Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let Skylab be a reminder of what happens to a neglected space station

Posted by John Keller

Everyone remember Skylab? You know, that orbiting laboratory that NASA operated as America's first space station from 1973 until, neglected, its orbit decayed in 1979 and Skylab burned up in the Earth's atmosphere before its remains crashed in the Southern Hemisphere -- some of it on Australia.

Such a waste.

Yes I know, there were REASONS that Skylab met such an ignominious end, most of them involving money, or the lack thereof. Skylab was a victim of NASA's success in the Apollo program that landed men on the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, 1969, Apollo 11? Of course you remember all that.

What evolved from that summer day in 1969 when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon in the lunar module, within several years, was a collective yawn from the public after the first few moon missions. Everyone wondered what was next. Well what was next was the Skylab space station, but after the first moon landing even Skylab wasn't all that exciting anymore.

So for Skylab, funding ran short, and the orbiting lab was mothballed. The plan was for the yet-to-be-developed U.S. space shuttle to refurbish Skylab and reinvigorate that space station program, which fallen into disuse.

The problem with that plan was the space shuttle didn't get developed in time to save Skylab. NASA couldn't boost it to a higher orbit, and the Earth's gravity eventually sucked the orbiting lab to its doom.

Now are you wondering why I brought this up? Well, indications are that we're ready to go through Skylab Part II. The International Space Station, the multi-nation legacy of Skylab and an early Russian space station called Mir, is ready to be abandoned. Space experts are starting to fret that chances are increasing of losing the newest Space Station.

The latest chapter began with the crash of a Russian rocket that was supposed to resupply the Space Station recently due to malfunction, leaving the International Space Station short of food, water, fuel, and other essentials.

The Space Station's current crew most likely will have to leave it before another resupply mission can be attempted. Now where do we see this going? Is it sounding familiar?

I'm wondering if, due to federal budget cuts here and around the world, the International Space Station could share the same fate as Skylab. What a coincidence that would be; can't you see the scenario unfolding? Lack of money, lack of interest, lack of a way even to get to the orbiting lab.

I wish I didn't see it happening like this, but I do. Here's another delicious twist on dwindling government money. On 20 July 1969 I was a 10-year-old kid on vacation at McGrath State Beach, a campground in California, listening on a transistor radio as Armstrong and Aldrin maneuvered the Apollo 11 lunar module to the lunar surface.

This campground where I listened to history in the making is scheduled to close permanently this fall. The reason: not enough money to operate it and fix a crucial sewer line.

Launch of 737 MAX restores competitive balance between Boeing and Airbus for narrow-body jetliner market

Posted by John Keller

So Boeing's finally done it; they've introduced a fuel-efficient narrow-body jetliner -- the 737 MAX -- in response to the Airbus launch last December of the A320neo family of single-aisle medium-range passenger jets. It had been anticipated for a while, and was seen as an imperative for Boeing to come up with an alternative to the Airbus A320neo, and fast.

Airbus introduced the A320neo -- short for new engine option -- less than a year ago, and at the Paris Air Show last June absolutely wiped the floor with Boeing in the perpetual two-company struggle for a dominant share of the global airliner market.

Normally the big international air shows like Paris and Farnborough see roughly equal aircraft sales among Boeing and Airbus, but this past June it was different. Airbus took orders at Paris for 730 aircraft worth a total of $72.2 billion -- 667 of those orders for the A320neo. Boeing, by contrast, sold 142 commercial aircraft at Paris.

One of the big reasons for the lopsided sales performance at Paris was the lack of a Boeing offering to counter the A320neo, which at the time was promising to be the most fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly single-aisle medium-range aircraft available in the world. by the end of the show, orders for the A320neo family had reached 1,029, making it the best selling airliner in the history of commercial aviation, Airbus officials claimed.

The sales showing at Paris was so lopsided, that experts believe Boeing had to come up with an alternative, or continue losing sales to Airbus. That alternative was announced on Tuesday, but with strikingly few details about the 737 MAX. We know it will be a variant of the venerable Boeing 737, with three different versions, but no details on lengths or seating configurations released, as of yet.

The twin-engine 737 MAX will have will have LEAP-1B engines from CFM International S.A. that will be optimized for the new Boeing aircraft. The A320neo, by contrast, will offer a choice of the CFM International LEAP-X or the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G PurePower engines. The A320neo is scheduled to enter service in 2015 or 2016, while the 737 MAX most likely won't enter service until 2017.

Boeing's announcement Tuesday of the new 737 MAX claimed orders for the new jet, but gave no details on which airlines might be most interested in the new aircraft. At least one tantalizing possibility for the future 737 MAX might be Southwest Airlines, which operates versions of the Boeing 737 exclusively, and by 2017 might be ready to replenish its hard-working fleet.

We know something more about the A320neo than we do about the 737 MAX. The A320neo will consists of variants of the Airbus A320, A321, and A319, seating from 124 and 220 passengers in a variety of seating configurations. No details yet about seating configurations for the 737 MAX. We'll learn more as time goes on.

On hindsight, it seems Boeing had little choice in offering up its 737 model for upgrades to the 737 MAX configuration, given time constraints and intense pressure from Airbus. Still, I had been hoping for something a little different, and perhaps much bolder.

Boeing has been heavily touting its latest all-new passenger aircraft design, the 787 Dreamliner, for years. The composite-design, fuel-efficient 787 is a long-range widebody aircraft designed to compete on international routes. For an answer to the A320neo, I had hoped for a narrow-body version of the 787, with composite construction and those large passenger windows that Boeing makes so much of on the 787.

We may see a miniature single-aisle version of the 787 yet, but probably not for a while, if ever. As it is, however, we've see a restoration of the competitive balance between Boeing and Airbus for the future single-aisle jetliner market.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More meaningless posturing over "automatic" cuts in the defense budget

Posted by John Keller

I don't know whether to be amused or frustrated over political rhetoric coming out of Washington about these so-called "automatic" cuts in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget over the next decade if Congress doesn't either reduce projected spending or raise taxes.

First, talking about "required" defense budget cuts right now anywhere beyond federal fiscal year 2013 is just silly, empty, political fluff. I get tired of beating this dead horse, but I'll say it again: Congress does whatever it wants to do on a year-by-year basis. There are NO "required" cuts in the future because every Congress acts on its own, regardless of promises made in the past.

