Archive for '2010'

    DARPA makes Lockheed Martin sit for three months on one of 2010's most important military technology stories

    December 14, 2010 11:44 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Here's the good news: military electro-optical systems designers at the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors (MS2) segment in Akron, Ohio, announced today that they are building several One Shot laser-based military sniper fire-control systems that improve accuracy and reduce the possibility of detection under terms of a $6.9 million contract from One Shot program sponsor, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.

    Here's the bad news: Lockheed Martin won that contract at the end of September, and had to sit on an official announcement for nearly three months because the public affairs folks at DARPA wouldn't give permission to announce the follow-on contract for the One Shot fiber optic laser-based system that is designed to help military snipers compensate for cross winds to hit their targets with their first shots.

    The One Shot program , and Lockheed Martin's latest contract, haven't been a secret over the past quarter, however, while DARPA dithered on authorizing an announcement. We here at Military & Aerospace Electronics had been covering the story from the beginning.

    Our original story, Lockheed Martin to continue One Shot program electro-optics work to help snipers hit targets in crosswinds , which ran on 1 Oct., also received considerable attention in other media -- most notably Fox News and Popular Science.

    Fox News picked up the story a couple of days after we broke it, and posted a well-read story online entitled Self-Aiming Sniper Rifles Coming Next Year . Popular Science, meanwhile, posted a story entitled Darpa's Self-Aiming "One Shot" Sniper Rifle Scheduled for Next Year .

    Fox News and Popular Science very graciously posted links back to the original story in Military & Aerospace Electronics, which as of today has received 10,591 page views and has been our most-read online story of 2010 -- by far.

    It's too bad the public affairs folks at DARPA didn't place the same level of importance on this military technology story that the reading public of Military & Aerospace Electronics and other major online media did ... and kudos to the public relations shop at Lockheed Martin MS2 for showing such patience.

    Security holes are everywhere even in secure virtualization systems, says Green Hills Software CEO

    December 6, 2010 8:23 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    If the Wikileaks scandal shows anything it proves that no system is secure as people may think it is -- especially software virtualization systems, said Dan O'Dowd, chief executive officer of Green Hills Software during the company’s Software Elite Users Technology Summit. "Virtualization adds nothing to security," he added.

    O'Dowd pointed out that virtualization systems have less code, "but that just means they are less bad, not more secure. Running bug-ridden operating systems in virtual machines does not solve the security issue unless the virtualization system itself is secure."

    He then made a point that I think resonates well beyond virtualization systems. "The security claims of popular virtualization systems are just marketing fluff to exploit the desperate need of all computer users for security," O'Dowd says. These systems have only been evaluated to the National Security Agency's (NSA's) Common Criteria EAL4+.

    According to the Common criteria EAL4+ "makes them appropriate for protecting against 'inadvertent or casual attempts to breach system security,'" O’Dowd said. It's as if they have five doors to their house but only locked four, he added.

    O'Dowd was working up to making the case for his company's EAL6+ secure virtualization software, but, I think he's also right on that this is not just a virtualization security phenomenon.

    People are lazy when it comes to securing their computers. They all want their systems to be secure, but typically buy into the marketing fluff of certain technology because they like the convenience it provides. However, in the long run they are setting themselves up for security breaches.

    It reminded me of something an export compliance officer at a major aerospace company once told me that he tells his employees who travel overseas. He says they need to assume that their emails are being read and their phone conversations are being listened to. It doesn't make you paranoid, it makes you vigilant, he said.

    Speaking of vigilance, let's get back to the secure virtualization discussion.

    During their work in this area O'Dowd's engineers found security vulnerabilities in standard device drivers in virtual machines. He said they attempted to use I/O memory management units (MMUs) to improve the security of virtual machines, but found that "it doesn't work.

    "We weren't looking for vulnerabilities, we were just trying to make the device drivers work," O'Dowd said. "Modern I/O devices often contain huge software control programs consisting of hundreds of thousands lines of code and they have just as many security vulnerabilities as traditional operating systems."

    He made the case that if users want to be vigilant with their virtualization systems they need to use an EAL6+ secure system like that offered by Green Hills. Makes sense but with that vigilance also comes cost.

    Systems like Green Hills do not come cheap, so it becomes a matter of managing risk. Military and avionics systems cannot take that chance, but companies in less mission/life critical applications may be able to get away with it.

    What's more expensive paying for the security ahead of time or not paying and hoping nothing happens? I guess it depends on whether or not you think you, your company, or your technology is actually a target.

    Revealing the flight plan of Santa; what else are we giving potential terrorists?

    December 1, 2010 1:50 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    On the heels of devastating WikiLeaks revelations of U.S. State Department secrets, causing irreparable damage to U.S. diplomacy around the world, comes news that the U.S. government itself is about to publicize detailed movements and locations of one of the most important Christmas icons of Western Civilization -- Santa Claus.

    The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD ) at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., announced plans today not only to track the movements of Santa Claus during his Christmas Eve rounds, but also to report his every location on a public Website, .

    We live in dangerous times; no one at NORAD needs to be told that. This is an organization that regularly scrambles jet fighters to intercept any aircraft in violation of U.S. controlled airspace, yet these people are about to put a holiday symbol of the magnitude of Santa Claus in jeopardy by revealing his whereabouts to the potential terrorists and other adversaries.

    Think about what could result from this ill-advised scheme. The hooves of those eight tiny reindeer are more than enough to set off a well-placed improvised explosive device (IED) . That sleigh laden with gifts would be a fat target for any nefarious character with a shoulder-fired missile . I won't even mention the damage that a suicide bomber could wreak.

    To be sure, we're not just talking about the possibility of some disappointed good little girls and boys here; this could shake Western culture to its core. Think of the disruptions to national economies. It could spell an end to Christmas as we know it.

    NORAD simply must rethink such a cavalier plan that puts so much in danger. If nothing changes, we risk a Christmas Eve disaster more profound than any other in memory of this or past generations, and I'm appalled.

    Thank you to all that serve

    November 11, 2010 9:33 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    A few years ago during a internal company presentation our team at Military & Aerospace Electronics described what we do as "covering the technology that helps protect those who protect us." By "those" we mean the men and women who make up the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Thanks to all of you for your service.

    The sacrifices our military personnel make today in Iraq and Afghanistan and those made by veterans of past wars are very humbling. It has been an honor to cover you and get to know many of you during the 14 years I've covered the defense industry .

    On behalf of my colleagues at Military & Aerospace Electronics I wish you a Happy Veterans Day. Please know you are appreciated.

    FACE consortium tries to succeed where others have failed in crafting open-systems avionics computers

    November 2, 2010 5:02 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Embedded computing providers, in unguarded moments, often blurt out their frustration with major avionics computer designers who make just enough tweaks to commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software to create what are essentially proprietary solutions with what ought to be open-systems avionics components.

    We've all seen these before. Remember the Common Integrated Processor (CIP) design for the F-22 Raptor advanced tactical fighter? It was developed two decades ago by what was then Hughes Aircraft (bought later by Raytheon), and was based on the Intel 80960 processor. Hughes promoted the CIP as an open-systems computer, but anyone who took a look at it quickly realized that Hughes held the keys to the architecture, and no third-party suppliers could participate in the CIP without the approval and support of Hughes.

    Today an industry group called the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) consortium is trying to change all that. This group, launched last July, is attempting to formulate industry standards for a common operating environment in avionics computer systems.

    To date the FACE consortium has backing from the U.S. Navy Air Combat Electronics Program Office, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research and Engineering Center, and 19 defense industry avionics suppliers -- including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Rockwell Collins, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Harris Corp.

    The group was formed to address the lack of common standards among aircraft systems, which has hindered interoperability while increasing the cost and time necessary to develop, integrate, and maintain modern avionics computers, consortium officials say.

    Other FACE consortium members include ATK, CMC Electronics, Elbit Systems of America, Green Hills Software, Wind River Systems, LynuxWorks, Objective Interface Systems, Physical Optics Corp., Real-Time Innovations, Stauder Technologies, System Planning Corp., and

    Truly open-systems avionics have been a long time in coming, and many of us over the years have seen failed attempts in this direction. The Joint Integrated Avionics Working Group (JIAWG), which tried to come up with open-standards avionics for the F-22 and the long-cancelled RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter, immediately come to mind.

    It will be a long, uphill climb for proponents of the FACE consortium, but efforts will be worth it if this organization can succeed where others have failed.

    Counter-MANPADS for commercial aircraft, where'd it go?

    October 28, 2010 5:52 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    Counter-MANPADS (man-portable air defense systems) for commercial aircraft got a lot of press after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and I covered it quite a bit in our Homeland Security Solutions magazine back then, but I have not heard much about it in recent years till this week at the AUSA in Washington, DC.

    Some of the technology explored for Counter-MANPADS was based on the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM ) system from BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. I learned this while interviewing Burt Keirstead, director of integrated ASE (aircraft survivability equipment) at BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H., this week at AUSA about the ATIRCM.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Counter-MANPADS program was basically shelved due to reluctance from the airlines to spend money on the system unless subsidized by the government or if there is an attack from a shoulder-fired missile on a commercial airliner causing COutner-MANPADS to be mandated, Keirstead said.

    Technologically "it was a success story," he said. BAE System's solution flew about 5,000 hours on a Boeing 767 back forth between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles and John F. Kennedy airport outside of New York, Keirstead continued. A couple of the flights included celebrities such as Brittany Spears and Liza Minelli, he added.

    It was mounted upside down about 10 feet in front of the fuselage and painted white, Keirstead said. The system was optimized for use on commercial jets with a different cockpit display and a lightening protection unit, among other adjustments, he added.

    The system works and could be added in on to the aircraft if it is ever mandated, Keirstead said.

    Let's hope it's not necessary.

    U.S. defense officials may be getting serious about crafting defenses against EMP attack

    October 28, 2010 10:43 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I came across an interesting industry sources-sought notice in the government solicitations this morning. Scientists in at the Army Research Lab are looking for companies with know-how and experience in shielding against the effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) . The spectre of an EMP attack is a scary one.

    EMP is among the effects of a nuclear explosion, and would cause devastating power surges in the electric power grids, automobiles, computers, and modern electric appliances that could shut the power off in large areas for long periods. Want more on EMP? See this week's story in USA Today entitled One EMP burst and the world goes dark .

    A worst-case scenario has a high-altitude nuclear explosion over Kansas City, which could kill the power grid in the United States for as long as a year.

    Think about that -- a year without electricity all over North America. Fuel, food, and drinking water would disappear quickly -- especially in the large cities; transportation and manufacturing would grind to a halt; cell phones and land lines would fall silent; little, if any, information would be available as the Internet would disappear; radio and TV stations would stop broadcasting, and newspapers and magazines would quit publishing; stores, restaurants, and hotels would be padlocked; hospitals would close; financial transactions would cease; the mail would stop; and companies would suspend business because their lights and machinery would not operate, and their employees could not get to work.

    I could go on, but turn off the power in this country for a year and probably 80 percent of the population dies. The old, the very young, and those with medical conditions would go first. I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic, so I wouldn't survive long. Neither would most of the people I know.

    So I'm heartened to see the military putting effort and money into finding ways to defend against EMP. The program the Army is talking about eventually could turn into a $7 million contract over five years. That's not a whole lot, by DOD standards, but it's a start.

    It's long past time that the U.S. military and industry should start taking the EMP threat seriously.

    Miniaturization of electronics, theme at AUSA

    October 28, 2010 7:52 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    Interviewing and speaking with people at the AUSA show in Washington this week, the common requirement from the Army seems to be miniaturization
    of electronics or as some term it low size, weight, and power (SWaP) -- and in some cases SWaP-C, with C being cost.

    Some vendors don't like the C part, as their parts will never be considered low-cost, but it seems as if everyone's latest design is smaller than the last one.

    Whether it's in rugged computers with the new rugged PDA from VT Miltope, the rugged Armor tablet PC from DRS Technologies ,or the tactical rugged tablet from Lockheed Martin -- they're all trending smaller with plans for even smaller designs.

    The same is true for display maker Barco, who is shrinking their rugged computer boxes while to squeeze into wheeled or tracked vehicles. Meanwhile engineers at Cobham are designing data links that can fit in the palm of your hand or be concealed for undercover operations. One of Cobham's other designs takes two radio downlinks and puts them in one device -- that once again fits in the palm of your hand.

    Pretty soon we'll see tracking devices and radios so small they can fit under the skin. It's exciting to think about the possibilities for nanotechnology as well.

    AUSA keeps getting bigger -- two floors at the Washington, DC convention center next year -- but the technology is shrinking.

    Could we someday see a rugged iPad?

    October 25, 2010 9:26 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    I wondered out loud to a rugged tablet designer at AUSA today about whether we would ever see a rugged iPad used by warfighters in the field.

    Julie Briggs, vice president of rugged systems program development at VT Miltope laughed and said she and colleagues were just talking about that. She doesn't think it would really be applicable because the iPad like many consumer devices does not have the backward compatibility with older equipment based on military standards that is necessary for this market.

    Just because a military system designer has money for a new computer, doesn't mean he can afford to overhaul the entire system to have the new device be compatible with all his legacy components, Briggs said.

    Something tells me that if someone tried to make an iPad rugged, it really wouldn't be an iPad anymore. Its appeal is that it is sexy, lightweight, and flexible. Those are not necessarily adjectives you would apply to a rugged tablet -- at least the sexy and lightweight part.

    However, if you drop your rugged tablet, spill coffee on it, or try to blow it up it will still work. Makes up for the lack of sexiness doesn't it?

    AUSA annual meeting, fun and crowded as usual

    October 25, 2010 6:23 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington is one of my favorite shows to attend as a journalist. All the primes are there and you get access to many interesting programs in one place. Also where else can you check out a helicopter on the second floor of an exhibit booth -- Sikorsky Booth #2124.

    I also enjoy visiting the rugged computer suppliers at AUSA, just to check out their latest rugged tablets and rugged PDAs. However, I have yet to be able to get them to let me take one home at night -- just to kick around, run my car over it etc. You know ... all things journalists do to test ruggedability.

    I'm not the only AUSA fan as this year's event is crowded once again and not only with Army uniforms, but many engineers and business development men and women in dark business suits.

    The down economy does not seem to affect attendance at this event. However, one exhibitor told me that the usually long wait list to get a place on the floor was only 20 this year and not 50. Hey there is still a wait list, not many shows can say that. Believe me.

