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Industry News

Military Microwaves 2005 - Current Viewpoints on Technologies for Deployable Forces

The editors of Microwave Journal and Journal of Electronic Defense interviewed some key executive and military leaders in the markets that we serve, both in the US as well as Europe. Selected questions and answers from those interviews are presented be...

August 13, 2005
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Lamberto Raffaelli

President and CEO
LNX Corp.

MWJ: What are the roles of microwave technologies in light of current requirements for lighter, more deployable forces? How are these roles different from microwave technologies employed in the Cold War Era?

LR: Certainly, in the recent past, our defense customers have been asking us to design microwave sub-systems with higher levels of integration than in the past. For instance, we are transferring more and more of the functionality from the RF side to the digital side. This is obviously possible because of the progress made in recent years in the area of high speed wide band digitizers, digital signal processing and field programmable gate arrays (FPGA). For example, we are now sampling at higher IF frequencies and doing more processing in the digital domain. Also, several RF compensation techniques are now realized with a look-up table in the digital section. As a result, we can reduce the size and cost of our microwave/digital sub-systems. This is what our customers are really asking for.

MWJ: Describe how the following military trends are affecting microwave technology programs: A.Transformation, B. Network-centric Warfare, C. Coalition Operations, D. Homeland Security and E. The Global War on Terrorism?

LR: Even in this case, we believe that the major change compared to the past is our ability to integrate RF and digital technology to offer flexible systems that have the ability of adapting to different requirements with the same basic hardware. For instance, combining communication front-end RF products with digital capabilities allows us to offer software definable radios and secure communications. These systems play a big role in today’s homeland security and the global war on terrorism.

MWJ: Do the trends listed above offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

LR: My previous company, ARCOM, was mainly focused on commercial point-to-point radio applications. Today, my new company, LNX, is primarily dedicated to the defense market. This is mainly due to the following two reasons:

In the commercial communication market, we have been outsourcing most of the manufacturing and some of the engineering to the Far East. With the increased opportunities in the defense area, we have shifted our market focus to domestic military applications. Our defense customers are asking for more affordable microwave sub-systems. Our expertise in low cost, relatively high volume, commercial front-ends is the key to successfully meeting the cost reduction targets that are required today.

Dana Wheeler

Senior Vice President
Millimeter Operations
Terabeam Inc.

MWJ: What are the roles of microwave technology in light of current requirements for lighter, more deployable forces? How are these roles different from microwave technologies employed in the Cold War Era?

DW: There are a number of factors that come to mind:

Quickly deployable wideband communications – to support the transmission of high resolution imagery from unmanned platforms (UAVs) that, depending on the platform, can also deliver a weapon in real time versus the less readily available satellite surveillance imagery that relies on low data rate, (global) long distance relays to the command post.

Decreasing the cost of near-precision strike weapons – JDAMS, for example – adding low cost ubiquitous GPS to inertially guided “dumb” bombs with steerable tail fins to achieve near-precision accuracy versus optical or laser guided weapons that are spoofed by adverse weather or common battlefield obscurants, such as burning oil.

Decreasing the size/cost of automatic (unmanned) precision-approach/landing systems – miniature MMW systems for UAV and crippled pilot landings. Some systems incorporate differential GPS, which did not exist in the Cold War Era.

Providing more reliable identification (IFF) before lethal strike distance is attained by a potential threat. Possible use of interrogatable, smartcard-like devices for IFF at safe stand-off distances to provide greater reaction time.

Portable weapons detectors – man-portable to support door-to-door searches in an urban warfare environment versus large stationary systems.

MWJ: Describe how the following military trends are affecting microwave technology programs.

DW: A. Transformation
After a recent visit to Tobyhanna Army Depot, it was obvious that our military equipment and facilities are being transformed into a new fighting force designed to fight the wars of today and not the wars of the past. The trend is moving to lighter, man-portable equipment that is designed to deter and defend against current and emerging threats of the 21st century. Microwave/MMW is needed to accelerate this transformation.

B. Network-centric Warfare
To me, network-centric warfare means that the new forces will depend on information gathering and dissemination to all troops, down to the lowest level. All of that data needs aggregation at higher bandwidths, so microwave/MMW radio technology is well suited to the task.

C. Coalition Operations
Coalition operations mean interoperability with foreign forces. The mix of troops, when coalition forces are used, make C3 more important than ever. Friendly fire issues, in the Gulf War and recently in operation Iraqi Freedom, shows the tragic result when these errors occur. Addressable encrypted microwave IFF tags would go a long way to improve this situation.

