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By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor BATTLESPACE

The market for ruggedised computers is expanding as a result of the growth in the areas of digitization and soldier modernisation. US market research company Venture Development Corporation (VDC), estimated that the sale of products meeting the Military Standard (MIL-STD) 810F test regime made up a $700 million market in 2002. They expect deliveries to rise by 7% annually to reach nearly $1 billion by 2007. As communications become increasingly important in battlefield success, users must be able to display the information in both combat vehicles and muddy foxholes with high degree of reliability.

Common Hardware/Software programme

The US Army’s third Common Hardware/Software (CHS-3) contract was awarded to General Dynamics C4 Systems (GDC4S) in 2003. It remains the largest and most important contract in the ruggedised computing world. As this ten-year programme ramps up, its predecessor, CHS-2 is winding down. Mike DiBiase, Managing Director of Commercial Hardware Systems for GDC4S said, “We anticipate CHS-2 orders will reach $100m and CHS-3 $30m [in FY03]. We expect these figures to be reversed next year. The last orders for CHS-2 can be placed in April 2005.” He said that they expect to reach $125-$150m under current assumption. Total CHS-2 orders in April this year were put at $944.9m. In the longer term, he explained, the scope of CHS programme could expand. “We anticipate that CHS-3 will gain some traction and spending on CHS-3 will actually go much higher than in CHS-2. That is because there is a tech insertion clause which allows us to get into fuel cells, flexible displays and other technologies to bring additional users and additional requirements in to the contract.”

DiBiase outlined changes between the products included in the two CHS contracts. “Primarily there are a number of new servers and workstation that have come out. We have also added a rugged dual Xeon processor server for the intelligence community [the V2 3U Rugged Xeon Servers (RXS) for Program Manager – Intel Fusion (PM IF)]. There is also a Tadpole Sparcbook rugged Unix laptop, used by AFATDS users.”

In the V3 category GDC4S selected DRS Tactical Systems for the CHS Handheld Terminal Unit (HTU). Two versions are being offered, the standard HTU and one with. The standard HTU is now in qualification testing and testing of the HTU EK (Embedded keyboard) variant will be underway by the time of Eurosatory. DiBiase went on to identify an increase in processor speed to a Pentium 650Mhz Celeron processor and the integration of an embedded Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module equipped GPS module as improvements on the CHS-2 HTU.

The CHS programme is designed with the flexibility to incorporate new technologies, such as blade computing. This technology enables multiple servers to be deployed in a compact card offering improved redundancy. DiBiase explained that this technology has been used to upgrade the Multi Processor Unit (MPU) for use in commanders’ helicopters and vehicle and ground tactical applications. “We have upgraded the MPU to have new Sparc and Pentium blades – or slices as we like to call them – and added a rugged dual Xeon server slice to that product so the slices have all been upgraded with newer technology and more computing power than we had in the previous product.”

Contractor support

To support troops in the field GDC4S have established fixed CHS repair facilities in Kuwait and Iraq. Embedded contractors have also been established at battalion and brigade level for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to undertake first level repairs rather than returning equipment to base.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted new requirements. One of these requirements was for a recent push to add Local Area Net (LAN) equipment in transit cases to provide additional capability and consisting of Cisco routers and net screen security software. Rol

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