The Mil & Aero Blog
Friday, August 29, 2008
  What McCain's choice of Sarah Palin could mean for defense spending

Posted by John Keller

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. This brings a lot of interesting things to the table.

McCain in choosing Governor Palin could be making an interesting choice. Palin's son reportedly has just joined the military, so it's fair to assume she would be supportive of military initiatives -- particularly for improving military and aerospace electronics and other defense technologies.

Sound off on what you think the choice of Sarah Palin might mean for military issues and defense spending on the Mil & Aero Command Post Community. Click here to leave your comments and join the conversation.

Like McCain, Sarah Palin also would likely be tough in foreign affairs, and tough in particular, on issues like the incident when Russia invaded Georgia.

The choice of a woman also could be interesting. Think of the disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters who might like to cast their votes for a female candidate. The Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket offers no such choices.

If folks are looking to vote for so-called "minority candidates," then this election has it all.

The choice of a potential Sarah Palin vice president on the ticket also could be good news for conservative voters. Palin for VP reportedly is a social conservative who is strongly opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, she is an advocate of private gun ownership, and evidently is very popular in Alaska.

This ticket would appeal to a lot of voters. Sarah Palin would appeal to female voters, to gun enthusiasts, to advocates of a strong military, to social conservatives, to pro-family advocates (she have five children), to young voters (she is just 44), and potentially to champions of the disabled (Palin's youngest son reportedly has Down's Syndrome).

It will be interesting to see how the choice of Governor Sarah Palin for vice president comes across to American voters.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
  Loving Labor Day
Posted by Courtney E. Howard

I was pondering the upcoming holiday weekend when it hit me: It is nearly September and I have not taken a vacation! Where did the time go? I can guarantee I am not the only one, especially in the U.S.

"U.S. employees are taking less time off than ever: Not only is the average number of annual vacation days granted to them a mere 12.4 -- less than that of the average medieval peasant -- but more than a third of us don't even use all of our allotted time off," reported Chris Taylor, Business 2.0 Magazine senior editor ( "Collectively, American workers give a whopping 1.6 million years' worth of unused vacation time back to their employers every year," he continues. "Even worse, at least 20 percent of us admit to sneaking some work along with us during our paltry vacation time, according to the New York-based Families and Work Institute. The American Management Institute puts the figure at closer to 50 percent. Either way, the trend appears to be increasing. An Intel survey found that 53 percent of us would like to take laptops on future vacations, mostly so we can sneak a peak at our work email."

I find this absurd, largely because I am guilty of it and it drives me mad. As I type, in fact, I am working late on a week night. I have done this repeatedly, in job after job, and in each instance, it has gotten me nowhere – except maybe burned out and resentful.

Why do I do this? What is wrong with me?! I have to make it stop, as do all of us that engage in this self-destructive nature. "It is crazy-making," as my own boss would say -- although he too was recently (and ironically) caught blogging during his week off.

I propose a movement whereby we all stop this insanity and actually take our well-deserved vacation time -- make a real, concerted effort to stay away from our laptops and other portable work-related devices (PDAs, Blackberry, etc.), and succeed at it. I suggest that we make vacation mandatory! After all, if my boss told me to do it, I bet I would get it done.

Enjoy a labor-free Labor Day!
Monday, August 25, 2008
  Looks like Curtiss-Wright is ready to grow again; set to acquire VMETRO
Posted by John Keller

I've been teased and chided for calling Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., a "behemoth" in the embedded computing industry. Well hold on to your hats, folks, it looks like Curtiss-Wright is about to get even bigger.

Leaders of Curtiss-Wright Corp. in Roseland, N.J. -- parent of Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded -- are offering to acquire VME computing specialist VMETRO in Houston. VMETRO leaders say the Curtiss-Wright offer sounds fair, and they are ready to accept it, unless some nasty surprises come up in final negotiations.

VMETRO provides commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) board- and system-level embedded computer products for military, aerospace, industrial, communications, medical, enterprise computing and network storage. The company also specializes in high-speed serial interconnects like PCI Express, Serial RapidIO, Aurora and Serial FPDP, based on standard formats like VXS, VPX, VME, PMC, XMC, FMC, PCI/PCI-X, PCI Express, AdvancedMC and CompactPCI.

Curtiss-Wright has bolstered its brand and industry expertise by acquiring companies with names like DY 4 Systems, Systran, and Pentland. Now it looks like VMETRO will be joining the list.

