Archive for '2012'

    Military & Aerospace Electronics gives unmanned vehicle technology the attention it deserves

    December 20, 2012 3:36 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 20 Dec. 2012. The growing importance of unmanned vehicles stands as a testament to the evolution of military technology , and that's the reason that Military & Aerospace Electronics is introducing an unmanned vehicles section in the monthly print magazine, and a companion monthly e-newsletter that goes to subscribers on the third Tuesday of every month.

    Unmanned vehicles, which operate on and below the oceans, in the air, in space, and on the ground, enable fundamental improvements in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and are poised to take center stage as front-line weapon systems that help keep humans out of harm's way.

    It stands to reason that Military & Aerospace Electronics should be paying unmanned vehicles the kind of attention that this new technology deserves. You can view our inaugural Unmanned Vehicles eNewsletter online at .

    When we look at military history, we can point to a handful of technological breakthroughs over the past 5,000 years that transformed warfare, and gave almost an overwhelming advantage to the forces that had these new technologies.

    These breakthroughs include the chariot, which for the first time gave speed and mobility to fighting forces and laid the groundwork for the cavalry (chariots also set the standard gauge for modern railroads, but that's another story).

    Sailing ships brought warfare to the oceans. The cannon rendered castles and fortresses obsolete. The machine gun neutralized the infantry and cavalry charge. The submarine to this day remains the only true stealth technology. Paratroopers and helicopter air assault forces did for 20th century warfare what the chariot gave to the ancient world. The aircraft carrier defined the notion of power projection, and the atom bomb remains the most powerful weapon known to man.

    These technological breakthroughs initially made their users invincible. It took time, espionage, innovation, and a lot of clever thinking to come up with ways to defeat these technologies. For a good long time, each one was king of the battlefield.

    So against this sweep of history, how might unmanned vehicles fit in? Are they as transformative as the chariot, the cannon, the aircraft carrier, or the atom bomb? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Time will tell the true advantages of the unmanned vehicle.

    In history, cataclysmic battles and events clearly demonstrated the might of history's military breakthroughs. The 1274 BC Battle of Kadesh between the Egyptian and Hittite empires in modern-day Syria was the chariot's finest hour. The Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453 was perhaps the first devastating use of the cannon. The Battle of Midway in 1942 made the aircraft carrier king of the seas, and Hiroshima in 1945 ushered in the nuclear age.

    Have we seen a Kadesh, Constantinople, Midway, or Hiroshima involving unmanned vehicles? Not yet, and perhaps not ever. Still, it's hard to argue that unmanned vehicles represent a transformative technology that can't be ignored.

    The intelligence-gathering value of unmanned vehicles is well demonstrated. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can remain on station over areas of interest sometimes for days at a time, making them one of the most valuable persistent-surveillance platforms available.

    The real combat value of the unmanned vehicle today is far more political than it is military. Unmanned vehicles help keep humans out of harm's way. As a result, battlefield casualties can be reduced, and UAVs cut down on the possibility that a human aircraft pilot will be shot down, taken captive, and remain in the headlines for months, if not years.

    As a weapons platform, the UAV with its light missile armament has killed terrorist leaders and taken out attacking forces in the Middle East. As an air-to-air fighter, however, UAVs have yet to demonstrate their prowess in combat. Most of today's UAVs are relatively slow and clumsy, and make easy targets.

    Still, the Northrop Grumman X-47 prototype unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) is in advanced tests from aircraft carriers, so its proving day may be close at hand.

    So, unmanned vehicles are of growing importance to the U.S. military, and they are to us, too. Subscribe to the monthly Unmanned Vehicles eNewsletter online at . The link should be effective shortly after the first of the year.

    The decline of the laptop

    December 17, 2012 4:23 PM by Skyler Frink
    Laptops used to be the best way to have portable computing. They could be made light, rugged, and powerful and were used everywhere. Now, all you see are tablets and smart phones, and there's good reason for that.

    Tablets and smart phones are easy to use, with touch screens being one of the simplest user interfaces imaginable. The rise of small processors has also made tablets and phones more attractive, while making laptops seem cumbersome in comparison. The only time a laptop seems appropriate for portable computing at this point is if you're running very demanding applications, or absolutely need a keyboard (though giving a tablet a keyboard is as simple as docking it).

    Even in the world of business, where typing is common, the laptop almost seems archaic. They are typically heavy and awkward to carry, and absolutely can't be used while moving about. In the military, where the front lines have no real need to type, and maintenance workers still value portability over performance, the laptop has completely fallen out of favor. Being outmatched by desktops in performance (and made obsolete much quicker), and overshadowed by tablets and smart phones in portability and usability, the laptop seems to be fading into obscurity.

    While the laptop will probably have a niche for journalists (we type on the go quite a bit) and a few other industries, it looks as if it will fade away in the military market. Maybe thin clients and cloud computing in general could revive it, but even in the consumer market laptops have become less and less popular. The endless rows of laptops at electronics stores have gone and been replaced by smart phones and tablets on display.

    U.S. anti-submarine capability is eroding, and it may be too late to turn it around

    December 12, 2012 3:25 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    Here's a not-so-comforting thought. The U.S. Navy's anti-submarine warfare (ASW) skills are getting rusty during the same period that quiet submarine technology in China and Iran is improving at a noticeable rate.

    I wish that were the only bad news on the submarine warfare front, but it isn't. We have U.S. ASW capability going backward, submarine capability of U.S. strategic adversaries going forward, and U.S. Navy capability as a whole in decline, according to a top Navy official.

    "We're long past the point of doing more with less," says Under Secretary of the Navy, Robert Work. "We are going to be doing less with less in the future."

    Work was quoted in an AOL blog by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. headlined U.S. Military Will Have To Do 'Less With Less': Hill Must Vote On Money .

    Freedberg wasn't finished there, however. "The capacity of the US and allied navies to hunt enemy submarines has suffered even as potential adversaries like China and Iran have built up their sub fleets," he blogged in a piece headlined Navy's Sub-Hunting Skills Declined While China, Iran Built More Submarines .

    The subtle message here is that vital U.S. Navy ASW capability is eroding due to a longtime emphasis on counter insurgency, and with strong prospects for a dwindling future Navy budget, it might already be too late to turn around the ASW decline.


    You can talk about stealth aircraft technology all you want, but there's really only one kind of military stealth vehicle on the planet, and that's the submarine.

    Stealth aircraft might have low radar cross sections, but they still can be seen with the naked eye, and heard from long distances. Aircraft, no matter what their futuristic shapes, have a difficult time hiding from ever-more-sophisticated electro-optical sensors.

    Land vehicles? They still have substantial infrared signatures, and they can be seen and heard just like aircraft. Surface ships? Please. Big metal objects against a cool, flat surface. Not much ability to hide there.

    But submarines, they're a different story. It's true that ASW technology is advancing throughout the world, and today's advanced diesel-electric submarines are as close to silent as you can get.

    The ocean, however, is a difficult and unpredictable environment in which to hunt submerged vessels. Water columns at different depths, water densities, and salinity levels often can be a difficult, if not impossible, barrier to even the most sophisticated sonar sensors.

    Sophisticated U.S. submarines for decades have enjoyed the ability to hide from almost everyone. Today, however, it's getting tougher to do as adversaries make up technological ground quickly.

    It wouldn't seem to be the most advantageous time to see U.S. ASW capability slipping, but there it is. Something else to think about as we careen ever-closer to that fiscal cliff.

    As the DOD prepares itself for sequestration, communication is key

    December 10, 2012 2:18 PM by Skyler Frink
    The Department of Defense has been instructed to pursue internal planning to meet budget cuts if sequestration goes into effect. While the DOD has been hoping that sequestration will be avoided, the Office of Management and Budget has forced the DOD to begin planning for $500 billion in potential cuts over the next ten years.

    With the cuts coming ever closer, it's time for the DOD to look at what will happen when sequestration hits.

    Right now, the DOD is examining the potential impacts of sequestration, and are creating a baseline for what needs to be planned against. During a Pentagon press availability, Dr. George Little, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said "We have a lot of internal constituencies to reach out to -- service members, their families and the civilian employees of the Department of Defense -- and we're talking active, Guard and Reserve. Three million people work inside this department. One out of 100 Americans work for the secretary of defense. That is a big number and it's a big communication challenge should sequestration take effect."

    The problem is communicating with the millions of Americans whose jobs hang in the balance. When the cuts come, and they will be here in less than a month if they aren't stopped, everyone needs to be prepared. The DOD is just trying to figure out how to tell people bad news if Congress fails to stop sequestration.

    Ultimately, the DOD needs to figure out what programs will be cut, and how sequestration will affect the U.S. military. While sequestration goes into effect on January 3 there will be a phased-in approach to dealing with it. Little said the DOD should have the first few months of 2013 to handle the issue. With that problem forestalled, the DOD is just trying to get a big enough bullhorn to distribute information to the masses of people who will be affected by the cuts.

    Conspicuous gallantry: Doris Miller at Pearl Harbor was one of World War II's first heroes

    December 7, 2012 6:40 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 7 Dec. 2012. Seventy-one years ago today, U.S. Navy Ship's Cook Third Class Doris Miller had finished serving breakfast to the crew of the battleship USS West Virginia moored along Ford Island at the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii.

    As the African American native of Waco, Texas, was gathering laundry shortly before 8 a.m. that Sunday, the first of nine Japanese torpedoes hit the West Virginia , as that battleship and others moored along Battleship Row -- including the Arizona , the Pennsylvania , the Nevada , and the Oklahoma -- came under sustained air assault with bombs and torpedoes as the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor began on December 7, 1941, plunging the U.S. into World War II.

    Miller was the West Virginia 's main cook. At the time, the ship's mess and laundry were some of the only Navy jobs available to Black Americans. When the attack hit, Miller ran to his battle station at an antiaircraft battery magazine, but found a torpedo already had destroyed it.

    Instead, he moved along to the intersection of two main ship's passageways where sailors tended to congregate. There he received orders to help move the ship's captain, Mervyn Sharp Bennion, who had been wounded on the bridge.

    Then Miller moved along to the ship's conning tower where he helped load .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns. Without specific orders, Miller manned one of the machine guns and began firing at attacking Japanese aircraft.

    Although never getting credit for shooting down any aircraft, Miller said later he thought he shot one down, and witnesses said he may have shot down as many as six. When he ran out of ammunition, Miller helped move the ship's mortally wounded captain away from fire and smoke.

    After that, he helped move wounded sailors through oil and water to the quarterdeck, "unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost," according to the ship's after-action report. He abandoned ship only when the West Virginia sank at its moorings.

    For his actions, Miller was recognized as one of the first heroes of World War II. In awarding Miller the Navy Cross, Adm. Chester Nimitz cited " ... distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard of his personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller despite enemy strafing and bombing, and in the face of serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety and later manned and operated a machine gun until ordered to leave the bridge.”

    Miller later was promoted to Mess Attendant First Class, and reported onboard the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay , which was part of the U.S. attack on the Pacific island of Tarawa in November 1943. During the battle, a Japanese submarine-launched torpedo hit the Liscome Bay in the stern, detonating the ship's aircraft bomb magazine.

    The explosion that resulted sank the escort carrier in minutes. Miller was not among the ship's 272 survivors. Later, a granite marker was dedicated at Moore High School in his hometown of Waco, Texas, to honor Miller.

    Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Please take a moment to remember this pivotal day in American history.

    Russian air power steps forward with deliveries of Su-30SM super-maneuverable jet fighters

    November 28, 2012 12:43 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 28 Nov. 2012. The Russian air force took delivery this month of the first two of a planned 30 Sukhoi Su-30SM jet fighters . This aircraft, an advanced version of the Su-30MKI fighter that Russia developed together with India, takes Russian military aviation a big step forward.

    At first glance, the new Su-30SM twin-engine fighter has a profile that looks similar to the U.S. Air Force Boeing F-15E jet fighter-bomber. It has straight up-and-down twin tails and big square engine intakes. Suffice it to say, this aircraft isn't stealthy like the U.S. Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 combat aircraft.

    The Su-30SM presents a big fat radar cross section, which could make it detectable at long ranges. Still, I don't think surprise and stealth is a big part of this new aircraft. The Su-30SM is big, powerful, and looks like it's designed for close-up dogfighting.

    Although the Su-30SM is weak in stealth capabilities, its major ace-in-the-hole is its maneuverability. The aircraft has one of the most modern thrust vectoring systems in the world, and most likely would be a match even for the world's most advanced jet fighters in close-quarters combat.

    Thrust vectoring means the Su-30SM has the ability to manipulate the direction of its engine thrust to control speed and turning. Few other of the world's aircraft have this capability. In the U.S. only the F-22 and F-35 have any thrust vectoring capability at all, and perhaps not as advanced as the Su-30SM.

    When we think of jet fighters, we usually think speed; the faster the aircraft can get to the fight, the more effective it will be. Still, the main advantage of the Su-30SM might be its ability to fly slowly.

    The jet's thrust vectoring gives it the ability to hang in the air virtually motionless without stalling. When it does that, everyone else just flies right past it. Few other combat aircraft in the world may be as maneuverable as the Su-30SM.

    In addition to thrust vectoring, the new Russian fighter -- like its Su-30MKI predecessor -- has avionics appropriate for fighters, ground-attack capabilities, and canards and a long-range phased-array radar system for the air-superiority role.

    For proponents of advanced fighters like the F-35, F-22, and the Eurofighter, looks like there's a new game in town.

    DARPA Robotics Challenge promises advances in robot autonomy

    November 26, 2012 12:33 PM by Skyler Frink
    In December 2014, robots will be tested in a disaster scenario to see if they can accomplish complicated tasks such as driving utility vehicles, removing debris blocking entryways, climbing ladders and traversing industrial walkways, and using power tools.

    The Robosimian
    All of this will be part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DPC). The challenge aims to develop ground robots that can perform complex tasks and use available human tools, such as vehicles. The goal is to advance the robotic technologies of supervised autonomy, dismounted mobility, dexterity, and platform endurance. By using supervised autonomy, the robots developed will be able to be controlled by non-expert operators and enable effective operation despite low fidelity communications.

    The program also hopes to reduce cost by expanding the supplier base for these systems and their software.

    What makes this program special is what these robots can do, they are meant as human stand-ins for situations where humans can't perform certain tasks. Because of this, the robots tend to look an awful lot like people, though there are some that are bizarre looking, such as the Robosimian, a design which has been proposed by the NASA-Jet Propulsion Lab. It looks like a four legged spider with robotic hands on each foot.

    These machines are meant to use human tools, which has several obvious defense applications. They can operate weapons, navigate obstacles (for a preview, look at the Atlas Robot video below), and do just about anything a human can do physically. These are meant for much more than warfighting, however, and will be used for disaster relief and other dangerous non-combat situations.

    It will be exciting to see what sort of advanced technology comes out of this competition. Whether the robot that wins is humanoid or something completely different, this competition stands to change the face of robotics.

    Pentagon stirs up semiconductor industry with its requirement to mark parts with unique DNA

    November 21, 2012 1:49 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    A new anti-counterfeiting requirement from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at Fort Belvoir, Va., is triggering pushback from semiconductor manufacturers, who claim the new requirement is not an appropriate cure for electronics counterfeiting, does not adequate authenticate legacy semiconductors, has not been tested adequately, and will increase semiconductor manufacturing costs.

    The DNA-marking mandate, which became effective on 15 November requires all semiconductors sold to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to be marked with DNA-based materials unique to each government contractor.

    The intent is to prevent counterfeit parts from entering the DOD supply chain by authenticating each piece with a unique DNA-based signature. Using DNA -- sort for deoxyribonucleic acid, or the biological building block of all life -- is intended to provide a fool-proof fingerprint for each semiconductor the DOD buys to rule out the possibility of counterfeiting.

    Use of counterfeit parts, which often are substandard, defective, or simply empty packages, can lead to critical system failures in military equipment, or even to foreign manipulation of electronic parts without traceable pedigrees.

    Despite this intent, however, the semiconductor industry is telling DLA officials that this DNA-based marking approach will not succeed in keeping counterfeit parts out of military systems, and ultimately threatens to undermine established practices for screening out counterfeit parts, industry officials say.

    In addition, confusion in the semiconductor industry -- at least for now -- is causing semiconductor suppliers to avoid bidding on DLA semiconductor contracts, and eventually could cause shortages in the DOD of replacement electronic parts.

    In a lengthy letter to the DLA dated last August, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) in Washington said "the Defense Logistics Agency proposed DNA marker solution will not solve current counterfeit, reliability, or performance problems faced in procurement. It significantly burdens manufacturers and does not reduce risks to people, systems, and missions."

    The SIA, which represents the U.S. semiconductor industry, has asked DLA to postpone implementing the DNA-marker program until more testing has been conducted, and until more questions are answered in response to semiconductor industry concerns.

    Nevertheless, Christine Metz, Technical & Quality Process Owner in the DLA, and the agency official overseeing the DNA marking program, said in an e-mail on 19 Nov. that DLA has "not postponed implementation" of the program.

    The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association in Arlington, Va., which oversees global standards for the microelectronics industry has formed the JEDEC JC-13 Committee -- a DNA Marking Task Group -- to look into industry concerns about the DLA program, and has posed a list of questions to the DLA's Metz.

    Members of the JEDEC task group will meet in January in San Antonio, Texas, and say they expect DLA to provide answers to questions on DLA's overall intent, on company liability, marking of legacy semiconductors, and other issues. JEDEC formerly stood for Joint Electron Device Engineering Council.

    JEDEC officials also are concerned about whether the DNA marking program meets all military specifications for permanency; non-nutrient to fungus; minimum and maximum storage temperatures; outgassing; and conductivity.

    As of now, only one supplier is authorized to provide DNA marking material to meet DLA requirements -- Applied DNA Sciences Inc. in Stony Brook, N.Y. -- and the industry has voiced concerned about competition as well as about the threat of counterfeiting the counter-counterfeiting DNA material.

    "We believe this type of authentication is easily circumvented because a counterfeiter need only mimic the material of the marker when counterfeiting a product," reads the SIA letter to the DLA.

    Among the most serious fallout from the DLA semiconductor-marking requirement involves the cost and difficulty of implementation. "If Applied DNA's process were to be implemented by semiconductor manufacturers for all of their products, they would be required to modify longstanding qualified manufacturing flows installed in existing billion-dollar facilities," reads the SIA's letter.

    Until now, as a result, many semiconductor manufacturers and licensed electronics distributors are choosing not to bid on DLA contract opportunities, some industry officials say.

    If manufacturers and licensed distributors opt out of bidding DLA solicitations, this would leave only electronics parts brokers, which are considered to be among the highest-risk companies for allowing counterfeit parts to slip into the Pentagon's supply chain.

    Are we taking Cybersecurity seriously? Congress shoots down bill

    November 19, 2012 9:50 AM by Skyler Frink
    A recent bill that called for cybersecurity reform was blocked from the Senate floor last week. The bill would have forced the providers of critical infrastructure, defined as a system or asset that damage or unauthorized access could reasonably result in the interruption of life-sustaining services, including energy, water, transportation, emergency services, or food sufficient to cause a mass casualty event that includes an "extraordinary number of fatalities" or "mass evacuations with a prolonged absence", to improve their security.