D. Homeland Security
Microwave/MMW technology exists to address needed improvements in homeland security. These include Smartcards for personal identification, which could be extended to vehicles. Weapons and explosive detectors and RFVID tags to track import/export crates and containers.

E. The Global War on Terrorism
Many of the requirements above are new opportunities for companies with the right technology.

MWJ: Do the trends listed above offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

DW: Absolutely! Commercial suppliers are needed to help in cost reduction and volume manufacturing to realize affordable military and security systems.

MWJ: Does the trend toward defense acquisition reform, particularly in the area of COTS, offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers to find military markets?

DW: Again, yes. The issue with COTS parts is ruggedness and security, both solved adequately and expeditiously by wrapping COTS parts in hardened enclosures and using external secure boxes. Additional testing over broader temperature ranges may be required in some cases.

MWJ: Describe the important deployable military microwave technologies and programs for each of the following scenarios.

DW: A. International Exercises
Interoperable communications systems (software configurable radios).

B. Expeditionary-force Operations
Man-portable, small, easy to set-up, broadband tactical ground/air communications including high resolution imagery upload to airplane/UAV loitering relays. Broadband air-to-air communications.

C. Peace-enforcement and Stabilization Operations
Personal ID (Smartcards)
Broadband wireless links
Ground penetrating radars
Portable weapons detectors
Disaster relief operations
GPS augmented cell phones
Broadband wireless links for telecommunications when existing infrastructure is not functioning.

The European Perspective

Europe is a diverse mixture of established military powers combined with emerging nations that have evolved since the end of the Cold War and the break up of the Eastern Block. Global issues such as the Iraq War and the War Against Terrorism weigh heavily on coalition forces and their allies while home and border security are a concern for all. To address these issues and remain effective and competitive microwave technology is having to adapt to changing circumstances and practices, while also having a significant role to play in bringing about these changes. As the following interviews elaborate the European microwave industry is actively addressing key issues such as: the transformation from heavy battalions to lighter, more deployable forces; the development of network-centric warfare; the need for greater integration and interoperability; and the exploitation of technologies emerging from non-defence markets.

Keith Burns

Product Line Manager for High Power Microwave Sub-Systems
Thales UK – Aerospace Division

MWJ: What are the roles of microwave technologies in light of current requirements for lighter, more deployable forces? How are these roles different from microwave technologies employed in the Cold War Era?

KB: As the Cold War threat diminished new, smaller, mobile, threats have taken their place, which require reduced sensor to shooter times. Microwave technology has also progressed to allow this to happen; the ability to network sensors has resulted in a significantly enhanced information capability with less systems. Lighter, faster deployable systems are now required to address the new threats and microwave technology has kept up with this change by the migration from large, heavy, waveguide systems and discreet components to integrated sub-systems in MIC and MMIC technology. The Thales Group, with over 40 years experience in developing microwave components, has progressed from the Cold War Era where we have seen the trend for OEMs to move away from procuring microwave components to procuring more integrated sub-systems. This trend of greater integration into smaller, lower power packages is likely to continue.

MWJ: Describe how the following military trends are affecting microwave technology programs.

KB: A. Transformation
Transformation from heavy battalions to lighter more deployable forces and a greater emphasis on special operations will result in the need for information superiority and enhanced situational awareness. This drives the requirement for the deployment of more advanced sensor platforms with SAR/GMTI capabilities and a combination of electro-optic sensors. The Watchkeeper UAV project is a good example of new developments in sensor platforms and of the type of microwave technology that will be incorporated into these platforms.

B. Network-centric Warfare
The migration to network-centric warfare will provide opportunities for microwave technologies that were developed for the telecom industries being adopted in the military sector; secure data links speeding up the flow of information in C4I environments is going to proliferate. The challenge with network-centric warfare is how the raw data is processed and disseminated to the appropriate personnel.

C. Coalition Operations
The challenge here is going to be interoperability of different communication and identification systems. Having common NATO standards only partially alleviate this if you are operating with other NATO countries, but if you are operating with countries outside NATO, these issues will still exist. Battlefield IFF systems that can be interrogated by all coalition forces will be an area of growth for microwave sub-systems.

D. Homeland Security
Homeland security is a growth market for microwave components. The need to increase border security will result in new opportunities for sensors and will provide opportunities for the microwave sub-system suppliers. The need to inspect freight and detect movement of radioactive material is resulting in an increased requirement for scanning machines; at Thales, we have been investing in developing high power microwave components for this type of application.

