The Mil & Aero Blog
Saturday, February 26, 2011
  Convoy combat training

Posted by John McHale.

We've all read the stories or seen the newscasts about how dangerous convoys are in Iraq and Afghanistan -- facing hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs), snipers, and shelling. It would seem an impossible scenario to train for, but engineers at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics in Orlando, Fla., have developed a training system that does just that with actual convoy trucks driving through a synthetic environment with un-tethered training weapons.

This week I got the opportunity to try out the company's Combat Convoy Simulator (CCS), which provides an immersive training environment for a variety of military vehicles, including the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) for the U.S. Marine Corps. According to the system data sheet during each training mission, the vehicle commander and a crew of up to four students are presented with realistic terrain, weather, and threat environments focused on warfare scenarios such as re-supply, patrol, logistics support, high-value target extraction, medical evacuation and calls for close air support/calls for fire. After the mission planning is complete, each training mission focuses on defending against current and evolving threats.

I chose the gunner role, having to fire the heavy gun turret on top of the vehicle while it was "moving" through a synthetic Afghanistan town and being shelled. I'm just a journalist in a suit, in a simulation, and could barely control that thing. The thought of actually driving through a hot zone in Iraq at night is scary as hell.

The weapons had a bit of recoil, which I was told is similar to what live weapons feel like.

Lockheed Martin has facilities where they group together about six different simulators create a virtual convoy to help warfighters learn how to communicate when the world around them is literally exploding.

Thanks to Heather Kelly, Lockheed Martin Communications, and the technicians and engineers at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics for the experience.
Friday, February 25, 2011
  Rockwell Collins says Army committed to networking the warfighter despite smaller DOD budget request

Posted by John McHale
During an interview with Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on their new MicroGRAM GPS product this week at the AUSA Winter Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., we strayed briefly onto the Department of Defense 2012 budget request. They had a positive outlook on it.

What Rockwell Collins looked for in the budget was continued support for networking technology, says Sam Hubbard, senior director, Army and Defense Programs at Rockwell Collins. Networking for the warfighter is an area that the company is heavily invested in with technology such as their GPS products and their cross domain solution for the CERDEC Tactical Army Cross Domain Information Solution (TACDIS) program -- MicroTurnstile device.

Despite the overall budget cuts "we like the fact" that the Army remains steadfast in its efforts to bring the network down to the individual soldier and that funding for those efforts appears to be in tack, Hubbard says.

For more on the budget watch "Video: Military & Aerospace Electronics editor gives his take on the 2012 DOD budget request."

The MicroTurnstile is being used in the Army's Nett Warrior program. It can be worn by the warfighter and operates with Nett Warrior soldier equipment, providing bi-directional transfer of data and voice.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
  JTRS is poorly named, it's more of a computer network than a radio

Posted by John McHale
While watching a demonstration of the Airborne and Maritime Fixed (AMF) Station portion of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program at the Lockheed Martin booth at AUSA Winter in Fort Lauderdale, I kept thinking JTRS is a misnomer. The AMF demo showed a system disseminating not just voice communication but real-time video such as battlefield action and video of wounded warfighters transmitted to doctors for remote triage.

I should note this was a simulated demonstration. The AMF JTRS is just entering testing phase after completing the critical design review phase, says Mark Norris, vice president AMF JTRS Program at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions in San Diego.

The demo showed multiple aircraft, ground vehicles, and dismounted soldiers communicating voice, video, and data over long distances.

The simulation was put on by Alexander Moore, systems engineer senior at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. Moore is a retired Army officer who served in Iraq. He also was a captain for the Army football team at West Point and was featured in an article online at ESPN.

Thanks for the demonstration and thanks for your service, Mr. Moore.

The demo continues tomorrow at AUSA Winter at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  Chinook C47F pilots loving their glass cockpit

Posted by John McHale
"There's nothing like a new Chinook helicopter smell," someone said near me as I boarded a new CH-47F Chinook helicopter at AUSA Winter's static display outside the convention center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He's right it did smell new, but perhaps the most shiny part of the new aircraft was its avionics.

