Special Adviser, Institute for Security Science and Technology
Robin Pitman retired from the Ministry of Defence in November 2008 after more than 40 years of service in government science. His appointment as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was announced in the New Year’s Honours List in January 2009.
His last position with the MOD was with the British Defence Staff in the British Embassy, Washington DC, USA, where he took up the post of Head of Defence Nuclear and Strategic Technologies in May 2003. In that position he was responsible for all co-operation between the UK and US on nuclear warhead and nuclear propulsion matters under the 1958 Agreement for Co-operation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes. On his departure from Washington he was awarded the US National Nuclear Security Administration’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Service in recognition of his significant contributions to the national security of both the United Kingdom and the United States – the first time that this prestigious award has been made to a non-US national.
Born in Kent in 1945 he graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury with BSc (Hons) in Physics in 1968. Before this period at university he had spent 2 years at the UKAEA Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, in the Plutonium Metallurgy Division carrying out phase diagram studies on various plutonium alloys and studies into the compatibility of plutonium/uranium alloys with potential reactor fuel cladding and coolant materials.
Following graduation he joined the UKAEA Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston, where he worked in the Design Mathematics Division on radiation-hydrodynamics problems relating to warhead design and on the behaviour of potential laser fusion targets. In 1974 he moved to the Laser Division at AWRE (now within the Ministry of Defence) where he led a team on the construction of a 100GW neodymium-glass laser and was subsequently responsible for optical and target alignment in the early days of the 2TW HELEN laser. During this period he had a short attachment to the US Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, on the ARGUS and SHIVA laser projects.
During 1980 he moved to the Royal Artillery Range on the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides to take up the post of Range Analyst where he was responsible for software aspects of the range control and instrumentation system and for all data analysis. In this position he oversaw the development of the range from a practice range for short-range air defence systems to a highly instrumented facility to support the development firings of the Sub-Harpoon and Sea Eagle missile systems.
He moved to London in 1984 and for six years headed the team responsible for scientific and technical assessments of ballistic missile and ballistic missile defence systems in the Defence Intelligence Staff, subsequently moving to the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre at RAF Brampton near Huntingdon as Scientific Adviser, now with the civil service rank of Senior Principal Scientific Officer.
He returned to MOD Headquarters in London in 1994 to take up a post in the office of the Assistant Chief Scientific Adviser (Nuclear) with responsibility for the sponsorship and scrutiny of the UK nuclear warhead research and capability maintenance programme, and for international collaboration in this area. He subsequently completed a major review of the UK nuclear warhead capability as Deputy Director Strategic Technologies (Nuclear Warhead Capability).
Robin Pitman now lives in Oldbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, with his wife Iris. He holds a Private Pilots Licence and has many varied interests which include industrial archaeology with particular reference to the development of the technological infrastructure of London.