Pursuing Electronics that Bend, Pentagon Advances Partnership with Tech Firms

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Can SecDef Carter Win Over Silicon Valley?.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter will announce Friday that the Pentagon is funding a new venture to develop cutting-edge electronics and sensors that can flex and stretch and could be built into clothing or the skins of ships and aircraft.—The Pentagon is announcing Friday that it will contribute seed money to a consortium of Silicon Valley firms to develop what defense officials say is a promising new technology incorporating “flexible” electronics that could be incorporated into ships, jets and gear to help soldiers on the battlefield. The US government is contributing $75-million (R991m) over five years, he said, and companies, managed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory, will add $90m, with local governments chipping in more to take the total to $171m. Carter said the FlexTech Alliance comprised 162 companies, universities and other groups, from Boeing, Apple and Harvard, to Advantest Akron Polymer Systems and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

The Pentagon chief is on a swing through California where he watched a Marine amphibious-assault exercise at Camp Pendleton before flying north to Silicon Valley on Friday to announce the new initiative. The defence chief also plans to meet the Defense Science Board for a briefing on a study it is doing on the level of autonomy that military drones and robots should have in future. The Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub, which will be based in San Jose, is the seventh of nine such institutes planned by the Obama administration in an effort to revitalizse several US manufacturing sectors, several of them defence-related.

The DIUX is a component feeding the Third Offset Strategy, a Pentagon effort to field technologies that will keep America ahead of the increasingly bold and innovative Chinese and Russian militaries. This is Carter’s second trip to the technology hub in four months, as he works to get the Defense Department to increasingly tap into the region’s high-tech expertise and workforce. “Given what we’ve already done, there’s truly no limit to what we can achieve together,” said Carter, in an excerpt of his speech provided to reporters. “That’s why I’ve been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box, and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country. And now we’re taking another step forward.” During his first trip in April, Carter launched a new program called Defense Innovation Unit – Experimental aimed at scouting out promising emerging technologies and beefing up the Pentagon’s ability to work with high-tech firms. For example, a new “bendable” electronic device for navigation of an aircraft wouldn’t have to be designed specifically for that plane, because such flexible electronics could be crammed into existing cracks and crevices to deliver the same capability—without redesigning the part of the fuselage, for example. “We’re making the equivalent of a strategic bet on an important technology that we think could have broad applications for the future,” a senior defense official said.

They have to get people who already have street cred in the valley,” he says. “I think the SOF guys get this but hendrickeon isnt someone who has a lot of time in the valley. The winning consortium includes major companies like Apple, United Technologies and Hewlett Packard with others that can embed these flexible, bendable electronics into everything from medical devices to supersonic jets. The ideas sent are being screened by five groups of five of the Pentagon’s best and brightest, each specializing in a particular top-priority area: undersea technology; air dominance and strike technology; air and missile defense technology; other technology-driven concepts.

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