    Neil Armstrong on being there

    October 19, 2010 11:07 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    I saw a great quote from Neil Armstrong on a board at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) show here in Atlanta that I'd love to use for our Avionics Europe Event. "You can settle with e-mails and conference calls, but there's nothing like being there. Trust me on this."

    I agree with him, even though I've never been to the Moon. Live events and in-person meetings cannot be completely replaced by webinars and e-mails. Pressing the flesh and looking people in the eye is how you build relationships, not by just trading e-mails.

    Maybe we can hold Avionics 2030 in a lunar base and get Mr. Armstrong to speak. Just a thought.

    Maritime nuisance: unmanned surface vessels designed to harass enemy submarines

    October 19, 2010 10:14 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Imagine an oceangoing unmanned surface vessel designed to detect, track, and even harass potentially hostile quiet diesel-electric submarines virtually unsupported, anywhere in the world. That's the idea behind the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has awarded a first-phase design contract to the QinetiQ North America Technology Solutions Group in Waltham, Mass.

    The project is interesting enough on its own: an unmanned boat or small ship that searches sensitive areas of the world's oceans for today's extremely quiet diesel-electric submarines, which are virtually impossible to detect -- even with today's most sensitive sonar gear.

    For more, see Unmanned surface vessel able to track quiet enemy submarines is objective of DARPA ACTUV contract to QinetiQ .

    Still, what caught my eye about this project is the complete lack of covert means to detect and track submarines. In fact, one of the stated goals of the program is the "overt" tracking of enemy submarines.

    This project is about using unmanned surface vessels to track submarines in the open -- on the surface and making propulsion noises. In other words, Designers of this ASW system want the enemy to know the system is there, and on his tail.

    It's pretty hard to hide when there's noisy nuisance following you. Perhaps the first of these unmanned surface vessels could be named the USS Chihuahua.

    Owning my own jet vs. flying commercial

    October 18, 2010 7:54 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    On the flight down to my first National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) show in Atlanta this week, I contemplated what it would be like to own my jet -- a Gulfstream or Embraer Phenom jet. Then I remembered I'm a journalist -- in other words not rich. So I'm stuck flying commercial, which can be good and bad.

    The good is the occasional low fare, the safety of air travel in the U.S., and meeting interesting people. The bad is the myriad of ways airlines look to charge you, their bizarre rules, lost luggage, etc.

    My most recent headache involved a trip to Germany on Lufthansa . I called the night before my return trip to the U.S. to reserve my seat. I was given 52C. The next day I get to the airport and was told I was put on standby. Of course I asked HOW CAN THAT BE? I had a seat, who moved me to standby?

    Apparently Lufthansa can bump your seat if they oversell their aircraft. Essentially it becomes the German Southwest overnight, by making it first come, first serve to the airport.

    Seems pretty silly, doesn't it? It was especially insane to the guy behind me in the standby line. He bought his ticket and reserved his seat in January! Funny thing, the Lufthansa agent neglected to tell him and me that the seats were not guaranteed. All we got was "enjoy your flight."

    Despite all that silliness, I did enjoy my flight. I still got an aisle seat and lucked out with an interesting seat mate -- a recent Boston College law school graduate returning from a trek through Europe.

    She had some crazy stories from her vacation. The strangest had to be the one about moped-riding, wristwatch thieves in a less elegant part of Naples, Italy. Apparently they are quite common and dangerous, ripping women's Rolexes right off their wrist as they speed by.

    Yes, I've gotten off topic a bit, but the moped thieves story really stuck with me.

    Back to business jets. I still want one. I put my business card in a bowl at a Boeing press conference, hoping to win one -- no dice. It was a model airplane, but I have to start somewhere.

    Maybe I'll have better luck on the show floor tomorrow.

    Fiber laser technology is common critical enabler in precision-engagement projects at Lockheed Martin

    October 14, 2010 2:30 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Lockheed Martin Corp. certainly is making the most of its acquisition two years ago of a fiber laser company in Bothell, Wash., called Aculight Corp. Lockheed Martin is capitalizing on Aculight's fiber laser technology for a variety of precision-engagement systems such as the One-Shot military sniper targeting system , the Dynamic Image Gun sight Optic (DInGO) initiative, and the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System.

    The common denominator among One-Shot and these other programs at Lockheed Martin is a small, lightweight fiber laser that is able not only to illuminate targets covertly at night, but also literally to reach out and touch the air column between shooter and target to measure crosswind conditions, provide compensation, and enable snipers and other military weapons experts to hit their targets with the first shot, nearly every time.

    The One-Shot program is for military snipers working with specialized precision-targeting rifles who are engaging targets at extremely long ranges, often from hidden locations. The DInGO program, meanwhile, seeks to help every soldier be a marksman by enhancing the ability to hit targets at ranges from 10 to 2,000 feet.

    What's truly exciting to Lockheed Martin executives, however, is the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System, which enables snipers to work remotely from safe locations to operate rifles mounted to manned and unmanned helicopters, as well as fixed-site towers. The chief enabling technology, all these programs, is the Aculight fiber laser.

    I think Lockheed Martin officials would agree that the Aculight acquisition was one of the smartest moves at this company in a long time.

    Battlefield tours: a new twist on the golf game to build business relationships

    September 29, 2010 5:42 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    GETTYSBURG, Pa., 29 Sept. 2010. The golf game is a tried-and-true way for business associates to get to know one another and strengthen their relationships. Few doubt that a lot of business is conducted on the golf course.

    Still, I think we've discovered a way here at Military & Aerospace Electronics to put a new spin on the outdoor business meeting as an alternative to the venerable day on the links -- battlefield tours.

    I spent the day yesterday with Adam Vasquez , director of global e-business and marketing at Tyco Electronics in Harrisburg, Pa., and his wife, Susan, tramping over fields and trails at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa., touring and re-living the struggles of soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg in well-known places like Cemetery Ridge, Culp's Hill, The Peach Orchard, Devil's Den, and Little Roundtop.

    I'm no golfer, myself, so I'm not really in a position to say, but I think this battlefield tour approach as an alternative to the traditional golf game has real potential. Adam and I discovered we have many interests -- and much historical knowledge -- in common as we trod the hills and valleys of the Gettysburg battlefield, trading stories of what we know of this monumental event, and of our various trips there in the past.

    It was a day well spent. We got to know one another on a more personable level than we could on a trade show floor, discovered common interests, and even conducted a little business. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful tradition.

    Freescale may be rethinking its commitment to AltiVec technology in its latest QorIQ family of processors

    September 26, 2010 6:52 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The aerospace and defense embedded computing industry is buzzing with rumors that Freescale Semiconductor Inc. in Austin, Texas, may be rethinking its commitment to AltiVec vector processing technology and its provision for floating-point processing in Freescale's latest family of QorIQ high-performance microprocessors.

    AltiVec technology had been an extremely popular part of Freescale's venerable PowerPC processors, which for years had been the de-facto standard for aerospace and defense signal processing applications. The PowerPC processor was unique in that it was able to perform general-purpose processing, as well as digital signal processing (DSP) in an era when these two computer tasks typically were performed by separate processor chips.

    Freescale had disappointed the aerospace and defense industry, however, when its leaders decided not to include AltiVec technology in its latest QorIQ processors. The company's decision to abandon AltiVec in its QorIQ family has led leaders in the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry to embrace the latest processors from Intel Corp. for high-performance embedded signal-processing applications.

    Intel moved to fill the void when the company announced support in its latest microprocessors aimed at embedded systems applications for the kind of floating point processing that aerospace and defense systems designers need most. In recent months designers of high-performance embedded processing, such as Mercury Computer Systems of Chelmsford, Mass., have announced their commitments to the Intel processor roadmap.

    The coming week may hold some interesting announcements, not only from Freescale, but also by some well-known embedded signal processing companies concerning the QorIQ and AltiVec. Stay tuned.

    Ada is not nearly as dead a language as Latin

    September 25, 2010 1:19 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    The Ada programming language has been said to be an obsolete language for years. However, it is still used throughout the defense and avionics communities and still taught in the schools, although it is not as popular a course selection as C or C++.

    Ada is mostly a higher-course level subject at universities, Greg Gicca, director of safety and security at AdaCore in New York, told me during the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston last week. It would be nice if it could be offered as a 101 course to students because it would give them a better understanding of software fundamentals, object-oriented programming , etc., than say C or C++, he adds.

    Adacore works with many colleges and universities across the country, educating new students in Ada code, Gicca says. The military and avionics world keeps Ada alive and provides a steady revenue stream for companies like AdaCore, he adds.

    It is the professors who are driving the ada course load, but there is plenty of interest from students as well, Gicca says.

    DDC-I, a designer of Ada products in Phoenix, also provides education services to universities such as Georgia Tech, says Greg Rose, vice president of marketing at DDC-I.

    The Ada language was created for the U.S. Department of Defense about 30 years ago to better handle safety-critical programming in mission-critical military systems and since then has also become a staple of commercial avionics software programs.

    According to Wikipedia it was named after, Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace also known as Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of the Poet Lord Byron. She is considered by some to be the world's first computer programmer after writing what is considered to be the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine -- for her work on an early mechanical general-purpose computer, designed by Charles Babbage, according to her Wikipedia entry.

    Archie Bunker, counter-terror expert

    September 18, 2010 11:20 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    On a JetBlue flight to Phoenix this week, I took a break from a story I was writing on software defined radio and the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and caught a couple episodes of "All in the Family" playing on JetBlue's in-flight entertainment system.

    You only see shows like that on cable or premium channels like HBO, the language and Archie's very un-PC rants scare networks away. Exemplified in the first episode I watched on the flight where Archie was arguing with his son-in-law Mike (Meathead), about gun control . They had just seen a local TV station manager give a speech on gun control and Archie demanded equal time.

    Archie's premise was that if more people had guns there would be less crime. Then he delivered this bit of counter-terrorism advice: "you could end sky-jacking tomorrow by arming all the passengers. The airline would hand out guns at the beginning of the flight, then collect them all when they land."

    Just as he said this the flight attendant was coming by with headphones... weird.

    Some 88-year-old woman had a break-in at her house, and Archie argued it wouldn't have happened if she had a gun.

    Mike: "How would 88-year old walk around carrying a gun?!"

    Archie: "I don't know, maybe put in her stocking next to her varicose vein!"

    Some more lines: Archie's daughter, Gloria, shouts out statistics about how many people are killed by guns. Archie: "Would it make you feel any better if they were pushed outta windows, little girl?"

    Mike mentions Supreme Court rulings in favor of gun control. Archie responds with "the Supreme Court ain't got nothin to do with the law!"

    Fun stuff, although I left out the more ethnic-oriented comments from Archie -- thought it best to stay away from those. However, there was some funny dialogue from the other episode on the flight, which had Archie and his wife Edith visiting cousin Maude (Bea Arthur). Maybe this was the episode that launched that show -- "Maude."

    Some exchanges:
    Maude: "I happen to be a Hubert Humphrey Democrat."
    Maude's daughter Carol: "What does that mean?"
    Maude's husband Walter: "It means she's not against anything."

    One more!

    Walter to Carol: "Why are you wearing white for your wedding?"
    Maude chimes in: "Because white has always been a symbol of innocence and purity in marriages."”
    Walter: "Married before ... multiple affairs ... so how did she manage that tricky u-turn back to innocence and purity?"

    Those shows made the flight ... lotta laughs.

    September 17: It's still known as America's bloodiest day

    September 17, 2010 2:14 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    On this date, September 17, more Americans were killed, wounded, or missing than on any other single day in American history -- not on 9/11, not in the Argonne Forest, not even at Pearl Harbor. It was outside of a sleepy little town in Western Maryland called Sharpsburg, along a meandering stream locally known as Antietam Creek.

    The year was 1862, and this quiet place -- as relatively unpopulated today as it was then -- was where two great armies of the American Civil War crashed into each other in dawn-to-dusk bloodshed that produced 22,717 casualties on both sides -- 3,650 killed, 17,300 wounded, 1,770 captured or missing -- in an epic fight that ultimately resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation that freed Americans held in slavery.

    It was America's bloodiest day.

    Why it happened along Antietam Creek was largely an accident. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, for the first time, was invading the North, largely to relieve Virginia, which had been under prolonged Union attack for more than a year.

    Mountains and Rebel cavalry screened Lee's movements from prying federal eyes, and Union commander George Brinton McClellan had no idea where the Confederate army would strike ... until five days before the battle when a Union private from Indiana found in the grass where he was camped a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars.

    The brand of cigars and who got to smoke them is lost to history, but the paper containing them turned out to be General Lee's Special Order 191, which detailed the Southern army's entire plan for the invasion. It didn't take long for that lost order to make its way to General McClellan, who managed to get his lumbering blue-clad army moving to intercept the Confederates, on a course for Antietam Creek.

    The sun rose that September 17 with the Union and Confederate armies facing each other over terrain that came to have ominous names -- the West Wood, the Cornfield, the Bloody Lane, and the Burnside Bridge. When fighting ended, the Confederate army was still intact, but damaged so severely that General Lee ordered it back across the Potomac and into Virginia, ending the invasion.

    The next time these armies would face one another on Union soil would be less than a year later around a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.

    Executive layoffs at Boeing, Lockheed Martin signal tough times ahead

    September 11, 2010 6:24 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    Boeing and Lockheed Martin leaders call it re-aligning, focusing on core competencies, better positioning for the future, empowering the younger generation, yadda, yadda, yadda... but what they really mean is that the Obama Administration's next Department of Defense budget is likely to be a lot smaller than in years past and the big primes want to hoard their cash now by eliminating high-level executive salaries -- about 600 in the case of Lockheed Martin.

    I'd heard rumblings in my travels this summer from defense electronics suppliers that there could be trouble in the defense market. These recent announcements from behemoths -- Lockheed Martin and Boeing -- are probably only the beginning. It's not that hardware and software solutions won't be needed it's just that there will be fewer opportunities.

    The growth areas will continue to be unmanned systems and electro-optics for unmanned and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms. Electro-optical companies should still see steady growth. A sign of this might be the recent acquisition of electro-optical systems and multispectral sensors specialist OASYS Technology LLC in Manchester, N.H., by BAE Systems .

    As one system integrator told me at the AUVSI unmanned systems show this summer in Denver "we know there will be unmanned platforms getting funding, but guessing the right one will be the trick."

