About Kenneth Plante
Kenneth Plante was born in New York City in 1935. Interested from
childhood in technology and science, he attended Brooklyn Polytechnic
Institute in electrical engineering. After graduating, Plante began
working at Westinghouse Baltimore as an assistant engineer in the
Bomber Defense Group on tail turret radar systems.
Plante later became engineering manager for the Electronic Warfare
Division (EW) in the 1980s. In 1993 he was chief engineer for EW,
his final position at Westinghouse. Over his career, Plante worked
on many important projects such as the B70, ULCER, Pod programs,
RWRs and ALQ-165. Plante officially retired from Westinghouse in
1994, although he stayed on as a part-time consultant for an additional
In this interview, Plante discusses his long career and the various
projects he worked on. He found entering electrical engineering
during the 1950s highly interesting because of the many technological
changes taking place at the time, including the introduction of transistors.
Plante also talks about his involvement in countermeasures contracts,
and his work with customers, including the military. Projects such
as the ALQ-165 are discussed at length, the ALQ-165 posing challenges
because of the multiple airplanes the model had to fit into, and
working as a team with a competing firm, ITT. Plante’s transition
to supervisor and manager are also covered, as well as his decision
to take a staff position when he became chief engineer. The atmosphere
at Westinghouse Baltimore in the 1950s and 60s is also talked about,
along with Plante’s impressions of the evolution of both
his career and Westinghouse Baltimore.
About the Interview
KENNETH PLANTE: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser,
IEEE History Center, 13 April 2010
Interview #537 for the National Electronics Museum and IEEE History
Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Kenneth Plante, an oral history conducted in 2010 by Sheldon Hochheiser,
IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA at the National Electronics
Museum, Linthicum, MD, USA
Interview: Kenneth Plante
Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser
Date: 13 April 2010
Location: The National Electronics Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
Background and Education
This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History Center, it’s
the 13th of April, 2010. I’m here at the National Electronics
Museum in Baltimore with Ken Plante. Good afternoon.
If we could start with a little bit of background. Where and when
were you born?
I was born August 29th, 1935, in New York City. And I grew up
there and went to grammar school, high school, and college. And
then I escaped to Baltimore.
Just a little bit more on that - what did your parents do?
Well my father and his brother owned a delicatessen in Long Island
City, and so that was how they made their living. My mother, before
she was married, was a registered nurse, but she didn’t continue
in the nursing business, she was raising her family. So she was
a stay at home mom.
Were you interested in technology and science growing up?
Yes I was. Probably the thing that stimulated not only me but
a lot of other young men and women - I grew up and experienced
World War II.
I developed an interest in following what was going on in the
newspaper, the various campaigns, and how they did things and whatnot.
I had an uncle who was a radio operator
on an aircraft carrier, and so I began to get interested in the
technology that was involved in this. And of course, when the atom
bomb was dropped, that developed a wider span of interest in
the sciences. Everybody wanted to be a nuclear physicist at that
point. We weren’t quite sure what it was, but it was the
new branch of the sciences. And I went through several changes
of mind as to where in the sciences I wanted to go, and when I
finally headed to college I registered in a course in electrical
engineering, so that’s probably the real start of my engineering
And what led you to Brooklyn Poly?
Well at that time if you wanted to study engineering, there were
only about two or three colleges in the New York City area that
offered engineering as a program. And I applied to Manhattan College
but they were already filled up at the time I applied, and then
my advisor in high school advised me to go down and talk to Brooklyn
Poly, and I did that. The next thing I knew I was registered. It
was at that time, and it still is, a very fine engineering school.
Yes it is.
And had an excellent curriculum and I came away, I think, with
the right tools in my toolbox when I finished.
What was the curriculum in electrical engineering like there,
when you were a student?
Well, they had two majors in electrical engineering. One was a
power major that focused on rotating machine and transformers and
power generation. This equipped you to work for electric utilities
or companies manufacturing equipment for the utilities. And the
other one was called communications and electronics, where you
took a few basic courses in rotating machinery and transformers
and that kind of thing, but primarily the coursework was in electronic
circuit analysis and electromagnetic fields. At that time the common
technology was vacuum
Although, they were introducing circuit analysis of transistor circuits
at that time. So when I graduated I was probably among one of the
first few classes that ever saw a transistor. So in that respect
it was a wonderful time to start. I started in the solid state
electronics era in the mid-1950s that is still going on. This was
a time of accelerated technology development and discoveries. The
kind of work that I did when I first started, after graduation,
compared to where I was even in the middle of my career was radically
different because the technology had changed so much. It was a
very interesting time to be in the electrical engineering business.
to Westinghouse, Bomber Defense Group
What led you to Westinghouse rather than some other opportunity,
some other company, when you were finishing up your college?
Well I talked to several companies prior to graduation, and I
had a very good friend of mine who two years before had graduated
and he had gone to work for Westinghouse, and he was located here
And so he said, “why don’t you come on down and I’ll
get you an interview, and see what they have to offer you.” In
the end that was the job I selected because, to me at least, [they]
offered the broadest range of opportunities and different technologies
in electrical engineering here at Westinghouse.
Did you start directly at Baltimore, or did you spend any time
No, I started directly at Baltimore.
What was your first assignment?
Initially I was assigned to a group called the Bomber Defense
Group and it was responsible for developing defensive electronics
for bombers. And in particular I was working on a program that
was building what we referred to as tail turret systems. The aft-mounted, radar controlled
guns were intended to be installed [on] Navy bomber and patrol
aircraft. More than 100 systems were installed in the Navy A3D.
The ill-fated P6M, which was a jet-powered flying boat, was another
candidate but only two or three of these were built. After two
of these crashed during [the] flight test of these prototypes the
program was cancelled. There were a couple of other candidate platforms.
I was working on the computer for that system, which was an analog
computer as opposed to today’s digital computers. This interested
me because I had taken courses in my undergraduate career in servo-mechanisms
and analog computing, so it filled out my knowledge in that area
as I got started.
