Sky Computers shifts market focus to military, wins P-3 upgrade

CHELMSFORD, Mass. - Leaders of Sky Computers Inc. are shifting focus almost entirely toward military markets with the company's commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) boards.

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By John Rhea

CHELMSFORD, Mass. - Leaders of Sky Computers Inc. are shifting focus almost entirely toward military markets with the company's commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) boards.

Following this change in strategy, last month Sky engineers began to upgrade the airborne sonar echo rangers for all 50 of the U.S. Navy's fleet of P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The work is being done in partnership with Second Order Systems Group in Baltimore.

Sky, based in Chelmsford, Mass., is a subsidiary of Analogic Corp. of Peabody, Mass. Sky officials previously had spread their efforts about equally among commercial, military, and medical applications.

The company's president, Donald Barry, who says he expects the military market to account for 90 percent of the company's business, implemented the change in strategy. The use of COTS continues to drive the growth of the embedded systems market, he explains, adding that customers are demanding higher levels of integration.


The Merlin processor from Sky Computers is going aboard the U.S. Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft to aid in detecting enemy submarines.
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The P-3 Orion, was originally the Lockheed Electra turboprop commercial aircraft, and is a natural choice for Sky's stress on subsystems for transport class aircraft rather than the more rugged environments required by fighters and other tactical aircraft, company officials note. While hunting enemy submarines, the P-3 deploys sonobuoys in the water to acquire sonar data, and the echo ranger then determines the range to a target.

Although Sky, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Analogic, does not disclose sales figures, the parent company, Analogic, reported sales of about $280 million last year. Tom Miller, president of Analogic, wants Sky and each of the other 10 Analogic divisions and subsidiaries to generate revenues of $100 million a year.

In the case of the P-3 upgrade, Sky officials say they won the job in partnership with Second Order Systems because Sky could supply the necessary subsystems based on the Altivec G4 digital signal processing chips immediately while other vendors were quoting deliveries in November of this year.

The airborne sonar echo ranger subsystem consists of a SPARC slot-I board, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters, and three Altivec-based Sky Merlin multicomputers.

Engineers from the Baltimore firm designed a high-speed serial interface to convert the radio frequency signals coming into the system from the sonobuoys into digital data, which are then piped through the SKYchannel for processing by the Merlin multicomputers.

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