Jim Taiclet has a vision. He believes the Pentagon should start electronically connecting its most important weapons as part of a broader strategy to link everything on the battlefield. As part of this vision, the Lockheed Martin CEO believes business organizations should help write the technical standards for the Pentagon’s effort in a similar way that private industry did with mobile phone standards in the 1990s, ultimately laying the foundation for the current generation of commercial wireless.
“There’s a lot of ways to get there, but I think the only feasible way is to literally start connecting individual platforms together within a technology roadmap, that plans for (…) the best combinations of existing and new platforms to create a network effect and thereby, greater returns, capability, and also greater effectiveness, if deterrence is not successful,” Taiclet told U.S. national security and defense journal Defense One in July.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed off on the Pentagon’s connect-everything strategy, known as Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, although but the document itself is classified. In the meantime, Lockheed has created its own, classified roadmap for digitally connecting its weapons to one another under the moniker 5G.mil.
“I really want to drive our 5G.mil architecture,” Taiclet told Defense One. “That architecture is going to be open [so] others can tie on to it, but I think since we have really strong platform positions with all the services and all the domains, Lockheed Martin can be a real pathfinder for the industry here.”
Lockheed Martin Corporation is an American aerospace, arms, defense, information security, and technology company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995 and is headquartered in North Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C., area. It is one of the world’s largest defense contractors by revenue and frequently tops the list of U.S. federal government contractors. In 2020, Lockheed Martin reported revenues of $65.4 billion.
A DISTINGUISHED CAREER
James “Jim” Taiclet has been President, Chairman, and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation since March 2021, after joining the company as president and CEO in June 2020. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, he was President, Chairman, and CEO of American Tower Corporation, the fourth largest listed telecommunications company in the U.S. Under his leadership, the company’s market capitalization grew from approximately $2 billion to over $100 billion as he guided its transformation from a primarily U.S.-based business to the only truly global player in its industry.
Prior to joining American Tower, Taiclet served as president of Allied Signal, subsequently Honeywell Aerospace Services, conducting worldwide aircraft engine and component overhaul and repair, parts sales and distribution, space operations, and technical services. Prior to that he served as vice president, Engine Services at Pratt & Whitney, responsible for both military and commercial jet engine overhaul and repair.
In many ways, the issue of national defense is in Taiclet’s blood. He began his career as a U.S. Air Force officer and pilot, where he logged over 5,000 flying hours as an aircraft commander, instructor pilot, and unit chief of Standardization and Evaluation. His rotational assignments included the Joint Staff and Air Staff at the Pentagon, and he served in the Gulf War and among other missions, was a pilot in one of the first transport aircraft deploying U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, a Lockheed C-141B Starlifter.
With a master’s degree from Princeton University, where he was awarded a fellowship at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Taiclet is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Business Roundtable, and the Business Council. He serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Aerospace Industries Association, the Board of Trustees of Brigham and Women’s Health Care, Inc., and the Board of Directors of Catalyst.
In August 2015, he was appointed to the U.S.-India CEO Forum, and, in October 2018, he was appointed co-chair of the U.S.-India CEO Forum by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
A ROADMAP FOR THE FUTURE
Upon taking over at Lockheed in May, Taiclet made connecting weapons with 5G technology one of his top priorities. It’s a big shift for a company long known for its combat jet fighters and cargo planes, yet one that he wholly embraces as national security and technology increasingly intersect.
The classified roadmap laid out by Defense Secretary Austin “demonstrates that you can create network effects incrementally over time, using a common open architecture. And I want to demonstrate [that] by the end of my second year at Lockheed Martin was actually doing [that],” Taiclet has said.
He points to Project Hydra, an effort that connected F-22 and F-35 fighter jets using a high-flying U-2 spy plane as a digital communications relay. Lockheed built all three planes, but bespoke military specs prevented the aircraft from electronically sharing data with one another.
“It was one of a number of demonstrations we’ve done on live exercises with customers, but it’s just the beginning of that product technology roadmap, where we start backward integrating existing platforms, and then forward innovating new ones that come along,” Taiclet explained.
In total, Lockheed itself has prioritized 14 “key technologies” across six military mission areas where it plans to make investments in terms of advanced communications and 5G.
Under Taiclet’s leadership, Lockheed has also formed new partnerships with commercial companies, such as wireless giant Qualcomm, and is working with startup Omnispace to deliver 5G signals to Earth from satellites. In May, the company signed a deal with General Motors to develop a new lunar rover for astronauts to drive around the Moon, while they are also planning the $4.4 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne pending approval from the Federal Trade Commission.
5G AS FUNDAMENTAL
Taiclet has said he sees the use of 5G technology as fundamental for everything from connecting weaponry to strengthening the autonomous capabilities of military vehicles. “In some ways, the military application of 5G is simpler than the commercial application,” he told Reuters in May. “We’re trying to make the programs and platforms better, and make them distinctively better versus our peer groups by getting out in front of the networking side of this much more quickly.”
Yet Taiclet faces two early tests in his new role at Lockheed. First, the Pentagon is considering cuts to the F-35 stealth fighter, a project that accounts for about one quarter of the company’s $60-plus billion in annual revenue. Military officials are concerned about the long-term costs of the plane and top Air Force generals are already focusing on a new generation of warplanes, even though they say the F-35 will be the cornerstone of the fleet.
“His executive leadership team will continue driving sustained success through sound business strategy, strong customer relationships and deep mission focus,” Hewson commented on Taiclet’s recent appointment. “I am proud to continue to support Jim and the important mission of Lockheed Martin as we deliver innovative, affordable, and leading-edge solutions for our customers.”
By Anthony Moran