PODCAST: Making the team mission ready: Ian Bell, CAE

PODCAST: Making the team mission ready: Ian Bell, CAE
Ian Bell, CAE, ice president and general manager for Middle East and Asia-Pacific defence and security

A former Commanding Officer in the UK’s Royal Air Force, Ian Bell knows defence aviation and how preparedness drives optimal tactical and operational outcomes.

As vice president and general manager for Middle East and Asia-Pacific defence and security at training systems integrator CAE, he’s tasked with developing the business and delivering on projects – and ensuring defence personnel are capable, skilled and ready.

Join Bell and Defence Connect as we discuss the depth of CAE’s presence in Australia and how the business will expand this long-term relationship to enhance Australia’s mission readiness.

Enjoy the show,

The Defence Connect team.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Defence Connect podcast, with your host, Phil Tarrant.

 

Phil:

G'day everyone it's Phil Tarrant here, I'm the host of the Defence Connect podcast. Thanks for tuning in, it's always good to have you with us. Today I'm joined by two people and we're going to have an interesting chat, I believe. Around the way in which capabilities doesn't always mean the equipment on the ground, but it's more about the people who use that equipment. And I guess as a bit of a preface we've got one of the leading, training simulation businesses not only in Australia but globally with US. Ian Bell who is the Vice President and General Manager, CAE Middle East and Asia Pacific Defence and Security. Probably one of the longest titles I've seen today, Ian, but thanks for coming on the show, How you going?

 

Ian:

Yeah, it's great to be here, thank you very much.

 

Phil:

So Ian's from CAE and he's joined by his colleague the director of marketing communications Chris Stellwag. How you going mate?

 

Chris:

Good, glad to be here Phil.

 

Phil:

It's good. So you'll hear there's two different accents, or three  accents here today. This is the Aussie one, that's me talking. Ian is unashamedly an Englishman and-

 

Ian:

Indeed, a Yorkshireman.

 

Phil:

A Yorkshireman, sorry, probably get beaten up for that, and Chris I'm gonna say from the U.S., hope you're not Canadian.

 

Chris:

The token American here.

 

Phil:

Okay there we go, alright. Cause I often get that wrong when I call a Canadian an American. So for a lot of our listeners within Australian Defence Industry, Ian, they'd be familiar with the CAE name, in terms of the training that you guys provide. But I think I'm probably one of a number of people who don't really understand the breadth of some of the work that you do. Could you just sort of explain the depth of the CAE proposition to the Australian market and we're recording this podcast right now at Avalon 2017, but what you do sort of expands way outside of just air force.

 

Ian:

Yeah it does, CAE is, we're 70 years young this year, and we've got a great history in the flight training business, the provision of flight simulators and synthetic environments as a whole. But we're split really into two primary divisions. Civil, where we train more air crew for commercial operations than anybody else in the world. And then our defence and security business is on equal size and we really concentrate on being integrated as a partner with our customers and the Commonwealth is a great example of that. We have over 13 defence and security sites here in Australia, but importantly we're here in long term partnerships or we're looking to enhance mission readiness. And I use a term that most people have sort of heard a few times before, but I talk about putting an old head on young shoulders. So our airmen, our seamen and our soldiers have seen experiences before they get to see them in combat and I'm a veteran of the RAF for 24 years and the importance of training and preparedness, especially for missions in today's complex world, is very important. So that's where CAE are. Globally we have training media, training systems in most countries of the world.

 

Phil:

So what's up with the specific contracts you're working on right now within the Australian context?

 

Ian:

So in the Australian context everything from C130J the MRTT up at Amberley. Army platforms, army helicopter platforms, the beach craft 350 down at Sale where we've just celebrated the first 5,000 hours of training for the Royal Australian Airforce. So a complete sort of mix and we're very keen to expand into land training systems and into the naval environment. And really copy our success that we've had in the middle east with the naval training centre in the United Arab Emirates. And sort of bring all that experience to bear here for the benefit of the Australian Defence Force which are, in many respects, a thought leader and an example for this part of the world.

 

Phil:

So I imagine technology's changed rapidly over the last decade, in a way in which people take new skills from training has probably changed rapidly. What's your sorta observations on the way in which we're equipping our war fighters today with the skills they need to do their job as well as they can do, versus what it was ten years ago. Is there any sort of new dynamics, new techs there that's really changed the way we do stuff?

