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«One cannot attach too much value to communication»

What is the next step in the evaluation process for a new fighter aircraft and an extended range ground-based air defence system? Which challenges can be expected? As an introduction to the November series, we interviewed Peter Winter, Director of Aeronautical Systems and Programme Director Air2030.

Aeronautical Systems, Air2030 Programme

Bild von Peter Winter
Peter Winter, Director of Aeronautical Systems and Programme Director Air2030

Peter Winter, in addition to managing your Competence Sector, you have also been Director of the Air2030 programme since 2017. Which particular abilities are required for this function?

The Air2030 programme comprises four large-scale projects and several sub-projects. Therefore, good leadership and coordination skills are required. In addition to leading the project managers, the respective DDPS network also needs to be involved. The Air2030 network includes several boards for various topics, but also several reporting groups, such as the programme committee, which wants and needs to be continuously informed. A high degree of persistence are therefore definitely required here. I also find it essential to remain straightforward, in order to not lose the sense of direction. I prefer a pragmatic approach – because you can quickly lose sight of the wood for all the trees otherwise.

I also consider team leadership to be a very important task. That’s why I try to remove as many obstacles as possible for my team, so that they can perform their tasks efficiently and effectively and we can achieve the goals together. I am proud to say that I have an excellent team, which contributes a high level of expertise. That’s the only reason that we have arrived at where we are now.

To put it briefly, all facets of good project management are required. This includes, on the one hand, well thought-out stakeholder management. We had to identify all the stakeholder groups and inform them regularly, according to their needs. This includes setting up behavioural guidelines with regard to compliance and corruption prevention, for example. Open and transparent communication is thus absolutely essential.

After the successful vote, the evaluation process is now moving forward at a rapid pace. What’s next in the programme plan?

In November, 2020, we are expecting the offers from the new fighter aircraft and ground-based air defence candidates. Following this, the project teams will determine the total benefits of each system using the information from the second offer and the findings from the various testing activities, summarise the results and the risk analysis in the evaluation reports and submit them to the Federal Council. The Federal Council planes to decide on the type in the second quarter of 2021.

What will be the situation if a candidate decides not to submit an offer?

All six candidates received the second request for proposal in January of this year. Since then, we have been in continuous and frequent contact with the candidates and the respective government entities. We have always answered all incoming questions openly and transparently. I would be very surprised if a candidate decided to not submit a proposal. We have no indication that anybody wants to withdraw from the competition – neither from the manufacturers nor the government offices. The postponement of the submission deadline from August to November, due to the current Covid-19 situation, was also greatly appreciated by all candidates. That’s why I assume that we will receive six offers.

What will the challenges be next year?

The first challenge at the start of the year will undoubtedly be the evaluation report. This will contain all the information that we have collected and evaluated in just under 3 years.

In the second quarter of 2021, the focus will be on supporting the political process, so that the Federal Council can select the types in the second quarter of 2021. By the end of 2021, we will prepare the armament bill 2022 in terms of content – in other words, with the two selected types. This in turn also means that the negotiations need to be concluded by then and the contracts prepared.

In parallel to this, we must continue to show that the evaluation process is open, transparent and fair. Especially after the types have been selected. Because where there are winners, there are also candidates, which did not win. We then need to explain to the candidates who have not been selected why their system did not win.

What are the lessons that you have learned as the Programme Director?

Point 1 is the team: a project that aims at being successful needs the right employees, working on a solution-oriented and motivated basis and demonstrating a high degree of expertise. It’s these employees that I count on, and I’m very satisfied with how well everything is running.

Point 2: Communication is everything. If you can manage to communicate simply and comprehensibly across all levels then you have achieved a lot. One cannot attach too much value to communication.

Brief profile

Peter Winter (53) holds an Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of St. Gallen and is a graduate electrical engineer (university of applied sciences). He joined armasuisse in 1997. Previously, Peter Winter was employed as a technical project manager for the chemical industry in Basel. In addition to several project manager roles in the procurement of air materials as well as command and control systems, he was also the overall project manager for the large-scale project Florako, the airspace surveillance and operational control system of the Swiss Air Force. Peter Winter is an International Project Management Association (IPMA) level A certified project manager. In 2009, he became the Director of Aeronautical Systems at armasuisse. Since 2017, he has also been head of the Air2030 programme.