Who did you report to?
I reported to a fellow by the name of Joe Legin who went on to
become kind of a legend in Westinghouse, Baltimore. George Towner
was the department manager at the time. They were the folks that
I reported to.
Did you start out as an assistant engineer?
Which is I guess the standard entry level.
Yes, standard entry level position, and you worked your way up
When were you promoted to simply engineer?
Well there were two grades - there was assistant engineer and
associate engineer, which was the first grade where you were an
exempt employee, and then there were a couple of grades of senior
engineer, and it went on from there.
Right, and you gradually work your way up.
Yes, but I guess the most significant step along the way was when
I was promoted to a supervisor engineer.
We’ll get to that. Okay so you’re working, your initial
assignments were on several tail turret radars.
Yes. And the analog computer portion of it.
About how long were you working on those?
About two or two and a half years. I got involved in flight test
programs which employed Navy P2-V aircraft. We flew here locally
over Chesapeake Bay, and then later on the aircraft were delivered
to the Navy down at Patuxent Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s
County. I went down there several times to participate in flight
tests. But then it was interesting, we were delivering tail turret
systems towards the end of that program while they were taking
them out of the airplanes that they already had them in, and they
were putting counter measure systems in. They were converting a
number of the A3Ds to jammer airplanes if you will. Fairly primitive
technology at that time.
But I guess it was state of the art for that day.
Right, and the thing that was driving that was again the technology
changes; up until that point the primary threat to the bombers
were interceptor fighters of various sorts. And prior to that point
they were principally armed with machine guns, 50 caliber or 20
millimeter automatic weapons. But then they began to add to their
armament mix missiles. Now the early ones were unguided missiles,
they were 2.275 rockets and missiles of that sort, but the design
of the tail turret systems and the guns that they employed were
such that their effective range reached out to about 2,000 yards.
Well, particularly with the rockets the interceptors could stand
off outside of gun range and shoot at them, so they had to do something
to deal with that. And that led to the eventual gradual removal
of the tail turret, or the tail gunnery, capability on a number
of the bomber aircrafts.
So then I guess that if the tail turret radar is becoming technologically
obsolete, you’re going to need a new assignment.
That’s right, so it turned out that about that time, I guess
it was around late-1958 to early-1959, North American Aircraft
had been awarded a contract to develop the B70 which was a super
duper bomber for that period. They conducted a competition to provide
a countermeasure system for the B70, and I was part of a group
of people that was working the proposal effort for that. It seemed
to go on forever because - we used to kid about it - they put out
the request for [a] proposal, containing a specification, supporting
documentation, etc. We generated a response and then at least weekly
and sometimes more frequently than that, we were getting telegrams
and teletypes back from North American with questions that they
wanted answered about our proposal. You never knew when these things
were coming in so you’d be doing something and all of a sudden, “Oh,
stop everything, we’ve got a bunch of questions and they’ve
got to be in by Tuesday.” That went on for months, and the
questions got longer and longer, but then the basic bomber program
experienced some difficulties and I think it was funding. I would
characterize the B70 program as one that tried to advance the state
of the art much faster than it was going to move. There were a
lot of long technical reaches involved in the requirements for
that program. Eventually they awarded a contract to us, and then
not too long after, a matter of a few months, we got a stop work
order. Not because of anything that we did or didn’t do,
but the whole program had difficulties and they said, “let’s
stop, we’ve got to regroup and figure out where we are and
where we’re going to go.” Then they turned us back
on again, and then during a fly-over one day, one of the prototypes
- they only built two prototypes - one of the two prototypes crashed.
One of the accompanying aircrafts collided with it, and it went
down so they only had one airplane left. The Congress finally decided
this is much too expensive and they’re not going to put up
with this anymore and terminated it, which ended it all. So we,
at that point, had to go find other homes for all of the people
who were working on that program.
About how many people were working on that here?
I don’t know exactly but it was a hundred or so.
That was a big project involving a substantial group of people
and new homes have to be found.
Attempting to do the impossible.
But anyway, that killed the B70 but what it did for us was that
in the portion of the time we were on the contract, the Air Force
commissioned us to go out to all of the different vendors of countermeasure
capabilities around the country and find out what they had to offer
to potentially incorporate it into this system. So as a result
of that we got a very valuable tutorial period to train people
as to what was this countermeasures business all about. It was
more than just chaff dumped out a window some place.
We started pursuing other countermeasures efforts. Primarily at
that time the only thing that was available, the B52 system, already
had a contract with I guess it was Hallicrafters at the time for
the equipment to go on the B52. There were one or two other efforts
that were already off and running. What we pursued was primarily
small development programs out of the avionics lab at Wright Field
and some small programs out of the Navy. We had a couple of small
contracts prior to the B70, one of which was with the Navy for
a countermeasures pod for dispensing chaff, flares and decoys.
We also had a passive interceptive tracking system, which was kind
of an early version of a warning receiver, so we weren’t
totally without some credits in that field. So for a couple of
years we were chasing contracts that would run typically about
50,000 to 100,000 dollars and we’d keep two and a half people
busy for a year. It was how we acquired our education really. It
was to start with those small things and work our way up.
So is this what you were doing after the B70 was cancelled?
After the B70, yes.
You were out chasing those small contracts?
Right. And periodically we would catch one.
This sounds almost like sales work then.
Well it was. We were out there, the technical guys were supporting
the marketing guys. We went out as a team, so yes it was. There
was a lot of sales work involved in it, and so many interesting
experiences out of that. One of the fellows had won a contract
from Wright Field and I forget what it was. After the contract
had been awarded, they went out for a kick-off meeting to sit down
with the customer to make sure we were in agreement as to what
the task was and so on. They went all the way through that, and
at the end of it they concluded, yes, that covers everything and
they are about to wrap up and head back home, and one of the Air
Force fellows says to him, “yeah, but Joe Legin promised
me…” and then we had an unfunded task in our lap.
