Double the stakeholders
A defense contractor works with the air forces of two nations to deliver a fleet of cutting-edge aircraft and pilots trained to fly them.
BY MICHELLE BOWLES • PHOTOS BY STAN KAADY
from left, Abhay Paranjape and Peter Simmons, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Marietta, Georgia, USA
a state-of-the-art military aircraft so massive and powerful it's named the Super Hercules after the legendary strongman of Roman myth. It flies as effectively in the darkest night as it does during the day, operates in high and low altitudes, and can navigate through treacherous mountain terrain.
Did we mention it can drop paratroopers into combat with precision, engage in air-to-air refueling, and track the direction and force of hurricanes?
What sounds like the far-fetched plot of a futuristic war movie is a reality for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The military branch partnered with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the massive global defense and aeronautics company Lockheed Martin to design and build a fleet of six C-130J Super Hercules planes, the world's most advanced tactical airlifters.
“India, like other countries, looked at the C-130J not as a single aircraft to do a single mission, but as a multirole aircraft to do multiple missions,” says Peter Simmons, communications manager, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Marietta, Georgia, USA. “There is no other aircraft that can do everything the C-130J can.”
The high-stakes project is as multi-faceted and complex as the aircraft itself. The team not only had to deliver the vessels themselves, but also support systems, sustainment solutions—such as spare parts, spare warehousing, test equipment and heavy maintenance equipment— and training as well. In addition, because the IAF wanted to ensure ongoing support after the aircraft are delivered, Lockheed Martin will provide personnel at the New Delhi, India base for a minimum of three years.
“There's even a portion to have infrastructure built at the IAF base,” says Abhay Paranjape, director, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Marietta, Georgia, USA.
The IAF and USAF signed an initial agreement to work together on the project. Several months later, in March 2008, they tasked Lockheed Martin to deliver services and aircraft to the USAF, which in turn would hand over deliverables to the IAF.
That meant Lockheed Martin would constantly need to satisfy the demands of two high-profile stakeholder groups, says Mr. Paranjape, who serves as project manager on the initiative.
“The U.S. Air Force approves our designs and configurations, and accepts aircraft delivery on behalf of the IAF,” he says. “Lockheed Martin will be providing the training for the IAF, but the contracting and approvals are through the U.S. Air Force. They are like a management agency, if you will.”
TIP When working with international teams, visa approvals and major time differences can end up being bigger headaches than anticipated, says Abhay Paranjape, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Marietta, Georgia, USA.
Project teams must embrace flexibility.
“We've had to change in-person meeting dates at the last minute because we couldn't get the key people here on time,” he says.
Because New Delhi is 10.5 hours ahead of Georgia, project team members on the West Coast of the United States had to wake up at 6 a.m. for teleconferences.
“But we've worked with international customers over the years,” Mr. Paranjape says. “We adjust ourselves to the customer. It's part of our culture.”
COURTESY OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE
For Lockheed Martin, this type of three-way relationship isn't typical. “With the C-130, we've done a lot of direct commercial sales where we've sold directly to agencies,” Mr. Paranjape says. “But in this case, the two nations wanted to build collaboration. The two air forces are doing a lot of sharing of resources and information to develop C-130 capabilities.”
To satisfy the demands of the diverse groups and facilitate collaboration between the two nations, the Lockheed Martin project team first set out to identify commonalities.
“Both groups wanted to have special-ops capability delivered as quickly as possible at the lowest cost and as efficiently as possible,” Mr. Paranjape says. “We are all working toward that common goal.”
Constant communication has been essential to ensuring the three groups stay in sync. Lockheed Martin appointed a project team to work in India with the IAF and another to work in Washington, D.C., USA with the USAF.
Throughout the project, all parties involved have participated in twice-weekly teleconferences. During peak times, those status calls increase to daily.
For the more complex aspects of the training, some project team members from New Delhi colocated at Lockheed Martin's headquarters. “Currently we have several lAF personnel here in Marietta undergoing training to understand how the C-130 works, how it's accepted and how it will be handed over,” Mr. Paranjape says. “So interactions with both sets of stakeholders are on a daily basis.”
The communication process was complicated by IAF security restrictions. “Video conferences and teleconferences haven't been as feasible as we hoped because they're limited for security reasons,” says Mr. Paranjape, adding that face-to-face meetings held every month or so have become established procedure.
The project's end goals are to meet the IAF’s demands. “They are the customer, and the U.S. Air Force is acting as their agent,” he says. “We have to make sure we are working with the U.S. Air Force in managing the project efficiently and effectively, but remember that the ultimate customer is the IAF, and they are going to be the one to draw up the requirements.”
Although 14 other countries have previously ordered or currently operate C-130Js, the project is India's first experience with the digitally integrated aircraft, Mr. Paranjape points out.
“The IAF didn't understand the process of working through the U.S. government or Lockheed Martin's foreign military sales process,” he says. “And Lockheed Martin had to realize that this was the first aircraft India has bought from the United States in decades. So we didn't have a good understanding of IAF requirements, procedures and processes,” he says.
Bridging these gaps necessitated a rigorous initial requirements review. “Requirements were set very precisely: The system shall do this or shall do that, or it will not do this,” Mr. Paranjape explains. Additionally, the top-level system requirements were broken down into subsystem-level requirements. Lockheed Martin project team members traveled to New Delhi to conduct a weeklong review of those sub-level requirements with IAF system engineers.
“We went over things like, ‘If you have a requirement for take-off speed, how does that translate to engine power?'” Mr. Paranjape says. “We broke down the requirements at a clear level up front, and got those signed off by chief engineers and project managers at all three organizations.”
SAVE ROOM FOR THE UNEXPECTED
As with any complex project, the ability to prepare for the unexpected proved crucial.
“Right from the beginning, we made sure that, because this is a special-ops project with unique systems and capabilities, we planned ahead of time and left margin for those unknowns that crop up,” Mr. Paranjape says.
In that regard, earned value management (EVM) played a key role. With EVM, the project team dissected the work breakdown structure and organizational breakdown structure, all the way to the sub-integrated product team level, he says. These were given a specific path and budget to be monitored weekly.
“Schedule performance index and cost performance index are also monitored on a weekly basis at the highest level,” Mr. Paranjape says. “Then on a monthly basis, we go down to the sub-integrated product level to see which teams are performing above or below the goal lines.”
Mr. Paranjape points out that while EVM is typically a backward-looking indicator, rather than a leading indicator, by regularly reviewing performance, it can serve as an accurate portrait of what's to come. “If one person is falling behind, you can find out why and fix the issue so it doesn't cause a major problem down the road,” he says.
Of course, all surprises can't be avoided, no matter how well they are anticipated.
For example, the snowstorms that paralyzed the southern United States for more than a week in January 2010 drove home the need to think quickly and remain flexible.
“Immediately when the storms hit, we looked at our integrated master schedule and had a teleconference with the U.S. Air Force and IAF to see what adjustments could be made without impacting the last delivery date,” Mr. Paranjape says.
Flight training clearly was affected by the weather, so the project team turned to alternate assets, including labs and simulators.
In the end, the project team completed the herculean task of delivering its first aircraft in December 2010—two months ahead of schedule. PM
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