Flex and Raytheon Patnership

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I saw the announcement of this new $35MM dollar partnership.  Congrats to Flex ownership and I am sure it will make the company more successful.

However, I have seen this before in which niche hobby company secures large contracts and over time the promises that the relationship will benefit the original customers never materialize and fade.  Leaving the original customers feeling like red hair step children.  With a $35MM customer whom do you think is most important to Flex ownership.  Who gets the attention and the technology.  Sure it sounds good on the surface but making it a benefit for the initial customer base is not as easy as a few words.

Hopefully, Flex will find a way to do so where many other small niche hobby companies have failed.
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John - K3MA

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Posted 1 month ago

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Bill -VA3WTB

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John, you should look at the history behind the Flex 6000 radios, and see why and how we have them today.
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James Whiteway

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Flex Radio has been doing commercial systems for a long time. The radios we use have benefited from that.
Be glad that Amateur radio is not their only source of income. Otherwise, they may not exist.
James
WD5GWY
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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Great news for Flexradio, congratulations!
Looking forward to great support, faster implementation of new hardware and software and of course, and perhaps lower prices.
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Richard Mcclelland

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John, I think your concern is valid but I hope that Amateur radio side of their business is plenty large enough to remain on Flex Radio's radar screens.  I worked for AT&T when they bought NCR and we were all thinking that happy times were upon us.  It turned out that our division was mostly replaced by the NCR product line, so things did not end so well.  It's hard to say how this will turn out, hopefully as we might wish, time will tell.
(Edited)
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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Based on their previous and current government contracts, this simply means to me is that Flexradio and their Amateur Division has the resources to continue to develop and manufacture leading edge technology for the Amateur market. No people, the sky isn't going to fall, in fact you will see new products. I don't have to speculate, guess or predict, their announcement stated, "stay tuned for more amateur product announcements coming soon".
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KC2QMA_John

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Flex 6800M. With 200W output and more ?
(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Flex Radio has been working on government projects for many years under contracts already.
so as we can see from the past it has helped amateur radio and Flex radio.

Many years ago Flex was working on direct sampling with the government. After it showed to be viable Gerald wondered about using that technology in ham radio. That was the birth of the 6000 radios.
And now other companies are following in Flex foot steps. Just as Gerald started SDR in ham radio and lately direct sampling, I wonder what is next?

What this shows is that government work and other commercial products filter down to us, it has in the past.
(Edited)
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James Kennedy-WU5E

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My question is can a small company that builds great radios for Hams. Do you believe can they keep the hams happy while they concentrate on a government contact even though they are a SUB. I bet some the hams at Raytheon said hey FLEX build great software for radios. Every day i get Gov't contract release to me via email.  we'll see?

Jim
WU5E


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Michael N3LI

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I've been a ham long enough to know that nothing can keep Hams happy.
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James Whiteway

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Jim, They've been doing just that all along.
James
WD5GWY
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Dave - W6OVP

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Collins Radio did a pretty good job of serving both Hams and the Military. (Gross understatement!) Read the full history at Wiki or below. FLEX should be so lucky...

http://www.collinsradio.org/cca-collins-historical-archives/the-equipment-of-collins-radio/historica...

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Brian Denley

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So did Hallicrafters, Hammarlund and National in their day.
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Logan, KE7AZ

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My first job was at Hallicrafters in 1973 where I hoped to work on ham equipment.  Northrop had purchased them and a few years later sold off the Hallicrafters line (never to be heard from again) and renamed the military side as Northrop Defense Systems Division.  I wound up learning how to "stuff" a few kilowatts of microwave noise energy into a surface to air missile radar's front end.  Not exactly "QSL 5NN TU" but it started an avionics career.
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Russ Ravella

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That was important work.  You should be very proud.
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Russ Ravella

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Yeah, those companies were so terrific.  Kinda makes me feel nostalgic for "the good old days".
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering / CTO

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Official Response
I appreciate the comments about this opportunity. To most, opportunities like this represent change and with change, there is often fear for the future. Will the change disrupt or enhance what you see as the best parts of FlexRadio? I believe this is at the heart of most of the sentiments I've read here. I'd like to address this concern.