A Chinook helicopter pilot -- Lt. Jack Tartaglia -- ran me through the aircraft's new glass cockpit, provided by Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A former pilot on the CH-47U model, he told me the glass cockpits are far and away better for pilots than older cockpits with mechanical gauges just from an ease of use and efficiency perspective. Tartaglia said his favorite part in the avionics suite is the map display, which operates in real-time, displaying data from anywhere in the world.

For more on the Chinook cockpits read "Army uses open standards for helicopter avionics."

It took years for glass cockpits to be fielded, but now new features are added every few weeks such as multiple radios and extra slots for data cards. The pilots can change their flight plan on the fly by just plugging in a data card, then the helicopter just flies on its own according to the new flight plan.

The best thing about my little tour was the enthusiasm of the Chinook crew. They absolutely love the new model.
Monday, February 21, 2011
  Redesigned Military & Aerospace Electronics Website helps you see more, and see it fast:

Posted by John Keller

Military & Aerospace Electronics online is helping readers see more, and see it more quickly, than ever before with the latest Website redesign at

The Military & Aerospace Electronics Website redesign puts the latest content first in the upper lefthand box called Today's Headlines, for readers who just don't have time for anything else than what's going on right now -- today.

If you have a little more time, take a look at the Mil & Aero Blog, which now is located on the top righthand corner next to Today's Headlines. This is where you can get the editor's take on the latest developments, contracts, design-ins, and technology trends relevant to the aerospace and defense electronics industry.

Need a deep dive? Just slide down the lefthand column just below Today's Headlines, and you'll find our Exclusive Content department, which is home to all of the in-depth, exclusive technology and application features in Military & Aerospace Electronics.

Need a little break? You can let the Military & Aerospace Electronics Website do the driving by checking out the Military & Aerospace Video section in the righthand column just below the blog. One of our newest innovations, the Mil & Aero Video presents a weekly video blog from the editors of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence. Here you also can see product demos and aerospace and defense systems in action.

Have a minute to socialize? Then surf on over the Mil-Aero Command Post community, located on the righthand side of the homepage below the videos. The Command Post community, hosted by Military & Aerospace Electronics Senior Editor Courtney Howard, is where readers get their say, and where readers can comment on a variety of pertinent topics.

Now, if you would like to browse our news content, scroll on down the lefthand column of the home page to the Latest News section. Here you'll see our top news stories from the past several days. Want more news? Just click the See All Latest News link at the end of that department.

It's the same drill for the Defense Executive department on the righthand column just below the Command Post community. This is your home for the latest and archived news and events of keen interest to executives, program managers, and engineering managers.

Want to brows the latest new products? Keep on sliding down the lefthand column to the Industry News Flash department for the most recent products announcements on embedded computing, power electronics, electro-optics, and more.

Also on the page you can see what's most popular on the site right now, and browse through white papers from some of the most influential companies in our industry.

While you're on the page, don't forget to check out the links at the top to our sister site, Avionics Intelligence, and our embedded computing topic center, where you can see a digest of all the latest content related to embedded computing.

I think you'll agree the site is brighter, more useful, and faster to read then you've ever seen, and we're not done. Look back often to see the latest developments we're making to be the most crucially important site on the World Wide Web for anyone interested in Military & Aerospace Electronics.
Friday, February 18, 2011
  Video first look: how General Dynamics proposes to create an air-deployable WIN-T tactical communications node

Posted by John Keller

TAUNTON, Mass., 18 Feb. 2011. Military communications designers at General Dynamics C4 Systems in Taunton, Mass., have created a prototype Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) tactical communications node that is small enough to be air dropped from C-130 military cargo aircraft, or sling-loaded underneath the U.S. military's largest helicopters.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For some reason that we're trying to figure out, the video with this blog does not render properly when using the Internet Explorer browser. If you can, take a look at the blog with Firefox, Chrome, or an alternate browser to IE.

