A Missile Defense “Pathfinder”

A Missile Defense “Pathfinder”


Tony DeSimone’s expertise led the Missile Defense Agency to present him with the prestigious 2016 Aegis BMD Pathfinder Award. It’s given annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, extraordinary technical excellence and innovation on naval ballistic missile defense programs of critical national importance. DeSimone is the youngest recipient, and just one of three civilians, to receive the honor since it was created in 2007.

“It’s humbling to be given this award by people who have been my mentors over the last 10 to 15 years,” says DeSimone. “It’s not something I achieved alone – the entire BMD team works passionately to continue to evolve the Aegis system.”

When a career as a jazz musician didn’t work out, Tony DeSimone PhD honed his chops in physics and engineering and changed his daily beat from music to missile defense.

As the Lockheed Martin technical director for the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), DeSimone is applying to LRDR the experiences and lessons learned from the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense program. The LRDR contract, awarded by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in October 2015, requires an operational radar in Alaska by 2020, serving the homeland defense mission for next 40-50 years. Integrated into the Ballistic Missile Defense System, LRDR provides an improved capability to identify and discriminate ballistic missiles.

“We’re applying the latest solid-state technology to protect against today’s threats and pace the future; following in the footsteps of what began on the Aegis program 50 years ago,” says DeSimone. “It’s exciting to be part of the team that will create the most advanced solid-state radar in the world, one that will be operational for 40-50 years, long after my career is done.”

DeSimone has an intimate view into all the moving parts working together and cites the various challenges to the task, including the integration of the advanced technology, the rapid production schedule and the seasonal Alaskan climate. The logistics extend to a nationwide production and operations team that will produce the thousands of LRDR components including five Lockheed Martin manufacturing facilities and various suppliers.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to work on this project. This is insanely complicated and insanely cool at the same time,’’ says DeSimone. “It’s fast paced, challenging work. There isn’t a script you get and follow every day. There’s always some new problem and new challenge that you need to solve.”

So while jazz great Ella Fitzgerald croons “Someone to Watch Over Me,” DeSimone and his team make the systems to ensure that someone is watching, and protecting, our freedom.