    The bill calls for companies to have a third party assess their security measures and then bring them up to speed. There is much more to the bill, but the main push is to get companies that provide critical infrastructure to protect themselves adequately. We already know there are groups that want to attack us. We have been attacked . Other countries have been attacked. The threat of a network attack isn't some specter that people are using as a scare tactic to pass other laws, it is a real defense issue.

    While the Department of Defense already provides civilian agencies with help on cybersecurity, the bill would have been a matter of making sure critical infrastructure is safe by helping companies protect themselves and punishing those who did not take the right steps. The government has already said a serious attack can be grounds for war, so why can't we act and actually protect our vital assets?

    The Obama administration may be issuing executive order to shore up cybersecurity in the mean time.

    The full text of the bill is available here .

    Pentagon looks to international business to keep U.S. defense industry viable

    November 15, 2012 1:38 PM by John Keller
    It's more than a bit unsettling when the Pentagon starts developing weapon systems in a way that indicates the needs of the U.S. military simply are no longer sufficient to support the U.S. defense industry.

    Still, that's what we're starting to see.

    Defense News ran a story this week headlined Pentagon Aims to Reduce Time, Cost for Weapons Design that says Pentagon leaders are considering designing new weapons that would make it easier for foreign nations to buy them.

    Now why would the Pentagon have an interest in that, and why now? It sounds like they're concerned about a rapidly contracting domestic defense industry that's facing nearly half a trillion dollars in budget cuts over the next 10 years due to a congressional process called sequestration .

    Another term for sequestration is the fiscal cliff , which daily is looking more difficult to avoid.

    The Pentagon needs a viable defense industry to supply its weapons and equipment needs over the long term. If the U.S. military can't provide enough business to keep the defense industry solvent, then what might be the next best thing?

    Increasingly, it looks like the Pentagon is looking to international military forces to pick up the slack. Established allies typically don't have much problem buying from U.S. defense companies. So what's up with this new policy, which some are calling Better Buying Power 2.0?

    Plans under consideration call for enhanced exportability within development programs, and include one program for a radar and another for an electronic warfare system that will serve as pilots for this effort, according to Defense News .

    I can just envision a new position in the Pentagon -- deputy undersecretary of defense for marketing. Foreign militaries, have we got a deal for you? C'mon down!

    Strike-one for the defense industry

    November 7, 2012 9:55 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    A week or so I wrote that economic hard times for the defense industry no longer are on the horizon; they're here.

    In that blog, entitled "Military business slows to a trickle; now a matter of how hard things will get ," I pointed out three things to watch for to get a sense of how hard military business is going to be hit: the presidential election, sequestration , and the 2014 Pentagon budget request.

    As for the first item, as you probably know by now, Barack Obama -- bringing his hostility to the military in general and for defense spending in particular -- has been re-elected president.


    Obama is no supporter of military technology development, and his continued presence in the White House bodes ill for the defense industry. We're potentially heading down a slope that perhaps could lead to lows in defense spending that we haven't seen in nearly two decades, perhaps even longer.

    Now we wait for sequestration, or across-the-board defense cuts of nearly half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. The lame-duck Congress might do something th head-off sequestration, but it's not really in anyone's interest to do so -- except for the military and the defense industry.

    Letting automatic defense cuts happen absolves anyone of blame for the results. It's a political gift from heaven, if you're in elected office. Sequestration will be the second strike.

    Then we have the Pentagon's budget request next February for federal fiscal year 2014. That, perhaps, will be the clearest leading indicator of prospects for the defense industry in the near term. The proposed budget will help sort out winners and losers, and give the industry a hint of the military's long-term technology priorities.

    We're in for a tough slog -- more dire than many have imagined. Over the next couple of years I predict program cancellations, major consolidation in the defense industry, and a noticeable abandonment of the military market by electronic component suppliers.

    So what's it mean for us?

    First, it means we have to dust off our boots and put our cowboy hats on straight. The defense industry in two or three years is going to look much different from how it is today.

    Those who remain in the defense industry must push technological innovation to the limit to provide U.S. military forces with the most capable technology possible at the most affordable prices for the military's most pressing needs, like persistent surveillance and IED detection.

    It's possible to do -- I've seen it before -- but it won't be easy, and it won't be painless. The last big defense downturn in the early 1990s during the Clinton Administration saw widespread implementation of commercial off-the-shelf technology or COTS.

    No one ever had heard of COTS before then, and what we'll eventually see out of this defense downturn, well, no one's ever heard of what that will be, either. Before we get there, though, there will be casualties and pain.

    Still, I'm optimistic that whatever comes out of this defense downturn, we'll be the better for. Remember, out of pressure and heat come things like hard steel and diamonds.

    Electrical grid attacked, cybersecurity more important now than ever

    November 5, 2012 1:55 PM by Skyler Frink
    Last month an attack was carried out on the Telvent, the maker of software and services meant to be used with smart grid networks. The attack was announced as a breach of Telvent's internal firewall and security systems, and Telvent officials said the attack included the installation of malicious software and the theft of project files for OASyS SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), software that bridges the gap between enterprise networks and activities in the field.

    In a time where these SCADA systems are used to regulate the electrical grid through the Internet or over phone lines, a serious attack can result in electricity being denied to hundreds of thousands of people. Attacks on the infrastructure of our country are a real threat to the lives of citizens.

    The attack on Telvent was believed to have come from a Chinese hacking team called the "Comment Group", according to Joe Steward, director of malware research at Dell SecureWorks.

    Last year, the White House wrote a report titled International Strategy for Cyberspace . In that report it was written that

    "When warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country. All states possess an inherent right to self-defense, and we recognize that certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners. We reserve the right to use all necessary means—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our Nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests."

    If cybersecurity is so important we can go to war over it, isn't it about time we made sure our important infrastructure is safe from attack? It's unsettling to think that malware could make it into the systems that control electrical grids, and while the Department of Defense has been taking cybersecurity very seriously, attacks such as these are not targeting the government, they are targeting companies.

    The military may need to step in and force companies that provide important infrastructure to increase their security offerings. A successful attack will do more than hurt the companies that are directly involved, after all.

    Hurricane Sandy hits trade shows, cancels flights, strands travelers along the entire East Coast

    October 29, 2012 12:24 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    So much for travel plans that fall in the path of a hurricane.

    Flights cancelled, trade shows abandoned, all due to Hurricane Sandy , a 1,000-mile-wide tropical cyclone that's smashing into the U.S. East Coast causing rain, flooding, blizzards, high winds, and power outages from Key West to Quebec.

    Two big aerospace and defense shows were scheduled for this week in Orlando -- AFCEA MILCOM , which has become THE military embedded computing conference, and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual meeting and convention. MILCOM's cancelled, while NBAA appears to be on.

    I made plans to attend both shows, but here I remain in New Hampshire, with no flights available today and probably tomorrow, as well. We'll be lucky if commercial air travel is back to normal by the end of the week.

    AFCEA MILCOM officials made the decision Sunday to cancel the show after determining that at least 40 percent of exhibitors and attendees most likely would not be able to make it to Orlando. Count all of us here in the Northeast as part of that 40 percent.

    Only one of our staff, Courtney Howard, will be able to make the NBAA show, and it's only because she's traveling from the West Coast where flights remain unaffected by the gathering hurricane.

    I was optimistic about making it out before the effects of the hurricane hit. Still, as of this morning, flights were cancelled. It's not just our staff who can't get flights out. Evidently thousands of European travelers are stuck on the East Coast until the big weather event passes.

    I can't imagine the amount of money being lost, just in the cancellation of MILCOM. Companies have shipped booths and equipment, made hotel reservations, bought plane tickets, and made all kinds of other arrangements, all for nothing.

    My condolences go out to all the companies and attendees who will have to wait until next year for MILCOM 2013. We await attendance results of the NBAA show to see how Hurricane Sandy has hit that conference.

    As for me, I'm still here in New Hampshire, posting content until the power goes out. Good luck to everyone in the path of the hurricane.

    Military business slows to a trickle; now a matter of how hard things will get

    October 26, 2012 9:42 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    We've been hearing for a long time about hard times coming for the military and aerospace business. In fact, I've been hearing about a defense downturn since long before President Obama even took office.

    Still, the beginning of federal fiscal year 2013, which was the first of this month, has left me with little doubt that the hard times no longer are coming.

    They're here.

    I pay fairly close attention to the Pentagon's contract solicitations and awards. Everything was proceeding normally until the end of September. Then at the end of the month and the beginning of October we had a flurry of activity -- particularly in contract awards. That's to be expected, as program managers try to use their annual allotments.

    Then a couple of days into the new fiscal, the Pentagon's money spigot slowed to a trickle. I don't have numbers of contracts and dollar amounts to cite. What I have is anecdotal evidence and a gut feel, but military business activity felt like it dropped off a cliff somewhere around the fourth or fifth of this month.

    At first I thought the dropoff in military contracts and solicitations was some sort of anomaly -- it still may turn out to be so -- but with each passing day I see more of the same.

    It's not just that contracting has dropped off; it's the kind of awards and solicitations being announced. Most of it involves maintenance, services, and small research projects. Even many of the technology upgrade programs have disappeared. Those that remain are intended to keep hold on the status-quo, not to make substantial improvements in capability.

    It's a clear indication that the military is shrinking at an accelerating pace. In fact, the trends indicate that the Pentagon right now is hard-pressed to keep what they already have in acceptable working order. In short, our military structure is being placed in mothballs, that is, until more money becomes available, or until some military crisis hits.

    I wish I had some good news, but things could get even tougher, as we face a congressionally mandated "fiscal cliff" of sequestration in January if lawmakers can't agree on controlled cuts. Make no mistake, we're in for a rough go for at least the next six months to a year.

    Things to look for: the results of the presidential election; whether or not Congress heads off sequestration; and the Pentagon's fiscal year 2014 budget request next February.

    If Mitt Romney wins, it's better for the defense industry, but it won't represent an immediate turnaround. Government money is tight, and is likely to remain so.

    Congress could do something about sequestration in a lame-duck session, but I'm not optimistic. Even if sequestration is avoided, defense still faces cuts. It will simply be a question of horrible, or merely miserable.

    The Department of Defense budget request in February will be an important indicator, not only for how much money the Pentagon plans to spend, but also where that money will go if Congress approves.

    So if you're in the defense business, cross you fingers. It's not a question of whether things will get more difficult, but a matter of just how difficult things will get.

    Alpha Dog demonstrates what quadruped robots can do

    October 23, 2012 9:49 AM by Skyler Frink
    Quadruped robots have fantastic utility, being able to traverse most forms of terrain that ground troops can move makes them incredibly versatile, but certain limitations have always held them back. Historically these robots have been slow moving, loud, and incapable of picking themselves up if they fall down (and eventually any machine will make a mistake regardless of how well built or programmed it is).

    Well, Boston Dynamics has once again proven that quadruped technology is more than just a pipe dream. Their Alpha Dog robot has now demonstrated the ability to move on flat surfaces at 7 mph, traverse rocky, unstable terrain at 3 mph, and even right itself when it falls on its side. It even does all of this while carrying a 400 lb. load.

    Not only is the Alpha Dog much more capable than previous quadruped robots, it can automatically follow soldiers who are carrying a mobile device while avoiding obstacles, and operates more quietly than ever before. Those who have tested the robot have said it is now possible to carry on a conversation while walking alongside it, a huge improvement over the very noisy Big Dog robot.

    DARPA plans on using these robots alongside soldiers in operational exercises, where these robots will be considered for deployment. With advances like these being made it's only a matter of time before we see them trotting alongside soldiers, lightening their loads and, perhaps, performing other duties as well. There's a lot you can do with a robot that can travel anywhere, sense objects and carry 400 lbs.

    Looming fiscal cliff threatens to strike after the presidential election

    October 18, 2012 11:52 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    The so-called fiscal cliff of sequestration , which threatens to take a deep gouge of nearly half a billion dollars out of the U.S. defense budget over the next 10 years, is still as much of a threat today as it ever was, but you'd never know it with so much media attention riveted on the presidential election.

    Strange this fiscal cliff has not been more of an issue in either the Romney or Obama campaigns. This ticking time bomb, initiated by a Congress that's much more concerned with partisan political trivia than with the faltering U.S. economy, because this legislative device threatens hundreds of thousands of American jobs, as well as U.S. military preparedness.

    Sequestration threatens to lop off $1.2 trillion from about 1,200 federal programs over the next decade. Moreover, sequestration threatens to make these cuts in indiscriminate ways that have the potential to hurt people and programs in brutal ways.

    Sequestration was set up by Congress to trigger automatic deep cuts in federal spending in early January if lawmakers are unable to agree on more-controlled spending drawdowns. This proposed remedy is so severe that it reminds me of incidents during the Vietnam War when soldiers said they had to destroy villages in order to save them.

    It was absurd then, and the sequestration approach is absurd now. Indiscriminate and abrupt cuts in federal spending will cause hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their jobs, but consider the long-term ramifications of that.

    Imagine the private businesses that provide goods and services today to those people who could be out of a job before the end of this calendar year. What happens when those laid-off people have to cut their household budgets drastically just to survive. How many businesses would be forced to close as a result of big reductions in disposable income?

    No congressman or senator who had a hand in any vote that authorized this sequestration monster deserves your vote on November 6.

    Not one.

    Remember that, also, when the senators not facing the voters this year come up for re-election.

    Those in the House and Senate should have thought of this, but they didn't, because sequestration was never supposed to happen. Instead, it was supposed to be "incentive" for members of Congress to work together to head off this disaster.

    No deal has been hammered out, thus far, to head this off. When and if sequestration hits, the resulting pain and suffering of thousands of Americans will make us forget quickly about the trivial campaign issues dominating media attention leading up to the election -- things like contraception, Big Bird, binders of women, and perceived glass ceilings.

    One might think that Congress and the Obama Administration might act with some sort of a sense of urgency as the sequestration deadline creeps closer, but instead the issue simply has become ever-more politicized.

    If the law were to be followed, thousands of U.S. defense industry employees would receive layoff notices the Friday before the presidential election on 6 Nov. Oh but we can't have that, can we? While the law says defense contractors must notify employees at least 60 days before layoffs take effect, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

    In response to pressure from the Obama Administration, Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest defense contractor, in early October backed down from plans to issue layoff warnings to employees just before the November election.

    The Obama administration has, company leaders said, gave them assurances that it won’t immediately kill any major defense contracts when automatic spending cuts go into effect in January.

    This will solve nothing. If sequestration hits, some defense programs will be reduced or eliminated, defense employees will be laid off, and unemployment will start rising immediately. Delay only might keep some otherwise angry defense employees from taking their frustrations out in the voting booth.

    In short, we face a mess that won't go away from ignoring it. This willful denial of what needs to be done for too long is what got into this in the first place.

    Here's hoping that, whoever wins the presidential election in November, that Congress will do something -- anything -- to stop sequestration during a lame-duck session. How hard can it be? Members of Congress, after all, are experts at kicking the can down the road.

    If they don't, then whoever is sworn in as president in January will face a monumental catastrophe.

    Stealing a drone by spoofing, is it that easy?

    October 15, 2012 2:12 PM by Skyler Frink
    Spoofing, which is essentially cyber forgery, has been proven to be capable of taking control (or at least misguiding) unmanned vehicles that use GPS as part of their navigation systems.

    Spoofing is one of the ways Iran could have gotten access to the drone they received late last year, the one that landed unharmed in hostile territory with barely a scratch. It looks like the U.S. military is concerned about this kind of attack, as they have seen it fit to saddle Rockwell Collins with the task of developing technology "to locate and classify an adversary's attempts to interfere with GPS signals and disrupt military operations."

    GPS spoofing isn't new, it's been around for as long as GPS, but with UAVs and other GPS guided unmanned vehicles becoming more popular this sort of misdirection is now a threat. GPS spoofing is simple, a device pretends that it is a GPS satellite and tells another device, such as a drone, that it is at a certain location, rather than its actual position. Since many unmanned vehicles use GPS as part of their navigation system, it is possible to force them to behave in certain ways. Tell a UAV it's too high and it will attempt to go lower, tell it it's too far to the East and it will move West, simple stuff.

    Now, GPS spoofing isn't necessarily a serious threat to the military, which uses encrypted GPS signals and several methods of navigation on important systems (though if Iran actually spoofed the drone down it is, we may never know). GPS spoofing is more of a minor annoyance to the military. The problem is that civillian airspace is going to be opened up to drones eventually, and in the next few years it might not be unusual to see drones being used by police forces or even commercial companies.

    GPS spoofing is a threat because GPS is cheap and easy to use, making it popular in these unmanned vehicles that could be flying around your neighborhood in the future.

    Cyber warfare is a serious thing, and it's good to see the defense industry preparing itself for some of the newer forms of attack that have emerged.

    Drone operation? There's an app for that.

    October 8, 2012 1:33 PM by Skyler Frink
    Soldiers on the battlefield may eventually be able to get supplies delivered directly to them via unmanned rotorcraft by using a smart phone, or similar device, to control a drone with a simple application.

    The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has given contracts to Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Science to develop an unmanned rotorcraft to deliver cargo on the battlefield. The ultimate goal of this project? To allow warfighters to operate unmanned rotorcraft with a smartphone-esque device.

    With the Department of Defense's (DOD) interest in automation, as evidenced by UAV swarms , unmanned underwater vehicles (UVVs), and submarine-tracking unmanned surface vessels , this seems like a logical extension of improved autonomous vehicle controls. The program itself is a five-year effort, which will include the development of sensors and control technologies for autonomous rotorcraft.

    Smartphone applications have also been a tool that has seen more and more use by the DOD as time goes on, with applications designed to help soldiers make smart choices at home and for rapid response in disaster scenarios. The idea that each soldier will be connected to the web and have a GPS device on them is allowing the DOD to create applications to provide important services to soldiers.

    This possible application will help prevent casualties by putting fewer manned convoys into harms way to deliver supplies, along with making important supplies more accessible to soldiers on the front lines.

    With a goal of getting a flight demonstration into the air in 18 months, soldiers may soon find themselves in a situation where if supplies are low they don't need to worry; there's an app for that.

    NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission to yield new information on rad-hard electronics

    October 4, 2012 3:06 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    NASA is working with industry and academia to do the most comprehensive-ever mapping of the radiation belts around Earth so that space experts have a clear idea of the locations and intensities of radiation concentrations to help future satellites and manned spacecraft effectively avoid them.

    NASA launched two test and instrumentation satellites in August on the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission to learn in minute detail how the radiation belts are populated with charged particles, what causes them to change, and how these processes affect the upper reaches of the atmosphere around Earth.

    NASA will use information from the two-year mission to better protect satellites and understand how space weather affects communications and technology on Earth. The mission also is helping researchers in the microelectronics industry learn even more about radiation-hardened electronics .

    "We get single-event upsets every time we go through those belts," says Brian Orlowski, program manager of space products at rad-hard electronics designer BAE Systems Electronic Systems in Manassas, Va.

    BAE Systems is providing rad-hard synchronous dynamic random-access memory (SDRAM) and chalcogenide random-access memory (CRAM) chips that are part of the radiation-measuring instruments and other electronics aboard the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission satellites.

    This mission also is the first space flight of qualified CRAM chips, Orlowski says. Chalcogenide is an alloy of germanium antimonide and tellurium, for which BAE Systems has a sole license for building the technology for space applications, he says.

