back to article Brit military scolded for being too selfish with sexy high-end tech

The UK Ministry of Defence needs to stop reflexively demanding rights to its suppliers' intellectual property if it is to attract more private sector tech innovators, according to the Royal United Services Institute. In a report published on Tuesday, RUSI, the government's defence and foreign policy thinktank, criticised the …

  1. Justicesays
    Trollface

    Just thought I would preempt alot of posts

    by mentioning the short story "superiority", by Arthur C Clark.

    YW

  2. Anonymous Blowhard

    MoDD

    Ministry of Donkeys & Dinosaurs

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Re: MoDD

    MOD-PE (Procurement Executive)

    a.k.a

    Ministry of Dimwits and Plonkers Everywhere.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "MOD-PE (Procurement Executive)"

    23 000 people to administer a budget of £18Bn

    IDF procurement. 500 people to administer £15Bn.

    Does anyone else here think there's something wrong with these numbers.

    BTW the USMC is bigger than all of the UK actual fighting personnel.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always the same

    The MOD (and DOD) want the latest specification products (for computing think more performant than the current high-end gaming computers, but with low power consumption, a -45 to +85C temperature range without fans and able to survive the shaking in a helicopter).

    They want all of this in a mature product they can buy off the shelf NOW.

    They won't buy any real numbers for 5+ years and will want you to supply it for 20+ years. (Sometimes only 20 boards over that time.)

    And in the real world Intel change chips yearly and only supply the old ones for a couple of years (or 7 for a few specially selected variants). They only want to talk with manufacturers buying 10,000+ parts, so it's always reverse-engineering to find stuff out. And you have to keep enough inventory to support the 20+ years life-cycle.

    It's all very hard and costly, and yet the "MOD experts" and hacks complain that things cost more than on the High Street! It's no wonder that very few people will deal with them!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always the same

    Funnily enough there's vendors out there who supply and support that kind of requirement, and have done for years. Curtiss-Wright (here), Mercury (here). There’s other suppliers too. They're very good at what they do, and excellent value for money. There's even been UK domestic suppliers, Radstone, now absorbed into C.W.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always the same

    I used to work for a COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) vendor that was also absorbed by Curtiss-Wright (who have a long history of buying up their competitors).

    This was always a two-tier industry where smaller COTS hardware vendors would supply larger system integrators - who are now pretty much all absorbed into BAe, Thales or EADs - to try to meet the ever-shifting MOD requirements.

    A lot of the time, after struggling to get the kit to meet requirements that had been changed beyond recognition from the original spec, the MOD would simply say "meh, not interested any more" and that would be that.

    The whole procurement system is wasteful beyond belief - criminally so, in some cases - and has needed a radical overhaul since before the first world war. Until that happens, nothing else will ever change.

  8. CertMan
    Happy

    Radstone

    Radstone became part of General Electric and were then spun out as Abaco System.

    I can confirm that Abaco Systems are still very much alive and kicking in rural Northamptonshire, UK and Huntsville, Goleta and Boston in the US. And actively selling worldwide through local Sales and FAE's.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a report published on Tuesday, RUSI, the government's defence and foreign policy thinktank, criticised the MoD's current approach to adopting new ideas and technologies, branding its IP-hogging activities "a real disincentive" for private sector thinkers.

    Incentive is simply a matter of cash. If it's wanted badly enough, pay enough to own it.

    Or better still have a research department that is funded well enough to come up with the ideas and designs in the first place, and then market them publicly too. Now where have we seen that before? Oh yes, the UK! Well, sort of. For example, LCDs were a UK MoD development, they collected royalties for decades...

    To a large extent it's about sovereignty, or at least sovereign control. It's no good trying to go to war if some key supplier decides you're not going to use their tech to do so, or decides to change direction and drops the line altogether. There were quite extensive arguments about this with F35...

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    " LCDs were a UK MoD development, they collected royalties for decades..."

    I'd check that story.

    AFAIK the Japanese liked the tech but were not prepared to pay the MoD extortionate (to them) licensing fees..

