At the heart of most mil/aero electronics—and arguably the most important component of current electronics systems is the processor. Virtually all mil/aero electronics take advantage of processors of one sort or another, whether x86, powerPC, RISC, FPGA, 32-bit, or 64-bit. Many different types of processing devices are employed by the modern warfighter, in fact.
Today’s soldier, fed up with being made to make due with decades old technology, is anxious to benefit from the latest multicore processing technology on the digital battlefield. Commercial multicore technologies and advanced platforms, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are driving the military to adopt commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics at a feverish pace. And from one geek to another, I don’t see this trend easing up in the foreseeable future.
You can’t quite blame soldiers, especially those on the battlefield day in and day out. Given their life is on the line, shouldn’t they have the latest, greatest, and most powerful electronics systems available? When it comes to mil/aero simulation, training, and mission rehearsal as well as battlefield video capabilities, soldiers have recently likened the move from their home environment (where they play military video games on a multicore Sony PlayStation 3 equipped with a Cell processor and play high-resolution video on their Apple iPhone) to the battlefield to stepping back into the 1950s.
Soldiers want the hottest multicore processors; systems integrators and engineers want to deliver them; and the U.S. Department of Defense is working to reduce the time it takes to field new technologies. Yet, it’s not a simple swap. Systems integrators and even end users can’t simply swap out the old processors and plug in the new multicores, unfortunately. It’s a whole platform redo. With new processors come new chipsets, new sockets, and myriad other hardware considerations. Further, thermal (heat production and dissipation) and power issues, among others, must also be taken into account.
Seasoned engineers, geeks, or virtually anyone armed with electronic design tools today can modify existing systems—all the way from the external chassis to the innermost I/O panels—to take advantage of the latest multicore processing technology…efficiently, effectively, and without having to cut a single piece of metal.