    BAE Systems makes the CRAM chips together with partner and phase-change semiconductor memory technology expert Ovonyx Inc. in Sterling Heights, Mich.

    BAE Systems also is using error detection and correction (EDAC) technology aboard the NASA satellites to detect and repair single-event upsets, which are bit flips in solid state memory caused by impact with charged particles in or near radiation sources.

    The Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission spacecraft also are equipped with BAE Systems RAD-750 computers, as well as the RTAX-2000 radiation-hardened computer from Microsemi Corp. SoC Products Group in Mountain View, Calif.

    Thus far all components are working as expected, BAE Systems officials say. By the time this mission is scheduled to end in 2014, rad-hard experts will have much more information for advanced chip designs.

    BAE and EADS speak about possible merger, claim expansion rather than contraction

    October 1, 2012 12:59 PM by Skyler Frink
    When news dried up on the possible merger between BAE and EADS all that was left was speculation, and speculate we did. With shrinking defense budgets and many companies preparing for armageddon it makes sense that mergers would occur. However, Ian King, the Chief Executive of BAE Systems and Tom Enders, the Chief Executive of EADS, have now gone on the record saying the possible combination is not because of financial trouble.

    The two chief executives explained that they hope to obtain a wider customer base, more scalability and a greater potential to ride the cycles of civil aviation and defense spending.

    What I can't quite put my finger on is the purpose of the Op-Ed by the two chief executives. Is the goal to reassure investors and governments that the merger will be beneficial to all? Is it a response to the sudden $5.2 billion drop in EADS share values since news of the talks broke?

    The message is meant to be one of prosperity, but one quote in particular is less than promising for current BAE and EADS employees.

    The release, which was posted on the BAE website, reads "Clearly, there will be scope for efficiency savings when two companies of our size come together, but great benefit will derive from our ability to exploit new business opportunities. That has to be good for jobs and economic prosperity in the long term."

    While growth in the long term is good, the statement seems to imply that the short term will result in employees being lost and facilities being closed.

    Whatever happens in the current merger talks, this will have a large impact on the defense industry, and we at M&AE will be watching closely to see what happens next.

    Marines experience their worst air disaster in nearly half a century

    September 24, 2012 2:47 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    You may not have heard it like this, but earlier this month one of the worst U.S military air disasters in nearly half a century happened during a terrorist attack on the airfield at Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan.

    U.S. Marine Corps Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), based at Yuma Marine Corps Base, Ariz., not only had two Marines killed, but also had six late-model AV-8B II Harrier jump jets destroyed, and another two of the aircraft damaged likely beyond repair.

    That's eight sophisticated combat aircraft out of commission. A Marine attack squadron normally has a complement of about 12 aircraft, which means VMA-211 effectively is out of business. The attack has been called the worst Marine Corps aviation disaster since the Vietnam Tet Offensive in 1968.

    This squadron has a storied history, and it's unclear what will be the ultimate resolution of this situation. The AV-8B -- designed by Boeing predecessor McDonnell Douglas -- hasn't been manufactured in years, so replacing those aircraft is probably out of the question.

    It's possible the squadron eventually could refit with F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters, or perhaps even with the new F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but whatever happens, it probably won't happen quickly.

    For a squadron to switch aircraft is not a trivial process. Pilots must be retrained, ground crewmen must requalify on new aircraft, logistics, support, and maintenance must be retooled. Suffice it to say, this squadron as an independent unit effectively will be grounded for quite some time.

    VMA-211 is nicknamed the Wake Island Avengers. It's a name its members take to heart.

    On 8 Dec. 1941 -- one day after Pearl Harbor -- the Japanese attacked U.S. forces based on Wake Island in the Western Pacific. In the initial attack, VMA-211 had seven of its 12 Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter aircraft destroyed on the ground. The remaining five were destroyed in action, after which VMA-211 became a ground unit until the surrender of Wake Island on 23 Dec. 1941.

    VMA-211's Henry T. Elrod, was the first U.S. Marine airman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II.

    In the terrorist attack in Afghanistan earlier this month, Taliban attackers wore American military uniforms, which added to the confusion. All the attackers reportedly were killed in a firefight, but the damage was done.

    We'll have to wait and see what ultimately happens to VMA-211.

    BAE and EADS stand to form the largest defense company in the world

    September 13, 2012 9:58 AM by Skyler Frink
    BAE and EADS are currently discussing a possible combination of the two companies. This combination comes in face of shrinking defense budgets and very high competition for defense contracts. The two companies already work together on several different defense projects, such as the Typhoon jet and a joint missile project.

    When combined BAE and EADS eclipse the world's current largest defense company, Lockheed Martin, having earned over $20 billion more than Lockheed Martin in sales last year.

    BAE and EADS expect there to be many benefits from the potential merger, citing benefits including cost savings, such as from procurement and sourcing efficiencies available to the enlarged group, and substantial new business opportunities.

    Any agreement on the terms of a potential combination will require approval by the boards of EADS and BAE Systems. Prior to any such agreement, EADS will inform the relevant bodies representing the interests of its employees in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. If, after completion of the processes described above, EADS and BAE Systems reach definitive agreement on the terms of any combination, completion would be subject to, amongst other things, a number of governmental and regulatory approvals, the approval of ordinary shareholders of both BAE Systems and EADS, and certain conditions that are customary for a transaction governed by the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers.

    There is no certainty whether the discussions will lead to any mergers.

    Any merger announcement will need to be made by October 10, 2012, though BAE has stated its intention to request an extension if talks are still in place at that point.

    If these two companies do merge the result will be a force to be reckoned with. Both EADS and BAE have a lot of strength and long histories in the defense industry. The benefits of the combination seem plentiful, with both companies standing to benefit from the manufacturing capabilities, locations, and established customer base of the other.

    Keep following M&AE to find out more as news on the possible combination breaks!

    U.S. government takes threat of bird flu pandemic seriously; spends $25 billion for medical countermeasures

    September 10, 2012 9:34 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    Evidently the U.S. government is taking the threat of a global bird flu pandemic very seriously, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded five contracts collectively worth as much as $25.36 billion for medical countermeasures to the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

    There is ample reason to take the threat of an H5N1 bird flu pandemic seriously, too. Over the last decade there have been 608 confirmed cases of H5N1 in humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Of those, 359 died; that's nearly a 70 percent mortality rate.

    Of those confirmed cases of H5N1 and their resulting deaths, most have been in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Egypt. No cases have been reported in the U.S. -- yet.

    To keep any potential H5N1 bird flu pandemic in check, HHS officials on 4 Sept. awarded contracts potentially worth $9 billion to Novartis Vaccines and Diagonostics Inc. in Boston; $8.2 billion to MedImmune LLC in Gaithersburg, Md.; $4.7 billion to Sanofi Pasteur Inc. in Swiftwater, Pa.; $2 billion to GlaxoSmithKline LLC in Philadelphia; and $1.5 billion to CSL Biotherapies Inc. in King of Prussia, Pa.

    All contract awards are the maximum amount possible. The contract duration is three years with options for two additional years. Awarding the contracts was the HHS Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

    The companies will provide the U.S. government with vaccines, support, and medical storage not only for pre-pandemic medicine to help prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus, but also for medicines to treat the virus after it is contracted to alleviate symptoms and prevent deaths.

    U.S. health officials are determined to blunt the effects of any potential H5N1 avian influenza pandemic, which could overload hospitals, threaten children and the elderly the most, and could threaten the working of the military and government agencies if large numbers of employees were to be incapacitated by the virus.

    Three severe flu pandemics spread throughout the world in the 20th century, the most recent of which was the 1968-1969 Hong Kong Flu pandemic, which involved the H3N2 virus, and is estimated to have killed 1 million people.

    In 1957 and 1958 an Asian Flu pandemic involving the H2N2 virus killed an estimated 1.5 to 2 million people. The 20th century's worst flu outbreak was the 1918 to 1920 Spanish Flu pandemic, which involved the H1N1 virus and killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

    New modified COTS device helps repair engines and airframes before they break

    September 5, 2012 10:05 AM by Skyler Frink
    The U.S. Navy has developed a new device that they describe as "doing for aircraft inspections what colonoscopies have done for cancer detection." This device, called the borescope, inspects aircraft and engines while providing real-time digital images and video for examination.

    Recognizing cracks and engine debris allow aircraft to last longer by preventing some of the most common reasons for aircraft damage. If a chunk of debris falls into a running engine the blades will often be damaged, or if a crack is allowed to expand the entire aircraft can be rendered inoperable. By recognizing these problems early both lives and money can be saved.

    Borescopes were used to detect engine debris in the past, but the systems generated low-quality black and white images and used a rigid probe that prevented the borescope from providing a full inspection of the aircraft and engines it was looking into. The new system features a long, flexible insertion tube with a color screen that allows inspectors to get a 360-degree view of the aircraft or engine, enabling them to find problems previous systems could not locate.

    The system is based off of a COTS product, making the system significantly cheaper than legacy borescopes. The new systems cost roughly half the price of old borescopes.

    This is a great example of modified COTS products replacing older, more specialized systems while providing better service at a cheaper price. When it comes to repairs and inspection, COTS products make sense as they aren't mission critical devices. Could COTS be part of the solution for surviving on the shrinking defense budget?

    Remembering Neil Armstrong, and what he meant to a generation of Americans

    August 29, 2012 1:58 PM by John Keller
    I remember as a kid back in the late '60s how friends and I liked to argue over who was the most famous person in the world. Several names popped up in those debates: Wilt Chamberlain, who had scored more points in a basketball game than anyone else; Bob Hayes who at the time was considered to be the world's fastest man; and President John F. Kennedy, whose presence we still felt keenly after his assassination in Dallas.

    When my fourth-grade school year ended in June 1969 our arguments over who was the most famous were still strong and animated. When we returned to our classrooms the next fall, however, all debate had ended, for everyone knew by then who the most famous person in the world was: it was Neil Armstrong , who less than two months before had become the first human to set foot on the moon during America's space program .

    I remembered those heady days when I learned that Neil Armstrong -- the undisputed most-famous person of my childhood -- died last Saturday at the age of 82.

    The end of our most-famous debate that fall 43 years ago didn't apply just to new fifth-graders in their spiffy new school clothes. The first moon landing was an incredibly big thing for most Americans, as only those who were around at the time can understand.

    My parents and grandparents always could say where they were when they first heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Members of younger generations than mine could tell you where they were the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. For the same token, there's no one of my generation who couldn't tell you where he or she was that day July 20, 1969, when the Apollo 11 lunar module, touched down on the moon's surface.

    It was lunchtime on a Sunday as I camped with my family near a Southern California beach, and we listened to the moon landing on a transistor radio. Everyone at that campground was doing the same thing, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

    The actual first moon walk didn't happen for several hours after the landing. We'd packed up and arrived back at home by then. It was just after supper, and my family huddled around our black-and-white television set to watch a grainy live-TV broadcast of Armstrong as he slowly descended the ladder of the lunar module. When he set foot on the lunar surface, I remember looking up at the clock. Then I wrote the time and date down on a scrap of paper, because in my heart I knew that I might never see such a momentous thing again.

    ... and perhaps I haven't.

    As for Armstrong himself, he was an unlikely "most-famous" person. He did things quietly, remained largely out of the public eye. He didn't sign endorsement deals, appear in commercials, or on cereal boxes. Still, he was the most-famous person in the world, and as kids we idolized him.

    He represented the culmination of America's race to the moon, begun less than a decade before with John F. Kennedy's inaugural address. Despite that era's continuing carnage in Vietnam, Americans were riveted by the Apollo program. There was much more a sense of "we" as Americans then than there seems to be now.

    Things did change after Armstrong's voyage. After he and colleague Buzz Aldrin came home from the moon, somehow the space program's focus and sense-of-purpose quickly became diluted in the popular mind. There wasn't a clear answer to the question, "So we made it to the moon; what's next?"

    The space program did have a few "what's next" initiatives, such as Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station. Still, nothing even came close to the excitement we felt with Armstrong's first walk on the moon. Even today, it seems nothing really compares.

    Maybe that's why -- at least in my mind -- Neil Armstrong remains the most famous person in the world.

    Counter IED software can locate IED and weapons caches in Afghanistan

    August 27, 2012 8:14 AM by Skyler Frink
    A new piece of software that was developed at West Point called SCARE, or the spatio-cultural abductive reasoning engine, uses a mathematical model based on the research theory of geospatial abduction to predict where IED attacks will take place and locate weapons caches.

    A modified version of the program, C-SCARE/A, has been developed specifically for Afghanistan and uses information such as locations and dates of previous attacks, tribal information, and road networks to predict where IED attacks are likely to occur. The modified software was produced as part of the final phase of the counter-IED project.

    The program is not 100% accurate, but has been proven to be capable of predicting attacks. What is amazing is that a piece of software can be so useful to warfighters. Rather than relying on a new piece of advanced technology, the program simply uses available information and a mathematical model to provide utility to troops who are on deployment.

    This program is proof that the ability for technology to assist warfighters isn't just reliant on hardware, but software as well.

    Persistent-surveillance sensors can compress time and link related events for deep intelligence gathering

    August 22, 2012 3:34 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    You can learn a lot just by watching, and that's the idea behind persistent-surveillance technologies deployed and in development by Logos Technologies Inc. in Fairfax, Va., for military surveillance in South Asia, as well as for homeland security surveillance on the nation's southern border.

    Logos is in the business of just watching -- not for anything specific, but the company's scientists are developing intelligent persistent-surveillance technologies that once something of interest happens, they not only can spot the incident and interpret it, but also link events happening before and after an incident that can yield reams of important information.

    The key word here is reams -- or more specifically, hundreds of terabytes of imaging data . The Logos Kestrel day/night wide-area persistent surveillance system, for example, is an imaging payload for helium-filled aerostats that remain aloft for about a month, and can store continuous video data for all of that time.

    Logos also designs the Lightweight Expeditionary Airborne Persistent Surveillance (LEAPS) payload for small manned aircraft such as the Hawker Beechcraft King Air, as well as for medium-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

    You can think of persistent surveillance as kind of an autonomous police stakeout. The beauty of these autonomous sensor payloads is they don't get tired, bored, distracted, or take coffee breaks.

    These kinds of sensors simply watch until something of interest happens -- a moving vehicle, converging vehicles, groups of people on foot, or anything else that might rouse suspicion.

    These incidents might indicate an important meeting of high-ranking terrorists, a drug deal going down, the planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or attempts to cross into the U.S. illegally.

    Taken in isolation, these incidents are simply moving vehicles or groups of people. Nothing really out of the ordinary. But put these incidents in context of events happening before and after, and sometimes a coherent picture emerges.

    What if three or four cars all park close to a specific house within a few minutes of one another? Say that house later is determined to be the hideout of an important terrorist, drug smuggler, or military enemy?

    A persistent-surveillance system like Kestrel, LEAPS, or Gorgon Stare can indicate where the converging cars came from, and where they went afterwards. This could lead authorities to important suppliers, criminals, or potential victims.

    What is an aerostat-mounted persistent surveillance sensor could watch a road every second for a month? By identifying vehicles that stop at odd times and odd places might indicate the emplacement of IEDs, or some other kind of military ambush.

    The possibilities are almost endless.

    The story doesn't end there, however. Logos engineers are working to shrink their persistent-surveillance payloads from hundreds to only tens of pounds, as well as developing data storage technologies that make the most of limited bandwidth. These approaches could open up new ways to deploy these sensors on a wide variety of covert platforms.

    These persistent-surveillance sensors are watching ... all the time.

    UAV swarm technology emerges to perform varied applications

    August 13, 2012 10:19 AM by Skyler Frink
    With UAV swarm technology advancing, the question is what will these swarms be able to accomplish? UAV swarms are groups of UAVs that work together to accomplish goals, communicating with each other and assisting other members of the swarm in tasks.

    The obvious mission for swarms, and the one that was tested by Boeing and the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory tested, is searching areas and transmitting information to soldiers on the ground. A swarm of UAVs is capable of mapping an area quickly, using communications technology to assign different areas to different UAVs while sending data to warfighters.

    Search and rescue operations are also being looked into, with multiple UAVs being able to search an area for people in danger, relaying the information to rescuers and even marking the area visually.

    There are also offensive capabilities that swarms are well suited for, such as overwhelming air defense through sheer volume. Current defensive systems are not designed to defend against massive attacks carried out by dozens, even hundreds of armed unmanned vehicles. Inexpensive armed UAVs that can communicate with each other to carry out attacks may prove to be a safe and economical way to remove anti-aircraft defenses.

    UAV swarms are an emerging technology that can provide a solution to a variety of problems on the modern battlefield.

    Rarely before have we seen a bleaker picture for U.S. defense spending

    August 8, 2012 12:34 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 8 Aug. 2012. The news isn't good these days for the U.S. defense budget . Prospects are gloomy for Congress to head-off automatic deep military budget cuts by the 1 Jan. sequestration deadline; the Senate adjourned for recess without bringing the 2013 defense appropriation to a vote; and studies show that as many as 2.14 million Americans in all 50 states could lose their jobs if sequestration hits.

    Sequestration is a fancy name for automatic defense cuts of half a trillion dollars over the next decade. These cuts will begin in less than five months if Congress can't agree to more controlled reductions in military spending.

    It appears increasingly likely that this Congress will let sequestration happen. I never believed this could happen until now. Every member of Congress today is more concerned with the November elections than with heading off potential economic disaster at the Pentagon.

    Allowing the automatic cuts to happen, moreover, gives everyone on Capitol Hill the political cover he or she needs to shirk responsibility for the automatic cuts and their results when these cuts take place. This in the election season is a political gift that no one in Congress can resist.

    The bad news doesn't stop there. As the Senate skipped out on its collective responsibility to approve a fiscal 2013 Pentagon spending bill prospects dimmed that any defense appropriation has a change of getting through Congress perhaps until after the November elections -- perhaps even later.

    Instead, Congress -- as has become common practice -- will allow the Pentagon to operate on a six-month continuing resolution that will keep the lights on in the Defense Department until after the first of the year.

    Some in Congress say this continuing resolution will ensure stability in the Pentagon. What it actually means is anything but.

    The Pentagon has money for half a year, not for a full year. That means no one will risk starting new programs, and the only contracts to be let will be for the short term. With sequestration looming, moreover, U.S. defense companies are making plans to cut their work forces. Stability? I don't think so.

    "Program managers are unable to initiate any new programs, procurement accounts are frozen, military bases will probably issue only short-term contracts, and training hours will be affected," say officials of the Association of the U.S. Army in a recent legislative update.

    Automatic and arbitrary defense cuts are looming on the horizon, the Defense Department and the defense industry are paralyzed from lack of long-term commitments and funding, no one seems willing even to acknowledge how U.S. military forces are contracting at an alarming rate.

    This is the picture we face as a resurgent China gains influence in the Western Pacific, and as Iran marches ever closer to developing nuclear weapons.

    MacKenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the Wall Street Journal This week that the U.S. Air Force hasn't purchased fewer aircraft in a year since 1916, and that the U.S. Navy's 286 combat and support ships is the smallest fleet since 1916.

    Can anyone remember when things were this bad for U.S. defense? I can't. We'll have national elections in early November, and I'm not sure if defense is even a major campaign issue.

    Is the U.S. preparing for war in Syria?

