Friday, May 29, 2020

Question & Answer with the CEO of EOS Defense Systems USA

Thanks to good friends in Australia, Elizabeth in Public Relations with EOS USA and the faithful here at SNAFU! Blog, we were able to talk to the CEO of a company that I consider to be a world leader in the design, development and integration of remote weapon stations.

Today we get a Question & Answer with the CEO of EOS Defense Systems USA, Brigadier General (Ret) Phil Coker.

Note.  SNAFU! Blog questions will be in bold black print, General Coker's responses will be in scarlet.

I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions from SNAFU! Blog and my readers.
Thanks for the questions and for your willingness to engage with us.  We value this opportunity.  I want to apologize up front – I am an armchair historian and a trained analyst (a dangerous combination), so I have a tendency to get long winded.  I will try to fight that, but I risk leaving out a logic leap I may have made.  Therefore, if you have questions about anything, please get back to me.
You're a retired Army General.  Word on the street says that you can practically pick the organization you want to attach to.  What led you to EOS?  
How kind of you!  You could have said “Why is an incredibly old guy like you still messing around in the defense business???” but you chose to word it much more gently.  I sincerely appreciate it!  
The bottom line up front:  I joined EOS because I believe in the systems we make, the people who make them and I strongly believe the armed forces of our country need our products.  If I didn’t, I would not be here.

I have written a MUCH longer answer and attached it to this, but wanted to give you a quick response.

I'm a huge fan of your products.  What challenges are you facing "getting the word out" about your offerings?
In the past it was important to be able to shoot area-fire weapons remotely.  There were significant numbers of Soldiers and Marines dying from vehicle rollovers or enemy fire while manning an automatic weapon on the top of an armored tracked or wheeled vehicle.  Getting them out of a turret and still offering the vehicle the ability to employ weapons effectively was critical.  So the US fielded CROWS (and it saved a lot of lives).

 The world has, however, changed.  It isn’t enough to be able to “spray and pray”.  Now, our forces not only need to be able to shoot, but they have to be able to apply effects precisely and at long range.  Not only do they need to be able to hit targets at long range rather than simply suppress them, but they have to have the capacity to see out to the full range of their weapons in both full and low-light conditions.  (EOS systems do that.)

The challenge is that we have generations of Soldiers and Marines for whom the old solution was adequate and who are not aware that there are so many more capabilities that are in the new generation of RWS.  Moreover, they are unaware of the many new capabilities that can be easily added.  Many of them will see an RWS and say “Yep!  I know what that is and what it does.”  Our challenge is effectively communicating the needs of the future and how the opportunities that our systems offer are key to meeting those needs.
Many are interested in your T2000.  Any thoughts on the possibility of upsizing it to accommodate a 50mm gun? 