    Do not fear Lockheed Martin and Boeing are not in trouble and they are still cash cows, but they are letting go of some experienced good people and that is unfortunate to say the least.

    This reminds me of something someone once told me when there were layoffs at a publishing company I'm somewhat familiar with. A long-time manager was let go not due to cause or because his property was performing poorly, but rather to maintain the property as a cash cow -- that at the end of the day it's all about maintaining cash cowness.

    I hope that someday I find my own cash cowness...

    Is your embedded system supplier "board agnostic?"

    August 28, 2010 12:45 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    I know what you’re thinking -- please not another marketing buzz term. I hope "board agnosticism" or "board agnostic" doesn't fall into that category, because I fear I may have accidentally coined it this week at the AUVSI show in Denver while talking to embedded systems designers.

    It came up during conversation with Michael Humphrey of APLabs, now a part of Kontron about how they are still going to use Kontron's competitors' single-board computers in the rugged electronic systems and chassis APLabs designed, and not become a Kontron-component only shop.

    So I went around the corner and asked the folks at Curtiss-Wright Controls Electronic Systems if they were board agnostic too? Curtis Reichenfeld, their chief technical officer, replied "yes, we are board agnostic, absolutely, we give the customer what they want. I love that term by the way!"

    I thought oh hell, I just gave the embedded community another marketing mumbo jumbo phrase, like ecosystem, or thought leader. I'm going to see board agnostic in a flurry of press releases the rest of the year, and know I only have myself to blame.

    Could be worse, a company could say that their board product is "best of breed"... Ugh. It drives me nuts when I see an electronic chip or software tool labeled as best of breed like it's an entry in the Westminster Kennel Show.

    I got one other linguistic gripe before I end this -- whiteboarding. A colleague recently told me we need to back to the office and whiteboard our goals.

    Whiteboard is NOT a verb.

    I wanna go to UAV school

    August 27, 2010 1:09 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    Journalism school was fun, but how cool would it be to enroll in a college and declare your major as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations? Well you can! L-3 Link Simulation & Training and the University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks, N.D., are jointly creating an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) Training Center located on UND's campus and Grand Forks Air Force Base, beginning operations in March 2011.

    It will be a non-military educational that provides initial qualification and continuation training for operators of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs . All you have to be is a U.S. citizen, according to L-3 Link officials.

    It makes sense, as most students coming out of school today find operating electronics, computers, video games, the Wii entertainment system, etc., to be second nature.

    It reminds me of -- now I'm dating myself -- of a movie called "The Last Starfighter" from the early 1980s about an alien race that rigs a video game on Earth so that the kid who gets the record qualifies to fly their starships, and they kidnap him to help them win a galactic war.

    I don't think it would crazy for the UND or the Air Force to put a video game out there involving UAV operation, and rewarding the highest scorer with a scholarship to the UAS Training Center.

    Not as far-fetched as that campy 80s movie...

    Robot convoy

    August 27, 2010 9:20 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    Remember the Sam Peckinpah movie Convoy starring Kris Kristofferson from the 1970s about outlaw truck drivers? Imagine if all the trucks were robots.

    Lockheed Martin engineers are working on such an unmanned vehicle convoy concept. Ok, not exactly robots, but a system that enables military convoys to be unmanned, thereby cutting down on casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) .

    The Lockheed Martin concept is called Convoy Active Safety Technology, or CAST, and it uses kits that turn military transport vehicles into autonomous vehicles . According to the Lockheed data sheet it uses Lockheed's AutoMate sensor and actuation kit that enables lateral and longitudinal control of different tactical wheeled vehicles relative to a lead vehicle within a five-vehicle convoy.

    Lockheed Martin officials claim that CAST reduces fatigue, eliminates rear-end collisions, and enhances operator situational awareness. The system also has night-vision capability .

    AUVSI traffic in Denver steady, but it lacks DC excitement

    August 26, 2010 7:30 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI show) in Denver this week had steady traffic, and exhibitors were pleased with the leads they had, but the majority I spoke to said there was more of a buzz in Washington at last year's event.

    Organizers of the event said that traffic was up over last year with more than 6,200 as of Thursday afternoon. Last year they said the event in Washington attracted close to 5,500 attendees. It should be noted that the numbers are for total attendance -- including exhibitors and there were 110 more exhibits this year.

    Attendees definitely see unmanned systems as a major target for Department of Defense funding over the next few years, but right now there is uncertainty as to which systems will get funding. They put that down to the uncertainty of what the Obama administration will cut.

    There were more embedded systems suppliers exhibiting at this show than in years past such as Bittware and Extreme Engineering. Seems like a no-brainer to me as unmanned systems requirements focus on small size, low weight and low power -- right up the alley of the embedded military systems designers. If they're not here, they should be.

    Thermal management name change good move for Parker, Spraycool

    August 26, 2010 10:56 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    This week at AUVSI in Denver Dan Kinney of Parker Hannifin Aerospace Thermal Management Systems in Cleveland pulled me into his booth to show all their new thermal management products and briefly tell me on how they are branding themselves.

    Kinney came with Parker's acquisition of Spraycool in Liberty Lake, Wash., a company which had its ups and downs over the years, but always had interesting technology, that is now backed by Parker’s capital .

    Hence the name change -- taking Parker's Advanced Cooling Systems and Spraycool and combining them into a Thermal Management Systems Group.

    The term "thermal management" is pretty much the buzz phrase from what I've seen in the industry for cooling electronics in military systems where heat and power must be kept to a minimum -- a tougher challenge every year as processors continue to generate excessive amounts of heat.

    We've used the term to describe our coverage of this topic for articles , webcasts , and conference sessions .

    Thermal management is not hot right now, but it is cool.

    Yeah, I know, but I couldn't resist...

    Manned or unmanned aircraft ... is there a choice?

    August 25, 2010 9:56 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    During diner with a buddy of mine last week -- Peter L. -- I mentioned that I would be at the AUVSI show this week in Denver. Peter is a big military technology buff and likes my job even more than I do, but I was surprised to hear him say we should stop making new fighter jets and focus solely on the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) -- not an opinion I often hear from those outside the military industry, as fighter jets and fighter pilots are a bit more glamorous than spy drones.

    His main argument was fiscal -- UAVs cost less to make and can go places human-piloted planes cannot. I'd add to his list that UAV flight training costs less than manned flight training. Many folks are making the same argument and taking it a step further asking if it is even necessary to have trained fighter pilots flying UAVs.

    I've always been in favor of manned missions over robotic missions when it comes to space exploration, but when it comes to the battlefield -- the more unmanned systems the better because quite simply they save lives from the unmanned ground systems that recon urban hot zones to the armed Predator UAV that take out enemy forces in Afghanistan.

    However I don't think we should do away with the manned fighter aircraft, they are as essential as the UAVs to success on the battlefield. One of the big themes I'm hearing this week is the push toward manned and unmanned teaming on the battlefield.

    It is already happening in some circles such as the VUIT-2 system on Apache helicopters, which enables Apache pilots to access UAV-generated intelligence. UAVs can enter areas, which might be too risky for the fighter pilot to make precision strikes or to provide the necessary reconnaissance before manned aircraft can enter the area.

    David, Vos, of Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said during a briefing this week that manned/unmanned teaming should not just be thought of as a military scenario, that it can happen in civilian space too.

    Vos also says that at some point planes will be pilot optional -- in other words if the pilot doesn't feel like flying he doesn't have to, the autonomous controls will handle everything -- including emergencies. "Before I'm in the ground I want to be able to get in the cockpit flying to see my mother-in-law, and decide that I don't feel like piloting, so I will read the paper instead and enjoy a cup of coffee."

    My friend Peter is right on one point -- UAVs are the future of military airpower and will be essential to every mission -- however they will not replace manned aircraft, but rather make them even more capable, effective, and more deadly to enemy forces.

    UAV ground control systems follow-up

    August 25, 2010 8:22 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale
    Last month I wrote a feature for our print magazine on ground control stations (GCS) for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the U.S. Defense Department's plans for a common GCS that can work with any UAV platform. This week at the AUVSI show in Denver, I had a little chat with George Romanski, president of Verocel, about the efforts he and others are making to build the software architecture for the future GCS.

    Romanski said it will use a secure multiple independent levels of security (MILS) software architecture with Linux running on top so to speak. With MILS the secure data will be protected within the MILS architecture.

    The architecture will also be certified to the necessary Federal Aviation Administration standards such as DO-178B . The system should be deployed between 2013 and 2015.

    I will be doing a more in-depth look at the architecture in the coming months.

    Most serious DOD information warfare attack may have happened two years ago in the Middle East

    August 25, 2010 2:56 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    We're just getting word of what may be the worst-ever breach of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) computers, in an information warfare attack which reportedly happened two years ago in the Middle East, according to a story breaking this afternoon in the Washington Post .

    The Pentagon says a foreign spy agency was able to insert a flash drive into a DOD laptop computer, which spread a malicious code undetected on classified and unclassified Pentagon computer systems in what may be the worst information security problem ever reported, according to the Post report.

    The story, entitled Pentagon computers attacked with flash drive , says the incident previously was kept secret, and was revealed in a magazine article by Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn and released by the Pentagon today.

    The malicious code, the Post reports, established the capability to steal military secrets. We'll keep you informed as this story develops.

    Ghosts of embedded computing past: it's about time Curtiss-Wright pulled up stakes and found new digs

    August 11, 2010 2:04 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    AUGUST 11, 2010 Executives at Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing , at long last, are stepping out from the shadows of their past and are relocating to a new headquarters in the Washington, D.C. suburbs -- to a place with no connection to the company's past as it rose to become one of the dominant suppliers of rugged embedded computing components and systems for aerospace and defense.

    Curtiss-Wright has finished moving a couple of miles east of its longtime headquarters in Leesburg, Va., to Ashburn, Va. I wonder why this move didn't happen sooner. Not that there's anything wrong with Leesburg and those just-vacated offices, but that facility has a long and storied history. There are ghosts in that place that I'm sure Curtiss-Wright people had mixed feelings about leaving behind.

    The new 31,000-square-foot Curtiss-Wright facility, company officials say, has 50 percent more space than the old Leesburg site, and has room for as many as 100 employees. Room for growth; that's great. Still, the best thing about the move, I think, is the company is finally leaving the old Ixthos Inc. facility behind.

    Some of us who have been around this business long enough (and you know who you are) remember Ixthos as a scrappy, innovative embedded digital signal processing company, which started in Leesburg in 1991 with larger-than-life Jeff Milrod in charge. This was back in the days of dedicated digital signal processors from companies like Texas Instruments, Intel Corp., and Analog Devices -- back before the first PowerPC processors stepped in to take over a lot of that DSP work.

    I remember visiting Milrod at the Leesburg offices back in the early '90s. Really tough DSP programming scared a lot of smart people back then, but not Milrod. He was fearless in his use of some of the first Analog Devices SHARC DSPs in tacking difficult radar, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence applications. This was back in the days when the SHARC was lovingly described as "not human-friendly."

    Well, one thing led to another and Ixthos was acquired in 1997 by Dy 4 Systems of Kanata (now Ottawa), Ontario. Milrod, meanwhile, took his DSP work with him and moved up to Concord, N.H., to a company that's still around, BittWare Inc. Milrod's company still specializes in tough DSP problems, but does it these days with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) instead of the old DSPs.

    For a while, under Dy 4's leadership, the Leesburg site was primarily a satellite of the main Dy 4 action in Canada. I think Leesburg is where Dy 4 stashed its mad scientists, but that's another story. At any rate, the Leesburg facility was pretty quiet for a while, that is, until early 2004 when Dy 4 was acquired by Curtiss-Wright -- a company that burst on the embedded computing scene in 2001 when it acquired what was then Vista Controls in Santa Clarita, Calif.

    The year 2004, it's no understatement, was a transformative year for the U.S. embedded computing industry -- particularly where military and aerospace applications were concerned. The Dy 4 acquisition elevated Curtiss-Wright from a serious player to a dominant player in embedded computing. Coincidentally, 2004 also thrust Leesburg back into the center of things, as Curtiss-Wright made the place its headquarters of Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing, where it has remained until the move to Ashburn.

    So the move is a good one, particularly for the corporate identity of Curtiss-Wright Embedded. No longer is the company's Virginia headquarters the old Ixthos, and no longer is it the old Dy 4. Now Curtiss-Wright Embedded starts out fresh, with a headquarters that's all Curtiss-Wright.

    Despite good news out of Farnborough, avionics suppliers still expect slow recovery

    July 31, 2010 3:23 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    I spent the past week all over the west coast visiting supporters of our avionics shows -- Avionics USA and Avionics Europe -- in California. Everyone was aware about the good news coming from the Farnborough International Airshow last week regarding commercial aircraft sales, but they are remaining cautious about any potential market recovery.

    I spent the past week all over the west coast visiting supporters of our avionics shows -- Avionics USA and Avionics Europe -- in California. Everyone was aware about the good news coming from the Farnborough International Airshow this month regarding commercial aircraft sales , but they are remaining cautious about any potential market recovery.

    At Farnborough the major airplane manufacturers announced airplane orders in the hundreds, signaling an upswing in the market, however it will be a while till this good news trickles down to the avionics level.

    The commercial aviation market ramped down awfully fast, but it will not ramp up as quickly, cautioned Ben Daniel, business manager for avionics at GE Intelligent Platforms in Goleta, Calif. It will be a slow recovery but people will still be buying airplanes and designing avionics systems , he added.

    Air Electro president Steve Strull in Chatsworth, Calif., told me he is excited about the airplane orders and that his aviation connector business has been steady, weathering the economic times well -- as Air Electro's connectors were designed into the aircraft manufacturing systems as well the finished aircraft systems.

    Retrofits for aircraft are also a growth market, Strull added.

    Designers of military avionics systems, say it's a matter of waiting and seeing where the Obama administration is going to spend dollars and if they are going to spend dollars. "We're seeing lots of activity in terms of proposals, but no one is sure how much Obama is going to cut out of the defense budget to pay for his social programs," said Doug Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing at Aitech Chatsworth, Calif.

    When the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter and the F-22 Raptor cancellations were announced many in the defense industry thought funding would go toward upgrading older aircraft platforms, but Patterson said that such retrofits may also be curtailed as well depending on what the Obama administration will do.

