A compact VLSI neural computer integrated with an active pixel sensor has been under development to mimic what is inherent in biological vision systems. This electronic eye- brain computer is targeted for real-time machine vision applications which require both high-bandwidth communication and high-performance computing for data sensing, synergy of multiple types of sensory information, feature extraction, target detection, target recognition, and control functions. The neural computer is based on a composite structure which combines Annealing Cellular Neural Network (ACNN) and Hierarchical Self-Organization Neural Network (HSONN). The ACNN architecture is a programmable and scalable multi- dimensional array of annealing neurons which are locally connected with their local neurons. Meanwhile, the HSONN adopts a hierarchical structure with nonlinear basis functions. The ACNN+HSONN neural computer is effectively designed to perform programmable functions for machine vision processing in all levels with its embedded host processor. It provides a two order-of-magnitude increase in computation power over the state-of-the-art microcomputer and DSP microelectronics. A compact current-mode VLSI design feasibility of the ACNN+HSONN neural computer is demonstrated by a 3D 16×8×9-cube neural processor chip design in a 2-μm CMOS technology. Integration of this neural computer as one slice of a 4'×4' multichip module into the 3D MCM based avionics architecture for NASA's New Millennium Program is also described.