LOS ANGELES — The Army is working to update its standards for developing new position, navigation and timing (PNT) capabilities that will incorporate more science-and-technology efforts and help the service weed out implausible technologies before they make it to a program status.
The service’s acquisition executive recently signed the first reference architecture that would require service capability offices to develop a PNT strategy, and build technologies to the architecture’s specifications to allow for easy integration, said Col. Nickolas Kioutas, PEO for Position, Navigation and Timing, speaking here at the SMI Group’s first-annual Military Space USA conference on June 11.
“Even though you’re doing things iteratively, you’ve got to keep the end in mind,” he said. He noted that many Army PNT programs have struggled to come to fruition because GPS has been counted on for so long, and program officers “don’t understand what it would be like not to have GPS in their system, especially timing,” he said.
The goal is to work toward a modular, open architecture, where the Army is not replacing an entire system, but rather components or technologies within the system, he added.
The service is interested in non-radio frequency technologies, such as clock technologies, inertial navigation systems and, down the line, machine vision technologies such as imaging-based automatic inspection and analysis.
“We don’t want to just be reliant on GPS if it’s being jammed and spoofed,” Kioutas said. “We’re taking on all those sources of PNT and we’re layering them together.”
The service is also focused on retaining its current capabilities for as long as possible. The Army retains over 550,000 Defense Advanced GPS Receivers (DAGRs), Ground Based GPS Receiver Applications Modules (GB-GRAMs) and micro GRAMs, Kioutas said. The service plans to upgrade the software on those systems to keep them running for another 20 years, he added.
The Army wants to take advantage of Other Transaction Authorities and rapidly prototype new technologies to avoid developing “cost-wasting” technologies, Kioutas said.
“We’re trying to kill programs before they get to a Milestone B or to a further decision,” he said.
The Army has “not done a real good job” of utilizing the many science and technology investments the service has made in fielding real capabilities, Kioutas admitted. The new goal is to ensure an S&T effort has a transition agreement to ultimately become a program, “otherwise it’s not going to get funded,” he said. “It has to absolutely support a program that’s going to get moving to the field.”
The service is also using modeling and simulation to better understand how the new capability could translate to a multi-domain operations scenario, he added. “We’re looking at, how do you decide whether the technology that you’re developing is really going to have an impact in the field, and how many systems you should put out there?”
New efforts to improve and speed up technology sustainment are also on the horizon. Kioutas said the Army is looking at reduced lifecycle timelines for smaller capabilities, including PNT devices. For example, a “five-three-one strategy” would provide for a five-year warranty on a product, and include a three-year assessment period to evaluate whether the product is worth retaining after five years, followed by a yearlong final planning period, he said.
Industry is being asked to “behave a little bit differently than in the past,” in that the Army wants contractors to bring their best technology to the service, even if it’s not tied to a specific program, Kioutas said.
“In the past, industry would get what we want and they’d try to build to that spec,” he said. “Today, we’re saying, ‘Industry, tell us what technologies are out there that can help us fight a different way.’ And we’ll test that and see if that’s what we want to go forward with.”