IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, vol. 19, no. 10, pp 7-10, Oct 2004

Avionics Architecture Approach to the Sustainable Utilization of Commercial Technology

Chris Wilkinson
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742


Over the last few years, there has been an increasing shift by avionics manufacturers away from military specified parts to commercial parts as the supply of military rated parts has dried up. This has been driven by the combined effects of reduced military spending, a withdrawal from the market by parts suppliers of military parts, a drive for lower cost avionics, rapid progress in semiconductor technology and a desire to access this leading edge technology by the avionics suppliers in order to offer cost-effective solutions to their customers [1].

The shift to commercial parts and technology has brought with it some well-known disadvantages such as obsolescence, referred to by the military community as Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS), and reduced environmental capability. These are severe problems for avionics manufacturers, air vehicle manufacturers and end-users alike, not the least of which is the time and expense of recertification of a product after a change has been made to recover from an obsolescence problem. Certification authorities are understandably nervous about the consequential effects of a seemingly minor change and thus require considerable verification activity to be documented.

The military and commercial aerospace industries have generated many targeted solutions to mitigate the effects [2] [3]. These are working to some extent but some limitations to their efficacy are emerging. It is not the intent to revisit those solutions or discuss their merits and limitations, but to discuss some higher-level architectural and business oriented approaches to obsolescence solutions and new technology insertion problems that have not hitherto been addressed.

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