Nothing's binding; it's all just a bunch of talk. Rather shocking behavior to see from Washington, don't you think?

Look at the stories making the rounds over the past few days containing dire predictions of hurting our national defense due to potential "automatic cuts totaling an additional half a trillion dollars" ... "if Congress fails to enact additional deficit reduction legislation by the end of the year." You can read rhetoric like that in a story today in the Los Angeles Times entitled "Pentagon says projected spending cuts could undermine security."

Take a close look at these stories. They all contain caveats like "unless Congress decided to overturn the cuts." IF Congress were to overturn the cuts? They actually mean WHEN Congress overturns the cuts, as lawmakers, in their wisdom and calculation, undoubtedly will do.

They always do.

Every Congress acts on its own every federal fiscal year. They're bound by nothing in the past. They start every year out with a clean slate. Overturning commitments made in the past is just part of the routine, and can be predicted like the sun rising in the east.

So, with this in mind, every dire prediction you read about "automatic" defense cuts over the next 10 years is all just political theater performed to exert pressure for the perceived need to do something now. In this case the pressure being applied is about raising taxes, and the rhetoric is intended to hold the DOD budget hostage to make that happen.

The budget will be cut drastically in the future unless Congress enacts new taxes, we hear from Washington. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta trotted out a statement this week warning these deep cuts in the defense budget would hurt national security, and that the American people should accept higher taxes, rather than deep cuts in the defense budget.

It's right off the Obama Administration script. Panetta delivered his lines like the Democrat party pro he is. I remember years ago interviewing Panetta in his Capitol Hill office when he was a congressman representing Monterey, Calif. He was a skilled, experienced political infighter then, and he's a skilled, experienced political infighter today. Same party, same script, different job.

So, if you find yourself starting to get worked up over future military budget cuts based on what you're hearing out of Washington, just take a breath and remind yourself that this is only a movie.

Because that's all it is.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smoke, mirrors, and other hocus-pocus take center stage at U.S. deficit-reduction talks

Posted by John Keller

You gotta love some of the proposals tossed onto the table during the continuing deficit-reduction talks among members the U.S. Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama.

The latest proposal from the Senate's so-called "Gang of Six" senators from both parties seeks to make "$3.75 trillion in savings over 10 years" and "contains $1.2 trillion in new revenues."

First, predicting how Congress will spend money a decade in the future is like predicting the weather in 2086. Of the Democrat and Republican lawmakers who are trying to convince us now how they'll spend money in 10 years, well, many of them won't even be around then, so what do they care about commitments they make today?

If Congress were to approve such a scheme, they'll be able to hear the giggles in Washington from Kansas City. Some of those senators and representatives in 10 years will be out of office, some will be dead, a few might still be in Congress, but no one will remember by then. Long story short, 10-year spending plans in Congress are pure fantasy cooked up to placate important constituencies, and only for the time being.

If Congress is going to make meaningful cuts in federal spending, they have to do it now, this year, before the 2012 elections. Anything other than that is something akin to the guy staggering home with lipstick on his collar at 2 a.m., smelling of whiskey, and telling his wife that he was at a midnight mass.

You can't trust politicians to do two things: tell the truth, and not spend taxpayer money; it's just not in their makeup. History bears this out.

Second, I just love this government rhetoric about "new revenues." The word revenue means different things to different people. In the private sector, revenue means income that a company receives from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. More to the point, in private business revenue is earned. Not so in government.

In government, revenue refers to tax money confiscated from citizens. It's not earned, it's simply taken -- with or without the taxpayer's consent. So whenever you hear anyone in government talking about "new revenues," just substitute "tax hikes," and see how that proposal plays with you.

That's just the point, isn't it? The government is just playing with us. No wonder so many American citizens so fed up.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Must an entire sector of U.S. civil aviation be demonized in the interests of Obama re-election campaign?

Posted by John Keller

President Barack Obama, in a speech at the White House Wednesday, saw fit to paint an important sector of U.S. civil aviation -- business aviation -- as an icon of corporate greed worthy of contempt by ordinary working Americans who have been hit hard by the long economic recession.

Business aviation, which consists of private jets, crop dusters, and corporate aircraft of many different kinds, provides jobs to factory workers at places like Hawker Beechcraft, Bombardier, Cessna, and Piper. This sector of our civil aviation industry also provides livelihoods for those who work at fixed-based operators, aircraft parts sellers, fuel vendors, and even publishing.

Business aviation, in short, provides honest work for many Americans -- many of whom are like the rest of us, just getting by and struggling to make ends meet. Instead, our president who's running an increasingly desperate campaign for re-election in 2012, wants to tar these people as purveyors of corporate greed.

The president told a news conference Wednesday, "The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners."

Corporate jet owners must be bad, even though they provide employment for a large sector of U.S. civil aviation, our president reasons. Well this just isn't true.

Corporate jet owners aren't fat-cats who light big cigars with hundred-dollar bills, as the president and many of his supporters would like us to think. They are people running important industries who can't afford to waste time in commercial airports waiting for commercial flights. Without the benefit of private aviation, these industry executives often cannot make money or continue to employ workers.

And this does not even address the other American industries that our president is trying to hurt here. I used to get a paycheck from the oil industry. So did my dad, and a lot of other people I know. My dad's paychecks, which had the name Chevron up at the top, helped feed and clothe me as I was growing up, and helped pay my way through college. This so-called "big oil" money helped sustain me and my entire family. It's the same with business aviation.

Those who must use corporate jets work hard, they hire people, and they don't deserve this kind of disrespect from our nation's president. Business jet manufacturers have long been demonized as serving only the undeserving rich. They have endured the public's disdain, and have labored under so-called "luxury tax" burdens that few other sectors of our economy must bear.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), a trade association in Arlington, Va., that represents the nation's aviation and aerospace companies, also was quick to react to President Obama's unfair and heavy-handed rhetoric.

"We're disturbed by President Obama's remarks on business aviation today," wrote Marion Blakey, president and chief executive officer of the AIA shortly after Obama's press conference. "It seems odd that he would undermine the aviation industry one day after visiting Alcoa's factory and praising the workers who make parts and materials that are critical to producing business jets," Blakey wrote. "General aviation plays an important role in our economy and took a substantial hit in the recent recession. We feel that disparaging comments from the president regarding business jet users are not conducive to promoting jobs, investment and economic growth."

