ESD: Weibel is a vertically integrated company, how has this helped it stay on course during COVID19 restrictions?
Pedersen: We believe in having full control over all core processes, from development to production, because quality and reliability are extremely important values in our industry. Being largely independent of external suppliers in this way has no doubt been an advantage during the COVID-19 crisis.
It meant that we were able to react very fast. This helped us anticipate and handle any potential challenges even before they arose – whilst ensuring the safety of our employees. In many ways, our response to the health crisis has been stricter than official government guidelines.
All employees not working in production have worked from home and all meetings have been conducted via Skype. To guarantee the safety of our employees working on-site, we divided our production area into 10 zones in 5 different buildings. The zones were completely disconnected, with no physical contact between the zones at all.
This has been a radical change for us, but we have also experienced significant benefits from new digital tools. Our production has been running at full speed during the entire lockdown period, and in some areas, we have even managed to become more productive than before the crisis.
ESD: Many companies are entering the counter-drone market as they pose increasing dangers and disruptions, what is your view on this threat?
Pedersen: The threat is real – in the past five years, there have been numerous examples all over the globe emphasising that drones and UASs are major threats to the security of ground forces as well as military and civilian installations.
It does not require much effort from insurgents to acquire and adapt commercial assets to pose a threat. Government officials, refineries, and airports have been attacked or “under siege”, and I think we have only seen the beginning. Furthermore, the emergence of 5G networks means that the threats become even more difficult to counter. We need to get inside the OODA-loop and speed up development, test, certification, and deployment to get that critical edge, as well as get better at using existing technologies in novel ways.
ESD: Where do you see new growth for Weibel in the coming 18 months?
Pedersen: We have just launched a new 2025 strategy for Weibel, a very ambitious growth strategy. We have managed to grow by nearly 100 percent over the past 5 years, so we are confident that we know what it takes. A key focus area for Weibel is the instrumentation market. We want to continue to be a key player in the global market, recognised for our best-in-class technology, quality, and user-friendly systems.
In the Ballistic Missile Defense market, our long-range tracking radars are already widely recognized and used by the US Navy and NASA. Weibel’s unique technology increases the chances of early discrimination and enables very precise tracking at long ranges. This is optimal for closing gaps in Ballistic Missile Defense, both in Europe and around the world.
Furthermore, we are investing significantly in building a position in infrastructure protection and SHORAD markets with our state-of-the-art technology.
ESD: How has Weibel improved its customers’ tracking abilities?
Pedersen: Weibel has always been at the forefront when it comes to developing and fine-tuning our radars’ capabilities. We constantly adapt our products to emerging needs and desires from our customers so they can maintain supremacy in their respective fields. We have expanded our R&D department significantly over the past years and can now provide technologies like multi-beam phased array tracking and processing and enhanced classification of target sets. We have also focused on reducing weight and size for lighter and more deployable solutions in the test ranges as well as in the battlefields.
We have worked intensely on both the software and signal processing side, on the user interface and on our hardware to make the highly advanced systems more user-friendly and easier to integrate with elements from partners all over the world.
ESD: Where does Weibel see improvements in TSPI technologies and applications?
Pedersen: Generally, we see a need to measure over long ranges with greater accuracy, and this need is met with our newest instrumentation radars.
We see a clear spin-off from the test domain to the tactical domain, but also vice versa. We have excelled in taking capabilities from one domain and implementing it in other domains to gain a critical edge.
The development and use of new technologies and assets also means that you must use existing technologies in a new way, merging the best of both worlds to the benefit of both the instrumentation domain, but also the military and security domain.
ESD: What are the advantages of being able to operate in transponder mode for today’s air defence strategies?
Pedersen: Transponders have one overarching advantage: they enable the user to separate friendly forces from hostile forces. With the increase in asymmetric threats and threats that act inside the civil domain, security forces need the support from IFF transponders and identifiers in their decision making. IFF transponders and identifiers make the threats easier to detect and identify, and thus improve the foundation for potential kinetic or non-kinetic responses to a hostile actor at the same time as limiting the risk of collateral damage.
ESD: Why is the X-band frequency highly suitable for today’s advanced ground-based ballistic missile defence systems? – Is Gap Filling Tracking Radar still relevant after more than 20 years of tracking LRBMs?
Pedersen: First, our X-band technology has been used to track warheads for more than 20 years – that gives us an almost unprecedented experience in the field. Secondly, the developments through the 20-year time frame have improved our capabilities in this area significantly. And since many of the existing systems operate in L and S-band, utilizing a Doppler based X-band radar will help diversify the sensor network and make it more resilient to counter measures and even saturation.
The unique X-band technology that we and our partners bring to the table increases the chances of early discrimination and enables very precise tracking at long ranges. It is an off-the-shelf technology perfect for closing gaps in Ballistic Missile Defence.
In the pace that the threat evolves today, it is not only a question of developing new technologies, but also of finding ways to implement existing sensor types from other domains to form new capabilities that can keep allied forces at the forefront and help protect our populations from hostile intent.