Most of us here at FlexRadio are hams first. The company was founded with the intent of serving the ham radio market. It's not uncommon to hear one of our employees talking with others about our passions and our hopes for the world of amateur radio. My personal passion for amateur radio includes, but extends beyond my love of the hobby. I also believe very strongly in 47 CFR §97.1 (d) "Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts." We run into so many people in the world of radio, science and other STEM fields that first were introduced to science, physics and radio through amateur radio. Amateur radio is a playground where science-minded individuals can learn and explore the world of RF and it's one critical component  of the future of our population of technical resources. 47 CFR §97.1 is genius and we should all re-read it from time to time to remind ourselves of why amateur radio is important.

At the same time, we are patriots. We believe in the freedom of individuals and representative governments, with power inherent in the people and exercised by the people or their representatives.* While this contract embodies a number of opportunities for us (see below), we are proud to serve our armed forces in this way. Communications is a critical piece of any fighting force and, believe it or not, HF radio is more important that ever. Serving the military and the government is also a tremendous responsibility and one that we do not take lightly.

Whenever we look at opportunities, we tend to "renew our vows" to each other by talking about the impact on our core amateur business. We do this because each of us loves our customers and our amateur business. It's not just because we are hams or that this is how we are currently making our living, but because we truly believe in amateur radio and its purpose (as mentioned above). No one here has any desire to discontinue our deemphasize our amateur business. On the contrary, we are continually having conversations about the synergy between our two customer groups and how each segment of our business can help the other. But this is not new.

The story of FlexRadio starts in the world of amateur radio, but has continually been intertwined with a story of working with governmental entities, both in the US and our NATO allies. As many of you know, this is not our first foray into non-amateur worlds. In each of our previous engagements, we carefully selected opportunities that were synergistic with our core amateur business: opportunities that would allow us to leverage our current technology and, at the same time, add new technology we could leverage into the future. We said "No" to many more opportunities than we said "Yes." The FLEX-6000 was born out of such an opportunity. Were it not for a government contract we took on in 2008, the FLEX-6000 would not exist as it does today. While we still regularly produce and sell the equipment developed on that contract, the FLEX-6000 is really the key legacy of that contract for FlexRadio.

Some also have commented that they believe we are packaging a FLEX-6000 for flight and have speculated about possible issues with this approach. Our role in this contract is to develop a radio based on the excellent capabilities of the FLEX-6000, but ruggedized for hazards too numerous to mention here. Our partner and prime contractor, Raytheon, has extensive experience building radios for these harsh environments as well as properly qualifying a radio for flight. I'm certain you will not be surprised if I tell you that across every entity that we've interfaced with on this contract, there are hams. As I'm sure you know, these folks all know RF very well and when we start talking about specifics, these folks dig in and we all communicate in the same language that all of you know. Many of these folks are in these roles because of the genius of 47 CFR §97.1 (d).

I think if I were a customer, my main fear would be to understand if FlexRadio is contemplating a move to exit the world of amateur radio or if this will negatively affect the amateur business. "No" is the answer. In fact, quite the opposite is true. As someone in engineering, I can tell you the continual discussion about what we're working on for our amateur customers has not abated in any way, shape or form. In the last few months, we've added a number of people to FlexRadio, in a large part because of this opportunity. But we are carefully selecting individuals with a background in amateur radio, whenever possible. We want individuals that share our passion for amateur radio and want to continue to bring new ideas to the table. And the organization is asking us, in engineering, about our hiring and what capabilities we will have on the amateur side as a result of those hires. We're excited about our current projects and our projects planned for the future. We truly appreciate you as customers and your contributions to the ongoing FlexRadio story and hope that you will share in our enthusiasm for the synergies between amateur radio and government communications.

Steve





* Not being a constitutional scholar, I hesitate to say "democracy," "republic" or the many permutations of these that represent the government in the US and risk digressing into a conversation about the pedantic label of the exact form of the US government
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Clay N9IO

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Love it, only in America.
Well done Steve.
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Michael N3LI

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I must be an Pollyannish outlier. When I heard about this, the first thing that came to mind was that it was good for the health of FleRadio Systems, and that it would end up being really good for us Hams. 

Anyhow, big congrats to Flex, nothing breeds corporate health like money coming in the doors.
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Ken Miller

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I spent the first years of my adult life working on radar and radio equipment in the military (8 yrs) in the 70s.. I'm now old and tired. I did save up enough to purchase a Flex 6600M as my retirement gift, I probably won't get to retire for another five years though, ha. I have been using this rig for over a year. After working on (ancient) military rigs I can say two things; One, this is the best low power rig I have ever used. Two, If I was still a Tech in the military, I would absolutely love to work on this. I've seen the innards, all is layed out well. ;)
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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I soldered a lot of Raytheon CK722s in the late 1950s.
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Michael N3LI

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My very first transistor in my very first experiments when I was a brat in the 60's. Funny, but I my ears perk right up when I see CK722.
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Logan, KE7AZ

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I think I came across one in my “catch all” junk box, the other day.
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Michael N3LI

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Sweet! I'd probably cast it in resin. 
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WW1SS - Steve

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I see it as all resources being devoted to that 35 million Ratheon contract and us Hams being put to the side to fulfill that.
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Pat N6PAT

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@Steve,

I said almost the same thing and my comment was removed.
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Russ Ravella

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Yeah, it is tragic Pat.  It is so disappointing to see that Flex is (and probably has been all along) censoring what readers of this community can see.  And after reading Flex executive management's written response I share your and Steve's reaction.  The first part seems to say essentially, "the ham business has always and will always come first - don't worry".  But when Steve finally gets somewhat specific at the end, he says,

"In the last few months, we've added a number of people to FlexRadio, in a large part because of this opportunity. But we are carefully selecting individuals with a background in amateur radio, whenever possible."

It's written as though we should be thankful that FRS remembers to think of ham interests when they make decisions (like hiring decisions).  As if the core business really isn't ham radio after all.  The first 6/7'ths of the response would lead one to believe Flex would have hired those people "in a large part because of the obvious need for more staff in their core ham radio business".  And that perhaps they also "carefully selected individuals with a background useful to their other business areas as well, whenever possible".  I'm told Mr. Youngblood "promised" attendees at the Dayton talk that he was hiring more staff to respond to the need resulting from increasing demand and to especially focus on software (note that I wrote that very carefully potential censors).  But Steve is saying staff was actually hired primarily with this new contract in mind rather than for the ham radio business.  So it's completely reasonable for customers to be worried about that contract's impact on, well, let me say it this way: the concerns expressed at the conference.  We are DEPENDING on Flex to make good on their general promise to leverage the software nature of this radio technology to continually improve things.  Which obviously requires focused staff who can't be reassigned to higher priority work.  So we are being reasonable in expressing concern accordingly.  And expressing that concern should not be censored.

Let me be extremely clear about something.  I worked on large military contracts for most of my 36 year career, coincidently the last 1/3 of it at  Raytheon.  My opinion is that as important as that work always is, it has never been more important than it is right now.  I TOTALLY support FRS taking this contract and performing well on it.  Please don't construe the concerns being raised as inconsistent with that.  They are parallel to that as has been well described in this thread, but much of which is now gone.
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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As it should have been. Posts that reflect repetitive doom and gloom agenda have no business in this community.
(Edited)
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Michael N3LI

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Exactly, Mike. It is so odd that some Hams want FlexRadio Systems to have less business. We are in a golden age of Amateur Radio, and gains will filter to us. And they will filter to us a lot quicker than any legacy radio gains ever have. 

And just as a reminder to people, other radio manufacturers have contracts with governments. It's just how things work. 

And as always, I would love GetSatisfaction to get with the 20th century and create filters. An internet notch filter for the internet tuner uppers, as it were....
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I see it as all resources being devoted to that 35 million Ratheon contract and us Hams being put to the side to fulfill that.

History has proven otherwize. Flex has had several contracts over the years and the ham radio side has done very well. Those concerns are very weak.
(Edited)
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Pat N6PAT

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I wasn't aware of that site. Thanks for the link
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M Murdock

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another troll
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Poster making volume claims has commited  classic case of "argumentum ad ignorantiam" (a type of a type of false dichotomy - or simply being stupid when you don't have all the facts) where they have presumed this third-party website captures all of FRS governmental type business activity, and presented their speculation as of it was factual to the community.