This internal GD C4 Systems project, called Tactical Communications Node-Light (TCN-Light), has packed full WIN-T Increment 2 tactical communications capability onto a one-ton up-armored Humvee. The U.S. Army's standard WIN-T Increment 2 node must be packed on a five-ton truck that is part of the military's Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV)

Shrinking the WIN-T Increment 2 tactical communications node from a 5-ton truck to a one-ton Humvee means that mobile, rapid-response Army units such as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 10th Mountain Division, could be able to take advantage of WIN-T Increment 2 communications capability during early deployments in the field.

General Dynamics has taken on the project to shrink WIN-T communications nodes as an internal company project; the Army has not yet given the company approval to move ahead with production.

WIN-T is a satellite and land-based tactical communications network that enables fighting forces to send and receive voice, data, imagery, and video information to help them maneuver, protect themselves, and bring firepower to bear on the enemy to help them fight and win battles.

WIN-T Increment 1 provides networking capabilities for stationary forces down to the battalion level, while WIN-T Increment 2 provides networking on-the-move down to the company level. Future Increment 3 capability will provide full networking on-the-move to the company level for maneuver, fires and aviation brigades.

If General Dynamics can convince Army leaders of how useful the TCN-light capability is, then the most advanced tactical communications capability would be available to U.S. assault forces on the first day of battle.
Monday, February 14, 2011
  DOD budget request for 2012 is out; procurement and UAVs are up, RDT&E is down, overseas military ops see drastic cuts

Posted by John Keller

The DOD budget request for fiscal 2012 was released today, and contains good news for military procurement, more disappointing news for research and development, the start of a wind-down of overseas military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is asking Congress for $670.9 billion in fiscal 2012, a 37.3 percent reduction from the 2011 request. The proposed $670.9 billion 2012 DOD budget contains $553.1 billion for normal Pentagon operations, a 4.2 percent increase from 2011 -- and $117.8 billion for military operations, which represents a 41.5 percent decrease from 2011. Federal fiscal year 2012 begins on 1 Oct. 2011.

The 2012 DOD budget request has $113.01 billion for procurement -- up from the 2011 request of $104.79 billion; $75.33 billion for research and development -- a drop from the 2011 request of $80.39 billion; and $204.42 billion for operations and maintenance -- up sharply from the 2011 request of $184.49 billion.

With proposed deep cuts in spending for overseas military operations, the Pentagon could free up money for other things. Some of this extra money is reflected in the DOD's proposals for procurement, operations, and maintenance, but fails to make its way into the Pentagon's beleaguered research and development budget, which saw reductions in 2011 after hovering in the $80-billion range for several years.

DOD officials may regret neglecting the research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) budget. After nearly a decade of Pentagon spending for active military operations in South Asia, systems developers are eager for new systems and technologies. Cutting the RDT&E budget may frustrate some of those efforts.

The 2012 Pentagon budget has big good news for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Total proposed UAV spending in 2012 would be 1,395 -- up sharply from the 2011 DOD request for 459 UAVs. Unmanned aircraft purchases in 2012 would include three Global Hawk and Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAVs, 84 Predator UAVs, and 1,308 smaller UAVs.

Now it's time for hearing season in Congress, where lawmakers will pick apart the Pentagon's request, make as much political hay as they can, and hopefully emerge next September with a usable spending plan.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
  Sylmar Earthquake 40th anniversary: the day is still seared in memory

Posted by John Keller

Forty years ago this morning was one of the most memorable earthquakes I ever experienced -- and this is coming from a California native. It was the Sylmar Earthquake, which hit southern California at 6:01 a.m. pacific time on 9 Feb. 1971. The initial Sylmar quake and its aftershocks killed 65 people and caused more than half a billion dollars damage, demolishing two hospitals, dropping 12 Los Angeles freeway overpasses, and damaging the picturesque old buildings at Los Angeles High School beyond repair.

I was an 11-year-old 6th grader that morning, and I remember waking up feeling like I was in the backseat of a Ford Bronco in the midst of an off-road race. My bed wasn't just shaking; it was jumping up and down, leaving the floor. I felt like the quake just wouldn't stop. It was easily the worst one I'd ever been up to that time. I think it still is.

I lived in El Segundo near LAX at the time, where damage wasn't severe. The worst effects of the quake were north of us in the San Fernando Valley, where near the epicenter in Sylmar, the Olive View Hospital was knocked off its foundation, collapsing the first floor of the building. The Veterans Administration Hospital in San Fernando collapsed in the quake. In both hospitals 49 people died.

