Executive Spotlight: Interview with Rick Lober, VP/GM of the Defense and Intelligence Systems Division at Hughes Network Systems

“I grew up as a kid watching the Apollo missions to the moon–what a great motivator to move into a career in engineering.”

Space 2.0. The “new space.” What is really at stake for our place in space for 2018? With massive innovations in integrated technologies and satellite components, the community needs to come together now more than ever before to assure that the core challenges facing our space development are tackled as a team–as allies not enemies. In London last week, industry leaders convened and brought each company’s vision to the 19th annual Global MILSATCOM conference, in order to address the need for resiliency and robustness within satellite systems, and what is the required interoperability and flexibility needed for success. One local executive who attended is Rick Lober, Vice President and General Manager of the Defense and Intelligence Systems Division at Hughes Network Systems, who delivered a noonday presentation on Nov. 8 about ADVANCEMENTS IN ‘AIRBORNE ISR SATCOM’ to a room packed full of the best and brightest from the global defense technology marketspace. ExecutiveBiz caught up with Lober for his comments on the conference, his thoughts on what the future of space might hold, and his insights on what Hughes is doing to change the game.

 

Rick Lober

EM: You have over 30 years of experience in the defense industry. What kind of experiences brought you to where you are today?
Rick Lober: I enjoyed designing high-quality signal intelligence receivers as a young engineer and then moved up to project engineering, program management and P&L management. Over time, I moved to programs involving high-speed data links and most recently satellite communications. I also had the opportunity to grow a commercial cellular business when defense spending dipped and the wireless tech boom was underway.
I have enjoyed keeping current with the technology, meeting our customers important needs which sometimes includes international travel, managing the challenges of setting and meeting yearly financial plans and working as a team to accomplish aggressive goals.

You recently spoke at the Global MILSATCOM 2017 conference in London on ADVANCEMENTS IN ‘AIRBORNE ISR SATCOM.’ What can you tell our readers, in a brief, about your address?
Lober: Airborne ISR is a rapidly growing segment of the Defense Marketplace. Real-time, full-motion, HD grade video is now an asset our warfighters must have to in order to fulfill their missions. Hughes has studied this trend and has applied its leading expertise in commercial and enterprise SATCOM equipment to global defense applications. It has been very satisfying to take this technology and apply it to the military marketplace. We are proud of our recent awards and technology achievements. Our contract with General Atomics on the “Type Certifiable” Predator B ‘Sky Guardian’ for the UK MOD will give them vastly improved capabilities with lower SWAP and cost, along with improved bandwidth efficiency. We also continue to apply advanced waveform technology to enable resilient, high-throughput SATCOM on rotary wing aircraft and smaller UAVs.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) plans to take advantage of Other Transaction Agreements next quarter. You posted on LinkedIn that “many commercial providers including Hughes, believe this will shorten the capability and development cycle, and quicken the prototype transition between ComSat and government.” Can you comment?
Lober: We have submitted our first white paper and follow-on proposal under the DFARS Other Transaction Authority (OTA) through the C5 Consortium. We view this as a streamlined and rapid acquisition vehicle for defense contracts and feel that given the speed in which communications technology is advancing, it is a great approach for meeting our customer’s needs. The USAF Space and Missile Command is using this contracting approach to fund studies and prototype developments that will inform the ongoing Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for the next wideband satellite communications system. As we move forward with these studies and discussions, we see commercial SATCOM providers such as Hughes playing an important role.

In the federal IT market, there is some discussion on “new space,” something you spoke with Federal News Radio about in August. With innovations in launching systems and satellite components, what does the future of “new space” look like?
Lober: I grew up as a kid watching the Apollo missions to the moon–what a great motivator to move into a career in engineering. It is exciting to see how Space 2.0 is generating interest by millennials and students, not only in the Silicon Valley area but right here in the greater Washington-Baltimore area.
At Hughes we are launching satellites with higher and higher capacity on a variety of launch vehicles and are working with start-up OneWeb to develop a new world-wide LEO network. This new space venture will serve millions who do not have internet access now, in addition to meeting some key needs within the Government and the DoD.

Hughes develops products specific to military satellite communications to deliver to the C4ISR marketplace–working hard as a managed security services provider. What kinds of challenges are you currently facing?
Hughes operates the largest managed services satellite network in the world with over 1.3 million consumer, enterprise and government-users worldwide. We also manage very secure systems for financial institutions, oil companies, the lottery system and international airlines. This broad expertise has taught Hughes and my defense team about the importance of addressing today’s security concerns for different clients.
One of my challenges is to work with the DoD to show them how a managed services approach will meet their growing SATCOM needs. They will benefit from significantly-reduced costs while maintaining security and adding much-needed resiliency to the network.

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Richard M. Lober has 30+ years of experience in military and civilian communications, from design engineering to senior management, and most recently served as senior vice president and general manager of the Communications and Electronics Business at Cubic Defense Applications, Inc. His previous experience also includes serving in the telecommunications division at the Watkins-Johnson Company, where he developed products and services for government and commercial wireless customers.

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