Shame on them.  Most people grown out of making this sort of mistake in logic.

That self-naming themselves after FRS parent company wouldn't be enough reason to label them a troll, offering up gross logical fallacies would cap it.

The website may capture "some" level of activity but certainly will not capture all levels.  It won't pierce non-public activity, all things classified, contracts as a sub-vendor or in consortium, or all purchases by individual government units or NGOs.

Bad conclusion draw from a limited data set.

(BTW if an agency issues you a maintenance contract to service your proprietary equipment, and yet you don't see the original purchase of that equipment listed, that should be a really big clue you aren't dealing from the full deck of information.)

73

Steve
K9ZW

Blog:  http://k9zw.wordpress.com 
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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We all know someone who like to talk about his conquests, I specifically speaking about how many woman he has bagged so to say. Where is the evidence? Sure he's been married 3 or 4 times so there is a few in his count there, but where is the evidence of the other hundred? I am just to believe this guy really has slept with 200, 400 woman? Where's the evidence?
I could not have picked a worse example to use as FRS has no similarity to "that guy",  but felt the tone above needs a bit of comic relief.
Getting back to the actual topic, geez CNN has a big website and there is tons of factual information that is NOT on their website, they choose to make public information that fits their agenda and omit the rest. I haven't a clue who GoTribe is or what the credentials or even if the poster is an investigative reporter. I bet you he just googled and cut and pasted the results found. I'm sure FRS could do a lot more bragging if they wish to do so, perhaps they are bound by NDAs themselves.
(Edited)
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Pat N6PAT

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"We all know someone who like to talk about his conquests, I specifically speaking about how many woman he has bagged so to say"

Women he has bagged? How incredibly insulting to all the women that participate in this forum. Talking about them like they're nothing more than a trophy.

You owe them all an apology for such a sexist remark.

I have 5 sisters and growing up with them I learned to treat women with the utmost respect.

(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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What he fails to understand is that in order to win a contract a lot of time must be spent preparing for your pitch, meeting after meetings, flying out of country or state, organizing. This can take a year or two before landing a contract.
It is silly thinking that Gerald just sits around waiting for  contract work to full into his hands and that the only thing he thinks of is ham radio.

And not to forget customer support for those contracts.

So yes indeed, even though Flex is busy with contract work they have been able to handle the ham market just fine history shows.
(Edited)
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Pat N6PAT

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Yes, there is a detailed process in order to do work for any government agency both federal and state.

I've done work for the state of Alaska for many years and had to go through the process of being deemed an approved vendor for the state before I could submit bids for contracts. 
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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Geez Pat, I guess you would have taken it that way. We all know people in our past that acted that way and still do. We all have mothers, daughters, sisters and my statement of course was not directed to insult them or any other woman. It was vulgar yes, but as comic relief for goodness sakes. Perhaps you should practice what you preach Pat and treat others with the respect they deserve.

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ka7gzr

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I wonder who the other competitor(s) are? I am sure Rockwell Collins is in the race. It would be interesting to see the requirements. The environment requirements will be a challenge for Flex. The Go will want COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) but will modify the requirements. Than the software development will need documentation that Flex doesn't have.
It looks like Raytheon is lead in the teaming arrangement. That's good - Raytheon has been through this process before.
This EMD phase (Engineering & Manufacturing Development) will be a challenge for Flex. Hopefully they will get a good team together and will be rewarded the production contract.
Jim
ka7gzr
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Thinking L3Harris is the other entity.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Blog:  http://k9zw.wordpress.com 
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Russ Ravella

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As I understand it, Flex as it stands actually has experience with government contracts already and it's CEO has extensive and successful experience from long before Flex.  I'll bet they'll do very well.  I sure hope so!

