Is demand for Tempest equipment turning around?

By John Rhea

WASHINGTON - Demand for Tempest secure communications and computer equipment, which has been in free fall for the past decade, may be poised for a turnaround.

Representatives of the dwindling band of Tempest suppliers who attended last month`s TechNet conference sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association (AFCEA) say they are pinning their hopes for renewed interest in Tempest on growing concern over new information warfare threats to civil networks in the post-Cold War climate.

Tempest refers to special metal shielding designed to contain stray electronic emissions from computers, displays, communications devices, and other electronic equipment. The central reason for Tempest is security. Sophisticated eavesdroppers using special equipment sometimes can steal computer data by intercepting their electronic emissions.

Government demand among NATO countries for Tempest-qualified hardware remains flat. The market, which peaked at about $200 million annually, has shrunk to $54 million, say officials at the dominant supplier, Wang Laboratories of Tewksbury, Mass. Half of that represents the value of the OEM equipment to be enhanced to Tempest standards established by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Wang supplies an estimated $30 million of all Tempest-qualified equipment, followed by four domestic suppliers: Cycomm Secure Solutions (formerly XL Computing) of Sebastian, Fla.; Grid Systems of Westlake, Texas; Raven Systems of San Marcos, Calif.; and Secure Systems Group (SSG) of Wilmington, Mass. Three additional suppliers are located overseas: Siemens in Germany, Thomson in France, and OSPL in England. Once there were 135 suppliers worldwide.

Full-Tempest specifications are only rarely required since Defense Department leaders quit Tempest-protecting all their sensitive equipment, and instead started conducting risk analyses on a case-by-case basis to determine which equipment required the additional security.

Yet there are still opportunities for intermediate levels of security, says Jules Rutstein, vice president for business development at Cycomm. Executives at his company are aiming at legal and financial applications and are offering Tempest versions of the Compaq DeskPro computer and Hewlett-Packard laser jet printer.

As a rule of thumb, a full- Tempest unit runs about twice the price of its commercial equivalent, notes Jennifer Rick, senior vice president and general manager at SSG. The difference is in the filters and sheet metal, she explains. The value added is the engineering and testing to meet NSA specifications.

The intermediate step is known as the Zone level of Tempest. This step, released in 1990 with backing from the NSA, costs halfway between the commercial grade and full Level 1 Tempest, Rutstein estimates. This is where the Tempest suppliers will be targeting the commercial markets using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computer and communications equipment. Yet even those prices are likely to be prohibitive for all but the most sophisticated users.

Marketers at Ricoh Corp. of West Caldwell, N.J., for example, sell their full-Tempest secure laser facsimile unit for about $7,500, explains Irv Sentz, manager of fax sales in the company`s Alexandria, Va., office. The company is the OEM for Tempest versions based on modifications by Raven Systems.

Notebook computers with Pentium microprocessors as fast as 200 MHz cost $7,000 to $9,000 - as much as $12,000 for ruggedized versions - says Rick at SSG. Tempest notebooks also weigh a lot more than their commercial-grade counterparts because of the Tempest shielding, she adds. Add Tempest shielding to a 20-pound desktop computer, and the new system can weigh as much as 75 pounds.

James Johnson, manager of customer accounts in SSG`s Sterling, Va., office, says Tempest demand among NATO and other allied countries is now exceeding the U.S. market as these countries upgrade the equipment in their embassies and other diplomatic data networks.

As the OEM portions of Tempest systems such as personal computers, peripherals, and switches, continue to decline in price along with other COTS equipment, the Tempest increment represents a constant factor immune to cost reduction, estimates James Duane, manager of secure systems design at Wang. This can create the market perception that the price of Tempest equipment is actually increasing relative to commercial-grade equipment.

Another trend in Tempest-related design involves concentrating less on servers and other equipment that are already secure inside closed rooms in the interior of buildings, and more on dispersed equipment, such as personal computers and terminals located near windows and thus in danger of signal interception.

On one issue all the Tempest manufacturers are agreed: the need for optical-fiber network interconnects, even for short paths and low data rates. Attempts to secure copper cabling proved too expensive, notes Duane at Wang.

Military Tempest demand has been stagnant among the U.S. services and the contractors that in the past were required to use Tempest equipment as a condition of their contracts. Yet Sentz at Ricoh says he does see opportunities in tactical environments for high-level communications among high-ranking officers, for example.

But one of the main reasons the few remaining companies stay in the business is to protect their other secure communications product lines even if this means making little or no profit on the Tempest items, say representatives of Tempest providers and the OEMs.

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

XCalibur1645 | Freescale Eight-Core P4080 Processor-Based Conduction-Cooled 6U VPX Module

The XCalibur1645 is a high-performance, 6U VPX, single board computer supporting Freescale QorIQ ...

XCalibur5090 | Dual Virtex-7 Based Digital Signal Processing 6U LRM FPGA with Quad 2500 MSPS DAC and 3200 MSPS ADC

The XCalibur5090 is a high-performance, reconfigurable, conduction-cooled 6U LRM module based on ...

XPedite7574 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7574 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

ScanFaker DRSii - Networked Radar Simulator

High resolution radar stimulator supporting analog and LAN output. Resolution down to 1m is possi...

Body Worn Antennas

Body Worn Antennas from SWA are ideal for covert surveillance applications where the radio and an...

Ultra-Flex Omni Antennas

The Southwest Antennas Ultra-Flex is a line of S-Band & C-Band omni antennas with a unique enviro...

S & C Dual-Band Omni Antennas

SWA Dual-Band Omni Antennas are designed to cover the S & C bands, and are available with multipl...

4G LTE Cellular Omni Concealment Antenna

The 4G LTE Cellular Omni Concealment Antenna from Southwest Antennas measures only 4.70" x 1.70" ...


Half-width 3U Gigabit Ethernet Data Acquisition and control chassis allows the installation of up...

PowerDNR-MIL Rack

12- slot, Military style I/O rack with Military/Rugged 38999 connectivity, 100% COTS solution, su...

Related Companies


Is a mechanical engineering consulting company headquartered in Los Angeles, CA with operations in Billerica, MA, pro...

Dspnor AS

Offers radar signal processing and distribution. The products interface to virtually any radar system in use today. T...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...


PALMARII Dynamics is a Swedish company incorporated in 2012 as a competence centre for specialist naval architecture ...


Pelorus Naval Systems is a specialist naval defense engineering and support services company with headquarters in Ran...

Southwest Antennas

Southwest Antennas designs and manufactures high-performance RF & Microwave antennas and accessories designed for tod...

CORWIL Technology Corp

CORWIL Technology, the premier US based, IC assembly and test services subcontractor, offering full back-end assembly...

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...


IndustryARC primarily focuses on Cutting Edge Technologies and Newer Applications of the Market. Our Custom Research ...

RPMC Lasers Inc

Offers 1500 DPSS lasers, lamp lasers, fiber lasers and diode lasers. Provides, ultrafast, picosecond, nanosecond, cw ...


Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles