Fear of terrorist attacks on home soil has sparked the growth of a new market for communications, intelligence, and surveillance electronic devices.
Homeland security has been on the minds of most Americans since the terrorist destruction of New York's World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Although terrorism was a source of fear in Europe and the Far East long before that tragic day, the attack served notice to Americans that they were not immune. The US Department of Homeland Security was established shortly after September 11th, with Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania, in the newly appointed Cabinet position as its Secretary. For RF and microwave design engineers, the electronic needs of an evolving homeland security market are many, but not unlike military electronics markets.
Although homeland security is still ill defined as a market, the nature of the electronic equipment required—for communications, intelligence, and surveillance—makes it a natural fit for most defense contractors. It is not surprising to see technological offerings for homeland security from most of the leaders in defense electronics, including BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Smiths Industries.
For example, the US Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov) recently awarded a contract extension worth an estimated $198 million to Boeing (www.boeing.com) as part of a contract initiated in October 2003. The contract is part of an effort to improve efficiencies in airport operations and further enhance the aviation security. The award which is managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), is a continuation to the original airport security contract Boeing won in April 2002 to install and maintain explosives detection systems at 429 US airports. In other efforts, Boeing's Connexion is a two-way, broadband satellite communications system capable of linking flight crews with air-traffic control, DHS, and Department of Defense (DoD) personnel.
Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS, Rosslyn, VA), a joint venture between Lockheed Martin (www.lockheedmartin.com) and Northrop Grumman (www.northropgrumman.com) has managed the US Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) program since it was awarded in June 2002. The multiyear program is designed to modernize and replace the Coast Guard's aging ships and aircraft and improve command and control and logistics systems. This represents the largest acquisition in the history of the Coast Guard, which is responsible for several aspects of homeland security, including maritime security.
Northrop Grumman was recently selected by DHS to participate in the next phase of a program to develop and test anti-missile systems designed to protect commercial aircraft. The company's anti-missile devices are currently deployed on a variety of US and British military aircraft operating worldwide, including C-17 and C-130 military transports. The company hopes to provide effective, economical protection for commercial aircraft by adapting its Directional Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) system for this application. Work on the contract will be based at Northrop Grumman's Defensive Systems Div. (Rolling Meadows, IL).
While homeland security issues are generally associated with Federal government programs, considerable investments in homeland security are also made at the state level. M/A-COM, a business unit of Tyco Electronics, has provided multimode public-safety radios for several years based on Internet Protocol (IP) technology. The company's VIDA (voice, interoperability, data, and access) network solution is its newest product line, which uses a combination of voice-over-IP (VoIP) and IP-based digital packet-switched technologies to convert audio and data signals into digital packets. Still, M/A-COM's P25IP digital trunked radio system, NetworkFirst IP packet-switched voice-communications network, and OpenSky radio solution (with 19.2-kb/s data transmission capability) have proven to be cost-effective public-safety communications systems.
In fact, the OpenSky product won the company a bid to provide statewide public-safety radio system for Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. According to Dr. Dennis Martinez, director of technology for M/A-COM's Wireless Business Unit, proposals were made in the 1998-1999 timeframe, since the state saw a need for a multiple-use communications network. "Users such as the State Police and the Department of Transportation needed to communicate, and have interoperability with other State and Federal agencies," noted Martinez.
More recently, the New York State Office For Technology is in the process of negotiating a 20-year contract worth more than $1 billion to M/A-COM based on the company's bid to replace outdated public-safety radio systems with a digital radio network. As Martinez points out, "We are the prime contractor for the project, in contrast to Pennsylvania, where we are one of three contractors." The radio solution will require a yet-to-be-determined number of towers to be built in the state's Adirondack and Catskill parks for statewide coverage.