    August 6, 2012 9:47 AM by Skyler Frink
    For those who haven't been following the Syrian rebellion, Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, revealed that Syria has chemical weapons and isn't afraid to use them against "external aggression." This has caused some worry in the international community, and sparked an interest in chemical and biological weapon defeat in the U.S.

    With the threats coming in from Israel to attack in order to stop dangerous chemical weapons from getting into rebel hands, chemical weapons may be seeing use in the not-too-distant future. Since the threat, the U.S. Department of Defense has begun investing in devices that can be used to combat chemical and biological weapons.

    With the tension growing in Syria as well as possible foreign intervention, both Russia and the U.S. have accused the other of supplying different sides while Israel has threatened to get directly involved, the threat of a larger conflict has been steadily growing. These contracts only further prove just how serious the conflict is being taken. Millions of dollars are being poured into developing better anti-chemical and biological weapon gear for U.S. soldiers.

    Syria's chemical weapons are believed to not only have deadly nerve agents and mustard gas, but Syria is believed to have scud missiles to deliver these weapons from long distances. Is the U.S. preparing for a conflict to break out, or is it simply following the idea of expect the best, but prepare for the worst?

    For more information on the contracts and devices being built, read the articles here and here .

    Aftermarket parts suppliers help extend the lives of legacy aircraft when parts supplies dry up

    August 1, 2012 4:06 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 1 Aug. 2012. Modern commercial, military, and general-aviation aircraft have to stay in the air a long time -- particularly these days when operators want to get the most out of their investments.

    Problems with legacy aircraft come up, however, when the supply of critical spare parts dries up. Parts manufacturers quit supporting their older product lines after a while, which can leave aircraft operators in a pinch.

    That's where aftermarket suppliers for aircraft spare parts and subsystems come in. One of the largest and longest in business is Ontic Engineering and Manufacturing Inc., which has headquarters in Chatsworth, Calif., and has operations in Houston, as well as in Cheltenham and Slough, England.

    Ontic's business model is straightforward: when original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) decide either to go out of business or quit producing legacy parts, Ontic can step in to take over inventory and manufacturing to extend product availability.

    "We acquire the intellectual property rights from the OEM, they go out of the business, and we go into the business," explains Ontic President Peg Billson. "If the OEM no longer wants to provide the resources to support the product line, under their authority we can license the entire product line."

    Ontic specializes in five major aviation product lines: electronics such as system controllers, radar systems, and cockpit interface units; engine components and accessories; electromechanical components such as motors and pumps; oxygen and environmental-control systems; and large structures such as landing gear assemblies.

    The company either stocks OEM-manufactured parts, or takes over manufacturing the parts, if necessary. Most parts that Ontic supplies are for aircraft that are out of production, but does supply parts for aircraft still on the assembly line, such as the Boeing 777 widebody jetliner and the Airbus A320 single-aisle jetliner.

    Ontic maintains the OEM as a partner, with assurances that Ontic will not compete with its OEM partners on supplying and manufacturing specific aviation components and subsystems. "When an OEM decides to partner with us, they know we won't complete with them on new platforms," Billson says. "We don't do new-product development."

    Among the aircraft that Ontic supports, in addition to the 777 and A320, are the Eurofighter Typhoon, Hawk jet trainer, E-2C Hawkeye maritime patrol aircraft, F-15 jet fighter, AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, as well as the 737, 757, and MD-80 passenger jets.

    Ontic derives 50 percent of its revenue from supporting military aircraft, 35 percent from supporting commercial air transport aircraft, and 15 percent from supporting business jets and other general-aviation aircraft.

    Electronics support accounts for 30 percent of Ontic revenue, Billson says. The company, for example, provides the fuel-measurement computers for the 777 and A320 passenger jets, as well as radar systems for 737s and MD-80s.

    For more information contact Ontic online at .

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    UAVs may be able to fly in national airspace thanks to new system

    July 24, 2012 8:55 AM by Skyler Frink
    UAV s have been unable to fly in national airspace due to the danger of collisions that an unmanned vehicle creates. A UAV has no pilot and thus has difficulty avoiding other aircraft that may be in the same area. This has been difficult for the Army, which needs to be able to train UAV operators. A new system, the ground based sense and avoid system (GBSAA), may be fixing this problem in the next few years.

    To date, UAVs are not allowed to fly in national airspace unless they are tailed by a manned aircraft or watched by a trained observer who must remain a certain distance from the UAV at all times. UAVs are also not allowed to be flown at night, which severely limits the training scenarios for UAV operators in national airspace.

    The GBSAA uses a 3D radar system and algorithms to determine if there is danger in an area, whether a collision is possible, and how to avoid any possible collisions.

    The system was recently tested, with intruder aircraft entering the airspace UAVs were operating in. So far all tests have been successful, and the system is on schedule to deploy by March of 2014.

    When the system is released it will allow the Army to train new UAV operators and keep veteran UAV operators in top-top shape. The system will also save money, allowing UAV operators to train without having an observer or chase aircraft present.

    This system could also allow UAVs to be flown for other purposes in national airspace.

    What does radiation hardened mean?

    July 18, 2012 7:26 AM by Skyler Frink
    The short answer? That a product can withstand some amount of radiation.

    The long answer? Radiation hardened has no real definition in the industry, it means something different to everyone. The term may mean that a product was designed with radiation in mind, or it could mean that a product was run through a series of tests to see if it could survive certain amounts radiation.

    The issue of what radiation hardened means is only further muddied by the existence of the term 'radiation tolerant.' Radiation tolerant sounds like a less secure system, maybe one that can survive a little bit of radiation but can't go into geosynchronous orbit where there are larger levels of radiation. It can't be that easy, though, as there are radiation tolerant electronics that are actually better suited to surviving high-radiation environments than some radiation hardened electronics.

    So, how do designers know that a product will be able to survive certain environments? There is the actual defined term of radiation hardened assurance (RHA), which guarantees that a product can survive certain amounts of different types of radiation.

    Ultimately the ability for a product to survive radiation comes down to different tests and the data they provide. Tests that look at how well electronics can survive TID (total ionizing dose), SEE (single event effects) and ELDR(enhanced low dose rate) conditions. Radiation hardened does not mean a product can survive a specific amount of radiation, it only means that it can survive some radiation.

    The term radiation hardened rings hollow as a descriptor, only saying that a product can survive some amount of radiation. Why is this term still used so heavily in the industry when it has no real meaning?

    Fifty six men who made history, 236 years ago today

    July 4, 2012 7:44 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    On a warm morning 236 years ago today, 56 men met in what then was the State House in Philadelphia after having spent tiring hours the day before in the most important debate of their lives.

    They represented a strip of coastal land with regions as diverse as New Hampshire and Georgia. Their values, culture, and home economies all were strikingly different. In fact, each one referred to where he lived as "my country," even though the 13 regions the men represented then officially were called colonies.

    The word "colonies" was at the core of what the men debated that morning so many years ago, for those representing these 13 colonies were about to change the names of where they lived from colonies to states.

    They had been colonies overseen by their mother country of Great Britain virtually since the first Englishmen landed on those shores, ironically 192 years to the day before that meeting in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. Eventually those first arrivals established England's first colony and named it Roanoke.

    That colony, unfortunately, didn't survive. Its members vanished in a chain of events that today remains a mystery. Undaunted, more colonists crossed the Atlantic from England and established the first lasting English colony in North America, Jamestown, in 1607.

    The name of that colony -- and the state to which it would evolve -- eventually would change, renamed for a little girl named Virginia Dare, the first child born in the vanished Roanoke colony. Not only would Virginia be the first American colony, but it also would be the home of a man named Thomas Jefferson who would author the document that effectively transformed the colonies into states.

    Jefferson was among those 56 men who debated in Philadelphia the morning of July 4, 1776. They were tired, they were hot, and they were fed up.

    In most of the 169 years since the establishment of Jamestown, the colonists had lived harmoniously with the mother country Great Britain. It was the government of Great Britain that provided the financial and military backing that helped establish the 13 colonies. England was the largest trading partner to the colonies, and most of the colonists considered themselves Englishmen. They were, after all, subjects of Great Britain.

    They had plenty to thank Great Britain for. The strip along the East Coast of North America where the 13 colonies were located had been contested and fought over by European powers almost since the beginning of the colonies. Spain claimed lands south and west of the Colonies, and France claimed lands to the north. The colonies also often were surrounded by hostile Native American tribes. Great Britain provided protection from all of these threats.

    The biggest threat to the colonies had come just 23 years before the meeting in Philadelphia that morning, and must have been on the minds of some of the men in attendance. France and Great Britain had engaged in a world war called the Seven Years War. It was this war that ultimately settled which European power would dominate the North American continent. In the American Colonies the war was known as the French and Indian War.

    Although won by Great Britain, the war had cost money, and the British government looked to its North American colonies to provide some repayment. The colonies historically had been undertaxed, but that changed in 1763 shortly after treaties were signed ending the Seven Years War.

    The British government passed the Sugar Act that year -- just 13 years before that morning's meeting in Philadelphia -- which introduced customs records, added new charges on consumables to push the colonists into buying British goods, and charged three pence a ton for molasses imported to the colonies from the West Indies. Although the taxes were not heavy, the colonists noticed for the first time that they were being asked to pay taxes to the British government without having elected representatives taking part in their passage.

    Two years later the British government approved the Stamp Act, which put a tax on every legal document and every newspaper in the colonies. Closely behind was the Quartering Act, which required colonists to house British soldiers where no barracks were available. The Stamp Act led to street violence, and although the law didn't last, the slogan "no taxation without representation" became common in the colonies.

    Resentment against British authority grew, leading to more violence in colonial streets. In 1770 British soldiers shot their muskets into an unruly mob in Boston that had been insulting them and pelting them with ice, oyster shells, and pieces of coal. That incident became known as the Boston Massacre.

    The British government was determined to assert its authority. Members of the British Parliament believed the King of Britain had sovereign power over the colonies, had the right to pass laws and taxes, whether or not the colonists had elected representation in Parliament.

    The last straw for the British government was an incident in Boston in late 1773. British authorities prohibited the sale of tea, a popular drink in the colonies, by any company except the British East India Company. In reaction to that limitation on free commerce, some colonists dressed as Indians, boarded ships in Boston Harbor, and threw their cargoes of tea overboard. This became known as the Boston Tea Party.

    The British government had had enough, and in 1774 punished the colonies with what became known as the Intolerable Acts. These included closing Boston Harbor until the costs of the destroyed tea was repaid; limiting the number of public meetings; made appointment of colonial officials subject to the British Government rather than the colonies; allowed moving legal trials to other colonies or to Great Britain; and established another quartering act to house British soldiers in private colonial homes.

    These laws led to more violence and unrest. It was just a year later that British soldiers, seeking to confiscate colonial weapons and explosives reportedly hidden in a small town outside Boston, met armed colonial resistance on the town green in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord.

    These so-called "Intolerable Acts," as well as the battles on the town green in Lexington and at the North Bridge in Concord, were on the minds of the men meeting in Philadelphia 236 years ago today. Just a day earlier they had hammered out most of the details of a declaration to separate the colonies from Great Britain. That morning they would finish the declaration, and each man in attendance would sign it.

    Here is what they wrote:

    In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

    The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of AMERICA.

    WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another; and to assume, among the Powers Of The Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

    We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

    HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

    HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them and formidable to Tyranny only.

    HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

    HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the people.

    HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, Incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining, in the mean Time, exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

    HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

    HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

    HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

    HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

    HE has kept among us, in times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.

    HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

    HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

    FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

    FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

    FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

    FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

    FOR depriving us in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

    FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

    FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

    FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

    FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

    HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection, and waging War against us.

    HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

    HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

    HE has constrained our fellow Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

    HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

    IN every Stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

    NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them, from Time to Time, of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our Connexions and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

    WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be,FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

    The words of this document are what we celebrate today. As you enjoy your fireworks, hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, and family gatherings, please take a minute to remember the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and the risks they took doing so. If captured they would have been executed, and their property confiscated.

    Benjamin Franklin, who was among those 56 men representing the colony of Pennsylvania, remarked sagely, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

    Happy Independence Day, everyone.

    How quantum computing will change security

    June 30, 2012 8:28 AM by Skyler Frink
    Today, most password protected systems have fairly strong encryption and security features. The time it would take a traditional computer to crack the encryption of a network would be so long the network would have already changed its password and any data gained from previous communications would be too old to be worth anything.

    Quantum computers are set to change all of that in a drastic way. As an example, forms of RSA are used in secure websites and email systems (notice the https:// instead of http:// on these pages). RSA is based on how difficult it is for computers to factor integers, and is used in almost all public-key cryptography (cryptography that is used across an open network). Quantum computers are adept at factoring integers and if the problems holding them back were solved they would quickly make RSA obsolete, compromising one of the most popular forms of secure communications over the Internet.

    Rather than using security that is based off of the difficulty of factoring integers, other lattice-based cryptography or systems based on problems in coding theory. Quantum computers are not yet known to crack those systems easily, but quantum algorithms have far more potential than classic algorithms for problem solving.

    While effective quantum computing may not arrive for some time, when it does land it will completely alter the security landscape.

    The day a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner called me a racist

    June 26, 2012 11:12 AM by John Keller
    I noted with some pleasant surprise and amusement the news late last month that President Obama presented an old acquaintance, Dolores Huerta, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom . Mrs. Huerta and I crossed paths a few times back in the early '80s when I was the agriculture editor of a small Central California daily newspaper and she was a high-profile farm worker rights advocate.

    If anyone deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it's Mrs. Huerta. Although we agree on few things politically, she has my deep respect for her passion and hard work promoting fair treatment of those who harvest our nation's crops -- often by hand while stooped over in the open where temperatures well exceed 100 degrees.

    I'll never forget the day I met Mrs. Huerta; it was at a Fresno, Calif., TV station where she and I were taping one of those early-Sunday-morning public affairs shows as panelists discussing farm issues. It was in the station lobby after that taping, during what I thought was a light, innocuous conversation, that Mrs. Huerta called me a racist.

    Did I deserve it? I didn't think so at the time, and now nearly 30 years later I can hardly remember the details of what we talked about. It wasn't an interview; it was one of those 'nice-to-meet-you' type of conversations before parting.

    I was the farm editor at The Hanford Sentinel then, and in my work I certainly had more routine encounters with farm owners than I did with farm workers. I think I made some comment about the labor needs of farm operators, and Mrs. Huerta drilled me with a glare, and said, "How can you say that? I think you're a racist."
    At that, she stood up, turned on her heel, and left the building. I was a 24-year-old kid at the time, who probably didn't belong on any TV public affairs program, and I was pretty stricken. I had no idea what I had said to offend her. She was well-known, I was not, and offending her was the last thing I wanted to do.

    She had an impressive resume even then. Mrs. Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with labor icon Cesar Chavez back in the early '60s. During agricultural strikes and other labor unrest she always was one of Chavez's principal lieutenants.

    She was a firebrand three decades ago when I was passing acquaintances with her, and more than a little rough around the edges. She'd get in your face in a moment, no matter who you were, if she detected anything less than full support for her labor causes. I saw it happen to plenty of other people, before and after it happened to me. In her work Mrs. Huerta has been arrested 22 times.

    She's lived her life in a "you're-either-with-us-or-against-us" world, and I think she considered me to be on the other side. I was, after all, making my living covering the farm business, where conflicts with organized labor are routine -- particularly there in California's Central Valley, a UFW stronghold. I'd never met Mrs. Huerta before, and had no idea what might set her off.

    Later on, when I told the story to other UFW organizers, one of them just shook his head and chuckled, saying, "Yeah. That's Dolores."

    Mrs. Huerta is 82 now and I haven't encountered her since my early days as a newspaper reporter. She's won the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award and the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which along with the Congressional Gold Medal is our nation's highest civilian award.

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes people who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors."

    Mrs. Huerta also has been an elementary school teacher, and is president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield, Calif., which advocates for health, environmental, education, economic, and youth issues. She also is an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America -- the largest socialist organization in the U.S. and principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International.

    Mrs. Huerta is a mother to 11 children, and grandmother to seven, and considers her proudest accomplishments to be, "Spanish-language ballots for voters, public assistance for immigrants, toilets in the fields, drinking water protection from pesticides," and an immigration act that gave legal status to more than a million farm workers, according to The Daily Beast. To call Mrs. Huerta formidable is an understatement.

    So there I was standing flat-footed in a Fresno TV station, a fuzzy-faced kid just a couple of years out of college, who had just offended Mrs. Huerta enough for her to call me a racist. Crestfallen? You could say that.

    Then I noticed it; in her haste, Mrs. Huerta had left her purse behind. I picked it up and went looking for her in the parking lot, where I found her, searching for that lost purse. I handed it to her, and she gave me a thank-you and a sheepish little smile. We ended up parting on reasonably good terms ...

    ... and I can't recall that she ever called me a racist again.

    Look up in the sky! It's a helicopter, it's a plane, it's...the X3!

    June 13, 2012 9:57 AM by Skyler Frink
    An aircraft that can hover, take off and land like a helicopter but cruise through the air like a jet sounds more like a GI Joe toy than an actual aircraft, but the Eurocopter X3 demonstrator is coming to the United States to show that it's more than just a good idea for a toy.

    The X3 is a hybrid aircraft that looks an awful lot like a helicopter that somebody decided to photoshop stubby wings onto while removing the tail rotor (replacing it with a cool tail) and giving it a pointy nose. It really does look like something a 10-year-old drew on the back of his notebook, right next to Iron Man.

    Well, that 10-year-old must have grown up and became an engineer, because the X3 is exactly that machine. Far from being a wild and crazy design, it has been shattering the speed goals that have been set (it has now reached more than 264 miles per hour) for it while operating at under maximum power. The aircraft, called a hybrid aircraft since it is a cross between a jet and a helicopter, will be flying around the United States in 7 days!

    I'm excited to see how well it is received. It has obvious applications in the military for support missions, and I'd like to see how commercial and business operators could use it. While there is currently no plan to release hybrid aircraft until 2020, the technology is there and will be at Eurocopter's U.S. headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas, soon.

    The Normandy Invasion that opened the Allies great crusade in Europe happened 68 years ago today

    June 6, 2012 12:37 PM by John Keller
    "And then as the last formation flew over,
    an amber light blinked down through the clouds
    on the fleet below. Slowly it flashed out
    in Morse code three dots and a dash:
    V for Victory."

    -- Cornelius Ryan
       The Longest Day

    Posted by John Keller

    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 6 June 2012. The invasion of Europe 68 years ago today began with the turning of an airplane propeller. Then the engine of that Douglas C-47 coughed to life, followed by another, and another ...

    Soon the engines of thousands of aircraft roared all over England, ready to carry airborne soldiers, tow gliders, haul ammunition and food, drop bombs and shoot bullets to support the Allied invasion of Normandy -- still to this day the largest amphibious military landing in history.

    The Normandy invasions of five beaches in Western France on June 6, 1944, opened a western front in Europe during World War II, which not only relieved soldiers of the Soviet Union, who had been slugging it out with forces of Nazi Germany for three years, but also hastened an end to World War II's chapter in Europe. Germany would surrender 11 months later.

    More than 550,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in the Normandy Invasion -- 320,000 Germans, 135,000 Americans, 65,000 British, 18,000 Canadians, and 12,200 French.
    Just that number of CASUALTIES is more than three times the total number of soldiers -- Union and Confederate -- who were involved in the Battle of Gettysburg. In one cataclysmic battle, it's almost 90 percent of the total number of American casualties in the entire Civil War.

