The current president of Collins Aerospace’s mission systems business unit still can remember his captivation with the U.S. space program growing up in Lamont.
“I’d be out helping dad in the shop, working on equipment, and I’d take a break to go and watch the Shuttle launch,” said Phil Jasper, who also vividly recalls the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion that killed a crew of seven in 1986.
“That was something that really stuck with me, just the fact that obviously these were great people … and it just reinforced the importance of what engineers do and how important it is, that people’s lives really depend on designing safe, effective systems, and if there’s a failure, it can mean people’s lives are at stake,” he said.
Jasper completed engineering and finance internships with Rockwell Collins in 1988 and 1989, and began full-time work for the company after receiving his master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
Nearly 30 years later, about halfway through the planning process for the United Technologies Corp. acquisition, Jasper said he participated in determining which legacy businesses would make sense to integrate into units and where they should be based.
Jasper was “humbled” to learn late in the process that he would head mission systems, which combines Rockwell’s heritage mission systems business with UTC’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and ejection and propulsion divisions.
In 2018, Collins’ mission systems business brought in about $3.5 billion in revenue, Jasper said.
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Jasper described mission systems as encapsulating an array of products and technologies “that enable our customers to execute and complete their missions,” covering ranges from subsurface to space.
Its terrestrial products include radios, data links allowing for back-and-forth communication between aircraft and soldiers, and navigation GPS.
Specific capabilities constantly are evolving, Jasper said, as soldiers must deal with what he describes as the “connected and digital battle space.”
Representatives both from Collins Aerospace’s advanced technology center in Cedar Rapids and agencies under the U.S. Department of Defense continually look forward to evaluate soldiers’ needs, both immediate and long-term, so Collins can address them, Jasper said.
Sometimes, he said, this involves ensuring the Department of Defense is leveraging the investments Collins Aerospace has made in commercial technology.
For example, he said, it might be more expensive and time-consuming for Collins Aerospace to create a brand-new product for the federal government, compared to modifying a commercial product made for a customer such as Boeing to suit defense needs.
“At the end of the day, all of our technologies are integral to our customers achieving their mission, with the ultimate goal of bringing every war fighter home safely to his or her family or base,” Jasper said.
Collins Aerospace has benefited from growth in the nation’s defense budget over the past few years though he anticipates this could slow down in the future, Jasper said.
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Also of recent interest for the company was Vice President Mike Pence’s call in March for NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024, which Jasper said could portend good news for mission systems products including life support systems for astronauts’ suits and technologies for space vehicles.
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in inquiries, we’re seeing more requests from customers in terms of what are our capabilities in these areas, what technologies do we have and how can we apply that to help solve the new lunar challenge,” he said.
Jasper said he is aware of concern in the community about the UTC acquisition of Rockwell Collins but believes the company’s continued presence and work in Cedar Rapids demonstrates a commitment that has “allayed” some of those fears.
“I think it speaks volumes that they headquartered two of the six business units right here in Cedar Rapids,” he said. “That really, I think, sends a strong signal that the corporation sees the value of what we do here.”
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• Most recent previous leadership positions at Rockwell Collins: Executive vice president and chief operating officer, government systems; vice president, business development
• Education: Iowa State University, bachelor of science, aerospace engineering, and master of engineering, aerospace engineering
• Hometown: Lamont