E. The Global War on Terrorism

Information flow is going to be one of the key requirements for identifying and tracking terrorist targets. Real time information will be a requirement, resulting in the need for fully integrated decision making systems, which can quickly analyse information, prioritise and communicate to those in the field. As engagements are more likely to take place in built up areas, accuracy of weapon systems is critical. Continual improvement of weapons guidance systems, using GPS and electro-optic sensors, will provide opportunities for microwave sub-system companies.

An interesting area for higher power microwave devices is going to be in non-lethal weapons; several field trials have already been conducted using high power microwave devices. Within Thales, we have been extending our high power microwave capabilities to address the future requirements in this market.

MWJ: Do the trends listed above offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

KB: The new trends have created opportunities in what was looking like a declining market for microwave components. The reduction in development funds from governments and OEMs means that there is more of an incentive to look for components that are already developed. Commercial components have developed at a fast rate, driven by the telecoms market and offer technologies that are attractive to the defence industry.

MWJ: Does the trend toward defence acquisitions reform, particularly in the area of COTS, offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

KB: There is an industry consensus that all future designs of sensors will have to utilize a significant amount of commercial off the shelf products (COTS). COTS is the future direction of component procurement because many commercial developments are progressing at a faster technology rate than the equivalent military products. COTS offers innovative new modular systems with a faster time from concept to deployment since the component development work is done. Radars using COTS have demonstrated a reduction in development time and cost and, perhaps surprisingly in some circumstances, can offer an improvement in MTBF.

To address the issue of using commercial components in a harsher environment, COTS components will be subjected to up-screening. If by using COTS products there will be less time spent on development, there must be more time spent on testing by the OEM.

Future radar designs will adopt open system architecture; this enables modules to be redesigned as and when obsolescence occurs. Since the drawback of COTS is limited life cycle support, more redesigns of radar modules will occur providing opportunities for commercial suppliers throughout the life of the sensor.

MWJ: Describe important deployable military microwave technologies and programs for each of the following scenarios: A. International Exercises, B. Expeditionary-force operations, C. Peace-enforcement and stabilization operations. D. Peacekeeping Operations, and E. Disaster-relief Operations.

KB: All of the above requirements have common themes for the need for accurate, real time information. Each requirement has the need for some form of situation assessment, whether this is through satellite imagery, UAVs, some other sensor or from people on the ground. All of these requirements can benefit from using some form of microwave imagery. Similarly, the need to get this information to decision makers requires flexible communication systems, which will require some form of RF/microwave datalink. The processing and communication of information is a key requirement in all of the above scenarios.

MWJ: Has the adoption of the new EU member states from Central Europe in May 2004 affected the dynamic of the European military microwaves market?

KB: Thales has yet to see the full impact of this, but central Europe will be a growth market for the future. There is a need to secure the extended EU border and a desire in these countries to either develop or procure systems that have improved interoperability with EU countries/NATO equipment and this is an area that will offer opportunities to the microwave component supplier.

There are microwave capabilities in these countries that may be attractive to Western Europe and partnerships may be one way of commercializing this technology in Western Europe. In the telecoms market, we have seen microwave sub-system assembly work being transferred from Western Europe to Central Europe, but due to security considerations this is less likely to happen for defence work.

Frank van den Bogaart

Business Unit Manager Knowledge; Observation Systems,
TNO Defence, Security and Safety,
The Netherlands

MWJ: What are the roles of microwave technologies in light of current requirements for lighter, more deployable forces? How are these roles different from microwave technologies employed in the Cold War Era?

FvdB: Microwave technologies in the Cold War Era focused in particular on high-performance, stand-alone systems like radar and EW systems. As a consequence, microwave components in those systems were, in many cases, specially developed, designed, tailored and manufactured. This resulted in high cost technologies, with very little potential to sell them in other markets. The availability of communication systems in all forms will be extremely important for deployable defence forces. Such versatile communications include: short range and long range, low data rates and high data rates, secure and non secure, ad-hoc networks and fixed networks, low frequency bands and high frequency bands, etc. This opens up a market for high volume microwave technologies.

Such high volume microwave technologies, emerging from communication applications, will also find their way into many other defence applications. In many cases, we will see that communication will be an integral part of the sensors in order to make the sensor data available in real time for command structures. On the other hand, we will see a new generation of new (networked) sensing systems. Phased array antennas will finally make a breakthrough to affordable radars and communication equipment.