It looks like the embedded computer industry continues to contract. Among the things this may signal is that GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms may have to respond with an acquisition of its own.

It also may be time for companies like Mercury Computer Systems to watch their backs. I wouldn't be surprised to see either Curtiss-Wright or GE Fanuc make a play for that company sometime soon. Other companies in the embedded computing industry likewise should keep an eye out.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
  Network with an industry knowledge base
Posted by Courtney E. Howard

I have great news. The Command Post online community at has at the ready a panel of knowledgeable, experienced, and entertaining individuals to answer your inquiries.

If you have a question, are facing a challenge, are looking for remedies or solutions, or just want to brainstorm with like-minded people, you can now gain insight, suggestions, product and trend info, and answers from various and valued industry pundits and professionals.

Tell us what you are looking for, wrestling with, or need advice or information about, and one or more knowledgeable members or panelists will get back to you -- publicly or privately.

Start a discussion in the community online, send me a message from within The Command Post (by clicking on my profile, and then on "send a message" underneath my profile picture), or email me directly at

A network of helpful, knowledgeable folks is waiting to help and/or hear from you!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
  Some days I wish my Nissan could fly

Posted by John McHale

Yesterday I read a story in USA Today on inventors racing to be the first one to successfully build and market a flying car.

The article -- "Inventors are sure cars can fly" -- was written by reporters Chris Woodyard and Sharon Silke Carty.

Woodyard and Carty tell how entrepreneurs behind the different aircraft prefer the term "roadable aircraft" to flying car -- saying the latter term makes them appear kooks.

It's an interesting read, detailing "a three-wheel flying motorcycle" one inventor built in his garage to a two-seat car that flies.

One of the inventors discussed in the article, Paul Moller, was covered in anarticle from the April, 2001 issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics. He's the founder of Moller International. In the article he said hoped that the military might get behind flying automobiles because they are free from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications.

Alas, that is no longer the case as we have detailed in our publication and website since 2001. Designers of military aircraft that fly through civilian airspace have been required to meet certain FAA certifications -- DO-178B and DO-254 -- in electronic payloads.

Yet, if a company could get funding from DARPA or another agency to develop such an aircraft it might be easier to transition the technology to the consumer market. Not just multi-millionaire consumers either.

Possibly an unmanned roadable air vehicle, or URAV, would be a start.

I know, I know the last thing we need is another acronym, but there are so many autonomous platforms in development why not one that flies and drives? Is there already one in development? I don't recall any Future Combat Systems variants with such capability.

In the article from our 2001 issue Moller said he sees unmanned flying taxis being some of the first roadable aircraft.

Woodyard and Carty's article says that some entrepreneurs plan to start delivering their flying machines as early as 2010. They report that one -- the Terrafugia Transition -- already has 50 orders at a "projected price of $194,000."

That's pretty pricey. The article says that not all of the orders are from billionaires, that some retired couples with disposable income are interested.

Yeah, it may not be exclusive to billionaires, but it definitely rules out journalists...

Come to think of it what about the ancillary costs? How much is gas for these machines? Are any being developed with alternative fuels?

When we finally get a roadable aircraft how many feet in the air will the road be? Where will the toll booths be located?

I suppose we will not need a landing area on our roof, since we can just go wheels down and park it next to the lawn mower.

Should we raise the driving age for flying cars? Teenage insurance rates will be ridiculous. I remember how much my parents' car insurance went up when I was 16 and all I was driving was a Pontiac 6000.

The USA Today article reported that the first patent for a flying car was filed 90 years ago in 1918. I think it may take at least half that amount of time before we look up and see Hondas, Harleys, and Hyundais filling the night sky.

Yet, all the naysaying and negative feelings toward flying cars seem to fade away when I'm sitting in Red Sox traffic wishing I could take my car up and buzz the ballpark...
Thursday, August 14, 2008
  Fly me to the moon: manned vs. unmanned space missions

Posted by John McHale

I was reading about NASA's latest Mars missions today and remembered a pair of columns John Keller and I wrote back in 2003 on manned vs. unmanned space flight.

John advocated shelving the manned space program for cheaper unmanned missions, while I pushed for continuing the manned space program.

Since then, NASA has made significant steps forward in both areas - awarding the contract for the Orion spacecraft, the follow-on to the Space Shuttle and successfully landing the unmanned Mars Phoenix spacecraft on the Martian surface.