We are looking at options to offer a range of lethality options for the T2000 and would like to incorporate a 50mm cannon.  We have approached Northrop Grumman about their Bushmaster III chain gun and will assess the feasibility of mounting this in the T200 as the system requirements become clearer.
The secret sauce of your lineup (at least in my mind) is the modularity and adaptability.  Speaking of specifically the USMC and the US military in general what do you think sets your systems apart from the competition? 
We really stand out in 3 areas - precision, modularity/flexibility and sensors. 
Precision:  Our systems have multiple ways to address the inevitable inaccuracies induced by weapons, ammo and platform characteristics.  We can tune the RWS to optimize the performance of a weapon to the point that it fires better from our mount than it will when mounted on a concrete block.  As an example; we can cause an XM914 cannon to deliver the 30x113mm HEDP round within a 1 meter radius circle at 1km, and a 2m radius circle at 2km, and we can do it firing from the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser pickup truck.  On the move.  We have repeatedly shot this cannon from the R400 against moving Class 1 UAVs and achieved target kills beyond 350m.  Our systems deliver more than accuracy – they deliver precision.
Modularity/Flexibility:  The RWS we make can accommodate a wide range of weapons.  Not only that, they can be quickly adapted to accept new weapons (for example; the new Army/SOF .338 machine gun).   This allows a system to meet the current needs of a unit, but the same system can grow as the situation evolves and still deliver the advantage that our forces require to fight outnumbered and win.
Sensors:  The sensor system can detect a vehicle sized target beyond 12km, can tell what type of vehicle it is (tank/truck/bus) beyond 5km and can determine what model of vehicle at over 4km, and can do it under all lighting conditions.  This is critical when the system mounts a Javelin missile that is very lethal out to 4+ kilometers – we have repeatedly proven how dangerous it is to be able to shoot farther than you can see.
Can you give a bit of insight into what it takes to gain the interest of a service, and then have that interest translate into a purchase?  For many of my readers (and me) it seems almost like a bit of voodoo mixed with gamblers luck. How do you take a superior product at a reasonable price and get that product sold to the different services? 
 It often looks like voodoo to me, too!  I think it was the great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky who suggested the best approach is not to skate to where the puck is, but rather where it’s going to be.  The same seems true in this business; it isn’t enough to have the best product, that product has to be one that the Services have both the need and the opportunity to buy.   You have to anticipate the need, shape the situation to where the need is recognized and help the funding get allocated (or hope that it will be available).  Coordinating all that is flat hard to do. 
For EOS, we have to ensure our systems anticipate the direction the market will go in 5-8 years and begin to develop the capabilities that will give our customers an advantage.  That means not only continuously improving the capabilities that we have now (like laser range finders and sights) but also adding capabilities that will solve the gaps of the future.  Adding the 30x113mm cannon to the R400 is a great example of trying to solve a future gap – EOS started work to integrate that cannon into that RWS more than 8 years ago, well before the Services were interested in having the option of employing that weapon.  That gave us time to shape the system iteratively so the capabilities of the gun are maximized.  It is not difficult to mount a 30mm cannon on an RWS.  It is quite difficult to make it shoot beyond 2km precisely.  That is skating to where the puck is going to be.
 Where is EOS Defense Systems USA today and where do you see it going into the future? 
EOS Defense Systems USA is beginning the production of the R400 in Huntsville, AL this month.  We have 60 employees, an 80,000 sq ft facility and a workforce that has been training and preparing to begin production for a year.  We are also conducting the first stages of the process necessary to let us ultimately produce EOS’s largest RWS, the R800.  In addition to our production team we have a full engineering group in Huntsville and are actively designing system improvements. 
I expect we will begin to sell into the US market shortly, and that the increasing requirement for precise, lightweight, proven and relatively inexpensive systems will continue to expand and that will cause us to support many more customers across all the Services.   
 The R400 seems like a game changer.  How is it doing as far as sales to the DoD? 

