Instapundit (who continues to totally ignore MO) notes a Strategy Page story on traditional military suppliers unhappy with the recent trend of the military adopting off-the-shelf commercial items or gear quickly developed and produced by smaller, newer companies when they can.
The U.S. Army, in particular, is desperate to install as much “battlefield Internet” technology as possible. Rather than wait for the traditional military manufacturers to devise, develop and manufacture such systems, the army (often just the troops) is taking stuff off the shelf and adapting it to battlefield use. These interlopers are drawing sharp criticism from the traditional manufacturers, and the PR effort has an impact. But because of combat veterans lauding the new, cheaper, gear, and that news getting spread through new, non-traditional information outlets (mostly web based), it’s not been so easy to shut down the new manufacturers.
They Stryker LAV, which incorporates a great deal of the battlefield internet, is loaded with networking gear. I took this pic myself at the Chicago Auto Show last February:
(Click for better look) Despite the fuzziness, you get an idea of just how much electronic gear is crammed into these things. Both sides of the troop compartment were lined by such stuff. I wanted to take a closer look at some of the stuff, in fact, to see if any of it was commercial equipment, but I didn’t want to look too nosy.
Seems to me, though, if you can go down to Best Buy and pick up what you need, that’s the route to go. As long as it’s really what you need and not simply a way to save a few shekels.
Little mom-and-pop electronics firms won’t be able to build the really big stuff, of course. But it they can build the basic building blocks and components, they’re probably a better route than the big Military-Industrial Complex players. Those guys will always be building the heavy stuff, but to expect them to also keep up with the little stuff isn’t terribly realistic. The company that excels at missile guidance gear or integrated aircraft carrier navigation systems probably won’t also excel at network routers.
Transforming the military is more than just making the combat vehicles lighter.
(And go read the whole Strategy Page post. It’s about more than just home network gear.)