But it was challenging and it was a lot of fun.
And how long did this go on?
A couple of years, well it went on longer than that because it
became a part of the whole business. You had to keep working the
technology to keep the pipeline filled up because there weren’t
that many production programs around, and you had to earn your
way into those.
So you were doing this sort of thing for a couple of years?
Oh yes, but there was a bit of a detour. In 1959 I was ‘temporarily’ assigned
to the ULCER program. The Westinghouse Marine Division in Sunnyvale,
California was involved in the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine
program. They were responsible for the missile launching system.
Electric Boat Corp in New London, Connecticut was the prime contractor.
There was a concern that if a launch was ordered under high sea
state conditions the surface waves might cause the missile to tip
beyond the recovery angle limit as it passed through the air/water
interface. A couple of approaches were considered. The one selected
was the Underwater Launch Condition EvaluatoR otherwise known as
ULCER. This system employed an array of high frequency sonar transducers
aimed upward along the deck of the submarine. In addition to these
it had an array of water velocity meters to measure water flow
at the mouths of the launch tubes. The system was installed in
the missile launch control compartment. The displays showed the
operator the water velocity in the launch tube areas as well as
wave profile above the launch tube area. This allowed the operator
to select the optimum launch condition. Initially my responsibility
was the design of the transmitter and the receiver. Later I was
sent to support the initial test cruises conducted by Electric
Boat off New England. I sailed on the George Washington, SSBN-598
and the Patrick Henry, SSBN-599 the first two Polaris missile subs
in the U.S. Navy. During these cruises lasting several days each
and virtually all of the systems on each boat were exercised. The
launch tubes were exercised using instrumented dummy missiles containing
water ballast to simulate the weight of a real missile. When these
were fired they dumped their water load and floated on the surface
and were picked [up] by support boats. For some shots they fired
water slugs from the launch tubes. After the first two boats the
field engineers took over the test support. My last contacts with
the submarines included a cruise on the Patrick Henry out of Port
Canaveral in Florida and a visit to the George Washington in New
London on the occasion of its return from its first ‘War
Patrol.’ The Patrick Henry adventure in Florida was the final
element in its qualification which involved the submerged launch
of two live missiles, without warheads of course.
After this “temporary” assignment which lasted about
a year and a half, I returned to Electronic Warfare Programs. About
this time we started getting some larger, very significant programs.
The Air Force recognized that in the tactical aircraft they had
made provisions for installing a radar and some radios and some
navigation gear, and one or two other things, and that kind of
filled up the airplane. So now when this countermeasures stuff
came along and they decided that they might need some of that one
day, there was no room in the airplane. So they started looking
at alternative approaches, and one of those was to hang pods from
the bomb racks on the wings. We won a contract out of Wright Field
for what was then known as I think the modular ECM pod. It was
a ten inch diameter cylinder with a nose cone and a tail cone,
a ram air turbine generator, and a structure inside of it that
provided cooling. That was interesting because we had no conditioned
air, we were stuck with ram air. So some of our clever mechanical
engineers came up with a cooling approach in which you had - imagine
a slab that ran a length of the pod, and it could slide in and
out and you mounted the electronics on either side of the slab.
This slab was hollow, and it had water in it, and the way that
we dumped the heat was let the water boil. The electronics would
dump the heat into that, quote, ‘heat sink’ and you
could carry enough water to match the mission time. Later on we
got a little bit smarter about that kind of thing, and I’ll
talk about that later, that’s the ALQ131. We wound up being
the guys who had developed a standard structure, so from there
on even for little develop programs we could offer something to
them that they could put on the airplane they intended to defend,
not some big airplane that you could walk around in. We could put
the product there and fly it as they intended to fly it, so it
gives a competitive edge in that regard. Now, there are other pod
programs in both the Air Force and the Navy, but this quickly became
the Air Force standard for its structure. And the other thing that
we got involved in was using that pod structure. We had a development
program that pre-dated the B70 again, or a series of those for
ECM against Pulse Doppler radars. Now at that time there were no
Pulse Doppler radars deployed anywhere. The only ones that existed
were the ones in this country that Westinghouse had built which
were prototypes and experimental models. But the Air Force wanted
to have a concurrent development for countermeasures against this
kind of technology. We had some early programs for things called
Pulse Doppler repeaters. We put one of those, or something like
that, in a pod which became later on the QRC249 which was a repeater
jammer, a coherent repeater jammer, which was a very different
animal than all of the other ECM transmitters up to that point.
The ECM transmitters up until then, for example in the B52, were
predominantly noise jammers, and they weren’t very smart.
They were barrage jammers or maybe swept spot jammers. And the
Navy had a few pulse repeaters but they weren’t coherent,
so this was kind of a unique animal. It was interesting, the Air
Force liked the idea, and in fact, we added noise jamming capability
using the same transmitter as we went down the road, They were
very interested in the pod structure, that repeater capability
and so on. There were a few guys over in Navy Air who had countermeasure
programs with these non-coherent repeaters, and they didn’t
want to hear about coherent jamming. They thought that was the
worst thing in the world you could do. And secondly, they didn’t
want to hear about pods because they felt that they’d be
rolling around on the deck of the aircraft carrier, which was kind
of odd since they don’t worry about the bombs rolling around.
[Laughter] Same shape, and they fit [in] the same rack.
Primarily the business that we’d get was the Air Force business
and we kept trying to get into the Navy but it was a long time
before we did that. There were a whole series of these pod programs
that involved developments of pods with varying capabilities, increasing
frequency coverage, higher power, and so on, and as a matter of
fact I brought a picture with me. That kind of summarizes some
of those early pods. I wasn’t full time involved in the pod
developments, I was working primarily on the receiver side of things,
but I did participate in all those proposal efforts and in a lot
of the selling efforts, so it wasn’t totally unknown to me
by any means. Let me see. Yes here it is. Now these are the early
pods, and they started down at the bottom with the, well these
were the ones that eventually got into production and QRC 335,
ALQ 101s and on up to the ALQ 119. We built several hundred. I
probably could go look it up, but we built a whole lot of these.
