Archive for '2008'

    Waiting for Philadelphia

    December 23, 2008 1:48 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I never fly to visit my parents for Christmas as I figure the five and half hours it takes to get there by car is the same if I fly. This year I tried flying ... and I've been sitting at the airport for two hours with two more to go as my flight is delayed almost three hours -- because of the Philadelphia connection.

    Not complaining, but wondering why one city is the center of so many flight delays . I really don't mind delays, as much as I travel I'm used to them -- but what is up with Philadelphia?

    I've even heard pilots mumbling four-letter words about getting stuck with the Philly route. Are they unorganized there? Or is it a lack of runways? It can't always be the weather ...

    I really don't know. If someone out there does, please tell me.

    Anyway, it's a cold, but sunny day and the Internet here is free and I am finally on vacation.

    I hope you are too.

    Enjoy your holiday.

    Ah yes, now I remember...

    December 18, 2008 9:02 AM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Now I remember why I do not often travel. It can be a living nightmare. I know people say that; I say that quite often, in fact, but I really, truly mean it this time, from the depths of my being.

    I was a victim in an armed robbery once (stay with me, I promise there is a point to this tangent), when I was in my early twenties. After the terrifying ordeal, I sat in the safe confines of a NH state trooper's vehicle, recounting the event three times: verbally while the officer took notes, verbally while being recorded, and then committing the harrowing tale to paper in my own hand.

    I recall it now like it happened last week, and the worst part of it for me was the complete and utter sense of helplessness. Two men held guns to my head while I knelt on the cold, hard floor of a convenience store covering my face with my hands, so as not to see the man who I thought was surely going to end my life.

    I feared for my life then, but what was most frightening to me was that at that moment I had absolutely no control over what happened to me. I felt and witnessed a similar helplessness rampant at the Northwest Airlines areas of multiple airports this week. (Now I know why it has earned the unfortunate "NorthWORST" moniker.)

    I am no shrinking violet; rather, I have been described as "outspoken," "strong," and at times, "resilient." Yet, a--let's say--less-than-helpful Northwest agent/supervisor (P. Freeman in Minneapolis/St. Paul, you know who you are) let me know that, in no uncertain terms, she was in control of my destiny that rueful day. She was without question the worst airline representative I have encountered in more than 20 years--no small feat. She reveled in her power over travelers from all walks of life, who were forcibly corralled and slowly shuffling along like farm animals being led off to slaughter.

    What did this agent do with her power over the 20 or so of us unfortunate enough to be ushered into her line (by pointing at us with two fingers and grimacing, mind you)? What she did for me, specifically, was reduce me to tears, opt against re-routing my checked luggage, rule out the meal vouchers other agents were handing to stranded passengers, and put me on "puddle-jumpers" to such fun locales as Newark after a nice, lengthy stay in lovely Minneapolis, where the temp was a balmy two below zero. Little did I know, that was just the beginning.

    I had no way of knowing that I had just embarked upon a trip that would involve: four airports, three delayed flights, two hours sitting on the tarmac, one cancelled flight...and a partridge in a pear tree. Wait, I'm not done: add to that one long stint in a holding pattern, ridiculously long lines, numerous phone calls, several pathetic (but not apathetic) agents, watching Monday Night Football among stranded travelers in Newark, and luggage that has yet to rear its head--all to get from one coast to the other. It was not even accomplished in a full day.

    This agent who I thought hailed straight from Hades is not alone, sad though it may be. I would not be writing this blog if she was acting alone. No, I'm sorry to say, there are many others like her who seem bent on making travelers' lives miserable during their commute.

    I have long witnessed the same horrible distemper and subsequent mistreatment by TSA personnel, who often don't even use words, opting instead to point at us and then at the spot where they want us to be. Many airline and airport personnel do not even deem us worthy of eye contact. Who thought I would miss the days when they barked commands at us, rather than pointing at and directing us with two fingers? Not me.

    Most times these days, travelers are reduced to the stature of a preschooler upon just entering the airport. Perhaps that was an unfair analogy--after all, even preschoolers get a free snack.
    When did things go awry? We are the customers. We spend the money that pays their salaries. What happened to "the customer is always right"? Are we not entitled to friendly, helpful customer service? What happened to this industry? When they put someone through hell, why don't they feel compelled to make things right or, at the very least, pretend to care? No wonder few people list "travel" as one of their favorite hobbies. I have had it with planes. Bring on the trains and automobiles.

    Fighting over journalists

    December 16, 2008 10:15 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Ok, maybe not fighting but sponsoring companies of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) were flipping coins to see who got which journalist at their table at the AIA Year-End Review and Forecast luncheon last week at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

    BAE Systems beat out DRS Technologies in the very hotly contested McHale sweepstakes. Gotta love America -- where else can you find multi-billion dollar companies flipping quarters to hob nob with disheveled tech writers.

    Seriously, it was a good event. I was covering it for Avionics Intelligence, our new website and e-newsletter that covers aviation electronics .

    The AIA forecast was remarkably positive for the next year, predicting growth of 4.8 percent in 2009. I've been hearing good vibes from my defense contacts as well. They say their backlog is all set for next year and that they barely have time to field all the orders coming in for military electronics.

    It is a much rosier view than that of my brother, who is in private equity. He fears unemployment may hit 12 percent by June.

    If the other markets tank, I hope our industry can hold steady till the business cycle turns.

    In aviation a lot will depend on how the global economy holds up as much of the backlog for commercial aircraft comes from foreign orders.

    Living like a pioneer in the wake of Northeast ice storm

    December 14, 2008 8:40 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I've got an overwhelming desire to wear solid colors , suspenders, and a tall, wide-brim hat after spending the last few days without electricity after last Thursday's ice storm that has paralyzed large chunks of the Northeast.

    That was Thursday. Today is Sunday, and the local power utility says we'll be lucky to get our electricity back by next Wednesday. Lucky. I gotta tell you I'm not feeling all that lucky.

    I'm writing this from the office in Nashua that, thankfully, has power. A colleague just sauntered in -- toddler in tow -- who said, "I'm just here to get contact with the outside world."

    The power went out Thursday night as my wife and I sat up most of the night listening to trees snapping and limbs breaking that sounded like gunshots, and electric utility circuit breakers giving way that sounded like grenades. Flashes of lightning in the distance lent to the feeling of being in a war zone.

    The sight outside on Friday morning was more of the same. Trees were across the road outside, which had taken down the electric, telephone, and cable TV wires of several neighbors. Near-panicked motorists were just trying to find a clear route out of the neighborhood.

    I'm glad I have a chain saw, because I put it to good use Friday and Saturday -- first helping to clear my street, then to get downed trees out of the yards of two neighbors, and finally to start cutting up the limbs and trees littering my yard and threatening my ugly brown shed.

    At least the electric wires are still connected between my house and the physically intact (I think) power line that runs down the street. Neighbors were not so lucky. One big tree sheared off the wires to a neighbor's house but left the connections into the house. A friend a couple of streets over had falling trees snap a power pole in two, ripping off all the wires to her house and taking the electric meter with it.

    We're going to be hunkered down for a long while. We have heat from the wood stove, thankfully. The big problem is water. We have well and septic, and no power means no water. We're hauling buckets for flushing and buying water by the gallon when and where we can find it.

    I got a refresher course last night in the joys of taking a sponge bath from a pan of water heated up on the stove (at least the gas stove works). I suppose it could be worse.

    I'm not missing television. I do miss the Internet, I have to admit. But when we're warm, it's not so bad to enjoy the calm, golden glow of candlelight. We have a hand-crank radio we used last night to listen to A Prairie Home Companion. My wife said, "I feel like we're back in the '30s."

    It was kind of a peaceful feeling. Lose power and water, and it brings your priorities into focus very quickly. Keeping wood for the fire close by is one. Finding water is another (our neighbors own a shop in town that still has water).

    At least I don't have to worry -- for the time being -- of missing that e-mail or paying bills.

    Quick turnaround in wartime

    December 9, 2008 2:33 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Many of our stories this past year have covered how U.S. Department of Defense leaders are pushing aside funding for long-term programs to get equipment and technology into the field quickly to help the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- especially for technology to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) .

    Developing technology for mission critical applications is not typically done over night, and it taxes engineers to find a viable solution in a short time while still ensuring the reliability necessary for harsh environments

    I had the opportunity last week to visit engineers at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, Fla., to learn more about a quick-turn around effort they did for electronics aboard the U.S. Army Apache helicopter.

    The Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) tasked the Lockheed engineers to design the Apache Video from Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Interoperability Teaming -- Level 2 (VUIT-2) program last year. Lockheed engineers completed the system in just over 10 months.

    Production engineers in the Lockheed manufacturing facility told me it was the fastest they ever had to turn around a program from start to finish, but now they know they can do it. They said that the lessons they learned will he applied to other programs they are working on to possibly speed up the production cycle.

    The VUIT-2 essentially enables video to be transferred to ground units for improved situational awareness. It will also be used in conjunction with unmanned aircraft, Lockheed Martin engineers said. The VUIT-2 does not interfere with the helicopter's avionics, which helped shorten the design cycle as well, they said.

    Times are tough, pants are tight

    December 6, 2008 5:05 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    When the economy turns south, most businesses reign in expenditures by curtailing travel. It is easy, however, to become cloistered in the office and detached from the industry. I know of what I speak, as I often and inadvertently find myself holed up in my Spokane office, conversing only by digital methods. A trip to I/ITSEC in Orlando, however, saved me from my Emily Dickenson-like existence and put me back in touch with the markets I so happily serve.

    I noted a dichotomy in Orlando. On the show floor, enthusiasm, optimism, and hope for future technology advancements, profit increases, and budget expansions abounded. Outside the convention center, the mood was somber, even in a locale that boasts various family attractions. Sure, children cheered, "I'm going to Disney World," but parents' faces and audible sighs told another story. (Did you know that the entry fee for Universal is $75?!)

    In the morning, I read of 20,000 jobs lost this week alone and unemployment rates reaching their highest level since 1974. I will admit that when I am working away in my office, this news elicits little response from me, other than a "huh." Out in the real world (if you can call Orlando that), however, the news made much more impact. En route to the convention center, I noted a baker's dozen signs hanging in merchant windows that read: "We are NOT hiring."

    As I was sitting in the airport, I saw an interview with a man in Manhattan seeking employment. In the CNN piece titled "Sign of the Times," a middle-aged business executive wore a sandwich-board sign, the heading of which was "Almost Homeless." His story followed the eye-catching headline, and he told reporters, "I cannot afford pride; I need to care for my family."

    All this put things into greater perspective for me, so I resolved to try and live on the cheap. I ate inexpensively at fast food restaurants, only to find that in many places, the "dollar menu" is no more. As I was tightening my belt, however, I noticed that everything else was tightening--not the least of which is the rest of my outfit. Alas, I must find other means of saving money during travel; after all, what do I gain in paying more for insurance premiums and health care as a result of saving a buck in a fast-food line.

    I am interested in how you and your company are dealing with the declining economy. Let us know here, or in the Command Post online community. Here's to more prosperous times!

    IITSEC, fun show

    December 2, 2008 8:37 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    What makes the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (IITSEC) in Orlando, Fla. , fun is the exhibits where you can refuel Air Force F15s in midair, test the avionics of other jet fighters , fire Javelin missiles, test your efficiency with a handgun or rifle, or even fire weapons for a gun boat in rough waters -- all on the show floor.

    It's all simulated of course, but if you enjoy video games or really want to see how the military uses modern technology to improve training it's a show worth attending.

    One of the hot areas for new training techniques is in dismounted applications such as urban warfare. For decades most of the military has trained for open field battles with large forces, but the scenarios in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed that paradigm.

    Virtual reality system integrators are showcasing systems at IITSEC that enable soldiers to train in a computer generated urban environment, then review the performance for the point of view of each warfighter in the unit.

    One company designing these systems is Atlantis Cyberspace, Inc., in Honolulu, Hi. Their booth is strategically located next to that of Military & Aerospace Electronics at booth number 1454.

    See you at the show.

    Giving thanks where it is due

    November 26, 2008 8:43 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I am not an historian, though I play one on the Mil & Aero Blog. I kid. I don't portend to know all that I should about history; I believe I have gained and continue to enhance a wonderful education, but I will admit to some pot-holes in my education when it comes to names, dates, and faces. I wrongfully assumed that getting the gist of important events in world history would suffice, but I often find myself wanting to know more these days. It should be of little mystery, then, why I researched the topic of Thanksgiving this week.

    For instance, did you know: "In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving should be a national observance. To some degree, this was a way to brighten the spirits of the American people, who were dealing with a great deal of difficulty and deprivation"? This information was gleaned from, one of many online sites I use for rudimentary research on myriad topics.

    Today, with terrorist activity apparent and threats looming, I hope that Thanksgiving gives you and yours some solace. Times are tough now, but no worse than during the Civil War.

    Things in the global economy look bleak, no doubt. People around me are losing their homes. They are making sacrifices: giving up their cars, moving in with relatives or moving closer to work, opting out of the health-care system, staying put rather than traveling to visit family during the holidays (holiday travel this week is down more than 600,000 people, NBC Nightly News reports), removing meat from the nightly dinner table, and so much more.

    At times like this, I know I can really use a holiday like Thanksgiving. I was raised to give thanks for all that I have daily, even when things look their worst; but, I must admit that at no other time do I reflect more on the positives in my life than Thanksgiving. (Stay tuned for my New Year's Eve "What have I done with my life for the past year?" reflections. It's a nail-biter.)

    There is always something for which to be thankful. For me, today, an industry that works tirelessly to allay our fears, ensure our safety and security, and enable us to enjoy another day as free and unique individuals is at the top of my list.

    Happy holidays!

    Love covering space

    November 25, 2008 6:35 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    My favorite beat at Military & Aerospace Electronics over the years has been space, specifically NASA programs .

    I'm in the midst of a feature on avionics for manned spacecraft and the main focus has been the Orion spacecraft and its state-of-the-art cockpit.

    "The technology going into Orion is amazing," Rick Kasuda, Orion avionics and software director for Lockheed Martin, told me. This is the best technology astronauts have ever had in the cockpit and "quite different from what they had in the Space Shuttle," he added.

    They will have a glass cockpit with very few switches and be able to see everything through the glass display, Kasuda said. The cockpit will also have its own local area network, he added.

    The Orion spacecraft will function as a transport for crew and cargo as well as fly to the Moon, Mars, and dock with the International Space Station.

    The Space Shuttle is scheduled to retire in 2010, but the Obama Administration may try to get one or two more flights out of it if they so choose.

    Be sure to check out the avionics for manned space flight article in our January issue.

    Bright spots in bleak economy

    November 21, 2008 10:47 AM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    At a time of recession, when a majority of businesses are slashing budgets, eyeing the bottom line, continually conscious of the dwindling profits, how is it that other companies are growing, acquiring other firms, and expanding their portfolio product and services? What are they doing right? A great deal, I can only assume.

    Common and central themes I have noticed among those technology firms in the mil-aero industry that are flourishing, even in the wake of what might be another economic depression (Curtiss-Wright and Kontron immediately come to mind), include: acceptance, partnership, and planning.

    At a Kontron-hosted event this week, Norbert Hauser, vice president of global marketing at Kontron admitted that company management and personnel expect a decline in business over the next six to nine months, due to continued economic decline across the globe; yet, he and his colleagues also anticipate a full recovery, and more. They are realistic about attainable goals in the near term, accepting of situations outside of their control, and bullish on the future. I find it admirable.

    At the same time, successful firms such as Kontron are investing in partnerships--not only with other, complementary industry vendors, but also with the user community. Executives continue to forge relationships with industry innovators, and to connect with systems designers and systems integrators seeking sound products and advice in these especially uncertain times.

    Finally, executives at these organizations are proactively planning for the future. They have a roadmap in place and, when the global economy improves, they intend to act--deliberately and with precision.

    For more executive-level insights, news, and announcements, be certain to visit the Defense Executive section of daily. Additionally, let your peers in the industry know what changes you have instituted to see your firm through trying economic times by commenting below or starting a discussion in the Command Post community ( ).

    Will democratic administration be good for defense electronics funding?

    November 19, 2008 11:12 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Walking the show floor at MILCOM 08 in San Diego the last three days I sensed a good deal of optimism among exhibitors and attendees about defense electronics funding under a Barack Obama administration.

    The consensus is that while a democratic administration will likely cut back on boots and bullets, they will also be prone to spend more on technology for C4ISR, or command, control, communications, computers, surveillance, and reconnaissance , applications to remain vigilant without putting troops in harm's way.

    Unmanned systems, already a decisive force on the battlefield, should proliferate even more under this scenario, which is good news for our community.

    One of the members of our Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum advisory board also pointed out to me that the Bush/Cheney administration killed more programs than the Clinton administration.

    He said that a democratic administration is more likely to scale back production rather than kill an entire program. Killing programs also means eliminating jobs on a large scale, something a democratic administration might be loathe doing in this economic climate.

    The optimism is good news, but it's still a guessing game as to where Obama will make his cuts in defense and he will make them.

    The past is present as U.S., allies gird for battle with Somalia pirates on the high seas

    November 18, 2008 4:02 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    There's a new presidential administration in Washington. The United States is locked in a global military and cultural struggle with Islamic extremists. Piracy on the high seas around the continent of Africa is a gathering menace to international maritime commerce , and the navies of the United States and other nations are under increasing pressure to intervene and put a stop to this scourge of the seas, which exists with backing of radical Islam .

    Quick question: does this description refer to the year 1802, or 2009?

    Answer: both.

    Two months ago Somalia pirates commandeered a Ukrainian freighter off the Horn of Africa that contained 33 Russian T-72 main battle tanks and ammunition in its holds.

    Just this week, Somalia pirates lurking off the east coast of Africa seized a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with 2 million barrels of crude oil worth an estimated value of $100 million. Also this week, just north of the supertanker attack, pirates hijacked a Hong Kong cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden loaded with 36,000 tonnes of wheat bound for Iran.

    The latest news reports today have further reports of high-seas buccaneering exploits -- this time off the West Coast of Africa, as a Danish freighter with oil exploration equipment aboard was held for 30 hours by pirates near Nigeria.

    Astoundingly, more than 200 years later, incoming U.S. President Barack Obama will face many of the international piracy issues that Thomas Jefferson faced.

    Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, entered office after the 1800 election with piracy off the coast of Africa as one of his top international affairs and national security priorities. The so-called Barbary Pirates were attacking ships in the Mediterranean off the coast of Tripoli, stealing cargoes, and pressing ships' crews to convert to Islam or die.

    Jefferson had to do something about it, and he turned to his nation's glittering new warship USS Constitution , a 44-gun frigate that had first put to sea in 1798. By 1803, Constitution was the flagship of the U.S. Navy's Mediterranean fleet, and went into action against Barbary pirates who were demanding tribute from the United States in exchange for allowing American merchant vessels access to Mediterranean ports.

    The American warship blockaded African ports and bombarded fortification until Tripoli, Tunisia and Algeria agreed to a peace treaty.

    Today, it's as though we're entering a new golden age of piracy -- except this time the hunting grounds are primarily the seas off eastern Africa, not the Caribbean; the prizes are oil tankers and cargo ships, not Spanish galleons loaded with gold; the perpetrating cutthroats this time are not British and French expatriates, but are poor Somalis; and the weapons of choice are not cannons and cutlasses, but are fast speedboats and machine guns.

    Thomas Jefferson would not let crimes of piracy stand against the U.S. and its allies. Barack Obama will soon have some choices to make. The USS Constitution put to sea to do battle against those who would exploit international shipping.

    Today the U.S. Navy stands ready add more ships to the fight for international maritime commerce off the African coast. We'll see if the new President Obama gives the order.

    Outlook for U.S. military combat aircraft through the next decade

    November 16, 2008 9:29 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    U.S. military leaders will face many hard choices over the next 10 years when it comes to planning for military combat aircraft fleets as we move toward the second decade of the 21st century. Money is tight, the economy is bad, and U.S. bank and industry bailouts are placing more intense demands on the taxpayer's dollar than ever before.

    One survivor of the military aircraft budgetary battles to come, I believe, will have to be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter . I know what you're thinking: some aircraft programs on the drawing board will have to go; there just isn't enough money to fund everything in the old reliable run of combat aircraft.

    This is all-too true, but the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the hot chick jet fighter that has to be part of the mix. Without it, U.S. air forces will have to come up with brand new designs to streak through the skies like a zipfy , and there just isn't enough time or money left to do that.

    I've read speculation that the F-22 Raptor might be the preferred aircraft over the F-35, and that just might turn out to be the case. I have to admit that historically I've been pretty poor at predicting aircraft winners. Granted, the F-22 is one of the most formidable combat jets in the world today, and it's a tempting proposition to transform it from a pure air-superiority fighter into a combination fighter-bomber like the Navy's F/A-18 Hornet.

    Still, we've got to take a hard look F-22. It's design is 20 years old, it's a remanent of the Cold War, and it's designed from the ground up to take off and land on long runways. There's no version of the F-22 designed to operate from unimproved landing fields or from aircraft carriers like the F-35.

    Moreover, a lot of the Pentagon's aircraft eggs are in the F-35's basket. By 2019 the lion's share of the military aircraft budget will be for the F-35, say analysts at the Government Electronics Industry Association (GEIA) segment of the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va. Nothing else comes close -- not the F-22, not the F/A-18, not even the KC-X next-generation mid-air refueling tanker.

