In January of 1998,
MultiGen, Inc. was a small product oriented company needing to find
and develop new sources of revenue. The US Air Force Distributed
Mission Team had just released a RFP (Request For Proposal) to major
integrators for the development of F-16 flight training simulators
including various Mission Training Capabilities (MTC). This system
will be the Air Force's first Air-to-Ground simulation system including
a synthetic environment with full field-of-view 360 degree visuals.
The major system integrators bidding for the project included Lockheed
Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon. Each of these integrators immediately
began looking for a partner to develop a visual system for the US
Air Force RFQ.
Our first challenge was to
develop relationships with the integrators and help the partner
win their proposal. After surveying the competitive landscape we
decided to focus our efforts on Lockheed Martin. We faced a number
of competitive threats in our quest to win this bid. The lead competitor
on the Lockheed Martin team was an internal Lockheed Martin Division
that had experience delivering visual systems for F-16 simulators.
The second competitor
was Evans & Sullivan. E&S is recognized as the leading visual
systems supplier and had recently been awarded a major contract
with the US Air Force. MultiGen had no prior experience delivering
visual systems. A major challenge was to convince Lockheed Martin
that we should receive an invitation to play in this game. The next
challenge was to provide a roadmap that could prove capabilities.
Our competitors could point to installations as proof of their abilities.
Another barrier, the Air Force RFP was influenced by E&S.
Critical Issues: The
US Air Force was looking to "train as they fight". The decision
markers (a committee of Pilots and Generals) were focused on solutions
that provided eye-limiting resolution. In other words, what
the pilot viewed in the simulation would give a feel that they were
in a plane. The US Air Force was frustrated that previous
visual systems could not keep pace with the changes in technology.
The existing systems came from proprietary technology (delivered
by E&S and Lockheed Martin).
In simple terms, pilots like to fly. They hate to train in simulators.
The main reason they become jet fighter pilots is the thrill involved
in flying the craft. The cost of fuel for training is expensive
so the Generals prefer simulation. The Generals want to make
certain that pilots remain at a high level of readiness. In
the past, flying the plane was the only way to keep skills sharp.
A common complaint from the community was "my kid's video games
provide better graphics than our multi-billion dollar visual systems."
a list of key contacts, I worked closely with the US Air Force to
paint a vision that included selecting a system that promoted Open
Systems. The vision supported the needs of future pilots (Nintendo
Generation) that will demand graphics performance.
The US Air Force
issued a final RFQ that required the use of open systems as part
of the bid. Our competitors were now at our level. None of them
had delivered a visual system based on open standards. In
fact, the costs to change from a proprietary system to an open system
created additional overhead for the competitors. Two years
prior to the RFQ, MultiGen was responsible for leading an industry
effort for an open file format used in defense, aerospace and gaming
for visual system development. We teamed with Silicon Graphics to
establish our credibility.
Lockheed Martin selected us
as the visual system supplier. As a result of this selection,
MultiGen purchased a visual system supplier Paradigm to help with
the delivery process. The US Air Force selected the
Lockheed Martin team including the MultiGen visual solution.
This project selection was a multi-hundred million dollar award
for the visual system.