    Democrats in Congress move to get their pound of flesh from the military while they still have time

    July 23, 2010 1:24 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    JULY 23, 2010. Interesting story in The New York Times on Thursday, entitled Pentagon Faces Intensifying Pressures to Trim Budget . The thrust of the story is this: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, which leads the Democrat majority in Congress to consider reducing current and future defense budget requests for the first time since 9/11.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates, meanwhile, is trying to stave off Pentagon budget cuts by convincing Democrats in Congress that he can make the military more efficient, and use money saved to pay for military procurement , operations, military research and development , and other costs.

    Nevertheless, the story goes on, Democrats in Congress are trying to move more quickly than the Pentagon had expected in trimming the DOD budget request for next year. Best of all, The Times writes, "And in the longer term, with concern mounting about the government’s $13 trillion debt, a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission is warning that cuts in military spending could be needed to help the nation dig out of its financial hole."

    Let's see, the Democrat majority in Congress, with backing from the Obama Administration, domestically has shoved through extremely expensive, unpopular, mostly ineffective measures concerning economic stimulus, health care, and jobs security, but it's up the nation's military "to help the nation dig out of its financial hole." This just doesn't make sense, and it's not what's really going on.

    The Democrats are about to lose control of Congress in November, little more than three months away; they know it, and we know it, so if they are going to shove any more unpopular measures through, then they have to do it quickly. They have little more than three months before the November elections -- a period in which Congress won't do much because Democrats will spend that time fighting for their political lives on the campaign trail -- and the three months of a lame-duck congressional session before the new Congress is seated next January.

    I rarely, if ever, trust Democrats when it comes to the military. Except for a few, most mouth platitudes about supporting the troops and the nation's defense, but at heart many of the Democrats in Congress today loathe the military on a visceral level, a phenomenon most likely left over from the '60s generation, of which many of today's serving lawmakers are members. These Democrats would like to gut the military and use the money saved for their favored domestic social programs that buy them votes. Since 9/11, however, their hands have been tied politically. Moreover, many Democrats in Congress believe that defense has gotten more than its fair share of the federal budget since George W. Bush took office in 2000, and now's their chance to get even, but the clock is ticking down.

    Anything these Democrats want to do, they have to do it fast; desperation is starting to show. So now their gaze falls on the military, which has been struggling to slog through the tasks assigned it in South Asia now for nearly a decade. Desperation often results in rash action. Look for the rhetoric in Congress to become increasingly down on the military and military expenditures in the coming months, as Democrats attempt to lay the groundwork for big DOD budget cuts while they still have the time to do so.

    Now obviously the military can find ways of increasing efficiencies and streamlining procurement, and Defense Secretary Gates seems to be going in the right direction in that regard. This, unfortunately, is not what many Democrats in Congress want to see, however. Instead, I believe many of them want to do the military material harm between now and next January.

    The only way to avoid damage to the U.S. military during that time is to find any way to stall Congress until the clock runs out.

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    Working the Farnborough air show, backwards and in high heels

    July 19, 2010 5:39 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    FARNBOROUGH, England, 19 July 2010. There are plenty of amazing here at the Farnborough International Airshow -- reportedly the largest air show in the world this year. Jet fighters , bombers, widebody jumbo jets , aircraft stunt teams. Still, nothing is more amazing to me here than the number of women wearing high heels -- and not just any high heels, but really tall ones.

    Working this show one can literally walk miles in the course of a day. Those minding the booths are on their feet all day -- and these are long days -- and I can't imagine many more torturous things than to do it in high heels.

    The ladies wearing those really tall heels don't look like they're in pain yet, but I should give them time; it's only 11 a.m. I'll check facial expressions again later in the day, but my bet is most of them will be looking fresh as ever.

    I'm reminder of Ginger Rogers, the dancer of movie fame, who often was paired with Fred Astaire in some of the silver screen's most breathtaking dance numbers on film. Folks always seemed to wonder why Ginger Rogers always seemed to play second-fiddle to Astaire.

    Rogers fans often asked why she didn't have equal billing to Astaire, since she did everything he did -- except she did it all backwards and in high heels. Seeing all these women at the Farnborough air show remind me of Ginger Rogers. They're probably working at least as hard as the guys, except they're doing it backwards in high heels.

    So as I stroll the aisles and static displays this week, I'll be looking for more than just the latest avionics, the most advanced jet fighters, and the biggest commercial jetliners. I'll also be looking for women wearing sensible shoes.

    Stay tuned; I'll let you know.

    Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern: I think I have an idea what he's talking about

    July 15, 2010 3:59 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    15 July 2010. The movie buzz is heating up concerning actor Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern, starring in a superhero movie scheduled for release next summer. I'm particularly excited about this upcoming movie because it could have a connection to Military & Aerospace Electronics .

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't end up on the cutting room floor, but last March, at the movie producer's request, I sent off several print copies of Military & Aerospace Electronics for potential use in the upcoming Green Lantern movie , starring Ryan Reynolds .

    How could this happen, you might ask? Well, story goes that the Green Lantern is a test pilot who is granted a mystical green ring bestowing him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership in an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe. It just so happens that he reads Military & Aerospace Electronics. That's what the producers told me, anyway.

    If we're lucky, moviegoers will see print copies of Military & Aerospace Electronics lying around the test pilot's ready room. I'm hoping, I'm hoping, I'm hoping those copies make it into the move.

    The latest Green Lantern buzz revolves around an interview with Reynolds in Entertainment Weekly , in which he discusses flying at high speeds during his stunts. "The first time you do it, you're deeply considering an adult diaper," Reynolds is quoted as saying.

    I think I know what he means. I might need the same attire as I have to wait another whole year to see if we make it into the move.


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    Is there anyone out there who isn't a world leader?

    July 14, 2010 2:22 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Quick show of hands: who out there isn't a world leader at something? Anyone? I thought so.

    I just love company press releases, I really do. Those safe harbor statements , always a howl, never cease to entertain. Press announcements typically begin something like this ...

    ... Some such corporation, the greatest company that's ever been, has just introduced something or other that is undeniably the greatest thing since sliced bread. Oh, and I forgot, and the company (the greatest company that's ever been) is the first company (and the only company) to ever do so (or ever will be).

    Now I know all you good PR folks out there (the greatest PR folks that have ever been, I acknowledge) get paid more than me, and I fully realize that you deserve it. Still, I feel for you, writing that stuff. It's even more painful to know that most of you are more talented and better writers than I am .

    At any rate, my favorite PR-ism lately is "a world leader," which usually in the first couple of sentences -- right there beside "the greatest company that's ever been." I swear, every company out there is a world leader in whatever it does ... not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I go to sleep easy every knight knowing that all the companies I cover (the greatest companies that have ever been, of course) are all world leaders in what they do.

    God, is this a great country, or what?

    Soldier systems focus on infantry technology to achieve the mission and get the fighters home alive

    July 13, 2010 4:33 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Soldier systems -- wearable computers , networked sensors, pocket-sized navigation and guidance systems, and other soldier electronics -- have been on my mind lately. I often wonder what the American infantryman about the storm the beaches at Normandy would think of the wearable electronics on today's soldiers on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    On the Normandy beaches, the average infantry technology consisted of a rifle, ammunition, water, food, rudimentary first-aid gear, helmet, extra socks, and really not a lot else besides the soldier's uniform and boots. some carried radios, but not many. Don't get me wrong, he had a back-breaking load to carry, but fundamentally not a lot different from the soldier in the ranks during the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and before.

    Today's soldier technology is a whole lot different. There is amazing capability, ranging from night-vision goggles and rifle sights, networked radios not much larger than a deck of cards, global positioning system (GPS) receivers and computers the sizes of cell phones, and more. The choices today's soldier faces also are much more complex than the fighting man of decades past.

    All that new capability means extra weight to carry, not only in terms of the electronic and electro-optic devices available, but also for the batteries to power these devices. Depending on the mission, the soldier today and his commanders must decide if they want to carry sensors or a second canteen of water, radios or more food, handheld computers or extra ammunition.

    The point is, today's soldier must strike the right balance between capability, firepower, and survival equipment that will enable him to perform his mission and then get back home alive.

    One of the primary goals of those specifying and designing soldier systems technology is to keep these critical choices to a minimum, or more to the point, help soldiers make choices of ammunition, water, food, AND sensors, communications, and computers, rather than the other way around.

    Soldier systems today, however, are not just about piling on capability to the warfighter in the field. Soldier technology also is about helping infantrymen fight smarter, and to give them new ways not only to help them fight, but also to survive and thrive long after returning home to their homes and families.

    Soldiers in the field take a beating, from the elements, from stress and fatigue, and of course from bullets and explosives during battle. Explosions -- especially those from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted along roadsides, have the potential to create far more serious injuries than meets the eye.

    A soldier might get caught in an IED explosion, and simply get up and dust himself off after waiting for the stars and spider webs to clear from his head. Yet head injuries from concussive forces like roadside bombs can cause lingering injuries that might take days or weeks to make themselves known.

    Now picture this. What if a soldier had a motion sensor embedded in his helmet able to measure the concussive force of an explosion on the soldier wearing it? What if a little red LED in this helmet sensor started flashing if the force of the explosion were more than a human being should be able to withstand safely over the long term?

    No need to speculate anymore; that technology's here, and is being deployed in the field. It's just one of the aspects of soldier systems that are making the modern soldier ever-more effective, deadly, and survivable.

    F-15 Silent Eagle stealth fighter could be considered as alternative to F-35 joint strike fighter amid tight budgets

    July 12, 2010 1:28 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The Boeing Co. may be stealing a march on rival defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. with the radar-evading F-15 Silent Eagle stealth fighter , designs for which made a demonstrator flight last week in St. Louis. As a stealth aircraft , the 1970s-vintage F-15 jet fighter may be a viable near-term alternative to the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter in some applications.

    The stealthy version of the F-15 uses special surface coatings, conformal internal weapons bays, and other advanced technologies that enable the F-15 Silent Eagle to evade some kinds of air-to-air radar systems, although experts say the stealth version of the F-15 may not be able to avoid sophisticated ground-based air-defense radars. Conformal weapons bays also may enable the aircraft to function as a stealth bomber .

    Israel is watching the F-15 Silent Eagle closely , and may consider the Boeing aircraft to be a more affordable and more available combat aircraft than the F-35. Some in the Israeli defense ministry favor buying the F-15 Silent Eagle in the face of expected additional delays in the F-35 development. The Silent Eagle also reportedly is one-third less expensive than the F-35.

    Israeli purchases of the F-15 Silent Eagle would enhance the aircraft's credibility in the international market, which is precisely Boeing's target for the new aircraft. Boeing developed the Silent Eagle in response to international user requirements for a cost-effective, high-performance fighter aircraft to defend against future threats.

    The F-15 Silent Eagle offers unique aerodynamic, avionics, and radar cross section reduction features that provide the user with maximum flexibility to dominate the ever-changing advanced threat environment. The aircraft's Conformal Weapons Bays can carry a variety of air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground weapons.

    With the U.S. defense budget under increasing pressure to downsize, who knows? If the Silent Eagle catches on internationally, perhaps it could find a home in U.S. fighter squadrons.

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    DARPA wants electronic warfare systems that learn from their mistakes to keep pace with the latest communications technology

    July 10, 2010 5:28 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Jamming RF signals in electronic warfare operations is getting a lot harder these days. It seems the ability of many military wireless communications devices like cell phones, battlefield radios, and command-and-control networks are developing the ability to adapt automatically to their environments to maintain the highest-quality signals possible.

    This phenomenon is called adaptive communications -- or the notion of communications devices able to change quickly in response to conditions in the environment to make sure their signals get through. That presents a problem to the electronic warfare guys -- those whose job it is to jam the bad guy's signals to prevent them from getting through.

    Unfortunately, today's adaptive communications technology seems to be outpacing electronic warfare. That means -- for the U.S., at least -- that the bad guys can change their communications faster to keep information flowing than the electronic warfare systems experts can tweak their electronic jammers to keep pace. Now DARPA is trying to change all that with the Behavioral Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare program .

    This program -- BLADE, for short -- seeks to develop machine learning technology to enable future electronic warfare systems to adapt their jamming techniques just as quickly as the adversary adapts his communications.

    Imagine that: an electronic warfare system that sniffs around for changes in the communications patterns of the enemy, learns his system, and sends out the appropriate jamming signals in response. In other words, fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me. Sounds like DARPA is on the right track.

    It worries me, though, that commercial off-the-shelf communications technology seems to be able to turn inside developments in electronic warfare technology, but that's fodder for a future blog.

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    Embedded computing information for aerospace and military embedded systems all in one place

    July 7, 2010 6:42 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    If you're looking for information on embedded computing for aerospace and military embedded systems organized in one easy-to-find location, then you've come to the right place. Military & Aerospace Electronics is introducing its comprehensive embedded computing section for those interested in embedded computer technology, single-board computers , electronics chassis and enclosures, and everything else embedded computing on the Military & Aerospace Electronics Website at .

    embedded computing for aerospace and defense applications has always been our forte, and now we are consolidating all our coverage on military embedded systems , embedded computing, single-board computers and everything else embedded computing in one easy-to-find place. Just surf on over Military & Aerospace Electronics , click on the Embedded Computing section in the navigation bar just beneath the M&AE logo, and see everything of interest to you with regards to embedded computing.

    It's easy; just come on over. Everything we've written about embedded computing is here. Products, features, analyses, design-in case studies, and more is right at your fingertips, just one click away. Want to see for yourself? Just click here.

    Come back often to see the latest developments in military embedded computing. If you'd like to see your latest products and other announcements related to military embedded computing go up in this section, just e-mail John Keller at

    If embedded computing is your line of business, we'll see you there.

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    Aviation safety story questioning Boeing 787 Dreamliner crashworthiness takes unfair jabs at Boeing, FAA

    July 4, 2010 2:52 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    4 July 2010. I'm taking a skeptical look at an aviation safety investigative report appearing in today's editions of the Chicago Tribune that call into question the survivability of the future Boeing 787 Dreamliner in a crash. Here's the problem: the headline of the story reads " Composite material used in Boeing 787 raises safety questions ," yet the text of the story -- far down in the story -- points out that these questions have largely been answered.

