Enabling rapid COTS adoption: A move away from the Mil-Spec mentality?

SAN DIEGO, 3 June 2010. John Keller, editorial director of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence, opened the afternoon session of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum in San Diego: “Rapid COTS Insertion: The Business Practice for Obsolescence Management and Technical Refresh.” Mike Fralen, program director and market segment lead for maritime surveillance aircraft at Lockheed Martin, then took to the podium. “Open architecture is often misused and misunderstood,” he said. He outlined the key principles of open architecture: encouraging competition and collaboration, modular design and design disclosure, interoperable joint warfighting applications and secure information exchange, reusable application software, and life-cycle affordability.

Jun 3rd, 2010

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

SAN DIEGO, 3 June 2010. John Keller, editorial director of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence, opened the afternoon session of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum in San Diego: “Rapid COTS Insertion: The Business Practice for Obsolescence Management and Technical Refresh.”

Mike Fralen, program director and market segment lead for maritime surveillance aircraft at Lockheed Martin, then took to the podium. “Open architecture is often misused and misunderstood,” he said. He outlined the key principles of open architecture: encouraging competition and collaboration, modular design and design disclosure, interoperable joint warfighting applications and secure information exchange, reusable application software, and life-cycle affordability.

“Open architecture continues to represent a culture change for the DoD [Department of Defense] and some sectors of industry,” Fralen admits.

Experienced mil-aero professionals have what Fralen calls the “Mil-Spec mentality.”
Mil-Spec procurement been around for roughly 20 years, and the industry is likely to abandon it only when the Mil-Spec generation retires. “Many senior folks want to hold to a standard, and others coming up in the industry now are looking at Windows-based and other commercial technologies. Young engineers are looking at commercial interfaces.

“Every [young person in his room] is essentially putting together his own mission system--computers, multiple displays, handhelds, joysticks, etc.,” Fralen observes. “In reality, that’s what we’re doing on a macro scale and trying to make it secure.”

The biggest challenges facing the industry as it increasingly adopts COTS and transitions from the Mil-Spec mentality are:
Concern with revenues lost
Prime’s long-term security based on performance, not intellectual property
Employee skill mix had to change
New processes and tools needed

“Commercial process as important as commercial technology,” Fralen adds. “It should be data driven, include user input, and adapt to market.”

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