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Giving thanks where it is due
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I am not an historian, though I play one on the Mil & Aero Blog. I kid. I don't portend to know all that I should about history; I believe I have gained and continue to enhance a wonderful education, but I will admit to some pot-holes in my education when it comes to names, dates, and faces. I wrongfully assumed that getting the gist of important events in world history would suffice, but I often find myself wanting to know more these days. It should be of little mystery, then, why I researched the topic of Thanksgiving this week.
For instance, did you know: "In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving should be a national observance. To some degree, this was a way to brighten the spirits of the American people, who were dealing with a great deal of difficulty and deprivation"? This information was gleaned from ehow.com, one of many online sites I use for rudimentary research on myriad topics.
Today, with terrorist activity apparent and threats looming, I hope that Thanksgiving gives you and yours some solace. Times are tough now, but no worse than during the Civil War.
Things in the global economy look bleak, no doubt. People around me are losing their homes. They are making sacrifices: giving up their cars, moving in with relatives or moving closer to work, opting out of the health-care system, staying put rather than traveling to visit family during the holidays (holiday travel this week is down more than 600,000 people, NBC Nightly News reports), removing meat from the nightly dinner table, and so much more.
At times like this, I know I can really use a holiday like Thanksgiving. I was raised to give thanks for all that I have daily, even when things look their worst; but, I must admit that at no other time do I reflect more on the positives in my life than Thanksgiving. (Stay tuned for my New Year's Eve "What have I done with my life for the past year?" reflections. It's a nail-biter.)
There is always something for which to be thankful. For me, today, an industry that works tirelessly to allay our fears, ensure our safety and security, and enable us to enjoy another day as free and unique individuals is at the top of my list.
Love covering space
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Posted by John McHale
My favorite beat at Military & Aerospace Electronics over the years has been space, specifically NASA programs.
I'm in the midst of a feature on avionics for manned spacecraft and the main focus has been the Orion spacecraft and its state-of-the-art cockpit.
"The technology going into Orion is amazing," Rick Kasuda, Orion avionics and software director for Lockheed Martin, told me. This is the best technology astronauts have ever had in the cockpit and "quite different from what they had in the Space Shuttle," he added.
They will have a glass cockpit with very few switches and be able to see everything through the glass display, Kasuda said. The cockpit will also have its own local area network, he added.
The Orion spacecraft will function as a transport for crew and cargo as well as fly to the Moon, Mars, and dock with the International Space Station.
The Space Shuttle is scheduled to retire in 2010, but the Obama Administration may try to get one or two more flights out of it if they so choose.
Be sure to check out the avionics for manned space flight article in our January issue.
Bright spots in bleak economy
Friday, November 21, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
At a time of recession, when a majority of businesses are slashing budgets, eyeing the bottom line, continually conscious of the dwindling profits, how is it that other companies are growing, acquiring other firms, and expanding their portfolio product and services? What are they doing right? A great deal, I can only assume.
Common and central themes I have noticed among those technology firms in the mil-aero industry that are flourishing, even in the wake of what might be another economic depression (Curtiss-Wright and Kontron immediately come to mind), include: acceptance, partnership, and planning.
At a Kontron-hosted event this week, Norbert Hauser, vice president of global marketing at Kontron admitted that company management and personnel expect a decline in business over the next six to nine months, due to continued economic decline across the globe; yet, he and his colleagues also anticipate a full recovery, and more. They are realistic about attainable goals in the near term, accepting of situations outside of their control, and bullish on the future. I find it admirable.
At the same time, successful firms such as Kontron are investing in partnerships--not only with other, complementary industry vendors, but also with the user community. Executives continue to forge relationships with industry innovators, and to connect with systems designers and systems integrators seeking sound products and advice in these especially uncertain times.
Finally, executives at these organizations are proactively planning for the future. They have a roadmap in place and, when the global economy improves, they intend to act--deliberately and with precision.
For more executive-level insights, news, and announcements, be certain to visit the Defense Executive section of Milaero.com daily. Additionally, let your peers in the industry know what changes you have instituted to see your firm through trying economic times by commenting below or starting a discussion in the Command Post community (http://community.milaero.com/).