    It doesn't look to me that this story is being fair to Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or to the engineers that initially uncovered potential weaknesses in the fuselage of the 787 in crash scenarios, and then went on to deal with these issues after rigorous testing. The fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner is made of lightweight, yet tough, composite materials, while most commercial jetliners are made from lightweight metals.

    Based on information in the story, it looks like Boeing and the FAA have done a pretty good job of designing the Boeing 787 to be a safe commercial aircraft . While defendable, the story's headline strongly and unfairly suggests otherwise. For good or ill, no one is going to know exactly how safe the aircraft will be until -- God forbid -- one experiences a serious runway crash.

    This story goes on for 26 paragraphs -- extensively citing five-year-old data -- before first mentioning that concerns about the 787's composite structure in a crash have been addressed with structural modifications that have satisfied experts at the FAA.

    After 26 paragraphs, the story does give detailed treatment of how the 787 has been structurally improved since 2005, yet leaves readers with nagging doubts by quoting a "composite-materials expert" who hasn't worked for Boeing for 10 years, and left the company at least five years before Boeing experts started making modifications to improve the aircraft's crashworthiness.

    I think I can see why the Tribune held this story for a slow holiday Sunday.

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    The junkyard space satellite

    July 3, 2010 8:53 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The U.S. Air Force is getting ready to launch a surveillance satellite that, much like a junkyard dog, will keep watch over the castoff debris orbiting the Earth from space missions past.

    If all goes according to plan, the Air Force will launch the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., that will keep watch on everything in orbit, from the most sophisticated and important satellites to the countless pieces of space junk that menace manned and unmanned space missions alike.

    It's like air traffic control surveillance for all the stuff in orbit. While it's easy to giggle about a high-tech orbiting junkyard dog, space junk is no laughing matter. Chunks of old spacecraft such as fuel tanks and pieces of dead satellites often pose threats to the International Space Station, the space shuttle, and vital communications, navigation, and surveillance satellites.

    For the first time, the SBSS satellite will be a full-time monitor of where satellites and space junk are, and where these objects are headed.

    This spacecraft also could be the first piece of an important space surveillance network that much like the future NextGen air traffic management system for commercial aircraft, could make it safe to increase the density of spacecraft orbiting the Earth and pave the way to make communications, navigation, and cable television programming even better than it is today.

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    Iranian early warning radar in Syria: is this a real threat, or just more posturing from Iran?

    July 3, 2010 4:24 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I'm wondering about reports of an Iranian surveillance radar system being installed in Syria
    , ostensibly to give Iran early warning if Israel attempts to bomb Iran's nuclear weapons research sites. If true, this development represents an even more severe escalation of tensions in this already-tense region that we've seen in recent months.

    The Iranian early warning radar alleged to have been installed in Syria -- located on the Mediterranean coast just to the North of Israel and Lebanon -- is supposed to be a sophisticated system able not only to give Iran early warning of any Israeli air attack, but also able to help with Syrian anti-air missile defenses.

    It's not clear, however, just how sophisticated the radar system might be, or if Israel could circumvent it simply by flying south over Saudi Arabia and over the Persian Gulf on the way to Iranian targets.

    If this sincerely is a sophisticated long-range radar system, then it could add a new dimension to the complicated military and diplomatic situation in the Middle East. If it isn't however, it might just be another example of Iranian blustering and propaganda.

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    Flying car fantasy looks like it could become reality

    June 29, 2010 9:01 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    When I was a kid it was the fantasy of everyone I knew to find a way to fly, be it with a rocket belt we saw on TV, or better yet, to have a flying car that could take off, as well as roll along the highways.

    Now it seems that fantasy could be coming true.

    Terrafugia of Woburn, Mass., is ready to market the Transition flying car, after receiving "light sport" aircraft classification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

    The Terrafugia Transition, a two-seat combination light aircraft and street-legal automobile, can travel at normal highway speeds on pavement, and at 115 miles per hour when flying. It can take off from airports or long flat stretches after folding down its wings and engaging its backward-facing propeller.

    At a cost of about $200,000, anyone willing to put in at least 20 hours flying time to quality can buy one, fly it from place to place, and store it in an ordinary garage.

    I can't help thinking, though, that this fantasy-come-true is most likely a combination of poor car and even worse airplane. Just goes to show that you ought to be careful what you wish for.

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    For the love of God, transition is not a verb!

    June 29, 2010 3:08 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I apologize in advance for the upcoming rant , but I really have to vent about seeing the word "transition" used as a verb ... or more to the point, to make clear that transition is not a verb; it's a noun -- always has been, always will be.

    It's a pity this is one of the things that drives me barking mad, that is, since I work around the defense industry and the Pentagon, where the community just LOVES to fold, spindle, and mutilate the perfectly useful word transition until this noun finally gives up and impersonates a verb.

    I just got an e-mail with a subject line that illustrates this travesty: Have You Transitioned to ISO 9001:2008 Yet?

    I remember back in the early '80s when Navy aviation was "transitioning" from the A-7 to the F-18 light attack bomber. It's as though no one has heard of the word "switch."

    Then again, perhaps a simple, useful word like "switch" is too lowly and modest to describe the switch ... ooops, sorry, the transition ... to something as monumental as a new fighter-bomber, or a new ISO standard.

    And so it goes.


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    Unpiloted, automated passenger aircraft: coming to an airport near you

    June 28, 2010 10:40 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Commercial airliners may be on the verge of a transformation every bit as significant as the switch from propeller to jet power, and once again likely will demonstrate the ability of air passengers to adapt quickly to new technologies that many say they will never accept.

    What I'm talking about is the likely future of unpiloted, automated passenger aircraft . Yeah, yeah, I've heard it before -- nobody will fly on a plane without a human pilot. We've all heard the joke about the automated passenger aircraft on which nothing can go wrong ... go wrong ... go wrong.

    Yet while it's true that passengers want to get to their destinations safely and with peace of mind, what the unpiloted passenger aircraft skeptics underestimate is how much passengers want to get to their destinations. Period. Get 'em where they want to go, when they want to get there, and they'll adapt.

    Case in point: the Boeing 707 jetliner. The 707, developed in the 1950s, was one of the first commercially successful passenger jets, and dominated commercial aviation during the 1960s and into the '70s. When its design first went onto the drawing boards, nay-sayers said passengers would never board an aircraft that didn't have propellers.

    Those in the aviation industry who believed this put their money behind other passenger aircraft designs of the day, such as the three-tailed Lockheed Constellation . Quick show of hands: how many remember the 707, and how many remember the Constellation? I thought so. Some of the first 707 passengers may have been a little nervous about seeing no propellers on the wings, but evidently that didn't last long.

    We'll see the same thing when we see the first unpiloted passenger jets, and that could be sooner than you think. New Scientist has a story out online this week entitled Drone alone: how airliners may lose their pilots . It points out research projects on both sides of the Atlantic to find ways for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to share civil airspace with passenger jets.

    It's only a matter of time, the article points out, before researchers can find a way for UAVs to share airspace with passenger jets , which will lead to unpiloted cargo aircraft, and finally to unpiloted passenger aircraft. Would you as a passenger fly in a plane without a pilot?

    Let me tell you, if this approach led to fewer delays at the airport, I'd be on unpiloted planes in a heartbeat. I'm betting you would, too.

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    Oil spill: could modified sonar help detect concentrations of undersea oil threatening wildlife and tourism in Gulf of Mexico?

    June 23, 2010 11:50 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I'm starting to hear some interesting things from naval defense contractors about gauging the magnitude of the underwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the 20 April explosion of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig.

    Two things: first, sonar equipped with modified frequencies may be able to locate and measure concentrations not only of spilled crude oil, but also of heavy metal-laden toxic dispersants used in attempts to break up the oil as it spews from the stricken well. Second, this is likely to be WAY worse than people can even imagine.

    Naval contractors are starting to talk about how to use modified sonobuoys dropped from U.S. Navy P-3 anti-submarine warfare aircraft to get a handle on just how large this oil spill really is. The problem, it seems, is that BP remains in charge of the cleanup, and has been less than eager to involve the U.S. Navy.

    This oil spill disaster has turned into a bureaucratic mess that prevents the best resources from coming to bear. Case in point: the U.S. Coast Guard is one of the point agencies responsible for responding to maritime disasters close to the U.S. coastline like this. The Coast Guard is just now getting around to discussing contracts just to measure the rate of flow of oil into the Gulf.

    The problem with the Coast Guard -- aside from its lack of a sense of urgency -- is this agency does not have adequate resources to deal with a disaster of this magnitude, while the U.S. Navy does. Sounds like it's high time to get the Navy involved ... that is, if it's not already too late for the Gulf Coast.

    So why do we need modified sonar to find concentrations of oil? Doesn't crude oil float to the surface, since it's lighter than water?

    The answer is, not always. Experts predict there are huge, lake-sized concentrations of crude oil traveling on sub-sea currents east and west along the Gulf's continental shelf. Some experts say that some of the oil starting to reach land is coming ashore without ever breaking the surface.

    Think about that. If this is the case, and I have no reason to doubt it, then many of those oil booms deployed now and in the future will be useless. Worse, a sub-sea oil slick invisible from the surface is easier to ignore for federal authorities more interested in ignoring this disaster instead of solving it.

    It's time to get the resources of the U.S. military involved in this maritime disaster. If the oil spill in the Gulf isn't a national emergency, then I don't know what is. Get the Navy, get it's P-3s, its sonobuoys, its surface ships, and its submarines to work on this disaster. Do it now.


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    Oil spill in the Gulf: you mean the studies are just beginning now?

    June 22, 2010 5:39 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I ran across an interesting tidbit in the government solicitations this morning. Seems the U.S. Coast Guard wants to award a contract to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts to measure the flow rate of the underwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that resulted from the 20 April explosion of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. That's nice ...

    ... Wait a minute! We're into the third month of an uncontrolled oil spill that has created an oil slick the size of New England, no end in sight, and the Coast Guard is just getting around to it NOW to find how much oil is spewing out of the ocean bottom?

    You mean all these statistics being thrown around -- like 39 million gallons of crude oil, or some such really big number -- are all just wild guesses?

    The Coast Guard released what the government calls a " justification and approval " notice to award a sole-source contract to Woods Hole to collect and analyze data to measure the flow rate of the continuing spill in the Gulf. This isn't saying that Woods Hole scientists are deployed and on their way to the spill; it means the Coast Guard is still just talking about it.

    By the way, the Coast Guard estimates it will need to pay Woods Hole $190,000 for the job. Doesn't sound like such a bad deal to me. I just wish they'd thought of doing this sooner.


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    The Dork's guide to pragmatism, epistemology, and removing that blasted heat from electronic systems

    June 21, 2010 4:23 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Okay, you caught me: I'm a Dork.

    I've been a Dork for a long time, and qualify for this title on many levels and subjects, yet today's foray into Dorkdom involves electronics thermal management and 19th century American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce , considered to be one of history's most influential thinkers on pragmatism, epistemology, and logic ...

    ... see, I TOLD you I was a Dork. My friends at Free Republic will give you chapter and verse on that, as they discovered after I penned a recent blog on the Russian T-50 jet fighter , but let me try to stay on track. For more on electronics thermal management, see Military electronics cooling and thermal management issues press for new materials development, potential move away from COTS .

    Anyway, what I always loved about Peirce is his uncanny ability to cut to the chase on all matters, great and small. During his lifetime from 1839 to 1914 he wrote about stuff you can't ignore -- a lot like all that heat that comes out of powerful electronics ... the heat gives systems designers fits in their attempts to get rid of it.

    Here's my favorite quote from Peirce, one that has stuck with me since I first read it in college during the late '70s, and which I thought about while researching this month's Product Intelligence report on electronics cooling and thermal management:

    "A court may issue injunctions and judgments against me and I care not a snap of my finger for them. I may think them idle vapor," Peirce wrote. "But when I feel the sheriff's hand on my shoulder, I shall begin to have a sense of actuality. Actuality is something brute."

    ... and so it is with heat in electronics. You can't theorize it away, you can't wish it away, and sometimes you can't even design it away -- not without spending a boatload of money on exotic approaches involving some sort of liquid cooling .

    I'm sure there are electronics designers out there who would agree that thermal management in today's electronics is, indeed, something BRUTE. I know more than a few of them out there who are getting a BIG sense of actuality these days when it comes to electronics cooling.

    I've been told that removing heat from electronics is one of the few real threats out there that could lead to the end of Moore's Law -- you know, the one that says computing power doubles every 18 months or so? It's hard to get the heat out, and these powerful new computers generate heat, let me tell you.

    I'm told the new Intel Core i7 microprocessors that so many are making a fuss over these days -- including us -- generates in the neighborhood of 45 Watts of heat. That's a big problem for the designers trying to build small, lightweight technology for unmanned systems and wearable computers.

    I'm also hearing that some influential military systems designers are getting so fed up with the headaches of cooling electronics that they're considering giving COTS up altogether. Yes, you heard that right. Commercial off-the-shelf computing technology often is good stuff, and it's affordable, yet it can be a pain cool in deployable embedded applications.

    Some designers out there evidently ready to throw up their hands and just start building custom electronics that has the cooling built in from the start, rather than an afterthought. At the end of the day, it just might not only be more reliable and rugged if they design systems that way, but it might be less expensive, too.

    Certainly it won't be less expensive to build and buy, but if the military is honest and looks at design, procurement, and lifetime maintenance costs, they might be better off to specify some of the really hot electronics as custom systems, rather than COTS systems.

    It's the small stuff that our fighting forces need most these days, and it's the small stuff that is so tough to keep cool. These issues are definitely NOT idle vapor, and today's thermal management engineers still have a lot of work to do.

    With the T-50, Russian jet fighters are back ... and it's none too soon

    June 18, 2010 10:21 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Ah, I'm so relieved that things are getting back to normal. I spent my formative years enraptured with the thrill of drop drills ('duck and cover;' remember that?) strategic missile gaps, the space race, submarine cat-and-mouse, missiles in Cuba, and other delights of the Cold War.

    God, how I loved it when I heard Ronald Reagan refer to the 'Evil Empire." There were periods of my young professional life when I couldn't WAIT for the Pentagon's annual edition of Soviet Military Power , which absolutely terrified the bejusus out of anyone who picked it up.

    Supersonic bombers, missile submarines as long as the Empire State Building, intercontinental and short-range nuclear ballistic missiles, scary special forces commandos, main battle tanks with guns so big they looked like just came off the USS New Jersey -- and all pointed straight at us! It was enough to make the sweat pop out on my upper lip every time I even glanced at that publication on the bookshelf.