    It was a big battle, as the silent rows of white headstones in Allied military cemeteries around Normandy will attest. No need here to recount the details or emotional impact of the battle. We've seen numerous accounts in books and movies to give us an idea of what those soldiers went through 68 years ago today.

    The books The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan and The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara come to mind, as do Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan, and his TV series Band of Brothers, based on the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose.

    In my life I've met and written about veterans of the Normandy Invasion. I sat one afternoon with a former paratrooper from the 101st Airborne Division who parachuted behind the lines early the morning before the first soldiers hit the beaches.

    He described such a scene of crying, vomiting, praying paratroopers waiting their turns to jump that morning, flak bursting around them, their faces lit by burning and exploding aircraft close by, that my interview concluded when this brave veteran simply couldn't go on describing the scene.

    Another Normandy veteran who went ashore after the first wave showed me a mutilated wallet wrapped in plastic. The wallet was his, and it was mangled by a piece of shrapnel that sliced open his chest during the fighting. He said he could look down and see his beating heart before he lost consciousness.

    All of us reading this column will see a day in the not-too-distant future when all the veterans of World War II will be gone. I remember growing up when these veterans seemed like they were on every street corner.

    I lost touch with those guys I met who fought at Normandy, and I suspect they have passed on by now; I did those interviews 28 years ago, yet I still think of them from time to time.

    Today I'm thinking about them a lot.

    Vietnamese Government opens more sites to POW/MIA investigators

    June 5, 2012 9:47 AM by Skyler Frink
    Not long after Memorial day, we may be finding out more about the fate of more soldiers who were declared MIA in Vietnam.

    The Vietnamese government is now allowing three new areas that were previously off-limits to American personnel. The sites that were opened are the Kontum province, where a soldier was lost in 1968; the Quang Binh province where a F-4C Phantom II jet crashed with two personnel in 1967; and the Quang Tri province where a F-4J Wild Weasel aircraft was lost and one man was rescued from the site while another was declared MIA.

    The Vietnamese government is supporting the searches in these areas with personnel and information.

    It's always good news when countries assist each other, hopefully there will be some more news as to the fate of the soldiers who were involved in these accidents. While 45 years may be a long time to wait, the phrase no man left behind comes to mind. No matter how long it takes, the U.S. will eventually find its soldiers.

    Will model-based design make prototypes obsolete for the Military & Aerospace Industry?

    May 30, 2012 2:34 PM by Skyler Frink
    Before computers could run complex programs the only way to know something would work was to build a prototype and test it. If the prototype worked: great! If not: back to the drawing board. There was science behind designs and engineers obviously got a lot done using blueprints, diagrams and complex formulas, but in this day and age a new form of design has become a powerful force.

    Model-based design, having models in programs be the center of design rather than physical documents and prototypes, emerged in an effort to lower program costs and allow for tests to be done without spending the large amounts of money required for prototypes.

    The obvious benefit of model-based design is that, with programs that include environmental variables (wind conditions, shock and vibrations, altitude, etc.) you can test a model without having to spend the time or money involved in putting together a prototype. You can even use different levels of abstraction. Need to make sure a certain part is working correctly? Just run the model of that part through a series of virtual tests. Want to test the entire project? Run a model of it through a series of virtual tests.

    I spoke with John Friedman, Information Marketing Manager at Mathworks Inc., a company which has created popular engineering programs such as MATLAB, about model-based design. Before model-based design there was a saying, "'It [the design process] can either be faster, cheaper or better quality,'" said Mathwork's Friedman, "With model-based design it's a place where you can move the needle in all three areas."

    The best part about model-based design is it has not finished improving. As computers grow more powerful, so too do the models and the tests they are put through. While physical tests are still necessary, model-based design allows for many flaws to be caught before money is spent on costly prototypes or production models for tests.

    Model-based design has not yet fully removed prototypes from projects. Simulations aren't yet accurate enough to account for every little variable, but if Moore's law holds true we may just reach the point where we go straight from models to production without a cost increase. Wouldn't it be nice to have a test environment where the only money you're spending is on electricity?

    Memorial Day

    May 28, 2012 9:48 AM by Skyler Frink
    Memorial Day is a holiday that far too many people take for granted as simply another three-day weekend. While everyone is out enjoying barbecues I'd like to take a moment to remind you as to what the holiday is really about: honoring the sacrifices made by the men and women who have given up their lives in service of our country.

    There have been times in the history of the United States when we did not appreciate our troops. Our soldiers were called murders, baby killers and a plethora of other terrible things. It is a sad time when people who are doing a selfless duty, whether you agree with their mission or not, are berated. Whether you support or oppose the current conflicts we are involved in, whether you think our military strength should be increased or decreased, no matter what your religion or stance on any subject is, supporting the people who fight for our country should not be open for debate.

    Memorial Day should be a time to honor those who paid the ultimate price, those who served our country but did not get to fully enjoy what they fought for.

    Let's take a moment today to remember why we have the day off. Enjoy the day and the freedom we have, but remember all of the people who aren't with their families because they were making this day possible.

    The haunting bugle call Taps is 150 years old this summer

    May 24, 2012 9:49 AM by John Keller
    THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 24 May 2012. This summer marks the 150th anniversary of one of the best-known bugle calls ever -- the haunting tune played at thousands of military funerals every year known as Taps.

    The tune first was played during the American Civil War in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing, Va., in the aftermath of a series of disastrous Union defeats at the hands of Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

    Buglers from all walks of life are marking the 150th anniversary of Taps , including an event earlier this month at Arlington National Cemetery in which many buglers formed to play the melancholy melody together.
    Creating the tune were Union Army Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield and his bugler, Private Oliver W. Norton , of Erie, Pa.

     It was part of normal Army routine to play bugle tune or solo drum tap at the end of the day to signal lights out. Butterfield didn't like the Army's lights-out bugle call at the time, and composed a new tune more to his liking.

    Soon after Butterfield first had Norton play the tune in the demoralized Union Army camp in July 1862, buglers from other units picked it up, and before long buglers all over the Army were playing what would become known as Taps at the end of the day.

    Until then one common way to signal the end of the Army's day was for a solitary drummer to play three taps on the drum for lights out. Soldiers knew that drum call as taps, and extended the name to Butterfield's new bugle call, which ever since has been known as Taps.

    July 1862 at Harrison's landing was a bad place at a bad time for the Union Army. The Union's Peninsula Campaign, which had sought to take the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., had ended in defeat after the Army of the Potomac had been forced to retreat to the safety of Harrison's Landing after a major series of engagements known as the Seven Days Battles.

    Defeated, the Union Army was preparing to board ships on its way back to Washington. No one knew the war would last another three years. At Harrison's Landing it was hot and muggy, disease was rampant in the Army ranks, and morale could not have been lower. It was from this that the Taps bugle call emerged.

    There is a popular myth, now debunked, that Union Army Capt. Robert Ellicombe at Harrison's Landing heard the moan of a Confederate soldier who lay mortally wounded. Ellicombe, the story goes, crawled through gunfire to pull the wounded soldier to safety. When he reached his own lines, however, the soldier was dead. he discovered a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.

    To his horror, he realized that the dead solder was his own son. In his dead son's pocket he found a series of musical notes written on a piece of paper. A bugler played those notes, the story goes, and that tune was Taps.

    Sorry, but not true. That story evidently was concocted in the 20th century by creators of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Butterfield and Norton are the actual creators of Taps.

     In one of history's ironic twists, Taps is perhaps best known for being played at Arlington National Cemetery at notable funerals like that of slain President John F. Kennedy. Taps was written in the wake of big military victory by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Before the Civil War, the land that is now Arlington National Cemetery was owned by ... guess who? You got it; it was the estate of Robert E. Lee.

    Day is done, gone the sun
    From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
    All is well, safely rest
    God is nigh.
    Fading light dims the sight
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
    From afar, drawing near
    Falls the night.
    Thanks and praise for our days
    Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
    As we go, this we know
    God is nigh.

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    The Navy's solid-state laser weapon

    May 22, 2012 12:18 PM by Skyler Frink
    It looks like the Navy is building another weapon right out of the sci-fi genre yet again, this time with a solid-state laser that can disable boats and shoot down aircraft. That's right, lasers that can shoot down aircraft and damage boats.

    High-energy lasers have been used directly for many purposes, they can disable missiles, rockets and mortars, but this time they're going for a more direct route. The reason given for this weapon is the Navy wants to stop small boats and aircraft without having to use bullets, an admirable goal.

    The Navy has a long history of doing work in the field of directed energy, where they have managed to produce kilowatt-scale lasers that can be fielded offensively rather than the traditional defensive roles lasers have served in the past. This is not just wishful thinking either, two previous demonstrations have shown the laser disabling a boat and shooting down four different test unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

    Whether or not the laser will be safe if targeting a person (or at least safer than the alternative, bullets) is unclear, but whatever happens with the Navy's current program it will make a mark on military weaponry. Will future naval battles be the colorful stream of lasers we've come to expect from Star Wars? Probably not (most lasers we use aren't even visible), but it looks like we're marching towards a future where solid projectiles may not be the only method for a soldier to deal with threats.

    High-performance embedded computing (HPEC) gaining market traction, but its definition remains elusive

    May 14, 2012 2:52 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    People warned me that when I reached a certain age I'd look out at a once-familiar world and see nothing that I recognized. Well, it's happened. Acceptable social behavior today is a shock and a mystery. Popular music sounds like noise, and the most recent covers of Time and Newsweek , well don't even get me started.

    One of the biggest jolts of all, so far, involves the embedded computing industry that so many of us have come to know and love for what seems like forever.
    Embedded computing for military embedded systems used to mean single-board computers. It wasn't that complicated. We knew we were talking about the same thing -- even when mezzanine boards, VPX, high-speed switch fabrics, and even what DARPA calls 'cyber-physical systems' entered the conversation.

    Now? Well, I'm not so sure.

    I started to feel somewhat off-balance when companies like GE and Intel stopped talking about embedded computing altogether, and substituted the new term 'intelligent systems .' People tell me the names mean pretty much the same thing, but you never know when new definitions might sneak in when we're not looking.

    Now there's a new term on the block, and I think it's got plenty of people just as confused as I am. Here it is: high-performance embedded computing, or HPEC for short. Okay, it doesn't sound all that frightening. Look at those words; doesn't the name sound straightforward enough?

    Well, you'd think, but I guess not. In fact, I have a feeling that little acronym, HPEC, is going to define the marketing wars for a good while in that ... business, you know, where at one shining moment in the not-too-distant past we knew it as the embedded computing industry.

    Sshhhh. Better not say that too loud, or we'll get the same kind of eye rolls as when someone refers to the 'information super highway,' or the 'TV set.'

    So what's high-performance embedded computing mean, anyway? Well, I think it depends a lot on who's selling it. Remember COTS, short for commercial off-the-shelf? Everyone remembers the debate over what COTS meant. Heck, we used to have whole TRADE SHOWS to debate the term.

    COTS in its day meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the best definition of COTS I ever heard is "whatever my customer says it is." I have a feeling HPEC is headed the same way.

    Here's where I think we are now in the HPEC-terminology wars. The early pioneers -- Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions , GE Intelligent Platforms , and probably Mercury Computer Systems -- are looking at a fairly narrow definition -- one that closely resembles their cutting-edge technology, and that, not surprisingly, their marketing departments have a shot at controlling.

    For these companies, high-performance embedded computing closely follows what the IT industry has come to call high-performance computing, or HPC. It has to do with parallel processing techniques for running complex application programs with large clusters of processors. Some say it only applies to systems that function at speeds in excess of 1 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflop).

    This is the kind of high-speed cluster computing used in military embedded systems for complex digital signal processing involving complex sensor processing in applications like radar, sonar, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

    More to the point, this definition involves software more than it does hardware. Large clusters of parallel processing computers are becoming commodity items in this brave new world of ours. Some of the biggest challenges have to do with programming these large computer clusters to run complex algorithms quickly and reliably.

    The real thing that makes HPEC different from HPC is the packaging. High-performance embedded computing is packaged to be small, rugged, and lightweight. It doesn't take a data center, but might fit aboard a ground vehicle or unmanned aerial vehicle.

    But then what does HPC mean to the rest of the embedded computing world? For companies like General Micro Systems, Extreme Engineering Solutions, and many others, HPC simply means embedded computing that is more high performance than average.

    Let's face it, most of the embedded computing industry isn't going to let GE, Curtiss-Wright, and Mercury get away with controlling the debate over HPEC. Anything those three companies can do, well they can do it too. They believe that, and their challenge is getting their customers to believe it, too.

    But the Big Three HPEC companies won't take that lying down. I suspect their marketing departments, as we speak, are on the verge of an entirely new term to describe what their design engineers do best. I can't wait to see what it's going to be.

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    Did I say $114 million mistake? I meant $351 million.

    May 9, 2012 3:58 PM by Skyler Frink
    Hopefully these sorts of updates don't become a regular thing, it's awfully distressing. Anyways, once again we see more money vanish into the rabbit hole that is the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter Program (JSF) program. It's more of the same, a $237.7 million contract "for changes to the configuration baseline hardware or software resulting from the JSF development effort."

    But wait, there's more. This time the concurrency cap is getting increased, the concurrency cap being the threshold at or under which the contract has to incorporate government authorized changes. Yep, that's more leeway. I don't think Lockheed Martin is to blame by any means, so the cap should be raised, but it's awfully disheartening to see something written into the contract just in case it costs even more than it already has.

    I'm really hoping this doesn't become a recurring theme with the F-35 program.

    One thing worth noting about this particular modification is that $222.6 million of these funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. These mistakes have already cost a whooping $351 million, is taking away money if it takes a long time really worth it? Could rushing not be a problem that's making these changes necessary?

    Interestingly enough, the F-35 JSF program has seen quite a bit of testing done. The F-35 has completed night flights, night refueling, conventional takeoffs and landings, formation flights, the whole 9 yards. There have been hundreds of flights, so what is going wrong that is costing this much extra money?

    Well, I've got my abacus ready for if there are any more contracts, and I'll keep on calling program officials until they let me in on what's going on. Check back often for more updates!

    Continuing the conversation

    May 7, 2012 3:54 PM by Skyler Frink
    The purpose of these blogs is to facilitate discussion and share our opinions with you. As you may have noticed our comment section is currently down, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make your opinion heard!

    I've received emails commenting on my blog, and it's worth saying that comments don't go unappreciated or unanswered. Responses let us know you're interested in what we're writing and help us tailor our articles and blogs to focus on what you want to hear about. Even if you're just popping in to offer a differing opinion it lets us know that we can look further into an issue, we might even publish your comment as a guest blog (with your permission, of course).

    Not sure how to contact us? Under the advertise tab in the top right of the site you'll find the "Editorial Contacts" button, give it a click and you'll find the email addresses of John, Courtney and myself.

    So go ahead and let us know what you want to hear about and how you think we're doing. Of course, the comment section will be up soon and I'm hoping we'll get more comments once that happens. We're here to write for you, not to hear the sounds of our own voices!

    Lockheed Martin experimental stealth surface vessel to be scrapped after yielding valuable technology

    May 3, 2012 4:29 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The Lockheed Martin Sea Shadow, an experimental surface vessel that helped design modern warships with low radar cross sections, is heading for the scrap yard after nearly 30 years of surface. The black dual-hull ship, built in the 1980s under a shroud of secrecy, has served its purpose and will be auctioned for scrap this week.

    Despite its undignified end, however, the Sea Shadow, which tests showed was nearly invisible to radar during sea tests, has led to radar-evading design technologies that have gone into the Navy's newest Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), as well as into new models of the Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

    The notion of radar-evading stealth technology perhaps reach its zenith in the 1980s before the close of the Cold War. Lockheed Martin had designed the super-secret F-117 stealth attack jet, and then company experts turned their attention to developing surface warships that might likewise be nearly invisible to radar signals.

    The result was the Sea Shadow, a spaceship-like test vessel that primarily was taken to sea for testing at night, and was built and stored in a secret submersible barge near San Francisco, which cloaked the vessel from orbiting spy satellites.

    The Sacramento Bee ran a terrific story last weekend by Matt Weiser entitled Scrap heap may be last stop for secret slice of Navy history, which gives a detailed account of the Sea Shadow's development and testing.

    Take a look at the photos that accompany stories about the Sea Shadow and then compare it to versions of the Navy LCS. See all those funny angles in the ship hulls and superstructures? That's key to the design's ability to evade radar signals.

    Radar detects targets by bouncing radio waves off the targets and measuring the reflected return of the radio energy. The best radar returns come from right angles. Notice that the LCS designs don't have too many of these. The angles of the LCS vessels, as well as radar-evading aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are designed to scatter radar energy, rather than provide clear returns. It's not fool-proof, but it can be quite effective.

    The Sea Shadow test vessel reportedly was able to sneak up on Navy warships at night without being detected until very late in the game. It this had been an armed enemy ship, U.S. aircraft carriers might have been in serious trouble.

    Now the testing is all over. It's a pity the Sea Shadow couldn't become part of some museum's collection, but so far it is not to be. Its legacy will live on, however, in the designs of modern warships.

    Air Force competes in National Collegiate Cyber Defense competition

    April 30, 2012 1:22 PM by Skyler Frink
    As an IT student I follow the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition with some interest. It looks like the military is interested in the competition as well, as the United States Air Force Academy managed to take second place, behind the University of Washington team in their second consecutive win.

    The competition features a red team, consisting of professional "white hat" hackers, that attacks each team's network constantly. The teams must defend against the attacks and attempt to keep several different services up while filling out incident reports on the activity of the red team.

    While it's a game, the competition uses attacks that serious threats would employ, and the attacks are carried out by some of the best hackers in the business. The Academy's team did incredibly given the level of competition, and it shows that the U.S. Military is interested in evolving to face new threats.

    The cyber defense field is dynamic, attacks and defenses change with different hardware and software. Whatever is being taught at the United States Air Force Academy is clearly good material, and the students being skilled enough to place second in such a fierce competition really helps put faith into the military's ability to defend against modern attacks.

    Still, maybe next year they can get first :)

    Will Intel 3rd Generation Intel Core processor make a big splash in embedded computing applications?

    April 27, 2012 6:32 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., unveiled its 3rd Generation Intel Core processor this week, which promises performance increases in processing speed, graphics capability, and data throughput over the 2nd Generation Core processor family, which burst on the scene in January 2011 to much fanfare and excitement in the military embedded systems industry.

    As Intel announced the 3d Generation Core processors on Monday, which the company previously had called Ivy Bridge, embedded computing companies almost immediately started rolling out products, which include single-board computers and mezzanine-board computers from companies like GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va.; Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions in Ashburn, Va.; Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis.; Mercury Computer Systems in Chelmsford, Mass.; and Concurrent Technologies in Woburn, Mass.

    With this flurry of embedded computing product introductions this week based on the 3rd Generation Core processor, however, the best is yet to come, as Intel officials say they will introduce new versions of the chips in coming months for systems like servers and embedded computing in aerospace and defense, industrial control, medical devices, and similar applications.

    One big question is will the 3rd Generation Core processor make as big a splash in the embedded computing industry as the 2nd Generation Core made little more than 15 months ago?

    The answer is probably not. The 2nd Generation Core processor introduced not only enhanced on-board graphics processing, but especially important for the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry was the chip's support for floating-point processing.

