Reports state that the planned expenditure by the UK Ministry of Defence on equipment and support up to 2026 is £178bn. A staggering figure alone but one that is dwarfed by the US current federal budget for FY2018 of $3.9 trillion.
To benefit from some of this business, it is essential to learn how the defence supply chain works, as every country is different.
In the UK, the MoD consists of government defence departments whose typical method is to use prime contractors to fulfil orders, often on a mission-by-mission basis, ensuring soldiers are fully equipped for the entire programme. The prime contractor may then look to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to supply them with the products and services required to fulfil these orders, although they could look for off-the-shelf alternatives. Usually, the only time the government will approach OEMs or other suppliers directly is when an urgent operational requirement (UOR) develops; for instance, if troops need to be deployed suddenly or existing equipment is destroyed during an operation.
For both prime contractor and direct to OEM options, each component used in military equipment is expected to be properly certified to military regulations and reliable in mission critical situations. That is the same in the United States and, to that end, Ultralife Corporation (who manufacture batteries in Newark, New York) has introduced the UBI-2590 MGPP line-up of off-the-shelf military batteries that have been certified to the latest MIL-PRF-32383/3(CR) U.S. Military Performance Specification. Therefore, prime contractors in the U.S. can quickly integrate these batteries into their equipment to speed up the delivery time.
Passing the baton
Another shared aspect between UK and US military are the time pressures passed from the military to prime contractors (also called defense or security contractors) who are then reliant on sub-contractors to fulfil the project brief in a timely manner, whilst ensuring the quality, safety and reliability of the product. As experts in their field, sub-contractors may take additional precautions to ensure these high standards.
For example, a battery manufacturer would be aware of the extreme temperature differences between the climates in which soldiers could be asked to operate. In the development of the battery, it would be tested to ensure it can withstand conditions from the hottest desert to the coldest Arctic frost.
In addition to temperature, the ergonomic impact on the solider would be considered, for instance reducing the amount of weight. The modern trend is for smaller and lighter devices that can still deliver the required power. This is where choosing an experienced manufacturer and involving them from the design process through to the product launch can be invaluable.
Once the product has been launched, that is often the beginning of the road, as value propositions are likely to occur during the product lifecycle. This is especially true with technology, where new discoveries are continually happening. For essential components like batteries, the military will want to stay at the forefront of innovation.
Both Ultralife Corporation and Accutronics Ltd have extensive in-house research and development (R&D) facilities that forge the development of cutting edge battery technology. Additionally, both companies offer aftermarket technical and engineering support to prime contractors throughout the years of series production.
This avoids having products that need repairing or replacing that can no longer be maintained by the original supplier.
With the UK and US military spending billions and trillions on new military devices every year, OEMs will want to ensure the provision of a quality product that utilises the latest technology.