    It was us versus the Russians. You could count on it, it was predictable; heck, it was even a comfort. Those were the days, podna.

    But then the Soviet Union collapsed, and I thought the fun was all done forever. When the U.S. and Russia started getting friendly, all of a sudden it was as if the Lakers and the Celtics had joined in a great big group hug. Not only was it kind of yucky, but it just didn't feel right. I mean, some things are just meant to be, right?

    The Global War on Terror has been long, nasty, and exhausting. Far worse, there's no arms race. The terrorists don't parade their guns, tanks, and missiles through Red Square. We have to content ourselves with rapid advances in IED detection technology, and that's just not the same as seeing a shiny new Russian guided missile cruiser every couple of years.

    But now things seem to be turning around. I'm reading lately about the new Russian Sukhoi T-50 jet fighter , and things are starting to feel comfortable again. The T-50 fighter, which should be deployed in 2015, is Russia's answer to the U.S. F-22 Raptor advanced tactical fighter. Both planes are useless as paperweights in the War on Terror, but man, do they look slick!

    Now for the best part: we finally have two teams on the field again. There's trash-talk, and everything! Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stood beside a T-50 fighter yesterday and said this: "This machine will be superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of maneuverability, weaponry, and range," Music to my ears.

    Sounds like we're all back in the saddle again ... right where we belong.

    Redesigning an established Website turns out to be a cornucopia of frustration

    June 7, 2010 11:52 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I know some of you have had complaints about the new Military & Aerospace Electronics Website . If you think YOU'VE had complaints, you wouldn't believe what we've been going through here ... but let me start from the beginning.

    Military & Aerospace Electronics has a brand new Website at You already knew that, but there's more to it, probably, than you really want to know. It all comes from our wish to bring you a better reader experience online. We know that our old Website was getting pretty dated and frayed around the edges, even though it still did the job for readers and advertisers.

    We just wanted to get ourselves into the 21st Century, and we did ... okay, 2004, but the 21st Century, nevertheless. What we've got now is a lot better that what we used to have ..., er, well, it WILL be. Soon. Yeah. At least that's what I've been told, and I have no reason to disbelieve what I've been told about this. Really.

    The ideas sounded great at first ... and, I'm sure they are great ideas, or will be, ah, eventually. They told me that online readers want their content organized into topic centers. Sounds logical. I mean, who wants to see his Web content served up in arbitrary categories that WE choose, like news, and products, and features, and stuff?

    Our readers, I was told, want to read Web content organized in categories that THEY'RE concerned with -- you know, like embedded computing , avionics , and power electronics . I get that, honestly, and I'm on board that this is the way to go ...

    ... if only it were that easy.

    With everyone in agreement, we sailed off on our adventure to improve the Website -- through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the UPGRADES are. And let me tell you, when we got to that new Website in the last days of April, those upgrades roared their terrible roars, and gnashed their terrible teeth, and rolled their terrible eyes, and showed their terrible claws ... and I wasn't as lucky as Max, who could just tell HIS wild things to "BE STILL!" Oh, no. Those upgrades grabbed me by the throat, flailed me around like a rag doll, kicked me to the curb, and left me for dead.

    And that was just in the first week.

    I have this nagging feeling that everyone knew from the get-go how hard this was going to be -- except me. I'm a trusting soul, and I'm a sucker for that sales pitch of hey, this is going to be good for everybody -- readers, advertisers, folks who come in out of the cold from Google. Everyone's going to LOVE this; you just gotta give it a chance.

    Everyone hears this, right? You think I'd learn.

    I could go through all the problems and horrors for you, but I'll just cut to the best one: the search function -- or more accurately the lack of one. Seems that little detail somehow was overlooked when we changed over from the old site to the new one.

    What we got for the first couple of weeks was a gorgeous, shining, majestic new site that couldn't find its butt with both hands; I could tell you different, but I'd be lying. It was so bad that we could type in the headline located just below the search bar, and all we'd get is that nasty, mean, taunting little message, "no results found." Good thing it's finally fixed.

    I swear the thing would laugh demonically after coming up empty of results. It got personal, it got ugly, we got calls from irate readers ... and I hereby publicly apologize to my colleagues here at work who heard things emanating from my office that ... well, that they shouldn't have.

    The good news, though, is all that bad stuff is behind us ... I think. The search function has come back to life, and yields pretty good stuff. Our topic centers -- avionics intelligence and embedded computing -- are coming together nicely, and we're trying to figure out how to add power electronics, electro-optics, and several other topic centers over the next several months to help our readers find what they need, fast.

    If only I'd known beforehand, I might not have been so trusting. Just goes to show you that no good act ever goes unpunished ... ever.

    What's backup plan if satellites go down on NextGen air traffic management system?

    June 3, 2010 1:02 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The NextGen air traffic management system represents a revolutionary advancement in air traffic control , as the future system will use satellite navigation and guidance to enable commercial jetliners to fly not only straight lines to their destinations, but also to control their trajectories and flight profiles based on the performance of each aircraft to save time, fuel, and other operating costs.

    But what happens if the satellites go down? This isn't out of the realm of possibility. A nuclear weapon detonated in low-Earth orbit could destroy or disable upwards of 80 percent of the navigation satellites on which not only NextGen air traffic management , but also any kind of Global Positioning System (GPS)-based navigation depends.

    It worries me that countries we might consider to be rogue nations -- I'm thinking of Iran and North Korea here -- either have or are close to developing nuclear weapons and the means to boost these into Earth orbit and explode them there, taking out most of the communications, navigation, and home entertainment satellites residing there. Let's face it, it's only a matter of time before terrorist organizations get their hands on nukes capable of doing this job.

    So assuming that we will in a short time have a primarily satellite-based air traffic control system, what do we do if the worst happens?

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington has considered this possibility and has a backup plan in place, says Ronald Stroup, chief systems engineer at the FAA, who made his comments today at the Avionics USA conference and trade show in San Diego.

    Stroup told conference attendees that the FAA has plans to continue maintaining its network of ground-based radar stations -- perhaps not all of them, but enough to do the job. In addition, FAA experts have plans to extend the ranges of ground-based radar systems to continue with air traffic control if satellite-based systems malfunction.

    The FAA also plans to maintain its distance measuring equipment (DME) navigation systems so commercial aircraft can continue navigating from place to place using ground-based radio beacons. It might not be as efficient as the NextGen system, but at least we'll still have a functioning air traffic management system.

    Finally, Stroup says the FAA plans to maintain radio-based voice communications to relay orders, directives, and crucial flight data to commercial aircraft in the event of a disaster that renders satellite-based systems inoperable.

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    Decades later, Lakehurst, N.J., is still blimp central for the U.S. Navy

    May 27, 2010 6:35 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I see the Navy's mad scientists at blimp central -- Lakehurst Naval Air Station, N.J. -- are at it again in their continuing efforts to give satellite designers a run for their money.

    Seems the Naval Air Warfare Center Lakehurst folks are starting design of a lighter-than-air stratospheric airship with surveillance and communications payloads for emergency military operations across the globe.

    The blimp guys at Lakehurst are onto something. They know that with all the nation's financial woes, something's gotta give in the defense budget over the next several years, and they're looking to airships as a way that's cheaper and quicker to develop than those expensive orbiting satellites.

    You could launch an aerostat as a persistent surveillance platform and communications relay from almost anywhere -- even at sea -- and move it within hours or days to hot spots around the world. This is obviously an attractive alternative to waiting for the weather to clear at Cape Canaveral.

    Sometimes the old solutions are the best. Decades ago the Navy relied heavily on blimps for surveillance of the world's oceans. One of the biggest aircraft hangars in the world -- it's so big it generates its own weather -- is at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif. It was built to house blimps back in the day. Now it's a curiosity along the Bayshore Freeway.

    I note with a touch of humor the location of the Navy's latest blimp development efforts -- Lakehurst, N.J. This is not only where airships are born; some go there to die, as well.

    Lakehurst was the scene of the 1937 Hindenburg Disaster , in which the giant German dirigible Hindenburg mysteriously burst into flames -- they used flammable hydrogen then, not helium -- and killed 35 of the 97 people on board.

    Oh, the humanity!


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    Electronics cooling and thermal management: these are the crucial issues that will make network-centric warfare and the digital battlefield a reality

    May 25, 2010 12:51 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Thermal management -- or cooling electronics in embedded systems and other aerospace and defense equipment -- is one of the central design issues of our times. In fact, electronics cooling is probably the only issue with the potential to bring Moore's Law to a screeching halt.

    If designers can't find creative ways to keep systems cool, then they have little prospect of shrinking military electronics systems small enough to make them suitable for the latest generation of infantry soldiers in network-centric operations on the digital battlefield .

    New technological capabilities for infantry soldiers is one of the central thrusts of today's military systems development. The guys (and gals) wearing the combat boots need the ability to stay in the field longer than ever before, and they need to be effective while on military operations.

    That means they must carry radio communications , electronic navigation and guidance equipment, situational awareness of themselves and those around them, night-vision sensors , laser target designators , and a host of other equipment -- as well as the batteries necessary to run these devices.

    Suffice it to say that today's infantry equipment has to be small, rugged, and consume only tiny amounts of power. Without aggressive thermal management, none of this is possible ... and so is developing long-lasting power supplies.

    So what are the most valuable lessons learned from recent experiences in the Middle East? You can hear from some of the industry's best early next month who are leading innovations in thermal design from the chip to the system level. It's all at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum conference and trade show June 3 and 4 in San Diego.

    You can hear from Gerry Janicki of Meggitt Defense Systems; David O’Mara of AP Labs; and other industry experts talk about the issues that keep them and their colleagues up at night when it comes to thermal management issues. Make the trip; it's worth it.

    Register to attend the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum online at , by fax at 918-831-9161 with a downloadable .pdf , or by post with the downloadable .pdf to Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum/Avionics USA Conference & Exhibition Registration, P.O. Box 973059, Dallas, TX 75397-3059.


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    NextGen in the mid-term

    May 18, 2010 1:58 PM by Joseph Normandin
    Posted by John McHale

    While planning for our avionics conferences this year, the thing our advisory board kept hammering home to me was that avionics engineers don't want to hear about what's happening ten or 15 years down the road, they want to know what will help their businesses today. Hence, the theme for this year's Avionics USA conference -- NextGen in the mid-term.

    The big change coming in commercial aviation is the transition toward NextGen, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Next Generation Air Transportation System and in Europe Eurocontrol's Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) . Both are still nearly a decade away from full deployment, but avionics designers are already beginning to implement new standards and technology now, in the mid-term to be ready for the transition.

    NextGen will bring air traffic management (ATM) from a ground-based radar system to a satellite-based system. One of our advisory board members told me it will "bring the ATM decision making from the ground to the pilot" through the software and electronics he will have in the cockpit. Enabling this is Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) technology , which should cut down on midair collisions and weather-related accidents. ADS-B systems are already being implemented in aircraft today.

    NextGen avionics will be implemented in electronic flight bags , avionics displays , embedded computers, GPS and other navigation devices, and most importantly software applications such as real-time weather monitoring that enable pilots to take over their own ATM decision-making. It will also improve trajectory performance, reduce fuel emissions, and lower fuel costs through performance-based operations , specifically trajectory-based operations and required navigation performance (RNP) techniques and monitoring technology.

    Challenges facing these designers right now include costly software and hardware safety certification of NextGen systems and integrating them into old aircraft. Harmonizing with the military is also very important as many military aircraft – manned and unmanned -- fly in civilian airspace. This is especially challenging in Europe as there are many different countries, each with military branches that do not currently work well together.

    All these issues are difficult on their own with an economy that tanked and has many avionics suppliers thinking more about how to survive in the mid-term rather than how to integrate NextGen in the mid-term.

    This is why I'm most excited about a panel discussion we're having at the event next month on June 3 titled "How to Add New Avionics to Airplanes in Downturn Economy." The panelists are Rudy Bracho, senior manager of business development at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Capt. Brian Will, director airspace modernization and advanced technologies at American Airlines, Chad Cundiff, vice president of crew interface products at Honeywell Aerospace, and Joel Otto, senior director, commercial systems marketing at Rockwell Collins.

    I'm the moderator, so if you have any questions you think I should ask these guys, respond here, send them to me at, or come on down to San Diego and check out the panel. To register click here .

    Shoot me some good ones to get the panelists to open up!

    The next favorite infantry weapon: a flying gun for remote controlled UAVs that takes out snipers

    May 12, 2010 12:31 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or "micro air vehicles," you know -- the kind that soldiers launch by hand like model airplanes -- are about to get a lot scarier.

    A coalition of technology researchers, firearms experts, and micro air vehicle designers are developing an 11-ounce cannon that is mountable to a 3-pound hand-launched UAV to destroy enemy snipers and other hidden targets with a 12-gauge shotgun shell or high-explosive air burst.

    That's right; they're putting a 12-gauge shotgun on a remote-control model airplane equipped with a video camera and video link that streams video in real time to laptop computers operated by soldiers on the ground.

    Soon infantry soldiers who come under sniper attack can break out a little remote-control UAV from their backpacks, boot up a rugged laptop computer, and toss that UAV on its way. With the video link and laptop, the soldiers can search the area for the offending snipers and take them out with the aerial shotgun.

    They can do this with an inexpensive -- and even expendable -- micro UAV, video camera, and laptop computer.

    I have a feeling the guys fighting down in the mud are going to like these shotgun-equipped UAVs almost as much as they like the A-10 Warthog close-air-support aircraft ...

    ... and guess what -- that shotgun-equipped UAV not only costs a lot less than an A-10, but it's around when the infantry needs it.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

    Going back in time on the USS Cassin Young

    May 7, 2010 9:44 AM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    The line was too long to get on "Old Ironsides" -- the USS Constitution -- in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, so a friend and I checked out the World War II destroyer, the USS Cassin Young instead. What a treat.

    We were fortunate enough to bump into an amatuer historian and member of the National Park Service onboard the Cassin Young named Bob Harris. He gave us a personal tour of the ship, the highlight being the Combat Information Center or CIC right across from the captain's quarters.

    Today the command center of any naval vessel is all digitized, very different than the time capsule we stepped into that Saturday. Today navigation , radar , etc are all processed on state-of-the art displays with super fast embedded computing -- while on the Cassin Young charts marked by hand adorn the walls and table tops.