    By 2019, the F/A-18, and the F-16 will be very long in the tooth. The F-15s will be gone. We've already seen retirement of the Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters. If this country wants to maintain a credible combat aircraft presence in the world, the F-35 will be one of our last options -- that is, unless the U.S. wants to ditch manned combat aircraft altogether and rely on unmanned combat aircraft.

    I don't see manned combat aircraft going away anytime soon. We won't see that until all the flag officers in the Pentagon who once were fighter jocks are retired and nestled quietly into nursing homes.

    Variants of the F-35 will be able to take off from runways, aircraft carriers, and unimproved landing fields. Some variants will be able to take off and land straight up and down. These aircraft can dogfight other high-performance jets, as well as deliver precision-guided munitions, fly reconnaissance missions, and take out enemy radar and communications.

    Do we really want to kill the F-35 and start over from scratch? This aircraft has been in development since the 1980s. If we start over now no new combat aircraft would be ready until probably after 2030. A lot can happen in the world between now and then.

    I don't think it's worth the risk.

    Freedom isn't free, but the free market economy should be

    November 13, 2008 7:52 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Just when I thought it was safe to come out of hiding and take in various media (newspapers, periodicals, television, blogs, etc.) following the recent election, I am reminded that I am bitter about the bailouts -- so much so, in fact, that I need someone to enlighten me.

    This free market economy isn't free. Throughout my life, and for as long as I can remember, relatives, teachers, government officials, bosses, and others have extolled -- heralded, even -- the values and benefits of the free market economy. I have heard capitalism and the free market economy likened to Darwinism. To apply that comparison to the proposed bailouts of today: If a company, such as GM for example, isn't fit to survive (e.g., went on making large, gas-guzzling SUVs despite the price of oil and gas doubling and consumers driving less and trending toward compacts and hybrids), should not nature just take its course? Why should we sink in good money after bad to prolong the inevitable?

    At the same time, Pentagon officials are urging the incoming president to reduce defense spending. Let me get this straight: We should not spend money on our security and defenses, but we should invest taxpayer money on golden parachutes, extravagant spa retreats, and bloated salaries for ineffectual executives "working" (I use the term loosely) at U.S. banks, automakers, and more. Heh?

    I do not easily and callously part with my hard-earned money. As a result, I cannot sit idly by and watch the government act recklessly and without forethought with my money (and everyone else's). I wrote my representatives in Congress.

    If you share, even the tiniest bit, in the outrage I feel, write your congressmen and congresswomen. It takes little time; simply visit I did (and by that I mean: voiced my outrage), and I hope you are moved to do the same.

    Thank you to those who serve

    November 11, 2008 10:08 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    At Military & Aerospace Electronics A we are fortunate to be able to cover the men and women who sacrifice to protect us and our country.

    On behalf of my colleagues I say thank you to all veterans and those still in uniform for your service. It has been an honor to work with you over the years. The technology and engineering marvels we write about on our website and magazine cannot outshine your courage.

    I also want to recognize the veterans who have been part of our staff over the years I've been with the magazine. Our current Publisher, Ron Mastro, served as a sonar man for the U.S Navy in the 1960s and our late Sales Manager, Jerry Boyle served in the Marine Corps during World War II.

    Jerry worked selling advertising space until he retired at 81. He died six months later. I never met a harder worker. He was a true example of the greatest generation.

    Most of all I thank my grandfather, Albert Volpe, who served during World War I, my Irish uncles who served and died in World War II, and my cousin Steven Caucci, who lost his life in the Vietnam War.

    I don't remember meeting Steven; I was quite young when he died. My mother and he were close and she speaks of him often. It meant a lot to me to find his name on the Wall in Washington.

    The Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial, and the World War II Memorial are all quite moving in their own right. Please visit them if you haven't already.

    Distractions done, camaraderie and change to come

    November 5, 2008 9:23 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Another election through, well wishes pour in from various parts of the globe, and the general populace seems energized. No matter how you might personally feel about the election results, one thing is clear: the president elect has his work cut out for him. So do the people fortunate enough to inhabit this great land.

    The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, in an interview on Oct. 29 with (now President Elect) Barack Obama, pointed out that the country wasn't in as poor shape as it is now when he began his campaign roughly two years prior.

    "Two years ago, when you started this journey," said Stewart, "the country wasn't necessarily in the shape that it is in now, is there a sense that you don't want this?" that you may look at the country and think, 'You know, when I thought I was going to get this it was a relatively new car, now look at it!'"

    At the same time, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour summed it all up as "the inbox from hell" for President Elect Obama.

    It isn't just his inbox, however; we as a people and a country united have a great deal of work to do.

    According to reports, President Elect Obama told McCain, who phoned to congratulate him on his victory, that he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them could work together. He also pledged to work with and listen to those who cast their vote for McCain. Hopefully members of the GOP accept the hand extended to them.

    Said Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy of the election results and Obama's victory: "They heard his call for a new generation of Americans to participate in government and were inspired. They believed that change is possible and voted to be part of America's future."

    We all have a hand in the future of the United States of America. With the elections, and hopefully the biased and biparisan attitudes, behind us for now, many are optimistic and anxious about working to solve the problems that plague this country.

    President Elect Obama, in his speech Nov. 4 to a crowd of roughly 240,000, said it best (and eloquently): "While the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress."

    Let us all get back to work, together.

    Election night

    November 4, 2008 8:04 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I just finished voting for in this year's election . It only took five minutes and I kept thinking of the line from Chevy Chase in one of those Vacation movies: "Look, Russ! No lines!" Chevy wasn't referring to voting precincts though.

    I was really expecting an hour wait, but it was smooth and over in five minutes. Unlike this photo of voters waiting in line outside a polling station in Georgia this morning. (Associated Press/John Amis)

    There were other things to vote for besides McCain or Obama . As a former New Hampshire resident I was pleased to mark yes on lowering the income tax in Massachusetts. I do miss the freedom from income tax that I enjoyed in the "live free or die" state. Hopefully the rest of the Massachusetts commonwealth will vote to lower it too.

    Aside from taxes another issue that is important to me is free speech. Both candidates would seem on the surface to be big First Amendment guys, but are they really?

    McCain was well known for his campaign finance reform, which some say limits free political speech. Obama has been criticized for shutting down access to any journalists who don't endorse him or are skeptical of his policies.

    It looks as if Obama will win so hopefully that was just campaign tactics and not signs of things to come. I hope he is also against the "fairness doctrine" that some of his colleagues in Congress are hoping to pass as a way of limiting conservative talk radio.

    I myself don't listen to political talk radio, I prefer music or Howard Stern for some laughs, but either side should be able to express their views without those in power limiting their speech.

    I'm also a big fan of just changing the channel if I don't like something on television or elsewhere. Live and let live.

    This is where Republicans have been guilty of overreaching to limit speech; looking to censor radio and television programs that inlcuded subject matter, which made them uncomfortable.

    One claim of censorship that rings false is that President Bush was some sort of fascist, crusading to put down any and all dissent. I think that claim is ridiculous. All you have to do is turn on your T.V. or open a newspaper to see criticism of our sitting president. It's everywhere. Can you imagine that in Russia or China? Never.

    Maybe I'm biased as a journalist, but I see nothing more important than freedom of speech. My favorite phrases from the Constitution come from the First Amendment.

    "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."

    Good night.

    Super Tuesday treats (this blog entry is not about politics)

    October 29, 2008 5:46 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I am done with politics, for now anyway. After Sen. Obama's 30-minute TV special tonight, I will no longer subject my eyes, ears, and mind to political fodder. I encourage you to get out and vote...and then reap some rewards. In addition to reveling in the satisfaction of having done your civic duty, you can gain other rewards for voting this coming Tuesday. No kidding.

    Companies such as Ben & Jerry's and Krispy Kreme are rewarding voters with their highly regarded confections. Show your "I voted" sticker after leaving the polls at either locale (during certain hours), and gain a free scoop of ice cream or a free doughnut. The free doughnut is star-shaped, with patriotic (red, white, and blue) sprinkles, no less! More than 21,000 Facebook users have confirmed that they will participate in the after-poll, ice-cream party. Chick-fil-a is offering a similar voter special, I hear.

    Only in America! Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you voted your conscience, as well as a tasty treat. No tricks, just treats -- finally a harrowing political season pays off for Joe the Voter!

    Troops trending toward McCain

    October 28, 2008 11:47 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted By John McHale

    If you haven't seen it yet, the Army Times released a poll that showed military personnel support Sen. John McCain over Sen. Barack Obama 68 percent to 23 percent in next week's presidential election.

    The Army Times notes that this was a poll of career officers and does not represent the military as a whole. The selected group was much older. Brendan McGary, Army Times staff writer reported on the poll.

    According to McGary's story it was a "voluntary survey of 4,293 active-duty, National Guard , and reserve subscribers and former subscribers to Army Times , Navy Times , Marine Corps Times , and Air Force Times ."

    Does that mean that this sampling is made up of independent/swing voters or life-long conservatives who always vote republican regardless of the candidate?

    In other words if Obama had identical views to McCain on the national defense and Iraq, but still differed on the economy, would they results still be the same?

    According to McGary's story Iraq was the third most important issue, with character being number one. In 2004 the same Army Times poll had Iraq as the number one issue, McGary reports.

    That year the same poll had Bush with similar numbers to McCain this year. He had 68 percent and John Kerry had 19 percent, according to the article.

    The poll is just a small sampling to be sure, but a much different picture to the country as a whole.

    Mil-aero side effects

    October 25, 2008 12:31 AM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Some friends, colleagues, and I took in Iron Man on DVD the other night. It is not uncommon that a group of friends, having just watched a flick together, would deconstruct it, explore its nuances, ponder its lessons and potential applications to real life, and so on. When those people work in or have experience with the military and aerospace industry, however, it can be an entirely different ballgame.

    Iron Man in this environment was followed by intellectual and impassioned discussions on International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), electro-optics, electronic warfare (EW), radar, high-performance computing, intellectual property, and more.

    Like most journalists my age, I have covered several industries; but, I must admit, none have lent to so much heated and thought-provoking debates as the mil-aero market. I love it!

    In fact, tell me what you think about Iron Man: Would today’s ITAR prevent our best weapons technologies from reaching the hands of terrorists/those who would turn them against us? Are the primes’ engineers and scientists at risk of abduction? If so, should they, and the intellectual property they possess in their mental Rolodex (the comprehensive knowledge and proverbial filing cabinet in one's brain), never leave the country? What do you think of how vendors and contractors serving the military market were portrayed in the film?

    Recommending "Jawbreaker"

    October 21, 2008 10:07 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Over the weekend I finished "Jawbreaker," a book on CIA efforts in Afghanistan to defeat Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda . It's the personal account of Gary Bernsten the CIA's field commander in Afghanistan following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He co-wrote the book with Ralph Pezzullo.

    It reads like a thriller novel, a quick-paced page turner, even though we basically know the outcome -- the U.S. succeeds brilliantly in defeating the Taliban but still doesn't get bin Laden.

    Bernsten hits hard with his criticism of President Clinton, former CIA Director George Tenet, and the bureaucracy of the "seventh floor" at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., for failing to act years before the attacks and for not doing everything to get bin Laden afterwards.

    He was particularly harsh on Tenet for closing CIA operations in Afghanistan and other unfriendly countries prior to Sept. 11, 2001

    Bernsten said he was chosen to lead the Afghanistan operation because he was aggressive and took opportunities to attack the enemy rather than wait for permission from above.

    This characterized by his response to an Army Maj. Gen who wanted to drop pamphlets to Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the mountains of Tora Bora encouraging them to surrender.

    He said "don't drop the leaflets or invite them to negotiate! They came to fight, didn't they? So let's oblige them. No damn leaflets! Let's fight the war!"

    After cornering Al Qaeda in the mountains, Bernsten wanted 800 Army Rangers to block bin Laden's entrance into Pakistan. He was refused after repeated requests. U.S. military leadership wanted to leave it to the Northern Alliance forces to hunt bin Laden down.

    In the book Bernsten says that the U.S. head of Central Command (CENTCOM), Gen. Tommy Franks, testified before Congress maintained that this was the right decision.

    Bernsten disagrees saying that the biggest failure of CENTCOM leadership came at Tora Bora when "they turned down my request for a battalion of U.S. Rangers to block bin Laden's escape."

    Today, Bernsten says that bin Laden is hidden in the mountains of Pakistan, but that he can still be taken if "we're creative, aggressive, and not afraid to take risks."

    CIA censors felt various parts of Bernsten's book were risky, redacting a good chunk. These sections are marked by black lines in the book.

    While the censors did black out quite a bit of text from the book, it's understandable wanting to keep a lid on their intelligence gathering methods. However, it seems ridiculous to black out material that was already publicly released in news reports and other books as Bernsten points out in the text.

    That said, it's a bit of stretch to claim it's "the book the CIA doesn't want you to read," as the publisher does on the back cover.

    I read it and I don't think CIA censors are losing sleep over that fact.

    I also feel Frank Rich of the New York Times was stretching things a bit with his quote on the back cover, that reads "this honest account doesn't do the president any favors."

    That is unless Rich was referring to President Clinton, who Bernsten criticized strongly for mild responses to the attack on the USS Cole and our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

    Bernsten was quite complimentary to President Bush for his willingness to fight.

    Jawbreaker is available on .

    I highly recommend it.

    A time to remember, hopefully fondly

    October 15, 2008 10:58 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    In three weeks, the 2008 U.S. election will be over. Huzzah! I am looking forward to it with great anticipation. I fear that much of what has transpired over the past few months, especially the last couple weeks, has left me a bit more cynical. It is crazy how politics can bring out the worst in people. I feel the need to explore some potential positives.

    Bob Schieffer, television journalist with CBS News and moderator of the final debate of this election season, called this the "most exciting campaign in history."

    It is a historic event, no doubt.

    Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman, Commission on Presidential Debates, speaking before the debate (as televised by C-Span), called this a historic election because it will result in "either the first African American U.S. president or first woman U.S. vice president."

    "In just 20 days, citizens will cast their vote -- the most important right and responsibility of free citizens," said Paul Kirk, co-chairman, Commission on Presidential Debates. "The stakes could not be higher, the issues have seldom been more complex, and voter interest has seldom been more intense." He went on to cite that one of the reasons that Hofstra hosted the debate is “because we want an informed citizenry... One could argue, that the debates could not be more important.”

    "This is a history-changing moment," said Stuart Rabinowitz, president, Hofstra University. "Our mission is to not only teach our students, but inspire them to be participants in the democratic process..."

    I applaud those ideals, and the conduct of the tens of thousands of students who quietly, thoughtfully, and respectfully attended these debates.

    Let's find some more positives.

    Have you been to both candidates' Web sites? I must admit, they are among the most advanced (dare I say "coolest"?) in the history of U.S. elections.

    Am I grasping at straws, here? What good have you seen throughout this electoral process?

    Phillies up 3 games to 1!

    October 14, 2008 11:00 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Phillies vs.. Dodgers for the National League pennant may not be as mythic as Red Sox vs. Yankees, or even Phillies vs. Mets, but it brings back a lot of memories for any baseball fan that grew up near Philadelphia in the 1970s -- when the Dodgers regularly kicked our buts in the playoffs.

    So please allow me to prematurely gloat. It would be our fist pennant since the early 1990s when Joe Carter and the Blue Jays robbed John Kruk and company of a World Series title.

    That was a tough loss, with Mr. Carter hitting a Series-winning homer off of Mitch Williams.

    While this year's team is not as entertaining as those guys, it has tons of talent and reminds me of the World Series champs from 1980s, led by Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton.

    Ryan Howard has Schmidt-like power and the starting pitching is tough.

    Some of my friends probably wonder where my enthusiasm is coming from, since the last Phillies game I went to was in Veterans Stadium and I've been quite obviously assimilated into Red Sox nation after living in New England the last 15 years.

    Yet, hearing long-time Phillies announcer Harry Kalas do the intro on Fox for Game 1, and seeing highlights of Tug McGraw jumping off the mound in 1980 reminded me of where my roots lie.

    I was in sixth grade back then -- horrible at baseball -- but totally caught up in Phillies hysteria.

    Twenty-eight years later I am again.

    Go Phillies!

    A few thoughts from AUSA

    October 8, 2008 10:40 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    The Association of the U.S. Army's (AUSA's) annual meeting continues to be one of the best and biggest defense technology exhibitions on the calendar, but I don't think it's getting any bigger -- square-footage wise.

    Attendance seemed slightly less, probably due to the poor economy , but the word on the show floor this week in Washington was that the exhibit space at AUSA is frozen till 2011 because they've maxed out the bottom floor of the convention center.

    Not surprising when the prime contractor booths are 100-by-100 feet -- needed if you're going to roll out multiple tanks and other armored vehicles.

    I'm not complaining, I love the event. On one floor you can pretty much get briefed on technology for practially every Army platform. It's a must attend for a magazine that covers defense technology.

    I just have a couple of questions that have nothing to do with technology...

    What is the fixation on Chuck Norris mythology in Armed Forces bathrooms in Iraq?

    Gen. David Petraeus opened his speech on Iraq operations with the best Chuck Norris lines he read on bathroom walls...

    My favorites were "Chuck Norris doesn't breathe he holds air hostage," and "Chuck Norris isn't a bad actor because he's not acting."

    For more on this Chuck Norris phenomenon, visit .

    They are funny.

    Speaking of celebrities, rumor was that comedians Dennis Miller and Bill Maher were walking the show floor too... Bill Maher at an Army show? Weird if true.

    I have just one more comment on the show... There's no clapping after speeches in press conferences. You know who you are.

    Taxpayers unwittingly fund excess

    October 8, 2008 3:48 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    How very nice of us, hard-working American taxpayers, to treat AIG officials (like Martin Sullivan to the right, who continues to pull a million-dollar salary as a consultant to AIG) to a week-long spa retreat. Oh, I am sure they needed and deserved it, right? Indeed. And how moral and ethical of AIG bigwigs to treat themselves to a $5 million bonus and $20 million golden parachute on the backs of hard-working Americans. I am disgusted -- nay, repulsed -- that greed continues to be rewarded at a time when middle-class and working-class folks, such as Addie Polk (a 90-year-old Ohio woman who attempted suicide when her house was foreclosed upon), are stressing and distraught over how they will survive in the days and months to come. If anyone deserves an all-expenses-paid, money-is-no-object spa retreat it is us on "Main Street," who continue to make sacrifice after sacrifice in our own lives in the name of survival.

    As much as I want to continue to slam and damn those benefiting from recent bailouts -- after all, more than enough ammunition exists -- I would rather spend my time and energy in celebration of us: the majority of the nation who give up nights and weekends without complaint in support of our industry, the end users we serve, and the American Dream. My hat is off to you all.

    I do, however, want to play a bit of the devil's advocate and note that European government officials readily admit that they serve the will of the people; for, if they do not, the community will band together and rally in the streets to have their voices heard. Perhaps we need to band together and remind our public servants of their duty -- we do pay their salaries, after all.

    Let your voice be heard. Post your comments here or online at the Command Post community.

    Business as usual

    October 2, 2008 12:39 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I am so sick of sensationalism and biased political and economic reporting that I am hesitant to read the paper or watch the news anymore. I do, mind you, lest I miss out on a nugget of information that would actually have a perceivable impact on daily life. Even online blogs (yes, even the Mil & Aero Blog) and journals that I love to read daily are wrought with partisan or even jargony communication on today's biggest news stories: the bailout and tonight's vice presidential debate. I had just decided to become "Courtney Unplugged" (unplugged and free from online, email, print, and telecast bombardments) for a day, when I came across "Ignore the Economics and Move on as Best You Can," a blog entry by Dr. Joe Webb ( ).

    In his blog, Dr. Webb, a respected analyst in the print/graphics communications industry, says:

    "What is really quite amazing are the claims that the markets stopped working, which is how the whole disaster occurred. Well, that's wrong. The markets are working. Markets punish bad behavior, ruthlessly. Any of the plans proposed end up dragging the problems out further. Regulations designed to protect the market end up creating disequilibriums. Now that there is fear in the market again, the chances for rational behavior have actually improved. Flooding the market with money created the problem, and now we're supposed to believe that flooding the market with money will solve it."

    His blog -- essentially about getting on with business and life -- hit home for me. I have had it with the sensationalism that bombards us at every turn. After all, somehow (heavy sarcasm) we muddle through despite being "on the brink of another Great Depression," in "very dire" circumstances, etc. Thanks, but no thanks, Chicken Little. We -- in the military and aerospace industry especially -- are resilient...even if those who have made millions and billions on Wall Street are not.

    Long live the rugged, proactive, level-headed mil-aero market! Now switch off, unplug (from everything except, and get on with it. That's what I am going to do anyway.

    Get it done already

    September 30, 2008 6:06 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Watching the political shows this morning all I saw was the blame game and partisan bickering from Congress for why they failed to pass the economic recovery package for bailing out Wall Street .

    This is getting ridiculous.

    I refer to both parties. They claim lack of leadership from President Bush and the Wall Street elite caused the current crisis, but their behavior demonstrates they lack the responsibility or wisdom to fill that alleged gap.

    A colleague of mine made an interesting point this morning when he said if this happened a year ago and not a month before an election, it probably would've passed already. It makes one wonder if the esteemed members of Congress are voting based on what will get them re-elected or what is best for the country.

    Based on that thought I find it ironic the one "person" not ever running for office again is the only who has offered a solution -- President Bush. His proposed $700 billion bailout even goes against the small government mindset of his party. He and his administration may be at fault for some of this, but give them credit for risking political fallout to fix it.

    President Bush's approval numbers remain low, but as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it today: "Congress is living up to its 10 percent approval rating."

