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The Mil & Aero Blog
Technology firms tap military knowledge, experience
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I continue to be impressed by technology firms serving the military that also employ active and former military. Solutions for the military made by the military--it has a nice ring and beyond that, it makes good sense.
Virtually all vendors value customer/end-user feedback; I have learned that this is even more so the case in the mil-aero market. The practice has many pros, and yet is not without cons.
BAE Systems lost a pro, a valuable staff member, this week in a bombing in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. Nicole Suveges, a BAE Systems political scientist, was killed in Iraq, where she had been supporting the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 4th Infantry Division, as part of the Human Terrain System (HTS) program, since April.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Nicole Suveges," says Doug Belair, president of BAE Systems' Technology Solutions & Services (TSS). "She came to us to give freely of herself in an effort to make a better world. Nicole was a leading academic who studied for years on how to improve conditions for others. She also believed in translating what she learned into action. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and colleagues."
Suveges had worked in Iraq for one year as a civilian contractor before joining BAE Systems. Suveges also previously served as a U.S. Army reservist in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, supporting the multinational SFOR/NATO Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force.
Suveges, who held a Master of Arts in political science from The George Washington University, was working on her Ph.D. in political science with an emphasis on international relations from Johns Hopkins University.
I am certain she and her valuable contributions and insights will be missed.
Today's military simulation displays more compact and cost effective
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Posted by John McHale
I had a discussion recently on military simulation displays with Jay Luis, director of marketing communications for Barco Simulation in Xenia, Ohio. The focus was technology and market trends in simulation displays
Luis told me that today's displays are not only are more cost-effective, but the performance and sharpness of the imagery has improved tremendously as well.
"Today's visual display systems used for military simulation and training are more compact, produce higher quality images, are easier to operate and maintain, are easily scaled, and are more cost-effective than the technologies of only a few years ago," he said.
What defense simulation customers want is more accurate flight training, Luis continued.
"They are looking for visual systems that provide greater detail for target imagery -- both air and ground," he explains. "Increased image fidelity yields enhanced aircrew visual acuity. Now the challenge becomes how to capitalize on that capability -- how to keep up with the multi-million pixel output of today's image generators and to project images that look just as real as possible."
In other words with "minimal latency or artifacts," Luis added.
Luis said Barco's new SIM 7 projection system provides that improved capability. "It's perfect for fast jet applications" with its smear reduction capability that enables the SIM-7 to maintain the sharpness of fast-moving images, he noted.
SIM 7 also takes part in "Barco's new CD series cross-cockpit collimated display solution," Luis said. The CD series offers improved display performance over the traditional cross-cockpit systems, he explained. It "consists of an advanced collimating mirror design, a projector platform, a back-projection screen, and a light-tight enclosure," he added.
Luis then went on to talk about the next advance in projection capability -- Liquid Crystal on Silicone or LCoS.
"LCoS has the capacity to match image generator output, giving aircrews incredibly realistic visual images, whether that is terrain, sky images, or ground and airborne targets," he said. "In general, LCoS projection technology is a good bet to have a huge impact in the simulation industry."
Are you radioactive?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Posted by John McHale
Are you radioactive? This is a question no one is asking you yet at airport security lines or at the federal building checkpoint, but it may come some day.
It also may surprise you to find out that you are glowing more than the smile on your face may say.
If someone undergoes radiation drug treatment such as thallium stress testing -- when the patient reaches his or her maximum level of exercise, a small amount of a radioactive substance called thallium is injected into the bloodstream -- they may be radioactive for as much as four weeks, thus setting off potential radiation detectors, says Bob Durstenfeld, director of PR and investor relations at RAE Systems in San Jose, Calif.
Durstenfeld told me this during a chat for an upcoming feature in Military & Aerospace Electronics on sensors for perimeter security.
He says the U.S. has no procedures in place for how to approach someone who sets off a radiation scanner.
Durstenfeld says his company has suggested a simple procedure -- just approach the citizen in question, tell them they have been found radioactive, and then ask if they would they mind being scanned.
Would you mind being scanned?
It's an important question. How far are we willing to let technology intrude upon our personal space to protect us from terrorism?
Knowing the havoc that a dirty bomb can cause makes a radiation scan seem a bit harmless … but Americans like their privacy.
Just something to think about.