    Pictured is the plotting board for the battle of Okinawa in World War II. The top right shows radar position 3 near Okinawa where the Cassin Young was first hit by Japanese kamikaze pilots, according to Harris.

    Harris said more than 25 sailors onboard the Cassin Young lost their lives to Kamikaze pilots during World War II. Not many know of the heroism of those sailors, which is why he says he enjoys his volunteer job aboard the Cassin Young -- so he can share it with who ever will listen.

    The only downside is the rotten few who don't respect the sacrifice those sailors made and steal various objects from different parts of the ship, he says. During our visit he stopped in the captain's quarters to re-hang the captain's jacket, as some tourist most likely stopped to try it on to have a picture taken.

    HArris says the high points of his job come when a former crew member of the Cassin Young , long retired and well over 70 years old, comes for a tour. During one moment that Harris shared, a former sailor cried out in joy when he saw his old bunk and shouted to his wife "that’s where I spent two years of my life!"

    The Cassin Young is named after a hero as well. According to documents onboard the destroyer, Navy Capt. Cassin Young received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle of Pearl Harbor in World War II.

    According to Wikipedia his Medal of Honor citation reads: "For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety, above, and beyond the call of duty, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Vestal , during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Commander Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona , to which the U.S.S. Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. Vestal was afire in several places, was settling, and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Commander Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. Arizona , and subsequently beached the U.S.S. Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship."

    If you ever find yourself in the Charlestown Navy Yard, definitely visit the Constitution , but be sure not to miss the Cassin Young . Ask for Bob Harris, you'll learn quite a bit.

    For more information on the Cassin Young's specifications, visit .

    With big upgrades, the enhanced Military & Aerospace Electronics Website just keeps getting better

    May 3, 2010 9:27 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    If you haven't already seen it, surf on over to the redesigned Military & Aerospace Electronics Website at , which incorporates news and feature content from Avionics Intelligence -- the sister franchise to Military & Aerospace Electronics in the PennWell Aerospace & Defense Media Group.

    What you'll see is not only the best of the content, look, and feel of that you've come to depend on from Military & Aerospace Electronics, but also a host of improvements we designed to help you, the reader, navigate the site more easily and more quickly than you can today, get more pertinent content , and find reasons to come back frequently.

    One of the biggest changes we made involves topic centers. Today we have a few, and plan to have a lot more in the near future. These topic centers, which today involve embedded computing and Avionics Intelligence content, are designed to give readers a quick snapshot of what's important in their industries.

    Click on the gray embedded computing button right underneath the Military & Aerospace Electronics logo, for example, and you'll find the ten-or-so most recent stories we've posted on this topic. In the near future we plan to add stories to enable you to see all stories pertinent to this topic that we have posted in the past year -- and beyond.

    Now click on the Avionics Intelligence button just to the left of the embedded computing button. Here you'll find 100 percent avionics content, ranging from military, to commercial, to business aviation, and general aviation, as well as air traffic control, ground-based communications and everything else avionics -- nose to tail, air to ground, and gate to gate.

    In the not-too-distant future we plan to add topic centers such as power electronics, software, design and development tools, integrated circuits, communications, test and measurement equipment, sensors, and components. If it's important to you, we'll cover it, and make it as quick and easy for you to find as possible.

    There's more than topic centers to the new Mil & Aero Website. The navigation bar underneath the home page logo also easily leads readers to our latest content in Webcasts , white papers , the Mil & Aero Command Post online community, the updated buyers guide , and additional content on our site. Look beside the Military & Aerospace Electronic logo to find buttons that will lead readers to the Avionics USA and Avionics Europe , as well as the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum trade shows.

    Something else you'll notice about the new site is we don't just want you to be part of the audience; we want you to participate as well. Besides links to the Mil & Aero Command Post online community, the redesigned Mil & Aero home page gives readers a quick glance at the latest Twitter tweets involving Military & Aerospace Electronics.

    Want your tweet to show up on our home page? Just include the hashtag #milaero, and tweet away. You can see your words of wisdom right on our home page just below and to the right of the Industry News Flash section as you scroll down the page.

    Something you might not notice is the amount of content you can browse through on the redesigned Military & Aerospace Electronics home page. On the old page you had a limited number of stories contained in the news, Defense Executive , and Industry News Flash sections. Now you can hit the "more" button to your heart's content to browse from the latest to the oldest stories.

    We're particularly proud of the top component of the redesigned home page, which gives readers a rotating look at our most recent exclusive content , which consists of in-depth features, guest viewpoints, question-and-answer interviews, and more. Click the forward arrow to take yourself to the array of feature stories, or simply sit back and let the selections parade past you.

    There are more improvements to come to the Military & Aerospace Electronics home page. Stay tuned, and come back often to see what we have to offer. You can still see the same great sections you've come to know, such as latest news, Defense Executive for program managers and executives, and Industry News Flash for the latest new products and design-in case studies.


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    Parts obsolescence: it's the problem with COTS that just won't go away

    April 26, 2010 3:26 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    Few things have given commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology a bad name in military systems more often than obsolete electronic parts . These are the chips, diodes, connectors, and other components that generally do not have long shelf lives in commercial electronics, but which when designed into military systems can cause big and continuing headaches.

    The reason parts obsolescence is so anathema to military systems designers is lack of long-term support that the defense industry culturally has relied on for decades. While desktop computers easily can go out of date every few years, military systems often must function for decades and even longer.

    Historically, military systems designers relied heavily on a procurement system with long-term spare parts availability, as well as detailed traceability that enabled engineers not only to keep track of where to find spare parts, but also to track the reliability and quality of available spare parts. They gave barely a thought to obsolescence management .

    No so with COTS parts, for which manufacturers often end-of-life manufacturing lines and parts types with little or no warning to the systems designers who depend on them. What this phenomenon has caused is an across-the-board rethinking of all notions of system sustainment, repair, and technology upgrades.

    Obsolescence management in the COTS era constantly requires systems designers to rethink how they will repair and upgrade technology over the long term, and so exchanging ideas, successes, mistakes, and lessons learned has taken on profound importance.

    The opportunity for systems designers to compare notes and learn from one another will present itself in a presentation by Jeff Hanser, chief technology officer for Resource Analysis Corp. in San Diego, at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum conference and trade show at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, 2 June at the San Diego Convention Center .

    Hanser and other panelists will discuss the challenges of obsolescence management related to off-the-shelf parts, as well as possible solutions for managing obsolescence through open systems. Those attending can ask questions, offer their own solutions, and learn from one another during an anticipated lively question and answer period.

    Register to attend the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum online at , by fax at 918-831-9161 with a downloadable .pdf , or by post with the downloadable .pdf to Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum/Avionics USA Conference & Exhibition Registration, P.O. Box 973059, Dallas, TX 75397-3059.


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    Aer Lingus vs. US Airways

    March 30, 2010 2:17 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    My last two trips have been on Aer Lingus -- back and forth to Amsterdam for our Avionics Europe Conference -- and US Airways, which I flew to Phoenix this week for the Avionics Maintenance Conference.

    My last two trips have been on Aer Lingus -- back and forth to Amsterdam for our Avionics Europe Conference -- and US Airways, which I flew to Phoenix this week for the Avionics Maintenance Conference (AMC) .

    Granted, one was international and therefore offered some more amenities such as an in-flight entertainment (IFE) system with tons of movies, games, and albums from Frank Sinatra to Snow Patrol. However, even if you take away the IFE I'm still voting for the folks at Aer Lingus.

    Each time I've flown the Irish airline they have been as friendly as Disney World employees. Twice I've had issues making my connection in Dublin and each time they've done everything they could to get me to my next flight -- making one and missing another. After the missed connection to Boston they put me up for a night in Dublin and picked up the tab.

    It's not that my US Airways experience was negative, but nothing made it stand out -- no IFE system and no remarkable service. However, they did get me there safely and on time, which I'm always grateful for .

    The keynote at AMC this week -- an executive with US Airways -- said that the airline is installing new IFE systems this year and adding other enhancements to improve passenger comfort.

    Good news, but for this Irish Catholic it's hard to top an airline that names all its planes after Irish Saints. I believe I flew home on Saint Kealin, at least that's what the Franciscan Brother sitting next to me told me.

    Brother Martin, who spent the last three years helping the poor and drug addicts in Limerick, Ireland, says he loves Aer Lingus simply for that reason.

    It seems to make him feel his trip is bit more blessed flying on canonized wings... :)

    DSP performance of the Intel Core i7 microprocessor: the hits just keep on coming

    March 30, 2010 7:21 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Just when embedded computing developers are getting used to the benefits of the Intel Core i7 microprocessor, such as floating-point processing for high-performance digital signal processing (DSP) , they have something new to get excited about.

    The DSP performance of the Core i7, for some applications, is about to double. This should be welcome news for embedded computer developers for DSP-heavy applications like radar processing , signals intelligence , and electronic warfare .

    Better yet, Intel chip designers will not change the dimensions or pin connections of the new Core i7 microprocessors, which means single-board computer designers will be able to integrate these chips without redesigning the boards.

    Peter Carlston, platform architect of the Intel Corp. Embedded and Communications Group in Chandler, Ariz., says Intel will offer versions of the Core i7 early next year with vector registers increased from four to eight.

    That means the chip's floating point operations will increase from four operations per clock cycle to eight operations -- effectively doubling the chip's floating point performance.

    This will have two primary benefits for DSP applications designers Carlston explains. They either can do more work in the same size, weight, and power footprint, or they can do the same work in a smaller footprint.

    Imagine what that could mean for new generations of unmanned vehicles and soldier systems.

    All this should happen by the first quarter of 2011.


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    Conformity with military airborne systems crucial for SESAR integration

    March 25, 2010 12:59 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    The first presentation this morning at our Avionics Europe conference in Amsterdam covered how the military needs to be more involved in the standardization process for next-generation air traffic management technology in Europe -- the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR).

    The first presentation this morning at our Avionics Europe conference in Amsterdam covered how the military needs to be more involved in the standardization process for next-generation air traffic management technology in Europe -- the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) .

    The speaker -- Dominique Colin, standardization and certification expert at Eurocontrol in Brussels, Belgium -- said if the different European militaries are not involved now and do not embrace these standards then "we will have to wait until 2050 before there is another chance."

    Europe's situation is much more complicated than that of the U.S. because there are so many different countries with different military standards, Colin said. Complicating things even more is that the different services in these countries sometimes do not cooperate with each other, he added.

    Colin said it is a bit of a messy situation but it can be resolved. He suggested that the military should move toward performance-base operations -- meeting ATM standards through performance benchmarks rather than equipage.

    Colin also said that the different standards bodies on the civil side need to develop a better understanding of military processes and standards.

    Most importantly both sides need to embrace the standards at the beginning of each program and not halfway through, Colin said. He noted the Airbus A400M tanker aircraft program has from the beginning embraced not only military standards but civil safety and ATM standards as well.

    I spoke with one of our conference advisory board members -- Don Ward of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- and he confirmed that the U.S. military is easier to work with because it is only one defense department and that the different services within the DOD communicate much better than in years past.

    Market outlook positive among Avionics Europe attendees

    March 24, 2010 1:34 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    The mood among attendees and exhibitors at our Avionics Europe conference this week is one of optimism – regarding the market outlook and the developments in next-generation avionics technology.

    The mood among attendees and exhibitors at our Avionics Europe conference in Amsterdam this week this week is one of optimism – regarding the market outlook and the developments in next-generation avionics technology .

    Many who deal with the commercial market have felt the sting of the current global recession, but feel the market is starting to show signs of coming back – such as the successful flight tests of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and new orders for other aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.

    Officials at Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara, Calif., say the European market has been quite strong for safety-critical software applications. Echoing their comment was Barbara Schmitz, chief marketing officer of MEN Mikro Elektronik in Nuremburg, Germany, a recent entrant to the avionics market.

    MEN Mikro officials see the avionics market especially in Europe as their next growth opportunity, Schmitz says.

    The keynote address by John Law, surveillance programs manager at Eurocontrol in Brussels, Belgium, gave an update on next-generation navigation technology and a roadmap of when it will be integrated. Despite the economic woes, - Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B), Area Multilateration, and Mode-S as already beginning with most technology retrofits completed by 2017.

    The military avionics market continues to be steady especially in the U.S. CMC Electronics – an exhibitor at Avionics Europe – say the see increased demand for their military avionics displays in 2010.

    Theresa Hartley, an analyst at Forecast International in Washington says that while funding for new military platforms is decreasing, funding for retrofits is increasing, which is good news for military avionics suppliers.

    Arms embargo against the only reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East

    March 19, 2010 6:51 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The administration of Barack Obama is orchestrating an arms embargo of sophisticated military weapons against the only reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East -- Israel.

    How much sense does this make at a time when nearby Iran is nearing development of deliverable nuclear weapons and is belligerent as ever? If the U.S. and Israel do not stand united against a nuclear-armed Iran, the entire geopolitical situation in South Asia could slip out of control.

    In my darker moments I think this must be what the Obama Administration wants.

    So what's the problem between the U.S. and Israel? The Israelis and Palestinian Arabs don't like each other much, and the Obama Administration wants the two sides to get along. Israel wants to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem -- an area that has been part of Israel for 43 years -- and the Obama Administration wants the project stopped because it offends Palestinians.

    The Obama Administration can't resist intervening in an internal Israeli matter so much that the president is willing to aid and abet a nuclear-armed adversary nearby to develop into a monster international threat. This doesn't sound to me like Obama has his international priorities straight, but I digress.

    So what's this arms embargo? Since taking office, Obama has blocked all major Israeli requests for advanced U.S. weapons, including proposed Israeli procurement of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, refueling systems, advanced munitions and data on a stealth variant of the F-15E fighter-bomber.

    According to a story that ran Thursday in the World Tribune , "All signs indicate that this will continue in 2010," a congressional source familiar with the Israeli military requests said. "This is really an embargo, but nobody talks about it publicly."

    The latest development in Obama's arms embargo against Israel happened Thursday. World Tribune reported the Administration ordered the U.S. military to divert a shipment of smart bunker-buster bombs from Israel to a military base in Diego Garcia. They said the shipment of 387 smart munitions had been slated to join pre-positioned U.S. military equipment in Israel Air Force bases.

