Embedded Avionics

Collins Aerospace Executive: DoD Acquisition of Commercial Subsystems Faces ‘Headwinds’

By Frank Wolfe | August 25, 2021
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The Collins Aerospace head-up display (HUD) for the U.S. Air Force C-130J by Lockheed Martin is a derivative of the company’s commercial HUD for the Boeing 737 airliner, and the Collins Aerospace cockpit displays for the Air Force KC-46 tanker by Boeing come from the Collins Aerospace displays for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Such military derivatives of commercial products are increasingly common and see their realization through Federal Acquisition (FAR), Part 12 guidelines instituted after the enactment of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994. Other pieces of legislation that encouraged the DoD buy of commercial systems include the Federal Acquisition Reform Act of 1996 and the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003.

In addition, Section 839 of the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act is aimed at reducing the requirements on DoD’s buy of commercial products.

Adapting commercial technology for the military, if done correctly, may significantly lower DoD acquisition and sustainment costs and field systems to military forces more quickly.

“This is something that has been a real passion of mine after being in the business for about 30 years and seeing the benefits of being able to leverage commercial technology into the military environment—not just in terms of the technology, but the speed and cost savings we can provide to the warfighter when we go do that,” Phil Jasper, the president of Collins Aerospace’s mission systems business, said in a recent phone interview.

Collins Aerospace, which has a 70 percent/30 percent commercial to military business split, is one of a number of companies that depend on easier access to the military market to sustain their participation. DoD officials have encouraged smaller, commercial companies to enter the ranks of the defense industrial base to spark innovation.

While military unique systems, such as the Lockheed Martin F-35, rightly fall under FAR, Part 15 negotiated procurements, sub-systems for that platform may justifiably fall under FAR, Part 12, Jasper said.

“Communication radios have heritage and a lot of commonality, for example, with commercial technology or maybe some of the GPS systems as well,” he said. “It’s at that sub-tier level where we’re advocating, ‘Don’t let that top level FAR 15 say that anything that goes on that platform has to be FAR 15 because the platform is.’ It really needs to be on a case-by-case basis.”

Subsystems for military platforms that may rely heavily on commercial technologies include avionics, communications, GPS, displays, electrical power generation systems, fuel valves, and fire protection systems.


This article was first published by Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International. It has been edited. Click this link to read the full version of the article. 


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