Vivek Lall returns to General Atomics as Chief Executive

Top honcho’s focus is likely to be the expansion of General Atomics’ global footprint and international collaboration

June 1, 2020 By Vishal Thapar
Dr Vivek Lall: Top Gun of the US Defence Industry

Prominent Indian-American Defence and Aerospace leader Dr Vivek Lall has been appointed Chief Executive at General Atomics Global Corporation, the world leader in armed drones and Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS).

“With Dr. Lall’s expertise, GA Global will expand its global footprint for managing sales, service, and international industrial collaboration in strategically important countries like Japan, Australia, the UAE, and others,” the American giant announced in a statement.

“Dr. Lall’s extensive experience in US and international markets will strengthen the company’s international growth,” it added.

He returns to General Atomics after a two-year stint with Lockheed Martin as vice-president Aeronautics Strategy and Business Development, during which he spearheaded the campaign for the F-21 fighter jet in the Indian Air Force programme to acquire 114 foreign-designed Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) and conceived the blueprint for an industrial eco-system for its manufacture in India.

“With Dr. Lall’s expertise, GA Global will expand its global footprint for managing sales, service, and international industrial collaboration in strategically important countries like Japan, Australia, the UAE, and others,” the American giant announced in a statement

Industry watchers reckon that one of his most immediate tasks at General Atomics will be to actualise the sale of an estimated 30 missile-armed drones to the Indian armed forces. This is a strategic proposal with the potential of significantly upgrading Indian capability and giving new momentum to Indo-US military ties.

During his previous stint with General Atomics as its Chief Executive of Strategic Development, he is credited with playing a key role in laying the foundations of an armed drone sale to India and in persuading the US Administration to release Category-1 UAVs to India, the first such American approval for a non-NATO country.

Another key offering from General Atomics in which Dr Lall, in his earlier tenure, played a key advocacy role - the EMALS for India’s future aircraft carrier -is likely to be on the backburner for now pending prioritisation by India of its defence acquisitions.

During his previous stint with General Atomics as its Chief Executive of Strategic Development, he is credited with playing a key role in laying the foundations of an armed drone sale to India and in persuading the US Administration to release Category-1 UAVs to India, the first such American approval for a non-NATO country

Dr Lall was instrumental in some of the biggest India-US defence deals to date. Among the multi-billion dollar deals with a Vivek Lall footprint are those for eight P8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft ($3 Billion) and 10 C-17 strategic lift military transport air ($4 Billion).

The groundwork for the Apache and Chinook helicopter deals was also done during Dr Lall’s tenure as head of Boeing Defence, Space & Security for India a decade ago.

He joined Boeing as an aeronautical engineer in 1996, working on computational fluid dynamics and air elasticity, loads and dynamics for the 757-300 and 777 aircraft. Shifting from engineering to management, he was moved to India in 2003 as managing director of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In 2007, he was appointed vice-president and country head for India, Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

Earlier in his career, Dr Lall worked with Raytheon on its Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) Beechcraft T-6 Texan II. He also worked at the NASA Ames Research Center.

Man of Substance

Academic depth & professional gravitas have enabled ‘the most influential Asian-American in the US Defence Industry’ stay ahead of the curve

VIVEK LALL HOBNOBBING WITH TOP WORLD POLITICAL LEADERS: (TOP) WITH NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER, DONALD TRUMP, US PRESIDENT; (ABOVE) JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA; SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PREMIER

He’s been hailed in Japan as the most influential Asian-American in the US Defence Industry. This reputation has been earned through toil and enterprise, and his many accomplishments have been anchored in academic depth and professional rigour.

Dr Vivek Lall did his O and A levels through the University of London, UK, and completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at a very young age of 19 years from Carleton University in Canada. His thesis on ‘Aircraft Performance’in the course of his bachelor’s was the starting point of his interest in aerospace, which would later catapult him to leadership positions in the Defence Industry.

Subsequently, when his father, a career diplomat, was posted to Panama during the Manuel Noriega years, Dr Lall moved to the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida for a master’s in aeronautical engineering. He went on to earn a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University in Kansas, and later, an MBA from the City University in Seattle. He has also done management and executive courses at the American Management Association in Washington DC and the Boeing Leadership Center in St. Louis.

It was the soundness of his academic grounding that first brought him to the notice in the Aerospace and Defence Industry. His work at Boeing’s Airplane Performance and Propulsion group has been acknowledged as pioneering

Dr Lall’seducational depth has helped him stay ahead of the learning and leadership curve. He was so much into circuits that his Dean at University told him to “get a social life” but Lall remained deeply anchored to research.

It was the soundness of his academic grounding that first brought him to the notice in the Aerospace and Defence Industry. His work at Boeing’s Airplane Performance and Propulsion group has been acknowledged as pioneering.

He also worked as an adjunct faculty member at Embry-Riddle and McConnell Air Force Base, besides being co-chair of the US-India Aviation Cooperation Programme launched by Norman Mineta in 2005.

In the course of his illustrious career, governments of several countries have valued his counsel, finding him a humble and knowledgeable stalwart on not only technology but foreign policy issues as well. Feted by several US Presidents and other global leaders, Dr Lall is well regarded by several of the US’ NATO allies, including Canada, where he lived for four years.

In May 2018, he was appointed by the United States Government as an advisor to the US cabinet secretary for the Department of Transportation for inputs on aviation policy and technology.

Dr Lall’s contribution to India-US defence relations in the last two decades has been his defining achievement. He continues to champion India-US intimacy with great fervour also because he believes that India has the wherewithal to become a top aerospace and defence power

Though an American national, Dr Lall is a true global citizen having grown up around the world. Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, he has traversed the world living in Austria, Tanzania, UK and Canada besides India and the US. But he firmly believes in Indian values and the growth story of India.

Dr Lall’s contribution to India-US defence relations in the last two decades has been his defining achievement. He continues to champion India-US intimacy with great fervour also because he believes that India has the wherewithal to become a top aerospace and defence power.

He finds the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi the right ingredient for the country to accelerate to superpower capability. He is inspired by the life of Prime Minister Modi while his parents have been his best friends and mentors who encouraged him to pursue his dreams.

Dr Lall has received several honours including the 2008 OCA National Asian Pacific American Corporate Achievement Award in the US. In the year 2000, Cambridge (UK) listed him as one of only 2,000 Outstanding Scientists of the Twentieth Century, a coveted distinction. He is in the Signma Gamma Tau Aerospace Honor Society as well as the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society. He was also the President of the Mathematical Association of America. He is not only straddles the worlds of mathematics, aerospace engineering and management but is also fluent in five languages – English, Hindi, French, German and Swahili.

A trained pilot, he earned his wings at the Phoenix International Flight Training Center in Florida. This perhaps reflects his desire to keep ‘flying high’ and a passion for the aerospace sector.