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I have been blogging about it for some time now, and now it's here! The Mil & Aero Command Post has launched at http://community.mae.pennnet.com/. All members of the military and aerospace community are invited to join and begin sharing information, questions, thoughts, photos, videos, and so on.
It is easy to get started:
- Visit http://community.mae.pennnet.com/
- Click "Sign Up" in the top right-hand corner of the page
- Fill out the necessary information
- Participate! Look around, personalize your profile, start a forum, upload an image or video, or take any of a variety of other actions
- Come back hourly, daily, weekly -- whenever and as often as you like. The Command Post is open 24x7.
I know I am going to keep the Command Post open all day during work, and I look forward to participating whenever the mood strikes. I hope you too will c'mon in, take a look around, and decide to join and participate. While in the Command Post, feel free to message me directly with any suggestions on how we can make it better!
New power semiconductor technology may be living up to its initial promise
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Posted by John Keller
It's always great to see a new company start to fulfill its promise when systems integrators start buying the new company's product. So it is with HVVi Semiconductors in Phoenix. which makes silicon-based power semiconductors.
I told you a couple of months ago that you'd be hearing more from power semiconductor manufacturer HVVi, which manufacturers a new technology called high-voltage vertical field effect transistors (HVVFETs) for high-power applications like electronic warfare and ground-based pulsed radar.
HVVi now has had its first design-in -- a 200-Watt power amplifier from Daico Industries Inc. in Carson, Calif. Daico engineers are using one HVVi 25-Watt L-band radar RF power transistor, the HVV1214-025, to drive two HVVi 100-Watt power transistors, the HV1214-100, in Daico's L-band DAMH9172 power amplifier.
Daico's power amplifier is going into a pulsed-ground radar system that operates in the 1.2 to 1.4 GHz band for U.S. border surveillance, HVVi officials say. No more information is available on this system yet.
HVVi officials assure me that more design-ins are to come, as they have interest from radar and electronic warfare manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and BAE Systems.
HVVi officials tell me that HVVFET technology has big advantages in its small size, light weight, and small power consumption. HVVFET is designed to handle substantially more power at higher frequencies than the technologies HVVFET is designed to replace, like DMOS and LDMOS. The technology also may give gallium nitride (GaN) technology a run for its money.
We'll see in the months ahead how excited the industry may be about HVVFET technology. At any rate, however, HVVi looks to be off to a good start.
Audience participation encouraged
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I've been blogging for a while now, and as cathartic as it is to record my ponderings in a stream of consciousness-type manner, it can get a tad lonely. I very much enjoy blogging -- please don't get me wrong; it's just that when I see the comments tally at "0" I often think of a couple haunting lines from Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio program: "Is anyone out there? Anyone at all?"
(My memory fails me. It may have technically been, "Isn't anyone on the air? Isn't anyone alive?" But, while I am on a tangent, did anyone find it strange that Welles directed the piece by Wells? Sorry, enough digressing.)
This is just one of the reasons why I am excited about the upcoming launch of The Mil & Aero Command Post , an online community where we can immediately voice our opinions, gain feedback, bounce ideas and solutions off one another, reveal everything from rumor to fact, and otherwise interface daily (all day and night, in fact, if one's schedule permits).
Keep an eye on this blog and the http://www.milaero.com/ Web site -- you'll be the first to know when The Mil & Aero Command Post opens! See you in there!
Rant posted by John McHale
In a past blog I lamented on the overuse of acronyms within military circles and how it can convolute the English language. Today I'm venting over a buzz term one of our marketing people threw at me the other day - wordtrack.
I said "wordtrack, what the &*$#% is that?" She replied "it's a description or writeup." a I said then why not say that.
When did we have to sound "techno-hip" while talking about marketing write-ups? I know I'm sounding old for someone not yet 40, but text messaging and instant messaging, email, etc., is skewering the written word.
My younger cousin, while in college, told me that I was the only person he knew that wrote instant messages in complete sentences! He couldn't understand why I bothered. That's the attitude today. Poor language skills are nurtured due to laziness. Some people almost look at writing like some arcane magic, impossible to learn.
Writing like Hemmingway's or Graham Greene's is rare, but mostly everyone can learn basic grammar skills. Someone once said "if you can think, you can write." So true.
The increased use of terms like "wordtrack" reminds me of a George Carlin monologue where he wondered "when did toilet paper become bathroom tissue?" Carlin's message was that the softening of language so as not to offend can be offensive in itself. He added pretty soon people won't be ugly but will have "severe facial deficits."
