Q&A with RTX Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President Mark E. Russell

Exclusive Interview – SDArabia

Mark E. Russell, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Raytheon Technologies

Back in April 2020, Raytheon Company and United Technologies Corporation finalized their merger to officially form “Raytheon Technologies Corporation” (RTX). Today, the newly merged company has already gone through one of the toughest pandemics worldwide but has ongoing efforts underway to keep businesses working.

In this interview – a first in the Middle East region – Mark E. Russell, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Raytheon Technologies touches on the challenges of the industry and the company’s imminent plans.  

  • How is Raytheon Technologies driving the future of innovation in areas like air travel, defense, and space exploration?

That is a big part of my job as CTO, bringing together the best of United Technologies and Raytheon Company. We are working to combine the complementary technologies we had at our legacy companies to deliver advanced products and systems for our aerospace and defense customers around the world. In air travel, that means we are driving safer, more cost effective, environmentally responsible, and connected flight with our nose-to-tail aircraft systems and support of the connected aviation ecosystem. In defense, we are developing advanced capabilities to ensure customer advantage in areas like air dominance, integrated systems, and intelligent operations. In space, we are focused on delivering mission breakthroughs, from space-based sensor systems and operating launch facilities to supporting human space flight, exploration, and scientific discovery. It is quite a portfolio.

  • Where do you see artificial intelligence or machine learning impacting Raytheon Technologies in the future?

These are amazing new technologies that we are only just scratching the surface of. Machine learning can do many things today, ranging from helping with language translation, monitoring, and optimizing commercial aircraft fleets, all the way to running and debugging code in very large systems. We are also going to get to the point where these technologies help assist in making decisions. They can do the hard crunching – more quickly analyzing large data sets. These are things that humans cannot do as well by looking at a screen; it takes us too long to figure out. So, I see them as enabling technologies – helping us drive faster, more accurate capabilities and solutions for our customers, and at the same time making our internal processes more productive. I think the leaders in the future will be the ones that apply these enabling technologies in a way that most advances their products to the next level, and Raytheon Technologies will be one of those companies.

  • What new strategies could be implemented to the Technology & Global Engineering field to support rapid and continuous innovation?

The key to innovation is people. And at Raytheon Technologies, we have some of the best – 60,000 engineers from around the world who thrive on the challenge of solving really hard problems. Harnessing that drive takes a holistic approach with the goal being to put them in the best position to grow and thrive. We do need to add some structure to it, since we are not really in the business of innovating for the sake of innovation. Supporting rapid and continuous innovation has to be tied to customer needs. We enforce this customer focus through constant dialog with our customers and detailed technical road maps showing performance and cost goals and program and product insertion points. We complement this needs-based pull of technology with research and collaborations with our broader supplier base, industry partners and academic community to identify emerging technologies and leap-ahead capabilities.

  • What is on the horizon for the aerospace and defense industry and how will Raytheon Technologies continue to lead in this domain?

We are in an era of great technological change, and for engineers, that is very exciting. Of course, at the moment, we’re helping our commercial aero customers address the challenges of COVID-19, including the work Collins Aerospace is doing to provide a more touchless experience for passengers and solutions for even cleaner cabin air. Longer term, we are looking at era-defining technologies to push the boundaries of science and technology. We are just a few months into the launch of Raytheon Technologies, and it has been amazing to learn about the great talent we have in our research centers and throughout the company, and the transformative breakthroughs that are within reach. Among the many areas with great potential are hypersonics, advanced propulsion, hybrid-electric propulsion, high-energy lasers, high-power microwaves, and more autonomous flight.

  • Being elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2020 for your leadership in developing radar systems, how do you evaluate this area of activity in the region?

During my career, I have been fortunate to have worked on some of the most state-of-the-art air defense systems that are used in the region, such as Patriot and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The radars in these systems are some of the most advanced available today. So, it is an honor helping to protect lives and contribute to national security and defense across the Middle East region. When you consider the environmental situation in the region, the Patriot radars in particular are being used and tested regularly to detect and counter a myriad of threats – aircraft, all types of air-breathing missiles, as well as drones. As the threats evolve, we will continue to work closely with our customers and partners in the region to develop advanced radar solutions to meet future needs.

  • Are you expecting an increase perhaps in one specific area (such as integrated defense systems, radars…) or are you playing multiple scenarios and building multiple plans?

To be a leader in aerospace and defense, you really need to plan for multiple areas. At the same time, you cannot do everything. So, we look across our portfolio of commercial- and defense-related aerospace systems and prioritize the most promising areas. 

We do this by first understanding our customers’ needs. Then we can make investments and track technology developments in areas we need to make competitive offerings with clear technology discriminators that our customers expect. Naturally, we want to deploy our resources wisely, so we execute technology road maps with a combination of internally funded R&D, customer contracts, partnerships with universities and emerging technology companies, and partnerships with tech companies outside of our industry. 

  • How did the new merger help further in meeting your customer’s needs?

The No. 1 thing is that we will be able to develop breakthrough technologies at an accelerated pace. We are stronger together as Raytheon Technologies, and with our larger size and scale, we’ll be able to better leverage the substantial R&D investment across the company to more rapidly and innovatively develop technology differentiators that benefit our customers. We have more engineers, scientists and technologists, and more intellectual property and some 40,000 patents to leverage. But it is not just about delivering advanced capabilities. Cost is also top of mind for the customer. We need to be innovative in delivering the best capabilities at a low cost.

  • What message would you like to get across to the industry?

I would really like your readers to know that Raytheon Technologies may be a new company, but we are one with deep roots in the region. We are excited about bringing our greater scale and capabilities to further grow our contributions to the region’s economy and security, while also continuing our support of the valued business relationships we have been fortunate to forge. When you look at it, our four businesses – Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Raytheon Missiles & Defense – have a portfolio of commercial and defense aerospace systems and solutions to meet customer needs that is really quite unique. So, this may be a challenging time relative to COVID-19, but we believe the future is bright, with tremendous opportunities to define how we connect and protect our world.

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