By John McHale
SAN DIEGO—The 2008 Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum (MAEF 2008) last month in San Diego covered the issues most important to those supporting the warfighter today, such as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) integration, adaptation of software-defined radio, and lessons learned from Iraq.
“Wow, I guess good things really do come in small packages,” said Richard Williams, vice principal director of the GIG Enterprise Services Engineering segment at the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). “This was a small forum, but I’ve learned so much today.”
Williams made the comment as he began his talk on “Ground Fiber and Networking for the Global Information Grid” during the session on Software-Defined Radio and Military Communications.
The forum touched on how innovation in COTS electronics affects defense applications today especially for urgent warfighter needs such as counter-IED (improvised explosive device) technology.
Deputy assistant secretary of defense for C3, Space, and Spectrum, Dr. Ronald Jost, gave the keynote address, in which he predicted that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Transformational Communications Satellite system (TSAT) should survive at close to what has been envisioned to date, despite industry speculation that the future DOD “Internet in the sky” could be in financial trouble.
Following Jost was Dr. Stephen M. Jarrett, chief technologist of the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) Charleston, who told attendees that identifying solid COTS technologies for military and aerospace applications can be easier said than done.
“In the past, we thought we could submit a request for proposal and the technology would beat a path to our door,” Jarrett told the conference. Today in the mil-aero industry, we have to go aggressively after it... We need to go forward and look at technology coming out of the labs and how can we adapt it and use it. We need to leverage massive amounts of commercial R&D; the commercial market is investing more than we are in R&D.”
Other prominent speakers included Dr. Robin Keesee, deputy director for the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), who told attendees that his organization is setting new standards for speedy weapon system procurement, as they are sometimes able to consider and fund systems to counter roadside bombs within as little as two months from initial proposal.
Keesee’s speech was quite “sobering,” said Doug Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing for embedded computing specialist AiTech in Chatsworth, Calif., pointing out that Keesee outlined the urgent need behind this threat—to save soldiers’ lives.
Also speaking at MAEF 2008 was Howard Pace, deputy joint program executive officer for the Joint Tactical Radio System (DJPEO JTRS) program, who explained how the JTRS program is seeking to stand traditional defense and aerospace procurement on its head by introducing industry competition from design through manufacturing at unprecedented levels.
“We will open up the business space to get more radios out to the warfighter,” Pace told attendees. “We will evolve this [JTRS] architecture over time so all vendors can play. We want multiple sources in production, so we can walk away from vendors if necessary, and to be able to re-compete contracts.”
Retired U.S. Army Col. Tim Kokinda generated a lot of buzz when he discussed command-and-control lessons learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He recalled a tour in Iraq whereby 29 countries worked together; and yet, to do so, they needed to maintain three different voice and data networks, including secure and non-secure.
“When commanders and warfighters can’t exchange information, it’s not fun,” Kokinda told MAEF 2008. “They require a secure and reliable system.” Kokinda recognized a need to transform the acquisition process, saying it takes too long to get solutions fielded. Anything that takes from 18 to 36 months is criminal, he told attendees, calling for help from the military, academia, and industry to shape policy, set data standards, and deliver real-time network simulations and modeling tools. “No one can spin electrons like the United States military,” Kokinda says.
Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum 2009 will be March 2–4 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego. To find out more about next year’s show, keep your eye on the show Web site at www.milaeroforum.com for updates.
To find out more about exhibiting or sponsoring the MAEF 2009 show, contact Jeff Gallagher by phone at 603-891-9147 or by e-mail at [email protected].