And there’s another family beyond, that’s the ALQ 131,
which is still flying as a matter of fact. It’s been through
various updates and improvements. But that was the active countermeasures
side of things. On the passive side, we built some special purpose
receivers for a variety of applications.
So were these the receivers you said a minute ago you were spending
most of your time with?
Yes, most of my time. In fact ultimately I was responsible for
that side of the product line.
But this was the break out, if you would, of the pod business.
During the Vietnam War we were shipping those things as fast as
we can run them out the door. I mean we were building, delivering
them almost daily. It was really going.
RWRs, Project THALO
Can you tell me something more about the receiver end of things?
Yes, well we did a lot. The primary receiver business that both
services, Air Force and Navy, employed was the so-called radar
warning receivers, or RWRs. Early on there were a bunch of people
who were building those, including ourselves, but when this business
started to boom, the pod business, then we focused primarily on
the smaller parts of the receiver world because we were looking
forward to - and the customers were looking forward to - incorporating
receivers into these kinds of transmitters to make them smarter
so that they would respond with the right thing at the right time.
That was where our vector was pointed, but we did make some receivers.
For example there was a program called a QRC 402 in which we incorporated
a receiver in the F4 series of aircraft. By the way, we were building
the radar for that airplane at the time, so we were very familiar
with it. What we did was to try to demonstrate a capability to
integrate a receiver [that] would track outside the radar band,
and accurately locate air-to-ground threats on the ground so they
could accurately deliver smart bombs on it because at that time
the typical warning receiver gave you a rough idea of where the
thing was, it was over in that quadrant somewhere. And that wasn’t
very good for delivering any kind of munitions on the target.
We had a development program to do that and we built several versions
of that warning receiver, the Air Force elected in the end not
to equip all of the aircraft with that kind of capability. We also
built some functionally similar receivers for the Navy to supplement
the defensive systems they had for missiles targeted at ships,
the low flyers. We built a couple of sample receivers for cueing
the radar that pointed the guns onto those signals so that they
could accurately track it. There was one other case where we had
a special purpose warning receiver that we built, it was - I think
I mentioned it - Project THALO.
Right, and that was?
That was a special purpose warning receiver for an airplane that
didn’t exist at the time, at least that was the cover story,
but ultimately became the SR71. In fact, Westinghouse built some
other sensors for their aircraft that I can’t talk about.
We built about ten of those, which for the fleet that they had
at that time pretty well armed them all. Later on those were replaced
by more sophisticated receivers because initially they were only
concerned about missile systems like the one that shot down Gary
Powers in the U2. They had other sensors for collecting intelligence
on the broader range of radar systems, but there were only one
or two threats that could reach that thing when it was flying at
altitude. So those were examples of some of the things that we
were doing. In the early 1970s the concept of integrated ECM systems
with receiver processors for identifying the threats and controlling
the responses and so on became more and more of a hard requirement.
In the end the Navy and the Air Force and the Marine Corp and the
Army actually got together for a while and sponsored a program
called - well initially it was a bunch of development programs
so it masqueraded under the names of light weight, low cost, design
to cost, and so on. But those were development programs that developed
some critical capabilities that they wanted incorporated in this
next generation system, and that was a system beyond the ALQ131.
I don’t think I have a picture with me of that. Let me pause
for just a moment just to keep the chronology running in the right
Right. I know you’ve jumped over a number of things, but
as long as we go back and catch them.
Peanut Pod, Arc 63
Yes, one of the things that I jumped over was the QRC272 or the
Right, and is this the point when you become a supervisor?
Yes, I think so, that was probably about that time. It might have
been a little earlier. The Peanut Pod was an interesting concept;
let me show you a picture of it. I’ll tell you the last couple
of days I’ve been rummaging through some files I haven’t
been in in 15 years or more.
Yes, but I’m asking you to probably talk about things you
haven’t given much thought to in a long time.
Right. [Holding up a picture] That’s a good picture of it
right there. Okay, it’s that ten inch diameter circular pod
structure, and it has this big long nose that sticks out, and this
side of the nose is flat, and basically what it is is a side looking
passive radar if you would. It’s looking out to the side,
and intercepting signals and trying to determine the angle of those
signals. It had in it a modulator that would allow it to modulate
the onboard aircraft radio and in real time transmit the intercepts
back to the ground. We were the prime contractor. Clifton was doing
some - we needed some information on pitch and roll and whatnot,
the aircraft dynamics, they did that part of it, Hughes built a
modulator for the aircraft radio. For a while we had Melpar down
in Falls Church, Virginia as a subcontractor for the primary receiver
on this thing. Later on we had to terminate that contract and do
it ourselves because they weren’t getting anywhere. The concept
was this would fly along parallel to the front or whatever the
separating boundary was, and look across the air and determine
the radar order of battle and the location of those radars on the
enemy side. It was a very challenging thing to do because, as you
can see, this thing is sitting underneath the wing of the aircraft,
and what you get when you do that is you get a lot of reflection
off this wing. Needless to say, its accuracy never really achieved
what we thought we needed. Eventually it went through flight tests
but the Air Force decided that they’re going to have to find
another way to do this. And ultimately they did two things - the
next version of this kind of a machine was installed internally
in the aircraft, above the wing. And it used a phase comparison
approach as opposed to an amplitude comparison, which was what
That’s the F4. Here’s another shot. [Holds up picture]
We built two of those, but that was as far as that particular
program went. Just to fill in the background, there were a couple
of other programs that we did for the Air Force out of Wright Field
in the countermeasures area. The Arc 63 was the first example of
spread spectrum communications in the Air Force inventory. They
were going to spread spectrum transmission for communications to
make them less detectible. They let a couple of development contracts,
several of which we got, to pursue techniques for A) detecting
these noise like signals that were literally down in the noise,
and B) to develop some techniques for describing the parameters.
