This site has discussed the issue of the USA’s aging aircraft fleets, and the consequences as the average age of those fleets continues to grow: rising operating costs, uncertainty re: fleet availability, retention issues, electronics issues, effects on procurement budgets, et. al. An article about the B-52 Avionics Midlife Improvement Program discussed the consequences for the USAF’s bomber fleet. In “Aircraft Geriatrics,” Seapower Magazine takes a closer look at the consequences on the front lines for the US Navy and Marines’ aircraft fleets. The services already have the oldest fleets in their history, and even in the unlikely event that the Pentagon gets all of the aircraft it asks for, that age will continue to rise. Right now…
“Pilots of the Navy’s electronic warfare aircraft were told in recent years not to maneuver their planes aggressively, and the Marine Corps’ 40-year-old CH-46 helicopters were placed under weight restrictions for months. The Navy today is struggling to keep its P-3C Orion patrol planes flying despite fatigue cracks and other maladies that threaten to curtail their remaining years of service…” [read the rest]
DID has covered the trend toward integrated high-tech infantry ensembles before, and also noted the European Defence Agency’s concerns re: lack of interoperability between the various national programs. As software-defined radios like the USA’s JTRS program and F@stnet gain traction, two things will happen:  They will be incorporated into “Infantry-21” programs; and  the interoperability imperative will begin to bite as advanced militaries find that they need to work together. Fortunately, a software-defined radio is essentially a computer with a radio interface; capability changes and enhancements can then be implemented with improved software, rather than requiring all-new hardware (good: costs, time; minuses: debugging, risk of poor interface design).
The EDA’s Steering Board recently welcomed a EUR 100 million (about $130 million) ad-hoc joint research project (ESSOR) by Finland, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden for joint work on Software Defined Radio (SDR). It is aimed at enhancing the interoperability of medium-term national SDR projects in Europe and with the U.S. and NATO. A related EDA study focuses on specific military SDR requirements for the longer-term, and the program is also seen as “promoting a European technological and industrial capacity of strategic importance.” The related WINTSEC project announced in October 2006 will study wireless interoperability for civil security purposes, where software-defined radios are also gaining traction.