectly obvious to us both that together we can offer the US military – and potentially other customers – a better experience and a more effective solution for complex and evolving training needs.”
Given the current situation, the fact that Briggs was prepared to discuss the relationship at all speaks volumes of the commitment to it from his point of view. One might normally have expected the company to shelter behind the rampart offered by the ongoing protest process. Clearly it is impossible to discuss substantive aspects of what may happen between Lockheed Martin and Saab on VTESS until a GAO decision is handed down sometime in late July. However, this reporter’s instincts tell him there is sustainable – perhaps even enduring – intent underlying the current nascent relationship.
Which is confirmed in a brief conversation with Asa Thegström, the Head of Saab’s Training and Simulation business unit. Referring direct questions on VTESS to Lockheed Martin, she confirmed the intent of cementing and rapidly developing the collaboration agreement already in place. “This is a complex world that is driving the need for multinational approaches – both in training (exercises) and in business (development),” she told MONS. “We should not be afraid of business to business.”