The typical radio of that type employed phase shift keying with
a bit stream that was a pseudo-random sequence. Then you would
transmit that signal, and the receiving station would use the same
sequence to collapse to spectrum and read the information in it.
So, things such as the clock rate of that bit stream w[ere] important
for exploiting the signal, and determining exactly what kind of
modulation they were using and so on. We did those kinds of things.
As I recall it, at that time in the services there was a kind of
a debate going on, if you would, about whether or not they really
ought to jam communication signals at all. Because the good guys
and bad guys were using the same frequency bands - how do I make
sure I’m not stepping on my own traffic, and so on. They
never really took it that far. The Army did a lot more in that
area. The Air Force seemed to have decided not to fool with that
stuff, at least as far as I could tell. And of course, as far as
intercepting our signals and describing them, the guys down the
road at Fort Meade were very interested in that. And they pursued
that on a pretty much in-house basis at that time. But they were
interesting programs, and a lot of fun.
in the 50s and 60s, Becoming Supervisor
What in general was Westinghouse here in Baltimore like as a place
to work in the ’50s and ‘60s?
Oh it was great, it was great. The corporate culture was wonderful.
As far as I’m concerned I would characterize the corporation
as one with a lot of ethics, a lot of concern for the people that
work for them, very interested in developing the technology, and
very different than it became in the mid ‘90s where, effectively,
they sold everything out and had jumped into the media business.
But right here in Baltimore we had clustered probably 80 or 90%
of the technology work in the corporation, and we were always pressing
forward. We had our own - and it’s still here - solid state
laboratory for building integrated
circuits and for the solid state microwave kind of stuff going
on. From a technology standpoint it was right up there. And I think
that they treated the employees very fairly, so as far as I was
concerned it was a great place to work.
How did you find the transition to being a supervisor and having
people report to you?
I liked it. [Laughter] No, I enjoyed it, and I guess the thing
I enjoyed most of all is that the guys that I was working with
were a bunch of smart guys, and if you sat down and laid out the
problem, they’d go off and find a way to do it - they would
cooperate with each other. It wasn’t a big competition going
on, so it was very enjoyable.
Did you find that you were spending much of your time in the second
half of the ‘60s doing supervisory work more than actually
doing the engineering yourself?
Well I was doing less of the engineering myself, but I was still
responsible for reviewing their work, and I was deeply involved
in the technical problem, and it remained that way pretty much
throughout my career. I had later on increasing administrative
responsibilities but I still had my fingers in the technical pie
if you will.
Are we up to the QRC402 in the late 1960s?
Yes, the QRC402. We’re in the late ‘60s and we built
a couple of those systems. I think I’ve got a picture of
the receiver here someplace. It fit in a modular package that hooked
right onto the radar package, and it allowed it to get our RF pipes
into the receiver chain of the radar and so on. Also, as a part
of that effort, we had put a digital computer in the aircraft that
provided some very major advances in being able to drop bombs accurately.
So is this replacing an analog computer at this point?
No, no, no - this was in addition to.
Oh, so this was not replacing an older component, this was a new
No, a new component.
That’s what I was asking.
Yes. It involved a very accurate bombing system. Ultimately it
went through flight tests, and the flight test was not handled
very well by the Air Force. The other thing probably that was a
negative was that they were in the process of going through the
last of the F4 models, this one was a - D, and I think they went
up to the E and the only one beyond that was a Navy F4 version
and that one was a little later. So the Air Force was looking at
replacing these airplanes, and I think from an economic standpoint
it wasn’t considered all that great. So it got through development
and stopped there, but it was an example of another special purpose
receiver that was integrated.
Right. One of a whole series that you were involved with in this
period of time.
Yes. As I began to say, at that point the services got together
and came out with these small development programs. Through these
programs they had us build some demonstration models for some of
these key capabilities that they wanted. They eventually came out
with the specification that was very complete in terms of the required
capabilities and performance. The program was known as the Advanced
Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), later known as the ALQ-165. Without
that roughly two years of focused development effort it could never
have been achieved. It required a whole new approach to the system
development and design. The other challenge in that program was
that the same set of hardware had to fit about a half a dozen different
airplanes, all of which had different cooling systems, different
hole shapes, etcetera. Originally they were looking at one of the
Army’s fixed wing aircraft, a twin Beach, this airplane was
primarily a surveillance aircraft. The Navy had the F14, the F18,
the EA-6B, while the Marines had Harrier and the V-22. The Air
Force candidate was F16 that they wanted. So the first challenge
was [to] find some set of boxes that you could configure to fit
all of these different slots, and that was a challenge. It was
highly modular system. The basic system, as it was known, consisted
of five boxes - there was a high band, a low band transmitter,
a high band and a low band receiver, and a processor. But for the
F14, which was a bigger airplane than the F18, for example, and
also had a bigger radar cross section, we had what was known as
a common system, which added an additional high band transmitter
aft that was driven by the forward system, so it had six boxes.
And we had to develop the racks for each one of these to hold it.
The cooling ranged from a relatively small amount of conditioned
air on one platform up to systems that were fully ram air cooled,
as well as hybrids of cooled and ram air. And of course, those
that had conditioned air, the conditioned airflow and inlet temperature
was different on each platform, so there were some very, very challenging
thermodynamic problems involved in doing that. The other thing
that was a critical requirement was they wanted a highly reliable
system with MTBF’s well in excess of 100 hours, which at
that time was unheard of. Consider that we had nasty things like
high powered microwave transmitters in it, high powered travelling
wave tubes, which up to that point weren’t the best things
in the world from an MTBF standpoint. And then this great collection
of electronics including digital assemblies employing state of
the art high density gate arrays as well as a completely new approach
to solid state integrated microwave plug-in assemblies. We did
a couple of things. Number one, we said, “well let’s
start with the MTBF requirement, how are we going to get that to
work?” One of the things that we were required to do was
to build a set of thermal mock-ups of the system to verify that
we could cool the system. What that allowed us to do was to get
temperatures in various parts of the different boxes. The next
thing we did is we built a computer model that would allow us to
do the MTBF predictions, and crank into that prediction the actual
component temperature as opposed to an average temperature for
the whole box, or for the whole system, which, up until then, was
a typical approach. So we had a prediction that was tailored to
the exact heat distribution in the system. The third thing that
we did was that we looked at the system and with an eye towards
shortening the heat path between where the heat was generated and
whatever the cooling stream was.