    Anyway, yesterday's stock market nose dive affected everyone including defense market giants. For example Boeing was down $2.85 a share, closing at $55.47; Raytheon was down $2.36, closing at $53.70; Northrop Grumman was down $1.41; closing at $61.59; and General Dynamics was down $3.52, closing at $71.40.

    I don't know that we are technically in an economic recession, but it's hard to see us avoiding it.

    That said I believe a recession or depression is much more personal. I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan's line when running against Jimmy Carter: "a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose your job, and a recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."

    Yeah, it was a campaign slap against Carter, but the other part is very true. Quite a few of my friends are already in their own personal economic depression and this week only made it worse.

    So get it done Congress.

    Bailouts and pirates and bombs! Oh, My!

    September 28, 2008 6:35 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    We do live in interesting times, whether that's a curse or not. U.S. government leaders just this morning reportedly reached an agreement to bail out the embattled U.S. financial system for about $700 billion. Meanwhile, if you thought pirates were just something out of the movies, think again. And how safe are we if international terrorists want to take a shot at influencing the U.S. elections?

    News out of Washington early this morning has it that we have a financial bailout deal. We'll know by tomorrow if this urgent, fast-track plan to spend nearly a trillion dollars to buy bad loans will go very far in calming out turbulent investment markets. Keep an eye on the stock markets when they open Monday.

    I'm still skeptical that this is the best way out of the mess we're in.

    The bailouts ...

    In particular I'm worried about how this hugely expensive plan will influence U.S. defense spending over the next couple of years. It's bound to put a squeeze somewhere. We'll have to borrow a lot of money to keep defense spending even close to current levels, which is what I think will happen.

    I made a prediction in a blog last week that the bailout plan might about clean out existing government cash supplies, leaving us to rely on foreign lenders to pay for things like military spending, roads, and other things American citizens expect.

    I was quoted in the Wired Danger Room Blog last week predicting that NOTHING will be left for defense spending after the bailout. What I REALLY meant to predict was that no ready cash will be left, and we'll have to borrow what we use to pay for military equipment, operations, and salaries. I know it's one of the last refuges of scoundrels to claim that I was quoted out of context. My wife always tells me I should be careful what I say. Maybe I should listen to her.

    I know it's meant at least somewhat in jest, but I keep thinking about the so-called Birk Economic Recovery Plan that's been making the rounds on the Internet. This plan suggests that instead of giving close to a trillion dollars to the banks, the government ought to split up that bailout money among taxpaying U.S. adults. This would enable them to pay off their mortgages, buy cars, and save for their kids' college ... that is, solve the financial mess, take care of ordinary folks, and let the weak-sister banks go out of business. Yeah, I don't suppose something like that could ever work.

    The pirates ...

    Now to other news of the weird, piracy on the high seas appears to be on the rise ... except they're using machine guns these days instead of swords and pistols. Somali pirates in an attack the other day off the Horn of Africa took a haul that would render Capt. Jack Sparrow speechless. The pirates took a Ukrainian freighter that, much to their delight, contained 33 Russian T-72 main battle tanks and ammunition in its holds.

    Think anyone in the world might want to buy some tanks and ammunition? Me, too, and I'll bet those pirates are taking bids right now.

    We'll see of the pirates get a chance to move their armored booty, however. The Russians are not too happy about this, are sending at least one warship to the area in attempts to recover the armored combat vehicles and perhaps punish the pirates.

    The U.S. Navy apparently is getting in on the act, too. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) reportedly is keeping an eye on the ship containing the stolen tanks . We'll see who prevails in this standoff over the next couple of days.

    I wouldn't bet on the pirates, however, unless they're very sneaky and resourceful. The Howard is an Aegis destroyer with surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine rockets, torpedoes, Phalanx close-in weapons systems and a five-inch rapid-fire deck gun, as well as electronic warfare countermeasures, decoys, passive detection systems, and a hull-mounted sonar. Plus, it can steam faster than 31 knots -- more than a match for a Ukrainian freighter.

    I know members of the U.S. military have been brushing up on their foreign language skills lately. I wonder how you say "Avast, ye scurvy craven dogs -- prepare to be boarded," in Arabic?

    ... and the bombs

    This just in: have anything important on your calendar for October 7? If you do, you might think about how to reschedule. Reports are floating around out there that we might be in for another terrorist attack that day.

    A private research firm called the Northeast Intelligence Network says that Tuesday, October 7, is a likely day for potential attacks on New York and/or Washington, and that attacks might involve nuclear weapons.

    Yes, I know. Some folks out there believe the Northeast Intelligence Network is a bunch of kooks , but take a look at their reports and judge for yourselves. Might international terrorists want to try influencing the U.S. elections, which will be less than a month away from 7 Oct.? They did it in Spain, and they might try it here, too.

    I know I'm sounding alarmist, and maybe I am. I do know that I'll feel a lot better if we can make it to Thanksgiving without any major disasters.

    Get out of your comfort zone

    September 24, 2008 11:01 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    We finished a one-day advisory council meeting yesterday in Amsterdam for our Avionics show and I am feeling energized by it... and no, not just because I was in Amsterdam.

    I tease my brother in the investment trade about wasting money to fly across the Atlantic for a one day meeting then flying back. Why do that when you can call, email, video conference, etc.? The digital world makes it so much easier to stay at your desk.

    Or as they said in my Dale Carnegie classes, to "stay in your comfort zone."

    The investment guys say it's because the deals they do are so big, the airfare is a pittance. Wish that were the case for me...

    Regardless, the meeting I had with the council members shows that digital tools -- while amazingly helpful to my job -- can never replace the quality of face-to-face discussion.

    What they can do is make us more prepared for the meeting. I was impressed how each council member was well versed on the more than 70 abstracts we evaluated, which they received only a few days earlier.

    Digital communication made that possible and made the meeting smoother through electronic spreadsheet and video tools. It enhances face-to-face meetings but can never replace the value of personal contact.

    There's a reason corporate coaches tell people to make eye contact in an interview, it shows trust and gives the perception you have nothing to hide. You can't look someone eye-to-eye in an email and video conferencing isn't the same as sitting across a table.

    I'm reminded of an airline commercial from about 10 years ago. In it a small company's president is lamenting the loss of his biggest customer, who said nobody ever came to see him.

    So the president started handing out airline tickets of course, and telling everyone they need to get out and see each customer in person, so they know they're not forgotten.

    Yes, it's a clever way to promote an airline, but its message about the value of face-to-face meetings is right on.

    Whether you're in sales or journalism, get out of your comfort zone and meet your source or client in person at a show, at their company, or just for a drink. It's worth it, and it's why I think trade shows and conferences are here to stay.

    Financial meltdown and bailout: how much is left for defense spending?

    September 23, 2008 2:54 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The long-term influences of the September Wall Street financial meltdown and subsequent government bailouts have yet to be fully perceived, much less felt or understood. Right now, the week after the Lehman Brothers investment company went bust and Merrill Lynch sold itself off just to survive, many of the Wise Men in business, government, and academia are in a state of mumbling shock.

    Among those Wise Men who have been called on the carpet to explain this sad state of affairs are U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., called these gentlemen in to a hearing before the Senate Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Senator Dodd chairs the committee.

    Picture a tattered, dust-covered survivor of the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks stumbling down a rubble-strewn Manhattan street and you get an idea of the condition of the U.S. financial system. I see a headline in The Wall Street Journal -- THE WALL STREET JOURNAL! -- that reads "The End of Wall Street ."

    Isn't that as if we were to see a headline in USA Today reading "World ends today." As for myself, I can scarcely characterize the magnitude of last week's financial collapse. A lot of people smarter than I are in the same boat. Nevertheless, I hear commentators on the radio say what we're seeing now in the investment markets is even more momentous than the stock market crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression.

    Is anyone else out there getting just a bit apprehensive?

    Financial experts who keep an eye on U.S. military spending and the defense industry have been warning for years that rising federal costs for so-called "non-discretionary spending " on things like social security, Medicare, and interest payments on the national debt threaten to squeeze the federal budget such that current levels of defense spending cannot be maintained for long.

    These stark warnings started coming long before Congress and the administration began discussing spending as much as a trillion dollars -- A TRILLION DOLLARS! -- to bail out struggling financial institutions in part by using taxpayer money to buy up as many as a million home mortgages at or near default.

    At this moment we don't yet know exactly how the federal government is going to do this, but here's something we do know: all that non-discretionary federal spending -- or the money government has to pay whether anyone likes it or not -- is about to get a whole lot bigger.

    My big question in all this is how much "discretionary" money will be left for defense spending, homeland security, subsidies for developing renewable energy sources, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, building new roads, and anything else?

    More to the point, after the big upcoming Wall Street bailouts, how much will be left? Is that a fair question? My guess is NOTHING. As per usual, the federal government will proceed not on the basis of the money it has, but on its ability to borrow more, and more, and more money from foreign countries.

    Now's where I start to get really nervous. Say you're a bank, and one of your clients just borrowed a bunch of money for home improvements. That client has been making his interest payments just fine, but he's come back several times to borrow more money. He can still make his interest payments, but it's a struggle. Paying back any of the principal on the loans is out of the question.

    As the banker, what are you going to say when that client comes back for another loan? You might not say no, but what do you think of that client as a credit risk?

    Well, the other countries that are lending the U.S. government money have to be entertaining the same thoughts. How good a credit risk is the United States of America anymore? Ever wonder why the value of the U.S. dollar keeps going down, and the cost of crude oil has started going up again? Well, look no further.

    If we keep going down this path, sooner or later the folks overseas who are lending us money are going to stop, because we're too big a risk. At what tipping point will this happen? More to the point, at what stage will leaders in the U.S. Congress and the administration realize that maintaining some semblance of financial credibility is a core matter of national security and international relations?

    We've come to this: paying our own bills and carrying our own weight is not simply A matter, but THE central matter of U.S. national security and international relations.

    We continue to borrow money from Gulf states in the Middle East, and from China. When Iran gets on its feet, are we going to go hat-in-hand and ask them for a loan, too?

    This nation has a great history, which has been my great pleasure and inspiration throughout my entire life to read about, absorb, and reflect on. I still get a great feeling when I think about the great American triumphs at places like the North Bridge at Lexington, Gettysburg, and a little town in Belgium called Bastogne. I think of how the United States helped rebuild a flattened Europe after World War II, and helped bring about an end to the Cold War.

    Looking forward, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism. Our investment system right now is flat on its back, the U.S. government is deep, deep, deep in debt with only more debt on the horizon, and our military is stretched thin and in need of rebuilding. How are we going to pay to fix all this?

    In my nightmares, the United States as I know it at some moment in the future will not be defeated militarily ...

    ... but will simply be asked to leave.

    Bitter about the bailouts

    September 18, 2008 8:57 AM by Courtney Howard

    Is it the U.S. government's responsibility to bail out businesses on the brink of bankruptcy? Just this year, the federal government has bailed out AIG, Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae.

    Michael A. Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times sums up recent months as follows: "The federal government has put up nearly $30 billion to avert a major financial default by the investment bank Bear Stearns; committed to investing up to as much as $200 billion in preferred stock of the loss-plagued finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and at least $5 billion in their mortgage securities; and agreed to provide an emergency loan of $85 billion to American International Group Inc. in return for an ownership stake of as much as 80 percent in the stricken insurance giant."

    I think it is not the government's responsibility, and it is just bad business. I could understand the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac transaction given its repercussions on homeowners under their umbrella and the present status of the housing market; however, I cannot help but be disgusted that the government is now, essentially, in the real-estate business.

    I think these bailouts set a bad precident, and in some cases rewards high-paying executives with potentially bad business practices. Hiltzik perhaps says it best:"critics contend that bailouts often encourage bad behavior by relieving underperforming industries of the consequences of their ineptitude."

    Others in the know anticipate that more and more corporations will soon approach the government, hand extended.The government should be a helping hand to its beleagered citizens (kids and seniors without food, heat, and healthcare), not rich executives who gambled and lost in the corporate world.

    Beating the airlines

    September 16, 2008 5:55 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Let's take a break from blogging about Sarah Palin and the election and talk about air travel headaches.

    I do a lot of travel for my job and think I've developed the patience necessary when dealing with the expected flight cancellations and delays, accepting that I can only do so much. I figure writing complaint letters and filing lawsuits will get me just as much satisfaction as losing my temper with airline staff at the ticket counter.

    In other words, nothing.

    Yet, today I read a story today about a guy who actually sued Delta for canceling his flight and won!

    It was an article on titled "A Flier Strikes Back" by Telios Demos.

    According to Demos' article a passenger had his flight canceled due to weather and was told it wouldn't be refunded because weather delays are not Delta's fault.

    However, the passenger, Mitchell Berns, "checked the National Weather Service report. It said snow that day was expected at five the next morning -- hours after his flight was scheduled to land."

    The article went on to state that Berns eventually filed a small-claims suit against Delta, and the court ruled in his favor when Delta did not show up.

    Where was this guy when I was sitting on the tarmac a couple years ago for five hours at JFK due to thunderstorms? The airline, JetBlue, apologized profusely, but all we received was free animal crackers. It could have been worse; at least with JetBlue we were able to watch satellite television for five hours...

    However, on the same trip I was delayed four hours returning from Raleigh/Durham, and this time JetBlue gave us vouchers for a free flight. That impressed me.

    British Airways (BA) was a little skimpier than JetBlue. They only gave out food/drink vouchers worth 5 British pounds for a canceled flight I was on -- but you had to ask, BA didn't announce it. A friendly BA frequent flier clued me in to this.

    Skimpy, yes, but I enjoyed the free pint of Guinness.

    According the AOL piece Berns only had to pay $15 and have a "working knowledge of English" or Spanish to file the claim.

    I should mention that the passenger in the article is an attorney, but anybody can file a similar suit.

    In the article Berns said "The lesson is, don't let them bully you with bogus cancellations."

    Just something to think about next time you find yourself stranded at the airport.

    A market view of media bias over vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin

    September 14, 2008 8:28 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Yeah, I know. We're all sick of hearing claims of media bias when it comes to Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin . I'm starting to get my fill of it, too -- and by way of full disclosure, I'm a big Sarah Palin supporter.

    I'm not getting too worked up about bias involving Gov. Sarah Palin. First, the media are defeating themselves by showing their hands. Credibility in the media, in general, is at historic lows, and I have a suspicion we are seeing the last gasps of this dinosaur we've come to know as the mainstream media. Besides, taking shots just makes people like her more.

    Some of the attention Palin has been getting lately is just downright funny, no matter your political persuasion. Did you see Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live last night? I think the SNL Palin portrayal was spot-on. Take a look below if you don't believe me. Global warming "is just God huggin' us closer." Let's vote right now.

    I have a feeling, however, that attacks on Sarah Palin from the national press are going to start dwindling out, particularly if the McCain-Palin ticket keeps rising in the polls. Folks in the press aren't stupid, really (just STOP that now!). They know that if McCain wins, they'll need access to Palin for their stories after 4 Nov.

    I'm guessing that Palin's people are keeping score; she's flexing that velvet-gloved mailed fist, and the worst offenders in the media risk getting themselves frozen out -- at least for a time -- if Palin takes office as vice president.

    No one in the national press wants to be in Vice President Palin's doghouse for long. Those folks will watch the polls and keep their fingers in the wind; if they see the Obama-Biden ticket on a long downward slide, then almost overnight look to see the national press as Palin's best friends.

    It's funny how things work. Press bias is temporary. Keeping themselves in the game is forever.

    Boeing machinists strike: cons, and pros?

    September 12, 2008 12:21 AM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    "No one benefits from a strike," Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, states in a message to Boeing employees in Washington, Oregon, and Kansas.

    That seems to be the case, at first blush, but I wonder in this particular instance, if that is, in fact, completely accurate. I am fortunate for never knowing what it is to strike, but I have to wonder: what is the downside for these machinists striking? Conversely, what are the ramifications to mil-aero industry? Forgive my naivete, but those striking are reportedly gaining roughly $150 a week while on strike; and, they have already received (and rejected) an offer that includes pay increases, bonuses, and other incentives.

    If we can believe what we read, the current labor stand-off can be summed up as follows:

    Boeing's latest contract offer proposed an 11-percent wage increase over the three-year life of the contract, a one-time lump sum and ratification bonus, and other incentives that Boeing representatives revealed would add roughly $34,000 to the pay of the average machinist, who currently makes an estimated $65,000 a year, including overtime.

    The International Association of Machinists (IAM) union seeks a 13-percent wage increase, no change to health care contributions, and the rollback of provisions allowing Boeing to outsource work.

    What is the cost to everyone else? According to best estimates, the repercussions include $2.8 billion in lost revenue per month for Boeing, further delay of the Dreamliner 787, and suppliers potentially going out of business.

    Carson's statement reads:

    "The decision by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to reject our contract offer is deeply disappointing, to say the least. The union has turned down what is, by any measure, a truly exceptional offer -- bar none. Our company went to extraordinary lengths to conduct these negotiations in an atmosphere of openness and transparency that allowed more time to understand the key issues and create a package that is unquestionably the best in our industry.

    "An 11 percent general wage increase -- combined with a lump-sum payment, a ratification bonus, cost-of-living adjustments, improved pension and health care coverage and other benefit enhancements -- all added up to an outstanding package that balanced the needs of the employees with ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the company. In addition, our negotiators removed several company proposals that the union saw as issues in order to keep the negotiations moving forward and to make progress toward a solution.

    "As disappointing as the IAM decision is to us, the impact is considerably wider. Our customers are obviously going to be affected. They are counting on us, and any delay of our new, efficient airplanes is going to hurt an already strapped air transport industry burdened with high fuel costs. Our suppliers, too, will feel the impact quickly. And there's no question about the negative economic effect on our local communities. As we've said before, no one benefits from a strike.?

    In a recent article (, however, Daniel Lovering offers a potential "silver lining." "Suppliers will have time to untangle problems that have delayed the company's long-awaited 787 jetliner," as a result of the machinists strike, writes Lovering.

    We in the press can speculate all we like, but we want to hear from you: the sub-contractors, suppliers, and customers.

    How are you being affected by the strike? Do you anticipate problems down the road as a result of the ensuing Boeing strike and labor negotiations?

    If you are struggling with a challenge, consider "bouncing" issues off (or simply venting to or commiserating with) industry peers in the Command Post online community at

    9/11: more a day of infamy than Pearl Harbor

    September 11, 2008 7:19 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    It's sad that folks don't seem to remember the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon -- all except for the anniversary of this tragic sneak attack on American soil by American enemies, which is today.

    As I write this, it's 7:57 a.m., on 11 Sept., just about three-quarters of an hour before the first hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center towers seven years ago in the first of unfolding events in the 9/11 conspiracy to attack Americans on U.S. soil.

    I'm hoping that all Americans take a quiet moment today to remember 9/11 and the attacks that so profoundly changed our lives. It really shouldn't be difficult. After all, more people were killed in the 9 11 attacks than were killed in the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor , Hawaii, to begin the Second World War in 1941.

    While I was growing up, my parents talked about Pearl Harbor from time to time, and always spoke about where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the attacks. My dad was 11, and my mom was 10 at the time. They talk about concerned parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins who huddled around radios -- there was no television at the time -- in shocked silence as they absorbed details of the attacks.

    It was much the same with us seven years ago. I had just gotten in to work that morning, and found all of my colleagues huddled around the television in our downstairs conference room -- all of them in shocked silence as they watched the World Trade Center towers burn and collapse. Some people looked numb, some looked outraged, there were more than a few tears rolling down faces.

    I think these generations of people who were around on September 11, 2001 will be talking about the terrorist attacks for a long time. Our kids will grow up remembering about their folks speaking of 9/11 -- where they were and what they were doing. It's seared into all our memories.

    Make sure you take a moment today to remember.

    More on media bias

    September 9, 2008 7:13 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted By John McHale

    The past week whenever I watched CNN or Fox News election coverage all I heard was accusations flying that the media was biased toward Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican nominee for Vice President.

    The republicans typically claim media bias during an election season mostly because it has benefited them at the polls. However, this time it was pretty blatant with even the mainstream press making an issue out of Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter, Bristol.

    I thought it was revolting. It looked like desperation, when there was no need to be desperate.

    Some of the claims made -- such as her cutting funding for special needs -- have been refuted. has a breakdown of the some of the false claims made against Palin, under the heading "Sliming Palin."

    Just because some of these accusations have been proven false does not mean more won't pop up. However, I don't think all of them will be due to media bias.

    As a colleague and I were saying this morning any journalist with a chance to interview her should be zealous in his attempts to debunk her credibility in foreign policy, energy policy, past decisions made as Governor of Alaska, etc.

    If they do it respectfully with facts to back them up and leave her children alone it won't matter how many republicans shout liberal bias.

    I personally hope Gov. Palin comes through looking even better than she does now, but I don't want to see her get a free pass either.

    Not another Web browser! Think again, Chrome is worth a try

    September 9, 2008 4:30 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Who ever thought we'd need another Internet browser? We've seen the demise of a few over past several years -- remember Netscape and Mosaic? -- and we've become pretty comfortable with the industry standards of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari. I think Opera is still around, but I haven't used it in a long time. Still, there's a new free Web browser on the block, and it's worth a try.

    I've been using Google's new Chrome Web browser for nearly a week now, and I like what I see. It's compact, fast, and does exactly what I need, even in the first beta version. I especially like the large feel of the screen. You see a lot of Web page with this streamlined browser.