 

Ian:

Yeah I think when I was a young pilot, and it's more years ago than I can remember, the training aids were either the live aeroplane or very rudimentary ground based training equipment. And it was nothing more really than practising  emergencies and different procedures. Whereas today, it's not so much about the muscle training but the technologies and advancements in data-basing in visual systems and such like, allow us to do that brain training. So training the young kids to understand the requirements of integration and interoperability and that's really the biggest step forward, I think, over the last decade or so.

 

Chris:

Yeah I would only add that simulation is a great learning environment, because you can practise, rehearse do it over and over again and you do that before you're actually using operational assets, or before you're in harms way. So it's a great environment for repetition and teaching the kind of skills, coordination you're going to need when you go to combat.

 

Phil:

So it must be, I guess one of the challenges now for training or simulation based companies is that you have young talent coming through, whether it's airforce, army or navy, and they're so used to really good. They've grown up with just brilliant simulations on their home computer, their home laptop.

 

Chris:

Absolutely

 

Phil:

I imagine they expect the same when they enter operational training sort of situation. Is the way that they learn now, the way that young people coming into the service are learning, is it truly ingrained in them from a very early age now because it's just an inherent way to get themselves new skills, just by playing with stuff, essentially. Is that the way it's working?

 

Ian:

I think the art of learning has changed a lot and young kids today learn in a different way, they learn through gaming. And science will show you that if a learning exercise is a game, there's a point system or something like that, they learn better but they retain the knowledge much longer. And so in some of our sort of research if you like and development, it's the art of learning. The science and the technology and the kid comes almost as a given but the really smart stuff is in the art of learning.

 

Phil:

So, the art of learning how has that changed, obviously in line with technology but the courses or the structure that you're putting into training today, how has that evolved over this period?

 

Ian:

It's interactive, gone are the days of pages and pages of text and reading an air crew manual and falling asleep on chapter 1, so everybody knew the electrics but nobody knew the hydraulics. Now they can be in an interactive environment where they see things working and moving and the consequences of failure, and they can see it and it's that interactive technology which is so important.

 

Phil:

And has the culture changed as well? Because I imagine when you're a young helicopter pilot, if you probably didn't do something as well as you should've or could've you were probably berated for it. Has the culture changed, in terms of the feedback and the way in which good trainers can massage the best of the person that they're training? How's that evolved?

 

Ian:

Y'know I think the standard of the instructors is very important, but I think we also have to understand we're dealing with very motivated individuals, these guys that join the services-

 

Chris:

It's a passion

 

Ian:

Doesn't matter where they are in the world, you see the same commitment and they want to learn, we just have to facilitate their learning in the most effective manner possible. And technologies today allow you to spot common trends of where perhaps an instructional sortie might not quite be hitting the spot and we can adjust that almost overnight. So we're very fortunate that we have dedicated individuals to teach but we also have a lot of... all our military instructors have done time in the air force the navy or in the army, and it's a way for them to give something back. Say myself, I was in the Royal Air Force for 26 years and now I've been with CAE for ten years in a very similar environment, working with like-minded people it's a great environment to be, in a great business to be in.

 

Phil:

And in terms of recruitment for you to try to find the next generation of trainers or the next generation of people to be trained, how do you go about transitioning people from life after uniform into what is essentially business environment? Is that? You want to keep the same flavour of military context, but from a contracting point of view. How does that balance for you?

 

Ian:

There are two elements really there's a management stream that takes on more of the commercialism, if you like. And then there's the instructors, the guys who have the interaction with our students. Who really, in many places in the world, still get examined by the central flying schools of whatever nation they're in. So they've never left the defence force. And we have a training centre in the UK that I use to run, and the instructors there six months ago were on operations with some of the students they're training and today they're just in a different uniform training.

 

Phil:

Same person, different uniform.

 

Ian:

Yep, absolutely. Yeah, so it's very important that we as a company have the right ethos and the right approach to making sure  we get the best instructors that we can.

 

Phil:

And Chris, maybe a question for you? What do you feel is the major misconceptions about training businesses within a defence context with other defence businesses? So, guys who are providing the kit or technology or innovation outside of it, is there any one or two things that frustrate you in your job and you always want to try and communicate it?