[Holding up a picture] Here is the common system. Those are the
boxes that made it up, so there’s two extra WRA’s or
LRU’s, there’s an augmentation transmitter and an augmentation
receiver, and then the boxes here for the forward system, and this
high band transmitter is the same as the forward high band transmitter.
And you could also support this one, an extra one of these in the
back. It was highly modular. Here’s a transmitter disassembled,
and a high voltage power supply, the low voltage power supply and
the travelling wave tubes went in this compartment. This unit was
split apart so you had a high voltage power supply on one side,
and the TWTs and the other portions of it on that side. This is
the processor, which included the low voltage power supply; it
provided all of the DC for the low level circuits. Then here is
a processor - actually there’s two computers in there, one
which dealt with the system control, so it had the jamming programs,
and the other was the one that dealt with the receiver that intercepted
and recognized the various signals that we wanted to respond to,
and also generated time markers and frequency markers for when
and where in the spectrum the response should happen. And then
let’s see if I got one of the typical board. Yes, I see it,
here’s one. [Holding up another picture] We went to gate
array technology and hybrid technology to get the packaging density
that we needed.
Now, when you say we went to - is this a later development?
No, this is part of this development.
There had been some hybrid circuits used prior to this, but not
on the scale that we did it here, and you can see them here. This
was new technology in general gate arrays. We modularized the RF
components. This is one of the receivers, and one of the first
ones we put together we used conventional wiring in. And then we
went to a first level of printed wiring, but the critical thing
was how do we deal with all of the RF interconnections that had
to be made, and there were a multitude of them. So, you can see
the final version here with the rigid cable, going to these plug-in
units. Another novelty in this system was, and let me find one… [Selects
another picture] This is a typical digital package, There are two
cards that make up this package that are back to back, and then
there’s fin stock in between, so in effect, it has a plenum
in it, and we would flow the air through that plenum and there
were fins that stuck out into the air stream. The distance between
the junctions in that chip and the airstream is a quarter of an
inch at the most. That allowed us to get the minimum temperature
drop between airstream and the components to be cooled. You see
these things here are blind mating plug-in RF connectors. Up until
now typically if you had an RF cable then you had it connected
to something, you need a little wrench to hook it up. This would
allow this unit to slide in just like a circuit card and plug into
the back plane and make all of the RF connections at the same time.
That was a major step in applying the technology. All of these
things plus a rigorous failure analysis program, and corrective
action program, allowed us to demonstrate the required MTBF for
this system, which was unheard of in that day. The other thing
too is that by modularizing the system the way we did, you had
a system where everything was readily accessible and the mean time
to repair was almost nothing. These advances in reliability and
modular design made the system maintainability and support cost
dramatically better than any other system in the inventory.
Yes, if you’ve got pullout boards like that, that’s
a lot quicker.
Well yes. And if you’re careful about how you partition
this stuff, each board hopefully contains one or two or three functions,
rather than having them spread out over four or five different
boards. So features were the things that we did in order to satisfy
those system requirements. The thing is that the shape and the
total volume (2.3 cubic feet) of the basic system had been defined
by the predecessor system, the ALQ-126 by Sanders. That was the
space we had to fit into. The ALQ-126 didn’t cover as much
frequency range, nor did it have the power output, and it didn’t
have the technique suite that this provided. So this was a major,
ITT, Operational Tests
Then I assume this went into production?
Yes. There’s at least one very novel aspect of this program,
and that is that the services, and the Navy in particular, w[ere]
concerned because every time they would develop a system like this,
or a radar system, they’d select a contractor - he’d
build a system, he’d produce a system, and nobody else could
make it. They wanted competition in the production phase, so they
insisted in our original proposal that we form a joint venture
with another company equally capable of producing it. And in our
case that was ITT.
And [for] the competing team, they went through a couple selections,
but there were three proposals originally, then they got it down
to two. The other team was Sanders and Northrop. Finally Westinghouse/ITT
became the winning team.
Was this joint venture for the development or just for the production?
Then were all of these things you just were going through developed
by a joint team from Westinghouse and ITT?
Yes, yes. You talk about supervising people - when I told my engineers
to prepare for the first time we got together with the ITT engineers,
on a technical exchange, they were shocked. I said, “now
here’s what I want you to do, I want you to talk about all
of the development efforts we conducted in preparation for this
program.” And they look at me and they say, “we’re
going to tell them about that? That’s our best stuff!” They
were concerned about revealing our proprietary data and trade secrets.
The mantra on the program became, “you’ve got[to]
remember this is a joint venture.” I wound up being the joint
venture engineering manager, so I used to have to tell that to
both sides as we went along. But we managed to do it, and it was
Where was ITT located?
It was up in Nutley, New Jersey.
Okay, so I imagine there was an awful lot of back and forth between
Baltimore and Nutley.
Oh yes, even before the contract was awarded because we were producing
the proposal. We had a charter airplane that we’d take up
there, we’d go up a couple of days a week, and they’d
come down here a couple of days a week, and switch back and forth.
That went on for months. I got really tired of flying in little
puddle jumper airplanes. [Laughter]
I bet, I bet.
Eventually we went through a step where we built some prototype
systems and production design systems, and then finally the final
configuration until they were done. The system went to operational
test eventually out at China Lake.