MWJ: Describe how the following military trends are affecting microwave technology programs: A. Transformation, B. Network-centric Warfare, C. Coalition Operations, D. Homeland Security, E. The Global War on Terrorism.

FvdB: In line with my answer to the previous question, we will see a future of integrated sensor suites that are flexible and mobile and that can operate stand-alone, while operating more and more in (ad-hoc) networks. In addition, for example, as a result of lessons learned from coalition operations in not-well known territories or situations, I do see a need for sensor systems that can be integrated and adapted with existing building blocks in such a short time that they can still be deployed for ongoing missions. The result being more and more sensor systems that are made up of scaleable components.

MWJ: Do the trends listed above offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

FvdB: I would like to turn this question around. In my opinion, it is necessary for military manufacturers to try to understand the need to implement the technologies and processes that are used by companies that produce systems for non-defence markets. As a result, the purchase and common development of microwave components from commercial suppliers is necessary. Also, for military equipment, we will see an increased need for shorter development cycles and in-time introduction for military operations. However, we should realise that there is a continuing and existing need for high performance systems. In particular, radar systems will demand rugged high power capabilities. SiC and GaN semiconductor technologies, which are currently emerging in non-defence markets, are crucial for such systems in the future. In addition, there is a growing need for sensors and communications systems as a commodity in which high-volume low-cost SiGe semiconductor technologies will be utilised.

MWJ: Does the trend toward defence acquisitions reform, particularly in the area of COTS, offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

FvdB: I do think that the definition of COTS is, in many cases, misinterpreted. Just buying off the shelf involves the risk of ignoring adaptation, long-term availability and ‘militarization’ cost, which may turn out to be dominant in the end. Only if an early strategic involvement with the manufacturers of COTS components is effected will these components meet the buyer’s future requirements, and enable their internal military system developments to be tweaked to the COTS components that become available when the systems go into production. Any alternative proposition is likely to result in a market introduction that is too late and too expensive. Also, the military will move to standard components and scaleable sub-systems for dedicated systems and for large volumes.

MWJ: Has the adoption of the new EU member states from Central Europe in May 2004 affected the dynamic of the European military microwaves market?

FvdB: I do feel that there are much more important global issues to consider, such as the US regulations and developments in the Far East, leading to new military powers. These will heavily influence the European Market.

The JED Perspective

Information is the new queen of battle, a throne previously occupied by airpower and artillery. Particularly as armed forces retool to become lighter and more mobile, information takes the place of numbers and armor. The ability to deploy, protect, and assure communications networks is a force multiplier of the highest order. Certainly, there are notable discrete technological developments that promise greatly enhanced capabilities, such as in the fields of imaging infrared sensors and electronically scanned phased array radar. However, integrating existing technologies into networked systems of systems is far and away the most important capability a military must consider when deciding on a major procurement program.

Joe Duthie

Director of Advanced Technology
Northrop Grumman’s Defensive
Systems Division
Rolling Meadows, IL

JED: What are the roles of microwave technologies in light of current requirements for lighter, more deployable forces? How are these roles different from microwave technologies employed in the Cold War era?

JD: In the Cold War, battlefield communications were structured and, more or less, strategic in nature. In today’s war paradigm, communications are more ad hoc in nature. High-bandwidth, wireless links must form and dissipate along with the battlefield. Microwave technologies that support troop mobility and information flow will see added emphasis.

Lighter, more deployable forces require significantly lighter equipment with greater functionality. A radio can no longer be just a radio, but it must also allow for transmission of large amounts of digital data to provide greater situational awareness to the soldier and other mobile ground forces. Electronic equipment today is much more sophisticated and much more capable. One miniaturized personal digital assistant (PDA) is capable of data and voice communications. The same PDA can also provide GPS positioning information. It is not inconceivable that this same PDA will also provide identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) data back to friendly interrogators looking to prevent fratricide.

It will also be necessary to provide mobile forces with the ability to quickly and accurately understand their surroundings in battle. The micro-UAV will play a big role (and is playing a big role) with regard to battlefield awareness. Small hand-deployed UAVs with onboard cameras and radio links are being used to scan areas for unfriendly forces or to perform battle-damage assessment (BDA). These same UAVs will one day include miniaturized synthetic-aperture-radar (SAR) capability to overcome the bad-weather limitation of electro-optical (EO) sensors.