Nevertheless, President Obama said at Wednesday's news conference, "I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that."

Well here's an American who doesn't, and I'd like to hear the opinions of every employee who's involved in the civil aviation industry on the subject. What the civil aviation industry does not need is job-killing tax increases. What the civil aviation industry needs right now is sensible economic policies that create and maintain jobs, and get unemployed and under-employed Americans back to work.

This won't happen if the president continues to demonize legitimate industries, and to pit different groups of Americans against one another.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today's laser weapons buzz may mean military deployment will be sooner than we think

Posted by John Keller

There's suddenly a lot of buzz in our industry about laser weapons development. Several different technological advances and upcoming laser weapons tests has me thinking that the first field deployments of laser weapons may be sooner than we think.

The latest news is a completed systems integration by Boeing Directed Energy Systems of the U.S. Army's truck-mounted High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) -- a high-energy solid-state laser weapon designed to shoot down incoming rockets, mortars, artillery shells, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) -- and planned tests of the experimental weapon this fall at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

That announcement, which came on 27 June, follows closely on last week's $39.8 million contract award from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in San Diego to develop a 150-kilowatt high-energy solid-state laser weapon that could be mounted to ships, fighter aircraft, armored combat vehicles, and perhaps even unmanned vehicles. The contract is part of the fourth phase of the DARPA High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program.

Just two months ago laser weapons experts from DARPA and the U.S. Navy demonstrated a high-energy laser off the California coast as the laser disabled the engines on a small boat. This demonstration was part of the military's Joint High Powered Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program. The laser fired off California, called the Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), was built by the Northrop Grumman Corp. Space Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif.

So what might all this activity in laser weapons research mean? It might mean nothing beyond several programs coming to fruition at the same time. On the other hand, it might mean a lot.

We often read in the press about nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile development in Iran. Now couple that with the upcoming demonstration of a powerful laser weapon designed to defeat incoming rockets and missiles. Coincidence? Maybe, and maybe not.

Despite several laser weapons research programs recently yielding promising technology, a lot more has to be done before these technologies deploy in fielded military systems. The military services first must demonstrated a tangible need for laser weapons, and then they need to find money in their budgets to develop and produce them. That's much more difficult than it sounds.

Still, we've developed high-energy laser weapons technology, and see a demonstrated threat out there. The rest is up to the U.S. military to put two and two together.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Smart money today isn't betting on the success of space exploration

Posted by John Keller

Wanna know where American space-exploration efforts are headed? Just watch how the smart money bets.

The Boeing Co., one of the world's largest and most influential aerospace companies, is laying off 510 workers in the company's Space Exploration division in Houston, the company announced today. That's 510 employees. That doesn't sound like Boeing has a lot of confidence in the future of U.S. space exploration.

Okay, Boeing officials are saying the layoffs are due to the planned completion of the Space Shuttle program. I'll buy that. But take a look at the long-term prospects for sustained U.S. space exploration, and you'll find not much there.

It's not that U.S. agencies like NASA, which are in place to promote space exploration, don't want to pursue new projects with vigor. There's just no money, and little, if any, national will to send humans into space on any great scale.

The Shuttle program is ending, the International Space Station is being mothballed, and there's really nothing on the horizon with any prospect for adequate funding to generate much more than the occasional press release.

U.S. space exploration is heading for another dark age. It reminds me of the 1970s after the Apollo program, and after the first U.S. space station program, called Skylab, lost its luster. Apollo was done, the moon was conquered, the nation was exhausted from Vietnam. Nobody wanted to put serious time, energy, and money into space anymore.

The Skylab space station, launched in 1973, was left adrift in space without any support. The Saturn V program was over, the Space Shuttle wasn't ready yet, and Skylab in 1979 sunk into the Earth's atmosphere and burned up on re-entry.

The first Space Shuttle launched in 1981 -- two years too late to save Skylab. Now the Space Shuttle program is over, leaving the U.S. with no spacecraft capable of serving the International Space Station. Russia, about the only country left with the rocket capability to get to the Space Station, doesn't want to pay for supporting that mission anymore.

It's looking like the International Space Station could face the same fate as Skylab. I'm betting that about 510 soon-to-be-former employees of Boeing today are thinking the same thing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Congress, once again, flips the bird to the Pentagon over plans to cut wasteful spending

Posted by John Keller

I just want to scream.

Our nation is drowning in debt, the dollar is weakening as a result, we watch as the costs of everything -- driven by skyrocketing costs of gasoline and diesel fuel (which are going up because of the weakening dollar) spirals out of control ... yet we have a Congress that insists on flipping the bird at the Pentagon's efforts to keep defense spending under some semblance of control.

The latest case in point: a plan to second-source the engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to General Electric. The Pentagon doesn't want two companies building engines for the F-35. Those in the Pentagon believe Pratt & Whitney can take care of F-35 engine production. Congress, however, has other plans.

Now don't get me wrong, I got nothing against GE, but isn't one engine supplier enough for an expensive jet fighter-bomber that ultimately we're not going to buy many copies of anyway? Just one supplier buying that engine will be expensive enough. It's big, powerful, expensive, and stealthy. But must we tool-up two companies to build the engine, increase the overhead costs of producing it exponentially, and make two companies split the profits? Does that make sense? Must we?


Evidently Congress thinks so, even if the Pentagon doesn't. That's the U.S. Congress, our elected representatives, the guys and gals who are supposed to be looking out for us, the taxpayers. The House voted this past week to allow GE to be a second source for the F-35 engine ... even though the Pentagon doesn't want to because it's too expensive.

Let's think about this a second. the Pentagon ... the PENTAGON ... has never set a stellar example of saving money. I'm thinking hundred-dollar hammers, million-dollar toilet seats, thousand-dollar coffee pots -- you know the stories.

Yet the U.S. House of Representatives has clearly demonstrated itself to be even less concerned with cutting spending than the Pentagon. Is that even possible? 'Scuze me while I catch my breath.

Moreover, this is the House. You know, the one where just a few months ago the Republicans took over as the majority. The REPUBLICANS. You know, the guys (and gals) who campaigned on getting the nation's house under financial control, the party of fiscal restraint, blah, blah, blah.

