Open Standards Key To Future Army Electronic Warfare Capability

Standards that define the hardware and software backbones of combat vehicles and other platforms are essential to keeping those weapon systems relevant in a digital world and will be key to fielding future electronic warfare capabilities, according to a top Army scientist.

Jason Dirner, head of C4ISR Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) at the Army Communication-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, said the Army must require open architectures that would allow system upgrades for software-defined weapon systems at most every five years.

“CMOSS can radically change how EW systems are fielded,” Dirner said Nov. 28 in Washington, D.C., at the Association of Old Crows Annual expo focusing on electronic warfare. “Probably most importantly, it allows flexibility that’s required in order to keep pace with emerging technology and allows us to rapidly change capabilities based on urgent needs. It also allows us to quickly field capabilities that are innovative but may not have been planned.”

Lockheed Martin’s AESA ARES radar technology demonstrator using gallium nitride (GaN) technology. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin’s AESA ARES radar technology demonstrator using gallium nitride (GaN) technology. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Over the past 15 or so years, the military has rushed countless systems to the field to meet immediate operational needs with little thought as how those systems worked with each other or the platforms on which they would mount.

“As a result, platforms are crammed full,” Dirner said. “We have duplicative hardware such as processors, displays, amplifiers, antennas. We have integrated challenges in that each system has to have a custom integration kit developed, which increases the time and cost to field the capability.”

CERDEC has defined a set of hardware and software standards to address the issues associated with that haphazard procurement. By requiring systems be built to those standards, the Army can integrate the best emergent technologies while ensuring they work with legacy platforms and can accept future upgrades, Dirner said.

CMOSS is a “suite” of layered standards that defined everything from the network connectivity of a specific system to the physical interface–think USB plug–through which a subsystem connects to the network.

The network layer, which is the “lowest layer,” allows services to be discovered, managed and monitored on a platform. Standards at this level dictate how a sensor lugs into the vehicle and how its software should distribute the information it gathers.

On top of that is a hardware standard that requires a card-based interface that will allow all integration to be plug-and-play. This helps to reduce the amount of cables, power supplies and processors on board an MRAP or Humvee, Dirner said.

At the next level, large radio frequency components are standardized to use common amplifiers and antennas which reduces the number required per vehicle. An overriding software layer allows for applications to be installed on a platform much in the way apps are made for smartphone operating systems where third parties can develop capabilities to a set of standards that ensures they will operate on an existing system.

“If you have a new capability and you have hardware on a platform that can support that capability, you can simply deploy it by software upgrade,” he said.

CMOSS includes the Army’s VICTORY standard, which stands for Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability, among others. VICTORY establishes a standard for sensors and computing systems to work with common power supplies, processors and precision navigation and timing (PNT) components so multiple systems can share those elements. Standards like VICTORY should simplify work for program and project managers looking to increase the capabilities of the platforms they oversee, Dirner said.

“What this means for PMs is that…PMs no longer need to build platform-specific A-kits,” he said. “They can simply provide B-kits, which are comprised of one or more cards that plug into a common chassis…The commonality that this creates drastically reduces the logistics tail required by a system due to the commonality you can have.”

Increased commonality also will drive down procurement cost because the government will have access to both economies of scale and competition among contractors hoping to sell platform upgrades, he said.

“This is a revolutionary capability for the war fighter in that it will allow us to field the capability we need when we need it, which is critical given an ever-evolving adversary,” Dirner said.

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