The bottom line is that the electronics of today are not our father’s or our grandfather’s electronics. All systems are expected to do more with less and to cost less (in today’s dollars) than systems from the past. SAR imagery needs to be better and more accurate. The tracking of moving ground targets is a necessity. These radars need to be mobile (i.e., contained on UAVs like Global Hawk or brought in by Humvee) and quickly set up. There is a big push to be able to get payloads into space on short notice aboard micro- or mini-satellites that contain EO and RF sensor capability — sort of a satellite-on-demand capability that will not take weeks or months to deploy — the goal being one or two days to get the asset in place and providing the valuable information needed.

JED: Describe how the following military trends are affecting microwave-technology programs: A. Transformation, B. Network-centric Warfare, C. Coalition Operations, D. Homeland Security and E. The Global War on Terrorism.

JD: The mobile, ad hoc battlefield structures, coupled with “politics” that emphasize surgical precision, has driven the need for high-efficiency, broadband microwave power sources to support information flow; small covert, unattended microwave sensors to support targeting; and distributed microwave networks to support operations. Traditional fixed assets are beginning to disappear, and the need for lightweight and miniature technologies is prominent.

With regard to the global war on terror, the military is very interested in being able to deploy very low-cost micro-sensor technologies, based on commercial technologies, that could be used to perform persistent intelligent, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions — the idea being that sensors could be widely deployed to monitor traffic through an area, and this information could then be used to trigger a response (i.e., attack and destroy or simply just track). It is not too hard to see how this same capability could be used in regard to homeland defense. In addition, the military is having a hell of a time with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and there is a real need for devices (particularly microwave capability) that could prevent the detonation or even pre-trigger these devices. These systems will need to be small and readily available in large quantity to support all our troops. Today, the protection available is very limited. Ultimately, the military would like to equip each solider with some sort of RF protection — something else for the solider to carry on his back.

JED: Do the trends listed above offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

JD: Yes, without a doubt. Providers of wireless communications technologies, sensors, and power sources should see increased demand from military users. The trend in military hardware has been to use more and more commercial hardware. The reason is simple: commercial suppliers have development cycles of two to three years, whereas the military have been working on the 10 to 20 year cycle. Military hardware is often antiquated before it is even deployed. Microprocessor capability has been doubling on a yearly basis. The military is pacing the commercial suppliers with regard to the development of electronics, and this trend will continue into the future. If the military hopes to have the best capabilities in their systems, they will have no choice but to embrace commercial electronics. The infrastructure will develop (actually, has developed) where a supplier base will purchase the commercial electronics and build them into ruggedized form-factors for use by military suppliers, particularly in regard to computers and microprocessors. Communications equipment (i.e., radios, PDAs, etc.) is also in this same situation with regard to secondary suppliers. Commercial electronics has also come a long way with regard to plastic-encapsulated microcircuits (PEMs), and they are finding more and more use in military electronics. Even the high-reliability space companies are using PEMs. Twenty to 30 years ago, this never would have been the case.

JED: Does the trend toward defense-acquisitions reform, particularly in the area of COTS, offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

JD: Yes, the trend is definitely toward leveraging what is commercially available, at least in terms of form and function. Fit often dictates adaptation to the military environment.

The military really has no choice in the matter. The IRAD [internal research and development] funds being spent on the commercial side far outweighs that which is being spent on the military side, and if the military wants the best systems and electronics in the world, then they will have no choice but to get onboard with the commercial suppliers. Attention will still need to be paid to the military environment versus the commercial environment, though. It will do no good to use commercial hardware if it breaks as a result of the more severe environment being imposed by the military user.

JED: Describe important deployable military microwave technologies and programs for each of the following scenarios: A. International Exercises, B. Expeditionary-force Operations, C. Peacekeeping and Stabilization Operations and D. Disaster-relief Operations.

JD: International Exercises: JTRS and the wireless technologies that it embodies.
Expeditionary Forces: Compact, lightweight all-weather sensors, such as the US Army’s Objective Lightweight Counter-Mortar Radar (O-LCMR).
Peacekeeping and Stabilization: Counter-fire technologies, like the AN/TPQ-36 radar, and non-lethal active denial systems that stop aggression against soldiers and peacekeepers.
Disaster Relief: Comms and sensors for search and rescue, (e.g., foliage-penetrating radar).

Brigadier General

David J. Eichhorn
USAF, Deputy for Support,
Electronic Systems Center
Hanscom Air Force Base, MA

JED: What are the roles of microwave technologies in light of current requirements for lighter, more deployable forces? How are these roles different from microwave technologies employed in the Cold War era?

