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Industry News

News From Washington

February 1, 1999
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News From Washington

Iridium Network to Serve Defense Personnel

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has installed a dedicated ground station at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station-Pacific, Honolulu, HI, to act as a terrestrial gateway for Department of Defense (DoD) users of the global Iridium cellular network. DISA purchased the gateway from Iridium LLC, a consortium of international investors led by Motorola Inc., for approximately $15 M and will handle approximately 2000 DoD users simultaneously.

In September 1998, the DoD declared initial operational capability of its Iridium gateway as the infrastructure that provides a communications path to the single Hawaiian gateway. The DoD's unclassified service has completed operational tests and classified Iridium service is scheduled to begin in June. The DoD will use the satellite-only communications service offered by Iridium in which user traffic is switched directly via the Wahiawa ground station to the DISA network.

The location of DoD Iridium users will be protected and a low probability of communications interception will be provided via secure hand-held telephones (which incorporate security chips developed by the National Security Agency) that link users to the gateway. In the event the Wahiawa gateway is disabled by accident or sabotage, DISA may develop a mobile gateway, a small ground station that can be set up quickly in the field, to serve as a standby system. The commercial gateway would also be able to provide limited capability. Iridium outbound calls will be charged to DoD users at a rate of up to $7 per minute, however, inbound calls will be handled free of charge.

New Global Electronic Circuits Council Formed

Associations representing the electronic circuits industries in Asia, Europe and North America have formed the World Electronic Circuits Council (WECC) to provide a forum and focus for industry representatives to address issues on a global basis. At its inaugural meeting in Germany, the WECC formalized support for the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) 2. Organizations involved in ITA 2 have worked for more than two years to build a global consensus in support of eliminating tariffs on equipment and materials used in the manufacture and assembly of PCBs.

The Council also agreed to cooperate in lobbying the European Commission to ensure that a viable alternative to lead solder is found before its proposed ban is activated in 2004. The WECC also will begin work on the definition of a new value metric for the PCB industry and create guidelines and design rules to promote faster and broader adoption of new high density interconnect technologies. Charter members of the WECC include the Printed Circuit Associations of China, India, Japan and Taiwan; the US' IPC - Association of Connecting Electronics Industries; and the European Federation of Interconnecting and Packaging, which represents associations in Switzerland, Germany and the UK.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon to Jointly Develop Radar Sensor Program

Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector (ES3) and Raytheon Systems Co. have entered into an agreement to jointly develop the radar sensor portion of the US Air Force's Radar Technology Insertion Program (RTIP), the highly advanced, next-generation upgrade to the Northrop Grumman Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (STARS). The Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Aerostructures (ISA) Sector will continue as the prime contractor for RTIP while Raytheon will act as a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman ES3.

As the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman's ISA will design, develop, install, test and integrate advanced radar systems into Joint STARS, an airborne surveillance and target acquisition system that provides real-time, accurate information for peacekeeping and battlefield decision-making, at its Airborne Surveillance and Battle Management Systems unit in Melbourne, FL. Under the terms of the amendments to the RTIP memorandum of agreement signed by the two firms in November 1998, Northrop Grumman ES3 will be responsible for the design and development of the next-generation radar sensor for Joint STARS and will jointly lead the RTIP radar antenna development effort with Raytheon Systems Co.

Precision Munitions Market Growth Exceeds Forecasts

According to Global Positioning & Navigation News, the market for precision munitions that employ GPS guidance is growing at a much faster rate than anticipated originally. The US military has upgraded a number of its missiles and bombs with GPS-aided inertial guidance systems to benefit from the force multiplication the system offers. Some of the larger programs involved include the Air Force's Joint Direct Attack Munition, Conventional Air-launched Cruise Missile and Joint Air-to-surface Standoff Missile as well as the Navy's Tomahawk and Standoff Land Attack Missile-expanded Response. Raytheon is also working under a Navy contract to conduct engineering and manufacturing development for the Tactical Tomahawk (which will be similarly equipped). Opportunities that are available to add GPS guidance to existing systems include the Army's Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and the Tactical Missile System. The more difficult task of adding guidance packages to artillery projectiles is also being explored.

GAO Suggests Review of Guided Weapon Plans

In its recent report, "Weapons Acquisition - Guided Weapon Plans Need to Be Reassessed," (GAO/NSIAD-99-32), the General Accounting Office (GAO) examines the DoD's plans to invest $16.6 B from FY 1998 to 2007 to procure guided weapons for use in deep attack missions. The GAO suggests that the DoD's guided weapon spending plan is based on overly optimistic funding projections and that in order to acquire all of the missiles planned for that time period, the DoD would have to spend an average of twice as much as it spent between FY 1993 and 1997. The report notes that completion of the plan will certainly be deterred unless there is an overall increase in defense spending. In addition, the program will suffer if other programs absorb any available increases or if new technology leads to more capable weapons that also will compete for the funds.

While the DoD is equipped with enough deep attack weapons to meet current objectives, 158,800 guided weapons are scheduled to be added to that inventory. The weapons under development or involved in improvement programs are unique to each armed service. However, when reviewing each service's currently planned program in the aggregate, the GAO found wide overlap and duplication of types and capabilities, questionable quantities planned and strong preferences for longer standoff and more accuracy when less costly/equally effective solutions may be available.

While the DoD's "Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study" and "Quadrennial Defense Review" suggested some minor changes in the overall plans, duplication issues were not addressed. (The deep attack study has been faulted for both its methodology and reliance on questionable computer models.) To solve these problems, the GAO recommends that the DoD establish an aggregate requirement for deep attack capabilities, re-evaluate the assumptions used in the processes to determine guided weapon requirements and compare the planned deep attack weapon acquisition program with existing capabilities and budgetary and security conditions.

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