Will democratic administration be good for defense electronics funding?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Posted by John McHale
Walking the show floor at MILCOM 08 in San Diego the last three days I sensed a good deal of optimism among exhibitors and attendees about defense electronics funding under a Barack Obama administration.
The consensus is that while a democratic administration will likely cut back on boots and bullets, they will also be prone to spend more on technology for C4ISR, or command, control, communications, computers, surveillance, and reconnaissance, applications to remain vigilant without putting troops in harm's way.
Unmanned systems, already a decisive force on the battlefield, should proliferate even more under this scenario, which is good news for our community.
One of the members of our Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum advisory board also pointed out to me that the Bush/Cheney administration killed more programs than the Clinton administration.
He said that a democratic administration is more likely to scale back production rather than kill an entire program. Killing programs also means eliminating jobs on a large scale, something a democratic administration might be loathe doing in this economic climate.
The optimism is good news, but it's still a guessing game as to where Obama will make his cuts in defense and he will make them.
The past is present as U.S., allies gird for battle with Somalia pirates on the high seas
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Posted by John Keller
There's a new presidential administration in Washington. The United States is locked in a global military and cultural struggle with Islamic extremists. Piracy on the high seas around the continent of Africa is a gathering menace to international maritime commerce, and the navies of the United States and other nations are under increasing pressure to intervene and put a stop to this scourge of the seas, which exists with backing of radical Islam.
Quick question: does this description refer to the year 1802, or 2009?
Two months ago Somalia pirates commandeered a Ukrainian freighter off the Horn of Africa that contained 33 Russian T-72 main battle tanks and ammunition in its holds.
Just this week, Somalia pirates lurking off the east coast of Africa seized a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with 2 million barrels of crude oil worth an estimated value of $100 million. Also this week, just north of the supertanker attack, pirates hijacked a Hong Kong cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden loaded with 36,000 tonnes of wheat bound for Iran.
The latest news reports today have further reports of high-seas buccaneering exploits -- this time off the West Coast of Africa, as a Danish freighter with oil exploration equipment aboard was held for 30 hours by pirates near Nigeria.
Astoundingly, more than 200 years later, incoming U.S. President Barack Obama will face many of the international piracy issues that Thomas Jefferson faced.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, entered office after the 1800 election with piracy off the coast of Africa as one of his top international affairs and national security priorities. The so-called Barbary Pirates were attacking ships in the Mediterranean off the coast of Tripoli, stealing cargoes, and pressing ships' crews to convert to Islam or die.
Jefferson had to do something about it, and he turned to his nation's glittering new warship USS Constitution, a 44-gun frigate that had first put to sea in 1798. By 1803, Constitution was the flagship of the U.S. Navy's Mediterranean fleet, and went into action against Barbary pirates who were demanding tribute from the United States in exchange for allowing American merchant vessels access to Mediterranean ports.
The American warship blockaded African ports and bombarded fortification until Tripoli, Tunisia and Algeria agreed to a peace treaty.
Today, it's as though we're entering a new golden age of piracy -- except this time the hunting grounds are primarily the seas off eastern Africa, not the Caribbean; the prizes are oil tankers and cargo ships, not Spanish galleons loaded with gold; the perpetrating cutthroats this time are not British and French expatriates, but are poor Somalis; and the weapons of choice are not cannons and cutlasses, but are fast speedboats and machine guns.
Thomas Jefferson would not let crimes of piracy stand against the U.S. and its allies. Barack Obama will soon have some choices to make. The USS Constitution put to sea to do battle against those who would exploit international shipping.
Today the U.S. Navy stands ready add more ships to the fight for international maritime commerce off the African coast. We'll see if the new President Obama gives the order.
Outlook for U.S. military combat aircraft through the next decade
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Posted by John Keller
U.S. military leaders will face many hard choices over the next 10 years when it comes to planning for military combat aircraft fleets as we move toward the second decade of the 21st century. Money is tight, the economy is bad, and U.S. bank and industry bailouts are placing more intense demands on the taxpayer's dollar than ever before.
One survivor of the military aircraft budgetary battles to come, I believe, will have to be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. I know what you're thinking: some aircraft programs on the drawing board will have to go; there just isn't enough money to fund everything in the old reliable run of combat aircraft.