    What impressed me with the beta version of Chrome is its ability to handle our sometimes-quirky company-internal sites for our Military & Aerospace Electronics Website content management system, as well as for Website tracking software that for a while only seemed to render correctly with Internet Explorer. Not even Firefox did that from the get-go, and I'm a serious Firefox devotee.

    You don't have much to loose by giving Chrome a try. Just don't tell the program to become your default Web browser unless you're really sold on it. I find I'm using Chrome almost all the time lately, but Firefox is still my default browser. I may change eventually -- or maybe not.

    A couple of things you need to know when you first download Chrome. It initially comes without a button that brings you to your browser's home page. You can get a home page button to come up, however, by clicking on the little wrench icon on the upper right of the screen, choose options, and click on the "basic" tab. About halfway down, in the home page section, make sure the show home button on the toolbar box is checked. Believe me, that will head off some serious frustration while checking out the program.

    Next, be advised that you can make a bookmarks toolbar appear by hitting Control-B on your keyboard. With just those two navigation tips, you'll be off and running very quickly.

    Navy confrontation on the Black Sea not as serious as it looks

    September 7, 2008 9:07 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    Lately I've been reading with interest some stories in the press that suggest an armed standoff between the navies of the United States and Russia in and around the Georgia port of Poti on the Black Sea.

    My favorite is a story in the The Times of London headlined US warship confronts Russian military in ?tinderbox’ port .

    I had the impression that we had heavily armed warships of the U.S. and Russia tied up at opposite piers at general quarters with snarling gun crews at the ready. Then I noticed the specific U.S. warship involved, and breathed a sigh of relief.

    It's the It's the USS Mount Whitney .

    This important vessel, the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, is a joint command ship. It's built to accommodate high-ranking joint-force commanders, and to serve as a combined-forces command-and-control headquarters. It also was the first U.S. Navy combatant to permanently accommodate women on board.

    The vessel's stock in trade is shipboard communications . It can handle reams of secure data through HF, UHF, VHF, SHF, and EHF communications links, which enable the ship's joint intelligence center and joint operations center to gather and fuse information while at sea.

    While it's C4I capabilities are awesome, the Mount Whitney is only lightly armed. It's got some air-defense missiles and a few guns. Suffice it to say that it just isn't one you'd send by itself into harm's way if you're looking for a fight. It's got too few guns and too many admirals on board to steam to where the shooting is.

    Although the Mount Whitney is in an obviously dangerous place, contrary to what you might surmise from the headlines, the Mount Whitney is on a peaceful mission to send aid to Georgia after Russian tanks and soldiers got through manhandling that small country on a mission of intimidation.

    Serious fighting surface ships -- like cruisers, carriers, and destroyers -- are designed to make noise and break things. The Mount Whitney , on the other hand, is on station in Georgia to help pick up the pieces

    FEMA follies and aid antics

    September 3, 2008 2:18 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I know I am going to get flack for what I am about to write, but heregoes. When Katrina hit, my old high-school chum who lives in New Orleans was thankfully on vacation elsewhere. Her apartment was not affected, aside from some rotten food, nor was her pocketbook and car. Yet, she was the benefactor of checks for several thousands of dollars.

    We all know the sequence of events. My quick-and-dirty synopsis would read: people were in serious danger, some folks in the government dropped the ball, the Bush Administration was widely criticized, lots and lots of money was thrown at the problem (FEMA even reported egregious overpayments), and the city and its citizens are recovering and rebuilding. It was a horrific event, and my heart goes out to all those affected.

    I have a friend in NOLA who is a real-estate agent, who has been having a couple great years. Property values were higher after Katrina than before, she told a group of us. Tons of people were interested in investing in are real estate. Why were people flocking to put their money in an area built below sea level that is susceptible to hurricanes, flooding, various natural disasters?
    Enter Gustav. My friends who reside in NOLA happily went on a "hurrication" -- or hurricane vacation -- and have posted photos of them imbibing and partying online via their mobile devices. Some expect a check will be waiting for them upon their return.

    On the other end of the spectrum, a friend of the family was in one of 12 local FEMA groups called to duty in NOLA. He was given three hours notice, and whisked off to Atlanta for two weeks. That is where he sits now. Just sits. Other teams are doing the same, but in Virginia. Many speculate that since they are not needed, they should be sent home, lessening as much as possible the hefty bill the taxpayers will have to foot for their room, board, and hazard pay. They are told, instead and in so many words, that the Bush Administration is "edgy" about hurricane rescue, considering the controversies that surrounded the "handling" of Katrina, and so they will sit -- and prepare themselves for likely deployment to the East Coast, where Hurricane Hanna is expected to strike, or to stay in anticipation of Hurricane Ike.

    Granted my universe is but a small one, but perhaps you can see how it looks from my perspective. Three of the three people I know in New Orleans are benefiting from these circumstances -- and believe me, I am grateful for that rather than seeing them or anyone else suffer. And yet, I have heard similar stories relating to Reservists deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Case in point: a family friend in the National Guard Reserves was called up and sent to Afghanistan to give other military personnel a break from their post there. He sat, sweating in Afghanistan for a year, and then came home and bought a house and new car in cash with his hazardous duty pay. Don't get me wrong, you could not offer me enough money to go to Afghanistan.

    I bring this controversial issue up because over the weekend I ran into a friend who was giving up her nights and weekends to provide care to hundreds of local children and seniors who were without health insurance and could not gain health care. Her stories were heart-wrenching. She was relieved that people in need were getting the help they needed during a natural disaster, and yet, she was disheartened that those who are always needy and perpetually sick and hungry gain so little of the Administration's attention and resources.

    And so I cannot help but be caused to wonder, are we as a country and is our administration doing to right thing with our money? Is there not enough to go around? Where is the happy medium? I hope the new administration, whatever it may be, has the answer.

    Government response to Gustav appears better than Katrina

    September 2, 2008 8:28 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    The U.S. Government's response to latest hurricane -- dubbed Gustav -- already appears better than the negligence demonstrated during Katrina .

    Fortunately Gustav seems to be reducing in strength and has only sideswiped New Orleans , but it seems on the surface that President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) learned their lessons.

    President Bush canceled his appearance at the Republican National Convention, reportedly in order to focus his attention on the storm. That move is probably more symbolic than anything else, but news reports say that it seems that the government was better prepared this time at federal, state, and local levels.

    One report told how New Orleans policeman were on the job last night whereas during Katrina there were reports of them fleeing the city to take care of their own families.

    This year the police were given a weeks notice to see to their families and then return to duty.

    Even in our little defense trade press world I've noticed more awareness from government and industry. Over the last couple weeks there was a significant increase in public relations announcements from the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard, and technology companies on their efforts to help during Gustav.

    I pray that this is a positive sign and not a PR blitz as more storms loom off the coast.

    What McCain's choice of Sarah Palin could mean for defense spending

    August 29, 2008 9:47 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Republican presidential nominee John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. This brings a lot of interesting things to the table.

    McCain in choosing Governor Palin could be making an interesting choice. Palin's son reportedly has just joined the military, so it's fair to assume she would be supportive of military initiatives -- particularly for improving military and aerospace electronics and other defense technologies.

    Sound off on what you think the choice of Sarah Palin might mean for military issues and defense spending on the Mil & Aero Command Post Community . Click here to leave your comments and join the conversation.

    Like McCain, Sarah Palin also would likely be tough in foreign affairs, and tough in particular, on issues like the incident when Russia invaded Georgia .

    The choice of a woman also could be interesting. Think of the disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters who might like to cast their votes for a female candidate. The Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket offers no such choices.

    If folks are looking to vote for so-called "minority candidates," then this election has it all.

    The choice of a potential Sarah Palin vice president on the ticket also could be good news for conservative voters. Palin for VP reportedly is a social conservative who is strongly opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, she is an advocate of private gun ownership, and evidently is very popular in Alaska.

    This ticket would appeal to a lot of voters. Sarah Palin would appeal to female voters, to gun enthusiasts, to advocates of a strong military, to social conservatives, to pro-family advocates (she have five children), to young voters (she is just 44), and potentially to champions of the disabled (Palin's youngest son reportedly has Down's Syndrome).

    It will be interesting to see how the choice of Governor Sarah Palin for vice president comes across to American voters.

    Loving Labor Day

    August 27, 2008 11:27 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I was pondering the upcoming holiday weekend when it hit me: It is nearly September and I have not taken a vacation! Where did the time go? I can guarantee I am not the only one, especially in the U.S.

    "U.S. employees are taking less time off than ever: Not only is the average number of annual vacation days granted to them a mere 12.4 -- less than that of the average medieval peasant -- but more than a third of us don't even use all of our allotted time off," reported Chris Taylor, Business 2.0 Magazine senior editor ( ). "Collectively, American workers give a whopping 1.6 million years' worth of unused vacation time back to their employers every year," he continues. "Even worse, at least 20 percent of us admit to sneaking some work along with us during our paltry vacation time, according to the New York-based Families and Work Institute. The American Management Institute puts the figure at closer to 50 percent. Either way, the trend appears to be increasing. An Intel survey found that 53 percent of us would like to take laptops on future vacations, mostly so we can sneak a peak at our work email."

    I find this absurd, largely because I am guilty of it and it drives me mad. As I type, in fact, I am working late on a week night. I have done this repeatedly, in job after job, and in each instance, it has gotten me nowhere – except maybe burned out and resentful.

    Why do I do this? What is wrong with me?! I have to make it stop, as do all of us that engage in this self-destructive nature. "It is crazy-making," as my own boss would say -- although he too was recently (and ironically) caught blogging during his week off.

    I propose a movement whereby we all stop this insanity and actually take our well-deserved vacation time -- make a real, concerted effort to stay away from our laptops and other portable work-related devices (PDAs, Blackberry, etc.), and succeed at it. I suggest that we make vacation mandatory! After all, if my boss told me to do it, I bet I would get it done.

    Enjoy a labor-free Labor Day!

    Looks like Curtiss-Wright is ready to grow again; set to acquire VMETRO

    August 25, 2008 5:54 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    I've been teased and chided for calling Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., a "behemoth" in the embedded computing industry . Well hold on to your hats, folks, it looks like Curtiss-Wright is about to get even bigger.

    Leaders of Curtiss-Wright Corp. in Roseland, N.J. -- parent of Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded -- are offering to acquire VME computing specialist VMETRO in Houston. VMETRO leaders say the Curtiss-Wright offer sounds fair, and they are ready to accept it, unless some nasty surprises come up in final negotiations.

    VMETRO provides commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) board- and system-level embedded computer products for military, aerospace, industrial, communications, medical, enterprise computing and network storage. The company also specializes in high-speed serial interconnects like PCI Express, Serial RapidIO, Aurora and Serial FPDP, based on standard formats like VXS, VPX, VME, PMC, XMC, FMC, PCI/PCI-X, PCI Express, AdvancedMC and CompactPCI.

    Curtiss-Wright has bolstered its brand and industry expertise by acquiring companies with names like DY 4 Systems, Systran, and Pentland. Now it looks like VMETRO will be joining the list.

    It looks like the embedded computer industry continues to contract. Among the things this may signal is that GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms may have to respond with an acquisition of its own.

    It also may be time for companies like Mercury Computer Systems to watch their backs. I wouldn't be surprised to see either Curtiss-Wright or GE Fanuc make a play for that company sometime soon. Other companies in the embedded computing industry likewise should keep an eye out.

    Network with an industry knowledge base

    August 20, 2008 11:52 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I have great news. The Command Post online community at has at the ready a panel of knowledgeable, experienced, and entertaining individuals to answer your inquiries.

    If you have a question, are facing a challenge, are looking for remedies or solutions, or just want to brainstorm with like-minded people, you can now gain insight, suggestions, product and trend info, and answers from various and valued industry pundits and professionals.

    Tell us what you are looking for, wrestling with, or need advice or information about, and one or more knowledgeable members or panelists will get back to you -- publicly or privately.

    Start a discussion in the community online, send me a message from within The Command Post (by clicking on my profile, and then on "send a message" underneath my profile picture), or email me directly at .

    A network of helpful, knowledgeable folks is waiting to help and/or hear from you!

    Some days I wish my Nissan could fly

    August 19, 2008 9:45 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Yesterday I read a story in USA Today on inventors racing to be the first one to successfully build and market a flying car.

    The article -- "Inventors are sure cars can fly" -- was written by reporters Chris Woodyard and Sharon Silke Carty.

    Woodyard and Carty tell how entrepreneurs behind the different aircraft prefer the term "roadable aircraft" to flying car -- saying the latter term makes them appear kooks.

    It's an interesting read, detailing "a three-wheel flying motorcycle" one inventor built in his garage to a two-seat car that flies.

    One of the inventors discussed in the article, Paul Moller, was covered in anarticle from the April, 2001 issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics . He's the founder of Moller International. In the article he said hoped that the military might get behind flying automobiles because they are free from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications.

    Alas, that is no longer the case as we have detailed in our publication and website since 2001. Designers of military aircraft that fly through civilian airspace have been required to meet certain FAA certifications -- DO-178B and DO-254 -- in electronic payloads.

    Yet, if a company could get funding from DARPA or another agency to develop such an aircraft it might be easier to transition the technology to the consumer market. Not just multi-millionaire consumers either.

    Possibly an unmanned roadable air vehicle, or URAV, would be a start.

    I know, I know the last thing we need is another acronym, but there are so many autonomous platforms in development why not one that flies and drives? Is there already one in development? I don't recall any Future Combat Systems variants with such capability.

    In the article from our 2001 issue Moller said he sees unmanned flying taxis being some of the first roadable aircraft.

    Woodyard and Carty's article says that some entrepreneurs plan to start delivering their flying machines as early as 2010. They report that one -- the Terrafugia Transition -- already has 50 orders at a "projected price of $194,000."

    That's pretty pricey. The article says that not all of the orders are from billionaires, that some retired couples with disposable income are interested.

    Yeah, it may not be exclusive to billionaires, but it definitely rules out journalists...

    Come to think of it what about the ancillary costs? How much is gas for these machines? Are any being developed with alternative fuels?

    When we finally get a roadable aircraft how many feet in the air will the road be? Where will the toll booths be located?

    I suppose we will not need a landing area on our roof, since we can just go wheels down and park it next to the lawn mower.

    Should we raise the driving age for flying cars? Teenage insurance rates will be ridiculous. I remember how much my parents' car insurance went up when I was 16 and all I was driving was a Pontiac 6000.

    The USA Today article reported that the first patent for a flying car was filed 90 years ago in 1918. I think it may take at least half that amount of time before we look up and see Hondas, Harleys, and Hyundais filling the night sky.

    Yet, all the naysaying and negative feelings toward flying cars seem to fade away when I'm sitting in Red Sox traffic wishing I could take my car up and buzz the ballpark...

    Fly me to the moon: manned vs. unmanned space missions

    August 14, 2008 6:48 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I was reading about NASA's latest Mars missions today and remembered a pair of columns John Keller and I wrote back in 2003 on manned vs. unmanned space flight.

    John advocated shelving the manned space program for cheaper unmanned missions , while I pushed for continuing the manned space program .

    Since then, NASA has made significant steps forward in both areas - awarding the contract for the Orion spacecraft , the follow-on to the Space Shuttle and successfully landing the unmanned Mars Phoenix spacecraft on the Martian surface.

    The demand for unmanned systems is even greater outside of space. In military applications - on land, sea, and in the air - various market reports see growth in the $30 billion range over the next five years.

    Yet, despite the technological success of autonomous spacecraft and the lower costs of such missions, I still argue that NASA leaders continue to push for manned missions to the Moon and Mars. The image of humans setting foot on new worlds is what will excite the public and convince politicians to spend more money on such programs.

    In the column I wrote "the only way America will ever attain the glories it achieved in space 30 and 40 years ago is if manned space exploration becomes a competition - either among commercial companies in our own country or with another nation."

    Based on current world events - see the recent blogs from John Keller - it is more likely we will be engaging other nations in much more terrestrial and sadly more violent competitions.

    How recent events will affect the collaboration between NASA and the Russian astronauts on the International Space Station and other space programs remains to be seen.

    That brings us back to commercial space travel.

    As I wrote in 2003, commercial competition makes a lot of sense because it lets "American business bid for government money to create their own spacecraft, thereby fostering that spirit of competition that spurred many of America's accomplishments in medicine and science. Space-exploring machines, while technological wonders, don't hold a candle to the appeal of flesh-and-blood all-American astronauts."

    Which way do you - our readers - think NASA should go? Manned or unmanned?

    Mr. Keller, do you still feel the same way?

    Radical Islam is one step closer to acquiring nuclear weapons

    August 14, 2008 4:19 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Think we got trouble in Georgia and Russia? Get ready for some REAL bad news. President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is getting ready to resign . Don't care, you say? You better start caring, and here's why.

    Musharraf may be no saint when it comes to international relations, but he's been instrumental in keeping the nuclear genie in the bottle
    in the Middle East for years. When he's gone, all bets are off.

    Musharraf is a U.S.-backed political strongman. People might claim he's a Western-backed dictator, and I've got precious little to argue against this claim. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't; that's not the point. Like him or not, Pakistan President Musharraf is one of the few barriers preventing radical Islamic extremists from getting the atom bomb.

    Here's what I see happening.

    Musharaf steps down and political instability reigns in Pakistan. The country sinks into civil war. The radical Islamic forces slowly prevail, despite desperate Western attempts to prevent their ascent to power.

    Now guess what? The radical Muslims in Pakistan take control of that country's nuclear forces. The obsession radical Islam has with attacking the West now has nuclear weapons at its beck and call.

    I've read from time to time that U.S. and other Western countries have special forces ready to enter Pakistan covertly and neutralize that country's nuclear arsenal. Gentlemen, the time to move is now.

    If you don't, I shudder to think about what's next.

    Achieving immortality in space?

    August 14, 2008 3:37 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    It's official. I have seen it all: men in space, monkeys in space, and now...DNA in space. Operation Immortality, a project to create a digital time capsule of the human race, is sending the digital DNA of renowned author and game designer Tracy Hickman. Hickman is perhaps best known (among "propeller heads" and D&D fanatics) for his work on the Dragonlance novels and the Ravenloft module of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game system. Operation Immortality’s mission is to preserve the most talented and influential people of our time, and so is sending Tracy Hickman's digitized DNA into space with video gaming luminary Richard Garriott as he travels to the International Space Station (ISS) on Oct. 12, 2008.

    Hickman will not only be adding his digitized DNA to the "Immortality Drive," excerpts of his writings will also be included on the storage device Garriott will store on the ISS as part of Operation Immortality. The Immortality Drive is being loaded with information from people all over the world at the Web site.

    Visitors to the Web site can submit their suggestions for humanity's greatest achievements, leave their immortalized message for future generations, and may even have their DNA selected to join Garriott and other luminaries on an out-of-this-world trip to possibly become the future of mankind.

    What do you think? Who would you nominate for "preservation"? Should your DNA be in space?Maybe there's someone you just want to see launched into space. Hmm...

    Some truce: Russia continues invasion of Georgia

    August 13, 2008 10:10 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Russia is continuing its invasion of neighboring Georgia , despite Russian rhetoric claiming their forces have stopped their advance and are pulling back.

    Russia continues trying to cloak this unprovoked invasion of the internationally recognized state of Georgia with transparent and patently false claims it is safeguarding Russian-backed rebels in the Georgian districts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia .

    Russia has not stopped at the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There is no truce; there is no brokered cease fire or pullback. Western reporters have seen Russian armored units pushing even beyond the central Georgian city of Gori, with Russian soldiers proclaiming they are heading to the Georgia capital of Tbilisi.

    In the meantime, Russian cyber attacks continue on Georgian Websites.

    Some protection the Russians are providing -- to anyone. They have damaged the cities of Gori, Tskinvali, and Poti, killed civilians, and rendered thousands homeless. This is not a rescue operation. It was, is, and continues to be an invasion and dismemberment of a sovereign country.

    I've been called ignorant, arrogant, and uneducated in these blogs for pointing out the obvious. I suppose that if I were educated and enlightened that I would buy into Russia's lies that it is protecting South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the big, bad Georgians. What a crock. If pointing out naked, premeditated Russian aggression makes me ignorant, arrogant, and uneducated, then so be it.

    This is for all the folks who would like to insult me for pointing out the obvious and treating a Russian invasion for what it is: I think you would be singing a different tune if the Russians -- or anyone else -- were doing the same to you. If the world stands by and lets this happen, moreover, that could be sooner than you think.

    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has asked the West for real help -- that would be more than just screeching for Russian to stop and go home. I don't think any help is coming, and the Russians won't be satisfied until Saakashvili is hanging from a lamp post.

    Many of us thought this kind of aggression in Eastern Europe was over in the 21st century. I fear we haven't seen anything yet.

    Russian invasion of South Ossetia: an excuse for conquest in Georgia

    August 10, 2008 9:35 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I'm hearing a lot of noise in the world press about regions in the Caucasus of Russia and Georgia respectively called North and South Ossetia. The residents of these regions reportedly are different from the folks in Russia and Georgia. Ossetians, it seems, speak a language akin to the Iranian language of Farsi, and like the Russians more than they do the Georgians.

    I read that different ethnic groups, different languages, competing claims of independence, and the like are justifications for military action in the region. This is a bunch of garbage. Russia invaded Georgia , plain and simple

    South Ossetia is a district in Georgia. It is not a country; it is not an independent entity. Neither NATO, the European Union , nor the United Nations recognizes South Ossetia as an independent entity. Only Russia believes it to be so.

    Now why might Russia believe so passionately that the district of South Ossetia is an independent entity that it would intervene militarily in the region -- even though this district lies wholly within the legal and recognized borders of Georgia?

