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Dead medium: US Air Force 'Clones' Obsolete Electronics
From: (Bruce Sterling)
Source(s): National Defense magazine (ISSN 0092-1491) October 1997 Volume LXXXII Number 531 "Modelling and Simulation Techniques Aid Air Force Effort to Cut F-22 Costs" pages 32-33

(((bruces remarks: The US military has discovered that the eighteen-month lifespan of state-of-the-art chips is seriously interfering with their ability to keep war machines armed and ready. One answer, alluded to in this article, is to step outside the process of obsolescence and simulate "legacy electronics" by "cloning" them with "VDELE." (It is not explained what is supposed to happen when the VDELE "design environment" itself becomes obsolete.) This development is of interest to dead media studies because the rapid obsolescence of electronic components has always been a Mark of Cain for electronic media. The simulation and emulation of dead hardware will increase in importance as the graveyard of dead multimedia becomes more and more crowded with the victims of Moore's Law.)))

"The first F-22 production unit was unveiled last April amid great fanfare. Its first flight, originally slated for late May, was re-scheduled several times as a result of brake malfunctions, flight-software problems, and a fuel leak (...)

"(Lockheed Martin corporation) recently announced that it had achieved a technical breakthrough that will help the Air Force cope with a problem that is affecting other military aircraft programs == the unavailability of parts. Pentagon officials refer to this conundrum as 'diminishing manufacturing sources.'

"The parts shortfall stems largely from the short commercial life-span of digital electronic components versus the long service life of weapons systems. A digital component, for example, may have a life of 18 months while the weapon system using that component often lasts for decades. Industry officials believe this 'parts obsolescence' problem drives up the coses of a weapons system's operation and support, which amount to about two- thirds of the entire life cycle investment.

"Lockheed Martin's innovation involves the 'first prototype clone replacement for an obsolete airborne printed circuit assembly,' says a company spokesman. The savings will result, he says, from the use of collaborative tools and electronic specifications."


"The process used to develop the prototype is based on a VHSIC hardware description language (VHDL) model for an obsolete printed circuit assembly. Once developed, the model is then tested for compliance against the original obsolete printed circuit board in a virtual development, using commercially available software and hardware tools.

"In this simulation environment, says the company spokesman, the design of the obsolete hardware can be re- targeted into modern component technology. Since the design is re-captured in an electronic specification, the cost of re-engineering is 'greatly reduced.'

"(James A. Houston, a Lockheed Martin engineering project manager) says the benefit of cloning is that the embedded software and support equipment of the re- engineered electronics can be kept intact. Money is saved because there is no need to re-develop software and support equipment.

"The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for a VHDL design environment for legacy electronics (VDELE). 'VDELE... overcomes the parts obsolescence problem using current technology,' says Houston."

Bruce Sterling (