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.
Be glad that Amateur radio is not their only source of income. Otherwise, they may not exist.
Looking forward to great support, faster implementation of new hardware and software and of course, and perhaps lower prices.
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.
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.
* 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
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.
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...
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
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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