Farnborough 2018: GKN wary of industrial espionage as expansion into China continues

15 July 2018
The F-35 is one of GKN’s key military programmes, and GKN is working hard to safeguard its sensitive military and commercial information as it expands into China. Source: US Air Force

Protecting its military technologies is one of GKN Aerospace’s key concerns as it continues to expand its commercial footprint in China, the company’s CEO told reports ahead of the Farnborough Airshow.

Speaking in London a few weeks before the event, the company’s CEO Hans Büthker said that industrial attacks have affected GKN as much as they have affected any company operating in China, and efforts need to be maintained to safeguard against the disclosure of sensitive military information.

“Yes, there have been industrial attacks but we are in the same boat as others in that regard. We need to be extremely careful in segregating our [military and commercial] systems, and we have invested an awful lot in special security,” he said, adding, “It has been ‘so far, so good’ for GKN.”

Büthker’s comments came days after a Rolls-Royce engineer was arrested in the UK on suspicion of handing information to China relating to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). GKN is also heavily involved in the F-35 programme, providing the canopy, titanium structures, composites, exotic metals, and anti-icing protection for the fifth-generation combat aircraft. The company also has significant technologies on other military platforms such as the Airbus Defence and Space A400M airlifter (metals and composites), the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transport aircraft (engine nacelles), and the Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter (aft fuselage). Technologies developed by GKN Aerospace include 3D printing, additive manufacturing, composites, advanced canopies, and anti-icing coatings.

With interests in so many key Western military platforms, and in light of the Rolls-Royce incident, Büthker stressed that the issue is uppermost in his list of priorities, noting, “Security and protection of our [technologies] is one of my key concerns as the CEO of GKN.”

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