Continued Need for Highly Specialised Niche Technologies
At the Space and Missile Defense Symposium (SMD 2019) in Huntsville, AL, Marty Kauchak takes the opportunity to interview Peder R Pedersen, CEO of Denmark’s Weibel A/S, a Doppler radar specialist established in 1977.
MON: Thank you for taking time to briefly meet with MON. First, please update us on the products, contracts, partnering agreements and other developments that Weibel will be discussing with delegates at this symposium.
Pedersen (PRP): Weibel has been growing in all areas for many years, and last year is no exception. Let alone our workforce, it has been growing 50% within the last 18 months, and it is still growing! Weibel is always on the lookout for highly skilled engineers to help us shape the radars of the future. Besides radars for weapon testing and range safety for launching of satellites, Weibel has a strong focus on, in particular, the much larger radars for BMD [ballistic missile defence], which is a further development of the technology in our instrumental radars.
As we speak, the first Weibel radar for the Range Radar Replacement Programme (RRRP) is being delivered, providing the US test ranges with ‘tip of the spear’ capabilities for testing of weapons and ammunition and to further develop counter-drone capabilities. A great new accomplishment is our contract with the US Navy to deliver muzzle velocity radars for the AEGIS destroyer fleet – these are similar to the more than 3,000 radars we have been delivering to the US Army and US Marine Corps, which have served them well for decades.
Finally, the tri-lateral cooperation between Lockheed Martin, Terma and Weibel on the Ground Based Integrated Discrimination System (GBIDS) is picking up speed – the combination of Weibel’s unique radar technology, Lockheed Martin’s X-band Signal Processor (XSP) for advanced discrimination and identification, and Terma’s BMD-Flex C4ISR will significantly improve critical BMD systems against modern threats. GBIDS will provide long-range tracking and discrimination/identification capabilities at a competitive cost and, just as important, is easily integrated into any allied BMD system.
MON: And beyond that, tell us a bit about your presence and ‘messages’ from last Spring’s Transatlantic Summit. What remains relevant into 2019?
PRP: I am extremely proud that we rarely lose a contract in a competitive and complex market. In order to beat the competition again and again, we need to stay on top of our game. We insist on delivering a unique technology that we consistently and continuously optimise and fine-tune. We can only do this if we build and develop everything in house. And I mean everything. We have insourced all of our development and production. We design and make all the transmit modules, receive modules, arrays, software, mechanics, and electronics ourselves. We do not hesitate to invest in the highly specialised equipment and robot technologies we need; for instance, we own milling, CNC [computer numerical control], SMT [surface-mount technology] and other machines. This is one of the secrets behind our success.
MON: What is your perception of the current US missile defence sector, especially in terms of opportunities — for non-US and companies in your sector — to support?
PDR: With the new Missile Defense Review, the scope of missile defence has increased dramatically; and missile defence is definitely here to stay. Of course, the bulk of what is needed will be contracted through US companies, as it is a strategic resource to the US, but there will be a need for providers of highly specialised niche technologies. At Weibel, we can close the gaps in the US BMD system by complementing the larger and necessary systems with less costly gap-fillers, based on technology that is known to do the job and has been in service with US forces for more than 20 years. It makes sense to reduce the spending in some areas of the US missile defence, in order to free funding, for example, for the expansion of the space layer.
MON: Where will delegates find Weibel products, services and support in the US defence market space?
PDR: Starting from the non-operational realm, we continuously deliver new and improved radars for the US test ranges and development programmes. Technologies such as phased array and multi-beam tracking are new in this area, and will change the ways tests can be conducted and what can be achieved.
We will keep delivering muzzle velocity radars for the US inventory of PALADINs, M119, M777 howitzers and naval guns – and even the M1299 in the future.
Furthermore, we have been working with Mandus Group on the HAWKEYE and BRUTUS lightweight and mobile artillery systems. Finally, the Danish Army’s choice of installing our muzzle velocity radar on their new heavy mortar system opens a new market segment for us.
At a strategic level, our radars for BMD are expected to make a remarkable entry – in US and in the European market to bolster the European Phased Adaptive Approach, to increase flexibility, and to relieve and reinforce some of the US assets.
MON: What should our readers be attentive to from Weibel into early 2020 – new markets, agreements, products, etc.?
PRP: MON readers should keep their eyes locked on GBIDS – this is definitely an area where we have great expectations. Further, our development of radars for counter-drone operations and low-level air defence will soon manifest with new system types capable of detecting and tracking drones at long ranges with very high precision.
MON: Thank you for taking time to speak with MON. Finally, have you anything else to add?
PRP: It is always a pleasure to meet with you. We hope that everybody will stop by our booth at SMDS – we will be happy to explain more about what we can provide. And if not at SMDS, we will also be present at MAST in Copenhagen and DSEI in London in the near future!