So let's see, we're still drowning in debt. The Administration doesn't seem to care. The House doesn't seem to care. The only ones that seem to care are those in the Pentagon. The PENTAGON!

God, it's even worse than I thought.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wire news feeds a big hit on Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence Websites

Posted by John Keller

The new wire news sections on the Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence Websites are big hits among readers, as the wire news feeds on our sites have drawn 8.4 percent of our total page views over the past three months, or nearly 36,000 total page views.

We added wire news feeds to our sites over the past several months to increase the depth tempo of news content on our sites, and reader response has been surprisingly strong.

We use Lexis-Nexis as our primary wire news provider, which gives us a wide-breadth of late-breaking news of financial statements, products, new developments, contractors, and many other topics of importance to the aerospace and defense industry.

If you haven't seen our wire news sections, surf on over to the Military & Aerospace Electronics wire feed at, or the Avionics Intelligence wire feed at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NVIDIA acquires Icera, so what's this got to do with military embedded computing?

Posted by John Keller

At first glance, the acquisition this week of cellular communications expert Icera by graphics processing unit (GPU) specialist NVIDIA might seem to have little, if any, influence on the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry. After all, NVIDIA's stated purpose in acquiring Icera is to become a major player in cell phones and mobile computing. What's that got to do with military embedded systems?

Think a second about network-centric warfare and the digital battlefield. It's all about communications-on-the-move, and mobile computing. What the casual user calls getting Mapquest directions and finding the nearest Starbucks, the military calls situational awareness. NVIDIA acquires Icera; see a connection here?

Cell phone and mobile tablet users want to find the movie theater, and know what's playing there, and maybe get dessert afterwards. The military, on the other hand, wants to find the enemy, and know if there is air support nearby. After that, well ... maybe there's time for Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.

But you get the idea; the needs of cell phone and mobile tablet computer users are not that much different from what the military needs. Civilians use commercial cell phone networks and smart phones. The military uses secure defense networks and different versions of the software-defined radio (SDR).

NVIDIA is already making a name for itself in military embedded computing with its NVIDIA CUDA graphics processing unit (GPU), which in additional to processing graphics and imagery turns out to be an effective high-performance parallel processor for floating-point-based digital signal processing.

Those who think NVIDIA isn't thinking about the military in this acquisition might not be looking deeply enough.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BittWare Anemone processor could make FPGAs as popular as general-purpose processors in embedded computing

Posted by John Keller.

One of the biggest raps against field-programmable gate arrays for digital signal processing is the complexity of the FPGA. To use these powerful-but-frustrating devices, systems designers must be adept in the arcane VHSIC Hardware Description Language (VHDL), as well as in hand-coding to achieve the most efficient performance. Using FPGAs is like a throwback to the old days of programming ASICs in assembly language to squeeze out the most performance possible.

As a result, many designers shy away from using FPGAs when they can, and opt instead for digital signal processing (DSP) architectures based on general-purpose processors like the 2nd Generation Intel Core i7 and on the new breed of graphics processing units (GPUs) like the NVIDIA CUDA. Using the GPP/GPU architecture for DSP-intensive floating-point processing, proponents argue, is easier and faster to market because the software can be written in high-order languages like C and C++, rather than the difficult VHDL.

Much of the reluctance to use FPGAs in DSP applications may be changing, however, with the introduction today of the FPGA/Anemone architecture from BittWare Inc. in Concord, N.H. Anemone is a floating-point co-processor that is programmable in the standard C computer language, which has the potential to make FPGA-based processors as easy and quick to use as the GPP/GPU architectures are becoming.

BittWare's new Anemone/FPGA architecture, which is based on Altera high-performance FPGAs and the Adapteva Epiphany processor, is designed for floating-point embedded computing applications like radar processing, software-defined radio, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

I think we'll be hearing a lot more about the Anemone/FPGA architecture in the future.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are we on the verge of a new era of technological innovation?

When it comes to military technology development, everyone knows it's been tough for the past year or so. Research money from the Pentagon has slowed to a trickle, contracting has been stretched out or cancelled altogether, and uncertainty in defense budgets has encouraged companies to hold on to their cash for as long as they can.

Still, there are encouraging signs that the culture of military technology development may be changing. Don't get me wrong, it's more in the realm of tough-love than it is in prospects for more government funding, but if the defense industry plays its cards right, we may be on the verge of a new era in technological innovation, with the added benefit of tossing out some of the old, inefficient business practices in the bargain.

First, there are indications that defense technology companies aren't waiting anymore for internal research and development (IRAD) money from the Pentagon. Instead, they may be more inclined to fund crucial research themselves without government help. Second, Pentagon officials -- at least in their rhetoric -- appear to be favoring fixed-price contracting these days, rather than older contract vehicles that inadvertently encouraged low-ball bidding and cost overruns.

Together, these two trends have the potential to shake the defense industry out of its old way of doing business, and perhaps spark a new and efficient way of developing aerospace and defense technology.

Companies that fund their own IRAD are betting on their own success with their own money. Those who do so are more than likely to pick the strongest and most promising technologies. Second, an emphasis on fixed-price contracting rewards the most nimble and efficient companies, and those that are good at fixed-price contracting will be the winners in any upcoming industry shakeout.

This is no guarantee that such a transformation is in the works. Even if it is, this process will take a long time -- five to ten years, most likely. No one -- in industry or in the Pentagon -- is comfortable with a new way of doing business. Left to their own devices, all concerned would rather remain what they've been comfortable with for years.

Still, if pressure is applied long enough and strongly enough, we might be seeing the start of something big. After all, history shows us that the dinosaurs eventually die out, and the mammals take over.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Army set to kick off M3TD chemical-detection program with RFP due in May

Posted by John Keller.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., 24 April 2011. The U.S. Army apparently is ready to kick off a new program to develop chemical-detection technology for the next generation of chemical biological radiological nuclear (CBRN) defense programs.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., announced their intention last week to issue a request for proposals (RFP) between now and late May for the Multi-Mission Multi-Threat Detection (M3TD) effort to develop technology to collect data from contact and non-contact sensors to detect a variety of chemicals of interest.