    At the time of the 2nd Generation Core processor's introduction, Intel rival Freescale Semiconductor in Austin, Texas, had discontinued support for floating-point processing on its latest generation of microprocessors, which left defense companies looking for new ways to tackle difficult digital signal processing for applications like radar processing, sonar, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

    Intel's introduction of the 2nd Generation Core processors took the aerospace and defense embedded computing business by storm. Even through Freescale later re-introduced floating-point processing, but Intel almost overnight grabbed a huge chunk of the aerospace and defense embedded processor market.

    The 3rd Generation Core processors from Intel, while introducing formidable enhancements, do not represent the revolutionary change in the embedded computing market that the previous generation of chips did. Nevertheless, the new chip introduction is causing much excitement among embedded computing designers.

    The quad-core 3rd Generation Intel Core processor family is touted as delivering visual and performance gains, and are the first chips made using Intel’s 22-nanometer 3-D tri-gate transistor technology, Intel officials say. The new-generation chips are coming in high-end desktop, laptop, and all-in-one (AIO) designs.

    The 3-D tri-gate transistor and architectural enhancements can as much as double the 3-D graphics and HD media processing performance over Intel’s 2nd Generation Core processors.

    The performance gains in the 3rd Generation Core processors are from the 3D structure of the Intel transistors, company officials say. Adding a third dimension enables Intel to increase transistor density and add capabilities. Intel also reworked the 3rd Generation Core's graphics architecture, and shrunk the size of the underlying transistors.

    The 3rd Generation Intel Core processor also adds security such as Intel Secure Key and Intel OS Guard. Intel Secure Key is a digital random number generator that creates random numbers to strengthen encryption algorithms. Intel OS Guard helps defend against privilege escalation attacks where a hacker remotely takes over another person's system.

    Systems with 3rd Generation Intel Core processors also transfer data more quickly than previous versions due to integrated PCI Express 3.0 and USB 3.0, which bring bigger data pipes.

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    The $114 million mistake

    April 25, 2012 3:32 PM by Skyler Frink
    Lockheed Martin was awarded two contract modifications today, each one for changes to the configuration baseline hardware or software resulting from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) development effort. Sounds pretty innocent, right? A call to Joe DellaVedova, Spokesperson for the F-35 Joint Program Office, revealed the cause for these contract modifications.

    Due to the program involving testing the aircraft while building them, twelve aircraft had already been built before a problem was found. In Mr. DellaVedova's words the modifications are to "provide funding for the contractor to correct deficiencies in LRIP (Low Rate Initial Production) II hardware and software." The deficiencies were not disclosed, but what we do know is that those deficiencies are costing the Department of Defense over $100 million to fix it. The United Kingdom is even footing some of the bill, ponying up $10 million to fix these issues. Specifically, the contracts total approximately $114.2 million.

    That's a lot of money to spend just because planes were built before we even knew they worked.

    The planes that were already produced (and thus are being fixed) are 6 short-take off and vertical-landing (STOVL) and 6 conventional take off and landing (CTOL) variants.

    Of course, this could have been easily prevented if everyone wasn't in a such a rush to get the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter into the air. Rather than building these incredibly expensive machines before they were fully tested they could have simply waited. Now there is a wait that, to quote the contracts, "will span multiple years." Couldn't wait to get them out there, and now we have to wait even longer because of problems that are in the software and hardware.

    The software or the hardware, otherwise known as absolutely everything in the aircraft. Be happy to know your tax dollars are going towards a mistake that was caused by rushing a product instead of thoroughly testing it before production, and that the mistake is involved in the all-encompassing hardware and software.

    Oh well, maybe this mistake will mean the DoD and Lockheed Martin have learned a $114.2 million lesson that everyone who's had to pay for printing at college already learned- "Make sure there are no errors before you print it out." Except this time instead of wasting a dollar to reprint a report, the government is wasting $114.2 million to retrofit 12 aircraft.

    Iran under attack once again

    April 23, 2012 3:45 PM by Skyler Frink
    After several computer viruses and physical attacks on scientists, Iran once again finds itself being attacked. This time the attack is in the form of a computer virus that targets Iran's oil industry.

    While the virus is still being investigated, it has been revealed that it targets the control systems of Kharg Island. This attack, which may just be a technical failure, is preventing the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) from sending the crude-loading program at terminals. The extent of the damage done by this virus is currently unknown, and will likely remain unknown for a great while. Complex programs are capable of laying dormant in a system and cropping up again later.

    This (possible) attack only serves to highlight how vulnerable systems are to cyber attacks. With so many industries relying on computers to get the job done these sorts of attacks are a serious threat.

    Of course, these actions, even if nobody knows who is responsible or whether they are acts of aggression or not, aren't helping ease international tension.

    High-performance computing for rugged mobile military applications is becoming a hot design issue

    April 18, 2012 3:03 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., 18 April 2012. High-performance computing for rugged mobile military embedded systems has become a hot topic, with several major players in this market voicing interest, or announcing upcoming products to help satisfy the insatiable appetite for processing power of aerospace and defense systems like vetronics, radar, and electronic warfare.

    High-performance computing -- which seems to be the contemporary term for what used to be called supercomputing -- came up in conversation this week during several meetings I had in Arizona and New Mexico to find out some of the latest trends in rugged embedded computing.

    Engineers in the Intel Corp. Intelligent Systems group in Chandler, Ariz., are combing their company's high-performance microprocessor technology with embedded computing expertise at Kontron in Poway, Calif., on a high-performance-computing proof-of-concent-program to create supercomputer performance in the size of a shoe box, says Ajit Patel, a marketing manager at Intel.

    The plan, which is in its early stages, would place six high-performance computing blades in a high-bandwidth backplane for vetronics, unmanned vehicles, and other aerospace and defense applications that require dense floating point performance in a small package.

    For this project, Intel is bringing its latest generations of microprocessor technology to the fore, while Kontron will concentrate on packaging, thermal management, and other embedded computing design issues, Patel says.

    This talk of emphasizing high-performance computing for embedded systems applications struck me as more than coincidence, since just last week I was writing about a big project at General Micro Systems in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., called Zeus to create high-performance server-class computing for military vetronics applications.

    Still, the talk of high-performance computing didn't stop with Intel, Kontron, and General Micro Systems. Jay Swenson, director of marketing and business development for military and aerospace embedded business at GE Intelligent Platforms in Albuquerque, N.M., says GE is increasing its emphasis on high-performance computing.

    Within a months' time, GE Intelligent Platforms will announce a new high performance computing center of excellence to focus research and business development in this area. "There is going to be a need for a lot more high-performance computing," Swenson told me.

    The reason primarily is communications bandwidth -- or the fact there's never enough for demanding aerospace and defense applications like radar processing, signals intelligence, and electronic warfare. "We have to move as much signal-processing capability closer to the sensor," Swenson says.

    That means putting extremely sophisticated floating-point-intensive signal processing capability on small unmanned vehicles, in military combat vehicles that already are overburdened with onboard equipment, and even on individual infantry soldiers, who themselves rapidly are becoming walking sensor platforms and communications nodes.

    Packaging high-performance computing so it can be cooled adequately and withstand the rigors of the battlefield is not without its challenges, but there may be a new design issue that could complicate things further, points out Greg Rose, vice president of marketing and software management at safety-critical software specialist DDC-I in Phoenix.

    High-performance embedded computing these days, with few exceptions, relies heavily in the newest generations of multicore microprocessors from companies like Intel and Freescale Semiconductor in Austin, Texas.

    One military electronics industry trend that is converging on the recent emphasis on high-performance computing involved safety-critical software that must be certified to industry standards like DO-178B and C. These standards primarily are for the commercial aviation business, but it's only a matter of time -- just a few years, perhaps -- before the military will be compelled to join the safety-critical software bandwagon.

    When that happens, embedded systems designers had better find a reliable way for safety-critical software to run on multicore microprocessors. Today, Rose points out, some systems designers have to shut down all microprocessor cores except one to run safety-critical software reliably.

    The problem involves sharing one memory among several microprocessor cores. Software designers have yet to find a bullet-proof way to share memory while guaranteeing that no data corruption can happen under any circumstances. Sure, many claim they can, but few would bet the futures of their companies on those claims, and that's essentially what they'll have to do.

    So here we go, as high-performance computing and safety-critical computing step into the ring. I think engineers will be able to work out the most difficult issues facing them, but we're all in for a boatload of frustration first.

    Is the U.S. getting ready for conflict?

    April 16, 2012 1:25 PM by Skyler Frink
    In a recent article I wrote on the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) there was a DoD contract that was described as an "enhanced threat response redesign" as part of a "quick reaction capability program." My question is, what are they reacting to?

    An enemy who could afford a facility that the MOP can't destroy couldn't be anything less than a country. Could it be that the U.S. is planning on going to war in 2014, when work on the contract is set to be completed? While there hasn't been a real "war" by the U.S. in some time, Congress has been sure not to declare one, could we be gearing up for another conflict like Libya?

    There hasn't been much in the way of politics to make me think the U.S. is on the warpath, but the language is clear in the contract. There is a threat to the U.S. and the MOP is being redesigned as a reaction to it. It's not like a company came out with a new MOP-proof structure and we want to show that we can still destroy it What else but an existing nation could possibly be the enhanced threat the contract is talking about?

    I could be reading too much into this, but the evidence is right there. What threat could possibly be strong enough to warrant improving what is quite literally an earth-shatteringly powerful weapon?

    Historic obsession about the Titanic sinking 100 years ago wipes Bread and Roses strike from popular memory

    April 12, 2012 7:05 AM by John Keller

    The RMS Titanic sank exactly 100 years ago early Sunday morning, taking 1,514 souls to their deaths in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, but I'm not here today to talk about this maritime disaster that has dominated popular memory for the entirety of a century. Instead, I'd like to point out how the sinking of the Titanic super ocean liner wiped other notable events from the front pages, and from popular memory (I apologize for not writing this week of matters aerospace and defense electronics ).

    The year 1912 was an eventful one, even though the historic milestone of that era -- the First World War -- would not start for more than two years after the Titanic disappeared beneath the ocean. When 1912 began, owners of the textile mills in the booming industrial town of Lawrence, Mass. , reduced the work hours and pay of the largely immigrant labor force. When workers realized their pay was being cut, they walked away from their looms and left the mills shouting "short pay, short pay!"

    The work stoppage spread through the city's textile mills, and within a week more than 20,000 angry mill workers left their jobs and took to the streets. The result was the so-called Bread and Roses Strike , a popular term for the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, which involved street violence, antagonism among competing labor unions, and ultimately the attention of then-First Lady Helen Herron Taft, wife of President William Howard Taft.

    The Bread and Roses Strike lasted for three months, and involved mass arrests, callup of the Massachusetts state militia, clubbing in the street of women and children, and other kinds of ugliness that by 12 March 1912 led to the strike's end when the American Woolen Company agreed to most the strikers' demands. Mill workers throughout New England also received many new benefits.

    The Bread and Roses Strike is notable in that it signaled what, for its day, was a new era of labor relations and worker-management harmony in the industrialized Northeast.

    Another notable historic event in the spring of 1912 -- particularly for New Englanders -- was the scheduled opening of a new baseball field in Boston, Fenway Park , home to the Boston Red Sox, and today the oldest and perhaps most beloved Major League Baseball stadium in existence.

    Fenway Park opened on 20 April 1912, and that day the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings. Think that game was on the front page? Not with the Titanic sinking less than a week before.

    The next year the New York Highlanders would be renamed the New York Yankees, and one of the most storied rivalries in baseball history would be born.

    So April 1912 saw a new era in labor relations, the opening of one of America's best-known baseball parks, and the beginning of a great baseball rivalry.

    So 100 years later what do we hear about most? The Bread and Roses Strike and its influence on American labor history? The beginning of an old and hard-fought baseball rivalry? The opening of America's best-loved baseball park?

    No, we hear about that damned ship made with brittle hull plates, breakable rivets, and not enough life boats.

    Maybe it won't be like this forever, though. I can't wait for Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in "Bread and Roses: The Movie."

    The future of UAV technology aims high

    April 3, 2012 7:05 AM by Skyler Frink
    In spite of the budget cuts that loom over the industry, the future of UAVs is still looking bright.

    Boeing in particular is excited about what the technology that may come to be in the next few years. With the A160 Hummingbird having shown that UAVs can have an extended presence and reach impressive heights, the predictions on the show floor push the envelope even more.

    Future UAVs may be capable of reaching heights that are over double or triple what the A160 can reach and stay in the air for months at a time. These UAVs would resemble gliders with solar panels to maintain power and sensor arrays. Rather than rely on satellite imagery these UAVs would give warfighters persistent situational awareness.

    Of course, UAVs have been trending towards other extremes as well. Tiny UAVs that can be flown through open windows are in the works. These miniscule aircraft will stay airborne in times measured in seconds or minutes while giving valuable information to soldiers on the ground without giving away their position like a thrown ground vehicle might.

    In addition to new technical capabilities, the future of UAVs is trending towards automated systems. Rather than having several personnel monitoring a UAV, in the future it is expected that one person can monitor many different UAVs at once. The Hummingbird is an example of a step toward automation, with the ability to fly to land without any assistance with high accuracy or perform a number of similarly complex feats without human guidance. Automation frees up soldiers to perform other tasks and ultimately is a cost-saving measure, as less personnel are needed for UAV flights.

    These UAVs aren't just the product of wishful thinking, they have either already been made (in the case of tiny UAVs) or are currently in the Research and Development phase. Between the cutting-edge technology and the tangible optimism at the Army Aviation Association of America Exposition, the budget cuts seem like a non-factor for innovators in the industry.

    Conference combo

    March 30, 2012 7:22 AM by Courtney Howard
    I just returned from the floor of Design West 2012 in San Jose. The conference organizers opted to combine multiple shows under one umbrella, a choice that proved, on the whole, to confound exhibitors, cause press to extend their stay and log additional miles on their pedometers, and both entertain and satisfy attendees.

    Attendees with whom I spoke unanimously support the decision to hold seven events in concert. "I don't get out much," revealed an educator, engineer, and attendee working on aerospace research and development out of Portland, Ore. "I say 'throw the kitchen sink at me, I never know when I'll need the info; but one thing is for sure, when I realize I do need it, I need it now!'" He admitted to "pawing through" his notes and materials gathered during industry events very often throughout the months that follow.

    Isn't that the true measure of a conference's value and success? What do you love and hate about avionics and military/aerospace events? What goals do you set out to achieve by taking part in industry events? I'd love to know; you can reach me anytime at or on Twitter (I'm @coho).

    We can thank a self-absorbed Congress for hurting national defense if deep automatic defense cuts happen

    March 28, 2012 3:41 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I'm as surprised as anyone, but at least a portion of those threatened automatic defense cuts in the U.S. budget actually may be coming to pass, experts say, which likely could put a stop to U.S. Air Force plans for a new long-range jet bomber , a new Army tactical vehicle , and could reduce the U.S. Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers lower than the current 11 vessels.

    For the longest time, I dismissed such predictions, but this time it looks like I may be wrong. Still it's hard to believe because -- let's face it -- Congress can do anything it wants, provided a majority of congressmen and senators agree. This agreement, however, or lack of it, would seem to be at the root of the problem we're facing.

    Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times wrote a convincing piece in Sunday's paper entitled "Budget gridlock imperils national defense Arms systems cuts look likely ," that outlines ominous prospects for automatic defense cuts -- or "sequestration," in Congress-speak.

    Congress approved the 2011 Budget Control Act not long ago that calls for across-the-board defense cuts to begin on 1 Jan. 2013 if Congress fails to cut spending, increases taxes, or both to reign-in budget deficits. The law calls for Congress to cut defense spending by $500 billion over 10 years if lawmakers cannot reach agreement on budget targets, which looks increasingly likely.

    The first of 2013 begins the first year of automatic budget cuts, and would take $50 billion from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget. That's roughly one-tenth of the Pentagon's total annual budget, and almost certainly would mean elimination of several weapons programs.

    I honestly thought it would never come to this, but I've never seen Congress so divided along ideological fault lines before. The big problem, with the way the law is written, is Congress simply has to do nothing for automatic spending cuts to take place.

    Doing nothing? That's easy, especially for this Congress. When and if the cuts take place, each member of Congress simply can shrug his or her shoulders and claim, "not MY fault." Built-in political cover. That's a law made in Heaven for this Congress, and on hindsight, that's gotta be exactly the way they planned it.

    Congress wins, the Pentagon loses. It's all so tawdry because it's so dishonest.

    Dishonest? Congress? Well duh! Rather than voting defense cuts up or down, members of Congress have maneuvered themselves into letting cuts happen automatically by doing nothing and then being able to deny responsibility.

    Is it any wonder that Congress is so unpopular with the American public? Is it any wonder that a "throw the bums out" mentality rears its ugly head among voters with increasing frequency? It's pretty obvious to me. With people like this in office, everyone's in trouble, not just the Pentagon.

    Food for thought when we go to the polls in November.

    Securing the military network

    March 21, 2012 10:25 AM by Skyler Frink
    The U.S. military has a lot on their plate. With so much technology being released, the slow pace that the military has typically adapted to new technology is no longer working well. Even with a huge focus on networks, the branches of the U.S. military do not yet have a standard for securing their networks. There are rugged, secure routers and devices that communicate using wireless out there on the battlefield, but no standard that protects them and allows them to communicate easily.

    Right now the military is looking at the National Security Agency (NSA) to produce a series of standards for encryption on the battlefield. Of course, this process can take over a year, which would mean devices and software that are optimized for the standard likely won't be released for another year after that.

    A delay that lasts a year or longer is a huge deal for technology today. Look at what we have this year when compared to last. Quad-core phones when we hardly had dual-core last year, processors that allow for twice the processing power! Standards need to reflect the technology at the time, but when an organization is so slow to adapt to new technology it becomes difficult to design them. What is 256 bit encryption isn't useful anymore when the new standard comes out because quantum computers became more common?

    It's strange that an organization that relies on the latest technology is incapable of actually getting that technology into the hands of soldiers. With all the resources at its disposal the DoD needs to evolve and cut through whatever red tape is slowing the process of creating a good communication standard and start giving warfighters the functionality civilians already have. It's kind of crazy that I can download an app that locates my friends, but a warfighter doesn't have the ability to do the same thing for his squad.

    FAA's impending rule on small UAVs may usher in a new era of civil aerial warfare

    March 14, 2012 4:35 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington is getting ready to propose a new rule this year that would open up vast new opportunities for operating small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in non-controlled civil airspace. This is good news for developers, who have labored under sometimes-difficult FAA UAV rules that often require special FAA certifications to operate even the most small and simple UAVs from parking lots and back yards.

    FAA officials say the new UAV regulations, which would make it easier to operate these small aircraft, could be as boon for law enforcement to conduct surveillance, traffic patrols, and other aerial work to replace or augment far-more-expensive manned helicopters.

    Those who also could benefit are remote sensing companies, would could enhance satellite imagery with photo data taken from small UAVs, farmers who could use small UAVs to identify areas in their fields that need extra water or fertilizer, and even hobbyists designing new kinds of inexpensive sensor payloads for small UAVs.