    Early Japanese LCD's were inferior.

    They got better.

    HMG sold off most of its defense research as QuintiQ, through an MBO to its civil service Directors, who made out pretty well.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Muh dominance of the seas!

    It's all well and good having two new aircraft carriers to dominate the high seas

    Yes. When Putler drove his coal-fired Bismarksoff cruise thing through the Channel, the Home Fleet and the Press showed him good!

    Now two largish targets cruising around, trying to keep away from any areas reachable by missiles or possibly ICBMs will better the put-downs immensely.

  12. Anonymous Blowhard

    Re: Muh dominance of the seas!

    "It's all well and good having two new aircraft carriers to dominate the high seas"

    They're only aircraft carriers if they're actually carrying aircraft; for the next few years they're just ships without armament.

  13. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Re: Muh dominance of the seas!

    I really like the fire truck they have standing by on the flight deck.

  14. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Don't get too hung up on sexy high-end military tech

    What?

    Like WinXP on your newest, biggest, most expensive white elephants??

  15. DagD

    COTS and security blankets

    I always thought the idea of COTS (commerical off the shelf) software in a military environment was a bad idea.

    Instead of pleading with Microsoft - replace them.

  16. CertMan
    Boffin

    Re: COTS and security blankets

    When it comes to defense and aerospace there is still a place for non-critical activities on mass-market software - Microsoft OS and applications, or similar - for writing reports, etc.

    For the critical operations, the embedded OS's are supplied with board support packages on the COTS hardware item (board or sub-system level). OS such as VxWorks 653, Integrity 178, DEOS, Lynx178, etc.

    COTS here really means that you buy your DO-178C/DO-254 certifiable hardware/OS combination with its necessary certification artifacts as a package. The cost of all this hard work by the supplier being spread over a number of projects/customers. Bespoke solutions are becoming as rare as hens teeth as each one would need the costly certification artifacts creating as a one-off.

  17. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Low tech?

    Sometimes low tech can be rather more effective than high-tech, particularly if the low-tech is actually in stock and the high-tech will be ready in about 25 years.

    I remember the US having problems in Vietnam with B52s being shot down, despite all sorts of clever anti missile technology. The Vietcong simply fired insane numbers of dumb missiles and shells into the path of the bombers - some were bound to hit.

    And given the complexity of technology, has anyone thought of building a squadron or two of Gladiators for our lovely new white elephants? Probably so slow and odd that the smart tech on the target wouldn't recognise them as a threat!

  18. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Stagnant salaries

    I moved out of a defence company many years ago because everybody's salary had received no big increase for years. That was the result of MOD procurement.

    What I saw in my career was the government destroying the scientific civil service: partly by cuts, but also by turning them into "managers".

    I don't see things changing until the government is in a 1940 situation, with a realistic probability of defeat by a determined enemy. They were then so petrified they actually listened to the scientists and engineers, though in some cases Churchill had to order the offending bureaucrat or general to do that.

    Meanwhile I enjoy my retirement - until some conqueror triumphs.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Stagnant salaries

    I was in almost the same situation as you. In my case it was the £6.00/week pay rise imposed by Harold Wilson in the 1970's becaew graduates were being offered more money than the previous years grads even if you included the £6.00/week pay rise. So, surprise, surprise we all left. I was one of the last out the door at the end of November. Moved to another defence contractor and got a £25/week rise.

    There was a whole lot of people doing the merrygoround to get pay rises.

  20. phuzz Silver badge

    "Who uses drawing boards in the modern era?"

    Hipsters.

  21. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    The US are just as bad contracts wise, its just they build enough to keep more players in the game.

    The UK's status as a global power is largley now un-deserved and a relic of former glories, it all started with the Washington naval treat, that meant the RN could no longer maintain its 3 fleets (Home Mediterranean, and the Far East) so it cold no longer project the force required to maintain its colonies.

    And as it lost the colonies, it had less and less to maintain power for, and now we are a nation of clerks sitting on a rocky island somewhere off europe with two aircraft carriers and no aircraft

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