BAE Systems tech targets shifting defence climate

BAE Systems IT chief Chris Coupland discusses technology at the defence and transport company

When Chris Coupland was recruited by BAE Systems 11 years ago as e-business director, to find ways for the company to make more effective use of the internet, it's unlikely he could have predicted how world events would focus attention back on the defence industry.

Over the course of the intervening decade, companies such as BAE Systems have had to work hard to deliver products and services that meet the increasing demands of national security.

BAE Systems has had to change its business to meet the changing needs of governments and defence organisations, while the cyber threats fuelled by the rise of the internet have led the company to develop new technology capabilities.

BAE Systems makes the Typhoon Eurofighter

BAE Systems is well known for making military hardware such as the Typhoon Eurofighter but is expanding into services
Photo: BAE Systems

Coupland is now director of BAE Systems' corporate IT office, overseeing the organisation's inhouse IT while also supporting the company's engineers and developers to help them produce technology that can be used internally and offered to customers.

Coupland was recognised as one of the UK's most influential CIOs in the CIO50 list in 2009 and is a member of the CIO Jury. On top of the demands of leading IT at one of the UK's biggest companies, he has three children under the age of five who take up the rest of his time.

BAE Systems' business is all about developing, manufacturing and supplying commercial and military hardware and services, so Coupland has to tackle complex technology and security issues to support the progress of the business.

The company makes the Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado military jets and is developing the F-35 Lightning II in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which is the world's largest defence programme with customer requirements of 3,000 aircraft. The company also makes small passenger jets such as the Jetstream.

The business also makes land defence equipment and various warships and submarines, which will include the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier to replace the UK's recently decommissioned Ark Royal in 2016.

Other products include mission and information support systems and security technology for countering threats to national security and those posed by organised or serious crime, which was boosted by the acquisition of business and technology consultancy Detica in 2008.

BAE Systems mainly operates in Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US but has smaller operations in South Africa and Sweden. The federated nature of the business means Coupland...