The RFP will be numbered W911SR-11-R-0020, and will be issued on behalf of the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM NBC CA), which is part of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense in the Pentagon. The Army may award several contracts.

Companies interested may keep track of the M3TD program and its upcoming RFP online at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Army officials sing praises of UH-72A Lakota at Army Aviation show this week in Nashville

Posted by John McHale.
Army officials were delivering heaps of praise upon EADS North America during a press conference this week for their performance regarding production of UH-72A Lakota. Army leaders from Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said at U.S. Army Aviation Association of America AAAA annual forum in Nashville, Tenn. that they have been able to return 23 National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to combat deployment thanks to the on-time and early deliveries of the UH-72A Lakotas from EADS North America in Arlington, Va.

The 23 Black Hawks returned to service is critical, said Col. Neil Thurgood, Army project manager, Utility Helicopters at the press conference. "It is almost the equivalent of an assault battalion," he added.

For more on the Lakota's avionics read "Army helicopters get avionics face-lifts."

A major reason the that the Lakotas are meeting their delivery goals is that the requirements have not changed, which often happens in a program, causing the integrators and industry partners to have to keep re-designing to keep up with the changes, which equates to delays, Thurgood said. The Army will still make modifications as components go obsolete, but the requirements will not change, he added.

The Lakota was developed through industry-funded research then sold to the Army in a commercial transaction, said John Burke, vice president, EADS North America. Burke also made his comments during the press conference.

They key is that Eurocopter has the largest commercial helicopter fleet in the world, and was able to leverage the commercial technology used in those programs, Burke continued. Also it helps that the Army's "acquisition leadership is focused on where it's going not where it's been," he added.

The UH-72A is produced in Columbus, Miss., at EADS North America's American Europcopter business unit's rotary-wing center of excellence. Production of the Lakota, which is based on Eurocopter's EC145 multi-role helicopter produced in Germany, has been duplicated in Columbus.

The transfer of production to the U.S. was "extremely smooth and EADS did not miss one delivery," Thurgood said.

The Army has a total acquisition target of 345 helicopters through 2015 and 154 have been delivered to the National Guard so far, Thurgood noted. The National Guard will receive 210 of that final total, he added.

The upgraded Lakotas will be used by the National Guard for reconnaissance, border protection, command and control and air movement operations that support U.S. homeland defense, and security missions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

AMC/AEEC attendance up as avionics engineers are bullish on market

Posted by John McHale
Attendance at the Avionics Maintenance Conference (AMC)/Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) event this week in Memphis Tenn., was up by nearly 20 percent over last year's event, according to AMC organizers -- this is particularly noteworthy considering this is the first year they charged $500 per person to attend. However, the positive vibes I was getting from avionics suppliers, airframers, and airlines about the market health is probably a big factor in the improved turnout.

Attendees are particularly excited about opportunities in new aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner while the retrofit market looks promising for electronic flight bag (EFB) designers as airlines and operators beging to upgrade their fleets to eb compatible with future air traffic management mandates such as SESAR in Europe and NextGen in the U.S.

Airline representatives were more reserved, expressing concern over rising fuel prices. During AEEC committee meetings there was growing doubt about the whether or not SESAR and NextGen
-- when fully deployed -- will have similar architectures and nomenclature, making it the transition to these systems much easier on the airlines.

The monumental task of just getting different European countries on the same page within the SESAR initiative seems daunting -- let alone harmonizing with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) NextGen program.

The airlines are also looking for solid avionics roadmaps from SESAR and the FAA so they will know what to adopt, when to adopt it, and how much it will cost.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Firing on Fort Sumter, which sparked the American Civil War, happened 150 years ago today

Posted by John Keller.

U.S. Army Maj. Robert Anderson had passed a troubled night with little, if any, sleep, as he gazed with dread over the parapets of Fort Sumter across the still-dark harbor waters of Charleston, S.C. It was just before 4:30 a.m., 12 April 1861, and the big guns along the waterfront had never looked so menacing.

The standoff had gone on for months, but this morning it was different. The previous December the state of South Carolina, just where he and his small garrison found themselves this day, had voted to leave the Union, and no longer considered themselves part of the United States -- the country for which Maj. Anderson wore his blue uniform.

Anderson and his garrison had occupied Fort Sumter in the middle of Charleston Harbor at about the same time South Carolina seceded, and Anderson, commanding officer at the fort, had refused all demands by the new South Carolina government to surrender this edifice guarding the harbor entrances.

Anderson and his president, Abraham Lincoln, still considered Fort Sumter to be U.S. government property, but South Carolina officials believed the fort to be theirs, and they flatly told Anderson that further attempts to hold it would lead to war.

It happened at 4:30 a.m., 150 years ago this morning. Anderson heard the first cannon fire, saw the twinkling fuse of the shell as it rose upward, pausing a moment at the top of its trajectory, and plunge toward him and Fort Sumter.

It was the first shot of the American Civil War, which over the next four years would claim more than 600,000 casualties -- nearly 2 percent of the nation's entire population -- and seared into the national memory place names like Bull Run, Antietam Creek, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness.

Maj. Anderson, however, didn't know any of that yet. All he knew was his fort was the target of a ring of fire around Charleston Harbor. He was outgunned, low on supplies, and had no chance of relief. He held on for two grim days before lowering his flag and surrendering.

Before he left Fort Sumter on 14 April, however, Maj. Anderson took the fort's flag. He went with it to New York City where he showed it off at a Union Square rally that was largest public gatherings that New Yorkers had seen up until that time.

Anderson was promoted to brigadier general, but he had seen his worst fighting of the Civil War. He went to Kentucky to help enforce that state's neutrality in the Civil War, but had to turn over command due to worsening health. Replacing Anderson was another brigadier general named William T. Sherman.

Anderson formally retired from the U.S. Army two years later due to declining health. At war's end in 1865, however, he returned to Fort Sumter, wearing his uniform and bearing the flag he had lowered on that April morning.

He raised that flag once again over the now-crumbling fortress.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What if we considered selling counterfeit electronic parts like we do selling stolen property?

Posted by John Keller.

The problem of counterfeit electronic parts, and the threat they pose of finding their way into crucial aerospace and defense systems, is bad, and it's getting worse. Not only do counterfeit parts threat to cause reliability problems in military electronic systems, but counterfeit parts also might be loaded with kill switches and other sabotage that could enable an enemy to disable or shut down U.S. systems in the event of conflict.