The demand for unmanned systems is even greater outside of space. In military applications - on land, sea, and in the air - various market reports see growth in the $30 billion range over the next five years.

Yet, despite the technological success of autonomous spacecraft and the lower costs of such missions, I still argue that NASA leaders continue to push for manned missions to the Moon and Mars. The image of humans setting foot on new worlds is what will excite the public and convince politicians to spend more money on such programs.

In the column I wrote "the only way America will ever attain the glories it achieved in space 30 and 40 years ago is if manned space exploration becomes a competition - either among commercial companies in our own country or with another nation."

Based on current world events - see the recent blogs from John Keller - it is more likely we will be engaging other nations in much more terrestrial and sadly more violent competitions.

How recent events will affect the collaboration between NASA and the Russian astronauts on the International Space Station and other space programs remains to be seen.

That brings us back to commercial space travel.

As I wrote in 2003, commercial competition makes a lot of sense because it lets "American business bid for government money to create their own spacecraft, thereby fostering that spirit of competition that spurred many of America's accomplishments in medicine and science. Space-exploring machines, while technological wonders, don't hold a candle to the appeal of flesh-and-blood all-American astronauts."

Which way do you - our readers - think NASA should go? Manned or unmanned?

Mr. Keller, do you still feel the same way?
  Radical Islam is one step closer to acquiring nuclear weapons

Posted by John Keller

Think we got trouble in Georgia and Russia? Get ready for some REAL bad news. President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is getting ready to resign. Don't care, you say? You better start caring, and here's why.

Musharraf may be no saint when it comes to international relations, but he's been instrumental in keeping the nuclear genie in the bottle
in the Middle East for years. When he's gone, all bets are off.

Musharraf is a U.S.-backed political strongman. People might claim he's a Western-backed dictator, and I've got precious little to argue against this claim. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't; that's not the point. Like him or not, Pakistan President Musharraf is one of the few barriers preventing radical Islamic extremists from getting the atom bomb.

Here's what I see happening.

Musharaf steps down and political instability reigns in Pakistan. The country sinks into civil war. The radical Islamic forces slowly prevail, despite desperate Western attempts to prevent their ascent to power.

Now guess what? The radical Muslims in Pakistan take control of that country's nuclear forces. The obsession radical Islam has with attacking the West now has nuclear weapons at its beck and call.

I've read from time to time that U.S. and other Western countries have special forces ready to enter Pakistan covertly and neutralize that country's nuclear arsenal. Gentlemen, the time to move is now.

If you don't, I shudder to think about what's next.
  Achieving immortality in space?

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

It's official. I have seen it all: men in space, monkeys in space, and now...DNA in space. Operation Immortality, a project to create a digital time capsule of the human race, is sending the digital DNA of renowned author and game designer Tracy Hickman. Hickman is perhaps best known (among "propeller heads" and D&D fanatics) for his work on the Dragonlance novels and the Ravenloft module of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game system. Operation Immortality’s mission is to preserve the most talented and influential people of our time, and so is sending Tracy Hickman's digitized DNA into space with video gaming luminary Richard Garriott as he travels to the International Space Station (ISS) on Oct. 12, 2008.

Hickman will not only be adding his digitized DNA to the "Immortality Drive," excerpts of his writings will also be included on the storage device Garriott will store on the ISS as part of Operation Immortality. The Immortality Drive is being loaded with information from people all over the world at the Web site.

Visitors to the Web site can submit their suggestions for humanity's greatest achievements, leave their immortalized message for future generations, and may even have their DNA selected to join Garriott and other luminaries on an out-of-this-world trip to possibly become the future of mankind.

What do you think? Who would you nominate for "preservation"? Should your DNA be in space?Maybe there's someone you just want to see launched into space. Hmm...
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
  Some truce: Russia continues invasion of Georgia

Posted by John Keller

Russia is continuing its invasion of neighboring Georgia, despite Russian rhetoric claiming their forces have stopped their advance and are pulling back.

Russia continues trying to cloak this unprovoked invasion of the internationally recognized state of Georgia with transparent and patently false claims it is safeguarding Russian-backed rebels in the Georgian districts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has not stopped at the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There is no truce; there is no brokered cease fire or pullback. Western reporters have seen Russian armored units pushing even beyond the central Georgian city of Gori, with Russian soldiers proclaiming they are heading to the Georgia capital of Tbilisi.

In the meantime, Russian cyber attacks continue on Georgian Websites.

