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The Mil & Aero Blog
Russian T-95 main battle tank: could this combat vehicle be more formidable than we thought?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Posted by John Keller
I wrote about a new Russian main battle tank (MBT) more than a year ago, the T-95, in a blog headlined "New Russian battle tank: it's beginning to look a lot like the '80s." In this blog I wrote of a chilling sense I had about what felt like a return the bad old days of the Cold War between the United States and the then-Soviet Union. This T-95 tank which is supposed to enter service this year with its advanced vetronics, appears to be one of the most advanced war machines ever produced.
This blog generated some comment, particularly from an alert reader who calls him or herself NERO. This reader says, with some authority, that the introduction of the Russian T-95 main battle tank could be worse for Western powers than originally thought, and could bode ill for the West on a variety of military issues. You can see the original blog for NERO's initial comment. For now, I'll let NERO speak for himself:
-- Posted by John Keller, firstname.lastname@example.org. www.milaero.com.
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Can commercial software-defined radio replace JTRS? One reader points out why not
Monday, September 28, 2009
Posted by John Keller
I wrote a story earlier this month headlined, Air Force plan to cut its JTRS military radio program may acknowledge developments in private industry, in which I suggest that commercial radio communications developments in software defined radio (SDR) technology may be surpassing the U.S. military's Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), and that commercial SDR might eventually render the military's JTRS developments obsolete.
Today I received an astute e-mail from a Military & Aerospace Electronics reader that takes me to task with several solid points, which I'd like to share here. This reader's message speaks for itself, and I thank him or her for bringing these points to our attention.
There is an assumption that the commercially developed software-defined radios (SDR's) could replace the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS). This is not true, if the military requirements stay as they are today.
Everyone forgets that the military wants everything small, powerful, with all the bells and whistles, and oh, by the way, you have to pass the NSA security requirements and it needs to fit into this small space.
I once heard a four-star general ask, "Why is my cell phone smaller than my wallet, it is nearly free, and I can talk around the world with it?" That type of ignorance is exactly what gets programs like Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) cancelled.
I would like to have said (but didn't), "but sir, you are communicating through cell towers that have thousands of pounds of equipment, your cell communications are not secure, your cell phone will not operate in extreme conditions, your cannot drop your cell phone from six feet onto concrete and expect it to work, you can't drop your cell phone in a bucket of water and expect it to work afterward, you cannot select the method of communications, good luck using it in the mountains of Afghanistan, and your cell phone is not "software defined," your cell phone can't communicate to other cell phones without going to a cell tower (good luck installing cell towers in every hostile area), your cell phone puts out very, low power (not 100-plus Watts), and finally, it can't communicate to any legacy radios currently in service."
Other than that the four-star had a good point.
The government levies thousands of requirements (in the case of JTRS 40,000 requirements) and then asks why the device is so expensive, costs so much to develop, and then complains when it's late (plus, let's change the requirements continually along the way).
Just a couple points for consideration.
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Test and measurement systems designers leave rugged computers to the experts
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Posted by John Keller
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There seems to be a trend in portable electronic test and measurement equipment that involves commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) rugged laptop and notebook computers. Seems the test and measurement folks want to leave the rugged computer portions of their systems to the real experts.
This trend was in evidence as I prowled the aisles of the AutoTestCon test and measurement trade show this week at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.
Many pieces of test and measurement equipment, such as spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, and systems that integrate these and other instruments in one box, need some sort of computer to run software that controls test parameters, inputs, and the like. This is part of an overall trend known as "virtual test," which trades knobs, dials, and rudimentary displays for computer-based control.
Some of the latest test instruments, however, are contained in a solid electronics enclosure that instead of screens and buttons have a standard docking-station connector compatible with rugged laptop and notebook computers like those made by Panasonic.
One company taking this approach is Astronics DME Corp. of Orlando, Fla. Officials say Panasonic and other rugged computer manufacturers already have designed their systems for shock, vibration, EMI, and other demanding environments.
Why, they ask, should their engineers have to bother with the computing portion of test instruments when the computer companies can do it better, faster, and cheaper?
Sounds like this is what the COTS movement is all about.
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Remembering the lessons of 9/11
Friday, September 11, 2009
Posted by John Keller
Today is September 11, 2009. It was eight years ago this morning -- in about 25 more minutes as I write this -- that we as a nation gathered, horrified, around television sets to watch as one of the World Trade Center towers burned in New York City.
All we knew at that moment was that some sort of airplane hit the edifice. There were whispers of terrorism, but no one knew for sure. Terrorism? That stuff happened in faraway countries, usually in the Middle East. It had to be an accident.
Then we watched, dumbstruck, as yet another airplane hit the second tower, engulfing them both in flames. Then we knew. This was no accident; we were under attack. We didn't know by whom. We just knew it was happening.
