James W. Dunn, a senior vice president who develops national defense technology, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award during New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) annual Fall Awards ceremony. The ceremony will be held Oct. 6 at the university.
From remote sensors that warn of an approaching enemy on the ground to virtual-reality systems for training helicopter pilots, Dunn, of Tucson, Ariz., is expanding the envelope of technologies vital for national defense and security at L-3 Communications. Headquartered in New York City, L-3 Communications is a leading provider of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems and products, secure communications systems, aircraft modernization, training and government services.
In January, 2004, Dunn was named to the newly created position of corporate senior vice president of L-3’s Sensors and Simulation group, a post he assumed after serving as president of the Link Simulation and Training division.
Dunn, who joined L-3 Communications in 2000, has developed a keen sense of what the future will demand of electronic systems for defense over a career spanning more than 35 years — a career that began with his 1967 BS in electrical engineering from NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering (NCE). Dunn remembers a very demanding but stimulating academic environment at NCE, which he chose because of reputation, affordability and the experience of an older brother who had attended the school.
“When I came to NCE, I already had an associate’s degree from a community college in Connecticut,” Dunn says, “but I really flourished in Newark.” He also says that experience over the years has confirmed the exceptional quality of his NCE education.
In the course of his career, Dunn has contributed to the development of a very broad spectrum of cutting-edge electronics technologies, starting with Doppler radar at General Precision Laboratories in New York. Dunn’s career also reflects the corporate evolution of the U.S. aerospace and defense industry, which has been reshaped by mergers and acquisitions over the past three decades
The catalog of technologies that Dunn has worked on includes systems for navigating and landing aircraft, guiding missiles, and enabling fighter pilots to detect enemy radar and take evasive action against attack. He has also helped to give military personnel the capabilities of advanced electronic imaging, and he has supervised avionics upgrades for aircraft such as the U.S. Navy’s P-3 Orion, facilitating the expansion of its mission from antisubmarine warfare to gathering real-time intelligence over battlefields on land.
When Dunn joined L-3 Communications in the capacity of president at Link Training and Simulation, he became part of one of the country’s largest, most broadly based suppliers of high-technology products and services to the U.S. government and prime contractors such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman. L-3 serves its clients through several dozen divisions employing some 38,000 people worldwide. L-3’s international services are provided on behalf of the U.S. government or directly to other governments under license by the U.S. State Department.
At the Link division, whose flight-training heritage extends back over 75 years, Dunn was responsible for an organization that has taken the lead in providing products and services now used to train people for service at sea as well as in the air. Reflecting on the transforming technological changes that he has personally seen in his career, Dunn points to the AVCATT system developed by Link for the U.S. Army as an example. “The acronym stands for Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer,” he explains. AVCATT and its virtual reality helmet not only give pilots-in-training the experience of flying helicopters as individuals, but a number of simulators can be networked to allow trainees to hone their abilities for maneuvering together.
In his current position with L-3’s Sensors and Simulation group, Dunn has taken on broader responsibilities for products applicable to homeland security as well as the military sector. These products include systems that can be deployed remotely for automated detection of chemical and biological agents. Here, too, Dunn says that technologies that didn’t exist a decade ago have become part of the developmental picture, technologies such as microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS. But whatever the product or service, Dunn and his colleagues at L-3 share the same mission — to provide a technological edge for ensuring the safety of individuals and the nation.