Let me see if I have it here. Well the test program overall started
in ’84 but it lasted a lot longer than that. The final operational
test was probably ’90 - you know I’d have to look it
Well that’s okay and you can always fill it back in later.
So this is quite a long process, you’re starting this back
in the ‘70s.
Yes, the first whispers were in the ‘70s, and the final
system - now, needless to say, we didn’t finish this program
on schedule, not the original schedule, which was extremely optimistic.
So we went through some extensions on the program in order to allow
us to get everything done. The early part of the program was a
very expensive part for the contractors involved because in effect
we were under a fixed price situation.
Ah, and as it proved to be a big and more complex problem -
It got more expensive.
Yes, and since it was a fixed price there was no more money coming
Right, it started out as a cost incentive program, but that didn’t
last long They finally capped it. But as far as this was concerned
it went to operational tests.
This is in ’84.
Well, yes that was not OT, that was the first flight test out
of China Lake.
I’m sorry, I skipped a couple steps.
Yes, but eventually we got to operational test, and the DOD people
for OT&E were cleaning house and changing the way they did
business. The requirements that the Navy had laid down at the beginning
of the program, against which the equipment in the program would
be evaluated, some of them were fine, we didn’t have any
problem with meeting those. But the performance requirement against
the threat they didn’t know how to express it, and so basically
they said, “alright you’ve got to improve the effectiveness
against threat by X%.” The no ECM condition versus the ECM
condition. That muddied that whole operational test environment.
In addition to which, at that point there were competing viewpoints
as to what their requirements were. To make a long story short,
we wound up with an unfavorable OT report and everybody’s
wondering “oh my gosh what do we do now?” They did
continue the program for a while. We were allowed to also get the
FMS sales plus a couple of the early production lots. We sold the
system to Korea, to Switzerland and to Finland, and we did deliver
all of their systems. Korea and Finland w[ere] flying the F16,
and Switzerland was flying the F18, so we satisfied those requirements.
But ultimately, I think we finished maybe two production lots and
the Navy stopped the program there. At that point, the threat included
and had included for some years a coherent capability on a part
of the bad guys. The Navy effectively had little if any deployed
capability against those systems. When things got hot in the Balkans,
they had to put the system in some airplanes there to protect them
because some of those coherent systems on the ground were in use
at that point. Ultimately they started a new program called IDECM.
Basically it was a towed decoy type program.
But this wasn’t something you were involved in? You’re
just telling the general story of this.
No, the general story. The initial concept was they were going
to use parts of this system, the ASPJ, and add a decoy to it. They
went through a procurement process and finally the team headed
by Sanders won that contract, and if we had problems on the ASPJ
program, they beat us out on problems in the next program. To this
day I don’t think they have a decoy that they can safely
I guess that says something about the difficulty of the task itself.
Yes, it had difficulty but there were people difficulties too.
Management problems. Severe management problems. So anyways, where
Let’s see, so you - according to what you sent me, you managed
this joint venture program until about 1985.
And at that point you became engineering manager for the EW division?
Right. Up to that point, as far as Westinghouse was concerned,
I was responsible for a portion of the EW engineering department
that was working on the ASPJ project. And when I escaped from that
project, they gave me the whole thing.
So, was that a reward?
I think so. [Laughter] So I continued to be involved in ASPJ.
Right, because this now reported to you.
Right, that was only one part of my responsibilities.
So what were the other major things?
Well, the ALQ131 pod program and there was still some ALQ119 effort
going as well as some development programs, and improvement programs
on those things. We were probably shipping three to four hundred
million dollars a year in EW products.
Would these largely have been the pods?
The pods, the ASPJ, and the smaller stuff. We were pretty prosperous
at that point.
As the engineering manager, what part of the total EW effort was
From an engineering standpoint? Almost all of it. There was a
portion of development activity that reported to another manager,
but other than that, I owned probably, I don’t know 75% to
80% of the systems engineering assets.
And who, in turn, did you report to?
Westinghouse had a matrix organization, and if you’re not
accustomed to that it’s difficult to understand.
Well, I’ve had some experience myself, and also I’ve
been listening to other people from Westinghouse.
Technically I belonged to the division that was responsible for
advanced development. At this time I reported administratively
to the Engineering Manager of the Systems Development Division.
Okay. And who was he?
He was a fellow named Bob Hughes. Now, some time later that position
was eliminated and at that point I reported directly to the general
manager of the development division.
After the organization change I reported to Kelly Overman who
became General Manager of the Development Division. On the program
or product line side I reported to the General Manager of the EW
Division Jim Holman and then Bill
Jones and later Sal Cuomo.
So, I gather as the engineering manager, this pod project took
a lot of your time.
Oh yes, yes. The pod project and other things. We were doing work
for the intelligence community, primarily in analysis of some of
the signal collection and some other intelligence related tasks.
I had some of that activity reporting to me and some other related
How was your time allocated between internal things like managing
these groups, and customer contacts - did you do much of the latter?
Oh yes, I did. I still did a lot of customer contact, not customer
contact in the nature of just kind of wandering around calling
on our customers.
Right, you’re not in the sales position, right.
Yes, but I was right in the thick of things anytime there was
a major design review. Then periodically we’d have to go
out and visit the customer on some issue or new project or something
like that and I’d be involved in that. I was on a committee
for an analysis of defining measures of effectiveness for EW systems.
That’s one of those items where your position description
says “and other tasks as assigned.” So I was working
with the DOD on some of those.
So you were assigned as Westinghouse representative to this DOD
Yes. There wasn’t just this one. These things would pop
up periodically and I’d get that. They would just look around
and say, “you’re it.”
And so would the members of the committee be people from various
Yes, from other companies who were working the field, plus consultants,
various beltway bandits and government employees.
I know it’s a hard question since it’s a matrix management
system, but about how many people did you have in your organization?