I remember so well that morning sitting with my colleagues in the office lunchroom -- some in tears, others with faces contorted in anger, but most silent and in shock.
Those were the last moments of the Old World, before Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Qaida, and American flags sprouting from motorcycles and car antennas. Life was different then. No global war on terror, no IEDs, no surge, no Remember the Troops signs in villages and towns -- just a new president who had come out of a close, contentious election.
Today, however, we know. There's an enemy out there that would dearly love to do it all again ... that wants to kill us as Americans, because we are Americans. The fight isn't over. I don't know when it will be -- if it ever will be -- but we must remain vigilant and on our guard.
We cannot let the lessons of 9/11 be forgotten. Today, of all days, please remember.
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Attendees at London defense show have positive attitude
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Posted by John McHale
Moving through the multiple security check points and walking the floors at the Defense Systems and Equipment International Exhibition -- DSEi 2009 -- in London I found the mood of the attendees quite positive.
Defense system integrators and military embedded electronics suppliers all said the traffic -- while not steady -- was well focused. The atmosphere echoed many recent U.S. defense electronics shows and conferences where industry players saw the market outlook as one of steady growth -- especially compared to commercial aviation, which continues to struggle.
While European military programs do not generate the funding of some U.S. platforms many primes predict the European defense market will continue perform well.
Bob O'Meara, European marketing director for Rockwell Collins C3I Systems told me his part of the business in Europe grew from $53 million in revenue in 2008 to 69$ million in 2009 and that he expects that trend to continue.
Embedded military electronics suppliers echoed his sentiment, saying orders continue to come in from current and new European defense customers.
The only small complaint I heard was from a power electronics exhibitor who said he wished there were more design engineers floating around, but added that DSEi is not that type of show. However, he felt it important to be there from a branding perspective.
The show organizers say they had about the same attendance as the 2007 event -- the show is held every two years and always in London.
The last one I attended was in 2005 and I found this year's DSEi to be lacking in the energy of that show. However, most shows are down in traffic as companies cut back on sending engineers to trade shows due to the poor economic climate.
Kudos to Kamen, kids, and contractors
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
My hat is off to Dean Kamen, famous inventor of such innovations as the Segway PT, and mil-aero industry players, such as Rockwell Collins and General Dynamics. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a Manchester, N.H.-based organization founded by Kamen to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology, has launched various technology challenges, designed to foster imagination, innovation, and collaboration among children and adults, community and industry, government and academia, and more.
FIRST has announced the 2009 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge: Smart Move. Smart Move challenges 146,000 children, ages 9 to 14, in more than 50 countries to explore robotics solutions to issues in modern transportation through hands-on, minds-on teamwork.
A long-standing sponsor of FIRST, Rockwell Collins has provided more than $1 million in support of FIRST programs, sponsoring hundreds of teams and events at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels in the U.S. FIRST executives have named Rockwell Collins the Official Program Sponsor for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC).
"The announcement recognizes the distinct role Rockwell Collins will play as the primary official sponsor of FTC, the newest and fastest-growing FIRST program available to students in grades nine through 12," says a company representative.
As a FIRST Strategic Partner, Rockwell Collins employees serve as volunteers, leading teams and providing technical mentorship, coordinating regional events, and judging robotics competitions.
"When you excite students with hands-on experiences and reinforce classroom learning with creative applications of content from textbooks, kids get motivated and want to learn," says Clay Jones, chairman, president, and CEO of Rockwell Collins.
An estimated 1,300 FTC teams are expected to compete in 60 official FTC tournaments across North America for the upcoming season. More than 10,000 participants will be involved in FTC events, which culminates in the FTC World Championship, April in Atlanta, Ga. Participants will be joined by teachers, parents, and university and corporate mentors as well as prominent regional and national leaders in business, government, education, and the media.
Other FIRST Tech Challenge sponsors include FTC CAD and Collaboration Sponsor, PTC, and FTC Program Sponsor, General Dynamics.
Smart Move comprises two phases. In the project phase, teams identify a problem with the way people, animals, information, or things travel in their community, create an innovative solution, and share it outside the team. In the robot phase, teams apply robotics, sensor technology, and fresh thinking to solve the problems.
Personally, I have spoken with several children between the ages of six and 14 who have not yet given any thought as to what they would like to do after high school, for a vocation, for the community or world at large, and so on. I appreciate that industry innovators are investing in the future, and getting today's youth to start thinking about technology, invention, and ingenuity, and how to apply them to solve current and future challenges.
If you know of other industry firms or individuals who are making a difference in the mil-aero community or world at large, please post the info here or in the Command Post community, or e-mail me at Courtney@pennwell.com. They deserve recognition and kudos.
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