The Mil & Aero Blog
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
  North Korea's nuclear test and missile defense

Posted by John McHale

North Korea's successful test of a nuclear bomb this week has many in Washington scurrying to formulate a tough response. Reportedly the blast equaled that of the nuclear bomb that the U.S. exploded over Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. There has also been speculation in the press that North Korea has the potential to reach the west coast of the U.S. with a warhead.

So that brings us to missile defense, something President Obama and his party have questioned the necessity of in recent years. However, when we looked at the 2010 Department of Defense budget request today we saw increases for different types of missile defense systems -- most notably the Aegis ballistic missile defense system.

The Aegis request for 2010 is $1.67 billion, up from $1.113 billion in 2009. The Aegis is the system most likely to take out a warhead fired by North Korea. A number of technological advances have been made in the Aegis program, including the Aegis Ballistic Missile Processor.

The President has said he wants to cut the Airborne Laser (ABL) system, which destroys missiles in their boost phase. While the ABL does not appear as a line item in the 2010 request, funding for the ballistic missile defense boost phase segment is down from about $400 million in 2009 to about $186 million in 2010.

The overall the 2010 missile defense request is for $7.12 billion, down from $8.494 billion in 2009.

Yes, the President has cut funding for some high- profile missile defense systems, but it would be a mistake to say he has cut a hole in America's missile defenses. The increased funding for proven missile defense systems such as Aegis says otherwise.

Good to know considering the events in Southeast Asia this week.
Friday, May 22, 2009
  Take time...and perhaps see Terminator

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

Money and time are tight; and, because I cannot seem to pull away from work long enough to get to the gym lately, money, time, and my pants: all tight. Yet, as we likely all do from time to time, I felt the need for some escapism, to get out of the day-to-day routine. I indulged in a late-night movie, Terminator Salvation. Boy am I glad I did. It may seem like a stretch, but truly, it left me with a renewed appreciation for the industry I am so pleased to be a part of and to serve.

I highly recommend seeing Terminator Salvation. The story is decent, the acting is good, the action is intense, and the computer graphics/visual effects are phenomenal; most importantly, the technology -- defense and civilian -- is attention-grabbing, and even a bit awe-inspiring.

I've compiled a list of mil-aero/defense technologies that stood out for me in the film. I'm certain there are others I missed in the blaze of CG glory that was this film, so I might have to take it in again. (Darn!)

Bell helicopters
Rugged displays -- including one from Digital Systems Engineering (
Unmanned aerial systems
Unmanned ground systems
Unmanned underwater systems
Autonomous robots
Electronic warfare
Signal generation
Signal jamming
Computer hacking
Rugged handheld computers
Fuel cells -- portable nuclear power
Defense programs

In a word: awesome. Have a wonderful, well-deserved long holiday weekend. I hope you take time for yourself, and perhaps even take in a cool, new flick. If you do, let us know.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
  Good timing for human space flight

Posted by John McHale

The successful repair and upgrade of the Hubble Space Telescope by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis was good timing for NASA's human space flight programs.

Earlier this month President Obama announced the formation of an independent review of planned U.S. human space flight activities and NASA's 2010 budget request was released.

According to an administration release the review will be conducted by panel of experts led by Norman Augustine, the former chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin. The "Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans" is to examine ongoing and planned NASA "development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following space shuttle retirement."

NASA’s 2010 budget request was for $18.686 billion, a "five percent increase from the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act," according to a statement by acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese. He adds that the budget supports the "goal of returning Americans to the moon and exploring other destinations."

Currently the request calls for $3.963 billion for exploration compared to $3.505 in the 2009 request. According to NASA the Obama Administration will resubmit the exploration request after the review is complete.

I'm heartened to see the new administration giving human space flight so much attention. In recent years manned space operations have taken a back seat to robotic, unmanned exploration and understandably so after the loss of one shuttle and its crew and mishaps to other spacecraft in the ageing fleet.

One of my colleagues has written that we should just stick to robots because they are cheaper.

I disagree. I think we need both. Manned space programs are what make the public interested which in turn persuades Congress to release more dollars for spaceflight. The continued success of the Chinese space program may also prove persuasive, especially if they get to the Moon before we get back there...

The previous administration had mantra of to the "Moon, Mars and Beyond" which referenced the formation of the Constellation program and planning for the Orion spacecraft, which will replace the Space Shuttle. It appears on the surface that the current crew in charge in Washington has similar goals.

According to a story in USA Today, the administration is even considering a former astronaut to head NASA -- retired Marine Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden.

All signs point to continued human exploration of space so for now let's make sure the crew of Atlantis get home safely.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
  Finally, a 2010 DOD budget; now Congress can get to work
Posted by John Keller

At long last, we have a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget request for federal fiscal year 2010. It's only three months -- a quarter of a year -- later than usual, which doesn't give lawmakers on Capitol Hill as much time as usual to go through details of the 2010 DOD budget request.

Facing a tight schedule before federal fiscal year 2010 starts on 1 Oct., Congress confronts a 2010 defense budget proposal from the Obama Administration of $663.8 billion -- $533.8 billion in discretionary spending for things like ship radar, aircraft avionics, tanks and vetronics, military communications systems, electronics upgrades, personnel, military construction, and family housing -- and $130 billion to pay for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lawmakers now have only 4 1/2 months -- not the usual 7 1/2 months -- to consider the DOD's half-trillion budget request for next year. Still, why fret? Maybe the late budget release doesn't make that much difference. Even if Congress got the request 4 1/2 YEARS in advance, I believe this august body would still miss its deadlines.