    Might it be that the government of Georgia is more closely aligned with the West than is Russia, that Georgia would like to join NATO, and that it's in Russia's best interests, therefore, to keep Georgia unstable by internal strife? I would think so.

    Russian has stirred up plenty of trouble in the South Ossetia district to keep the pot boiling. Russia has "peace keepers" in South Ossetia ostensibly to keep ethnic Ossetians and Georgians from hurting one another. Still, published reports say these "peace keepers" have become Ossetian partisans. Moreover, Russia has granted Russian passports to residents of the South Ossetia district of Georgia. How provocative is that?

    Russian leaders claimed they were coming to the aid of kindred spirits in South Ossetia when they sent Russian forces across the Georgian border with tanks, artillery, jet bombers, and infantry soldiers and started destroying Georgian cities within and outside of the south Ossetia district.

    Do the Russians, historically, have a reputation for coming to the aid of beleaguered peoples throughout the world? I don't think so. The Russians do, however, have a reputation for snatching chunks of land near their borders when they see an opportunity.

    I think that's all this affair in Georgia is: an opportunity for Russia to snatch some territory and put Georgia on notice that it had better not join NATO or get any closer to the West -- or else.

    Let's try to put this into perspective. The South Ossetia district is probably roughly the size of Imperial County, Calif. Now what if Mexico decided to issue Mexican passports to all the residents of Imperial County, and send in "peace keepers" under the guise of protecting the Hispanic population of that county.

    Then, say, some folks in Imperial County started rioting, and county sheriff's deputies in riot gear went in to quiet things down. What Russia is doing in Georgia, would be the same as if Mexico sent soldiers across the California border to chase off the sheriff's deputies and occupy Imperial County.

    How well would that all go over? Not well, I would imagine.

    Fibre Channel going strong in storage applications

    August 8, 2008 5:17 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Fibre Channel databus products are having a resurgence, says Jack Staub, chief executive officer of Critical I/O in Irvine, Calif.

    Staub told me this during a conversation we had on high-speed I/O trends for the Technology Focus feature in the upcoming September edition of Military & Aerospace Electronics .

    Staub says the resurgence "so to speak" is in storage applications for aircraft and ground bases, where large amounts of data are being acquired. "It's resurgent because in the past Fibre Channel was typically used more in network type applications," he adds.

    "Fibre Channel has been broadly adopted throughout the F-18 platform," he says. It is used to connect into the data network for the AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar , he adds.

    On the F-22 platform Lockheed Martin officials have made Fibre Channel a standard product, he continues.

    Staub says his company is seeing about 30 percent growth each year in their Fibre Channel business.

    Critical IO still plays in the networking arena through its family of Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet products. For more on that technology be sure to check out our September issue.

    In the meantime, have a good weekend!

    Russia invades Georgia: an Archduke Ferdinand moment?

    August 8, 2008 10:59 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled across the Georgian border yesterday in a fast-moving armored blitzkrieg in support of Georgian separatist rebels fighting in opposition to the democratic and Western-leaning established government of Georgia.

    CNN is reporting that upwards of 1,000 Georgian civilians have been killed so far, and Russian warplanes have dropped bombs on at least one Georgian military air base. This isn't a little border clash; these two countries are in an all-out war. No one has seen this kind of Russian incursion since the Soviet Union's invasions of Afghanistan in 1979, of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and of Hungary in 1956. Is this the beginning of a return to the bad old days?

    Interesting that this comes the day before the Olympics open in Beijing, and the U.S. is in the heat of a presidential election. What better timing to ensure that nobody in the U.S. or the West cares much about this military invasion. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says the Russian timing is no accident. I don't think it's any accident either.

    Saakashvili made clear in an interview today that this incident represents a test of Western support for democratic governments, especially those established in the sphere of influence of the old Soviet Union, as Georgia certainly is.

    Georgia has voiced its wish to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better-known as NATO. Russia has said this would be unacceptable.

    Russia has put its money and military might where its mouth is. The most fundamental geopolitical question in the world today is will the West do the same? Would it make sense for the U.S. to get involved in the Russian-Georgia War, which Russia will claim is an internal conflict and Georgia will claim is naked armed aggression against an independent democratic country?

    The only thing between U.S. air bases in Iraq and the Georgian capital of T'bilisi is the country of Turkey. Would the Turks grant permission to U.S. planes to overfly its territory in support of Georgia? That's no clear. Would U.S. aircraft carriers -- they're not there already -- move into the Eastern Mediterranean -- or even into the Black Sea -- within striking distance of Georgia? We'll have to see.

    The bigger question is would we want to do this? The answer is, we would if we would like the world to take the U.S. and its rhetoric supporting democratic movements and governments seriously.

    Next question: COULD we get involved while U.S. forces are already stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on the opening day of the Olympics? That would be ugly. We'll see if the Bush Administration has the stomach for it.

    In the meantime, I'm reflecting on the history of the early 20th century. In the summer of 1914, a Serbian terrorist shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. A series of interlocking alliances were activated, resulting in an invasion of Western Europe by German and Austrian armies, resulting in World War I, which resulted in 20 million deaths.

    I wonder if the Russian invasion of Georgia is an Archduke Ferdinand moment. I hope it's not, but smaller things have resulted in global conflagrations. The risks and threats posed by the Russian invasion throughout the world are huge.

    I'll be keeping a close eye.

    To join or not to join? That is the (silly) question.

    August 6, 2008 11:17 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    If you are on the fence about joining the Military & Aerospace Electronics Command Post online community...jump off that fence, and jump into conversations with your industry peers. Why, you ask? Well, I will tell you -- with thanks and evidence courtesy of Dotster.

    "The Benefits of Business Social Networking -- How Businesses Can Thrive and Profit from Social Networking

    Social networking is becoming a major communication medium -- not just for consumers, but for businesses as well. With such a rapidly growing force exploding into the cultural mainstream, it is essential for companies of all sizes to capitalize and harness the power of business social networking.

    Businesses today need to understand how to use social networking to increase revenue, engage customers, and stay ahead of the competition. There are many benefits and advantages for companies that incorporate a social networking platform into their business marketing plan.

    Several benefits of business social networking include the ability to:

    - Develop and build your reputation with a branded Web site, differentiated from the competition.
    - Improve brand image by increasing your accessibility to customers
    - Grow customer loyalty by providing a voice of expertise and experience through discussion groups, weekly polls, etc.
    - Keep up and stay ahead of industry trends through posted articles and customer feedback.
    - Improve your products and services to increase revenue.
    - Increase word-of-mouth marketing and buzz.
    - Promote special events, new plans and price breaks.
    - Cut costs (such as customer service) via forums.
    - Reduce attrition and retain customers.
    - Reduce employee training time.
    - And much, much more."

    Join the Command Post online at .

    Information courtesy Dotster Inc., a provider of enterprise Internet businesses services.

    Long or short?

    July 30, 2008 6:09 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    My colleagues -- John Keller and Courtney Howard -- and myself have been having discussions lately over how long a feature article should be. There seem to be different answers for those on the web and those in a printed journal.

    Shorter definitely seems to be the answer on the web. Research has shown that most digital readers want stories that begin and end on the same page.

    I'm the same way. I usually tune out if a digital article has multiple page links (2,3,4, etc.) at the bottom of the first page. Unless of course it is very interesting such as an article I read last year on about the battle against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the formation of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) .

    That was a four-part story, with about four or five pages per part. I didn’t read it in one setting, but kept coming back to it. However, typically when I come across digital articles of that length on the web, I don’t read past the first page.

    Incidentally, the Post Article by Rick Atkinson, was the best I've read on the evolution of the IED threat and how our government and military is dealing with it.

    Maybe digital articles are re-emphasizing an old journalism mantra of "put everything in the first paragraph, because no one ever reads the second one."

    But what about in print? Typical feature articles in our print magazine run about 3,000 words and include sidebars and multiple graphics.

    The same is true for many magazines.

    I find longer print features to be ideal for reading when I'm on a long flight.

    What do you prefer? Would you like to see print features trimmed to match the length of most digital copy or not?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

    Strut your stuff

    July 30, 2008 4:16 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Are you the king of all things COTS? The titan of thermal management ? Or perhaps you are the czar of CMOS , champion of C4ISR, earl of electro-optics , or venerable champ of VXS. Show us your stuff in the Command Post community ! You are invited to demonstrate your expertise in various areas in the new online community at . We want you to share your knowledge, information, impressions, and opinions--heck, even your tasteless jokes (please keep it clean)--and your industry colleagues want your advice.

    Right now in the Command Post, members are seeking information about:

    -- Image sensors gaining popularity among the military services

    -- Mil-spec, XMC-compatible displays

    -- Avionics, and not strictly for flight control

    -- Test and measurement tools

    -- RINI Technologies , FLIR Systems , and SprayCool

    Reply to any of the forums and blogs, post a notice , join a group, pose your own questions, or just take a look around and see what your peers are up to, today and everyday.

    Take this opportunity to show off your intellect, wit, and personality in the Command Post online community. Join us now at .

    See you in the Command Post!

    Middle-age microprocessing

    July 23, 2008 10:30 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Intel Corp. celebrated its 40th anniversary last week (July 18th). “Since its founding in 1968, Intel has introduced countless examples of technology innovation -- its crowning breakthrough being the introduction of the microprocessor,” says an Intel representative. Its first 16-bit microprocessor, the 8086,
    was introduced 30 years ago under the slogan: “The Dawn of a New Era.” Boy, whoever came up with that slogan hit the nail on the head!

    The 8086 was introduced on June 8th, 1978, and yet its influence in the mil-aero industry, among others, will continue indefinitely.

    "Intel has a 40-year history of serial technology breakthroughs and innovation," says Paul Otellini, Intel CEO and president. "When we introduced the microprocessor no one could have predicted that the market for PCs would be greater than 350 million units a year. Over the next 40 years, Intel technology will be at the heart of breakthroughs that solve the big problems of health and environment. For Intel this is just the beginning of its journey."

    Today’s processor architectures are based on the x86 instruction set , which lies at the core of various chips from Intel, AMD, and others.

    Popular, and perhaps even legendary chips--including the Intel 80386, 80486, and Pentium and the AMD Athlon--owe a debt to the original 8086 processor.

    Hmm. Is the microcomputer industry over the hill or in its prime?

    Funding for laser weapons research growing

    July 22, 2008 11:48 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Last week Rajiv Pandey, senior product manager at DILAS in Tucson Ariz., told me that funding for laser weapons development comes in bunches but is strong and growing especially in the U.S. market.

    DILAS develops diode lasers with a broad range of wavelengths for different Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programs, Pandey said. He added that DILAS also has seen significant growth in its laser illuminator designator products, which are available for various military platforms.

    Moving to Arizona and forming a separate U.S. company to pursue laser development for the Department of Defense was a key for DILAS, whose parent company is based in Germany, Pandey said. This has helped foster the company's growth.

    DARPA continues to award research contracts for different parts of programs such as the High Energy Liquid Laser , Pandey said. It is their goal to develop a reliable high-power solid-state laser , he added.

    According to the DARPA web site "the goal of the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system (150 kiloWatt) with an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems. With a weight goal of less than 5 kilograms/kiloWatt, HELLADS will enable high-energy lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems."

    The laser program that gets most of the ink in the press is still the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser program, which is the closest to fruition and the largest laser weapon in development. We've written extensively about it at Military & Aerospace Electronics , but we've also covered the capabilities of solid-state lasers for weapons systems.

    Yes, lasers are years away from replacing a Marine's rifle, but the ABL is a year or two away with ground-based laser defense systems right behind it. Eventually you will see lasers added to fighter jet arsenals too.

    Along those lines Boeing announced yesterday that it successfully completed the preliminary design of a rugged beam control system for the U.S. Army's High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) program. This was part of a contract to design a beam control system for a truck-mounted laser weapon system, according to Boeing officials.

    Exciting stuff.

    Space market strong for ICs

    July 17, 2008 1:11 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Attendees this week at the 2008 IEEE Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference (NSREC) , in Tucson, Ariz., -- held at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort -- reported that business is strong and the market is steady as she goes.

    Most of the companies at the event produce radiation-hardened integrated circuits (ICs) for military and defense markets and in most cases say their business is growing faster than the market itself.

    "The market is growing at about 6 percent" and Aeroflex's space business is performing at an even higher rate, said Tony Jordan, product line manager for Aeroflex Colorado Springs. The company recently purchased one of their IP processor suppliers -- Gaisler Research , which they announced at the event.

    Jordan added that Aeroflex's commercial business is growing as well. They expect so see increased growth in Europe as a result of their Gaisler purchase, he said.

    Ken O'Neil, director of military and aerospace marketing for Actel in Sunnyvale, Calif., echoed comments he made earlier in the year to me, saying that the company continues to see strong growth and is quite pleased with its successful presence on NASA's Phoenix Mars program.

    Military systems designers are very excited by radiation-hardened optical components, noted Chuck Tabbert, vice president of sales and marketing at Ultra Communications in Vista, Calif. Photonics and optics are a lot of fun to work with, he added.

    The frustrations I heard were nothing new -- headaches caused by import/export oversight, specifically the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations.

    One company's official told me that while he understands the concern regarding sensitive technology, the myriad of autocratic hoops one has to go through to comply with ITAR makes it difficult to do business. He added that his company does not pursue international business as aggressively because it's not worth the complications caused by ITAR regulations.

    Aside from the ITAR comments most exhibitors and attendees echoed Dale Robinette, marketing director for space, military, and hi-rel products at Peregrine Semiconductor in San Diego, Calif., who said "this is an exciting business," Peregrine has shown tremendous growth the last year -- around 70 percent.

    Are unmanned passenger vehicles the future?

    July 17, 2008 12:56 AM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    My renewed love of cable television has me addicted to The History Channel of all things. This evening I stumbled upon a show in which engineers discussed the future of unmanned vehicles.

    One insightful professional predicts that military and commercial aircraft will transport passengers with no physical person in the cockpit--if future aircraft even have a cockpit.

    There was a time, not all that long ago, that each time you stepped into an elevator, an elevator operator would transport its passengers, the man explained. You don't see that anymore. At the same time, he continued, millions of travelers step onto unmanned trams to be transported throughout a large airport. Most people think nothing of using these unmanned systems today. Experts expect the same to be true of stepping onto an unmanned aircraft in the future.

    Will pilots one day be obsolete, replaced by advanced electronics? I wonder.

    Red Sox shut out the Twins

    July 11, 2008 2:03 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    Now I know how the other half lives. On Monday I watched Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox close out the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in the ninth from a corporate box at Fenway Park.

    I was there as a guest of GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms . GE put together the event for business journalists.

    Corporate boxes are just as nice as you think they are. The view was fantastic and if the early July humidity got to be too much, I just went inside to the air-conditioned part of the box.

    The best part is that the Sox won, Manny had the game winning hit, Daisuke pitched a great game, and the non-baseball fans – well, they watched the finale of the Bachelorette reality TV show inside and apparently it was a nail-biter too.

    It was the first Fenway game I've seen this year, which is pretty sad considering I live in New England.

    Yeah, I grew up a Philadelphia Phillies fan, but 15 years up and here and I can't even tell you who's on the Phillies aside from their home-run hitter Chase Utley.

    It all hit home for me during Curt Schilling's first season with Boston. I was listening on my car radio to a Red Sox game where Schilling was pitching and he just ran the count to full with a third ball. I got frustrated and started shouting at the radio for him to throw some strikes -- when it hit me, they were playing the Phillies.

    That was the turning point -- Boston had sucked me in. Then the next year they won the World Series. Very cool.

    Yet... I still don't like the Patriots. I'll be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan forever.

    Anyway... thank you GE for a nice night at the park and congrats to the Sox -- who ended up sweeping the Twins. Congrats as well to the curly-haired snow-boarder who won the hand of the bachelorette -- an Eva Longoria look-a-like. Or was it the curly-haired cocky guy...?

    100+ channels

    July 9, 2008 9:55 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    For the first time in a long time, I have cable television. I did not think cable held any real value; I had had my fill of reality TV, for one. I see now the error of my ways, and realize that it is a great resource of mil-aero information.

    At the risk of sounding as though I have been living under a rock, I am amazed at the number of shows and specials having to do with past, current, and future trends and technologies for military, homeland security, aerospace, and first responder communities.

    Virtually every night this week I have been glued to the television set. As I write, in fact, I am learning about NASA personnel, firefighters, warfighters , and others harnessing commercially available (or commercial off-the-shelf, COTS) components and systems to save lives, expand their knowledge, lend to advanced electronics, and more. This info hails from the show "Modern Marvels" on The History Channel, but it is just one of a large number of informative, thought-provoking pieces available.

    I am actually learning valuable information from this box, the very one my parents said would rot my brain. Finally, I can successfully rationalize my occasional couch-potato existence.

    Perhaps you will share with us, either in a comment here or in the Command Post community (, what you have learned recently, direct from "the boob tube."

    History revisited

    July 3, 2008 10:45 AM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I was not the best history student; although I was interested in the subject matter, I found it challenging to remember all the dates and names. I was relieved when a professor would occasionally say we would not be tested on the dates as he covered material; and yet, as an adult, I cannot help but feel a little regret for not committing important events and dates in world history to memory. There is no mistaking the importance of July 4th, however.

    In recognition of Independence Day, I wanted to share portions of a speech from Operation Tribute to Freedom (OTF; Army program designed to honor soldiers and give them opportunities to thank the American people for their support.

    The speech, delivered in 2006 and titled "Call to Duty--Boots On The Ground," not only is inspirational, but also provides a little U.S. history refresher--which I always enjoy.

    "On July 4th 1776, an assembly of brave and determined Americans announced to the world the birth of a new nation -- a nation borne of ideals rather than of coercion, where the power to govern rested with the consent of the people.

    In Thomas Jefferson's words: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.--that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.'

    Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Livingston, Sherman...these bold colonists set in motion a radical experiment in democracy. As modern Americans, who have enjoyed these blessings for so long, it is easy for us to forget just how groundbreaking this experiment really was.

    The Declaration of Independence signed by those visionaries caused panic in the capitals of Europe. The document was so revolutionary that King George III even ordered English churches to conduct prayer services against it. He also required his subjects to prepare for a war intended to abolish it.

    But the declaration of independence also inspired enlightened men everywhere -- statesmen, scientists, philosophers, and theologians -- to abandon old ways of power and privilege and to embrace new ideals of freedom and justice. Slowly, they began to remake the world on principles that the founders believed were self-evident.

    And the world has never been the same.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, was the first Call to Duty. It ignited a firestorm and changed the world forever. And it was answered by America's sons and daughters, who fought and struggled to give birth to this new nation.

    Today, amid fireworks and backyard barbecues, we reflect on the meaning of the Independence Day, and we pause to remember the tremendous effort and sacrifice of millions of Americans who have preserved that endowment of democracy in the past and for generations yet to come.

    Two hundred and thirty years later, what does this day-Independence Day-mean to us as Americans?

    For the Army and our Soldiers, this day is an affirmation of their Call to Duty, and a reminder of why they put boots on the ground ands risk life and limb to preserve freedom throughout the world. The Army was born more than a year before the declaration was signed in Philadelphia, on June 14th, 1775, as the Army was officially formed to be led by General George Washington.

    For 231 years, the United States Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of our nation.

    On Independence Day, it is especially important to focus on the many freedoms Americans take for granted...freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of choice..."

    Privacy and technology

    July 1, 2008 1:00 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Last week I commented the feasibility of personally scanning people at airports to determine their radioactivity and asked if you would mind being scanned.

    If you don't mind being scanned for radioactivity, would you be willing to pay further to submit to more extensive screening just to get through security quicker?

    It's a compelling concept. I traveled this weekend through the Southwest terminal at the Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) airport, and wasted no time in choosing the shorter of the two security lines. At the BWI Southwest terminal there is a line on either end of the long ticket counter.

    Coincidentally the same day a friend of mine pointed me toward an article in this week's Fortune Magazine that investigated whether it was worth it to pay for a special pass through security. The authors of the piece used the Clear registered traveler system.

    For the Fortune article one reporter used the Clear system and another went through security like everyone else does. According to the Fortune article the reporter using Clear saved "an average of 9.25 minutes per airport," but claimed he was much less stressed than he would've been following the normal security route.

    It is relaxing knowing you won't have to wait. I acquired preferred status at a rental car company recently and it is quite a nice feeling knowing you can walk right to your car without having to drag your bags through one more line.

    According to the Clear website ( ) a registered pass is $100 plus $28 for a TSA (Transportation Security Agency) fee. Clear operates at 18 airports nationwide and is coming soon to Atlanta and Los Angeles.

    While the Clear website claims the system is more hassle-free than acquiring a passport, potential registrants must still get their picture taken, submit to an iris and fingerprint scan as well as a background check.

    While $128 might not seem like much if you travel a lot, fingerprint scans, iris scans, background checks, etc., might be too expensive for privacy-minded people.

    Whether it's in the Constitution or not, Americans want to know they still have a right to be left alone.

    However, it is sort of ironic that for a price even a journalist can get "security clearance."

    Technology firms tap military knowledge, experience

    June 25, 2008 10:50 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I continue to be impressed by technology firms serving the military that also employ active and former military. Solutions for the military made by the military--it has a nice ring and beyond that, it makes good sense.

    Virtually all vendors value customer/end-user feedback; I have learned that this is even more so the case in the mil-aero market. The practice has many pros, and yet is not without cons.

    BAE Systems lost a pro, a valuable staff member, this week in a bombing in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. Nicole Suveges, a BAE Systems political scientist, was killed in Iraq, where she had been supporting the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 4th Infantry Division, as part of the Human Terrain System (HTS) program, since April.

