Pulse news magazine

Volume 19, May 2017

A united division

F-15 in flight
Electronic Systems teams with Saab to meet the U.S. Air Force’s advanced countermeasure requirements for the F‑15 and beyond.

They are separated by more than 5,000 miles, six time zones, and one massive body of salt water. One team resides in a land of historic Viking lore. The other in a place once part of America’s last wild frontier.

While history doesn’t link the two together, the BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems’ Austin Business Center and Saab have found common ground in protecting the warfighter.

Through a teaming agreement, both companies work hand-in-hand to manufacture and retrofit the AN/ALE‑58 Countermeasure Dispenser System for the U.S. Air Force F‑15 aircraft. What’s unconventional is the work split—with Saab manufacturing the product and BAE Systems performing the retrofit.

“This isn’t something we [BAE Systems] do on a normal basis; it’s almost a square peg in a round hole,” said Kevin Keilers, program manager for AN/ALE‑58. “We see ourselves as an engineering company, and this is the complete reverse of that.”

In December, Robins Air Force Base awarded the Survivability, Targeting, and Sensing Solutions (STS) business a $15.3 million contract to retrofit 242 existing AN/ALE-58 systems to make them compatible with the Air National Guard’s F‑15C aircraft. The new contract represented the latest milestone in a long line of success for a program that was born in 1994.

Prior to the inception of the program, Saab explored independent opportunities to provide the U.S. military with its countermeasures technology. Those attempts proved to be cumbersome, and Saab was encouraged to find a partner in the United States. That’s when Saab reached out to BAE Systems for help. With its legacy in countermeasures, it was a perfect match.

“They struggled to do business with the U.S. government, and we had those inroads,” said Dan Gilbert, business development manager. “They came to us because we are recognized as the United States countermeasures dispenser house.”

Together, the companies have kept that legacy in motion with discriminating countermeasure capabilities for the U.S. market.

“It’s been a great business model and because of that, we’ve had a long and positive working relationship,” said Keilers. “In the end, this is one more opportunity to bring self-protection to the warfighter.”

Aside from a unique business model, both teams have a strong working relationship built on a foundation of trust. Not to say things don’t stand in the way, as working with a foreign company presents export regulations and restrictions—but the experience and creativity of the BAE Systems program team has been a boon.

“It’s pretty challenging, but everyone is motivated around the same goals.” said Doug Kierklewski, subcontracts manager for the program. “That’s what makes it fun and challenging all in the same.”

Looking ahead, the team has its sights set on integrating its advanced countermeasures dispenser systems on other variants of the F‑15 as well as the F‑35. One thing is for sure; they have the right team for the job.

“This team has persevered and evolved through the years,” said Keilers. “That’s why to say we have a good team is an understatement—this is a great team.”

By Anthony DeAngelis, Communications, Merrimack, New Hampshire