QinetiQ: curate's egg news

Wednesday 20th January 2010
The QinetiQ VAAC team in front of the aircraft. (Left to right): Justin Paines, Trevor Hartwell, Jeremy Howitt, Fred Scorer, James Roberts, Richard Watson, Richard Burger, Jon Vendy, Tony Cann, Dave Nash, Lt Cdr Chris Gotke RN. Absent: Andrew Rockley, Luke Gillett and Glen D’Mello.

Qinetiq's January news release is an award for the VAAC Harrier team and a commendation in the Honours List for those on Tornado Urgent Operational Requirements support. But ominously the company has also issued a second profits warning as trade unions anticipate further job cuts at the Malvern research site.

In the Centenary year of the of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Medals & Awards, the QinetiQ Vectored-thrust Aircraft Advanced Control (VAAC) Harrier team received a Team Gold Medal - the prestigious and long-standing aerospace awards for achievement, innovation and excellence.

It was awarded  for development and flight test activities that have prototyped guidance, control and automatic landing systems for the Short Take-Off & Vertical Landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter and for its development of the Shipboard Rolling Vertical Landing technique for recovery to the Future Carrier.

The awards were presented in December at the Society’s  London HQ at the 98th Wilbur & Orville Wright Lecture, delivered by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton on ‘Air power in ages of austerity’.  The first Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Aeronautical Society went to the Wright Brothers in 1909. Notable past recipients include the Wright Brothers, Sir Frank Whittle, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Sir Sydney Camm and Sir Frederick Handley Page.

Also awarded were a joint QinetiQ and MOD team, that represents a cross-section of people involved in delivering important UOR work, also received a commendation from Air Vice-Marshal Garwood, HQ Air Command’s Chief Of Staff Operations (COS Ops), in the Queen's New Year Honours List.

The commendation was in recognition of the work undertaken on Tornado Urgent Operational Requirements in support of Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan (April 08 to Sept 09).

The citation reads: "The Tornado Team was key to ensuring the completion of essential trials activities within the accelerated timelines dictated by the MOD, thus ensuring that capability enhancements were cleared within the Operation HERRICK deployment timescales.
(Right: All female Tornado crews in Afghanastan)

Feedback from theatre confirmed the vital importance of this work - these capabilities have undoubtedly preserved the lives of aircrews and ground forces and significantly enhanced operational capability. Personnel devoted long days and weekends to the work..several cancelled holidays to conduct essential flight trials. There was a consistent theme of 'can do, will do' and 'collaborative teamworking' with other industry stakeholders through out the Team."

New management  face tough times
Defence group QinetiQ has delivered a second profit warning hard on the heels of its November one, as chairman (left) Sir John Chisholm stepped down early.  
He is replaced by his deputy (right) Mark Elliot.

The earnings alert was issued after a monthly management review raised 'material concerns' about the year-end forecast.

Last month, CEO Graham Love, (left) who made about £26m from the high profile, controversial flotation of the business in 2006, was succeeded by Leo Quinn (right).

Quinn now has to picks up the pieces in the less than glamorous times of both MoD cuts and harsh trading conditions.

Revenue would be no more than the £806m it was reported in the six months to September 2009. The group blames continued delays in the award of new orders in its key US and UK markets for the setback. At the end of November QinetiQ, warned that uncertainty over US policy in Afghanistan and poor visibility on UK government contracts would hit full-year earnings.

Finance chief David Mellors said: "In general public sector spend is under scrutiny more than it's been in the past because of the macroeconomic environment." He also felt the looming General Election could also "put big decisions on hold."

Net debt rose to £509m at end December from £452m at end September. However, CEO Leo Quinn is believed to have no current plans to talk to lenders about restructuring QinetiQ's finances.

Quinn however is conducting a review of the group's operations. That could lead to significant management change when its outcome is revealed in May.

And trade unions fear a further 400 jobs could go at QuinetiQ Malvern site (left) as a result of cuts at the Ministry of Defence. The Prospect union said it expected these redundancies to begin in the new year.

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