Some protection the Russians are providing -- to anyone. They have damaged the cities of Gori, Tskinvali, and Poti, killed civilians, and rendered thousands homeless. This is not a rescue operation. It was, is, and continues to be an invasion and dismemberment of a sovereign country.

I've been called ignorant, arrogant, and uneducated in these blogs for pointing out the obvious. I suppose that if I were educated and enlightened that I would buy into Russia's lies that it is protecting South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the big, bad Georgians. What a crock. If pointing out naked, premeditated Russian aggression makes me ignorant, arrogant, and uneducated, then so be it.

This is for all the folks who would like to insult me for pointing out the obvious and treating a Russian invasion for what it is: I think you would be singing a different tune if the Russians -- or anyone else -- were doing the same to you. If the world stands by and lets this happen, moreover, that could be sooner than you think.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has asked the West for real help -- that would be more than just screeching for Russian to stop and go home. I don't think any help is coming, and the Russians won't be satisfied until Saakashvili is hanging from a lamp post.

Many of us thought this kind of aggression in Eastern Europe was over in the 21st century. I fear we haven't seen anything yet.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
  Russian invasion of South Ossetia: an excuse for conquest in Georgia

Posted by John Keller

I'm hearing a lot of noise in the world press about regions in the Caucasus of Russia and Georgia respectively called North and South Ossetia. The residents of these regions reportedly are different from the folks in Russia and Georgia. Ossetians, it seems, speak a language akin to the Iranian language of Farsi, and like the Russians more than they do the Georgians.

I read that different ethnic groups, different languages, competing claims of independence, and the like are justifications for military action in the region. This is a bunch of garbage. Russia invaded Georgia, plain and simple

South Ossetia is a district in Georgia. It is not a country; it is not an independent entity. Neither NATO, the European Union, nor the United Nations recognizes South Ossetia as an independent entity. Only Russia believes it to be so.

Now why might Russia believe so passionately that the district of South Ossetia is an independent entity that it would intervene militarily in the region -- even though this district lies wholly within the legal and recognized borders of Georgia?

Might it be that the government of Georgia is more closely aligned with the West than is Russia, that Georgia would like to join NATO, and that it's in Russia's best interests, therefore, to keep Georgia unstable by internal strife? I would think so.

Russian has stirred up plenty of trouble in the South Ossetia district to keep the pot boiling. Russia has "peace keepers" in South Ossetia ostensibly to keep ethnic Ossetians and Georgians from hurting one another. Still, published reports say these "peace keepers" have become Ossetian partisans. Moreover, Russia has granted Russian passports to residents of the South Ossetia district of Georgia. How provocative is that?

Russian leaders claimed they were coming to the aid of kindred spirits in South Ossetia when they sent Russian forces across the Georgian border with tanks, artillery, jet bombers, and infantry soldiers and started destroying Georgian cities within and outside of the south Ossetia district.

Do the Russians, historically, have a reputation for coming to the aid of beleaguered peoples throughout the world? I don't think so. The Russians do, however, have a reputation for snatching chunks of land near their borders when they see an opportunity.

I think that's all this affair in Georgia is: an opportunity for Russia to snatch some territory and put Georgia on notice that it had better not join NATO or get any closer to the West -- or else.

Let's try to put this into perspective. The South Ossetia district is probably roughly the size of Imperial County, Calif. Now what if Mexico decided to issue Mexican passports to all the residents of Imperial County, and send in "peace keepers" under the guise of protecting the Hispanic population of that county.

Then, say, some folks in Imperial County started rioting, and county sheriff's deputies in riot gear went in to quiet things down. What Russia is doing in Georgia, would be the same as if Mexico sent soldiers across the California border to chase off the sheriff's deputies and occupy Imperial County.

How well would that all go over? Not well, I would imagine.
Friday, August 8, 2008
  Fibre Channel going strong in storage applications
Posted by John McHale

Fibre Channel databus products are having a resurgence, says Jack Staub, chief executive officer of Critical I/O in Irvine, Calif.

Staub told me this during a conversation we had on high-speed I/O trends for the Technology Focus feature in the upcoming September edition of Military & Aerospace Electronics.

Staub says the resurgence "so to speak" is in storage applications for aircraft and ground bases, where large amounts of data are being acquired. "It's resurgent because in the past Fibre Channel was typically used more in network type applications," he adds.

"Fibre Channel has been broadly adopted throughout the F-18 platform," he says. It is used to connect into the data network for the AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, he adds.

