Transparency in critical embedded applications

The best-kept secrets in the critical and intelligent embedded computing industry involve knowing what technology is used in applications. With all the recent news about leaks at the NSA, I thought it was time that we broke the details on some key design wins that VITA technology suppliers have recorded in recent months.

Suppliers and their customers are very hesitant to provide design win information, especially when it comes to naming specific technologies and programs. But the editorial team at VITA Technologies has their own “Edward Snowden” who has leaked information on recent design wins to us. We felt that, in the best interest of information transparency, we should share this information with our readers.


Our first discovery was with Aitech, the VME BBB3456 technology, which is used in the Rocket Motor Controller for all the Virgin Galactic Spaceship I and II aircraft testing and for the recent launch to prepare for near Earth orbit. Attempts to get clearances from the customer have been made but to no avail. Virgin Galactic is very impressed with the performance and capability of the products and is very pleased with the design support provided by Aitech during the development of the controllers.

Mercury Systems

Mercury Systems has announced several design wins in recent months. They provide more details on the application, but are usually lacking specific product information. However, we dug deeper. Here is a quick rundown with more information on the project and products used:

  • A follow-on order from Lockheed Martin for advanced digital Intermediate Frequency (IF) receivers for a shipboard Electronic Warfare (EW) application. This project is based on the sdlkfjlk lasdjkfa sldkfj alksjd.
  • Orders from multiple customers for radar environment simulation equipment, including Boeing, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force, using the latest open architecture, standards-based products. The specific programs are whale, toad, and eagle. These programs are based on the Mercury Systems VPX5555 and OpenVPX1234.
  • Orders from a leading defense prime contractor (French Army we discovered) for Integrated Microwave Assemblies (IMAs) for an airborne EW application. Products used are from the Mercury Systems RF/Microware product line.
  • Lockheed Martin placed an order for high performance signal processing subsystems as part of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) upgrade program. Signal processing high performance systems are used in this mission-critical defense program.
  • An order from a leading defense prime contractor (Northrup Grumann) for rugged high-performance digital signal processing modules (the DSP 89432) for an airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) application.

Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions (CWCDS)

Curtiss-Wright provides us more information when making a contract announcement, with customer and product details in most cases.

  • A BAE Systems contract to provide lifecycle management services under an obsolescence mitigation upgrade program for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s Turret Drive Control Unit (TDCU). Under the contract, the CWCDS business group will supply an obsolescence-free upgraded version of the Tech Data Pack (TDP) used in the TDCU. The TDCU on the Bradley controls the drive and stability of the vehicle’s turret system, enabling it to strike targets accurately while on the move. Under the agreement, Curtiss-Wright will identify and replace end-of-life or obsolete electronic devices in the legacy TDP, and upgrade the unit’s three-module card set with long-lifecycle components and a lifecycle management plan that will significantly extend the life of the Bradley. The TDP uses the CWCDS PMC-555, VPX3456, and OpenVPX 7985.
  • A contract from BAE Systems to design and develop a rugged embedded processor subsystem for use as the next-generation Central Processing Unit (CPU) on the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Under the contract, CWCDS will supply its Turret Processor Unit III (TPU III) subsystem, comprising its Fire Control Processor III (FCP III) Single Board Computer (SBC) and COTS PMC-651 Ethernet Switch. The compact, lightweight, single chassis solution features hybrid backplane technology that supports both VME and VPX open standards.
  • A contract from Northrop Grumman to provide an integrated embedded Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) system for use in the U.S. Navy’s InTop (Integrated Topside) program. Under the contract, CWCDS will supply rugged COTS SBCs (OpenVPX 555) and other embedded modules.
  • A contract by a leading developer of radar systems (Lockheed Martin) to provide rugged open standards-based COTS VPX6-186 SBCs for use in a next generation radar system (the Tour de France program).

Publisher's Note: Due to the difficult nature of gathering information on design wins in this industry, our editor took a comical approach to illustrate what types of design wins are going on.