This is all-too true, but the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the hot chick jet fighter that has to be part of the mix. Without it, U.S. air forces will have to come up with brand new designs to streak through the skies like a zipfy, and there just isn't enough time or money left to do that.
I've read speculation that the F-22 Raptor might be the preferred aircraft over the F-35, and that just might turn out to be the case. I have to admit that historically I've been pretty poor at predicting aircraft winners. Granted, the F-22 is one of the most formidable combat jets in the world today, and it's a tempting proposition to transform it from a pure air-superiority fighter into a combination fighter-bomber like the Navy's F/A-18 Hornet.
Still, we've got to take a hard look F-22. It's design is 20 years old, it's a remanent of the Cold War, and it's designed from the ground up to take off and land on long runways. There's no version of the F-22 designed to operate from unimproved landing fields or from aircraft carriers like the F-35.
Moreover, a lot of the Pentagon's aircraft eggs are in the F-35's basket. By 2019 the lion's share of the military aircraft budget will be for the F-35, say analysts at the Government Electronics Industry Association (GEIA) segment of the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va. Nothing else comes close -- not the F-22, not the F/A-18, not even the KC-X next-generation mid-air refueling tanker.
By 2019, the F/A-18, and the F-16 will be very long in the tooth. The F-15s will be gone. We've already seen retirement of the Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters. If this country wants to maintain a credible combat aircraft presence in the world, the F-35 will be one of our last options -- that is, unless the U.S. wants to ditch manned combat aircraft altogether and rely on unmanned combat aircraft.
I don't see manned combat aircraft going away anytime soon. We won't see that until all the flag officers in the Pentagon who once were fighter jocks are retired and nestled quietly into nursing homes.
Variants of the F-35 will be able to take off from runways, aircraft carriers, and unimproved landing fields. Some variants will be able to take off and land straight up and down. These aircraft can dogfight other high-performance jets, as well as deliver precision-guided munitions, fly reconnaissance missions, and take out enemy radar and communications.
Do we really want to kill the F-35 and start over from scratch? This aircraft has been in development since the 1980s. If we start over now no new combat aircraft would be ready until probably after 2030. A lot can happen in the world between now and then.
I don't think it's worth the risk.
Freedom isn't free, but the free market economy should be
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
Just when I thought it was safe to come out of hiding and take in various media (newspapers, periodicals, television, blogs, etc.) following the recent election, I am reminded that I am bitter about the bailouts -- so much so, in fact, that I need someone to enlighten me.
This free market economy isn't free. Throughout my life, and for as long as I can remember, relatives, teachers, government officials, bosses, and others have extolled -- heralded, even -- the values and benefits of the free market economy. I have heard capitalism and the free market economy likened to Darwinism. To apply that comparison to the proposed bailouts of today: If a company, such as GM for example, isn't fit to survive (e.g., went on making large, gas-guzzling SUVs despite the price of oil and gas doubling and consumers driving less and trending toward compacts and hybrids), should not nature just take its course? Why should we sink in good money after bad to prolong the inevitable?
At the same time, Pentagon officials are urging the incoming president to reduce defense spending. Let me get this straight: We should not spend money on our security and defenses, but we should invest taxpayer money on golden parachutes, extravagant spa retreats, and bloated salaries for ineffectual executives "working" (I use the term loosely) at U.S. banks, automakers, and more. Heh?
I do not easily and callously part with my hard-earned money. As a result, I cannot sit idly by and watch the government act recklessly and without forethought with my money (and everyone else's). I wrote my representatives in Congress.
If you share, even the tiniest bit, in the outrage I feel, write your congressmen and congresswomen. It takes little time; simply visit https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml. I did (and by that I mean: voiced my outrage), and I hope you are moved to do the same.
Thank you to those who serve
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Posted by John McHale
At Military & Aerospace ElectronicsA we are fortunate to be able to cover the men and women who sacrifice to protect us and our country.
On behalf of my colleagues I say thank you to all veterans and those still in uniform for your service. It has been an honor to work with you over the years. The technology and engineering marvels we write about on our website and magazine cannot outshine your courage.