Most of the other fatalities happened in freeway overpass collapses, including the one connecting the Interstate 5 freeway and the Foothill Freeway, and the recently completed Newhall Pass interchange connecting Interstate 5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway. Strangely, the rebuilt Newhall Pass interchanged collapsed again 23 years later in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

The Sylmar quake also caused Los Angeles High School to be condemned, demolished, and rebuilt. It was one of the prettiest old high schools around then; today it's generic and ugly. Other oldtimers might remember a popular Friday night television show in the early '70s called Room 222, in which the outside shots were of Los Angeles High School.

In L.A. after that earthquake, we used to talk about "February Ninth" like we talk about 9/11 today. One of the best conversation starters for years afterward was "where were you when the earthquake hit?"

There have been other, more notable earthquakes in California before and after the Sylmar quake. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake probably tops the list. Others include the 1933 Long Beach quake, the 1989 San Francisco quake, and the 1994 Northridge quake.

No others, however, were as personally terrifying for me than the one in 1971. I think that quake, and the date February 9, will always be seared in my memory.
Monday, February 7, 2011
  Even the most rugged electronics can come in small packages

Posted by John Keller

When you write about advanced electronics all the time, as we do, it's easy to get jaded when it comes to packing capability and extreme ruggedness in very small packages. I was reminded of this when I visited the Crane Interpoint booth at the recent AFCEA West conference and trade show in San Diego.

Crane makes the MFP series of rugged point-of-load (POL) converters for applications in harsh environments, and you really have to see it to appreciate what can be done in such small packages these days, as Simon Abel of Crane demonstrated in the video below.

The CRANE MFP POL devices are not much bigger than a NECCO wafer, yet these power electronics devices produce stable power in temperatures from -70 to 150 degrees Celsius, with low noise, and without external capacitors.

Not only that, but these devices also are rugged enough for almost any aerospace and defense application -- even in the harshest of environments, including space, combat aircraft, and shipboard applications.

Sometimes it's an eye-opening experience to take the time for appreciating just what today's electronics experts are capable of doing.
Friday, February 4, 2011
  IED blow up your vehicle? No problem with the Thales MSCCS communications system

Posted by John Keller

It's reasonable to assume that your communications might become a problem if a roadside bomb blows up your vehicle underneath you. Not so with the Mounted Soldier Cordless Communications System (MSCCS) from Thales Communications Inc. in Clarksburg, Md.

Thales officials demonstrated how the MSCCS military communications system can help crews of military vehicles take a lickin', and keep on tickin' if they encounter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in combat zones. Thales made the demonstration in the company's booth at the recent AFCEA West conference in San Diego.

The Thales MSCCS is designed as a secure rugged intercom system for combat vehicles. The system can transform quickly into a secure tactical radio system, however, if an IED destroys its vehicle and forces the vehicle crew to flee for their lives. Andrew Bostock, the Thales Communications director of business development, put the system through its paces at AFCEA West, as you can see in the video below.

The Thales MSCCS is different from other armored vehicle intercom systems, in that it helps crews communicate wirelessly if they must leave their vehicles -- even if they must leave the vehicle quickly after an unpleasant encounter with an IED. Other kinds of vehicle intercoms, Bostock explained, must be tethered to the vehicle by a cable. That might not be an option if the vehicle is a burning, explosive wreck.

The MSCCS integrates the Thales AN/PRC-148 joint tactical radio system (JTRS) enhanced multiband inter/intra team radio -- otherwise known as JEM -- into the vehicle intercom through an interface box and smart adapter cable. If something breaks the tethered connection, the JEM radio maintains communications with the vehicle intercom, enabling crew members to maintain communications with one another seamlessly.

If the vehicle and its intercom are disabled or destroyed -- by something like an IED explosion -- the surviving crew members change the channel to create a type-1 tactical radio, which they can use to call for help, medical assistance, and to keep in touch with one another.

That type of capability could come in handy in a lot of battlefield conditions.
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