Lockheed Martin’s CTO Steven Walker on Future Defense Technologies

There are lots of approaches folks can provide their place with out joining the armed forces. 1 is to build systems that can be utilised to protect their country from adversaries. Which is what Steve Walker has been accomplishing his whole career.

The IEEE senior member worked for a lot more than 30 years in the U.S. civil assistance, 1st for the Air Force Investigation Laboratory (AFRL), and then for the Protection Highly developed Exploration Assignments Company (DARPA), the U.S. Office of Protection‘s study arm.

Final 12 months Walker joined the personal sector as vice president and chief know-how officer at defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

As a significant school student in the early 1980s, he was worried by the hostage disaster in Iran and the Cold War, he suggests.

“My drive was to be part of the Air Drive and assistance construct systems to safe the nation,” he says. “I went into my profession with a sense of patriotism and nationwide protection consciousness.”

The assaults of 9/11 in 2001 even more strengthened his solve. They gave him “a actual mission to target on for the rest of my federal government occupation,” he says. “Fixing problems for the DoD to safeguard our nation is what I actually get pleasure from undertaking.”

Though Walker is not battling on the entrance traces, for just about three decades he has been functioning powering the scenes to fund a range of crucial initiatives for the military and civilians. The tasks have formulated fast bombers and fighter jets, low-cost start vehicles for satellites, and the mRNA technological know-how used in coronavirus vaccines. He is continuing his concentrate on army technologies at Lockheed Martin.


When Walker was a teen, he hoped to provide in the Air Power. He joined its Junior ROTC at his superior university in Dayton, Ohio, and gained a scholarship from the corps to show up at the College of Notre Dame, in Indiana. He participated in the university’s USAF ROTC system before earning a bachelor’s diploma in aerospace engineering in 1987. He was to be commissioned as an officer upon graduation having said that, at the time the department currently experienced much too numerous officers, and Walker was inspired to get a civilian position with the Air Drive. So he returned to Dayton and bought an engineering position at the AFRL’s Air Automobiles Directorate functioning on air acoustics and building exhaust programs for armed forces airplanes.

“Right after learning engineering for 4 yrs in college or university, I needed to make guaranteed that my first job was an engineering work in investigation and development,” Walker says. “I was capable to put my schooling in higher education to fantastic use there in the early years of my job, so it all labored out.”

“Solving problems for the govt and for the DoD to defend our nation is what I seriously get pleasure from accomplishing.”

Whilst doing the job entire-time at the AFRL, he was an Air Pressure reservist on weekends and pursued a master’s diploma in mechanical engineering from the College of Dayton. He obtained the degree in 1991. Thanks to the Air Force’s tuition guidance software, he also acquired a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Notre Dame.

Walker says that diploma set him up for “tactical leadership in the government.”

Right after finding his Ph.D. in 1997, he moved east to manage an aerodynamics and hypersonics investigation plan at the Air Pressure Place of work of Scientific Research, in Arlington, Va. Hypersonic weapons fly at very low altitude trajectories at far more than 5 times the velocity of audio. When their pace is put together with large maneuverability, hypersonic missiles are tough to defeat, in accordance to the U.S. Protection Department.

Walker remaining in August 2001 to work in the Pentagon as unique assistant to the director in the Business of the Undersecretary of Protection for Investigate and Engineering. He was in his Pentagon place of work on 9/11 when a plane strike the complex. His office was not harmed, but the attack soar-started out his long job at DARPA, which he joined in 2002.

Walker’s very first task at the agency was as a program supervisor for its Tactical Technological know-how Business office, exactly where he done hypersonic research. A single undertaking he authorized in 2003 was the US $500 million joint application between DARPA and the Air Pressure to develop the Falcon. The project experienced two aims, Walker suggests. One was to develop technologies for very long-length hypersonic flights. The other was to produce a lower-cost launcher that could swiftly loft satellites into outer room. DARPA awarded SpaceX $8 million to reveal that latter capacity applying its Falcon 1 start vehicle. Immediately after a productive fourth launch of the Falcon 1, SpaceX went on to develop its Falcon 9 start ability, which is now sending astronauts to the Global House Station.

“SpaceX has absent on to really be a wonderful functionality for our country,” he states. “I am happy of that accomplishment.”

Walker left DARPA in 2010 to serve as deputy assistant secretary of the Air Power for science, technological know-how, and engineering. In the course of his almost three yrs on the task, he was responsible for developing the technologies investment decision approach for the Air Force’s yearly $2 billion science and technologies application and controlling much more than 14,000 army and civilian scientists and engineers.

He returned to DARPA in 2012 as deputy director. In 2014 the company founded its Biological Systems Business office, which oversees simple and used exploration in these kinds of places as gene modifying, neurosciences, and artificial biology.

“We had been actually focused on taking benefit of all the technology, growth, and biology and trying to convert those into an engineering willpower,” he claims.

Out of that business office arrived the Pandemic Avoidance Platform, which helped fund the improvement of the mRNA technologies that is utilised in the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines.

“A large amount of get the job done finished by the National Institutes of Well being and DARPA 10 a long time in the past is now bearing fruit for the place and for the environment,” he notes.

In 2017 he was appointed DARPA director. Shortly thereafter, he funded two large initiatives that specifically have an effect on IEEE users. A single is the AI Subsequent campaign, which has a multiyear investment decision of more than $2 billion that commenced in 2018. It aims to enhance the robustness of present synthetic intelligence systems and develop new systems to make sure the United States stays in the guide, particularly when it comes to AI in protection apps, he suggests. The other was the Electronics Resurgence Initiative, a five-yr, $1.5 billion method released in 2019 to remake the U.S. electronics business.

Walker left DARPA in January to join Lockheed Martin, in Bethesda, Md. Reflecting on his extensive tenure at the agency, he states, “I really feel blessed since DARPA is a genuinely outstanding, quite unique position. It really is a smaller federal government agency relative to other individuals that is centered on producing technologies for countrywide security. That is essentially the mission. In my impression, they’ve done really well.”


At Lockheed Martin, Walker is accountable for the firm’s engineering system, global investigation, mission growth, and emerging functions technologies. Some of the assignments he is concerned with contain developing a 5G network for the army using industrial off-the-shelf technologies. The devoted network would empower information and facts to be passed securely from platform to platform.

A different priority for Lockheed Martin is to acquire AI and device mastering purposes for aerospace and defense providers in partnership with commercial companies.

“The final application in my viewpoint,” he suggests, “is to use AI and equipment finding out on the battlefield to aid make conclusions more quickly.”


For Walker, IEEE’s most useful advantage is IEEE Spectrum.

“I browse it religiously due to the fact it truly is just so good. The content articles are fantastic. I learn a whole lot from them,” he states. “I am not an electrical engineer, so Spectrum is my window into the electrical engineering environment.”

Lockheed Martin has been a robust supporter of IEEE for many a long time, Walker says. The two businesses signed a corporate membership and sponsorship settlement in 2018 to collaborate on various places of mutual desire. They contain workforce development courses, discounted IEEE membership for Lockheed Martin workers, and sponsorship by the organization of chosen IEEE initiatives.

Marcy Willis

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