Military Embedded Systems

Ops briefing


March 29, 2007

Chris A. Ciufo

General Micro Systems, Inc.

FCS and VPX "free software" AFCEA and AUSA - USS Ranger Museum - magazine acquisitions; there?s so much going on in our embedded military industry that this month's column is intended to be something like a printed RSS feed.

There’s so much going on in our embedded military industry that this month’s column is intended to be something like a printed RSS feed. For our actual RSS feeds, check out the newswire or the blog.

In a rare public disclosure, Boeing announced that the COTS standard VITA 46 is being used on Future Combat Systems (FCS). Long an active participant in the VSO, Boeing’s all in favor of two-level maintenance, and the company recently spearheaded the VITA 48 REDI working group.

Where VITA 46 – also called VPX – adds hundreds of I/O pins and multiple switched serial fabrics to a new type of VME backplane, REDI adds covers to VPX boards to provide stiffening and ESD protection for 3U and 6U LRUs. Boeing forecasts a “$4B operation and support (O&S) cost reduction for [the] Integrated Computer System (ICS) alone” in the Army’s FCS program (see Figure 1). With two-level maintenance, LRUs can be swapped in the field by technicians, thus eliminating the military’s middleman depot structure.

Figure 1

(Click graphic to zoom by 1.5x)



Mirroring the trend in desktop software for OS X, Windows, and Linux, COTS software vendors are starting to provide free, fully functioning versions of their embedded applications and tools. “Best software practice” vendor Telelogic – maker of the popular DOORS, Rhapsody, and Tau products – is offering Telelogic Modeler for free. Users can use OMG’s UML 2.1 to document and specify designs. Similarly, designers can download OpenMake’s (formerly known as Catalyst Systems) Mojo 7.0 build-to-release automation software for free. Mojo automates the software build process and competes with alternatives BuildForge and Anthill Pro.

I attended the recent AFCEA West show in San Diego and was ex-tremely pleased to note more than 400 government and defense suppliers exhibiting and more than 10,000 attendees. In fact, parking was a challenge and traffic was jammed leading into the convention center. Naysayers argue that tradeshows are dead. Don’t believe them. While there were fewer primes and PEOs exhibiting than I remember, the Boeing, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin booths were awesome. In a luncheon address, representatives discussed the “1,000-ship Navy,” an idea first proposed by admirals John Morgan and Charles Martoglio in 2005 (according to Jane’s Fighting Ships). This collective of U.S. Navy, allies, law enforcement, and civilian vessels would band together loosely to police and provide homeland security on the seas and in our ports. The “1,000-ship Navy” is certainly one way to offset defense costs.

Though there seemed to be fewer foreign uniforms attending, there was a notable trend toward prepackaged, rugged COTS chassis. (I counted about 20 companies displaying them.) I’m also attending the AUSA Fort Lauderdale show in March and will report back on what’s new in Army vetronics and aviation. Last time I attended a couple of years ago, the Army brass killed the Commanche helicopter program (in real time and right in front of our eyes!), citing recapitalization costs incurred by then-Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wonder what bombshells they have in store this year?

In other news, I’ve been asked to join the USS Ranger (CV-61) Museum Foundation, a group of local Pacific Northwest military and business professionals who are trying to bring this super aircraft carrier to the Vancouver, Washington area. A Forrestal-class ship, Ranger was featured in the movie “Top Gun” and was decommissioned in 1993. With a crew of nearly 5,000 and displacing 82,000 tons with up to 80 aircraft, the Ranger was launched in 1954 and saw action in all major theaters including Desert Storm in 1990. My involvement as a volunteer docent might be to educate the public on current military technologies and capabilities. Sounds like a lot of fun, if the foundation can raise the millions needed to bring her down from Bremerton, Washington and maintain her.

And lastly, I’m pleased to announce that Military Embedded Systems (MES) magazine has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past 12 months. We’ve “organically grown” our circulation by 20 percent as readers have voluntarily signed up to receive the magazine. Most recently, we have acquired the assets of MIL/COTS DIGEST magazine and will be folding that publication into MES over the next couple of months. Our circulation will expand to around 35,000 (print) and 25,000 electronic. No need to give your copy away anymore.

We’ll also start a new section in Military Embedded Systems called MIL/COTS DIGEST New Products so we can make you aware of the literally hundreds of new COTS products that suppliers announce every month. In addition, we’ve purchased the mailing list of the GSPx DSP trade show and will use this information to broaden several of our magazines including, VME and Critical Systems, plus sister publication Embedded Computing Design. For you readers, we’re “bulking up” on myriad new technologies in microprocessors, FPGAs, DSP, and software. We think you’ll find our magazines – print and electronic – more valuable than ever over the next several months.

Chris A. Ciufo
Group Editorial Director


Radar/EW - Signal Processing
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