It's gotten the attention of influential members of Congress, as we have reported. U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., of the Senate Armed Services Committee have vowed to investigate the counterfeit electronic parts problem in the military, and are expected to conduct congressional hearings later this year.

A Senate investigation is all well and good, but this problem always seems to get worse. The reason for this is lax -- or non-existent -- penalties for those who knowingly or unknowingly sell counterfeit electronic parts.

Enforcement is sporadic. Tangible penalties are few and far-between. In short, there's so little risk to trafficking in counterfeit electronic parts that anyone inclined to do so has little to fear ... and this has plenty of people involved in legitimate electronic business pursuits plenty fed-up.

Perhaps it's time we took a fresh look at the issue of counterfeit electronic parts.

If you counterfeit an electronic part -- an integrated circuit, amplifier, battery, connector, or something else -- you're stealing from either the original manufacturer or from authorized resellers, such as aftermarket semiconductor houses like Lansdale Semiconductor in Phoenix, or Rochester Electronics in Newburyport, Mass.

If that's the reality -- and a strong case can be made that it's so -- then perhaps we ought to consider sales of counterfeit electronic parts to be selling stolen property. If we view the problem in those terms, it's bound to get the attention of a lot of people operating on either side of the law who until now have been ignoring the issue.

One of the problems revolves around non-existent penalties for selling counterfeit electronic parts. Those who sell these parts to the U.S. military, for example, can simply claim they didn't know the parts were counterfeit. Moreover, the government will ask for the purchase price back, and return the counterfeit to the seller.

With no penalty, that seller then is free to try to sell that counterfeit part to someone else.

Dale Lillard, president of Lansdale Semiconductor, also is an avid owner and restorer of rare antique cars. He says selling counterfeit electronic parts should be treated like selling stolen cars. It doesn't matter if one knows a car is stolen if he tries to sell it. If caught, that person will be charged with selling a stolen car and face serious jail time.

If sellers of counterfeit electronic parts faced still jail sentences, then a lot fewer people would be doing it, Lillard says, and he's right.

"The government is really doing nothing to stop that [counterfeit] traffic. They know it's coming in, and they are not stopping it," Lillard says. "Nobody is treating counterfeit product like we consider stolen property should be treated," he says. "Give someone a $10,000 fine and six months in jail, and the trafficking in these counterfeit parts will slow."

Perhaps Sens. McCain, Levin, and other members of the Senate Armed Service Committee ought to look at the problem in these terms as they conduct their investigation and call witnesses to hearings later this year.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are low-profile, quick-turnaround military contracts replacing the traditional procurement process?

Posted by John Keller.

Defense industry suppliers tell me that military solicitations and contract awards moving through traditional procurement channels have slowed to a trickle, as military program managers safeguard their budgets by delaying or cancelling procurements that had been in the pipeline. That's the bad news.

The good news is that RFPs and contracts moving through non-traditional procurement channels appear to be picking up. These kinds of procurements typically involve small-scale, quick-turnaround contracts for urgently needed component replacements and upgrades that often take place right in the field.

The military seems to be moving in the direction of these quick procurements because they can be kept at a low profile, often involve limited numbers of platforms, and are kept spread out and reasonably priced. Translated, that means the military services can keep their weapons systems functioning and up to date with reduced threat from the bean-counting budget cutters in the Pentagon.

This seems to be a win-win situation for the military services that need new technology, as well as for defense suppliers providing subsystems like embedded computing, rugged displays, and high-reliability data storage. Those in the defense industry can maintain their cash flow while they wait for traditional procurement channels to open up once more -- if they ever really do.

There's a dark side to this approach, however: those in the defense industry are losing trust in the traditional procurement system. It's possible they are becoming less inclined to respond promptly to traditional procurement programs, and sometimes are reluctant to submit bids at all, where in the recent past they would have been jumping on these programs with enthusiasm.

"We have to be extremely sharp in choosing the horse we want to ride, so we can be reasonably sure the horse will finish the race, and not go lame in the process," one supplier told me recently.

Perhaps there's a silver lining to all this. This could be the beginning of the kind of organic defense procurement reform that ultimately could speed all kinds of military technology procurement, and lessen the instances of these monolithic procurements that take forever, cost billions, and succeed only in fielding obsolete technology.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maybe aviation market is turning around

Posted by John McHale.
After this week I'm feeling very confident that the avionics market and the aviation market as a whole is definitely on the upward climb. We just wrapped up our 2011 Avionics & Defence Electronics Europe conference in Munich this afternoon with our attendance up 35 percent over last year.

The attendees were excited about the content on future air traffic management (ATM) systems such as Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and the U.S. Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). They were also smiling about the fact that money is also starting to be spent to be spent on equipping avionics systems with future ATM technology such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) systems.

A commercial avionics market report from Frost & Sullivan backed up the enthusiasm on the floor, but in a more conservative way. Diogenis Papiomytis, principal consultant with Frost, said that the avionics market will not recover till 2014, but it is on the upswing.

He said that technologically speaking navigation and communication equipment are the best investment bet from now till 2020.

We've found that our show attendance typically echoes market health as well as strong content and good marketing. So we're really looking forward to next year's event in Munich.

So were the attendees, as amany of them were looking to be part of the program for next year. If you are too then stay posted here as we will have a Call for Papers coming out the beginning of the summer.

Maybe aviation market is turning around

Posted by John McHale
After this week I'm feeling very confident that the avionics market and the aviation market as a whole is definitely on the upward climb. We just wrapped up our 2011 Avionics & Defence Electronics Europe conference in Munich this afternoon with our attendance up 35 percent over last year.

The attendees were excited about the content on future air traffic management (ATM) systems such as Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and the U.S. Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). They were also smiling about the fact that money is also starting to be spent to be spent on equipping avionics systems with future ATM technology such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) systems.

A commercial avionics market report from Frost & Sullivan backed up the enthusiasm on the floor, but in a more conservative way. Diogenis Papiomytis, principal consultant with Frost, said that the avionics market will not recover till 2014, but it is on the upswing.

He said that technologically speaking navigation and communication equipment are the best investment bet from now till 2020.