    The Obama Administration can posture with an arms embargo all it wants, but Israel has an interesting history of dealing with arms embargoes. After the 1967 War, the French government launched an arms embargo, which denied the French-build Mirage 5 jet fighter to Israel.

    By controversial means, Israel acquired detailed plans for the Mirage 5 and build their own jet fighter based on its design. The result was the Kfir jet fighter, which is Hebrew for lion cub.

    My point is that if the Israelis want bunker-busting munitions, they are perfectly capable of developing these big smart bombs on their own. Israel does amazing things when the country feels threatened; they have shown this throughout their short history.

    Put a nuclear-capable country within the range of short-range ballistic missiles near their borders, and I think Israel pull another rabbit out of its hat -- and the Obama Administration will have nothing to say about it.


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    Does the Green Lantern superhero read Military & Aerospace Electronics?

    February 28, 2010 7:08 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I know that Military & Aerospace Electronics is read by influential figures in and out of the aerospace and defense industry, but I never realized that our magazine also is the journal of choice for at least one superhero.

    It seems the Green Lantern , a test pilot who is granted a mystical green ring bestowing him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership in an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe, also is among our subscribers.

    Hey, don't look at me; I was as surprised as you. I'm pretty sure the Green Lantern's Mil & Aero subscription is in a different name -- otherwise our circulation department would have let me know a long time ago, right?

    Here's the deal: a summer action movie blockbuster is scheduled for release in June 2011, tentatively entitled The Green Lantern , that will have a plot along the lines of other recent movie releases that are based on comic book characters from DC comics, Marvel, and others -- you know, Spider-Man , Superman , Iron Man , The Incredible Hulk . This time, though Military & Aerospace Electronics just might have a bit part in the movie.

    Production on the movie has begun, and set designers contacted me the other day asking for issues of the magazine. It's possible -- based on how the final movie is edited -- that issues of Military & Aerospace Electronics will be part of airport scenes in the Green Lantern movie.

    We'll see how this develops.

    Stay tuned.

    The 2011 DOD budget is out, and the news is good

    February 22, 2010 8:59 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    The Obama Administration's military budget proposals for next year are out, and I think we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

    The aerospace and defense industry has spent months fretting about President Obama's 2011 defense budget -- more out of uncertainty than fear. It is this proposed budget, far more than the one last year, that gives us our first clear indication of how the Obama Administration plans to treat defense spending, and the verdict is, better than we thought.

    The Administration's 2010 DOD budget request for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) last year essentially was George W. Bush's last defense budget. It wasn't until the 2011 budget proposal was released earlier this month that we see clearly how Obama wants to proceed with defense spending . The numbers speak for themselves.

    The overall DOD budget is $708 billion, which consists of $549 billion in the discretionary defense budget, and $159 billion to support continuing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The discretionary DOD budget of $549 billion -- which includes proposals for military personnel, military construction, and family housing, in addition to military procurement, research and development, and operations and maintenance -- is an increase of $18 billion over the $531 billion enacted for 2010. This is an increase of 3.4 percent, or 1.8 percent real growth after adjusting for inflation, DOD officials say.

    Those top-line budget numbers, fail to convey the real story for the aerospace and defense electronics industry. To do this requires us to look closely at DOD budget for procurement, as well as the budget for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E), because these budgets largely deal with current and future military technologies.

    The 2011 DOD procurement budget asks Congress for $137.48 billion, which is up only slightly -- 1.05 percent -- from current-year procurement spending of $136.06 billion, yet the trend is clearly going in the right direction -- particularly in light of concerns that the Obama Administration was looking to cut defense spending.

    RDT&E is another story. The proposed military research budget for next year is $76.77 billion, which is down 5.13 percent from current-year spending of $80.92 billion, but was not as drastic a cut as it could be.

    Now take a look at the combined procurement and RDT&E budget lines for military communications, electronics, telecommunications, and intelligence (CET&I ) technologies. Next year's CET&I proposed budget is for $17.45 billion, which is an increase of 3.2 percent from this year's CET&I congressionally enacted spending levels of $17.45 billion.

    All this is good news for the military electronics and electro-optics industries. It means we can be on solid ground as we plan for the future. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I don't think we are going to see substantial defense spending cuts over at least the next several years; there is simply not the political will to do so.

    President Obama's agenda seems to revolve around domestic programs; for defense spending it's steady as she goes -- at least for now. If the Administration were intent on cutting defense spending, this 2011 budget was the one where this was most likely to happen, especially with a Democrat-controlled Congress that had appeared compliant to the Administration's wishes.

    Now we're into an election year, and no one in the Administration or on Capitol Hill wants to rock the boat on defense spending and preparedness as we move closer to the congressional mid-term elections next November.

    Again, barring unforeseen circumstances, we are not likely to see substantial increases in defense spending over the next several years, yet we are not likely to see major cuts, either.

    So for all of you out there who have been in mental, political, and financial holding patterns, it's time to break out and start moving forward. I don't see any end in sight in the global war on terror -- ooops, sorry ... the "overseas contingency operations" -- which means we'll see a continuing solid market for advanced sensors, battlefield networking, optics and fire control, and many other new technologies that will be involved in counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations.

    Everyone involved in the military technology business can get to sleep tonight, resting assured, that the Department of Defense is still open for business.

    Ridge and Franks: Celebrate Presidents' Day, donate to Flight 93 memorial

    February 14, 2010 6:36 PM by Courtney Howard

    Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and General Tommy Franks, USA (Ret.), honorary co-chairs of the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign, issued the following statement for Presidents' Day:

    "What better time than Presidents' Day, when America celebrates those who have held its highest office, to remember the heroes who protected targets such as the White House or the Capitol from a terrorist attack? The 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 changed history on September 11, 2001 when they fought back to take control of their plane, diverting it from its intended targets, and crashing into the remote fields outside of Shanksville, Pa.

    "We are making great progress on this important memorial. With the groundbreaking behind us and the first construction contract awarded, the memorial has entered a new building phase that will culminate with its dedication on September 11, 2011.

    "More than 57,000 donors - both large and small from across the nation and around the world - have raised over $17 million for the memorial. Another $28 million in public funds are expected toward the estimated $58 million cost of the memorial's first phase. We hope all Americans will consider lending their support and building on the growing momentum for this important symbol of our democratic values on this key national holiday.

    "Like some of our greatest presidents, the heroes of Flight 93 risked all and gave all to protect and preserve our freedoms. Americans can appropriately honor these heroes and ensure their actions are remembered by helping to build the Flight 93 National Memorial."

    The Flight 93 National Memorial is the only national park unit dedicated to the events of September 11, 2001. The memorial park sits on 2,231 acres in Somerset County, site of the plane's crash, approximately 80 miles outside Pittsburgh. The memorial will include the final resting places of the heroes as well as visitor facilities and related infrastructure.

    For information on how to contribute to the memorial, visit

    Another kind of Oscar race

    January 15, 2010 1:03 AM by Courtney Howard

    Each year at this time, I scramble to view as many Oscar contenders as I can before the award ceremony is held (March 7, this year). Nominees will be announced on Feb. 2, so nothing is official as yet, but the industry is still buzzing with speculation. Years ago, I had the privilege of covering digital content creation as a senior technical editor of a monthly trade publication on computer graphics and visual effects technologies, trends, and techniques. Today, I enjoy the benefit of seeing my previous and present roles converge; that is, a majority of today's coolest, eye-catching, and awe-inspiring films (and games, for that matter) incorporate a military, aerospace, and electronics vein.

    Heck, I would even wager that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs includes a military aspect.

    As I endeavor to take in as many soon-to-be-nominated films as possible, I am impressed by the majority that have a military or aerospace component this year.

    Now, I am not implying that the films I mention here will be nominated for an Academy Award. (I have no psychic abilities, plus some of them I could not bring myself to finish watching--namely the Transformers sequel.) Nonetheless, I will admit that I found each of the following to be novel in some way, many with regard to the advanced electronics employed in mil-aero missions and environments. The films include:

    Terminator: Salvation (this movie, in particular, included a display from Digital Systems Engineering and server from Crystal Group--something I blogged about earlier this year)
    Star Trek
    District 9
    The Hurt Locker
    Inglorious Basterds
    Monsters vs. Aliens
    X-Men Origins: Wolverine
    Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
    GI Joe: Rise of Cobra

    My favorite, by far, was Avatar. When I was in Seattle a month or so ago, the Seattle Science Fiction Museum was handing out free tickets to see Avatar at the Boeing IMAX Theater but they ran out. Rats! The trip was not wasted, however, as I was treated to a tour of the Future of Flight Museum and Boeing's facility in Everett, Wa. I highly recommend it if you're in the area (I will describe the visit in detail in a coming blog, and you can follow the Future of Flight on Twitter (#futureofflight) for some entertaining and interesting news and insights.

    I finally saw Avatar just last night in 3D, and it was phenomenal. One of my geekier friends who attended with me (for his third time) called it "pure bliss." It was two hours and 40 minutes that passed in what seemed the blink of an eye--although I am sure I kept my blinking to a minimum, with eyes wide. It's the 3D CG (computer graphics) I have been waiting for since I was a kid--and I felt a bit like one watching, in awe.

    Bravo to the industries that put out such creative films, and also to the mil-aero community that inspires them.

    Intel i7 microprocessor set to produce a tectonic shift in military embedded computer industry

    January 7, 2010 1:53 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    LAS VEGAS, 7 Jan. 2010. The military embedded computer industry is turning backflips today amidst the excitement surrounding this morning's introduction by microprocessor giant Intel Corp. of its Core i7 , i5, and i3 processors at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    Several of Intel's powerful new microprocessors are based on the company's 32-nanometer submicron processing technology, yet what has the military computer board industry excited is the floating point processing capability of the i7 device.

    Intel and its customers are attracted to floating point capability for new generations of desktop computers that can handle video faster and more efficiently than ever before, but defense and aerospace systems designers and single-board computer makers see floating point and think digital signal processing .

    While Intel sees the floating point capability of its Core i7 processor as the gateway to a new generation of complex graphics and fast streaming video, military systems designers see it as the latest and greatest way to implement signal processing for advanced radar, sonar, electronic warfare, and electro-optical applications with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) single-board computers.

    Within hours of Intel's introduction today of the Core i7 processor and the other chips in the company's new Core family, embedded computing heavyweights Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va., and Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. of Middleton, Wis., had introduced embedded computers based on the Intel Core i7.

    In the grand military embedded computing microprocessor wars that have been entertaining us now for nearly 30 years, it looks like there may be a tectonic shift happening that could swing preferences, which now revolve around the Freescale Semiconductor Power Architecture, back into Intel's camp.

    During the past three decades since Intel virtually disappeared from the military embedded scene, the Freescale Power Architecture and its ancestors have dominated military embedded applications, dating from around the time when VME became the most popular databus for mil apps, progressing from the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, to the PowerPC, the PowerPC Altivec, and the Power Architecture.

    Intel has not had a strong presence in military embedded systems since the 1980s, when the company abandoned its mil-spec semiconductor processing line in Chandler, Ariz., and concentrated almost exclusively on the desktop market. That's changing now, fast, and in a big way.

    While Intel is out of the gate with big market momentum for its Core i7 devices, Freescale has a lot of catching up to do. The company disappointed many military systems integrators when it abandoned the Altivec floating point capability in its latest family of microprocessors in a bid to go after the handheld and cell phone market, rather than the desktop market, which Freescale had given up to Intel.

    It remains to bee seen in the coming weeks just how big a deal this shift in the microprocessor industry will be. With the likes of Curtiss Wright, GE, and Extreme Engineering on board, it's bound to be significant for the military embedded industry.


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    E-networking revolution highlighted 2009

    January 1, 2010 6:13 PM by Joseph Normandin

    Posted by John McHale

    At Avionics Intelligence and Military & Aerospace Electronics in 2009 we dived right into social networking or as we like to call it e-networking. We have a fan page on Facebook, a group on Linkedin called the PennWell Aerospace and Defense Media Group, and gather our news content on Twitter Avionics Intelligence under #avintel and for Military & Aerospace Electronics at #milaero.
    At Avionics Intelligence and Military & Aerospace Electronics in 2009 we dived right into social networking or as we like to call it e-networking. We have a fan page on Facebook , a group on Linkedin called the PennWell Aerospace and Defense Media Group , and gather our news content on Twitter for Avionics Intelligence under #avintel and for Military & Aerospace Electronics at #milaero .

    It's been a fun and successful way to push out our online news stories to new readers and start discussions. We've found the most interactive outlet to be on Linkedin, which started out as a professional networking site whereas Facebook was focused on more social or personal networking.

    Although, yesterday I read a story in the Wall Street Journal that basically stated Linkedin needs to get more creative to keep-up with Facebook. According to the piece Facebook kicks Linkedin's rear in total members. However some analysts in the story say that lopsided memebrship numbers are misleading as Linkedin is strictly a professional networking service whereas Facebook is geared more toward professional and social communication.

    I have also found that many people I talk to in the defense and aerospace industry say that their employers do not let them use Facebook or Twitter, but are more flexible when it comes to Linkedin because of its professional nature.

    Twitter is its own animal. I've done quite a bit of tweeting while at trade shows. It provides immediate coverage -- albeit in 140 characters or less. I typically will tweet as I'm leaving a booth or sitting in a press conference or luncheon. Twitter allows me to not only push links to articles on our websites but get out little tidbits of info that would not typically make it into the print magazine or on a web story.

    Also, much like with our blogs, Twitter allows us to take a different, sometimes lighter spin on current events than traditional news coverage.

    What really seems to impress our audience about Twitter is its instantaneous nature.

    For example at the MILCOM show this fall in Boston, I attended the first live demonstration of an OpenVPX system run by engineers at Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., and Hybricon in Ayer, Mass. I tweeted about the demo on my Blackberry while watching it. They were excited because they were videotaping the moment and placing it on youtube -- -- but got quite a kick out of the fact that I was immediately online with their news.

    One person in attendance commented that the age of instant reporting is here.

    E-networking media has definitely changed the way we do things at Military & Aerospace Electronics . I remember when all we used to have was a magazine. Now we still have the magazine, two websites, four conferences , webcasts, three e-newsletters, dedicated pages on Linkedin ,Facebook , and on Twitter at #avintel and #milaero .

    So be sure to check us out wherever you find yourself on the web in 2010.

    Happy New Year!

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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

July 2015
Volume 26, Issue 7

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