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Ralph Guevarez: Hello and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. Thank you for joining us.

The 59th Annual Association of Old Crow's International Symposium and Convention is the industry's leading three day event. Bringing together nearly 2000 professionals from 30 plus countries, spanning industry, military, and government sectors. Joining me to discuss the event and current trends in the EW market is Dr. William Conley, chief technology officer for Mercury Systems. Bill, thank you for your time.

Bill Conley: Yep, thanks Ralph. As always, it's great being on the show with you.

Ralph Guevarez: Thank you. So Bill, can you give our view as a brief background on your current partnership with AOC?

Bill Conley: Yep. So the first thing that's obviously worth mentioning right is the AOC is the Association of Old Crow's, the EW Professional Society, that group that brings us together, that anchors us to the past and kind of that lineage of electronic warfare, electromagnetic warfare that really grew out of World War II and then over the last seven, eight decades into what it is today.

So ultimately, right for me as a young pup, having just started my career working for the Navy as a civilian, the AOC was that continuity to all the threats, all the trends, all those things that mattered to us that made a difference in the lab on a daily basis.

Fast forward a couple years as I moved out here to DC, my time at DARPA, my time in the Pentagon, and my role now as Mercury's chief Technology Officer, that ability to remain relevant, connected to everything that's happening across strategy, doctrine, policy, the evolving ecosystem, how electromagnetic warfare is getting applied, what it means to do MSO today is really what the AOC represents. And so I was honored when I was asked to serve as this year symposium chairman and to put together the overall agenda with a great planning committee.

Ralph Guevarez: Thank you for that, Bill. I appreciate it. I'm sure they appreciate having you.

Now Bill, let's dive right into the discussion. What are some major trends that you are observing specifically in the EW market?

Bill Conley: Yep. So the first one that's obviously worth hitting on is software defined capabilities. And this one's obviously been going for a while, that movement away from hardware defined systems into FPGAs, field-programmable gate array, to where we sit today. But I think when I mentioned self-defining capabilities today, what I'm really talking about is that evolution to direct digitization, which allows us to think about mission re-configurability and adaptability on a time scale that is much, much faster than things that used to require us to go back in the lab and do substantial hardware development efforts. It's that ability to design a system and when the threat moves, the threat shows up somewhere else to immediately move over to a different band and have the necessary capabilities, the signal processing, the overall digital processing that goes behind it to go ahead and deal with that threat, deal with that capability, sense the environment makes sense out of it, and ultimately make that mission level difference.

The secondary one that I want to go ahead and touch on is open standards. And the interesting part about open standards is for where we sit today, we now can have a dedicated hardware ecosystem and a dedicated software ecosystem that are actually going ahead and advancing. And the reason for that is we have enough processing capability that we can afford that overhead that comes with that slight decrease in performance by not coupling the two. But what it means is you get hardware reuse and software reuse in a way that allows us to meet those overall mission needs much, much faster than we did when we had to do hardware and software development simultaneously.

The third one that I think is noteworthy and worth hitting on is a kind of a mission level observation for what's coming out of Ukraine today, and that is there is really no longer a difference when you think about the mission of doing ISR, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, tracking where targets and threats may be at and stripe that ability to go ahead and deliver a weapon capability on the target. The same platforms, the same operators are there and are fully conducting that mission. That really changes how we think about operational tasking and where we need to put assets, but I think it's a really important trend and lesson to learn.

Ralph Guevarez: Thank you for that Bill. As always, I appreciate your insights. Now, switching to technology, how are emerging technologies enabling EW capabilities?

Bill Conley: Yep. So Ralph, that's another awesome question and candidly is the reason that being a CTO is arguably one of the coolest job titles out there and why I get to have my sleeves rolled up and really be elbows deep into what's happening with the technology on a daily basis. What I want to do though as we talk about this is I'm going to start with things that are a little bit farther out and then move it back in to things that are a little bit closer and going to impact us in the short term.

On that farther out, but really, really exciting when we think about emerging technologies is where does quantum sensing and quantum computing go? And so that ability to get noise free amplification, understand those hardest to see signal noise ratios that are out there allow us to make sure that we can do what we need to do at the longest possible ranges. On the quantum computing side, that ability to use a very different architecture tailored for specific problems, but to make sure that we're not introducing bias and things into our system that we aren't intending when we do something that is fundamentally a digital based kind of a model. And so ultimately, what does that mean? How do we bring forward the most relevant environment, the best capability, play things out numerous times to make sure that we have that necessary simulation understanding of what it is that's going to happen that really makes a difference when we look into the future?

Secondary one, which is much closer in I believe, is how cloud-based architectures intersect with the 5G ecosystem. The cell phones that most of us grew up with, intrinsically were really hardware based systems and it was a very rigid architecture that then plugged into kind of the overall copper backbone, which has obviously a century long history across the United States in terms of how that ecosystem grew up. For where we are today, the virtualization of the network is a really important emerging trend that makes a big difference in the electronic warfare ecosystem. That ability to distribute compute either across the platform or across multiple platforms, but that ability also to combine forces on the transmit side when we need to go ahead and actually attack something, I think is really exciting as well.

The third one that I want to touch on here is really around multi-function systems. In particular multi-function systems, when the SWPC, size, weight, power, and cooling, are the driving parameters that are really making sure that you have that system designed as perfectly as you possibly can. And so the two places where SWPC really show up as the hardest to meet, and not saying that there's a lot of spare space inside of any submarine battleship or warship aircraft or anywhere else, but in the weapons world and in the space world, it's really easy to see. Because either the weapon is going to fit or it's not. And in the case of space, every kilogram that you put up on orbit is a couple thousand dollars. And so there is that direct rate off between what is the weight of a space platform and if you add another mission, another capability, and it requires new hardware, you now are adding weight and you can immediately measure how much would I have saved on launch if I would've been willing to do that multifunction system? It gets really, really exciting to see for where we are today.

Ralph Guevarez: That's very exciting Bill. And as always, it's great to have you on the show. I look forward to seeing you at AOC. Thank you for your time. And again, God speed with EW and everything that's happening in the industry. Thank you.

Bill Conley: Thanks Ralph, and look forward to seeing you in person also.

Ralph Guevarez: Thank you. This is Ralph Guevarez from MercuryNOW, signing off.