    It's those small sensor payloads, however, that are worrying some folks, because with enhanced access to airborne sensors, privacy advocates say the wrong kinds of eyes in the sky might be checking up on the wrong kinds of people. What about the celebrity Paparazzi who constantly are trying to get the latest photos of famous people. Put small UAVs in the hands of these people, and no one will have any privacy -- ever.

    Think also about celebrities who own large estates with well-guarded perimeters and other defenses against prying eyes. Do you think these people will be able to pay extra for aerial rights over their estates?

    Some, undoubtedly, will take matters into their own hands, as was reported last month at a privately owned plantation in South Carolina where owners sponsored a pigeon shoot for hunters. An animal rights group tried to photograph the event using a small UAV. The presence of the UAV caused the shooting party to disperse pretty quickly, but not without some hard feelings.

    Before all was said and done that day, a shotgun blast from nearby cover knocked the animal rights group UAV out of the sky, causing it to crash on a nearby roadway. This, in turn, caused all kinds of outcry about the alleged recklessness of discharging a firearm near a public roadway, but the point was made.

    Now I'm wondering if the upcoming FAA rules on operating small UAVs will make it open season for blasting these tiny aircraft out of the sky over private property. I realize the FAA is trying to put a lot of issues to rest with its upcoming new rulemaking, but I'm thinking it's going to open up a can of worms, as well.

    Let the lawsuits begin.

    Boeing and Airbus both claim victory in WTO Appeal? That can't be right...

    March 12, 2012 3:06 PM by Skyler Frink
    There's been a lot of buzz about today's World Trade Organization (WTO) report, with both rival aircraft manufacturers claiming to have been the victor. Of course, both sides are spinning it in their own way.

    Airbus, who less than a year ago, was found by the WTO to have received unfair government subsidies of $18 billion. Comparatively, Boeing's unfair subsidies were found to be along the lines of $5.3 billion. Airbus is celebrating the revelation of Boeing's unfair subsidies while Boeing is celebrating that their unfair subsidies were found to be less than a third of the ones Airbus received.

    It's times like these where you have to cut through all the marketing being thrown by both sides and take a look at the facts. Both sides have received unfair subsidies and neither one complies with WTO standards. Airbus and Boeing are living in glass houses, but that isn't stopping either of them from throwing stones.

    Hopefully the WTO can step in and make sure both sides play fair from here on out.

    The defense industry may be adjusting to a new age of financial austerity

    March 7, 2012 10:40 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    I've noticed a few things about the financial shape of the aerospace and defense industry over the past month or two. It seems that company mergers and acquisitions are tailing off, while the number of contracts and procurement opportunities are headed up.

    Now by no means is this observation about the health of the aerospace and defense industry based on any scientific analysis. Instead, it's more of a gut feel, and as such has all of my biases and wishful thinking folded into it.

    Still, my gut feel largely is based on the past month's news coverage in Military & Aerospace Electronics. We've had a lot of stories covering contract wins and procurement opportunities, and not many covering mergers and acquisitions. Have we overly concentrated on contracts and opportunities lately, to the exclusion of mergers and acquisitions?

    Perhaps, but let's stipulate for a moment that our industry actually has had fewer mergers and acquisitions lately, and more contracts and opportunities than we've had in a while. How might this bode for the future -- especially for an industry that's taking it on the chin in the Pentagon's 2013 budget request?

    Well, to start with, this feels like a port in the storm for an industry that has been jittery for more than a year about future prospects for defense spending. Maybe ... just maybe, our industry has hit bottom and is on the way back up. Perhaps this is an early indication that the aerospace and defense industry is starting to adjust to a new era of financial austerity.

    Our industry, for good or ill, is digesting the notion that a long streak of healthy Pentagon budgets might be at an end -- perhaps for quite a while. This means competition is ratcheting up, in government and in industry.

    For those in government, it looks like they have to make do with less, in measurable terms. Not only does this mean the Pentagon can no longer fund many of the things its leaders want, but also must face the inevitable challenge of deciding what projects to keep, and which to abandon.

    For those in industry, it means they have to work harder than they have in a long time to prevail over their competitors for military contract wins. Price, as always, will be a driving force, but as dollars dry up, military officials will look harder at capability and quality than they have in a long time.

    For industry and government together, everyone will be in the hunt for breakthrough technologies that bring serious new capabilities to the table at reasonable costs.

    None of that will be easy. Still, on those rare occasions when it happens, we'll know who the real heroes are.

    What's up with all the anti-tamper technology?

    March 5, 2012 12:58 PM by Skyler Frink
    Anti-tamper has been a hot topic for the military as of late. With so much information being sent to countless devices on the battlefield it's important that products offer the ability to render any data stored useless in case a device is lost or stolen. For those who are curious about anti-tamper methods and what the implications of them are, this blog will go over some of the more common ways of preventing data from being accessed.

    Encryption is right up there on the list of easy ways to prevent data from being understood. A device may encrypt all of its data and be capable of deleting the keys required to read it, making the data a useless collection of bits. Of course, encryption is not fool proof since the data remains on the device. Commonly encryption is paired with methods of permanently deleting data.

    Zeroing the drive (or whatever method of storage is used) is essentially the goal of anti-tamper procedures. Zeroing a device means writing all the bits so they read 0. A zeroed device is essentially a blank slate, completely free of information or any traces of information. The problem with attempting to simply wipe a device clean is the process can take hours depending on the size and method of storage used. A common tactic is to encrypt all data on a device and be capable of remotely deleting keys and starting a program that will zero all storage. This makes it so anyone who wants to access data needs to be able to not only decrypt the data, but they need to do so before it can be zeroed or stop the zeroing process.

    Another method is to have all data on a device be sent to it via a secure network and contain no long-term storage. This allows a device to be rendered useless unless it can connect to the network or be captured while powered on. While data on a device such as this is secure, it contains a potentially dangerous link to whatever network it uses to power on. Proper network security mitigates these risks, but the threat remains.

    The problem with these methods is that no form of anti-tamper is perfect. There are many other ways to render data useless (writing new data over old data, physically destroying the device, using a magnet to destroy stored information, etc.), but none are absolutely perfect. Even zeroing the drive is debated as to whether data can be restored or not. Whether the tradeoff is time, completeness or network security, anti-tamper has not yet been perfected.

    As information on the battlefield gets sent to more and more devices, it might be the time to look more closely at anti-tamper and see where improvements can be made.

    Effects of 2013 DOD budget cuts already being felt with program cancellations

    February 29, 2012 9:42 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Effects of the Pentagon's cuts in its proposed 2013 DOD budget are starting to drive home in tangible ways. On Monday the U.S. Navy formally cancelled its program to develop the Medium Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System (MRMUAS) -- which was to be an vertical-takeoff-and-landing surveillance unmanned aircraft that could operate from ships and cover long distances and stay in the air for long periods.

    Although the Navy announced the MRMUAS unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) cancellation Feb. 13 when the Pentagon submitted its 2013 budget request to Congress, this past Monday saw the Navy formally cancel its MRMUAS solicitation, which service officials had issued last September. The MRMUAS was to be a follow-on to the Navy Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter for maritime reconnaissance and surveillance.

    Cancellation of the Navy's MRMUAS solicitation leaves in limbo the defense prime contractors who had placed bids to develop the new maritime surveillance UAV, which was to be fielded in 2018 or 2019, and would be bigger than the MQ-8B, with a nine-hour endurance.

    A team of BAE Systems and AVX Aircraft Co. had put in a bid to develop MRMUAS. Boeing had been expected to bid the company's A160 Hummingbird UAV, and Northrop Grumman had proposed the company's MQ-8C Fire-X UAV that combines the Fire Scout operating system and the airframe of the Bell Helicopter 407. Other UAV developers such as Aurora Flight Sciences and DragonFly Pictures also had expressed interest.

    The Navy's MRMUAS program cancellation also brings up an interesting and potentially awkward situation with the U.S. Army where medium-range UAV development is concerned.

    Navy officials had combined their MRMUAS program with the Army's program to develop a Medium-Range Multi-Purpose (MRMP) vertical take-off and landing system. Now with the Navy's MRMUAS cancellation, Army officials will be forced to develop their MRMP program on their own, or follow suit and abandon the program.

    The situation is eerily similar to one in the past in which the Army and Navy were to collaborate on what would become the MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV. The Army began that program as part of the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. After the Navy joined the effort, the Army cancelled it to leave the Navy to develop the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter on its own.

    Top ten technologies the U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force is looking for

    February 25, 2012 9:06 AM by Skyler Frink
    To counter the threats soldiers in theater are facing, the Army Rapid Equipping Force is looking for devices with specific functions. Here are the top ten functions the Army Rapid Equipping Force is looking for.

    1. IED destruction devices

    2. Dismounted operations support

    3. Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in inhospitable environments

    4. Small combat operation post/village support operations

    5. Dismounted Blue Force Tracker and Mission Command

    6. Counter Ambush (mitigate direct fire and rocket-propelled grenades)

    7. Non-lethal messaging

    8. Advance Escalation of Force Support

    9. Entry control point ops and vehicle search

    10. Routine Clearance Support

    Many of these goals are based around giving information to warfighters on the front lines and protecting the dismounted soldier. These goals were created by requests from soldiers who have been in theater and understand what dangers are being faced.

    For those who have solutions, ideas can be submitted at BAA number W91CRB-11-R-0038.

    AUSA Winter 2012

    February 23, 2012 6:57 AM by Skyler Frink
    The focus at the AUSA Winter Symposium is providing increased capacity for the squad and the dismounted warfighter.

    The U.S. Army has asked that the industry produce lighter equipment to reduce soldier loads and are also looking for networking solutions to provide squads with more direct access to the Army's network. These changes are meant to increase squad mobility and allow them to overmatch (that is, to dominate regardless of other factors) opposition forces of equal size.

    For the industry, the buzz on the floor has been about upgrading systems and conducting maintenance for existing systems. Due to the U.S. departure from Iraq there is less demand for new hardware, but a large demand for keeping hardware that has been exposed to harsh environments in working condition.

    Many of the products out on the floor are software that allow for better communications, organization of information or diagnostics. New hardware is primarily keeping in line with the goals of the Army to empower the squad, lighter equipment and equipment that allows soldiers to better share information.

    The DoD budget has everyone a little bit nervous, but there is still growth to be found within the Army's stated goals.

    Iranian Nuclear Program Under Attack (again)

    February 20, 2012 8:36 AM by Skyler Frink

    It's almost routine for Iran's nuclear program to have something setting it back. Sanctions, Stuxnet, and most recently a string of assassinations have been making it difficult for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

    While these assassinations aren't new by any stretch of the word, they show a concentrated effort to prevent them from developing these weapons. While no country is owning up to the attacks, the flawless execution and organization of these attacks make it clear somebody doesn't want them to have nuclear weapons.

    These attacks come after the Stuxnet worm, which damaged Iranian equipment and severely set back their nuclear program. These newer attacks are much more aggressive than attacking a computer network, and they send a clear message to the Iran that whoever is behind them is going all in.

    Iran's own counterattacks have started being launched at Israel, the prime suspect for the attacks on Iran's nuclear program. It's a tense time in an already unstable region, with tempers flaring and attacks going in both directions it looks like it's only a matter of time before a conventional war begins.

    Your best insight into the DOD budget implications for the military and aerospace electronics market

    February 14, 2012 8:55 AM by Ernesto Burden
    You know that look of anticipation Apple fans have when they're standing in line at the Apple store the night before the release of the newest iPhone/iPad/iJetpack iteration? It's a look that combines foreknowledge of both daunting challenges (standing in line all night long and trying to figure out how to get to the bathroom without losing your place, for example), with the anticipation of a marvelous reward (the next greatest iGadget). Well that's the look that our Military & Aerospace Electronics chief editor John Keller had on his face when he came into my office Monday.

    John had a thumb drive in one hand, held aloft like a trophy.

    "DOD budget," he declared. Then, eyes narrowing like a wolf's as it circles a straggling deer in a snowy forest, "I'm on my way to get this printed right now." Then he was gone, on a contrail of journalistic vigor. He will now spend the next untold number of hours buried in reams of paper with a snorkel, a highlighter and a laptop, filing dispatches for you, our readers, on what this budget is likely to mean for the aerospace and defense electronics industry. And relishing it.

    He stopped in to make this announcement not because of some sort of weird micromanaging in our editor-publisher relationship here at M&AE. Rather, it's pure excitement. When you're a journalist like John, and one of the biggest stories of the year comes around again, the blood hums, and you've got to share. Having spent a good part of my career on the editorial side of the fence, I know how he feels. It's the way I used to feel once upon a time on election night in the newsroom.

    Knowing this also gives me some insight into what you, M&AE's readers, can expect in the next few weeks: the most aggressive, insightful, detailed coverage - anywhere - of what the DOD budget will mean to the aerospace and defense electronics industry. Keller has been at this from early days and he reads this budget and its market implications with the same finesse a lifelong trout fisherman reads the dimple of a rise, invisible to an ordinary eye, in a riffling stream.

    You need to know what he's seeing.

    Here are some of John's first offerings on the budget:

    I urge you to keep your eyes on M&AE for much more to come.

    Ernesto Burden is the publisher of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

    Railgun technology getting closer to reality

    February 13, 2012 1:30 PM by Skyler Frink
    I've always been a bit of a technology junky, and there's a powerful piece of technology that looks like it will become operational if things go well for the Department of Defense. The new technology that's looking good? Railguns.

    Back when I was younger, railguns were talked about as if they were pure science fiction inventions. They were featured in video games, books and movies as a sort of futuristic weaponry. Now it looks like railguns will be up for deployment sooner rather than later.

    Raytheon was recently awarded a contract for developing a pulsed power system for use in railgun technology. In conjunction with that, the Department of Defense is hoping to start test firing a new railgun, which will launch projectiles at speeds between 4,500 and 5,600 miles per hour up to distances of 100 nautical miles, later this month.

    Railguns are currently limited primarily by the amount of heat the weapon produces and the power required to fire it. This leads to railguns having a short barrel life and a slow firing rate. With new materials being created and a power system already in development, we might be seeing railguns in the near future.

    Railgun technology allow for lower-cost projectiles to be fired, and could provide significant savings for the military. Railgun projectiles are not filled with explosives, they simply use their high velocities to produce energy that compares or surpasses explosives of a similar mass. With the ever-present threat of budget cuts, railguns could prove to be an effective addition to arsenals around the world.

    Iranian Nuclear Program Under Attack (again)

    February 13, 2012 1:30 PM by Skyler Frink
    It's almost routine for Iran's nuclear program to have something setting it back. Sanctions, Stuxnet, and most recently a string of assassinations have been making it difficult for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

    While these assassinations aren't new by any stretch of the word, they show a concentrated effort to prevent them from developing these weapons. While no country is owning up to the attacks, the flawless execution and organization of these attacks make it clear somebody doesn't want them to have nuclear weapons.

    These attacks come after the Stuxnet worm, which damaged Iranian equipment and severely set back their nuclear program. These newer attacks are much more aggressive than attacking a computer network, and they send a clear message to the Iran that whoever is behind them is going all in.

    Iran's own counterattacks have started being launched at Israel, the prime suspect for the attacks on Iran's nuclear program. It's a tense time in an already unstable region, with tempers flaring and attacks going in both directions it looks like it's only a matter of time before a conventional war begins.

    Vying for air refueling tanker work

    February 9, 2012 8:36 AM by Courtney Howard

    U.S. Armed Forces bases face realignment and potential closure due to the need for considerable reductions in the defense budget. Air Force officials are facing the elimination of more than 280 aircraft and 9,900 personnel. Washington state and Spokane officials, including those in the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium (INWAC) in Spokane, are vying to bring work on the KC-46A air refueling tanker to Fairchild Air Force Base, minutes from downtown Spokane (and my office, incidentally).

    Boeing’s contract to deliver 179 tankers to replace aging KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, is valued at more than $30 billion. The company is scheduled to deliver 18 planes to the Air Force in 2017. The Air Force bases to receive the KC-46As are yet to be named, but Washington and Fairchild officials are hopeful.

    The KC-135 is flown by units at Fairchild Air Force Base, which, at one time, was scheduled to be the first base to receive replacement tankers.

    Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has said that building a new tanker is a victory for Fairchild. "Right now the men and women at Fairchild are flying air refueling tankers that are more than 50 years old."

    The KC-46 tanker team, which Boeing officials announced in June 2011, is expected to include more than 800 suppliers in more than 40 states and support approximately 50,000 total U.S. jobs. Doubtless, Spokane and Fairchild Air Force Base could benefit from work on the tankers.

    Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, expecting the contract to bring roughly 11,000 aerospace jobs to the state, is a proponent of making training available at community colleges to ensure local residents are qualified for the work. “If they don’t find the skilled work force in the state, they’ll bring them in from out of state,” she said.

    Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who has championed Boeing tanker replacement plans for more than a decade, called the contract a “major victory” for American workers, the aerospace industry, and the military. "It is consistent with the president’s own call to out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world," she said.

    Officials at the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium, which employs 8,100 people, note that more than 20 local companies could supply parts for the new plane.

    Two years later, Navy is on track for big upgrades to shipboard networking and C4ISR

    February 8, 2012 4:01 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    It was more than three years in coming, but the U.S. Navy finally is on track to develop and deploy the next generation of shipboard, submarine, and shore-based command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) network systems, with the selection earlier this month of the Northrop Grumman Corp. Information Systems segment in McLean, Va., as prime contractor for the Navy's Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program.

    Northrop Grumman had been in a tooth-and-nail competition to build CANES shipboard networking since March 2010 with the Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime Systems & Sensors (MS2) Tactical Systems segment in San Diego, when Navy selected those two companies to develop the CANES common computing environment (CCE), with the understanding that only one of the companies would go on as the CANES prime contractor.

    The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) in San Diego is in charge of the CANES program, and SPAWAR awarded a $47 million contract to Northrop Grumman to take charge of CANES early this month. Navy officials plan to work with Northrop Grumman and the company's subcontractors to install the first Navy CANES systems aboard surface ships as early as this year.

    In addition to boosting the capability and throughput of shipboard networking, CANES seeks to increase the amount of affordable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) networking equipment in use throughout the fleet.

    Last year Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin engineers completed the formal contractor system integration testing of its CANES system for the U.S. Navy to verify whether the companies' CANES proposals met program requirements and were ready for production and limited deployment.

    Northrop Grumman's CANES solution is designed to offer cost and performance improvements over existing shipboard networks, including a modernized command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) architecture with increased security and reduced development, deployment, and lifecycle costs.

    Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Va., is Northrop Grumman's major platform integration and installation partner on CANES. Other Northrop Grumman CANES subcontractors include Atlas Technologies Inc. in Fenton, Mich.; Beatty and Company Computing Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Juno Technologies Inc. in San Diego; Mikros Systems Corp. in Princeton, N.J.; Syzygy Technologies Inc. in San Diego; and CenterBeam Inc. in San Diego.

    CANES is the consolidation of existing C4I network programs, and will provide a common computing environment infrastructure for C4I applications.

    For more information contact Northrop Grumman Information Systems online at ; Huntington Ingalls Industries at ; Atlas Technologies at ; Beatty and Company Computing at ; Juno Technologies at ; Micros Systems at ; Syzygy Technologies at ; CenterBeam at ; or SPAWAR at .

    Prosthetic Limbs

    February 6, 2012 2:29 PM by Skyler Frink
    Always on the cutting edge of technology, our friends at DARPA have been working on creating new and improved prosthetic limbs. Advances in prosthetic limbs have allowed engineers to create limbs that rival, or even surpass, actual human body parts.