The team in EOSDS USA has been working to sell the R400S Mk2 in the US for a little over 2 years.  We have had good opportunities to show the system to the Army and Marines during that period and we believe we are very close to being selected for programs in either or both Services.  We are in the process of selling systems to the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center now and in February completed a very successful firing evaluation with the program Office executing the Containerized Weapons System project.  SOCOM?  We have only recently discovered that Special Operations Forces have requirements that can be very capably addressed by 30x113mm cannon.  Prior to COVID-19 hitting we were invited by SOCOM to demonstrate the R400 on a light vehicle to one of their international partners.  They have indicated they will reenergize that effort as soon as the situation with the virus allows.
 Any chance EOS might venture into naval systems? 
EOS has developed and sold naval systems in the past.  We are currently selling a marinized version of the R400S Mk2 in the Middle East for installation on patrol boats.  We have done a series of assessments and provided information to the US Navy suggesting that we can marinize our heavier products to meet C-UAS and close-in support missions for Navy shipping.  It is an area where we can offer the same mix of precision, flexibility and exceptional sensors to naval customers, and we certainly hope to be able to get into that part of the market.
 Grey Forest:  What is the possibility of adding the CTA 40mm to the T2000 turret with the different feed system? 
  As you likely know, the CTA cannon offers some great advantages, but it comes with a few challenges.  It appears that CTAI has done quite a good job of flexibly designing feed systems to support specific applications, and there is high likelihood that their innovative approach would allow the 40mm CTC to be mounted.  Recently, much of the focus for the US market has been for turrets with a 50mm solution, which has reduced demand for smaller systems.  I am not aware that there has, to date, been any requirement for a 40mm turret by the other members of the NATO/5 Eyes community, but we will certainly investigate that option if one develops.
Mighty Zuk:  Can they and are they going to market their line of heavier, bigger caliber turrets (30-50mm) specifically or is it threatened by Elbit’s traditional partnerships with other companies?
 T2000 is a collaboration between EOS Defence Systems (our Australian parent company) and Elbit Systems - Land.  It’s primarily intended for the Australian and existing EOS markets.  It combines the mechanical design of the Elbit MT30 MkII with sensors and fire control systems from EOS.   
EOS focuses its R&D effort on perfecting the concept of the Remote Weapon Station (RWS).  We believe that the ever increasing demand for greater firepower and lower weight means that the RWS is the future of vehicle mounted lethality systems and the EOS aim is to provide the lightest and most accurate weapon systems in each lethality class.  
Our range of weapon stations has been very successful achieving this aim. However, the Australian Army required a manned turret.  The Elbit MT30 MkII sits at the very top of the medium calibre manned turret food chain and, frankly, we couldn’t see any way to improve on that design.  Its tightly integrated Iron Fist APS, missile launcher and ancillary sensors are as good as it gets for manned turrets design.  So, rather than try to re-invent the wheel, EOS partnered with Elbit to combine the MT30 MkII mechanical design with the Australian made sensors and fire control systems. 
There are a number of exiting EOS customers who are looking for manned, medium calibre turrets.  In those markets the T2000 Is a great option due to its excellent design along with sensor, software and user interface commonality with other EOS systems.  
For the customers out there who want the ultimate medium calibre lethality systems, please give us a call.  We have a few things up our sleeve that will change your perspective on how much firepower and precision can be delivered in a lightweight lethality package.  
 Jagigen:  How is his vision of the future battlefield?  Smart systems to outwit defenses or simply saturate them numerically? 
Big question.  This reminds me of the old joke about the Sociology examination at the United States Military Academy.  It went: “Discuss the impact on philosophy, religion and science of the end of the world.  Be specific and cite examples.  Build a model to test your results.”  I’ll give it a quick shot.  I believe that we are coming to an age where technology will allow the dominance of maneuver over defense for some period (I think it was last dominant in the 1940s.)  Smart systems will allow both protection of a maneuvering force while permitting some of the traditional advantages of the defense (e.g., interior lines, battlefield shaping) to be provided to the moving element.  I believe precision will be a key element of that state.  Numerical advantage will have less value than when the Comte de Bussy-Ragutin said “God is usually on the side of the big Squadrons…”  Mass may, in fact, come to be a bit of a disadvantage. 
Will EW be a constant factor or is it overhyped?  
I don’t think EW is at all overhyped, and I think the relatively recent Russian successes on their borders demonstrate the criticality of fighting successfully in that domain.  It is not the dominant capability, but (speaking as an old Cavalry guy) it is likely to be in the same category we used to put Artillery – “You can do everything right and do Artillery wrong, and still lose.  You can do almost everything else wrong, and do Artillery right, and you have a chance of winning.”  EW seems to be in that category.
The much longer answer to my question of why General Coker chose EOS Defense Systems USA.
 When I retired from the Army, I joined the Defense Industry because I still wanted to contribute to the ability of our Nation to defend itself (it has been the “family business” for 3 generations – either my father, my son or I were in the Army from 1943 to 2006).  I had a great opportunity to do that for about 10 years in one of the major defense companies, working with good people to produce command posts, C4 components and robots for elements of all the Services.  It was important work, but we were providing capabilities that other companies could have produced and delivered.  Also, the systems we were delivering were, for the most part, providing capabilities in areas where US and Allied forces are already dominant. 