DE: Certainly since the Wall came down it’s a whole new world. Since 9-11, it’s a whole new world. In the old days, I started flying

B-52s. It was said during the Vietnam War that the electronic warfare (EW) officer never carried his own bags, never bought his own beer. He was taken care of. He was an important member of the crew. But it was self protection. You were being shot at and you didn’t want to get hit. EW was critical to making sure that you didn’t get hit, that there was nothing guided coming up at you.

Today, electronic warfare has really expanded to become kind of a virtual world through advances in technology. Our sensors can see things far beyond our human sight, even beyond the line of sight with the connections and stuff to where we can ascertain what is going on over the hill and figure out how we are going to deal with it before we ever get there. And so taking the information into a place — the command post, a combined air-operations center, and the like — and figuring out what you want to do is really the art of war today. Because the thing you want to do is put the right weapon on the right target at the right time. We want to minimize collateral damage. We want to maximize our effect on the enemy. That is not to say to maximize violence. That is not the intent. It is a maximum effect to where they cease the violence, where they cease their behavior determined to hurt us and run contrary to our national interest. So the kind of world with surgical strikes hitting strategic targets is really coming into effect now because of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets coupled with the command and control to use them properly is enabling us to put the right weapon on the right target at the right time to make the right things happen, which is to “cease and desist.” Again, we don’t want to do too much. We want to do just enough.

We get smarter and smarter about how to do these things. It used to be that the aim was to destroy a certain number of enemy aircraft, and the like. But today we realize that we do not necessarily have to destroy all of the enemy’s assets . You just have to render him impotent. If his planes can no longer take off, they can no longer harm us. And so don’t waste any more effort there. Worry about other things. It is a paradigm shift, and it’s in part because of the information age that now we have better information and we can better use our resources. We can spread out and maximize that effect over all, because once a field is rendered ineffective, count it ineffective and move onto something else so you can do more with the same amount of forces than you could in the past.

It’s funny. Some twenty-five years ago I was interviewed during a Golden Shield exercise while I was refueling and a reporter asked me at the time, “What do you think about the B-52 being around this long.” It’s still around, and it’s still doing a great job. The old bird’s got some life left. In Iraq, the B-52 was acting as a close-air support aircraft with the JDAM and in some cases dropping bombs closer to friendly ground forces than the airmen thought safe to do. But because the targeting was so precise we could lay down the effect near them, which got the bad guys off of them, close-air support from 30,000 ft. Thirty years ago you’d tell me I was crazy. Today with GPS-guided weapons you can do it. Like the pilots over Afghanistan, they’re up there in orbit, waiting to be tasked on a close-air support mission. Here’s what I want you to hit. Got it. Consent. Agreed. Whosh, bomb’s on its way. Time of flight, and the target’s gone.

JED: Describe how the following military trends are affecting microwave-technology programs: A. Transformation, B. Network-centric Warfare, C. Coalition Operations, D. Homeland Security and E. The Global War on Terrorism.

DE: The Electronic Systems Center (ESC) restructured about a year ago to wings, groups and squadrons. We always had an Airbase Support Wing and then the program offices. Now we have four new wings doing acquisition. We have the Network-Centric Systems Wing, the Operations Support Systems Wing, the Command & Control and ISR Systems Wing, and the Battle Management Systems Wing. What we’ve done to augment interoperability and commonality, is instead of having 26 different program offices, now we have four systems wings that are inherently common because we’ve grouped them that way. And now we’ve tasked the wing commanders and their staffs to start searching for those common solutions. So now Lt. Gen. Charles L. Johnson II, Commander of the ESC, has a much more doable task of integrating four wings instead of 26 different program offices. And I think we’re seeing some big benefits in that. This is building momentum as we get smarter and smarter about what we can do with this. We’re getting out of a program-centric mindset and into the capabilities mindset, where at Network Centric all these programs contribute to network-centricity. Some of the standards we are developing and have developed with the Navy are how to push toward a common solution to improve “jointness.” The same thing with Opps Support: You can’t go to war without the right supplies getting there at the right time. So how do we drive that? Really good stuff has been organized in that way.