    "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Nicole Suveges," says Doug Belair, president of BAE Systems' Technology Solutions & Services (TSS). "She came to us to give freely of herself in an effort to make a better world. Nicole was a leading academic who studied for years on how to improve conditions for others. She also believed in translating what she learned into action. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and colleagues."

    Suveges had worked in Iraq for one year as a civilian contractor before joining BAE Systems. Suveges also previously served as a U.S. Army reservist in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, supporting the multinational SFOR/NATO Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force.

    Suveges, who held a Master of Arts in political science from The George Washington University, was working on her Ph.D. in political science with an emphasis on international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

    I am certain she and her valuable contributions and insights will be missed.

    Today's military simulation displays more compact and cost effective

    June 24, 2008 10:59 AM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    I had a discussion recently on military simulation displays with Jay Luis, director of marketing communications for Barco Simulation in Xenia, Ohio. The focus was technology and market trends in simulation displays

    Luis told me that today's displays are not only are more cost-effective, but the performance and sharpness of the imagery has improved tremendously as well.

    "Today's visual display systems used for military simulation and training are more compact, produce higher quality images, are easier to operate and maintain, are easily scaled, and are more cost-effective than the technologies of only a few years ago," he said.

    What defense simulation customers want is more accurate flight training, Luis continued.

    "They are looking for visual systems that provide greater detail for target imagery -- both air and ground," he explains. "Increased image fidelity yields enhanced aircrew visual acuity. Now the challenge becomes how to capitalize on that capability -- how to keep up with the multi-million pixel output of today's image generators and to project images that look just as real as possible."

    In other words with "minimal latency or artifacts," Luis added.

    Luis said Barco's new SIM 7 projection system provides that improved capability. "It's perfect for fast jet applications" with its smear reduction capability that enables the SIM-7 to maintain the sharpness of fast-moving images, he noted.

    SIM 7 also takes part in "Barco's new CD series cross-cockpit collimated display solution," Luis said. The CD series offers improved display performance over the traditional cross-cockpit systems, he explained. It "consists of an advanced collimating mirror design, a projector platform, a back-projection screen, and a light-tight enclosure," he added.

    Luis then went on to talk about the next advance in projection capability -- Liquid Crystal on Silicone or LCoS.

    "LCoS has the capacity to match image generator output, giving aircrews incredibly realistic visual images, whether that is terrain, sky images, or ground and airborne targets," he said. "In general, LCoS projection technology is a good bet to have a huge impact in the simulation industry."

    Are you radioactive?

    June 19, 2008 10:45 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Are you radioactive ? This is a question no one is asking you yet at airport security lines or at the federal building checkpoint, but it may come some day.

    It also may surprise you to find out that you are glowing more than the smile on your face may say.

    If someone undergoes radiation drug treatment such as thallium stress testing -- when the patient reaches his or her maximum level of exercise, a small amount of a radioactive substance called thallium is injected into the bloodstream -- they may be radioactive for as much as four weeks, thus setting off potential radiation detectors, says Bob Durstenfeld, director of PR and investor relations at RAE Systems in San Jose, Calif.

    Durstenfeld told me this during a chat for an upcoming feature in Military & Aerospace Electronics on sensors for perimeter security .

    He says the U.S. has no procedures in place for how to approach someone who sets off a radiation scanner.

    Durstenfeld says his company has suggested a simple procedure -- just approach the citizen in question, tell them they have been found radioactive, and then ask if they would they mind being scanned.

    Would you mind being scanned?

    It's an important question. How far are we willing to let technology intrude upon our personal space to protect us from terrorism?

    Knowing the havoc that a dirty bomb can cause makes a radiation scan seem a bit harmless ? but Americans like their privacy.

    Just something to think about.

    Open invite

    June 19, 2008 2:43 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I have been blogging about it for some time now, and now it's here! The Mil & Aero Command Post has launched at . All members of the military and aerospace community are invited to join and begin sharing information, questions, thoughts, photos, videos, and so on.

    It is easy to get started:
    - Visit
    - Click "Sign Up" in the top right-hand corner of the page
    - Fill out the necessary information
    - Participate! Look around, personalize your profile, start a forum, upload an image or video, or take any of a variety of other actions
    - Come back hourly, daily, weekly -- whenever and as often as you like. The Command Post is open 24x7.

    I know I am going to keep the Command Post open all day during work, and I look forward to participating whenever the mood strikes. I hope you too will c'mon in, take a look around, and decide to join and participate. While in the Command Post, feel free to message me directly with any suggestions on how we can make it better!

    New power semiconductor technology may be living up to its initial promise

    June 18, 2008 6:27 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    It's always great to see a new company start to fulfill its promise when systems integrators start buying the new company's product. So it is with HVVi Semiconductors in Phoenix. which makes silicon-based power semiconductors.

    I told you a couple of months ago that you'd be hearing more from power semiconductor manufacturer HVVi, which manufacturers a new technology called high-voltage vertical field effect transistors (HVVFETs) for high-power applications like electronic warfare and ground-based pulsed radar .

    HVVi now has had its first design-in -- a 200-Watt power amplifier from Daico Industries Inc. in Carson, Calif. Daico engineers are using one HVVi 25-Watt L-band radar RF power transistor, the HVV1214-025 , to drive two HVVi 100-Watt power transistors, the HV1214-100, in Daico's L-band DAMH9172 power amplifier.

    Daico's power amplifier is going into a pulsed-ground radar system that operates in the 1.2 to 1.4 GHz band for U.S. border surveillance , HVVi officials say. No more information is available on this system yet.

    HVVi officials assure me that more design-ins are to come, as they have interest from radar and electronic warfare manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and BAE Systems.

    HVVi officials tell me that HVVFET technology has big advantages in its small size, light weight, and small power consumption. HVVFET is designed to handle substantially more power at higher frequencies than the technologies HVVFET is designed to replace, like DMOS and LDMOS. The technology also may give gallium nitride (GaN) technology a run for its money.

    We'll see in the months ahead how excited the industry may be about HVVFET technology. At any rate, however, HVVi looks to be off to a good start.

    Audience participation encouraged

    June 11, 2008 4:01 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    I've been blogging for a while now, and as cathartic as it is to record my ponderings in a stream of consciousness-type manner, it can get a tad lonely. I very much enjoy blogging -- please don't get me wrong; it's just that when I see the comments tally at "0" I often think of a couple haunting lines from Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio program: "Is anyone out there? Anyone at all?"

    (My memory fails me. It may have technically been, "Isn't anyone on the air? Isn't anyone alive?" But, while I am on a tangent, did anyone find it strange that Welles directed the piece by Wells? Sorry, enough digressing.)

    This is just one of the reasons why I am excited about the upcoming launch of The Mil & Aero Command Post , an online community where we can immediately voice our opinions, gain feedback, bounce ideas and solutions off one another, reveal everything from rumor to fact, and otherwise interface daily (all day and night, in fact, if one's schedule permits).

    Keep an eye on this blog and the Web site -- you'll be the first to know when The Mil & Aero Command Post opens! See you in there!


    June 11, 2008 1:10 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Rant posted by John McHale

    In a past blog I lamented on the overuse of acronyms within military circles and how it can convolute the English language. Today I'm venting over a buzz term one of our marketing people threw at me the other day - wordtrack.

    I said "wordtrack, what the &*$#% is that?" She replied "it's a description or writeup." a I said then why not say that.

    When did we have to sound "techno-hip" while talking about marketing write-ups? I know I'm sounding old for someone not yet 40, but text messaging and instant messaging, email, etc., is skewering the written word.

    My younger cousin, while in college, told me that I was the only person he knew that wrote instant messages in complete sentences! He couldn't understand why I bothered. That's the attitude today. Poor language skills are nurtured due to laziness. Some people almost look at writing like some arcane magic, impossible to learn.

    Writing like Hemmingway's or Graham Greene's is rare, but mostly everyone can learn basic grammar skills. Someone once said "if you can think, you can write." So true.

    The increased use of terms like "wordtrack" reminds me of a George Carlin monologue where he wondered "when did toilet paper become bathroom tissue?" Carlin's message was that the softening of language so as not to offend can be offensive in itself. He added pretty soon people won't be ugly but will have "severe facial deficits."

    As editors we see many examples of poor writing skills in press releases, company websites, technical white papers, etc. Many times the grammar is fine, but the pieces are unorganization. Sometimes four paragraphs are used to make a point that could be made in one paragraph.

    For those of you submitting something for publication or even a news story, I think one of the best pieces of advice was something my journalism professor told me years ago: “your lead should be what you would tell your best friend about the subject if you only had a minute to get it out.”

    Cary Grant, playing big city newspaper editor Walter Burns in "His Girl Friday," said it another way when speaking to his protege: “didn't they tech you anything in journalism school? Get it in the first paragraph, because no one ever reads the second one!”

    Maybe this small plea will inspire others to communicate better, but I fear terms such as "wordtrack" are here to stay. Although, every time I hear them I think of an acronym that matches Bart Simpson’s initials?.

    Have a nice day.

    USAF shake-up

    June 5, 2008 6:38 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Now former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne is not the only one to have "read with regret" the findings a report by Adm. Kirkland Donald.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates, based on the findings of an investigation by Donald, forced Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley to step down. Gates announced today that he accepted the resignations of Moseley and Wynne.

    According to Gates and the Donald report, the ousted officials failed to ensure the security of sensitive materials, including those relating to nuclear weapons. Donald reported weaknesses in the way critical materials are handled. Among the damning evidence against Wynne and Moseley are the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four Air Force electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads, as well as the flight of a B-52 bomber mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles last August.

    The report also concluded that the Air Force's nuclear standards have been in a long decline, a "problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed for over a decade." An internal investigation found "a decline in the Air Force's nuclear mission focus and performance" and a failure by Air Force leaders to respond effectively, says Gates.

    Gates asked a former defense secretary, James Schlesinger, to lead a task force to recommend ways to ensure that the highest levels of accountability and control are maintained in Air Force’s handling of nuclear weapons.

    Is this a job for RFID or another technology?

    Remember when...

    June 3, 2008 2:34 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    I was getting my oil changed today and the Valvoline manager said "I wish you could still get a Nissan Maxima in standard. It's so rare."

    I have a 2005, one of the last years they made a Maxima with 6-speed manual transmission. Incidentally, when I have it in 6th gear on long-distance, low-traffic, highway driving it is sipping gas. I've taken it 350 miles on only a half tank of gas -- kinda handy these days.

    Anyway, getting nostalgic about stick shifts got me thinking about what's changed in the last decade or so in military electronics, so I grabbed one of our issues from 1997 -- February to be exact. Unfortunately anything before March 2000 is unavailable on our digital archives so I actually had to pull it off a shelf!

    The headline I found most interesting was "Intel set to quit military business." Quit it they did, with the article stating the company was to quit taking military orders on Christmas Eve, 2007.

    The reason, said the Intel Military Product Group's marketing manager at the time, was simply that parts for the commercial market are far more lucrative than mil-spec parts.

    Well, since that article's publication Intel returned to this less lucrative market and is now carving a niche -- specifically in the military embedded market , while saying repeatedly they have no plans to exit it. Apple's purchase of P.A. Semi may drive more military business toward Intel as it's still unclear whether P.A. Semi's low-power chip -- so popular among military embedded designers -- will continue production long term.

    Another headline included "Pentek unveils Quad TMS320C6201 DSP communications board." The last decade has seen the PowerPC general purpose processor surpass the traditional DSP (digital signal processing) chips for military signal processing applications, but it's nice to see that Pentek is still Pentek, having avoided acquisition.

    However, since 1997, there has been a great deal of mergers and acquisitions involving defense primes, subprimes, and vendors. In his February, 1997 "Report from Washington and elsewhere," our then Washington Bureau Chief, John Rhea, discussed Boeing's purchase of McDonnell Douglas two months prior and made a case for some combination of Hughes Aircraft, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon to compete with Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

    Well, Raytheon won the Hughes competition and the landscape is still quite competitive among defense electronics prime contractors. The acquisitions keep on coming too -- and the buyers aren't always American behemoths. For example the United Kingdom's BAE Systems purchased the defense electronics company Sanders from Lockheed Martin nearly a decade ago and Italy's Finmeccanica recently moved to acquire DRS Technologies .

    The DRS deal is yet to go through and its future impact remains mostly speculation. However, I'm sure if we look back 10 years from now we'll see mergers and acquisitions still going on, Pentek generating DSP headlines, and hopefully Intel still supplying chips to defense customers.

    Sayonara, USS Kitty Hawk

    May 29, 2008 10:32 AM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, the oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy, made its final departure from the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan this week. After 47 years of service, the Kitty Hawk will stop at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and then travel to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wa., to be decommissioned.

    I live in Washington state and I am thrilled at the prospect of seeing the Kitty Hawk, the oldest active ship with the longest total period of active service in the Navy. Yet, my excitement is nonetheless tinged with some sorrow at seeing the carrier “retired” and replaced.

    Kitty Hawk is the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier in the Navy, and it will be replaced by the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered carrier, in the coming months.

    "The Kitty Hawk has been a visible symbol of strength in a rapidly changing world," U.S. Ambassador to Tokyo Thomas Schieffer said during a ceremony last week. "Goodbye Kitty Hawk, hello George Washington."

    The replacement of the Kitty Hawk by a nuclear-powered ship is not without some controversy. Earlier this month, a fire near the auxiliary boiler room and air conditioning and refrigeration space in the rear of the George Washington left one sailor with minor burns and 23 others with heat stress. Navy personnel say the fire spread through a passageway for cables. Regardless, the George Washington is scheduled to be based at Yokosuka, Japan, beginning in August.

    Goodbye and Sayonara, Kitty Hawk.

    Memorial Day weekend

    May 27, 2008 11:32 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I spent mine in the Philadelphia area with my family.

    Some of that time was spent watching various Memorial Day tributes with my parents and reading articles online about experiences of veterans from various wars. Two of them stood out.

    My parents watch the PBS National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. every year. On Sunday I did too. The music was outstanding as were the tributes.

    Actors Denis Leary, Gail O'Grady, and Caitlin Wachs told the story of Staff Sergeant John Faulkenberry by playing the roles of Faulkenberry's friend PFC Chris Pfeifer and their wives, Sarah and Karen, who became friends during their training in Germany. Faulkenberry and Pfeifer were together in Afghanistan . Faulkenberry died as a result of wounds received in battle there.

    After the scene there was a not a dry eye in that audience or in my house.

    There was also a tribute given to actor Charles Durning (pictured here), who received a Purple Heart for wounds received in battle in World War II (WWII). It was dedication to him and those soldiers who served during that time.

    During WW II soldiers like Durning were called GIs or government issues, while during the first World War they were called doughboys. According to Wikipedia , there are various origins of the term, the most likely stemming from the Mexican War, "in which the infantry were constantly covered with dust from marching through the dry terrain of northern Mexico, giving them the appearance of unbaked dough." Also the helmet worn by infantrymen during WW I was called the Doughboy helmet, "even though it was the Brodie helmet design used by the British army."

    Did you know that there is only one doughboy/American serviceman still alive from World War I? His name is Frank Buckles and he is 107 years old. I'm sure many of you have heard of him as he's on T.V. every year, but this weekend was the first time I'd read about his life.

    I came across a George Will column - "The Last Doughboy" - that told his story and how he is getting along at such an advanced age. According to Will, Buckles says "he is feeling fine, thank you for asking."

    I urge you to read more about Frank Buckles, Staff Sergeant John Faulkenberry, Charles Durning, and other veterans when you have a moment and remember the sacrifices they made.

    Thank you to all who served and continue to serve - especially to my grandfather, Albert Volpe who like Buckles served during World War I, and my cousin Steven Caucci, who lost his life in the Vietnam War.

    In life, and COTS supplies, there are no guarantees

    May 21, 2008 9:29 PM by Courtney Howard
    In life, and COTS supplies, there are no guarantees

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Rumors are rampant that Apple Inc. management, having just acquired P.A. Semi of Santa Clara, Calif.,
    seeks to end production of various chips used by the military, including the high-performance, low-power PWRficient processor. The PWRficient CPU is employed in programs through most, if not all, branches of the U.S. armed services, say P.A. Semi representatives. In fact, one unnamed defense contractor expects to employ tens of thousands of the chips over the next decade—that is, if the processor is still available.

    Defense customers, including primes, subcontractors, and systems integrators, have approached and sought the help of officials at the U.S. Department of Defense out of concern.

    P.A. Semi’s PA6T-1682M, released in February 2007 as a lower-power, dual-core, and 64-bit variant of PowerPC CPUs, was rapidly adopted in defense applications—a rarity for new processor releases, which are oft met with the common “wait-and-see” mindset.

    When news hit in April that Apple planned to acquire the company, P.A. Semi executives reported that they could no longer guarantee supplies of its chips. The startup did not identify the acquiring company but said that company may be willing to supply the chip on an end-of-life basis, if it could successfully transfer a third-party license to the technology. A single military program can span more than a decade, and yet supply of the chips cannot be guaranteed—not for a week, month, or year.

    This news is particularly concerning for defense customers—a growing number of whom, such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon , reportedly use P.A. Semi processors.

    Should the DOD step in, and confront Apple officials with the concerns? Perhaps more importantly, does the DOD and mil-aero market have any clout with big commercial businesses?

    PennWell buys Avionics conference and exhibition

    May 21, 2008 10:08 AM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Just like our advertisers we are always looking for ways to grow our business and did that recently when our parent company, PennWell, purchased Avionics Expo Limited, a U.K. company which owns and produces the successful Avionics conference and exhibition .

    Established in 2003 as an annual event, Avionics was most recently held March 5-6, 2008 at the Passenger Air Terminal in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Avionics comprises a significant trade exhibition, two-day conference program, workshops, and technology demos serving more than 1,400 attendees. The next Avionics will be held March 4-5, 2009 in Amsterdam.

    PennWell will manage Avionics from its London office and will retain the show's founder, Adrian Broadbent, as a consultant. Broadbent will assist PennWell in the continued development of this growing conference and exhibition for the global aerospace industry. Gareth Watkins will also remain as the sales manager and joins PennWell as an employee in its London office under the management of Glenn Ensor, PennWell Director of International Events.

    Our President and Chief Executive Officer Robert F. Biolchini says that Avionics is highly strategic because it complements PennWell's magazines, events, and information products serving equipment and technology intensive global industries from its headquarters in Tulsa and several worldwide offices. "Since air travel is expanding globally and nearly 10,000 new commercial aircraft are expected to enter service over the next 10 years, the Avionics show is essential to avionics manufacturers and professionals involved in new cockpit technologies and procedures developed for both civil and military aircraft," he adds.

    The event has strong synergy with our Military & Aerospace Electronics franchise . It expands PennWell's strategic position in this $8 billion market which it serves with its international magazine, Military & Aerospace Electronics , and its annual U.S.-based conference and exhibition, Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum , most recently held March 11-12, 2008 in San Diego.

    Broadbent says, "The integration of Avionics into the PennWell business with its greater investment potential and existing media products will enable the show to continue to grow but at a far greater rate. I am pleased to be a part of the exciting new stage of development for the event."

    The addition of the Avionics conference is a perfect fit as Military & Aerospace Electronics has provided leading coverage of avionics trends and technology since its founding .

    I was fortunate to attend the event this year and found it to have strong content, relevant and expert speakers, and healthy floor traffic during the exhibition. It was the first time I'd attended in two years and was impressed with its growth - 30 to 50 percent each year during the past few years.

    We're very excited about the acquisition and working with Adrian and Gareth. Adrian and I have already started planning next year's event and will be releasing the Avionics 2009 Call for Papers next month.

    Keep an eye on our website for that and other announcements regarding Avionics 2009 and our continued editorial coverage of avionics issues in the defense and commercial markets.

    See you in Amsterdam.

    Watch this space

    May 14, 2008 9:29 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Very soon, the staff of Military & Aerospace Electronics will launch The Mil & Aero Command Post, an online community devoted to you -- our colleagues in the mil-aero market. We invite you to join us and (hopefully thousands of) your peers in the online community right here, at .

    I know... I've thought all the same things at one point or another. I don't have time. It won't be any fun. I expressed the same sentiments, and I'll admit it -- I was wrong.

    It takes little time to connect with friends and colleagues in an online community. I joined such online community sites as LinkedIn , Facebook , and others. I took part in and contributed to the community, at first, for just a few minutes a couple times a week. After fleshing out my online profile, my own page, it didn't take long til I was getting messages, questions, postings, and just a friendly "hello" from old friends and colleagues in the industry.

    Through online communities, I have reconnected with old acquaintances, learned new technologies, gained new insights, gotten questions answered, and had enlighting exchanges. All the while, I was also networking and, I would hope, helping contribute to, advance, or leave my mark on the community or the industry as a whole.

    I hope you'll give it a try, and join the community at The Mil & Aero Command Post. You'll definitely find me there. C'mon in and say "hi."

    Shop online for counterfeit parts

    May 14, 2008 8:59 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I had a nice lunch last week in Tempe, Ariz., with R. Dale Lillard , Lee Mathieson , and John Redding of Lansdale Semiconductor where we discussed the troubling issue of counterfeit parts finding their way into critical military systems.

    Lillard, president of Lansdale, said the problem is that the counterfeits are so easily available and cheap. He says these parts will most likely fail and could end up costing lives.

    He gave me an example of a component Lansdale produces called the MC3356 . "We are the only true manufacturer, having purchased the tooling from Motorola," Lillard says.