We've found that our show attendance typically echoes market health as well as strong content and good marketing. So we're really looking forward to next year's event in Munich.

So were the attendees, as amany of them were looking to be part of the program for next year. If you are too then stay posted here as we will have a Call for Papers coming out the beginning of the summer.

Pilot training taking backseat to new avionics, says Avionics Europe keynote

Posted by John McHale
Pilot training and not new technology is the key to improving flight safety, said Capt. Manfred Mueller, head of flight safety for Lufthansa Airlines, during his keynote address at the Avionics & Defence Electronics Europe conference this week.

Mueller told the audience that too often cost management not new avionics is the real reason flight training has been reduced in flight programs worldwide. New avionics technology, despite its amazing capabilities, can fail catastrophically and pilots need to be have the training to deal with those emergency situations.

Flight training centers are more about making money and keeping costs down and do so by cutting back on pilot training, Mueller said. Flight crews need to implement more "fallback strategy training" in addition to their own training, he added.

Fallback refers to the training you fallback on when your state-of-the-art cockpit avionics fail.

It is often said that new aircraft as the Boeing 787 will reduce pilot training costs because they are easy to fly, Meuller said. That is dangerous thinking and hopefully it will not take more plane crashes to increase training.

Mueller said too often abnormal procedures are designed by lawyers when they should be designed by human factor experts.

Mueller's lawyer comment was echoed in the following keynote delivered by Vincent de Vroey, head of Association of European Airlines, when discussing the relevancy of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

"EASA needs to focus on safety only," de Vroey said. Too often legal teams get involved and they lose their focus, he noted.

Pilot training taking backseat to new avionics, says Avionics Europe keynote

Posted by John McHale
Pilot training and not new technology is the key to improving flight safety, said Capt. Manfred Mueller, head of flight safety for Lufthansa Airlines, during his keynote address at the Avionics & Defence Electronics Europe conference this week.

Mueller told the audience that too often cost management not new avionics is the real reason flight training has been reduced in flight programs worldwide. New avionics technology, despite its amazing capabilities, can fail catastrophically and pilots need to be have the training to deal with those emergency situations.

Flight training centers are more about making money and keeping costs down and do so by cutting back on pilot training, Mueller said. Flight crews need to implement more "fallback strategy training" in addition to their own training, he added.

Fallback refers to the training you fallback on when your state-of-the-art cockpit avionics fail.

It is often said that new aircraft as the Boeing 787 will reduce pilot training costs because they are easy to fly, Meuller said. That is dangerous thinking and hopefully it will not take more plane crashes to increase training.

Mueller said too often abnormal procedures are designed by lawyers when they should be designed by human factor experts.

Mueller's lawyer comment was echoed in the following keynote delivered by Vincent de Vroey, head of Association of European Airlines, when discussing the relevancy of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

"EASA needs to focus on safety only," de Vroey said. Too often legal teams get involved and they lose their focus, he noted.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tsunami and Earthquake in Japan, bully confrontation video, point to the virtues of self-reliance

Posted by John Keller.

I'm thinking about a couple of wholly separate, yet strangely related, recent events that point to the virtues of self-reliance -- even amid forces that try to compel people to rely on others for their well-being.

The first event is the tsunami and earthquake in Japan, and the other involves the case of Australian student Casey Heynes, who finally stood up to serious schoolyard bullying, and is paying the price for it.

One of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history hit off the east coast of Japan last Friday, leveling buildings, igniting fires, and triggering explosions at nuclear power plants. A resulting tsunami that rolled in from the Pacific killed thousands, washed homes out to sea, and beached large ocean-going freighter ships inland where they just don't belong.

Then just this week, a video has gone viral on the Internet depicting a teenage school boy in Australia, who news reports say was frequently bullied at school, turning on a vicious attacker by lifting the attacker up and slamming him to the ground, sending him whining, crying, and limping away.

So what do these things have to do with each other? I couldn't put my finger on it, at first. Then I started to think about self-reliance. The stalwart Japanese victims of the tsunami and earthquake are not sitting by waiting for others to help them. News reports depict well-organized efforts to feed the hungry, heal the hurt, house the homeless, and evacuate those in danger from radiation near potentially compromised nuclear power plants.

Even in the middle of the worst disaster and devastation since World War II, the Japanese apparently are stepping forward to deal with tsunami and earthquake problems largely by themselves.

I was struck, at first, by a news report this morning entitled Don't donate money to Japan. The reason: you'll just get in the way; the Japanese know best how to deal with this twin disaster, and aid from abroad -- no matter how well-intentioned -- threatens to pile money where it's least needed, and leave the most-needed areas without.

The bottom line: let the Japanese handle this. They're on top of the situation, so don't get in the way.

Sounds like some of the advice that Casey Heynes took when he put a wicked little bully in his place. Not likely he'll get bullied much again -- not after his pals saw the attacker limping and crying away. Heynes apparently is paying the price for standing up for himself, however. News reports say he, not his attacker, is getting suspended from school.

So everything has its price. The Japanese will spend billions recovering from this most recent disaster, but they'll do the job right. Casey Heynes will spend some time home from school -- at worst might even have to find another school. In the end, though, everyone is standing up for himself, and price they pay to do so will be worth it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Counterfeit parts: problem with military electronics designs finally getting attention on Capitol Hill

Posted by John Keller.

Maybe the magnitude of the problem has finally sunk in among U.S. political leaders at the highest levels. I'm talking about the scourge of high-tech -- namely counterfeit electronic parts that have been finding their way into military and aerospace electronics and have the potential to compromise U.S. national security.

Counterfeit electronic components pop up in military and other mission-critical systems when sources for these parts dry up, or if systems integrators are under such financial pressures that they turn to the unreliable sources of electronic parts to cut costs.

The problem threatens at least parts of substandard or unreliable quality that could cause critical military systems to malfunction at the worst possible time. At worst, counterfeit parts could contain software or other back doors that might enable enemies to disable them during periods of conflict.

