The time before Christmas is a good time to clean things here and there and through out the piles of not used equipment – sometimes sell it with a little profit.
While doing my little household cleaning and checking my drawer for unused equipment I have found a few cellphones which dated a few years back.
Do you even remember the specification of you 5 year old phone? Do you remember the specs of your 10 year old phone? What was something of a state of the art level 15 years ago is now ancient. So let’s think when was the F-35 designed or even better, when was the F-22 prepared for production? What CPU’s were then available? How much memory was the golden standard?
Of course it may be obvious that the military has it’s secret pet projects which get the best equipment long before it can see the civil market but is this gap really that big? How long did it take to push the technology packed in the F-22 into a laptop or even a smart phone. I mean not all of that technology of course, but you get the picture. Tyler Rogoway wrote about something similar in his article.
The thing with military equipment is that it has to be reliable, hard like a rock and can last for many years. Our smart phone will live two years maybe three, but not 33. An aircraft sometimes lives more than that.
If you are not a tech geek have a look at your car. How old is it? When was it prepared for production? My old faithful “beast” will celebrate it’s 18 birthday the next year. If I compare it to a this years Opel Astra model it looks like taken out from the stone age.
Will this gap close in the future? I highly doubt it. It takes more and more time to build an aircraft. The tender takes ages, companies protest, then finally when we have a winner there are delays and something planned and designed many years ago hits the production line, first as a LRIP batch and then at full scale. That is not the end. Then it has to achieve the operational capability and… is ready to get some upgrades. Never ending story. If we look at it from this perspective it takes ages.
When I think about today’s aircraft that are supposed to see further, detect and process faster then the enemy just to be able to shoot faster all this aging equipment doesn’t fit here. The same goes for rockets. They are a bit easier to handle as their complexity is much smaller. You can take the “brains” and put some new one and there is not that much of code to integrate. Now think of the amount of code in a F-35…
How to solve this? How to push faster the latest but stable technique to our military equipment to gain some advantage? To achieve the see first – shoot first holly grail, to be able to process and connect huge amounts of data from ever increasing number of equipment. Today’s and future battle field needs enormous processing powers – just imagine swarms of UAV and each of them streaming some data to a F-35 in a 10-20 years time frame. While we be able to fit it with the right equipment to process all that information?
Photo: Lockheed Martin