    He said that if you do a Google search on the part "any potential customers would find five pages of other suppliers selling who knows what on Google before we show up." Lansdale does have a paid "advertisement on all our parts in hopes they find us. Google doesn't seem to care."

    Lillard said without the paid advertisement -- which appears on the right of the first search page -- his website would not come up till after five or seven pages.

    When I did the search it took me 10 pages to find a Lansdale link - Lillard wasn't kidding. Some of the sites that came up were the China IC Mart and IC-Town. The China IC Mart was on the first page of the search

    Mathieson, operations manager at Lansdale, says the scary thing says is that these parts may work at first and seem just fine but they are not fully qualified and tested and when it comes down to it not the real MC3356, just a counterfeit.

    Buy at your own risk.

    Aircraft market strong, globally anyway

    May 7, 2008 8:41 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Bombardier Aerospace of Belfast in Northern Ireland has released its annual forecasts for the business and commercial aircraft markets. The new forecasts offer predictions of a 10-year period in the business aircraft market, and a 20-year run in the commercial aircraft market.

    The global aircraft market is robust, yet concern exists over waning U.S. consumption. These concerns are founded on the weakened U.S. dollar, economic downturn, and continued plight of airline companies (as evidenced by posted losses, bankruptcies, consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, and operations closing their doors). In contrast, the European jet market is described as having continued vigor, and causing Bombardier to revise its deliveries forecast upward from 2007 levels (from 9,950 in 2007 to 13,200 in 2008).

    "As we transition to a more international customer base that features less emphasis on the U.S., as well as a structural shift towards larger and more cost-effective aircraft, Bombardier's key product families -- business jets and regional aircraft -- are expected to continue to generate strong interest across all markets," says Mairead Lavery, vice president, strategy and business development, Bombardier Aerospace. "With its comprehensive portfolio of business and commercial aircraft that encompass state-of-the-art technologies and innovative design solutions, and its focus on customer services, Bombardier is well positioned for the future."

    In the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, Bombardier's Business Aircraft Market Forecast predicts that business aircraft manufacturers will deliver a total of 1,320 business jets annually -- a substantial increase from the industry average of more than 620 business jet deliveries annually during the 1998 to 2007 period. The total forecasted 13,200 deliveries over the 10-year period represent revenues of approximately $300 billion for the industry, say company representatives.

    Despite strong concerns over a possible downturn in the U.S. and world economies that could create a decrease in overall orders over the next two years, Bombardier officials believe industry deliveries should continue to increase until 2017. Demand for business jets is growing within the company's international base of customers. In fact, international business represented 67 percent of Bombardier orders for 2007.

    According to Bombardier's Commercial Aircraft Market Forecast , demand for 20- to 149-seat commercial aircraft is expected to reach approximately 12,900 new aircraft in the 20-year period from 2008 to 2027, totaling approximately $528 billion.

    The forecast reflects the shift in demand to larger commercial aircraft. In the 20- to 59-seat aircraft segment: the forecast expects a demand of approximately 500 aircraft. In the 60- to 99-seat aircraft segment: demand is expected to reach approximately 6,100 aircraft. In the 100- to 149-seat aircraft segment: the forecast predicts a demand for approximately 6,300 aircraft.

    The trend towards larger aircraft, coupled with sustained higher fuel prices, will reinforce operators' requirement for modern aircraft with low operating costs, says the Bombardier forecast.

    PA Semi acquisition main buzz at Critical Embedded Systems Media Fest

    May 7, 2008 3:14 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    The impact of Apple's purchase of chip provider, P.A. Semi last week was the hot topic among attendees and sponsors at the Critical Embedded Systems Media Fest held in Scottsdale this week.

    P.A. Semi makes a high-performance processor - the PWRFficient - which has the low power attributes needed for rugged military embedded applications, and seen as the low-power alternative to the PowerPC and Intel chips.

    Many companies have designed product lines around the P.A. Semi device, and are concerned that Apple might not see the need to continue producing it because of the low volume market it represents.

    One of those companies, Extreme Engineering is taking a positive look. Extreme's vice president of sales and marketing, Brett Farnum, says he believes that Apple will do the right thing and off load the technology to a third party manufacturer and that it will continue to be supplied.

    During his opening remarks, Ray Alderman , executive director of VITA – the standards organization that runs the event – said that the federal government is looking to get involved to ensure continued supply of the P.A. Semi technology because it supports mission critical military applications.

    However, some of the other attendees are not as optimistic about the continuation of the part. Peter Cavill , managing director of GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms , said during his keynote address that he hopes the chip will still be available but is doubtful. Cavill also said that without the low power chip, the industry will be forced to design systems with less thermally efficient processors such as the Intel devices and that this may inspire new unique cooling solutions to solve the thermal management challenges that accompany the high-performance commercial processors.

    Right now it's a wait and see and embedded vendors are coming with alternative plans for their customers in case the P.A. Semi technology does disappear.

    The Critical Embedded Systems conference itself was smaller than it had been in the past when it was called the Bus and Board conference. There seemed to be a third of the attendance than when it was in its heyday.

    Notable absences were the RTC Group publications – COTS Journal and RTC Magazine – and past sponsor Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing .

    However, despite those factors I still felt it was an effective event. It's not a news making conference, but one of the best networking events for embedded media and vendors. I enjoy meeting with embedded defense suppliers and the market outlook presentations.

    In fact I thought this year's keynotes were the best I've seen in the decade I've attend the event. Doug Patterson , vice president of sales and marketing at Aitech and Peter Cavill gave informative presentations on COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) procurement and defense market analysis without turning their presentations into blatant commercials.

    I enjoy coming to this event and networking with familiar and new faces in the industry. I find much more value in face-to-face meetings than conference calls or email threads. Maybe I'm just a bit old-fashioned.

    I hope the Critical Embedded Systems Conference continues in some form.

    Send us your industry videos

    May 1, 2008 11:39 AM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    A week ago today, we, the editors with Military & Aerospace Electronics, began complementing our up-to-the-minute industry news stories with informative videos. Peruse the Web site, and you will find embedded in news items more than 18 videos total -- and that number will continue to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming weeks and months.

    We invite you to share professional videos that would be of interest to the military and aerospace community with us. Show us your latest technology demonstration or installation, for example.

    Among the videos you will currently find on are: a demonstration of the iRobot PackBot's capabilities, the innovative Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle at work, U.S. Marine Corps personnel setting up a remote satellite terminal, the U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft deployed for a search and rescue mission, and even comprehensive information about the Military & Aerospace Electronics franchise, which includes a monthly trade publication, digital media such as weekly and monthly eNewsletters, conferences and expos, and more.

    We will soon launch the Mil & Aero Command Post, an online community environment in which to share your experiences, opinions, technologies and trends, and more. Would you like to share your amateur videos -- such as videos of your recent deployment, technology you trust and rely on in the field, and more -- with the rest of the community via the Command Post? We hope so.

    If you have any questions or if you are interested in authoring videos for potential use on, please feel free to contact me ( or Military & Aerospace Electronics' resident video guru, chief editor John Keller (

    Homeland security market steady

    April 29, 2008 2:35 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    At the GovSec show in Washington last week many of the exhibitors felt the market to be strong and growing but not a boom like it was perceived to be when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    We thought it might be stronger market as well when we launched Homeland Security Solutions magazine and a show of the same name. It turned out that while there was a lot of buzz instead of targeting technology development, most funding was spent on overtime and other "boots and bullets" costs, which were a much more immediate concern.

    Over the last few years we and from what I saw last week the industry has learned that homeland security is different than defense. Whereas primes, subcontractors, and the media originally foresaw the DHS as a Department of Defense (DOD) like entity it was in fact quite different.

    Jerry Buckwalter , Northrop Grumman's vice president of homeland security told me about a year ago that When DHS first came on the scene it was a top-down approach with the federal government expected to provide all the money.

    "Well it's changing and the local communities and states are realizing that if they are sitting around waiting for federal grants they will probably never see them," he said. "They need to aggressively pursue the programs themselves. They're realizing homeland security begins close to home" - and they are gaining the political will to do what they need to do for their communities.

    Bruce Walker, also a vice president of homeland security at Northrop Grumman echoed similar things this year. He said they are working a great deal with local first responders on information sharing, perimeter security through the Land Ports of Entry program, and setting up wireless applications with the first being New York City last year and London this year.

    There is a wealth of electronics content being developed for homeland security applications. Some of it is leveraged from the military like unmanned systems and infrared technology and some of it is being developed initially for public safety applications.

    Buckwalter explained to me last year that "public safety is a different concept than managing warfare." There are many constraints and limitations, and public will is involved - "that's why technology transfer doesn't always work from DOD to DHS." The technology is fine, it is the policies and procedures, congress, etc., that get in the way. There is pretty much a COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) mindset all the way now; it is just a matter of how to manage costs, he said.

    While our homeland security coverage is limited at Military & Aerospace Electronics we do focus on it through stories on the Coast Guard's Deepwater program , the DHS counter-man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) program , and coming in July a Special Report on sensors for perimeter security in military and homeland security applications .

    Be sure to check it out.

    Internet video adoption

    April 23, 2008 9:15 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Video, while not a new medium, is new to many first responder and military personnel. Video, especially via the Internet, is increasingly being used in military and homeland security environments. We too, the editors of Military & Aerospace Electronics , are using video more and more.

    We're always working diligently to deliver the community the most comprehensive industry and technology information possible. Today, that means accentuating news stories with informative and illustrative videos. Take a look at this week's news stories on iRobot and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle , as examples.

    Doubtless, we're not the only ones benefitting from the data-delivery power of video. VBrick Systems Inc. of Wallingford, Conn., for example, is delivering live Internet video technologies to first responders.

    VBrick Systems, together with CommsFirst Inc., provide "eyes-on-the-scene" video to assist first responders with situational awareness and readiness. VBoss, VBrick's online Video Streaming as a Service (VSasS), is designed to increase viewer participation of an event by streaming content live.

    CommsFirst will promote VBoss to offer pre-event readiness training and provide first-responders with video imagery that is critical to decision-making during and after an event. The VBrick Online Streaming Service platform enables CommsFirst to provide eyes-on-scene, training, and enable video capture and Internet TV delivery for improved situational awareness and readiness. The combined solution brings critical video content to first responder personnel anywhere, in real-time.

    We hope you'll keep your eyes on the scene, at , as we expand our Web site to include more and more videos and a community page.

    Still addicted to a crazy game

    April 22, 2008 3:23 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I just finished another Spring Golf Trip, lost another couple dozen lost balls, donated another $100 to a low-handicapper's kid's college fund ? and I still want more.

    It's a stupid, expensive, frustrating game and as rusty and jerky as my swing can be I'd much rather be flailing away at a Titleist right now than writing this blog.

    I and 11 friends played eight rounds in five days last week on a golf trip in Pinehurst, N.C. No, we didn't play the resort courses this year, but some other tough tracks like The Pit and Tobacco Road .

    The golf wasn't always pretty and the better players won out despite the avalanche of strokes some of us humble hackers received, but I wanted to keep playing.

    The only real stress is carried by the organizer. This year it was my friend Alex. Organizing 12 idiots and getting them to pay on time can be a pain in the neck, so I'm glad he had the highlight shot of the trip, a near hole-in-one at Tobacco Road. As you can see by this photo of where his ball hit near the left of the cup, he came within millimeters of jarring it. A pretty cool shot!

    The game is wonderful stress relief from your everyday druthers. After two or three rounds into the trip I thought of nothing except golf.

    I've read stories that service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan that have set up driving ranges and makeshift courses as kind of an escape. Their stresses dwarf anything in my life, yet many of them enjoy the release from smacking drive after drive at the range. Many groups have set up methods to send them balls and clubs and other golf equipment. PGA Tour pros have also visited the troops.

    A story that has gotten a lot of play is that of F-16 pilot and golf professional Dan Rooney , who created Patriot Day last Sept. 1. That Saturday golfers were asked to pay an extra $1 on their public-course green fee. That dollar went to the Fallen Heroes Foundation . Patriot Day will be renewed this Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 29 - 31.

    So on Labor Day when you tee it up, throw in an extra buck for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

    Deeply embedded in mil-aero

    April 17, 2008 9:51 AM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    At the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in San Jose this week, three trends stood out above all others. The first is multi-core. Embedded systems are increasingly taking advantage of multi-core processors, reaping the benefits of increased processing power in a small package. This increase in electronics and power density brings many benefits, but also greater challenges, such as increased heat--requiring an effective thermal-management solution.

    The next important trend is hypervisor, a virtualization platform that enables multiple operating systems to run on a host computer at the same time. A number of technology companies in the mil-aero market, such as LynuxWorks in San Jose, are concentrating on the up-and-coming hypervisor trend -- and it is a great fit for mil-aero. It makes perfect sense for real-time operating systems (RTOS) offering multiple partitions, which enable the delivery of and access to classified and unclassified information on the same host computer. Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara (as well as technology partner Intel, whose new Atom processor was used in the computing platform) garnered a great deal of attention with a demonstration of hypervisor at work. A single host computer ran multiple operating systems, such as multiple instances of Linux and Windows, and delivered unclassified and classified information to separate users. The unclassified user's mouse cursor was locked in the unclassified OS window and could not click outside of that space (and onto the classified window).

    Lastly, the importance of verifying software code was driven home in a number of show presentations. Static-analysis tools are an important component of any software-development workflow, especially given that modernization programs are bringing about a combination of legacy code, such as Ada, with Java, C, and C++ languages.

    These are my thoughts on the embedded computing space, but I want to hear from you! What are your thoughts on multi-core, hypervisor, and software debugging and verification tools? What do you consider the hottest trends in embedded computing today for the mil-aero community?

    Strengthening the mission of putting buyers and sellers together

    April 16, 2008 9:15 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    From time to time, organizations need to restate their primary missions -- not only to reinforce their overall goals, but also to chart how their courses might be evolving. So it is with Military & Aerospace Electronics , whose mission is to uncover trends and enabling technology in defense, space, and commercial aviation applications.

    It's true that Military & Aerospace Electronics identifies trends in electronic and electro-optic technologies. We've been doing this since I helped found the magazine in late 1989. It was then, and still is to this day, our mission to track technologies from the chip-and-board level through finished subsystems to identify how these devices represent enabling technologies for the integrators of aircraft, combat vehicles, surface ships, submarines, and spacecraft.

    It also is part of our core competence to identify how devices from chips to subsystems represent enabling technologies for finished applications like communications systems, radar, sonar, electronic warfare, navigation and guidance, laser systems, avionics, command and control, satellites and telemetry, and so on.

    To do this usefully, Military & Aerospace Electronics identifies and explains trends in the component technologies from chips to subsystems -- trends involving topics such as power and thermal management, high-speed fabrics and networking, circuit board form factors and standards, microprocessors, field-programmable gate arrays, power electronics, diodes, fiber optics, MEMS and nanotechnology, software-engineering tools, sensors of all kinds, advanced I/O, test and measurement, and so on.

    We achieve these goals not only through our print magazine and supplements that you've come to know over the years, but also through a Website that's updated every day, the Webcasts we host periodically throughout the year, our newly improved online buyers guide , which also comes out in print once a year, our electronic newsletters -- the weekly e-newsletter and our monthly Defense Executive e-newsletter for executive managers -- and our Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum conference and trade show.

    What this all boils down to is Military & Aerospace Electronics puts buyers and sellers together. A radar system designer, for example, has performance requirements and a set range of operating conditions. It's our job to help alert that designer to the latest enabling technologies to help him meet his objectives.

    We can help that designer understand what to look for; what's bleeding-edge technology, and what's tried-and-true; where cooling, size and weight, and power consumption are big factors; what he needs to look for in computational performance; and what range of components might be rugged enough for his application.

    This is what we do. You don't have to take my word for it; take a look at the video below to see what others in our market are saying about Military & Aerospace Electronics.

    Xpantivirus attacks

    April 15, 2008 7:48 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I got hit yesterday with a virus my IT guy hadn't seen before. Called the Xpantivirus, it fools you into thinking it's an antivirus software application that caught some spyware on your system and wants you to download the solution.

    It had me till the download part. I thought that looks weird, called my IT guy and he said I dodged a bullet by not downloading. If I had it would've opened up a path for all sorts of malware, porn, and other crap to get into my computer.

    So this is a little friendly warning in case any of you come across it. I got hit with it while surfing the web looking for information for a story.

    My IT department provided the definition of the threat below.

    Description: Xpantivirus is a rogue security tool, a program that claims to detect and remove or disable spyware, viruses, or other Internet threats. However, its capabilities are limited, and the tool may actually function as spyware or adware. This rogue anti-spyware tool often tricks users into purchasing. Trojan horse programs may force installs of Xpantivirus or make the application difficult to remove. It can be distributed through exploits particularly, the Vcodec vendor, which tricks user with Windows Media player codecs and forces an install.


    Threat level: medium risk

    Xpantivirus characteristics: displays ads; hijacks internet browser; downloads unsolicited files; exploits a security flaw; distributes threats; installs without user consent; and makes fraudulent claims about spyware detection and removal.

    Keep your eyes open.

    Parallel courses and the value of renewing old friendships

    April 11, 2008 9:08 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    You know those coincidental, small-world experiences that you'd never, ever imaging having? Well, I had one of those this week when I visited an electro-optics surveillance company in Westborough, Mass., called RemoteReality Corp.

    I'd been invited to interview the company's new CEO, retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Dennis V. McGinn , who before separating from the Navy had been deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs at the Pentagon.

    RemoteReality makes a 360-degree surveillance system with visible-light and infrared sensors that -- unlike a super-wide-angle fisheye lens -- produces almost no optical distortion.

    Before joining RemoteReality McGinn had spent five years at the Battelle Memorial Institute, the nonprofit research firm, where he led Battelle's energy, transportation, and environment division. Suffice it to say that McGinn has made a difference wherever he's been, and RemoteReality is pretty happy to have him.

    When invited to interview McGinn, something deep down kept nagging at me. I knew that name from somewhere, but I couldn't place it. Then I started thinking WAY back, and doing a few Google searches, and it finally hit me: I had met McGinn more than 25 years before, when he was a Navy commander in charge of a Navy squadron of light-attack bombers at Lemoore Naval Air Station in Central California, where I was a cub reporter for a little daily paper called The Hanford Sentinel .

    I'm pretty sure I attended the change-of-command ceremony where McGinn relinquished command of the Attack Squadron 27 Royal Maces to his successor in the early 1980s. Back in those days the squadron was flying the A-7E Corsair II attack jet, before it switched to the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter.

    I and Adm. McGinn, who unpretentiously refers to himself as "Denny," found we have several acquaintances in common, not only from the old days at Lemoore NAS, but also in and around Washington during the 10 years I lived and worked there -- among them Vice Adm. Jerry Tuttle, who handled command, control, communications, and intelligence on the Pentagon's Joint Staff in the early 1990s, and CNN reporter Barbara Starr , with whom I worked at Jane's Information Group in the early 1990s, and who had the opportunity to interview McGinn several times while McGinn served at the Pentagon.

    I guess if you're around long enough you start seeing things as cycles that can repeat themselves once in a while. I've had these experiences before, and they're always pleasant and memory-provoking. I'd like to thank Adm. McGinn for that, and for being so welcoming and willing to talk about old times.

    On my way to San Jose

    April 9, 2008 7:53 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Face-to-face interaction is invaluable in virtually any industry, but building strong relationships is particularly important in the mil-aero market. Privacy, discretion, and trust are part and parcel of many industry dealings -- in which the who, what, when, why, and how of many contract wins must be kept under lock and key for a time.

    With a recession looming and belts being tightened in anticipation of a continued economic downturn, business travel is likely to decrease significantly for a majority of businesses and organizations. Travel budgets are among the first to be cut, in my experience, so I labor over where to spend my travel time (and money) and how best to spend my time at an event. (I have also opted to visit local technology companies, military bases, and more, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry.
    Thank you to all who wrote me and extended invitations.)

    I have not hit the road since The Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum (
    in San Diego last month; but, I am happy to report, I will be in San Jose next week at the Embedded Systems Conference. I will be making the most of my time, covering the conferences and expo, and maybe a tear-down or two (they are disassembling a Russian space suit!). If you will be attending ESC, stop by the Military & Aerospace Electronics booth #3041; and, if in that booth you see a redhead who resembles the caricature in the upper right-hand corner of this page, be certain to say hi!

    If you will not be at the event, stay tuned! Military & Aerospace Electronics? editors will soon launch a Community Web page
    at an online forum of sorts in which everyone in the industry can connect and share their ideas, opinions, innovations, experiences, and more.

    See you soon!

    Resetting the bar on power semiconductors

    April 9, 2008 8:54 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Here's a heads-up that you're likely to start reading about a fundamental advancement in power transistor technology from a company called HVVi Semiconductors Inc. in Phoenix.

    HVVi is getting ready to announce a technology its leaders call high-voltage vertical field effect transistors -- otherwise known as HVVFETs -- for military power-intensive applications like avionics and ground-based pulsed radar.

    The big advantage of HVVFET technology for systems designers is small size, light weight, and little power consumption. The reason is that each device can handle substantially more power, and at higher frequencies, than the technologies HVVFET is designed to replace.

    Company officials say an HVVFET device can handle as much as 150 volts at frequencies as high as 12.5 GHz. Compare that to competing technologies like diffusion metal oxide semiconductor (DMOS) and laterally diffused metal oxide semiconductor (LDMOS ), company officials say.