We have the sensors mission: to develop the sensors to help the decision makers make better decisions. Be able to put the weapons on target. What has changed over time is more and more emphasis on the software algorithms for getting in that right information. Because what we’re seeing is everybody has a piece of the puzzle. So then how do we bring those pieces together into a single, coherent operational picture so that decision-makers can see the whole thing and not miss anything and do the right thing. That gets into that virtual world. It’s software intensive. Take the bits, the ones and zeroes — the best way to manipulate it is digital — bring it in and fuse it all together, figure our whether you’re looking at one target or five targets; if they’re mobile, then speed and direction; can you be a bit predictive on where it’s going to be; so again you can make the right decision. Try to discern after all of this the enemy’s intent. Because it may take five, six, seven different pieces in order to figure that out. Only when you bring them together can you do that. Our enterprise resource tools bring it all together so that we can see one coherent picture and make the right decision.

There’s multiple pieces to creating a common integrated air picture. Where we see a lot of this coming together is in the air operations center (AOC). What we had in the past, through competitive bids, was different products from different vendors all optimized for their piece of the world. We did not foresee, nor could we, that eventually we’d be putting all this stuff together. Although that’s becoming more obvious over time. We were happy to get pieces of it. Now we’re seeing the benefits of a single picture. So, what we’d like to do, what I envision, is get down to a wide-screen view with overlays of whatever is pertinent to the picture. Overlays represent information that is published by somebody, so I can subscribe to it and get a real-time view of what the heck is going on. But it does come together in the AOC.

The desire is to have network-centric operations to where you can post the information on an Internet-like system. You have publishers to the system and then you have subscribers. You publish information to the system and those that need it can subscribe to the system and pull the information in, be it threat information in a certain geographic area or weather or tanker assets. All of the things that it would take to go into putting together an air strike. Doing that in an airborne environment is far more difficult than in a land-based environment.

In a land-based environment, the IP addresses don’t change or they change minimally. Whereas what we’re looking at is a self-forming, self-healing airborne network where you take off, you join up, and you’re immediately a subscriber and a publisher at the same time. This is something that, in a dynamic environment, is not trivial. The net effect we want is like a ground-based network where the information is available, but in a land-based system the timeliness is not as critical. Packets are split up, they’re sent around, and they get to you when they get to you. We really need some timestamps and some information assurance that the information that gets to us is not only accurate but timely so that we’re not acting on old, decaying, no longer valid information. And so there’s basic physics involved, because we’re not going to have line-of-sight all the time, so go via satellite, and uplink and downlink with inherent delays. The speed of light’s pretty fast but it’s not instantaneous. So, how do we factor this in? Some of the software programs that we deal with were designed for continuous datalink, and we’re finding out that when there’s a break they don’t just wait for the data they freeze. They go stupid. You have to reboot them. And obviously you can’t have that. So we’re sorting through that, what it means in an airborne networked environment. What we know intuitively is that it is an incredible force multiplier.

JED: Do the trends listed above offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

DE: There’s a volume aspect to the commercial marketplace that does not necessarily translate well to the military side. What a supplier makes this year may be totally different to what they made last year because they figured out a way to refine their process. I bought a pair of sunglasses to replace a previous pair: same brand, same thing, what the company says is the same model. But when I got them the ear pieces were different. They figured out a different way, no doubt a better way, for them to make it to increase their profit margin. I’m happy with the glasses but they’re different. They’re not exactly the same. So in a business where you’re trying to, because it’s life or death, lethal force is authorized, where you have a disciplined process to provide people with the same things consistently. Oh by the way, the American taxpayers don’t like to have to pay for anything twice. So we buy things that we expect to last a long, long time. And then make them support them. And we don’t have the volume of a car. I’ve had ten-year-old cars, I’ve had fifteen-year-old cars. I still expect to be able to get parts for them. So, there’s those kinds of tradeoffs that make it harder.

Now, we are trying to build in some upgradability into some of these things. More modularity, for example. To where as these parts of it are improved over time that we could just swap out that part of it without having to rework the whole system. But it’s hard. And some of that means you have to pay more up front to build in that modularity to begin with, and you’ve got to have the money. We don’t always have enough. Everything’s a tradeoff. Everything’s coalition warfare in today’s world and everything’s a tradeoff. So, we try to make the best tradeoffs possible so we provide the best systems for the warfighter.

It’s not uncommon in the course of your daily life to say, “Man, if I’d only known.” Well, in a war you don’t ever want to have people saying that. And so we try to set people up not with information overload but the right information, so you have to have the right filters. You want to have the right sensors to begin with and the right filters so that you’re not just sending raw data to a decision maker but actually meaningful decision-quality information so that they know what’s over the hill, what they’re going to be facing. It’s everything, from enemy threats, to weather, to order of battle, and it all plays together in “given this I can do that” kinds of scenarios so that you can have maximum effect to get the enemy to change his ways.