I also want to recognize the veterans who have been part of our staff over the years I've been with the magazine. Our current Publisher, Ron Mastro, served as a sonar man for the U.S Navy in the 1960s and our late Sales Manager, Jerry Boyle served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
Jerry worked selling advertising space until he retired at 81. He died six months later. I never met a harder worker. He was a true example of the greatest generation.
Most of all I thank my grandfather, Albert Volpe, who served during World War I, my Irish uncles who served and died in World War II, and my cousin Steven Caucci, who lost his life in the Vietnam War.
I don't remember meeting Steven; I was quite young when he died. My mother and he were close and she speaks of him often. It meant a lot to me to find his name on the Wall in Washington.
The Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial, and the World War II Memorial are all quite moving in their own right. Please visit them if you haven't already.
Distractions done, camaraderie and change to come
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
Another election through, well wishes pour in from various parts of the globe, and the general populace seems energized. No matter how you might personally feel about the election results, one thing is clear: the president elect has his work cut out for him. So do the people fortunate enough to inhabit this great land.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, in an interview on Oct. 29 with (now President Elect) Barack Obama, pointed out that the country wasn't in as poor shape as it is now when he began his campaign roughly two years prior.
"Two years ago, when you started this journey," said Stewart, "the country wasn't necessarily in the shape that it is in now, is there a sense that you don't want this?" that you may look at the country and think, 'You know, when I thought I was going to get this it was a relatively new car, now look at it!'"
At the same time, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour summed it all up as "the inbox from hell" for President Elect Obama.
It isn't just his inbox, however; we as a people and a country united have a great deal of work to do.
According to reports, President Elect Obama told McCain, who phoned to congratulate him on his victory, that he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them could work together. He also pledged to work with and listen to those who cast their vote for McCain. Hopefully members of the GOP accept the hand extended to them.
Said Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy of the election results and Obama's victory: "They heard his call for a new generation of Americans to participate in government and were inspired. They believed that change is possible and voted to be part of America's future."
We all have a hand in the future of the United States of America. With the elections, and hopefully the biased and biparisan attitudes, behind us for now, many are optimistic and anxious about working to solve the problems that plague this country.
President Elect Obama, in his speech Nov. 4 to a crowd of roughly 240,000, said it best (and eloquently): "While the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress."
Let us all get back to work, together.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Posted by John McHale
I just finished voting for in this year's election. It only took five minutes and I kept thinking of the line from Chevy Chase in one of those Vacation movies: "Look, Russ! No lines!" Chevy wasn't referring to voting precincts though.
I was really expecting an hour wait, but it was smooth and over in five minutes. Unlike this photo of voters waiting in line outside a polling station in Georgia this morning. (Associated Press/John Amis)
There were other things to vote for besides McCain or Obama. As a former New Hampshire resident I was pleased to mark yes on lowering the income tax in Massachusetts. I do miss the freedom from income tax that I enjoyed in the "live free or die" state. Hopefully the rest of the Massachusetts commonwealth will vote to lower it too.
Aside from taxes another issue that is important to me is free speech. Both candidates would seem on the surface to be big First Amendment guys, but are they really?
McCain was well known for his campaign finance reform, which some say limits free political speech. Obama has been criticized for shutting down access to any journalists who don't endorse him or are skeptical of his policies.
It looks as if Obama will win so hopefully that was just campaign tactics and not signs of things to come. I hope he is also against the "fairness doctrine" that some of his colleagues in Congress are hoping to pass as a way of limiting conservative talk radio.
I myself don't listen to political talk radio, I prefer music or Howard Stern for some laughs, but either side should be able to express their views without those in power limiting their speech.
I'm also a big fan of just changing the channel if I don't like something on television or elsewhere. Live and let live.
This is where Republicans have been guilty of overreaching to limit speech; looking to censor radio and television programs that inlcuded subject matter, which made them uncomfortable.
One claim of censorship that rings false is that President Bush was some sort of fascist, crusading to put down any and all dissent. I think that claim is ridiculous. All you have to do is turn on your T.V. or open a newspaper to see criticism of our sitting president. It's everywhere. Can you imagine that in Russia or China? Never.
Maybe I'm biased as a journalist, but I see nothing more important than freedom of speech. My favorite phrases from the Constitution come from the First Amendment.
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."
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