I can’t prove it empirically, but I believe the greatest risk to a nation’s ability to win on a battlefield is based not on what it’s armed forces do well now, but instead on how well those organizations understand what it is the future conditions of combat will cause them to do badly, and how they must change to correct it.  The key is to understand where you will be critically behind and to take steps to correct that shortfall before they become fatal.  Historically, Armies have done that by re-organizing, by changing tactics or by introducing new hardware.  The first two are much cheaper, faster and easier to do (and, in some cases more effective).  These two approaches are, however, solution sets that are difficult to influence from outside the Services – they have both philosophical and cultural elements and armies are much less receptive when old grey-bearded generals try to tell them how to suck eggs.  At the same time, it is easier to concentrate on advancements in technology across the world and identify potential material shortfalls – this is something that the great members of the ground forces of our country may not have the time or the breadth of experience to do. 
About 5 years ago I started to look at our ground forces (that is the environment with which I am most familiar) and where the potential future gaps exist.  For the last 20 years the United States has been embroiled in a difficult and demanding fight against insurgents and asymmetric opponents.  These are dangerous and resilient opponents who adapt continuously at the tactical level.  They do not, in most cases, present a credible threat of tactical defeat of our ground forces.   Our Army, Marines and Special Forces are absolutely unmatched in their ability counter these types of opponents and they have organized, trained, innovated and equipped to win these battles.
 As I tried to identify the biggest set of gaps we face in our tactical ground forces, it seemed that many of the equipping and organizational decisions our Nation had been making over the past years were oriented toward winning the asymmetric fight.  That optimization was very necessary (there isn’t enough money to do everything well), but that optimization itself, of course, represents a risk.  As a result of our focus on asymmetric threats, our forces were not preparing for a near-peer challenge.  This is something that all our Services, to their credit, have lately come to recognize, and they are taking effective steps to refocus to provide the capacity to prevail in fights against a near-peer.  They are, as best I can tell, making great strides, but there is much work to do here.
 There is one specific shortfall that stood out to me – while we were elsewhere engaged over the last 2 decades, our potential competitors have leveraged cheap but relatively effective systems to change the calculus of the mounted tactical battle in their favor.  Around the world, until 2001, most light to medium armored vehicles (both IFV and recon systems) were armed with a .50 caliber or 2.75mm machine guns.  Since 2000, both the Russians and Chinese have been fielding large numbers of vehicles armed with 30mm cannons.  They are not terribly accurate, but they have a very high rate of fire and they have collectively fielded more than 2,000 vehicles with these guns onboard.  They have also been selling them frantically to their partners/vassals around the world.  The result is that almost 25% of the populated landmass of the world is occupied by countries that have these systems, and many of them are on our list of peoples who wish us ill.
 Most of our light and medium armored vehicles, both wheeled and tracked, still rely on the venerable .50cal M2 machine gun, and a few on the 25mm cannon. These are great weapons, but they lack the range, penetration, explosive power and fusing capability of 30mm rounds.  Our forces are at a significant disadvantage, and this disadvantage is likely to play out at a critical time.  US forces never play a home game – we almost always deploy to the fight.  This means there is a premium placed on small light systems in the very early part of any deployment, and these are exactly the kinds of vehicles we habitually arm with the M2 .50 cal MG.   Sadly, that won’t work any more.
 The R400 is the only in-production system that can mount a 30mm M230LF/XM914 cannon, be integrated on a light vehicle and deploy in huge numbers during the early stage of a fight.  With the Javelin mounted, it can deal with almost every maneuver target on the battlefield of today, and this advantage is likely to remain in the future.  That makes the system essential from where I sit.
A little about the CEO of EOS Defense Systems USA. 

Brigadier General (Ret) Phil Coker served with the US Army in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East as a Cavalry Officer and Analyst for 32 years.

After retirement, he joined the defense industry as a Director, ultimately managing four production facilities in the US and UK, building robots and command and control systems for the Department of Defense and Law Enforcement customers.   He was one of the founding members of the Heartspur Group, and served as the VP of Operations. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, holds a Master’s Degree in Systems Management from USC and received a Certificate in Executive Coaching from the University of Texas in Dallas.

He has extensive experience in government pursuits, new product development, leadership training, holds a certificate in executive and leadership coaching, and has been giving keynote addresses for over 20 years.

The Vision of EOS Defense Systems USA.
To engineer and build the best Remote Weapons Station in the world.
Put the warfighter first.
To be professional, honest and fair in all we do.
Finally I would like to thank all that made this possible. It was informative, forward looking and surprisingly honest appraisal of not only EOS but also the future of warfare.

I'm grateful to all... 


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