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Title: COTS Obsolescence: Issue or Opportunity?

Author(s): Frank Davis and Charlie Wills, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Maritime Systems


Northrop Grumman, Maritime Systems, is a trusted provider of a variety of navigation and control solutions for the US Navy, US Coast Guard, and Allied Navies. In an effort to maximize system affordability, many of the system components are Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. One of the major problems when using COTS products is obsolescence. The commercial marketplace drives the support lifecycle of these COTS components and that timeframe can be substantially shorter than the desired life of our systems. The challenge can be to find replacements for COTS components that retain the system’s operational functionality without introducing substantial cost (form, fit, function replacements). However, this can be viewed as an opportunity to perform a system needs analysis and realize the benefits of a modernization effort that reduces size, weight, and power (SWaP) while positively affecting system functionality.

This paper, based on a study performed at Northrop Grumman, looks at the benefits of combining capabilities during modernization to retain operational functionality while reducing SWaP requirements. Incorporating the systems engineering process when evaluating obsolescence issues ensures that the design meets the current operational and functional needs. The analysis allows for the inclusion of new generations of COTS products that bring increases in capabilities along with reductions in SWaP requirements. Typically, this leads to a system that is highly capable and meets the current needs of the customer, including the evolving requirements for cybersecurity.

The benefits of larger scale modernization will be compared to cost of implementing those changes, to include design and test to environmentally qualify the modified design. A framework for making an informed decision that takes into account total ownership costs will be provided.