As someone who managed large technical contracts for Raytheon for years I would offer the following advice.  Raytheon is a huge company and some areas are far better than others.  I worked just a little with the business unit in Texas that must be the lead for this project and they are mostly very good (though there have been some scary management changes).  So hopefully, that won't be an issue.  But I would get the division of responsibilities and deliverables defined much more carefully than they usually are in the contracts or SOWs and do so as early as humanly possible right down to the dotted "i"'s and crossed "t"'s.  Then work the ICD to the bone.  And keep reviewing it with Raytheon regularly right up to delivery.  Also stay on top of their side of the interface as much as possible.  Assign someone to actually touch it with them personally very often.  I've assigned full time folks to live with sub's or primes when I can afford it because the interface can be the kiss of death if it gets confused. This is a pretty small contract so they probably can't afford that but they can assign someone to visit often to do it.  I think you can bet this CEO knows all of this and things will go very well - as long as the government doesn't change the requirements mid-stream.  Like they almost always do.  So, you have a really, really good contracts person write the impact of that in the contract right up front so you don't get stuck holding the bag. Primes ALWAYS blame subs if they can get away with it.  It's Newton's fourth law.  Hopefully Flex has great contracts people with government experience.  Man, I thought this was going to be a few sentences but I could go on and on.  Time to shut up...
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M Murdock

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Nice impression

I am new to the hobby and hoping to write the tests next week. 

I have been watching the forums here for some time trying to learn more about it as I wanted a Flex radio since it is clearly the better technology.

I just joined the group so I could comment, so this is my first post.

However, I am begging to wonder why I would even both to join such a group of whining idiots.   It seems that some of you only want to get on to attack people.

Not to worry, those that are confrontational like that, you'll get noticed.  Mostly as the village idiot.  

If the moderators of this group want to delete comments, more power to them.  In fact, I could care less if they do sweeping bans on those who feel it is their right to vent and be heard 1st Amendment be damned.  They are always welcome to start their own blog and vent away.   You are not contributing anything useful.

You know who you are.  Always screaming for attention.  You might want to invest in some professional help to see why you have these issues and can't fit into society.

Good luck to you.

And, to Flex, thanks for the detailed reply.   Best of luck in this project.  It will be very interesting to watch.  Hopefully we will meet some time.

M
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Dan Quigley N7HQ, 4O7HQ, Service/Support Manager

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I want to underscore what Steve mentioned in his excellent post. 

I  joined FlexRadio in May when I was in Seattle; I've been in Austin now for seven weeks working alongside the great folks here. I'm in a good position to offer some observations about the culture here.  And I can say without favor; Ham Radio is deeply engrained in our culture, in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  Here are a few examples:

95% of Flex employees have their ham ticket. Leadership encourages and supports every person, who expresses an interest, to study for exams and get on the air.  Just a few weeks ago two of our new hire engineers received their call signs after passing exams held at an Austin hamfest. There is also a competitive, but friendly, undercurrent amongst managers who have employees that haven't taken their exam.  

The hiring process is geared to find, interview, and hire outstanding people.  Two of the must-have traits are curiosity and humility, which are abundant in most Hams.  Well,  perhaps humility takes a second-seat during the times they talk about their stations.  I like to think that we hire people who would probably become hams anyway.

A good litmus of corporate culture is the conversations that happen around the 'water-cooler.'  Like most companies these days, FlexRadio employees are geographically dispersed, so those conversations are sometimes virtual.  During the five months I've been here, the chat tool we use internally, routinely shows pictures of employee shack upgrades, customer shacks or even QSOs using FT8, and meteor-scatter contact maps.  As a new-hire and a ham, I can't tell you enough about the wow factor feeling you get when someone responds to your email with an RRR.  

No, there is no danger of an amateur radio exodus at FlexRadio Systems. It is part of our DNA. These are not the droids you are looking for. 

TNX es 73 .

Dan Quigley, N7HQ
Director, Amateur Products
FlexRadio Systems

 
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KC2QMA_John

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You would think a $33 Million dollar contract would be a good thing but you wouldn't know it by looking at this thread.

I think its great for an American company like flex to get a U.S gov contract. You folks know that Raytheon is seriously High Tech!!!!! 

Usually Military tech contracts mean accelerated R&D of witch will make its way into our Flexradio’s at some point.

Congratulations to FlexRadio!

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