 

Chris:

I don't know if I'd say frustrate, but whatever weapon system you're going to operate as a military, there's always going to be people behind that, right. People are making decisions taking a variety of data points and commands and coordination and its people that are operating the platforms and the weapons systems that militaries put to use to accomplish whatever mission or objective. And that's what we're, as a company, we're about training and preparing the people to do the jobs and the missions that their countries ask them to do. Earlier today here at the Avalon Air Show we were part of the announcement, what's called 'Team Reaper Australia', to pursue the Royal Australian Air Force's future remotely piloted aircraft system, called Air 7003. And even though that's a remotely piloted aircraft, or unmanned some people would say, there's still a lot of people involved in that mission and people that need to be trained and prepared for that mission. So, even on a platform like that there's people involved that have to carry out whatever it is that they're being asked to do. And that's what CAE's about is preparing and training those people to do the jobs that they're asked to do.

 

Phil:

And in future for CAE, here in Australia you mentioned you'd like to get a lot more involved in Navy orientated training. What could we see from the business in the next sorta two, three, four, years moving ahead? Greater engagement, greater connectivity?

 

Ian:

Yeah, I think one of the things that I'm charged with is absolutely growing the business, intergrating more with the various defence forces. And, trying to enable them to offload some of their what are seen as support services, the training organisations and such like, and take that away. So that we can use more effectively the men and the women in uniform, where they're needed in the front line. That said, we have a couple of C130 instructors here in Australia that whilst they work for CAE, they also have a reserve status. So, if they're needed to fly the live platform, they fly the live platform anyway, but if they were needed or called away on operations they can put their reserve uniform on and fly alongside their air force colleagues. And, for us as a company that's a tremendously proud thing to have in the portfolio.

 

Phil:

And there's a perpetual debate within pretty much every organisation, the benefits of doing something yourself versus the benefits of outsourcing it. And, you mentioned their beforehand the allocation of people in your uniform to do the jobs that can create the most value for what we want the ADF to do. So, looking at bringing outsource capabilities to support the training of defence forces moving forward, do you think the government has got it right yet in terms of it's willingness to look beyond it's traditional way that it's equipped it's people in terms of their skills? Are they really ready to start looking at bringing in external providers like yourself to really underpin the training of navy, army, air force?

 

Ian:

I think governments globally have so many different priorities, healthcare, education, infrastructure projects and such like, that the ministry of defence are part of that dilemma. I think governments are becoming smarter, and it's not that they weren't smart in the first place, but I think technology and companies like CAE are starting to gain trust in areas. And, we can take our skillsets from commercial aviation. Many, many commercial companies have already outsourced in total their flying training, for example, and I think as we build credibility in other parts of the world, and indeed here in Australia, the government will become more comfortable with industry. And so, that's good for us, but it's all about trust, it's all about "long-termism". I'm not interested in "short-termism", I'm here to stay and so is CAE.

 

Phil:

That's good, well run out of time guys, and Chris really enjoyed the chat. You're down here for Avalon, we're only sort of the start of it, we're only the first day in. But, keep connected let us know how you're getting on. I'd like to see this journey as you move forward and look to apply your capabilities, not just within air force, but into the other forces as well. So, I think there's lots of opportunities I think there is an appetite for, as well as cost saving. So, I think there's a lot of other benefits why government, the services will look towards guys like yourself to enhance their training capabilities. So, let's keep connected with your story and see how you go. If anyone wants to know about you guys what's... website, cae.com-

 

Chris:

Pretty simple, cae.com.

 

Phil:

Okay got that right, that's easy. Thanks guys really good, thanks to everyone for tuning in remember to check out defenseconnect.com.au. We're also on all the social stuff, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. Any questions for me, or the guys from CAE, contact the team editor at defenseconnect.com.au. Thanks for tuning in we'll see you again next time, bye bye.

 

 

Listen to previous episodes of the Defence Connect podcast:

Episode 30: PODCAST: Engaging primes as an SME – Stephen Renkert, Electrotech
Episode 29: PODCAST: Driving innovation in defence - Stephane Ibos, Maestrano
Episode 28: PODCAST: Manufacturing Australia's future – Jens Goennemann, AMGC
Episode 27: PODCAST: Brave new world – the ever-evolving defence technology sector
Episode 26: PODCAST: Going global with SMEs
Episode 25: PODCAST: Shaping Victoria’s defence industry
Episode 24: PODCAST: How game-changing geospatial technology is shaping the modern military – and delivering business growth
Episode 23: PODCAST: Drones in defence - changing the shape of modern warfare
Episode 22: PODCAST: Making it in the USA, Vince Howie
Episode 20: PODCAST: Getting set for F-35 sustainment – Steven Drury, director of aerospace, BAE Systems Australia

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