    A recent technology, neural integration, has been at the forefront of these advances. Neural integration involves surgically implanting wireless devices into the user, allowing them to control their prosthetic limbs using their thoughts. This allows the user to adapt seamlessly to their new limb and have full control right off the bat.

    Of course, new control technology would be worthless without improved limbs, which is why new designs are popping up that allow for human-like dexterity and freedom. An arm with 26 degrees of freedom is even making its way through the FDA this year. This new arm allows prosthetic limbs to do tasks that used to be impossible for old technology. The arm allows complicated procedures such as cooking or playing an instrument to be performed with ease.

    Wounded service members are now capable of returning to work, and their normal lives with thanks to prosthetic limbs. Over a thousand amputees have returned to active duty since January 1st of this year, a truly impressive amount of people have been helped by this technology.

    It's amazing to see what's being done with prosthetics, and here's hoping the advances keep on coming.

    Security for Android hand-held devices is top priority for real-time software companies

    January 25, 2012 8:18 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    Real-time embedded software companies this year will be turning their attention this year to creating robust security for Android -based smartphones and tablet computers in a big way. Android security is taking top priority to enable deployed military forces to use Android devices on the battlefield for ad-hoc networking to exchange text messaging, voice communications, and even intelligence imagery and video.

    It's a fact that military forces are taking their smartphones and tablet computers onto the battlefield with them. It's up to leaders in the Pentagon to create software security so they use these devices securely and safely, and military officials are turning to the high-reliability software companies like Wind River in Alameda, Calif.; Objective Interface Systems, Inc. (OIS) in Herndon, Va.; and Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara, Calif., to provide Android security sufficient for battlefield operations.

    Wind River, in fact, is standing up an Android team to focus on military Android security issues, says Wind River's director of vertical marketing Joe Wlad when I visited the Wind River offices this week. Wind River is starting some substantial secure Android military projects, which are still too new to talk about, Wlad says.

    Android-based smartphones and tablet computers are becoming a fact on the battlefield, and Android-based tablet computers acting as electronic flight bags (EFBs) in commercial airliner cockpits are not far behind.

    Just a few months ago software-defined radio (SDR) experts at the Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) in Ottawa announced they have ported the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS)-compatible P25 emergency public safety radio waveform to an Android hand-held communications device, which may lead the way to running SDR applications on commercial smartphones and rugged tablet computers.

    Last summer L-3 Interstate Electronics Corp. (IEC) in Anaheim, Calif., introduced the VideoScout full-motion video collection and intelligence management software as an application for Android-based commercial handheld smartphones and tablets, which enables users to view video from local area network connections and shared intelligence resources such as remote sensors, military computer servers, and intelligence collection nodes.

    Panasonic is introducing a rugged Android-based Toughbook tablet computer, General Dynamics C4 Systems is offering an Android-based wearable computer for the battlefield, and the list goes on.

    Android for the military is here. Now software security for Android devices has to follow, and that's well in progress.

    Can machines truly understand language?

    January 23, 2012 2:27 PM by Skyler Frink
    There are a lot of subtleties in language. Regions of every country have their own dialects, sentence structure is different for different languages and each dialect can have multiple types of slang.

    Raytheon BBN has been given the almost-impossible task of developing a device that can perform two-way speech-to-speech translations, among other things. Now, I don't doubt a comprehensive translator can come from this, I doubt that any device can effectively translate human communication.

    The reason actual, human translators are so useful is because they master languages in order to make sure subtleties are not lost. Words develop entirely new meanings depending on regions and social status. Speaking from personal experience, a person from New England using the word "wicked" in a sentence is not using a dictionary definition of wicked (unless, in fact, they are using the dictionary definition of wicked). A translator can recognize dialects and slang, guaranteeing that there are no misunderstandings. Any device that wants to be nearly as effective as a human translator needs to be able to understand the context of each word depending on the region and its position in the sentence.

    A device that would translate speech would also need to be able to deal with incredibly thick accents. Even native speakers will have their own way of using their language. There are clear differences in how someone from Boston speaks when compared to someone from the South, or even between different cities in the same state. In countries that don't have such widespread communication, the ones were translators are needed most, accents can sound like another language even if they aren't using a different dialect.

    Slang is an entirely different beast for a device that performs translation to deal with. They can be entire phrases that aren't supposed to be taken literally (a lounge lizard was not a reptile) or words that are used to mean something other than the definition (the wicked example). Each dialect can have its own slang, and being able to distinguish between dialects and whether or not a word is being used as slang are skills a human translator would have that a machine would have difficultly replicating.

    In a place where any slight error in communication can lead to a loss of life, it's important that we don't forget just how complicated language is. There's a reason human translators are still an important part of diplomatic relations and businesses.

    Revamped M&AE and Avionics Websites offer topic centers to get readers exactly what they want

    January 18, 2012 10:42 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    In case you haven't noticed, Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence have launched all-new Websites, which our experts designed from the ground up to help readers get the latest news and analysis of the aerospace and defense electronics and avionics industries not only quickly and easily, but also according to individual interests.

    We do this with navigation that concentrates not only on our well-known news, business, and product sections, but more importantly on topic centers to help our readers hone-in quickly on the content that is most important to them on a daily basis.

    Our sister publication, Avionics Intelligence, is taking a similar approach to help readers identify market and technology segments of highest importance, and go directly to digests of the latest information pertinent to the markets they follow.

    Surf on over to the Military & Aerospace Electronics Website at , and I'll show you what I mean. Just below our name about a third of the way down the page you'll see a gray strip headed by the word Home. Right next to that is our Topics button. Mouse over it, and you'll see the topic centers we have today: Electro-Optics, Embedded Computing, High-Reliability Electronics, Interconnect Technology, Power Electronics, RF & Microwave, and The Last Word -- interviews with some of our industry's most important newsmakers.

    Now give one a try. If you're most interested in embedded computing, click on the Embedded Computing link and you'll see a page containing all of our recent content pertaining to single-board computers, real-time embedded software, microprocessors and FPGAs, business transactions involving embedded computing companies -- everything embedded computing.

    It's the same for our other topics, and we're not stopping there. In the future look for additional topic centers on land, sea, air, and space technology, unmanned vehicles, C4ISR, and more.

    Next to the Topics button is the Channels button, which helps readers navigate quickly to our different content sections: the Aerospace & Defense Blog where staffers John Keller, Courtney Howard, and Skyler Frink give their takes on the most important topics of importance to our industry; the community where readers participate and have their say; Defense Executive, where we put all the business news; Exclusive Content where we put the news and analysis that no one else has; Farnborough Report, where we place all coverage of the Farnborough Air Show; Industry News Flash where readers can catch up on the latest new products; News & Analysis where readers can get up to date on the latest industry happenings; Paris Air show Report, which has all our coverage of the Paris Air Show; Print Issue, where you can browse archives of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine; Product Applications where you can see the latest design-ins; Video, where you can see video blogs from Keller, Howard, and Frink; and Wire News, where readers can see the latest news feeds from outside sources.

    There also is an Avionics Intelligence button to help readers navigate quickly to our sister Website for the latest in the commercial, military, and general-aviation avionics industries. Go ahead and click there to see the Avionics Intelligence site at

    Here you will find more topic-centric content on the avionics business. Avionics Intelligence editor Courtney Howard has crafted this site to help readers get what they want, when they want it. Take a look at the Avionics Intelligence topics, which also is on the strip below the name about a third of the way down the page.

    You can find avionics business news at Avionics Executive; news and analysis at Avionics Insights; air traffic control news at Airspace & Air Traffic Management; and several additional topics of importance to the commercial and military avionics business.

    Elsewhere on the Military 7 Aerospace Electronics home pages you can navigate quickly to our latest feature stories, video and written blogs, wire news feeds, and reader recommendations.

    It's all part of our continuing evolution to get our readers the information they need most, when they most need it -- quickly and easily -- so you can get back to work. Give us a look. Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence are the authoritative voices of their industries, where readers come to get news and insights of quality and depth.

    The Terminology of Military Technology

    January 16, 2012 3:44 PM by Skyler Frink
    It's interesting to see the terminology being thrown around by those who develop weapons for the military. Weapons don't kill people, they "destroy targets" or "eliminate threats."

    I understand it's a little extreme to say a machine kills people, it actually seems a bit over-dramatic, but the stone-cold "threat elimination" really does seem to take away from the sheer power of these machines. The words eliminate and destroy are calculated ways of removing things, it simply seems strange that these words are being used in relation to human beings.

    What really brought this to light was a recent article on the Department of Defense website where a reporter talked about the Carl-Gustaf. The Carl-Gustaf, a shoulder-fired recoilless weapon, is described as being "able to destroy enemy targets hidden behind rocks, trees and buildings." You see, one part of that sentence really got to me, the idea that enemy targets are hiding. It just painted a mental picture where the enemy isn't being crafty and concealing themselves for an ambush, it struck me as a terrified person hiding from an 84mm shell that will unerringly strike its target.

    Now, I'm not saying the enemy is innocent or that there is no such thing as a just war. I'd simply prefer if the words being used to represent taking a human life didn't seem so cold and calculated. Even a hunter wouldn't say he eliminated his target. There is an enormous amount of responsibility implied by giving any group a means to take lives, don't you think our language should reflect that rather than make it sound harmless?

    In a time where you can kill a person using an unmanned vehicle from over a mile away, it may be time to get rid of the softness of the language used.

    The Terminology of Military Technology

    January 16, 2012 3:44 PM by Skyler Frink
    It's interesting to see the terminology being thrown around by those who develop weapons for the military. Weapons don't kill people, they "destroy targets" or "eliminate threats."

    I understand it's a little extreme to say a machine kills people, it actually seems a bit over-dramatic, but the stone-cold "threat elimination" really does seem to take away from the sheer power of these machines. The words eliminate and destroy are calculated ways of removing things, it simply seems strange that these words are being used in relation to human beings.

    What really brought this to light was a recent article on the Department of Defense website where a reporter talked about the Carl-Gustaf. The Carl-Gustaf, a shoulder-fired recoilless weapon, is described as being "able to destroy enemy targets hidden behind rocks, trees and buildings." You see, one part of that sentence really got to me, the idea that enemy targets are hiding. It just painted a mental picture where the enemy isn't being crafty and concealing themselves for an ambush, it struck me as a terrified person hiding from an 84mm shell that will unerringly strike its target.

    Now, I'm not saying the enemy is innocent or that there is no such thing as a just war. I'd simply prefer if the words being used to represent taking a human life didn't seem so cold and calculated. Even a hunter wouldn't say he eliminated his target. There is an enormous amount of responsibility implied by giving any group a means to take lives, don't you think our language should reflect that rather than make it sound harmless?

    In a time where you can kill a person using an unmanned vehicle from over a mile away, it may be time to get rid of the softness of the language used.

    Latest Pentagon guidance may bode well for military technology development and research

    January 11, 2012 1:52 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I've been reading a lot lately about President Obama's new guidelines for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to help the nation's military control its costs. These guidelines, outlined in a DOD report released this month entitled Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense , emphasize Special Operations forces, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and cyber security , while signaling potential reductions in U.S. military nation-building efforts, nuclear forces , and in the number of U.S. soldiers and Marines.

    Critics contend new guidelines threaten to gut U.S. defense forces, but I don't see it. In fact, the new policy might bode well for military technology developers working on applications such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; sensors; signal processing; and unmanned vehicles.

    It's true the Pentagon's budget may be heading down in the next several years, but perhaps not dramatically. A worst-case scenario would force the Pentagon to trim $500 billion over the next 10 years if Congress can't find new ways of reducing defense spending. That would be a cut of about $50 billion a year out of a total annual Pentagon budget of about $670 billion. Still, I doubt such deep cuts will happen.

    It's an election year, and no one in the Administration or Congress wants to appear soft on defense. Doing so would spell electoral defeat for many members of Congress, and perhaps even for Obama himself. I think those concerned will come up with an eleventh-hour deal to avoid deep cuts.

    Something else to think about: Obama says he expects the Pentagon budget actually to increase at about the rate of inflation every year for the next decade. This doesn't sound like the Administration wants to make big cuts in overall military defense spending to me.

    A cornerstone of the new Pentagon guidelines seems to be a gradual reduction in the number of solders and Marines in the U.S. defense force. Personnel costs are some of the biggest expenses the U.S. military faces. These costs include not only salaries, but also the costs of feeding, housing, and equipping soldiers and Marines.

    The Army today has about 570,000 troops, which is up from about 482,000 before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon leaders now would like to shrink the Army to about 520,000 troops, perhaps even more.

    Reducing the number of soldiers and Marines would free-up a substantial amount of money. Now if Obama is sincere in his wish to maintain the current level of defense spending, then where might the savings from reducing troop levels go?

    My guess is technology development and research. It seems Obama wants to maintain or enhance the nation's capability in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, as well as in cyber security and unmanned vehicles. Doing so requires constant technology development and research, and I think this is what will happen.

    We won't know for sure until next month when the Pentagon releases its detailed budget request for federal fiscal year 2013. Military research and development spending has suffered for the past several years to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that those efforts are winding down, that money can go elsewhere in the Pentagon's budget.

    I'll be watching project research and development spending when the defense budget request comes out next month. I'll also be watching other technology spending to see if this is where money will be diverted.

    If technology development and research spending increases next year, it will be high time. Nearly a decade of steady military operations in the Middle East have taken their toll on military forces, and it's past time to rebuild the force with the latest technologies.

    This is the best opportunity we have seen in years to put more money into military technology develop and research. Let's hope those concerned don't blow the chance.

    The battle for Internet security

    January 9, 2012 3:05 PM by Skyler Frink
    Let's talk about hackers.

    We'll start with Anonymous, a group that is probably the most famous of the bunch. Having attacked Mastercard and many other high-profile companies as a response to government action against Wikileaks and Julian Assange, Anonymous and cyber security became a hot topic in the recent years. Since then, several groups have emerged to cause chaos.

    LulzSecurity (commonly known as LulzSec), a group which is separate from Anonymous, began attacking security companies with the goal of releasing documents to the public. This group met with great success, the prime example being their attack on Stratfor, a global intelligence company. They succeeded in accessing Stratfor's client list and getting credit card information of many subscribers. Since the attack Stratfor has not relaunched their full website, and currently has a message apologizing for the lack of security provided on their home page.

    Many other companies have been attacked by LulzSec as well, but one particular instance is much more telling of the goals of LulzSec: The hacking of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. In what LulzSec called a retaliation for ADPS immigration laws, massive amounts of information were released to the public. Manuals, emails, passwords, usernames, if it was stored in a ADPS computer it could (and still can) be seen online.

    Now, the ADPS is not just some company, it is a part of the United States government. It doesn't help that LulzSec has attacked the CIA (they only managed to take the site down for a short time due to a distributed denial-of-service [DDOS] attack) and is openly contemptuous of the government. Other countries have joined in, with England having made several arrests already.

    The government, of course, has been stepping up their own cyber security and making it more dangerous for hackers to operate. Stealing the information that LulzSec has accessed and made public is a felony in the US, and those who are caught are facing serious charges. As of now there have been many arrests of suspected hackers.

    Things have gotten serious for the hackers and government at this point. With attacks on the government and arrests being made, it's difficult to predict how this will end. These groups do not show any sign of stopping. They actually seem to be enjoying it by operating twitter accounts, hanging out in chat rooms and publicly announcing their targets. It is incredible that a group which so boldly commits crimes is still running against the combined effort of multiple governments and law enforcement agencies.

    What an interesting time to be around; a time when a group of loosely associated hackers can carry on a fight with the government and openly taunt their opponents. I can only imagine it will end soon, though, as these hackers lack the funding and manpower that the government can put forth.

    Serious hacking attempts from other countries have already been acknowledged to be an act of war, worthy of physical retribution. A different type of war is being fought online against these hackers, and it seems that NATO has just finished getting warmed up.

    Saber rattling in the Persian Gulf drives home importance of shipboard missile defense

    January 4, 2012 12:15 PM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    A simmering naval conflict between the United States and Iran in the oil-rich Persian Gulf may be reaching a boil this week, as Iranian naval forces not only test-fired what officials claim are two new long-range surface-to-surface missiles that might pose a threat to U.S. warships in the region, but also warned of military action against U.S. forces if a Navy aircraft carrier that exited the Gulf region last week should return to the Persian Gulf through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

    This kind of saber rattling on the part of Iran -- bellicose rhetoric aside -- points to two core issues coming to a head now. First, U.S. military forces rarely, if ever, give ground to an ultimatum like this, and second, the U.S. Navy needs to step up its development and deployment of reliable anti-ship missile defenses.

    Among Iran's latest developments is a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. steps up its sanctions against Iranian oil imports, which the U.S. government has in place to pressure Iran into abandoning its program to develop nuclear weapons.

    Particularly concerning is the latest Iranian missile test, which involved missiles that Iran claims not only have ranges longer than 100 miles, but that also have stealth capability to defeat even sophisticated missile detection and defense systems.

    While Iranian military officials say closing the Strait would be "easier than drinking a glass of water," other experts say closing the Gulf would be much harder than that. Also consider that U.S. military forces rarely back down from a threat.

    The Persian Gulf is among the most strategically important spots on the Earth, as far as oil resources are concerned. As much as 40 percent of the world's oil flows through the region. Much of Saudi Arabia's oil moves through the Persian Gulf on oil tankers. A good deal of Iran's oil experts flow to world markets in the same way.

    If Iran could close the Gulf to oil shipping even for a short amount of time, world oil prices most likely would skyrocket and place even more downward pressure on tough economies in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere. Keeping the Gulf open is a top priority of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in the Gulf in Bahrain.

    while Iran most likely does not have the naval resources necessary to blockade the Persian Gulf entrance at the Strait of Hormuz, experts agree that Iranian naval forces could slow or stop ship traffic in and out of the Gulf, at least temporarily, by laying sea mines or threatening military and commercial shipping with missiles.

    It's a tricky thing to keep the mouth of the Persian Gulf open. The Strait of Hormuz is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest spot. That's narrower than the channel between Los Angeles and Catalina Island. If Iran wants to make good on its threats, the Strait of Hormuz is where that country's navy would choose to do it.

    Sink a couple of large oil tankers in the Strait would create major hazards to navigation, create a sizable environmental disaster, and most importantly, would make commercial shippers reluctant to send their vessels through the waterway.

    So what does all this mean for the U.S. Navy, which is charged with keeping the Strait of Hormuz open no matter the obstacle?

    It means perfecting and improving mine detection and disposal technologies. It means perfecting and improving shipboard defenses from sophisticated sea-skimming anti-ship missiles. It also means moving to military alert levels when operating in the Persian Gulf that are at wartime levels.

    I shudder to think of the political and economic fallout of a successful missile attack on a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier or other sophisticated warship or military weapon system.

    It seems that Navy commanders have their work cut out for them.

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Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

December 17, 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

December 10, 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

December 3, 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

November 26, 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

November 19, 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

November 12, 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

November 5, 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

October 29, 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

October 22, 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

October 15, 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

October 7, 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

October 1, 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

September 24, 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

September 17, 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

September 10, 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

September 3, 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

August 27, 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

August 20, 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

August 13, 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

August 6, 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

July 30, 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

July 23, 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

July 16, 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

July 9, 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

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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

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2

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