When I stepped in as engineering manager I had about 125 engineers.
As the business changed and some other things happened, that probably
moved down to around 80 or 90, so it was a pretty good stable of
How do you manage a group of 100 people for both success of the
programs and success of the individuals?
Well, I had a staff of intermediate managers that reported to
me. That helps a whole lot, supervisors and managers. I didn’t
bring an organization chart with me, but there [were] several guys
that reported to me that took care of the care, feeding, and encouragement
of the staff.
Anything else about this position before we move onto your last
Well it sure kept me busy.
And again it was enjoyable work because I was getting out and
meeting the customer, and maintaining relationships that I developed
over many years with the customer community and we were doing interesting
work, so it was enjoyable.
Chief Engineer, Retirement
Then your final position in ’93 was as chief engineer reporting
to the division manager?
Now, is this a staff rather than a line position now?
It is. I thought hard about making that step.
How did that come about and what did you think of it?
Well, they were doing a major shuffle of the organization, not
just in EW but across the Defense Center. The management was implementing
the philosophy of broad organizations with minimum reporting distances
between levels and a minimum number of levels type of thing. There
had been a chief engineer slot from time to time for the division,
and so one day my boss said to me, my boss being the EW division
Sal Cuomo. He said, “we’re going to do a shuffle here
and I’d like you [to] take the position of chief engineer.
I want you to be responsible for all the R&D effort, and also
oversee the other technology elements in the development and production
programs, and help us plan how to lay out our R&D thrusts for
the future.” After I thought about it I said, “okay,
let’s do it.” To a significant extent I didn’t
mind getting rid of the administrative issues. They were a whole
lot less fun than the other side of it, so I agreed to take the
position. They did the reorganization and we went on from there.
I expected to be around a few more years than I wound up staying,
but in ’94 they came out with an offer for any employee
who had at least 25 years service. My plan was to retire when I
was 60, because at that age I would not take a pension reduction
for retiring early. I looked at the offer and when I sat down and
ran the numbers I said if I stick around until I’m 60, which
was less than two years, it’s going to cost me money. [Laughter]
Where do I sign? So I bailed out at that point.
And then I see that you had a consulting contract with Westinghouse
for a year after that?
Yes. I worked about half time for another year.
Well, primarily what I was doing was helping out with preparations
for and writing the proposal for that next generation EW system,
the towed decoy program. It involved not only in-house work, but
also going out and meeting with the customer and discussing requirements
and making sure that we understood what they wanted us to do and
what approaches they were interested in and so on. So, I was keeping
an eye on things to make sure that what we were doing made sense,
and customer contact.
And then at the end of that one year, then you in a sense really
I said, “I’m off.”
Right, since you really retired instead of officially retired.
I found that working for a living was interfering with my fun
too much, so I decided to give it up.
In what ways have you kept yourself active since retirement?
I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I have some hobbies, one
of which is making sawdust. I have a workshop in my basement and
I build furniture. I’m involved in a number of volunteer
efforts, and so on. I don’t have any trouble keeping busy.
as Whole, Evolution of Westinghouse Baltimore
Looking back, how would you characterize your career as a whole?
I think it was successful. I enjoyed it, I had some fun, in fact
a lot of fun, and there w[ere] some times that were extremely difficult,
but you know it’s part of life.
So I enjoyed what I did, I’m proud of the work I did and
the company I worked for, and I think there’s still a lot
of new technology to create and to use in electrical engineering.
As a matter of fact, two of my children are electrical engineers,
and in fact four out of five are in the sciences, so they must
have inherited something. [Laughter]
In what ways did Defense Center, Westinghouse Baltimore evolve
over the course of your years here?
Well it got a lot bigger. When I started in 1956 there was one
building here at the airport, it was then called the Air Arm Division.
It’s the one closest to the instrument runway here, at the
airport. And within about two years they built what was called
the West Building or the electronics division, and later on they
plunked another building in between them and connected them. They
kept building all over the place, and they also opened up a number
of places, College Station, Texas for a manufacturing place and
we had an operation in Florida, and we had the Sunnyvale division
out in California, and so it grew tremendously in the 39 years
that I was involved. There’s a little book, two books as
a matter of fact I think - both of these are in the library here
at the museum, this is one by Dr.
I went through that to help me prepare to do these interviews.
It’s got a lot of good information in it.
An enormous amount of great information. I would have had a much
more difficult time preparing for these interviews if Gene hadn’t
And there’s another one, John McCarty was the principal
author, it’s his fault. [Laughter] I think Gene’s of
course is much broader, John’s one only deals with the EW.
I think Gene’s is a bit more accurate. I know there’s
a bunch of mistakes in this one, but those are two good resources.
As you know, I am from IEEE, so one thing I’ll ask you -
were you ever a member of IEEE or its predecessor IRE?
Yes to both.
And what was the extent of your involvement with the IRE and IEEE
over the years?
From a practical standpoint, not much. I used to get the magazines,
and even read them from time to time, but I was not active in any
of the committees or whatever.
Well, for either conferences or the local section, you were not
at all engaged.
Did you find the publications useful in your work?
Oh yes, particularly early in my career - you know the IRE publication
was excellent, and I used that on a number of occasions. But particularly
when I got more involved in the management side of things, that
wasn’t the kind of information that I really needed to get
So did you let your membership lapse at that point?
Well, I had this whole stack of cards, they are now face down,
so is there anything that you would like to add or talk about that
we didn’t cover, that I neglected to ask?
No. I guess I just would in closing say that it was an excellent
time from the standpoint of technology development to be in this
business, and I was in a part of the business that I think, as
I said before, with a company that had a strong ethical sense,
strong technology sense, and that they cared about their employees.
Well, in that case, we’re finished, I think you for coming
here and sharing your story of your career here.
And thank you very much.
Okay, I’m free to escape huh?
Well, you know we’ve got one last thing - we have to get
the microphone back. [Laughter]