On the F-22 platform Lockheed Martin officials have made Fibre Channel a standard product, he continues.

Staub says his company is seeing about 30 percent growth each year in their Fibre Channel business.

Critical IO still plays in the networking arena through its family of Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet products. For more on that technology be sure to check out our September issue.

In the meantime, have a good weekend!
  Russia invades Georgia: an Archduke Ferdinand moment?

Posted by John Keller

Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled across the Georgian border yesterday in a fast-moving armored blitzkrieg in support of Georgian separatist rebels fighting in opposition to the democratic and Western-leaning established government of Georgia.

CNN is reporting that upwards of 1,000 Georgian civilians have been killed so far, and Russian warplanes have dropped bombs on at least one Georgian military air base. This isn't a little border clash; these two countries are in an all-out war. No one has seen this kind of Russian incursion since the Soviet Union's invasions of Afghanistan in 1979, of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and of Hungary in 1956. Is this the beginning of a return to the bad old days?

Interesting that this comes the day before the Olympics open in Beijing, and the U.S. is in the heat of a presidential election. What better timing to ensure that nobody in the U.S. or the West cares much about this military invasion. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says the Russian timing is no accident. I don't think it's any accident either.

Saakashvili made clear in an interview today that this incident represents a test of Western support for democratic governments, especially those established in the sphere of influence of the old Soviet Union, as Georgia certainly is.

Georgia has voiced its wish to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better-known as NATO. Russia has said this would be unacceptable.

Russia has put its money and military might where its mouth is. The most fundamental geopolitical question in the world today is will the West do the same? Would it make sense for the U.S. to get involved in the Russian-Georgia War, which Russia will claim is an internal conflict and Georgia will claim is naked armed aggression against an independent democratic country?

The only thing between U.S. air bases in Iraq and the Georgian capital of T'bilisi is the country of Turkey. Would the Turks grant permission to U.S. planes to overfly its territory in support of Georgia? That's no clear. Would U.S. aircraft carriers -- they're not there already -- move into the Eastern Mediterranean -- or even into the Black Sea -- within striking distance of Georgia? We'll have to see.

The bigger question is would we want to do this? The answer is, we would if we would like the world to take the U.S. and its rhetoric supporting democratic movements and governments seriously.

Next question: COULD we get involved while U.S. forces are already stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on the opening day of the Olympics? That would be ugly. We'll see if the Bush Administration has the stomach for it.

In the meantime, I'm reflecting on the history of the early 20th century. In the summer of 1914, a Serbian terrorist shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. A series of interlocking alliances were activated, resulting in an invasion of Western Europe by German and Austrian armies, resulting in World War I, which resulted in 20 million deaths.

I wonder if the Russian invasion of Georgia is an Archduke Ferdinand moment. I hope it's not, but smaller things have resulted in global conflagrations. The risks and threats posed by the Russian invasion throughout the world are huge.

I'll be keeping a close eye.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
  To join or not to join? That is the (silly) question.
Posted by Courtney E. Howard

If you are on the fence about joining the Military & Aerospace Electronics Command Post online community...jump off that fence, and jump into conversations with your industry peers. Why, you ask? Well, I will tell you -- with thanks and evidence courtesy of Dotster.

"The Benefits of Business Social Networking -- How Businesses Can Thrive and Profit from Social Networking

Social networking is becoming a major communication medium -- not just for consumers, but for businesses as well. With such a rapidly growing force exploding into the cultural mainstream, it is essential for companies of all sizes to capitalize and harness the power of business social networking.

Businesses today need to understand how to use social networking to increase revenue, engage customers, and stay ahead of the competition. There are many benefits and advantages for companies that incorporate a social networking platform into their business marketing plan.

Several benefits of business social networking include the ability to:

- Develop and build your reputation with a branded Web site, differentiated from the competition.
- Improve brand image by increasing your accessibility to customers
- Grow customer loyalty by providing a voice of expertise and experience through discussion groups, weekly polls, etc.
- Keep up and stay ahead of industry trends through posted articles and customer feedback.
- Improve your products and services to increase revenue.
- Increase word-of-mouth marketing and buzz.
- Promote special events, new plans and price breaks.
- Cut costs (such as customer service) via forums.
- Reduce attrition and retain customers.
- Reduce employee training time.
- And much, much more."

Join the Command Post online at

Information courtesy Dotster Inc., a provider of enterprise Internet businesses services.
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