As editors we see many examples of poor writing skills in press releases, company websites, technical white papers, etc. Many times the grammar is fine, but the pieces are unorganization. Sometimes four paragraphs are used to make a point that could be made in one paragraph.
For those of you submitting something for publication or even a news story, I think one of the best pieces of advice was something my journalism professor told me years ago: “your lead should be what you would tell your best friend about the subject if you only had a minute to get it out.”
Cary Grant, playing big city newspaper editor Walter Burns in "His Girl Friday," said it another way when speaking to his protege: “didn't they tech you anything in journalism school? Get it in the first paragraph, because no one ever reads the second one!”
Maybe this small plea will inspire others to communicate better, but I fear terms such as "wordtrack" are here to stay. Although, every time I hear them I think of an acronym that matches Bart Simpson’s initials….
Have a nice day.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
Now former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne is not the only one to have "read with regret" the findings a report by Adm. Kirkland Donald.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, based on the findings of an investigation by Donald, forced Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley to step down. Gates announced today that he accepted the resignations of Moseley and Wynne.
According to Gates and the Donald report, the ousted officials failed to ensure the security of sensitive materials, including those relating to nuclear weapons. Donald reported weaknesses in the way critical materials are handled. Among the damning evidence against Wynne and Moseley are the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four Air Force electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads, as well as the flight of a B-52 bomber mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles last August.
The report also concluded that the Air Force's nuclear standards have been in a long decline, a "problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed for over a decade." An internal investigation found "a decline in the Air Force's nuclear mission focus and performance" and a failure by Air Force leaders to respond effectively, says Gates.
Gates asked a former defense secretary, James Schlesinger, to lead a task force to recommend ways to ensure that the highest levels of accountability and control are maintained in Air Force’s handling of nuclear weapons.
Is this a job for RFID or another technology?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Posted by John McHale
I was getting my oil changed today and the Valvoline manager said "I wish you could still get a Nissan Maxima in standard. It's so rare."
I have a 2005, one of the last years they made a Maxima with 6-speed manual transmission. Incidentally, when I have it in 6th gear on long-distance, low-traffic, highway driving it is sipping gas. I've taken it 350 miles on only a half tank of gas -- kinda handy these days.
Anyway, getting nostalgic about stick shifts got me thinking about what's changed in the last decade or so in military electronics, so I grabbed one of our issues from 1997 -- February to be exact. Unfortunately anything before March 2000 is unavailable on our digital archives so I actually had to pull it off a shelf!
The headline I found most interesting was "Intel set to quit military business." Quit it they did, with the article stating the company was to quit taking military orders on Christmas Eve, 2007.
The reason, said the Intel Military Product Group's marketing manager at the time, was simply that parts for the commercial market are far more lucrative than mil-spec parts.
Well, since that article's publication Intel returned to this less lucrative market and is now carving a niche -- specifically in the military embedded market, while saying repeatedly they have no plans to exit it. Apple's purchase of P.A. Semi may drive more military business toward Intel as it's still unclear whether P.A. Semi's low-power chip -- so popular among military embedded designers -- will continue production long term.
Another headline included "Pentek unveils Quad TMS320C6201 DSP communications board." The last decade has seen the PowerPC general purpose processor surpass the traditional DSP (digital signal processing) chips for military signal processing applications, but it's nice to see that Pentek is still Pentek, having avoided acquisition.
However, since 1997, there has been a great deal of mergers and acquisitions involving defense primes, subprimes, and vendors. In his February, 1997 "Report from Washington and elsewhere," our then Washington Bureau Chief, John Rhea, discussed Boeing's purchase of McDonnell Douglas two months prior and made a case for some combination of Hughes Aircraft, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon to compete with Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Well, Raytheon won the Hughes competition and the landscape is still quite competitive among defense electronics prime contractors. The acquisitions keep on coming too -- and the buyers aren't always American behemoths. For example the United Kingdom's BAE Systems purchased the defense electronics company Sanders from Lockheed Martin nearly a decade ago and Italy's Finmeccanica recently moved to acquire DRS Technologies.
The DRS deal is yet to go through and its future impact remains mostly speculation. However, I'm sure if we look back 10 years from now we'll see mergers and acquisitions still going on, Pentek generating DSP headlines, and hopefully Intel still supplying chips to defense customers.
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