Now the problem has grown such that it is getting the attention of powerful leaders on Capitol Hill -- one of them a recent presidential candidate.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., are launching a congressional investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) supply chain. The bipartisan team of lawmakers released a statement Thursday that reads:

"The Senate Armed Services Committee has initiated an investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the Department of Defense's supply chain. Counterfeit electronic parts pose a risk to our national security, the reliability of our weapons systems and the safety of our military men and women. The proliferation of counterfeit goods also damages our economy and costs American jobs. The presence of counterfeit electronic parts in the Defense Departments supply chain is a growing problem that government and industry share a common interest in solving. Over the course of our investigation, the Committee looks forward to the cooperation of the Department of Defense and the defense industry to help us determine the source and extent of this problem and identify possible remedies for it."

The problem of counterfeit parts has received attention in corners of prime U.S. defense contractors, as well as from electronic parts suppliers and distributors.

Perhaps now the problem will get the attention -- and perhaps the resolution -- that it truly deserves.

Monday, March 7, 2011

CompactPCI Serial could do for PCI what VPX did for VME

Posted by John Keller.

There's a new embedded computing standard in town called CompactPCI Serial, which brings PCI embedded computing into the era of high-speed serial switch fabric networks, and has the potential to do for PCI embedded computing what VPX did for VME.

CompactPCI Serial (PICMG CPCI-S.0) was ratified just last week at the Embedded World conference and trade show in Nuremberg, Germany, and has been on the street for so little time, in fact, that the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), based in Wakefield, Mass., hasn't had a chance to put out a formal announcement yet on the new guidelines, says PICMG President Joe Pavlat.

CompactPCI Serial offers embedded computer manufacturers and users the same Eurocard mechanics as the parallel databus version of CompactPCI -- 6U and 3U card form factors, options for conduction cooling and rugged construction, and card locks. "Everything about the Eurocard architecture is the same," Pavlat says.

The evolution from parallel-databus CompactPCI to CompactPCI Serial is like comparing the design of a 15-year-old PC to a PC fresh out of the box, Pavlat says. The new standard simply brings PCI into the realm of modern computing.

Aerospace and defense systems designers -- particularly those working with CompactPCI -- have a big stake in CompactPCI Serial, Pavlat says. "Those who have designed CompactPCI into mil-and-aero apps have a clear upgrade path. It's a really nice upgrade path for CompactPCI."

Pavlat predicts that aerospace and defense systems designers in the near term most likely will rely on hybrid-backplane architectures that enable them to use parallel and serial CompactPCI boards and components in the same system. The new standard facilities the use of serial technologies like USB 3.0, SATA, CompactPCI lanes, and Ethernet in CompactPCI-based systems, he says.

MEN Micro Inc. in Ambler, Pa., was one of the first embedded computing manufacturers to introduce CompactPCI Serial products, and Pavlat says the industry can expect a bunch of new products to hit the market in the coming months.

Still, Pavlat cautions that CompactPCI Serial -- like other new technologies -- most likely will take five years from standard ratification to full deployment.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Convoy combat training

Posted by John McHale.

We've all read the stories or seen the newscasts about how dangerous convoys are in Iraq and Afghanistan -- facing hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs), snipers, and shelling. It would seem an impossible scenario to train for, but engineers at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics in Orlando, Fla., have developed a training system that does just that with actual convoy trucks driving through a synthetic environment with un-tethered training weapons.

This week I got the opportunity to try out the company's Combat Convoy Simulator (CCS), which provides an immersive training environment for a variety of military vehicles, including the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) for the U.S. Marine Corps. According to the system data sheet during each training mission, the vehicle commander and a crew of up to four students are presented with realistic terrain, weather, and threat environments focused on warfare scenarios such as re-supply, patrol, logistics support, high-value target extraction, medical evacuation and calls for close air support/calls for fire. After the mission planning is complete, each training mission focuses on defending against current and evolving threats.

I chose the gunner role, having to fire the heavy gun turret on top of the vehicle while it was "moving" through a synthetic Afghanistan town and being shelled. I'm just a journalist in a suit, in a simulation, and could barely control that thing. The thought of actually driving through a hot zone in Iraq at night is scary as hell.

The weapons had a bit of recoil, which I was told is similar to what live weapons feel like.

Lockheed Martin has facilities where they group together about six different simulators create a virtual convoy to help warfighters learn how to communicate when the world around them is literally exploding.

Thanks to Heather Kelly, Lockheed Martin Communications, and the technicians and engineers at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics for the experience.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rockwell Collins says Army committed to networking the warfighter despite smaller DOD budget request

Posted by John McHale
During an interview with Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on their new MicroGRAM GPS product this week at the AUSA Winter Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., we strayed briefly onto the Department of Defense 2012 budget request. They had a positive outlook on it.

What Rockwell Collins looked for in the budget was continued support for networking technology, says Sam Hubbard, senior director, Army and Defense Programs at Rockwell Collins. Networking for the warfighter is an area that the company is heavily invested in with technology such as their GPS products and their cross domain solution for the CERDEC Tactical Army Cross Domain Information Solution (TACDIS) program -- MicroTurnstile device.

Despite the overall budget cuts "we like the fact" that the Army remains steadfast in its efforts to bring the network down to the individual soldier and that funding for those efforts appears to be in tack, Hubbard says.

For more on the budget watch "Video: Military & Aerospace Electronics editor gives his take on the 2012 DOD budget request."

The MicroTurnstile is being used in the Army's Nett Warrior program. It can be worn by the warfighter and operates with Nett Warrior soldier equipment, providing bi-directional transfer of data and voice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

JTRS is poorly named, it's more of a computer network than a radio

Posted by John McHale
While watching a demonstration of the Airborne and Maritime Fixed (AMF) Station portion of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program at the Lockheed Martin booth at AUSA Winter in Fort Lauderdale, I kept thinking JTRS is a misnomer. The AMF demo showed a system disseminating not just voice communication but real-time video such as battlefield action and video of wounded warfighters transmitted to doctors for remote triage.

I should note this was a simulated demonstration. The AMF JTRS is just entering testing phase after completing the critical design review phase, says Mark Norris, vice president AMF JTRS Program at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions in San Diego.

The demo showed multiple aircraft, ground vehicles, and dismounted soldiers communicating voice, video, and data over long distances.

The simulation was put on by Alexander Moore, systems engineer senior at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. Moore is a retired Army officer who served in Iraq. He also was a captain for the Army football team at West Point and was featured in an article online at ESPN.

Thanks for the demonstration and thanks for your service, Mr. Moore.

The demo continues tomorrow at AUSA Winter at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.