I've been observing the federal government and its budgeting machinations now for more than a quarter-century, and it never fails to amuse when Congress can't pass its budget, authorization, and appropriations bills before the federal fiscal year ends on 30 Sept. The only question is how long Congress must fund government operations with continuing resolutions before they can get the money bills approved.

It is the discretionary spending portion of the DOD budget that interests us most, as it contains the accounts for military procurement, research and development, as well as operations, maintenance, and construction.

Those watching the U.S. defense industry know that the big weapons programs come out of this budget segment -- and believe it or not, there's an increase. President Obama is asking Congress for $533.8 billion in discretionary military spending in 2010. That's $3.6 more than the $15.4 billion the Pentagon asked for the current fiscal year, and slightly more than the $513.3 billion that Congress approved for 2009. The Obama Administration says this represents 2.1 percent real growth after adjusting for inflation.

The Pentagon's budget request came on 7 May -- too late for a detailed analysis in this issue, but next month we'll have chapter and verse on procurement and research in communications, electronics, telecommunications, and intelligence (CET&I) technologies proposed funding for 2010. For this year, incidentally, DOD asked for $29.16 billion in CET&I spending, which was 8.5 percent of the total DOD budget request.

We can tell you that this DOD budget would increase intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) spending by nearly $2 billion, including money for 50 Predator-class unmanned aerial vehicles; an increase in manned ISR capabilities; and research and development on several ISR enhancements and experimental systems.

The 2010 DOD budget also would increase spending by $500 million to pay for maintenance, and pilots for the military helicopter fleet. The DOD also would increase the number of special operations personnel by more than 2,400, and purchase increased numbers of Special Forces aircraft.

Navy leaders have reason to smile, as DOD would increase the buy of Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) from two to three in 2010, with an eventual goal of buying 55 of these ships. In addition, the DOD request would delay development of the Navy's next-generation cruiser, the CG-X, and cap the growth of Army Brigade Combat Teams at 45, rather than the previously planned 48.

The budget also includes $6.8 billion to buy 30 Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft -- an increase of $3.1 billion and 14 aircraft from this year's request -- with a goal of buying 2,443 of these aircraft. The Pentagon also wants to buy 31 F/A-18 and E/A-18G aircraft, and retire about 250 old jet fighters.

The bad news on the 2010 DOD budget for aircraft would be the end of production of the F-22 Raptor advanced tactical fighter, as well as of the C-17 airlifter.

The Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, meanwhile, will be significantly restructured, by changing FCS from its emphasis on spinouts of mature technologies, to a focus on improving infantry brigade combat teams with FCS technologies and replacing the most vulnerable platforms in the heavy brigade combat teams.

In addition, the 2010 budget would continue developing three FCS unmanned ground vehicles, two unmanned aerial vehicles, non-line-of-sight launch system, unattended ground sensors, and an information network.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
  Thank you conference advisory board members
Posted by John McHale

Creating content for a conference is much different than developing a story for our magazine or website.

Reporting and writing news copy or features on military electronics requires extensive research and interviewing by the reporter. Developing a conference program requires such groundwork in addition to developing relationships with experts in the defense industry to not only recruit potential speakers but determine what topics people want to see.

This year when planning the upcoming Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum on June 1 in San Diego I was lucky again to have such a group of experts on my conference advisory board. Thanks to their advice and connections we were able to recruit an outstanding group of speakers beginning with our keynote -- Dr. Frank Gordon, Science and Technology Competency Lead and Head of Research & Applied Science, SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego.

This year's Advisory Board included: Steve Blackman, director of business development, Mil/Aero at LynuxWorks, Inc.; Joe Chapman, secretary and treasurer, Electronics Components Board and consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense; Alan Dietrich, president of DRS Intelligence Strategic Business Unit; Angelique Irvin, president of Clear Align; Roy Keeler, director of business development for Defense & Aerospace at GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms; John Keller, chief editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine; Mike MacPherson, director of business development at Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing; James A. Robles, senior technical fellow at the Boeing Co.; Pat Ryan, director defense initiatives, Global Government Solutions Group at Cisco Systems, Inc.; James Shaw, vice president of engineering & operations at Crystal Group; Joyce Tokar, president of Pyhhrus Software; Manuel Uhm, senior marketing manager, Processing Solutions Group at Xilinx; and Dean Young, facilities officer at Celestica Aerospace Technologies.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I couldn't have done it without you.

See you in San Diego next month.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
  What the web tells us

Posted by John McHale

At Military & Aerospace Electronics we think we've done a fairly good job over the years of discerning what types of content our readers are looking for.

Our content crystal ball is getting much clearer through the Internet or more specifically our website, which has become an invaluable tool for tracking what stories and topics get the most attention -- or hits on the site. For example this year stories on a new exoskeleton from Lockheed Martin -- pictured here -- and the jet-powered Predator C unmanned aerial system from General Atomics received a ton of hits on our site.

Much of this traffic comes from search engines and links from other stories. As a result we're taking some of these topics and expanding on them in our magazine. I just finished writing an expanded story on the exoskeleton. After seeing how much attention it got on the web, I went to Lockheed and interviewed the engineers running the program. The article should appear in our magazine this summer.

I'll be doing an expanded piece on the new Predator variant as well.

Worth noting is that for 2007 and 2008 the most viewed article topic was software defined radio (SDR) -- the technology behind the Army's Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program.

Others topic heavily viewed topics included unmanned systems of course and COTS obsolescence challenges.

In a way our website is becoming a guide we can use to better target our magazine content.

When we redesigned our print magazine in January, our goal was to make it reflect our growing digital presence because the future of this business is the Internet not print.

Online media enhances print -- it doesn't mean that print must go away. Print just needs to evolve.
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