    DMOS devices, they claim, can handle 28 to 50 volts at frequencies as high as 500 MHz, while LDMOS, they say, can handle 28 to 32 volts at frequencies as high as 3.5 GHz. The new technology even performs better at lower cost than gallium nitride (GaN) technology, they say.

    The big story behind HVVFET, they say, is fewer devices to handle the same or larger workloads.

    Some systems designers speculate that HVVFET technology could help trim as much as 300 pounds of weight off of aircraft-based radar systems because of fewer components, increased efficiencies, and relatively little need for active cooling.

    HVVFET uses proprietary vertical technology based on proprietary edge termination that enables high voltage operation, company officials say. this approach, they claim, can double power density, improve efficiency by 30 percent, and double the gain and ruggedness relative to competing technologies.

    HVVi leaders may announce products as early as this month -- the first of which are likely to be 48-volt devices operating at 1.2 to 1.4 GHz.

    This could be a big deal, so keep your eyes open.

    Fire your own NLOS cannon

    April 8, 2008 9:56 AM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Last week a friend in the industry clued me into a link that not only lets you learn about a new weapon platform but play with it in a simulation.

    The platform is the new Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) mobile artillery system . The NLOS canon is the first vehicle to be rolled out of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems program. According to the web site , the cannon "can hit a target accurately from as far away as 30 kilometers (about 18 miles), depending on the ordinance it's firing. The cannon being developed by BAE Systems for the U.S. Army uses a 155mm .38 caliber howitzer and allows for a wide choice of ordinance.

    "Since the firing process is automated, the cannon can shoot rapidly. Automated firing also cuts the four or five personnel required to operate modern mobile artillery down to two soldiers."

    Click here to play the online game "NLOS Cannon Challenge" . The game, developed by InHance, is on the Discovery Channel's web site on "Future Weapons." It lets you choose your elevation, your velocity, and just fire away!

    My first try I made it halfway through round 8 and scored 51,400 points.

    Let me know if you top that score and don't forget to turn up the volume on your computer for the full effect.

    Learning is fun.

    Musings on the schizophrenic defense market

    April 7, 2008 10:11 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Plenty of things are happening these days to put a chill on the defense technology market. We have an election coming up with vastly uncertain prospects; military forces are still operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet a substantial force draw down is due very soon; and many ordinary citizens are getting sick of the Iraq war and are hungry for peace.

    There's a sense that those in charge of U.S. military procurement are holding their collective breath until they get some solid indication of how the political winds are blowing.

    If a Democrat is elected president this November, the procurement folks are worried that spending could start drying up . If a Republican is elected, on the other hand, it's likely that defense spending cuts might not be so deep as they would be under a new Democrat administration, but people seem to know in their guts that defense spending going forward will not be what it has been during the early years of this decade. A sense of foreboding is in the air.

    This level of uncertainty is having a paralyzing influence on long-term planning in the defense industry. Overall, there is neither momentum nor clear direction on where defense spending is headed, and this holding pattern is likely to remain at least through the fall elections.

    There are some sectors of the defense technology business, however, where uncertainty has a wholly opposite effect . Some people, in fact, tell me they can't keep up with orders these days.

    What the heck is going on?

    For some defense sectors -- particularly those involved with technology repair, replenishment, and some upgrades -- there is a strong sense of urgency to spend the money they have as quickly as they can in case the fall elections cause money to dry up.

    I spoke to the manufacturer of housings for night-vision weapon sights who told me he can't make his products fast enough to meet demand. The reason for this, he says, is program managers who have money for repair and replenishment are spending it as fast as they can.

    It almost feels like a group of warriors the night before battle, who raise their glasses in a toast to "eat, drink, and be merry, gentlemen, for tomorrow we may die."

    M&AE: Investing in & building community

    April 3, 2008 5:06 PM by Courtney Howard
    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    For many, the new fiscal year started this week. The dawn of a new fiscal year, not to mention the replenished funds that accompany it, is often welcomed -- nay, eagerly awaited. This year is different, however; virtually every economic outlook delivered by financial pundits is peppered with the R word (recession). There is an upside!

    While many organizations (perhaps yours included) are hunkering down, bracing for the foreboding economic unknown (as foretold by financial and economic pundits), the staff of Military & Aerospace Electronics is investing in the very near future.

    The travel budget is often among the first to be slashed preceding and during an economic downturn. If you cannot interface face to face (author uses repetition unsuccessfully for effect), or even if you can, join your industry colleagues online at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Web site.

    If your travel budget won't carry you across the street, simply plunk down in front of your computer and connect with the industry. Post a comment on the editors' blog entries, read the half-dozen new online articles each day, and watch interesting video content relevant to the mil-aero market via

    In the weeks to come, look for the new Community page, an online environment soon to be populated with industry members exchanging their ideas, opinions, innovations, "war stories," and much more. Also, keep an eye out for the Military & Aerospace Electronics video channel, coming soon.

    In summary, c'mon online ... and come as you are: comment in your camouflage, propose ideas or act the pundit in your PJs, submit a query in your suit. Just come. I want to hear about you! See you soon!

    Touchy subjects

    April 1, 2008 4:58 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    Covering the military has its perks - none bigger than getting to spend time and talk with the outstanding men and women who are sacrificing a great deal for their country.

    The added bonus within our niche at Military & Aerospace Electronics is that we also get to explore the amazing technology that is being deployed and developed such as laser weapons and new aircraft like the Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 Raptor.

    The drawback is that a lot of what we learn we cannot turn around and share with our readers. Most of the time this understandable, the country is at war and some information published in a public forum could be damaging to U.S. security.

    Another reason that information is not released is due to "contractual obligations" or to keep a "competitive advantage" for those companies involved.

    Today's climate is providing a third reason to keep quiet on defense contracts. It's one I don't agree with. Some companies, due to the views of their management or investors, do not want to publicly admit they provide technology to the military.

    We found this to be true quite a bit with some European suppliers, especially in Germany. That's almost understandable considering the country's history.

    That said, the first two reasons above are perfectly acceptable, yet just as frustrating from a journalistic perspective when trying to provide an informative and complete story.

    I imagine it is also frustrating from a marketing perspective. Companies want to let the world know how successful their products are but are held back by the nature of the industry they support.

    However, sometimes the urge, need, or obsession with secrecy can be taken to the absurd.

    I remember one incident that happened nearly a decade ago. I wrote about a new contract a company won - I will hold back the names of the players involved. The company could not comment beyond saying it won a contract because the contract was classified. So I figured if they couldn't talk about it must be secret. Hence the headline read "So and So wins secret contract."

    Well needless to say the company got in big trouble with their customer because I used the word secret in the headline! Eventually it all worked out and they kept the contract but I still think in the big scheme of things the word secret did no more harm than if I used the word classified.

    If any of you have similar stories out there I would love to hear them - that is if you are allowed to share.

    West coast editor stretches legs, reach

    March 29, 2008 9:29 PM by Courtney Howard

    Posted by Courtney E. Howard

    Now that I am all settled in at my new office in Liberty Lake, Wa., having made the trek from the Military & Aerospace Electronics home base in southern N.H., I am looking to get out and visit with area businesses in the military and aerospace market. I am in the perfect place to do so, in fact.

    Technology firms, prime contractors, subcontractors, systems integrators, and military organizations and bases abound in this area. Defense and, particularly, aerospace technologies, solutions, deployments, and programs constitute a major part of the state's economy.

    If you're not familiar, Liberty Lake is located in eastern Washington, and it is where companies such as SprayCool (also known as ISR or Isothermal Systems Research) are situated. It is also the former locale of General Dynamics-Itronix, which moved just miles away to Spokane Valley.
    Liberty Lake is just a short drive from Spokane, where Fairchild Air Force Base resides (see photo at right), as well as a brief jaunt to Seattle, Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, British Colombia; and virtually all of Idaho. I am a short drive to these locales, and a brief flight from points north (Canada...), south (California...), and Midwest (Colorado, Arizona...)--and everything in between.

    In short, I am an active member of the Washington mil-aero market and business community and I invite you to drop me a line or give me a call. Update me on your technologies and products, programs and contract awards, and more. Invite me to tour your facility, interview your executives and program managers, and witness your systems, solutions, and innovations first hand.

    I am Military & Aerospace Electronics West Coast-based roving reporter, and I am always looking for the latest market news. If you have something to say, post a comment or email me at

    Another view: time to consider the human dimension of using robots in warfare

    March 26, 2008 9:51 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Last month I posted a blog item headlined Autonomous arms race: gentlemen, start your robots , in which I took a university professor in Sheffield, England , named Noel Sharkey to task for views on military robotic technology he presented in a keynote address to the Royal United Services Institute.

    The gist was I believe robots are, and will be, valuable tools for military planners. Professor Sharkey, on the other hand, says not so fast; we need to take a closer look at the human issues of deploying military robotic technology before we go much farther down this road.

    This morning I received a long and very thoughtful response from Professor Sharkey to my blog item. We still disagree on a variety of issues, but that's beside the point of today's blog. Today I'd simply like to share Professor Sharkey's thoughts with you, and let his points speak for themselves.

    You make some valid points here John but I think that you have slanted my line of reasoning a little in the wrong direction. I will make my main case again here.

    I do not have a problem with "a man in the loop" robots. It is dumb autonomous robots that I am concerned about. I am not politically active and I am not anti military. Laying my cards face up on the table, my position is simply that it is the duty and moral responsibility of all citizens to protect innocent people everywhere, regardless of creed, race, or nationality. All innocents have a right to protection.

    There are many breaches of this right that fall outside of my remit. I concern myself solely with new weapons that are being constructed using research from my own field of enquiry.

    My concerns arise from my knowledge of the limitations of artificial intelligence and robotics. I am clearly not calling for a ban on all robots as I have worked in the field for nearly 30 years.

    I don't blame you for not believing me about the use of fully autonomous battle robots. I found it hard to believe myself until I read the plans and talked to military officers about them. Just Google search for military roadmaps to help you get up to speed on this issue. Read the roadmaps for Air Force, Army, and Navy published in 2005 or the December, 2007 Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032 (large .pdf) and you might begin to see my concerns.

    In a book entitled Autonomous Vehicles in Support of Naval Operations published by The National Academies Press in 2005, a Naval committee wrote that, "The Navy and Marine Corps should aggressively exploit the considerable warfighting benefits offered by autonomous vehicles (AVs) by acquiring operational experience with current systems and using lessons learned from that experience to develop future AV technologies, operational requirements, and systems concepts."

    The signs are there that such plans are falling into place. On the ground, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., ran a successful Grand Robotics challenge for four years in an autonomous vehicle race across the Mojave Desert. In 2007 it changed to an urban challenge where autonomous vehicles navigated around a mock city environment. You don't have to be too clever to see where this is going. In February this year DARPA showed off their "Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle and Perceptor Integration System" otherwise knows as the Crusher. This a 6.5 ton robot truck, nine feet wide with no room for passengers or a steering wheel, which travels at 26 miles per hour. Stephen Welby, director of DARPA Tactical Technology office said, "This vehicle can go into places where, if you were following in a Humvee, you'd come out with spinal injuries," Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute is reported to have received $35 million over four years to deliver this project. Admittedly it is a just a demonstration project at present.

    Last month BAE Systems tested software for a squadron of planes that could select their own targets and decide among themselves which target each should acquire. Again a demonstrations system but the signs are there.

    There are a number of good military reasons for such a move. Teleoperated systems are expensive to manufacture and require many support personnel to run them. One of the main goals of the Future Combat Systems project is to use robots as a force multiplier so that one soldier on the battlefield can be a nexus for initiating a large-scale robot attack from the ground and from the air.

    Clearly, one soldier cannot operate several robots alone. Autonomous systems have the advantage of being able to make decisions in nanoseconds while humans need a minimum of hundreds of milliseconds.

    FCS spending is going to be in the order of $230 billion, with spending on unmanned systems expected to exceed $24 billion ($4 billion up to 2010).

    The downside is that autonomous robots that are allowed to make decisions about whom to kill falls foul of the fundamental ethical precepts of a just war under jus in bello as enshrined in the Geneva and Hague conventions and the various protocols set up to protect innocent civilians, wounded soldiers, the sick, the mentally ill, and captives.

    There is no way for a robot or artificial intelligence system to determine the difference between a combatant and an innocent civilian. There are no visual or sensing systems up to that challenge. The Laws of War provide no clear definition of a civilian that can be used by a machine. The 1944 Geneva Convention requires the use of common sense while the 1977 Protocol 1 (Article 50) essentially defines a civilian in the negative sense as someone who is not a combatant. Even if there were a clear definition, and even if sensing were possible, human judgment is required to identify the infinite number of circumstances where lethal force is inappropriate. Just think of a child forced to carry an empty rifle.

    The Laws of War also require that lethal force be proportionate to military advantage. Again, there is neither sensing capability that would allow a robot such a determination, nor is there any known metric to objectively measure needless, superfluous, or disproportionate suffering. This requires human judgment. Yes, humans do make errors and can behave unethically, but they can be held accountable. Who is to be held responsible for the lethal mishaps of a robot? Certainly not the machine itself. There is a long causal chain associated with robots: the manufacturer, the programmer, the designer, the Department of Defense, the generals or admirals in charge of the operation, and the operator.

    This is where your analogy with gun control breaks down. If someone kills an innocent with a gun, the shooter is responsible for the crime. The gun does not decide whom to kill. If criminals decided to put guns on robots that wandered around shooting innocent people, do you thing that the good citizens should also put guns on robots to go around shooting innocent people? It does not make sense.

    The military forces in the civilized world do not want to kill civilians. There are strong legal procedures in the United States and JAG [the military's Judge Advocate General] has to validate all new weapons. My worry is that there will be a gradual sleep walk into the use of autonomous weapons like the ones that I mentioned. I want us to step back and make the policies rather than let the policies make themselves.

    I take you point (and greater expertise than mine) about the slowness of politics and the UN. But we must try. There are no current international guidelines or even discussions about the uses of autonomous robots in warfare. These are needed urgently. The present machines could be little more than heavily armed mobile mines and we have already seen the damage that land mines have caused to children at play. Imagine the potential devastation of heavily armed robots in a deep mission out of radio communication. The only humane recourse of action is to severely restrict or ban the deployment of these new weapons until it can be demonstrated that they can pass an "innocents discrimination test" in real life circumstances.

    I am pleased that you have allowed this opportunity to debate the issues and put my viewpoint forward.

    best wishes,

    Laser links: the foundation of future broadband tactical networking

    March 18, 2008 6:10 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    ORLANDO, Fla. -- I think it's obvious that laser crosslinks represent the future of military tactical networking on land, at sea, and in the air. Laser communications are fast, difficult to detect or intercept, and represent bandwidth broad enough to handle the demands of image-intensive real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

    Laser communications, moreover, are not limited by the factors that burden RF-based wireless networking: limited bandwidth, dwindling spectrum, and relatively easy detection. RF tactical networking also must conceal itself from would-be jammers and eavesdroppers by technically demanding means of encryption, frequency hopping , and spread-spectrum transmissions.

    Let's face it, however, laser communications are difficult. This technology can be limited by smoke, dust, and clouds. Perhaps more importantly, its laser beams can be attenuated and distorted by atmospheric disturbances. Aircraft have been particularly difficult because their motion makes it difficult to keep a laser beam focused and on target.

    Many of these problems may be on the way to solution, however, with a company called AOptix Technologies Inc. in Campbell, Calif., which has come up with an adaptive optics system called R3.1 Skyball that can compensate for atmospheric distortion and aircraft motion such that high-speed laser networking on land, at sea, and in the air suddenly becomes feasible.

    AOptix is demonstrating the Skyball system this week at the SPIE Defense & Security conference and trade show in Orlando, Fla.

    Short range, AOptix experts have tested the system sending data at 800 gigabits per second. At long range, they have demonstrated the system at distances as far as 93 miles (150 kilometers) at 40 gigabits per second.

    Think of it; 40 gigabits per second is faster than many of your laptop computers typically can access the Internet wirelessly. What would 800 gigabits per second networking aircraft, ships, and ground stations bring to the table? The U.S. military is pursuing a concept called network-centric warfare . Well, this could be one of the keys.

    AOptix officials point out the possibility of moving massive amounts of intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance data nearly in real time from platforms like manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as satellites, to tactical command centers.

    These command centers, in turn, could quickly process this data, synthesize it into valuable information, and send it back out in real time via laser links to soldiers, sailors, and airmen on the front lines.

    Simply put, this could put us well on the way to the ultimate goal of getting the warfighter the information he needs, just when he wants it. Terrestrial laser communications links. Sounds like the future to me.

    Think you have an ITAR issue? Protect yourself, experts say

    March 13, 2008 12:46 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Component suppliers who even suspect that their products might be designed into military systems need to take steps to protect themselves from potential violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). If they don't, they risk serious trouble.

    I'm not talking about just fines; I'm talking about losing your company. The bottom line is protecting yourself. This is risky -- to the point that in extreme circumstances you could be working at Wendy's the next day, warns Dean Young, facilities security officer for Celestica Aerospace Technologies in Austin, Texas.

    Young made his comments Wednesday in a panel discussion at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum (MAEF) conference and trade show in San Diego, which concluded Wednesday afternoon.

    Component suppliers should be on guard for ITAR issues, particularly if they are doing business with the large prime defense contractors. Most of these large companies have ITAR organizations in place to help their suppliers navigate often-treacherous ITAR waters, but sometimes problems can occur, experts admit.

    Prime defense contractors are very sensitive about releasing details about whose products they are using, and in which applications -- sometimes to the degree that individual engineers or program managers inside these companies might be reluctant to tell even the suppliers of the components where these devices are going.

    If this happens, push back and get enough information to protect yourself, panelists told MAEF attendees. Don't accept "we're not telling," or "mind your own business," from customers -- ever.

    If that kind of thing happens, such as if a person at a prime contract is being difficult or is overly concealing information, "I would like to know about it," says Karen Jones, director of export import operations at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz.

    In addition to Young and Jones, other panelists were Kay Georgi, partner at the law firm of Arent Fox LLP in Washington, and Lawrence Fink, director of corporate export administration at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in San Diego.

    Component suppliers need to get smart about ITAR guidelines; they need to get smart fast before they get into trouble. It can be a matter of protecting yourself, your family, and your company.

    It may even involve the potential of walking away from revenue if a supplier simply cannot get the information he needs to protect himself, experts say.

    At the same time, suppliers should be as tactful and as partnering as possible when they approach their prime-contractor customers so they don't risk killing their business or relationships.

    For more information, panelists recommend a pamphlet on Project Shield America from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's investigative bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington.

    Project Shield America is an industry outreach program to prevent the illegal export of sensitive U.S. munitions and strategic technology to terrorists, criminal organizations, and foreign adversaries.

    To learn more about the Project Shield America pamphlet, contact ICE online at

    Military radio communications designers need to build a better mouse trap

    March 11, 2008 2:34 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    SAN DIEGO -- Military radio designers need to give more thought to how they blend RF and microwave components with digital circuitry in new generations of software-defined radio , says one of the Pentagon's top communications executives.

    The problem revolves around radio designs that tightly couple the RF section and digital sections. This can slow down design and production, and create huge headaches when it comes to technology insertion and systems upgrades, says Dr. Ron Jost, the DOD's deputy assistant secretary of defense for C3.

    "Please don't tightly couple the RF to the digital sections in the radio," Jost said today in a keynote address at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum (MAEF) conference and trade show in San Diego. "The RF won't change much; it's the digital that will change."

    In the interests of full disclosure, I need to point out that the MAEF is sponsored by Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine.

    Jost told MAEF attendees that digital circuitry goes obsolete very quickly -- as often as once a year -- and tightly coupling the RF to digital often is problematic.

    Instead, Jost suggests that radio designers create more modular communications architectures where digital circuitry easily can be swapped out as it goes obsolete, but that leaves the longer-lasting RF and microwave sections alone.

    Evidently this is among the reasons that the Pentagon's Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program is in trouble.

    Radio designs are not the only problems facing the Pentagon's communications planners, Jost points out. Senior Defense Department planers are well along in network management , yet what they need now is spectrum management . He's asking for the defense industry's help to do this.

    "We are going to put together a complete spectrum-management tool and network-management tool for the Department of Defense, and we need your guys's help," Jost told MAEF attendees this morning. "The warfighter can't do it with what we're giving him today."

    Now it's not just talk: VPX embedded computing starts racking up design wins

    March 10, 2008 7:25 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    For more than a year now we've been hearing about the latest flavor of VME embedded computing. The newest incarnation is called VPX , and relies on a variety of high-speed serial fabric networking approaches, rather than the traditional parallel VME databus .

    Until now, VPX, formerly known as VITA-46 , largely has been a technology in search of an application. It had been criticized for being a bleeding-edge technology that had more industry enthusiasm than real markets, and some in the embedded computing industry thought it might never really take off.

    That was then, this is now.

    VPX is starting to rack up what many believe will be a long string of design wins. This technology is no longer just marketing talk; it's a validated technology with real military customers.

    Just today, Curtiss-Wright Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., announced that it is providing VPX-based radar signal processing for the U.S. Marine Corps Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR ) program. Other design-ins are expected to be announced soon.

    Stay tuned for more on VPX.

Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

December 17, 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

December 10, 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

December 3, 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

November 26, 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

November 19, 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

November 12, 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

November 5, 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

October 29, 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

October 22, 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

October 15, 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

October 7, 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

October 1, 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

September 24, 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

September 17, 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

September 10, 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

September 3, 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

August 27, 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

August 20, 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

August 13, 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

August 6, 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

July 30, 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

July 23, 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

July 16, 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

July 9, 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

July 2, 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6

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