JED: Does the trend toward defense-acquisitions reform, particularly in the area of COTS, offer any opportunities for commercial suppliers of microwave components to find military markets?

DE: We are always looking at commercial off-the-shelf. We’re all familiar with Moore’s Law, with the computer’s power doubling every eighteen months. We want to take advantage of that. With Internet technology, again, ten to fifteen years ago who would have thought that everybody would be using e-mail and that we would be referring to the US Post as snail mail. So, we want to take advantage of those things, but not all of it is a direct transfer. Because a lot of technology on the commercial side is not time sensitive. If you have wait a little bit to get your mail or to check the weather or whatever it is you are checking you can tolerate that. But if you’re in the heat of battle, you can’t. We’re still working through what latency we can tolerate and where versus what is time critical. And then you have to figure out how to put the system together under an algorithm to make sure that the time-critical stuff really gets through and the stuff that can wait a while gets lower priority. There’s a whole bunch of issues there.

We reserve the right to get smarter as we go along. We don’t think we know everything today. So what we’ve seen is a change in the use of standards and specifications. It’s interesting to me that the industry has gone to an ISO 9000 standards-based system for international trade. If you weren’t ISO 9000 board-certified, then Rolls Royce didn’t want to work with you. So what we’re seeing now is, if we just changed the government’s policy to where it’s okay to use specifications and standards that’s consistent to what we’re seeing in commercial industry. Under acquisition reform, looking for consistently good suppliers to provide good products for the warfighter affordably in a timely way. And using what we know as a free-market-based system are the best tools to ensure the best. The best weapons systems at the best price are provided. So the competition contracting that, and all the things that go with that, we continue to try to streamline that understanding that inherently there are vying forces there competing for the business. Everybody trying to get that competitive advantage. That’s the beauty of our system. Some folks have called it creative destruction. That has proved what’s great about this country. We utilize that and keep trying to find out better ways of doing that. But no matter how we do it, and there’s great good in it, there’s some things that some people view as bad. It takes too long, why do you have to go through all this stuff? I think there’s plenty of evidence as to why we have to go through that. This is because the end product for the nation is best.

JED: Describe important deployable military microwave technologies and programs for each of the following scenarios: A. International Exercises, B. Expeditionary-force Operations, C. Peacekeeping and Stabilization Operations and D. Disaster-relief Operations.

DE: It’s not so much deployability of the hardware but of the information. If I can bring the information together in a timely manner with the experts who know what to do with it, then it’s not so important where that command asset sits. Certainly they’ve got to understand the full environment, and there’s more to the environment than just what you may see right there. There are always local considerations, humanitarian considerations: so you need those kinds of experts who really understand the whole global picture, if you will, not just their little corner. If I can bring all that into a cell somewhere, it may not be that important that the cell be deployable to the theater. On the other hand, once we get the systems down we’re looking to minimize the number of databases, minimize the number of different systems, such that it is inherently deployable. On the Internet, you can be anywhere in the country and check your e-mail from any computer anywhere. So we want to set up that kind of secure network to where I sit down with a laptop wherever I happen to be, plug in, and as long as I’ve got that kind of super-net connection, boom, I can be up and running and with the proper wherewithal I could be running the operation. The situations we face today are complex to where you probably have teams working different aspects of an operation. But again, it’s inherently deployable. Here’s your computer, here’s your workstation, help direct this portion of the operation.

Whatever type of operation we’re conducting, we have an insatiable appetite for bandwidth. It’s using it properly and setting it up with the right rules and priorities so that use of the available bandwidth is maximized. One area we’re looking at to help with this is exploiting near space: from about 65,000 ft. to 300,000 ft. What if you were to put balloons up there with whatever platforms that you need? You’d have that long-duration, persistent ISR needs of the modern battlefield. We keep that profound knowledge of what is going on so that we can dictate what happens, doing the right thing at the right time. Using a command and control system for the rapid action. There’s a whole lot you can do about reducing the cost of payload-to-orbit. We’re using airborne assets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in unprecedented numbers. It’s probably akin to what the cellular phone industry went through when Iridium was taking off. Everybody thought that cell sites were going to be limited to building towers. Now there are cells everywhere. There are certainly limits on what you can do with air, but we’re doing a whole lot more. And now there’s this in-between area that maybe we can better utilize. Once we put the whole thing together — from surface to geosynchronous orbit — there’s an awful lot you can do.

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